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OnePlus 5 review: The wunderkind gets more wonderful

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.

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
40,467
LG G6
28,457

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Octane 2.0

OnePlus 5
10,512
LG G6
9,143

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream 1.1

OnePlus 5
60.356
LG 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

oneplus-5-camera-shootout-1096-002
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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.

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 5 Samsung Galaxy S8 Google Pixel XL Apple iPhone 7 Plus LG G6
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.8-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.7-inch, 2,880x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi 570ppi 534ppi 401ppi 565ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.29 in 5.9 x 2.9 x 0.31 in 6.1 x 3 x 0.34 in 6.2 x  3.1 x 0.29 in 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154 x 74 x 7.3 mm 149 x 68 x 8 mm 155 x 76 x 8.6 mm 158 x 78 x 7.3 mm 149x 72 x 7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.4 oz; 153g 5.5 oz; 155g 5.92 oz; 168g 6.63 oz; 188g 5.7 oz, 162g
Mobile software Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat Android 7.1 Nougat Apple iOS 10 Android 7.0 Nougat
Camera (megapixels) 16MP standard; 20MP telephoto 12MP 12.3MP 12MP standard; 12MP telephoto 13MP standard; 13MP wide-angle
Front-facing camera (megapixels) 16MP 8MP 8MP 7MP 5MP
Video capture resolution 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35GHz + 1.9GHz) or Samsung Exynos 8895 (2.35GHz + 1.7GHz) 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Apple A10 chip (64-bit) 2.35GHz Snapdragon 821
Storage 64GB, 128GB 64GB 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB, 256GB 32GB
RAM 6GB, 8GB 4GB 4GB N/A 4GB
Expandable storage None Up to 2TB None None Up to 2TB
Battery (all nonremovable) 3,300mAh 3,000mAh 3,450mAh 21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE 3,300mAh
Fingerprint sensor Home button Back cover Back cover Home button Back cover
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Special features Portrait mode; notifications toggle; dual-SIM; Dash Charging Water-resistant; wireless charging; Gigabit LTE-ready Unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR-ready Water-resistant; portrait mode Water-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) converted AU$1,199 AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB) AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB); AU$1,569 (256GB) AU$1,008

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