OnePlus One Full Review

NOTE

Since writing this review, OnePlus, being OnePlus, have announced that their “SwapStyle” covers (the removable backplates) won’t happen as a production thing, because of production issues. Which, yes, I know, sucks. In any case, any reference I made to how awesome these the swappable backs are should be ignored. They said the back eventually bends and it isn’t suitable for daily removal. They say they’ve learnt their lesson, and to be honest I hope so, because I am finding it difficult to imagine how they could mess up the launch of a phone as much as they already have (even ignoring the invite system). Come on OnePlus, get your game together!

I’ve taken my sweet time getting to this stage, instead choosing to release a software review and an initial impressions post, because a) I’m lazy and b) I have work to do. Anyway, now that I’ve gotten round to doing it, enjoy!

The OnePlus One is a phone that’s made by the Chinese company OnePlus (and the phone is called the One). Now although the company might have gotten into some slight controversy over the time they’ve made the phone, and everything they’ve done since, this review is about the phone so I won’t be touching on any of that. And, let’s get to it, with the design…

Design/Outside

Design is quite important in a phone. It’s what you see when you pick it up, its what other people see, and it’s what you hold when you interact with the phone, so I believe that design is quite important in a phone. What about the OnePlus One (I’m going to refer to it as the OPO from now on) Well the OPO is quite good in this front. First of all its not ugly, in any way, which is always a good start. Its also not particularly flashy, unlike say the iPhone 5S. The display is set on top of the rest of the phone, which causes a chrome ring to go around the outside, which tries to give it a slightly more premium look, similar to my previous phone, the Nexus 4. On the front and screen itself we have medium sized side bezels, an obviously much larger top one which contains the earpiece, front facing camera, notification light, ambient light and proximity sensors. On the bottom, however, the bezel is noticeably bigger, since that is where the (optional) capacitive buttons lie, more on those later. On the left side of the phone we have the volume rocker and sim tray, which is barely visible apart from the hole. On the bottom we have the central charging port, a microphone and two speaker holes. Although the OPO has only mono, not stereo speakers, at least the speaker grilles have speakers in both parts, unlike the iPhones’ and Nexus 5, in which only one grille actually contains a speaker. On the right side we have a simple power button, set quite low down the device (same story with the volume rocker) to make it easier to reach. On the top we have another mic and 3.5 mm headphone jack. Personally I prefer the placement of the jack on the bottom, like in iPhone’s, because it means if you put the phone in your pocket it doesn’t block the cable. On the back we the OnePlus logo, the Cyanogenmod logo, the usual text containing various bits of certification information. There is also ANOTHER mic on the back (3 mics, quite rare) and the block which contains the 13 megapixel shooter and the dual LED’s. The back itself is curved, so when placed on the table the edges don’t touch the table. This means it’s slightly easier to hold in the hand, always a good thing with a phone as large as this. The back is replaceable, although this is quite tricky to do and not something you could do every day, and in addition to that the batter isn’t removable. The replaceable back is there to allow for custom backs, for example the hardwood back and denim back (all coming soon). The phone itself comes with two back options, baby skin (which is a creamy white colour) and sandstone black (which is a dark grey colour). The baby skin one feels a lot smoother and softer compared to the sandstone black version. Annoyingly, each version is locked to it’s own storage version, so 16GB for the baby skin version and 64GB for the sandstone black version. This means you can’t have 64GB with the baby skin or 16GB with the sandstone black version (not entirely sure why this is, but oh well). An interesting thing with the backs is that a friends of mine got the same phone, the same sandstone black version as me, but his phone is a lot smoother for some reason than mine. Mine feels a lot more like actual sandpaper (don’t worry, it isn’t, I tried rubbing sandpaper on my face and it hurt, the phone didn’t) and his feels a lot smoother. Again, not entirely sure why this is, but oh well.

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Durability/Build Quality

The phone feels quite heavy in the hand (it would, it’s a big phone) and therefore quite solid, like it won’t shatter if you drop it, although I wouldn’t recommend dropping it. The back, although technically removable, doesn’t appear to have any cracks or gaps between it and the rest of the phone. In fact, if no one had told me I would have assumed that the back isn’t removable, as it’s very solidly integrated. This, of course, means it’s a lot harder to remove, but then will you drastically change the look and feel of your phone every day? Honestly, probably not although there will always be a few people who will be replacing the back constantly. In any case, there aren’t any panel gaps and it doesn’t bend or creak when you apply some force and torque to it. Shaking the phone doesn’t produce any rattles either. This is a very solidly built phone and is almost better built than the phones from much bigger manufacturers, so pros to OnePlus for that.

