OnePlus X Review: Budget Friendly Mobile with Great Built Quality

oneplus-x-review

Oneplus X is a good looking and budget friendly smartphone with top notch design and uncompromising performance. Full marks for its look, excellent build quality and smooth operation (OS). It is more than double the value of money you pay. Right from the factory fitted scratch proof to the tap gesture controls to the slim translucent cover packed in with the mobile. I wish it was shipped with earphones shipped along with it.

The OnePlus X is built around a 5’’ 1080p AMOLED display and has a Snapdragon 801 at its heart coupled with 3GB RAM. The S801 chip might be aging, but it’s still quite relevant and would give some eight-core setups a run for their money. The camera department includes a 13MP main snapper with hybrid phase-detection AF and a front 8MP selfies shooter.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Metal frame + glass/ceramic back
  • 5’’ AMOLED display
  • Snapdragon 801 chipset
  • 13MP main camera
  • 8MP front-facing camera
  • Oxygen OS
  • 2,525mAh non-removable battery
  • Attractive price tag

 

ONEPLUS X – DESIGN

In the beginning was the shape. By creating it with a material that formerly formed by hand, they were inspired by the nature and the pattern had craftsmen of the past.

Influenced perhaps by the form factor the iPhone 6 and 6s have been using, we’re slowly witnessing a comeback of the compact, yet premium mid-rangers. We already met the Xperia M5, the Xperia Z5 Compact and the HTC One A9. The OnePlus X is also relying on a 5” display and it made out of premium looking materials. The OnePlus X spreads at 140 x 69 x 6.9mm, which is about 6mm shorter, 2mm narrower and a hair thinner than the One A9. The OnePlus X is also lighter at 138g.

Both the glass and ceramic flavors of the OnePlus X have an anodized metal frame with 17 micro cut grooves running along the edges. The cuts are fine and give the sides a serrated finish making them inherently grippe. The front on both phones is covered by a 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3 – quite a popular choice lately, which creates the illusion of a thinner profile.

The regular black onyx version has its back made out of glass with curved edges that flow gently into the metal sides. The ceramic flavor looks almost the same, but the edges are not curved but chamfered.

Handling the OnePlus X is a lovely experience and the grip is very good thanks to the etched metal frame. The phone is very compact, lightweight and offers surprisingly thin screen bezels. The OnePlus X is slippery in hand but the frame helps the grip, it fits nice in the hand, does great for one-handed operations and we had a great time playing with the phone.

Below the display are the three practically invisible Home, Back, and Overview keys. They don’t have any backlight and you will spot the markings denoting their places only under bright light.

The Back and Overview are marked with simple dashes and you can switch the functionality of those from Settings. You can even assign dedicated actions on double tap or tap hold on all three keys.

On the right hand side of the phone are the power and volume control buttons with a nice damped feel, tight tolerances, and no unnecessary play. The ejectable tray is also around – it can either take two Nano-SIM cards or a Nano-SIM and a microSD cards.

On the left is the sound profile slider from the OnePlus 2 with three positions for the silent, priority notifications only, and all alerts modes. The slider has a grippe pattern like the one on the OnePlus 2 and it works great.

On the top is the headphone jack and the secondary microphone, while on the bottom are the microUSB port, microphone, and a single loudspeaker.

The 13MP camera lens and a single-LED flash are on the back, sitting flush with the glass, giving it a perfectly flat appearance.

 

ONEPLUS X – DISPLAY

The OnePlus X packs a 5-inch AMOLED display, which is a great treat for such an affordable mid-ranger. It’s a high-quality panel of 1080p resolution, which delivers 441ppi of pixel density. While not record-breaking numbers, individual pixels are nonetheless indistinguishable to the naked eye and so is the Diamond Pen Tile matrix.

When it comes to maximum brightness, the OnePlus X wouldn’t go as high as some other AMOLED phones but it’s quite alright and only flagship segment phones do better. It’s actually around the same level as the HTC One A9 and this one while not being very bright to begin with, has twice the price tag.

The minimum brightness on the OnePlus X is only 3.3nits, which is to say that using it in dimly lit environments will be easy on your eyes.

AMOLED has inherently superb viewing angles and those of the OnePlus X don’t disappoint. The panel retains its contrast and colors even in extreme angles and is one of the least reflective screens we’ve ever tested.

However the AMOLED on the HTC One A9 and Samsung’s own Super AMOLED found in the Galaxy Note 4, Note5 and Galaxy S6 line easily top the OnePlus X’s display in outdoor performance (though these are a lot more expensive phones to begin with).

 

ONEPLUS X – SOFTWARE

There was a time when stock Android, the way Google intended it to be, was ugly. It was basic, lacked sheen and it paled in comparison to Apple’s iOS. Also, phone makers wanted to stamp their own identity on their handsets, rather than have them all appear alike, so they decided to spruce Android up a bit by adding their own ‘skins’. These are layers that sit over the operating system and change how it looks, along with adding some extra features.

