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OnePlus 5 review: The wunderkind gets more wonderful

With cameras that hold up against those on the iPhone and Pixel, the affordable OnePlus 5 impresses us again.

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Lynn La
Lynn_La2.jpg

Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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9 min read

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The OnePlus 5 is simply stellar.

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8.9

OnePlus 5

The Good

The OnePlus 5 is affordable and super fast, with an 18-hour battery. Its camera takes great portraits and low-light shots.

The Bad

It costs more than any previous model, its design isn't anything special and it doesn’t have expandable storage.

The Bottom Line

The OnePlus 5 is outstanding, especially for the price; no other phone gives you the same bang for the buck.

It delivers a grade-A experience and nearly all the specs you demand in a flagship phone for hundreds of dollars less than the Samsung Galaxy S8, Google Pixel and Apple iPhone 7.

This is the fourth major phone from Chinese phone maker OnePlus, which has earned a reputation for creating cheap, quality Android phones that undercut the competition. While OnePlus doesn't have the volume or pure brand clout as Samsung, Apple and even Huawei, it has garnered a loyal following through flash sales and word-of-mouth recommendations.

The OnePlus 5 excels at serving high-performing hardware, like the latest Snapdragon chipset and an enduring, fast-charging battery. It's also on trend with a dual-lens rear camera that takes artsy portraits and can hold its own against the iPhone 7 Plus.

But it doesn't have super-slim bezels or the water-resistant body that so many top-tier phones do. And its price, while still hundreds less than its top-tier competitors, inches closer to them than years past due to its more expensive features. As a result, the phone isn't quite the deal it once was. But, rest assured, the trade-off is more than fair.

Editors' note: This review has been updated on July 12, 2017, with additional benchmark tests.  

One Plus 5: Familiar design but still outstanding

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Pricing and where to buy

The OnePlus 5 will come in two storage capacity variants (both have no expandable storage) and you'll need to buy direct and unlocked since it's not available through major carriers. It will also only work on GSM networks, like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US (and not Verizon and Sprint). There will be an online "early drop sale" the day of its announcement on June 20. The day after, on June 21, OnePlus will host one-day pop-up shops for the phone in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Finally, on June 27, the device will be available globally on its site for open online purchase.

OnePlus 5 pricing


USDGBPAUD (converted)EUR
Gray (64GB/6GB RAM) $479£449AU$750€499
Black (128GB/8GB RAM) $539£499AU$830€559

One of the best cameras around

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Watch this: OnePlus 5 vs. iPhone 7 Plus: Dual-camera shootout

The OnePlus 5 hopped aboard the dual-camera trend and has two rear shooters. Unlike other phones that have two cameras for wide-angle or monochrome purposes, the phone has a standard 16-megapixel shooter and a secondary 20-megapixel telephoto lens. This enables it to take "bokeh" images that have a shallow depth of field and blurred backgrounds (as if you took the photo with an DSLR camera).

The effect turns my run-of-the-mill photos of my friends into something more artsy and dramatic, and it works the same way the 7 Plus' cameras do. You need to stand 1-6 feet away from your subject to use the effect, and there were times when the camera didn't recognize or "catch" the subject initially. But when it worked, my pictures looked great. Due to its longer focal length, the telephoto lens has a fixed optical 1.6x zoom (it then adds digital "multi-frame technology" to bring it up to 2X), so you can toggle between the standard lens or zoom in on distant objects clearly and steadily with the telephoto.

The effect doesn't always work perfectly every time on both the OnePlus and the iPhone. It can be patchy around objects with tricky outlines (like with stray hairs and such). But the iPhone did a slightly better job at reading these situations and determining where best the blurring should start and end. The iPhone's bokeh effect also looked softer and more natural at times. In some of the OnePlus' portraits, the foreground looked too harshly contrasted with the blurred background, and the effect looked too digitally rendered. (Check out CNET's full OnePlus 5 vs. iPhone 7 Plus camera comparison here.)

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Portrait mode on the OnePlus 5 (left) and iPhone 7 Plus (right).

Lynn La/CNET

The OnePlus 5 takes excellent low-light pictures, better even than the pricier Pixel at times. That's due to a combination of better processing technology from OnePlus and a slightly wider aperture (f1.7 versus f2.0 on the Pixel), which lets in more light. And in photography, light is everything. Many of the OnePlus' photos were clearer and sharper (with less digital artifacting) than the Pixel. White balance was also more accurate, since the Pixel gave off a slight greenish hue with some of my dark, indoor shooting.

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Shooting in low light with the OnePlus 5 (left) and Pixel (right).

Lynn La/CNET

In general, the OnePlus 5 has a superb camera (and its 16-megapixel front-facing shooter takes sharp selfies as well), if not one of the best camera phones around. When it comes to regular day-to-day shooting, though, personal preference comes into play -- especially when all premium phones carry first-rate cameras.

