OnePlus burst onto the scene in 2014 with the OnePlus One, a phone running Cyanogen OS with an incredibly attractive price tag. From the very start, OnePlus talked a big game and was sometimes annoyingly overconfident. The success of that first phone ensured we’d see at least a few more phones from OnePlus. There have been some ups and downs since the OnePlus One launched, but the trajectory has been upward overall.
The OnePlus 5 has the most refined design this company has ever put out, but at the same time it would be impossible to ignore the resemblance to the iPhone. You’ll hear a lot about that, but it doesn’t really matter. The OnePlus 5 is the best phone OnePlus has made yet thanks to mature software, great battery life, and exceptional performance. The benefits of OnePlus’ iPhone-y camera might be somewhat overstated, but you can’t argue with the full package.
Just like the OnePlus 3 and 3T, the OnePlus 5 has a sturdy unibody aluminum frame. There were some leaks of this design in recent weeks, and almost everyone noted how iPhone-y the back of the OP5 looked. While there’s definitely a resemblance, I don’t think it’s as strong in person. The dual camera module is in the same place, but the way it fits into the frame is different.
The curved antenna lines on the back that follow the contour of the top and bottom are more a direct copy of the iPhone. Although, they’re also an interesting visual element on an otherwise understated chassis. I guess if you’re going to borrow, you might as well borrow the right stuff. The rest of the rear is just smooth anodized aluminum with a OnePlus logo stamped in the center.
The overall shape of the OnePlus 5 is what saves it from looking too much like an iPhone clone, and this isn’t something that comes across well in photos or renders. You might recall, the OnePlus 3/3T had a sharp ridge that ran around the edge of the device. That ridge is still present on the OP5, but it’s subtler and smoother. Imagine the OnePlus 3T a touch rounder and smaller, and you’ve got the OnePlus 5. It does feel much more natural to hold thanks to the smoother lines. The OnePlus 5 is only a few grams lighter than the OP3T (153 vs 158g). However, the OP5 seems balanced better. This is a minor thing, but OnePlus included a vastly improved vibration motor in this year’s phone. I always felt like the OP3 was a little weak in that department, but the OnePlus 5 motor is stronger and still whisper quiet.
OnePlus 5 (left) vs. OnePlus 3T (right)
On the right edge is the power button, and opposite that on the left are a volume rocker and the standard OP notification slider. The bottom position is ring, the middle is do-not-disturb, and the top is silent mode. The slider feels solid and has a nice tactile click when you move it. You can also control the specific options for each mode in the system settings, which is a nice touch. On the bottom edge we’ve got the USB Type-C port, a speaker, and a headphone jack (yay). Audio quality on the OnePlus 5 has been average for me. The bottom-firing speaker is loud and clear enough for general use, but it distorts at high volume. I do like the tiny exposed torx screws on either side of the USB port.
From the front, the OnePlus 5 looks almost exactly like the OP3T. The earpiece grille at the top is a bit larger, as is the fingerprint sensor. The sensor is the same basic shape, though. Even the bezel proportions are the same this year—the top and bottom are similar to the Pixel’s bezels, but the left and right are narrower.
The fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button beneath the screen on the OnePlus 5 is fantastic—OnePlus still has one of the fastest and most accurate fingerprint sensors around. I mean, it’a almost suspiciously fast. Maybe OP is using some Oppo technology here? You don’t have to hold your finger on the sensor for any substantial length of time; just press like you would press the home button and it’ll recognize your fingerprint (the sensor doubles as the capacitive home button). I personally prefer rear-facing fingerprint sensors, but I can’t deny this one is best-in-class. The only downside is that any skin contact with the sensor triggers it. There have been many times I picked up the phone and felt it vibrate. I’d check the screen thinking I had received a notification, only to realize I had brushed the sensor with my hand. The vibration was simply the phone rejecting the pattern.
