Speedy performance. Solid dual-sensor camera with wide and telephoto lenses. Excellent battery life. Highly customizable software. Dual-SIM support.
Modest 1080p screen. No waterproofing or expandable storage. Doesn't support gigabit LTE.
- Bottom Line
The OnePlus 5 is an attractive unlocked phone with fast performance, solid camera capabilities, and excellent battery life, but it's not as strong a value as previous models.
By Ajay Kumar
You might be asking yourself, what happened to the OnePlus 4? Worry not, you didn't take a nap and wake up in 2018. The unlocked OnePlus 5 ($479, 64GB/6GB RAM) is the successor to the OnePlus 3T—OnePlus is a Chinese company, and the number 4 is considered unlucky in China, so it is often skipped. You still get many of the same benefits with the OnePlus 5 as you do with other OnePlus phones, including a powerful processor, loads of RAM, solid camera performance, and excellent battery life. But the price point has increased, so the phone doesn't represent quite the same value proposition as earlier models. That said, it's a compelling alternative to expensive flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S8.
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Design and Physical Features
Let's get the obvious out of the way. Yes, the OnePlus 5 resembles the iPhone 7 Plus, but so do most phones with dual rear cameras. There's really only so many places you can put things when you're working with a rectangular metal slab, and OnePlus manages to nail the familiar design elements in a classy manner.
Available in Midnight Black (pictured) and Slate Gray, the OnePlus 5 has a sleek metal unibody design that's free from antenna lines. It's smooth and a bit slippery to the touch, but doesn't pick up fingerprints.
The phone measures 6.1 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and tips the scales at a modest 5.4 ounces. It's the slimmest and lightest phone we've seen from the company, weighing just less than the bezel-free Samsung Galaxy S8 (5.9 by 2.7 by 0.3 inches, 5.5 ounces). It's substantially lighter in your pocket than the HTC U11 (6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches, 6.0 ounces) and the ZTE Axon 7 (6.0 by 2.9 by 0.3 inches, 6.2 ounces). I didn't have much difficulty using it with one hand, as a thin bezel makes it easy to reach across.
The right side of the phone holds dual SIM card slots and a power button that launches the camera app when you press it twice. The bottom has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C charging port, and a modestly loud bottom-firing mono speaker. The left side has a useful alert slider to switch between Ring, Silent, and Do Not Disturb modes.
The fingerprint scanner is below the display—it doubles as a capacitive home button, and is flanked by back and recent buttons. Each button is programmable, with alternate functions available to launch a voice assistant, enable Split Screen mode, or open the notification center. Each button can have a different function enabled for a long press or a double tap. Other customization options include swapping the order of the buttons, or turning them off entirely in favor of an on-screen navigation bar.
One design element to keep in mind is that the OnePlus 5 isn't waterproof, unlike most current flagship phones, so you'll want to keep it dry.
The display is a 5.5-inch 1,920-by-1,080 AMOLED panel covered in a protective layer of Gorilla Glass 5 that curves to meet the edges. This is the same resolution as the previous model, which is a bit disappointing considering the $400 Axon 7 has a Quad HD panel. Still, it's sharp for the size, with 401 pixels packed into every inch, the same as the iPhone 7 Plus. It just isn't quite as crisp as the Axon 7 (538ppi) or the Galaxy S8 (570ppi).
The screen does have its strong points, though. The AMOLED panel gives you rich, saturated colors and inky blacks. It gets very bright and I had no difficulty using the phone outdoors in direct sunlight. Color temperature can be customized, with accurate reproduction in the default mode, but options to make it warmer or cooler, and a Night mode that kicks in to help your eyes in the late hours and a Reading mode that sets everything to grayscale. If you're concerned about battery life, you can enable the Dark theme that sets all menu backgrounds to black and saves power by only lighting the pixels you need.
Network Performance and Connectivity
As with every OnePlus phone, the 5 only works on GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. It supports GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), UMTS (1/2/4/5/8), and LTE bands (1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/34/39/40/41/66). Both US and international versions get the same set of bands, which is useful if you plan on traveling. Because of its Snapdragon 835 processor, the OnePlus 5 comes with an X16 modem, but it's capped at Cat 12 LTE down (600Mbps) and Cat 13 LTE up (150Mbps).
That means you won't get gigabit speeds (Cat 16) once those networks are up and running. It's not a big deal right now since no carrier has a gigabit network outside of certain test cities, but if you're planning to keep the phone for a couple of years, you won't enjoy faster speeds as they roll out nationally.
That said, network connectivity is only going to be as good as your carrier. In heavily congested midtown Manhattan, I got crawling single digit download speeds on AT&T, which was in line with the Galaxy S8 I was testing at the same time.
Other connectivity protocols supported are NFC, so you can use Android Pay, dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz), and Bluetooth 5.0, which pairs with multiple speakers or headphones and improves range, speed, and quality.
Call quality was decent, but nothing to write home about. Earpiece volume is loud and noise cancellation blots out traffic and voices, but wind causes significant crackling. Voices are also on the robotic side.
The phone doesn't support high-resolution audio like the Axon 7, but with wired headphones you do get a built-in audio tuner that provides fine balance controls with equalizer presets for different genres of music and enhancements for certain headphones like the OnePlus Bullets or JBL E1+. Those earphones aren't included, so I wasn't able to test this feature.
Processor and Battery
As mentioned, the OnePlus 5 is powered a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, the same chipset in all current top-tier flagships. It's clocked at 2.45GHz, supports UFS 2.1 flash storage, and comes with either 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM (the 8GB model, with 128GB of storage, costs $539). Simply put, it's one of the fastest Android phones we've ever tested.