For instance, in a few photos, the OnePlus had deeper reds and purples than the Galaxy S8. This gave objects more vibrancy and depth, while the S8 came off flatter. At the same time, however, the OnePlus rendered skin tones darker and more orange, whereas on the S8 (and the iPhone too, actually), people's complexions looked more true to life. The S8 also had a more accurate white balance indoors, with whites being much more purer and brighter. (Check out CNET's more extensive camera shootout with the OnePlus 5, the Galaxy and Google Pixel here.)

While there were some situations when the iPhone, S8 and Pixel had an edge, all of them have their own strengths and weaknesses. The OnePlus 5 is the only phone that we know that has two cameras for the bokeh effect with that high of a megapixel count. What's more, while the camera is competing neck-and-neck against these rivals, keep in mind it's doing it at hundreds of dollars less than the others.

Taking OnePlus 5's dual cameras out for a spin

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Other camera features

  • "Pro mode" gives more manual control for photographing and OnePlus included new tools like a histogram for adjusting ISO levels and white balance, and a leveler. Click here for more about getting the most out of your OnePlus 5's camera.

  • Camera still has time-lapse, slow-motion and panoramic shooting.

  • The camera does not have optical image stabilization, but it does have electronic image stabilization for video only.

  • On top of the 2x telephoto optical+digital zoom, you can digitally zoom up to 8x.

Comfortable but not waterproof

Though the 5 is still wider than my petite hands prefer and its bezels aren't as sexily thin as the S8 and LG G6, its softer edges make it more comfortable to hold than last November's 3T predecessor. I also dig the smaller and flatter camera footprint.

Overall though, not much has changed from the 3T. The OnePlus 5 carries over the fingerprint sensor that sits below the screen, as well as the headphone jack and the toggle button on the edge that changes vibration and silence levels. The display, which is now fortified with Gorilla Glass 5 to make it tougher, is vibrant and sharp, but it's the same 1,080p resolution.

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Yes, you'll still get a fingerprint reader and headphone jack.

James Martin/CNET

The phone also isn't water resistant. This isn't a huge knock, and a few years ago it would be a nonissue. But it's one of the key features if you want to stay competitive against other flagships today. And while water resistance in phones isn't completely ubiquitous yet, it's soon evolving from a nice-to-have feature to a must-have among the higher-tiered devices.

There have been comments on how much it resembles the iPhone, but I'm not bothered by any of this. Sure, I'll be ready to praise any (successful) attempt of making a phone look different, but the majority of phones look similar anyway. What matters is that the device feels good and solid. In the case of the OnePlus 5, it does on both accounts.

Fast 5 speed and performance

After the OnePlus 5 launched, XDA Developers reported that the phone was deliberately skewing benchmarks and configuring its core processors to maximize its results.

In response, OnePlus claimed that, "We have allowed benchmark apps to run in a state similar to daily usage, including the running of resource intensive apps and games. Additionally, when launching apps the OnePlus 5 runs at a similar state in order to increase the speed in which apps open. We are not overclocking the device, rather we are displaying the performance potential of the OnePlus 5." Co-founder Carl Pei also addressed the issue on Reddit.

Optimizing for benchmarks is nothing new, but it can be misleading. As such, we forewent posting two of our three usual benchmark tests (AnTutu and Geekbench 4.0 -- which the OnePlus configured for). In its place is our remaining benchmark (3DMark) and two browser-based tests, Octane and Jetstream.

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

OnePlus 5 40,467Samsung Galaxy S8 37,177Google Pixel XL 28,256LG G6 28,457
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Octane 2.0

OnePlus 5 10,512Samsung Galaxy S8 11,248Google Pixel XL 9,078LG G6 9,143
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream 1.1

OnePlus 5 60.356Samsung Galaxy S8 67.428Google Pixel XL 54.875LG G6 57.358
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

With these results, the OnePlus 5 and its Snapdragon 835 chipset remain lightning fast, and it performed better than the Pixel and G6 (I tested the 128GB model with 8GB of RAM). The Galaxy S8, however, did manage to edge out the OnePlus in two of the tests. In real-world usage, launching apps, unlocking the phone with your fingerprint and playing games were smooth too. The camera is also noticeably faster than the 3T at focusing and firing the shutter (OnePlus claims it's "40 percent" faster, to be specific).

Some OnePlus enthusiasts may recall that 3T users reported touch latency issues in the past, which made the phone feel sluggish and could be very annoying. The company said it addressed this known problem and fixed it in the OnePlus 5. So far, I haven't seen any sign of touch latency, but will keep you updated if I do.

Battery life

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The phone has an enduring battery life too.

Josh Miller/CNET

The phone's non-removable battery has a slightly lower capacity than before (down from 3,400 to 3,300mAh). But the battery actually lasted about an hour longer in our lab tests for battery usage than the 3T, clocking in an excellent 17 hours, 50 minutes on average.

