So, more expensive than ever, can OnePlus’s latest smartphone pull off the same trick in 2017?
The OnePlus 5 continues the company’s refined metal smartphone design. From the front it doesn’t look that different from last year’s OnePlus 3 and 3T (there was no OnePlus 4). The corners are slightly more rounded, but that’s about it. The screen is of similar quality, with deep blacks and good colour saturation, which you can tweak to fit a series of profiles including sRGB and DCI-P3. It’s not quite as pin-sharp as some rivals, with only a full HD resolution, not QHD, but most will not care. The fingerprint scanner is just as good, reliably unlocking the device almost instantly, while the optional capacitive back and overview buttons work well and can be swapped over.
To say the back of the OnePlus 5 looks like an iPhone 7 Plus would be an understatement. It’s not a carbon copy; the back is curved and the edges tapered, which makes the phone more ergonomic and feel really nice in the hand. But OnePlus has used the same technique for hiding the antenna strips, moving the plastic inlays to almost the edge of the top and bottom, as was introduced with the iPhone 6 in 2014.
It also has a dual camera on the back placed horizontally in the top left corner with a LED flash to its right, which Apple did in 2016 with the iPhone 7 Plus. It even has the OnePlus logo in about the same place as the Apple logo is on an iPhone 7 Plus. The OnePlus 5 is slightly shorter and narrower than the iPhone 7 Plus, but about the same thickness.
Apple comparisons aside, it’s a well built phone that feels great, with good ergonomics for a device with a large 5.5in screen in the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio. But it certainly doesn’t look and feel like the new breed of minimal bezel phones that launched in 2017, such as the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. The top and bottom feature large bezels, which makes the device considerably larger than its screen – like a smartphone from 2016, and therefore firmly in the “phablet” category of harder to handle devices.
For a well machined device, there were also some unusually sharp edges around the camera lump (a small raised bezel holding the lens glass), the edge of the USB-C port nearest the back of the phone and the backside of the volume button. These are small nitpicks but were obvious when the rest of the device feels so smooth. It also isn’t water resistant, so try not to drop it in the toilet.
The OnePlus 5 has the same (or better) specifications as most of the current top-of-the-line smartphones available. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor found in the US Galaxy S8, the HTC U11 and others.
It has either 6 or 8GB of RAM, which is frankly overkill, and has either 64 or 128GB of storage, which should be plenty of space for almost everyone.
In gaming and when using demanding apps it performs as well or better than the competition. In fact, OnePlus has gone to great lengths to try and provide the smoothest, most consistently high-performing Android experience possible, and it really shows.
It is the most fluid, fast and reliable Android smartphone I’ve ever used, arguably smoother than Google’s Pixel smartphones, which is an achievement.
Using the OnePlus 5 as my primary device, browsing and using apps for three hours with hundreds of push emails, 60 minutes of gaming, and listening to around five hours of music via Bluetooth earbuds, it lasted just over 28 hours between charges with no power-saving modes activated, which is very good.
Less demanding users will likely see two-days battery life, while OnePlus’s proprietary Dash Charge lives up to its name, charging the device even when in use faster than almost any other charging technology. A full charge takes around an hour, but it still takes about that when the phone is actively being used, including as a GPS device in a car with a 12v Dash Charge adapter, which is the most impressive bit.
The downside of Dash Charge is that you need special chargers and cables to make use of it, but the OnePlus 5 charges at a normal rate using any other USB charger.
The OnePlus 5 is the second smartphone this year to ship with the latest version of Bluetooth 5.0, rather than a 4.0 or 4.1. While there aren’t many Bluetooth 5.0 headphones or other devices available yet it will become the new standard and so the OnePlus 5 is future-proofed. I also found Bluetooth performance was better than almost any other smartphone for using truly wireless earbuds, matching the Galaxy S8 in maintaining a consistent, interruption-free connection.