OnePlus 5 review: Channeling Michael Schumacher in a phone's chassis
Here's the thing, if you grew up in the 90's and the early 2000's and watched a lot of motorsports, then you'd know that Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari F1 car was the fastest driver on the planet. Between 2000 and 2004 he won 4 consecutive world drivers titles. He was so dominant, that people started calling Formula 1 boring. A decade or so later, whilst reviewing the new OnePlus 5 I get the very same feeling. OnePlus has been killing it with category defining phones for the last few years, the most recent ones being the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3 which were exceptional devices in every way possible. With the OnePlus 5, it wants to up the ante so that it is talked about in the same space as the iPhone, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8. And its performance is so dominant that it almost channels Michael Schumacher's soul but in a phone's chassis instead of the chassis of his Ferrari.

The Good


Superlatives about each OnePlus device start from their hardware specs. If you're an enthusiast, chances are a OnePlus phone would to be your liking because it will often offer cutting edge specifications. The OnePlus 5 goes a step further and offers bone crushing hardware features that would be the envy of any phone. Qualcomm's latest 8-core processor, 6/8GB RAM, 64GB and 128GB memory SKUs, an OLED screen with a 1080p resolution supporting DCI-P3 colour gamut, dual cameras on the back and a high resolution on the front and the works.

But more than its guts, it actually delivers. If you think Michael Schumacher was fast in his Ferrari or if you're a Lewis Hamilton fan these days, the OnePlus 5's performance is mind-blowing. Every touch input, flick, swipe and what not is instant -- fluid, liquid, and hell jarring because of its sheer immediacy. And as far as Android phones go, it is the fastest one I've ever tested — faster than the Pixel, faster than the S8 and yes, it at least feels faster than even the iPhone 7, but I suspect that's more do with the way animations work on iOS. Regardless, it is superlative, and yes, the one I tested was the 64GB and 6GB RAM model.


The display on the phone is nice enough, and features like the DCI-P3 colour gamut were surprising and handy additions, as was the presence of a baked in reading mode that would kick in the moment I fired up Amazon Kindle on the phone.

Like previous OnePlus models, the fingerprint scanner is a dream to use. It is fast and highly reliable. It also has a PayTM integration in India, where one can long press the home-button as a shortcut for the PayTM QR scanner for mobile payments.

The battery on the device is quite impressive as it lasts more than a day consistently with heavy duty use and this in spite, of the battery being smaller than the OnePlus 3T. That's because this phone is using newer components which are more efficient when it comes to taxing the battery. OnePlus's proprietary fast charging technology also works flawlessly and one can rapidly charge the device using the given plug and type C cable. I was able to achieve full charge of the large 3,300mAh battery within 90 mins which was impressive.


Photography has been an area of focus for OnePlus as it felt that its imaging hardware on previous models wasn't up to the "flagship killer" level it has billed its phones as. This year, following Apple's lead, the OnePlus 5 gets a dual camera system on the back - a 16-megapixel 24mm camera with a f/1.7 aperture and a 20-megapixel 36mm camera which OnePlus says is a telephoto lens enabling an iPhone 7 like portrait mode and 2x optical zoom. Generally, the performance of the camera is a giant leap over the OnePlus 3T. After numerous software updates, the portrait mode also started delivering some good results with it having better "edge detection" and the 2x zoom always helped me get closer to subjects I wouldn't be able to shoot in normal circumstances. I'd say in daylight the performance of this phone would come shockingly close to that of an iPhone 7 , but in low-light, while it was an improvement from the OnePlus 3T, it still wasn't in the same league as phones like the Google Pixel and iPhone 7. For people like me who like to tinker around, there's also a comprehensive "pro mode" allowing manual granular control over the settings of the camera.


The selfie camera is perhaps a bigger update than the rear camera. It takes wonderful selfies that would make any pub crawl on a Friday night memorable. It also lights up the screen like the iPhone for a flash.

Software wise, this phone is a joy to use. OnePlus has employed minimal customisations to Android 7.1 Nougat and it is fluid in performance and simple to navigate, while also offering some tweakable options, like the icons on the user interface.

Lastly, this phone has been chiselled out of aluminium which means it is rock solid, but more importantly with its iPhone-like rounded corners and slender 7.25mm frame, it feels very comfortable to hold despite the 5.5-inch frame of its screen. Yes, it is significantly smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus weighing just 153 grammes making for a very ergonomic phone that's highly usable while being pleasing to the eye and functional. And yes, it also has a 3.5mm jack. Take that Apple!

The Bad
While OnePlus has truly upped the ante, it's not all milk and honey with the launch of the OnePlus 5 like it was with the launch of the OnePlus 3. Firstly, this design isn't only boring and derivative of the iPhone, it just doesn't seem like an evolution of the OnePlus 3. Ergonomics be damned, I just like the looks of the OnePlus 3T better than the OnePlus 5 despite it being lighter and easier to hold.

The camera bump on the top left is the biggest eye sore. It looks like a poor man's version of the iPhone 7 Plus bump as it isn't carved out of the same aluminium as the main frame of the phone. To make matters worse, the chamfer on the sides of the lens gets nicked very quickly. It looks gaudy, to say the least.

It is just not the iPhone comparisons that will irritate people, but the fact that it looks like the Oppo R11 is a more damning indication that the design wasn't a fully in-house OnePlus effort.

I also feel that OnePlus hyped up the camera too much pre-launch. While the phone has a good camera it isn't as good. For instance, it still doesn't have the DXO mark certification that it alluded to before the phone was launched. More importantly, the camera is missing a couple of things that would've made it much better. First, no optical image stabilisation meant that photos weren't as sharp in low-light, and the video wasn't as smooth which is further botched by average audio capture that would make things fuzzy.

The 36mm focal length of the 20-megapixel telephoto lens means that OnePlus only offers 1.6x optical zoom and the rest is software induced zoom which it calls lossless. The Pro mode also doesn't use the second camera on the back which means it doesn't get the benefits of optical zoom.

Generally, across the board, the OnePlus 5 camera doesn't live up to the hype. The hype machine that OnePlus created before the launch of the device is to blame for this as the hardware on a technical level remains really good and it performs very decently which can be viewed in our #ShotForGizmodo OnePlus photoshoot . In fact, it comes closer than any OnePlus phone before it in providing a "flagship killing" camera experience, but I'm guessing we are still a year or so away from that breakthrough.

VR enthusiasts would've preferred a Quad HD screen and perhaps some people would've like a bezel-less panel, but OnePlus isn't there yet for these niceties. It focusses on speed, and boy this phone delivers performance that would be the envy of the great Michael Schumacher.

Should you buy it?

At a starting price of Rs 32,999 for the entry level model , the OnePlus 5 is a hell of a phone. Its performance is as demoralising as Michael Schumacher's was in the Scuderia Ferrari in the early 2000's. That's how the competition will feel, including a stunning phone like the Galaxy S8. It is simply the best phone right now in the price band, however, don't believe the crazy hype that OnePlus is building around the device, be more grounded and buy it because it looks good, performs frighteningly fast and offers more features than any other phone at its price.