On the AnTuTu benchmark (which only recognized 4GB of RAM as usable) it scored 184,249, surpassing flagships like the U11 (175,241) and S8 (158,266) due to the less-demanding 1080p display. On Geekbench, the OnePlus 5 scored 1,971 single-core and 6,764 multi-core, once again outperforming the U11 (1,913/6,538) and S8 (1,836/5,960).
It should go without saying that real-world performance is incredibly smooth. Whether it's multitasking, demanding games like Modern Combat and GTA: San Andreas, or twenty open tabs in Chrome, nothing causes the OnePlus 5 to skip a beat. You likely won't ever need 8GB of RAM, so the 6GB model should be plenty if you want to save some money.
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Battery life is excellent. The phone clocked 9 hours, 15 minutes when we streamed full-screen video over LTE at maximum screen brightness. That's not quite as long as the OnePlus 3T, which lasted over 10 hours, but it's understandable because battery capacity has been reduced by 100mAh (to 3,300mAh) to accommodate the smaller form factor. The OnePlus 5 is still one of the longest-lasting phones we've tested this year, surpassing the S8 (5 hours, 45 minutes), LG G6 (5 hours, 57 minutes), and U11 (7 hours, 1 minute). Proprietary fast charging juices up the phone to 50 percent in 30 minutes, and 100 percent in a little over an hour, matching Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.
The OnePlus 5 has dual rear camera sensors that serve the same purpose as the ones on the iPhone 7 Plus and Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom. You have a 16-megapixel main sensor backed by a wide-angle lens, and a 20-megapixel sensor with a tighter field of view, delivering 2x optical zoom. In well-lit conditions, the sensors produce sharp images with crisp details and accurate color reproduction.
The 20MP telephoto camera maintains a high level of clarity when you zoom in. In the images below, you can see that shots from both lenses are equally sharp, sidestepping the image degredation you'd deal with by utilizing the digital zoom feature on a single-lens phone.
The difference in zoom quality comes across most clearly between the OnePlus 5 and the Galaxy S8, with the OnePlus 5 showing the individual spines of the plant at the same zoom level.
In a shootout with the Galaxy S8, the OnePlus 5 holds its own with pictures taken outdoors. In our comparison shots below, both phones capture sharp images outside, with a high degree of overall clarity and minimal noise. But the S8 wins with finer details. The brick work of buildings comes across more clearly, individual leaves are more defined, and objects in the distance are just a bit sharper.
The contrast is more pronounced in low light. In a series of pictures taken indoors, the S8 pulled ahead with clearer, less blurry images. Because it has optical image stabilization (OIS), the S8 minimizes blur when shooting in dim conditions; the OnePlus 5 uses electronic image stabilization (EIS) to steady shots. The S8's autofocus system is also quicker in dim light.
The OnePlus 5 can record 4K video at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps. Quality is good, but the lack of OIS comes into play, with video from the OnePlus showing more shake than you get with handheld footage from the Galaxy S8.
The front-facing 16-megapixel camera delivers excellent image and video quality. Autofocus and autoexposure are both fast and responsive and pictures are crisp. Like the rear camera, the front camera has EIS, letting you take clear and stable 1080p video at 30fps. In low light, pictures sometimes have patches of noise, but you'll encounter the same with the S8.
Like the S8, the OnePlus 5 has manual controls that let you tweak ISO, white balance, focus, shutter speed, and other settings. You can also shoot in Raw for higher-quality images that can be edited later.
Overall, the S8 remains the top camera phone on the market right now, especially when it comes to low-light shooting, but the OnePlus 5 isnt too far behind, and quite impressive for the price.
The OnePlus 5 comes running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the same version you get on the Google Pixel XL. It has OxygenOS on top, a lightweight skin with a design that keeps the clean appearance of stock Android, but adds some extra features. Swiping left from the home screen brings a custom widget screen that shows weather, memos, recent contacts, recently used apps, used storage, data, and battery life. You also have the option of adding additional widgets.
Other customization options include a built-in manager for themes, custom app icon support, rearrangeable buttons, and different accents and colors for the settings menu and status bar. You can also lock individual apps and require a password or fingerprint verification to unlock them. Gestures are supported, allowing you to double tap the phone to wake it, draw on the screen to launch different apps, and use a three-finger swipe to take a screenshot.
Bloatware is minimal. There's a few preinstalled apps, most of which can be deleted. Whether you opt for the 64GB or 128GB version, there's plenty of space for apps, photos, and video. That said, there is no microSD card slot, so storage isn't expandable.
At $539 for the 128GB model and $479 for the 64GB model, the OnePlus 5 is the company's most costly phone yet. But then, in many aspects, you're getting many of the same features you find in phones that cost $200 to $300 more. The OnePlus 5 has the latest Snapdragon 835 processor with plenty of RAM, sharp cameras with optical zoom, and excellent battery life. But there are some caveats. Screen resolution is fine, but not up to par with the competition, there's no waterproofing or expandable storage, and the modem is capped to Cat 12 speeds.
If you want to best of all worlds, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is our Editors' Choice, though it'll cost you a pretty penny more. If you want to save some money, the $400 ZTE Axon 7 remains a great choice. It has a Quad HD display, loud front-facing stereo speakers, high-resolution audio, and runs the latest version of Android. It has a slightly older Snapdragon 820 processor, but that might be a worthwhile trade-off if you prefer the sharper display. If you simply want the fastest performance possible for the best price, however, the OnePlus 5 is an excellent choice.
By Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar. More »
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