On either side of the home button are capacitive soft keys for back and overview. The order defaults to the correct Android order of back on the left and overview on the right. However, the buttons don’t have the traditional icons, they’re just dots. That’s the same design used on the OP3, and I didn’t like it then either. The OnePlus 5 even takes a small step backward by making the backlighting dimmer and blue tinted. That makes it hard to see where the buttons are in bright light, and the backlight doesn’t even come on unless you’ve just tapped one of the three nav buttons. The buttons have reasonably large hitboxes, but I still miss sometimes, especially in the dark where I have nothing to help estimate where on the bezel I’m tapping. If you’re as annoyed by this as I am, the OnePlus 5 supports software nav buttons. I’m pleased OP is still offering this as an option.
The OnePlus 5 has a 5.5-inch AMOLED display at 1080p resolution. That will probably come as a relief to those who worried OnePlus’ pursuit of big specs would harm battery life. Frankly, OnePlus would probably have increased the resolution if it wasn’t for the supply constraint (and thus high prices) of AMOLED panels right now.
Last year’s OnePlus flagship lost some point for having a mediocre display, but that was mostly due to the out-of-the-box calibration. The default calibration on the OP5 is still not very good. It really blows out the colors, especially green. There are several calibration options in the settings: default, sRGB, DCI-P3, and custom. Custom has a slider that lets you adjust the temperature, but that’s it. On this panel, I prefer the way DCI-P3 looks. The colors aren’t neon bright, but still a little richer than sRGB mode. If you want the most accurate, stick with sRGB.
As for clarity, this is a pentile AMOLED panel at 5.5-inches. If you are hyper-aware of that, you can see slight fringing and pixelation around text and icons. For the most part, I don’t think this is a problem. The OnePlus 5 won’t look fantastic in VR, but there’s no support for Daydream right now, so it would only be Cardboard content that disappoints. And that’s usually pretty disappointing all on its own.
The viewing angles are nearly perfect, with no gap between the glass and the AMOLED panel. There’s no dimming or color casting at off angles until you get almost completely perpendicular to the screen. Even then, it’s just a little red shift.
There’s also a reading mode that can be easier on the eyes, but it’s not as fancy as OP would have you believe. This is just a grayscale filter that changes tone based on ambient light.
Overall, I’m happy with the screen on the OnePlus 5. Adding more calibration options out of the gate takes care of the biggest issue with the OnePlus 3 last year. I think I’d personally still prefer 1440p displays on phones in this size range—we’ve seen from experience a 1440p phone can still have good battery life. And yet, OnePlus’ approach here is understandable. The 1080p AMOLED keeps the price down and saves power while looking good enough.
Performance and battery
The OnePlus 5 comes in two variants: a gray one with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and a black phone with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. To be clear, our review unit is the black version with 8GB of RAM. I cannot say how much of a difference that extra RAM makes, but I can say the OP5 keeps apps in memory very well. This was a problem with the OnePlus 3 when it launched. Despite having a healthy amount of RAM, apps were closing quickly to save battery. Here, there’s no such issue.
Overall performance is hard to gauge with benchmarking apps, but there are a few of them embedded below if you’re into that sort of thing.
I’ve been using the OnePlus 5 as my main phone for several weeks. In that time, it’s been extremely fast, and it hasn’t started to slow down at all. Apps open quickly, and switching between them is smooth. Some phones hesitate when you double-tap the overview button to swap between recent apps, but not the OnePlus 5. Scrolling is also buttery smooth in every app I tested.
To offer some frame of reference, the OnePlus 5 puts the Galaxy S8 to shame in terms of raw speed. It makes much better use of the Snapdragon 835 SoC in this respect. However, the OnePlus 5 doesn’t feel quite as consistent as the Pixel. There’s an occasional lag or dropped frame, and it doesn’t respond as immediately to touch. That’s not to say it’s slow—it’s one of the fastest phones you can get.
Battery life is even harder to estimate from one person to the next. I used the OP5 for email (three accounts syncing), messaging, browsing the web, and a bit of gaming. I have not trouble making it through a day, which is the low bar all phones have to clear in my book. With heavy usage, you’ll make it 18-20 hours with around six hours of screen time. With lighter usage, you can hit a day and a half with around three hours of active usage. The OP5 won’t make it through a second day, but you don’t have to charge it overnight. Why? Dash Charge.