It also uses OnePlus' proprietary Dash Charging technology for quick recharging. After 30 minutes, I got up to 58 percent battery and at the 1-hour mark, it was at 92 percent. A full reup took a little under 1.5 hours, which is the usual ballpark for fast-charging phones.

Keeping the software simple

One of my favorite things about OnePlus phones is how simple the software and interface looks. Except for its Community forum app, which keeps you updated on OnePlus news and can be uninstalled, there's no excess bloatware. It runs a relatively clean version of Android 7.1.1 Nougat that's easy to use and navigate, too. (It'll also get the Android O update eventually.)

With the phone's near-field communication chip and Android Pay preloaded, you can authorize digital payments too. And as is available in many other Androids, Google Assistant, the voice-enabled digital assistant that uses Google's vast search database to look up what's around you, organize your life and answer random questions, is also built in.

There's still the quick-access Shelf home screen page and two other new features I like are fairly minor. Night Mode, which tints your display for easier viewing in the dark, can now be scheduled at certain times. Second is Reading Mode. This switches the screen to black and white, and makes it more comfortable to read text and images on apps of your choosing, similar to an e-reader. I especially like this tool when I settle in for a long read on the Chrome browser or New York Times app. (It's also just neat to watch the screen transition from color to B&W and back again, but I'm easily amused.) For more info, head to my full how-to on OnePlus 5's software features or watch the video below.

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Watch this: OnePlus 5's new nifty software tricks

Should I get the OnePlus 5 if I…?

  • Already own the 3/3T: Considering that the 3T just came out seven months ago in November, I'd hold off. The OnePlus 5 is a notable upgrade, especially when compared to the even slightly older 3, but it doesn't exactly render the 3/3T completely obsolete. They're still good phones, Brent.

  • Didn't have the 3/3T, but want a phone in this price range: Yes. Compared to $400-$540 phones, the OnePlus 5 offers more powerful specs. Our other favorite in this price range is the Motorola Moto Z2 Play. But unless you're into its swappable Moto Mods, we like the OnePlus better.

  • Didn't have the 3/3T, but can spend more: It depends. If money were no object, then the Galaxy S8, iPhone 7/7 Plus and Google Pixel all offer something the 5 doesn't: water resistance, timely OS updates, compatibility with CDMA networks, a sleeker design or expandable/unlimited cloud storage, for instance. (And keep in mind: The Galaxy Note 8 and new iPhones are expected to be announced in the next few months.) But if all these features don't strike you as compelling, you'll be satisfied not only with the 5, but with the extra dough in your pocket.

OnePlus 5 spec comparison


OnePlus 5Samsung Galaxy S8Google Pixel XLApple iPhone 7 PlusLG G6
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi570ppi534ppi401ppi565ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.29 in5.9 x 2.9 x 0.31 in6.1 x 3 x 0.34 in6.2 x  3.1 x 0.29 in5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154 x 74 x 7.3 mm149 x 68 x 8 mm155 x 76 x 8.6 mm158 x 78 x 7.3 mm149x 72 x 7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.4 oz; 153g5.5 oz; 155g5.92 oz; 168g6.63 oz; 188g5.7 oz, 162g
Mobile software Android 7.1.1 NougatAndroid 7.0 NougatAndroid 7.1 NougatApple iOS 10Android 7.0 Nougat
Camera (megapixels) 16MP standard; 20MP telephoto12MP12.3MP12MP standard; 12MP telephoto13MP standard; 13MP wide-angle
Front-facing camera (megapixels) 16MP8MP8MP7MP5MP
Video capture resolution 4K4K4K4K4K
Processor 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz)2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821Apple A10 chip (64-bit)2.35GHz Snapdragon 821
Storage 64GB, 128GB64GB32GB, 128GB32GB, 128GB, 256GB32GB
RAM 6GB, 8GB4GB4GBN/A4GB
Expandable storage NoneUp to 2TBNoneNoneUp to 2TB
Battery (all nonremovable) 3,300mAh3,000mAh3,450mAh21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE3,300mAh
Fingerprint sensor Home buttonBack coverBack coverHome buttonBack cover
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightningUSB-C
Special features Portrait mode; notifications toggle; dual-SIM; Dash ChargingWater-resistant; wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-readyUnlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-readyWater-resistant; portrait modeWater-resistant; 18:9 aspect ratio; wireless charging (US-only)
Price off-contract (USD) $479 (64GB); $539 (128GB)AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $675$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)AT&T: $720; Verizon: $672; T-Mobile: $650; Sprint: $708; US Cellular: $597.60
Price (GBP) £449 (64GB); £499 (128GB)£689£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB) £649
Price (AUD) AU$599 (64GB); AU$699 (128GB) convertedAU$1,199AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB); AU$1,569 (256GB) AU$1,008
one-plus-5-4431.jpg
8.9

OnePlus 5

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Camera 9Battery 10