Screen

The screen is a 5.5″ 1920x1080p LTPS IPS panel with TOL and Gorilla Glass 3. What does all that mean? Well, it means it has 401 pixels per inch, is big, with good colour accuracy and viewing angles, in addition to being quite resistant to falls. There’s not much else to say about it. Being an IPS and not an AMOLED or whatever display the colours don’t over saturate and it means that colours you see are quite accurate to the colours you should be seeing. At full brightness it is very bright, and indeed almost bright enough to use in direct sunlight, although at that point factors such as glare have come in and are still making you spin round furiously trying to find an angle at which the sun doesn’t shine directly into. It also gets dark enough, but curiously the auto brightness never reaches that setting. It sticks it at about 25%, regardless of how dark it becomes, which becomes slightly annoying because in pitch black situations my eyes hurt with a display that bright (maybe I have weak eyes?) and it wastes battery, something which is an already precious commodity on modern day smartphones. You can of course turn the brightness down manually if you so wish, and a software setting lets you control the brightness by sliding your finger along the status bar.

Performance

It’s good. Very good. Extremely good. If we look at benchmarks (which aren’t the best method, because most manufacturers cheat in them) then the OPO is at the top of almost every list. In Antutu Benchmark, 18 out of the top 20 benchmark scores were scored by OPO’s. This isn’t surprising, considering the 2.5GHZ quad core Snapdragon 801, Adreno 330 and 3GB RAM. In terms of real use, games never stutter or lag at the highest settings, the interface itself never stutters or lags and and everything is silky smooth 100% of the time. Everything feels smooth, there’s no occasional frame drops, even when you’ve just turned it on from a cold boot. The combination of stock and Cyanogenmod optimisations means it beats phone with janky software additions (Samsung, I’m looking squarely at you). There are absolutely no complaints to be heard here, at least none that I have experienced.

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Battery

All that performance is great, but if the battery takes a massive hit then it’s a bit pointless. Thankfully, with a 3100mAh battery, this isn’t the case. It easily lasts through the whole day, with heavy usage and periods of it searching furiously for a signal. At one point (when I was ill and only used the phone), I used the phone for 11 hours with 9 hours of screen on time with heavy use, of YouTube, Chrome (not the lightest browser) and the occasional 3D and 2D games. The battery is at the very top, and, with some arguing, could maybe be the best battery life any smartphone has right now. On medium usage it will easily last you through 2 days and on light usage 3 days is a good target to set (although that really is light usage, but it’s possible). I’ve made some bold claims with the battery, but I’m willing to back them up.

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Camera

The OPO has two cameras, a rear facing one and a front facing one. The front facing camera is 5 megapixels, but it has a wide angle lens, so you can fit more people into your selfies at any one time. The quality is good, but don’t expect anything amazing, and the low light performance is, as with all front facing cameras, pretty bad. On the other other, quite obviously, the rear facing camera is a lot better. It is a 13 megapixel sensor, and provides good detail and sharpness, with a good colour range. The photos all look nice, although without HDR they can occasionally by quite dull. When HDR is enabled everything looks a bit over the top, the colours are all over saturated. In some cases this is a great thing, in other cases not so. I had trouble taking photos of anything on my wooden floor or wooden desk, because it just looked like it had been over done with some post processing software (which had happened). The vast majority of the time, however, the HDR made a noticeable difference to the photos and improved them a lot.

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Examples of the difference between HDR and normal shots. HDR is on the left. 

Software

Although I did a review of Cyanogenmod 11S, which can be found here, I would like to point out some useful additions here. The gestures, which let you turn on the torch, control your music, open the camera app and turn the display on while locked, are quite useful, although the torch gesture (a “V” shape on the screen) seemed to be constantly turning on in my pocket, so I disabled that after a while. But, like I said, a full review of the software (which has been ported to other devices, I know the Nexus 5 for sure, probably others as well) can be found here.

Any gripes?

Every phone I do a review of will get a score out of 10. Every phone will start at 10, and for every thing that is a flaw in the phones software or hardware will get a point off, and any things that I don’t like or are livable with or even are just things that have no effect on the phone but just peeve me off will get half a point of.

-Square corners. Occasionally, when lying down and resting my hand on my phone it can get annoying with those corners pressing. Not even sure if this is an issue, or just I should stop using my phone in weird positions. -0.5

-Charging port. It’s backwards to every other thing that has a micro-USB port, which means, with the exception of the short stock charger, all the logos are backwards and occasionally I try forcing the cable in even when it’s facing the wrong way, which could damage the port. -0.5

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The charging port is backwards compared to other devices

-Settings menu. Although it has folders and everything with new categories, such as gestures, some things are just jumbled up and are in categories you wouldnt expect them to be in, which means when changing stuff you sometimes have to go hunting for the option through the whole settings menu. -0.5

Final score and verdict:

8.5 (Performs great in all categories, with no trade-offs for the price.)

The OnePlus One is an excellent all round phone, with great, well, everything. There are no trade-offs for the price, which is definitely unusual (Nexus 5, for example trades battery life and camera quality for that price), and any flaws are truly minor ones, that definitely don’t count in the grand scheme of things. If you can get your hands on one, I would definitely buy one.

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