I’m not happy that the OnePlus 5 uses a proprietary fast charring standard like Dash Charge, but it’s admittedly quite fast. Dash Charge is capable of around 5V/4A, which works out to 20 watts of power. You can charge the phone from empty to full in under an hour—OnePlus likes to say 30 minutes of charging is enough for the whole day, which is probably true for most usage patterns. The point being, you can just drop the OP5 on the charger for a few minutes during the day and it’ll never get too low. The drawback here is that only OnePlus’ included charger supports Dash Charge.
The camera will be contentious this year, though not necessarily because of how it performs. OnePlus chose to tweak its camera arrangement on the back of the device. This phone has two sensors, because that’s all the rage these days. The sensors have also moved to the upper left corner to looks suspiciously like the iPhone 7 Plus.
Some OEMs use dual cameras to sharpen photos with monochrome sensors, LG puts a wide angle lens on its secondary camera, and others use them to fake “optical zoom.” OnePlus is going with the latter. The “regular” camera is 16MP and the telephoto one is 20MP. While I’m dubious of calling this optical zoom, it does theoretically offer some value to the user. When you want to take a picture of something far away, you can flip over to the 2x zoom with the telephoto lens. That means you lose less detail than if you’d used digital zoom. The problem, however, is that OP’s zoom camera is kind of a gimmick.
When you press the 2X zoom button or zoom more than 1.5x manually, the secondary camera becomes active. Importantly, that lens has a narrower aperture of f/2.6 compared to f/1.7 on the main camera. In darker settings, it’s simply not able to pull in enough light. Therefore, the phone will switch to using the main camera with digital zoom. This explains why some of the photos in the gallery below are fuzzier than others. The ice cream stand is an example of the main camera subbing with digital zoom. Immediately below are two images of the same spot with the main and telephoto camera (16MP and 20MP) for comparison.
The OP5 uses electronic stabilization on the rear and front cameras. It seems to work well enough to keep photos from being ruined by your shaky hands. Outdoor shots are usually correctly exposed for the most part, but there’s a tendency toward washing out the colors in very bright light. The focus and capture are fast, though. OnePlus says focus speed has been vastly improved this year, and I believe it. The GS8 is still much faster, but that phone costs a lot more.
When it comes to HDR, OnePlus does an adequate job. It’ll even out shadows and bright spots, but it can’t do the sort of magic Google does with HDR+. The rest of OnePlus’ processing I’m not completely sold on. In some of the photos below, you might notice that the details get muddy. It’s like OP is trying to sharpen the edges, but it’s going overboard.
OnePlus says its camera app is algorithmically comparing several frames when you tap the shutter button. As a result it can filter out the inconsistencies and lower noise. It had to do something to compensate for the smaller pixels in the Sony IMX398 sensor, but the results look weird sometimes. You don’t see things like this on the Pixel, Galaxy S8, or the HTC U11.
Indoors, you still get good results most of the time with the OnePlus 5. White balance skews a bit warm, but not as much as more budget-oriented phones. The ISO value does start to climb past 2000 pretty quickly, but the images aren’t too noisy. Maybe that’s thanks to OP’s processing algorithm, but it’s an improvement over the OP3T regardless. In dim lighting, the photos start to look soft and noisy. Again, it’s not as bad as other sub-$500 phones.
There is a pro mode if you want to play around with the settings to get better results. There’s also a portrait mode, which uses both cameras to fake a narrow depth of field look. I will say, this works better on the OP5 than on other phones I’ve seen try this. However, it still looks rather messy and obviously processed (see the I/O Android on my desk in the gallery above).
OnePlus has been shipping phones with OxygenOS ever since the deal with Cyanogen Inc. broke down. The first iteration felt rushed and incomplete, but it has gotten better ever since—the version of OxygenOS that ships on the OnePlus 5 has become one of the best manufacturer Android ROMs. That’s not so much because of what OP has done, but more what it did not do. There are no heavy skins, gimmicky features, or aggressive task managers. It’s one of the cleanest builds of Android you can get with a few nice extras sprinkled on top.
