Review: The OnePlus 5 is the most exceptional phone you’ll find under $500 (and perhaps more)


With the OnePlus 3 and 3T, OnePlus really hit its stride. The company that first marketed its budget-friendly phones as so remarkable to be better than everyone else’s flagships had toned back some of the hyperbolic language and let its devices speak for themselves.

That was the right move. OnePlus buyers tend to be a bit more tech-saavy than the average Android user, as you can’t just buy the device from a local carrier. The company’s allure lied in its bang-for-your-buck value and clean Android experience, even if it didn’t offer much in the way of groundbreaking features.

The OnePlus 5 tries to up the ante further, adding dual cameras, a streamlined design, and small touches of polish throughout. It comes at a small price hike – it now starts at at $479, instead of $439 – but it’s still far cheaper than most of the competition. That’s pretty remarkable, because the OnePlus 5 is one of the finest Android phones you can buy, at any price point.

Key specs and features

  • Snapdragon 835 Processor
  • 6/8 GB RAM 64/128 GB Storage
  • LPDD4X RAM, UFS 2.1 storage
  • 16 MP main, 20 MP telephoto cameras
  • Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD
  • NFC
  • 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display
  • sRGB, DCI-P3 coverage
  • Gorilla Glass 5
  • 3,300 mAh battery
  • USB Type-C (2.0), headphone jack
  • Slate Grey (it’s kinda blue-ish) and Midnight Black colors
  • Android 7.1.1
  • 7.25mm thick

Design

First things first: no, it really doesn’t look like an iPhone. OnePlus received some pre-release flak from the press (including TNW) and fans for apparently aping the iPhone 7. But outside of a web render, the OnePlus 5 looks and feels totally different – and better, if you ask me.

While there’s a passing resemblance from the dual-camera arrangement and curved antenna lines, the shape is completely different. The iPhone 7 has a flat back with rounded sides, while the OnePlus 5 has a curved back and flat sides that’s at once more comfortable and feels more secure. You wouldn’t mistake the two devices in person.

Thankfully, the build quality is certainly iPhone level. Everything about the OnePlus 5 feels impeccably machined, with satisfyingly clicky buttons and the trademark OnePlus alert slider. It’s right up there with Apple and Samsung for build quality, as far as I’m concerned.

The polish extends to the AMOLED display, which is one of my favorites on any smartphone… if you don’t mind the bezels. It’s really hard to use devices like the LG G6 or Samsung S8 for a couple of months and then return to a device with normal bezels.

It just feels like there’s so much empty space, but at least OnePlus continues to use capactive buttons to make some use of it, and you don’t have to worry about apps not formatting correctly to weird aspect ratios.