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Chip Off The Old Block

The OnePlus5 is a mature evolution of the OnePlus product portfolio

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It's barely three  years old, but OnePlus has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a plucky upstart. Back then it was characterised by two defining features — an unconventional approach to marketing their devices and a class-leading smartphone at a price that could only be described as an absolute steal. So, it’s for good reason that the OnePlus 5 was one of the most anticipated smartphones of 2017, but now that it’s here, is it everything it was made out to be?
Pull the OnePlus 5 out of the box, and at first glance, it doesn't look that different from last year’s OnePlus 3/3T, with the same regular-sized helping of bezels around a bright 5.5-inch AMOLED display. If you were holding out for the 5 to deliver an edge-to-edge 2K-resolution display, this generation will disappoint… and on this count alone, the phone feels like a page out of 2016 rather than something that will look and feel current in 2018. It’s around the rear that the big design changes are felt — the slim, brushed metal body with rounded corners feels great in the hand and the single centrally located camera gives way to a dual camera setup a la the iPhone 7 Plus.

About that dual camera, which OnePlus has more than made clear is the big focus this time around. The approach OnePlus has taken is similar to Apple’s — a primary sensor with a large-aperture lens mated with a secondary sensor with a telephoto lens — which offers you some amount of optical zoom and a background-blurring Portrait mode. In good light, the primary camera focusses snappily and rewards you with detailed images with good dynamic range, but when the ambient light goes down, image noise and softened images become an issue. Exacerbating the issue is the lack of optical image stabilisation (present on the 3T) — in its place, you get EIS (electronic image stabilisation, through software), and that too only on the primary sensor. The Portrait mode works mostly as advertised, but still struggles with blurring the edges of rounded objects and stray strands of hair. The selfie camera’s the real star, capturing exceptionally detailed selfies in all manners of light conditions.

Now, OnePlus has traditionally delivered the goods when it came to packing in the latest silicon into their devices, and the 5 gets a top shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with either 6 or 8GB of memory and snappy UFS 2.1 storage. The result is a device that simply does not break a sweat no matter what you throw at it, and app load times and gaming performance leave no room for complaint. I’d normally balk at the 8 GB of RAM — that’s as much RAM as my laptop — but the result is a device that’s optimised for speed unlike any other. You have to see just how fluid and lag-free the near-vanilla Android 7.1.1-based Oxygen OS is on this device, even a month after I started using it.

Sprinkle in the usual OnePlus elements — fast Dash Charging tech, the elegant alert slider button and a fast fingerprint sensor — and what you have is a mature evolution of OnePlus product portfolio. It’s the slight increase in the sticker price that will possibly create the biggest challenge for OnePlus — it’s still good value, without a doubt, but current Android flagships will drop prices within the next few months to within sniffing distance of the 5, which is when the decision won’t be as black and white.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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