If you’ve used a previous build of OxygenOS, the new version will be similar. I’ve only seen a few completely new features; for example, network speed in the status bar, additional theming options, and more customizable gestures. The home screen has gotten a makeover to look and operate like the Pixel Launcher. The app drawer opens when you swipe up, and the drawer itself has the search bar at the top. You also get app shortcuts (AKA launcher shortcuts) in the stock launcher. Should the stock icons displease you, icon packs are supported, too.
There aren’t many built-in apps from OnePlus itself. The Google version of apps like the keyboard and browser (Chrome) are the default. There’s very little in the way of bloat. The only thing I think you could reasonably want to ditch is the OnePlus Community app.
OnePlus still has the “Shelf” on the left of the first panel, which is where the Google Feed is on the Pixel Launcher. There haven’t been any appreciable updates here, and I’m still not convinced it’s a good use of space. The Shelf is basically a vertically scrollable screen of widgets. It comes pre-populated with a few like frequent contacts and recent apps. You can add your own and change the order they are shown in. However, scrolling widgets tend to interfere with scrolling through the Shelf. I just don’t get the intention here—the Shelf doesn’t do anything your other home screen panels can’t do.
The closest thing to a distinctive software feature here is the gesture system, which is more extensive than other phones. Many of them are off by default, so you should pop into the settings. You can double-tap the screen to wake it, of course, but there are also half a dozen gestures that can be assigned to open apps like the camera or turn on the flashlight when the screen is off.
I have been testing a pre-release version of the OnePlus 5’s software, but I’ve encountered some bugs worth mentioning. Particularly annoying have been Bluetooth connectivity problems and slow WiFi. OnePlus says an OTA will go out on or around launch day to fix that. Play Music also regularly refuses to seek through a track, which is a bug I’ve only encountered on OnePlus devices.
The OnePlus 5 does look a little like the iPhone 7 Plus, a comparison that will no doubt dog it throughout its life cycle. The similarities are not as damning in person, though. The lines are like a refined version of the OnePlus 3T. A bit more rounded and cleaner, but still a OnePlus phone. It’s the dual camera array that gives it that iPhone vibe. There’s not much to argue about internally; the OP5 has a Snapdragon 835, dual-SIM support, 6-8GB of RAM, and 64-128GB of storage. There’s no microSD card slot, though. It’s fast and well-optimized.
OnePlus again has one of the fastest fingerprint sensors available, which is impressive for a phone that costs under $500. The sensor is also your home button, but the back and overview buttons on either side are annoying. They’re marked by small illuminated dots, and they’re even dimmer than last year. That makes them hard to see outdoors. They aren’t pleasant to use in a dark room either, since the buttons don’t light up until you press one of them.
OxygenOS on the OnePlus 5 has evolved into a capable and clean build of Android. OnePlus hasn’t come up with any killer software features, but it’s avoided cluttering up the OS and arbitrarily replacing apps like some OEMs. The software is based on Android 7.1, so it has some extras that are still rare on non-Google phones like app shortcuts. I’m not a fan of OnePlus’ Shelf UI on the home screen, but it can be easily removed.
You’re going to hear a lot from OnePlus about the dual camera array, and you can understand why. Everyone is doing dual cameras lately. The OP5 takes nicer photos than the OnePlus 3T did. Although, some of the features are a little gimmicky. The “optical zoom” lens has a small aperture, so the phone actually uses your main camera (zoomed and cropped) when you engage zoom mode in a darker environment. The processing of photos can also be too heavy-handed, which results in unnatural aberrations and blurring.
The OnePlus 5 is priced a little higher than the OnePlus 3T, which was priced slightly higher than the OnePlus 3. That phone, in turn, was priced a smidgen above the OnePlus 2. Are you seeing a pattern here? Without the Nexus line, OnePlus doesn’t have much competition in the sub-$500 smartphone space. If you need a phone in that price range, the OnePlus 5 is the best option. Still, if the price keeps climbing, OnePlus risks losing its real advantage. As good as this phone is in a lot of ways, it’s not as good as phones that cost a few hundred dollars more.
The OnePlus 5 is available for pre-order today online, and some units will be made available at OnePlus popups around the world. The final ship date is June 27th.