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OnePlus cash equals 5: Rebel flagship joins upmarket Android crew

All the details on the less cheap-as-chips device

No, wait!

It seems churlish to complain. So what's the problem? Some long time fans are upset that BKK/OnePlus has moved into a pricier part of the market. But commercial organisations are not obliged to go broke just to make you happy, and a £249 flagship was not a sustainable long term proposition. Even at £499, there's still a clear £150 price difference between the OnePlus 5 and flagships from Samsung, LG and HTC.

Compared to those devices, the OnePlus' imaging falls short in some areas, particularly in low light shots. OnePlus uses two sensors for its primary imaging unit, a 20MP part and a 12MP part. In daylight the camera performs very well, but in low light it noticeably fell behind the U11 and S8, two phones I used for comparisons. This was a surprise, given the wide aperture f1/7 main sensor. The camera certainly focuses very rapidly, but now have a good look at the results.

The "gimmick" of a bokeh effect made possible by the dual sensor setup is not as well integrated as on other phones. In the camera app, you swipe left for the video, and right for the "depth effect". You can't leave it on a particular setting, and then choose what to keep in focus (or edit the focus later) as you can with Huawei's dual sensor unit.

The phone reproduced colours reasonably well, but the tree was horribly overexposed. Usually automatic HDR kicks in, so some work is needed here.

The main drawback is the removal of optical image stabilisation from the phone's predecessor, the 3T, resulting in lots of post-processing. This is evident from video capture. The viewfinder rocks all over the place while shooting a video, as you're taking it, but the results are smoother than you ever thought possible. Overall, the imaging story here is fine, but doesn't quite cut it.

(A longer shoot-out will follow this piece.)

Shortly after release, users complained about "jelly"-like scrolling anomalies, and one site discovered the 5 uses the 3T's panel, inverted, in what appears to be a deliberate design choice. I couldn't replicate the problem, but it's really a sign of more attentive and less forgiving users, now the price is knocking on £500.

OnePlus 5 and its place in the flagship Android market

All in all, the OnePlus 5 continues the brand's tradition of offering excellent value for money, albeit at a higher price point. My conclusion would be a lot more clear-cut had it not been for very recent developments.

Huawei is not taking the threat from BBK lying down. A few weeks ago its Honor 8 Pro appeared, using its flagship technology for at a price under £500. It's chunkier than the svelte OnePlus 5, but a better phone, with superior imaging. And even more surprisingly, Huawei has put much of its flagship technology into a phone priced at £399: the Honor 9. Few companies have ever dared do this to their high margin range just weeks after launching it. Without Huawei's moves, the conclusion would be much simpler: spend £150 more for a known brand and $YOURFAVOURITEFEATURE - or don't.

The result of Huawei's dramatic moves is that the OnePlus has a real struggle on its hands, both to define itself as a brand, and justify that price tag. Is it a value generic, or something special in its own right? That's for BKK/OnePlus to decide.®

OnePlus 5 Summary

OnePlus is no longer offering such stonking value in a hardware giveway, but it's a slim and capable high end phone with future-proof specs. Do look at Huawei's offering before plunking down your £500, though.
Key Specs: 5.5-inch Full HD display
Snapdragon 835 octocore
64GB of storage, 6GB of RAM or 128GB of storage and 8GB RAM; no microSD slot
Dual SIM
3200mAh battery
Dimensions: 154.2mm x 74.1mm x 7.25 mm
Weighs: 153g
Price: £449 or £499; O2 carries the device

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