The original OnePlus One came running on CyanogenMod but the market circumstances demanded OnePlus to come up with an Android launcher of their own and they dropped CyanogenMod entirely.

This is how the Oxygen OS was born and its 2.0 version first premiered on the OnePlus Two. Now the OnePlus X runs on the updated Oxygen 3.1.4 launcher on top of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

OnePlus added four very useful gestures, which are available on a turned off screen. You can double tap to wake the phone up, draw O to open the camera, draw V to toggle the flashlight on/off, or draw < > for previous/next track.

OnePlus X also offers a new feature called ambient display, which is a lot like the Nokia’s Glance screen. It displays a white clock and a short notification text (if available) on your turned off display. That’s energy-efficient because of the AMOLED tech. You can either opt for this screen to show up when you have a notification, or you can also allow it to pop up when your hand is in proximity (hovering it above the screen or taking out the OnePlus X out of your pocket).

The Oxygen launcher has a feature called Shelf, which takes the place of your leftmost home screen. Here you can see the weather, your most used apps, and frequent contacts. You can also add widgets here and change the header image. When you first setup the phone it asks if you want to use Shelf. You can also disable or enable it later through the home screen settings menu.

OnePlus added a few UI tweaks of its own – you can reverse the Menu and App Switcher keys, plus you can assign them custom actions upon tap&hold and double tap. The notification LED colors are also configurable. Each button has a list of things you can do for various actions.

OnePlus also included a native support for app permission control. You can go into the Settings menu, check each app permissions, when they were used and if you want, you can disable some of them.

The final extra courtesy of OnePlus is the option to skin the entire Android OS with a dark theme and choose its accent color by your liking.

 

ONEPLUS X – PERFORMANCE

The OnePlus X runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset with 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. On paper, this might not seem so exciting but again, this isn’t exactly a flagship device. Plus we’ve seen the Snapdragon 801-powered smartphones to still hold high positions in our benchmark charts.

GeekBench 3 shows multi-core performance of the four Krait 400 cores is expectedly behind the competition, which relies on octa-core processors. The Galaxy A5, which has a quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU is the only inferior device. And while the OnePlus X has the same chipset as the original OnePlus One, its processors is down 200MHz and thus the score difference.

The compound AnTuTu benchmark puts the OnePlus X in the middle, right by the HTC One A9 side, which is also about right (Snapdragon 617). The top three devices offer much better and modern chipsets.

BaseMark OS II 2.0 compound test gauges lots of stuff including processing power, graphics, system, web and memory. The OnePlus X overall score is just as great as the S808-powered Xiaomi Mi 4i and the Helio X10 powered Meizu MX5. This clearly shows the S801 is still quite a relevant platform.

The OnePlus X is actually quite impressive in terms of performance. Snapdragon 801 might seem long in the tooth now but being an 800 series chipset it still packs a punch and handily blows the Snapdragon 615 (Oppo R7), seen on some of the rival devices, out of the water. The phone worked smoothly and apps ran quickly. The overall performance during our review process was definitely impressive and assuming it is able to maintain that over a period it shouldn’t be a cause for concern to anyone.

 

ONEPLUS X – CAMERA

The OnePlus X has a 13 megapixel camera on the back (F/2.2) and an 8MP one on the front (F/2.4). The main camera reportedly uses an ISOCELL sensor, which generally improves color fidelity, sharpness and dynamic range compared to regular BSI sensors. It also has a hybrid auto focus system, utilizing phase detection.

Unlike the bigger OnePlus 2, there is no optical image stabilization, laser-assisted autofocus, or 4K video recording. The OnePlus X only captures 1080p video.

The Oxygen launcher brings a custom camera app, which offers very clean interface and just few settings. The available modes are Photo, Video, Panorama, Slow Motion and Time-Lapse, just like on the OnePlus 2.

The standard Photos mode has some advanced shooting modes as HDR, Beauty and Clear Image. The Clear Image option snaps 10 photos and combines them into a single image for better quality.

Unlike the OnePlus 2, there is no lag when shooting low light images, but the HDR mode and the Clear Shot mode take their time for extra processing after each shot.

When viewing the images from up close, the noise levels seem to be way higher than normal – and that’s in good light. The dynamic range is also not stellar.

Overall, the image quality is much better than what the Oppo R7 delivers, but worse than the Xperia M5, for instance. It’s about the same as the one produced by the latest Moto G. The Meizu m2 Note which is about the same price produces better images.

Unlike the OnePlus 2, the OnePlus X doesn’t offer 4K video recording, even though the chipset clearly supports it as we’ve seen with other smartphones. In terms of offered modes, the video recording also offers time-lapse and slow motion.

 

ONEPLUS X – BATTERY LIFE

The OnePlus X packs a non-removable 2,525mAh battery, which is about average capacity for a 5-inch 1080p smartphone. The Oppo R7 has a 2,320mAh cell, the recently reviewed HTC One A9 with its 2,150mAh is noticeably underpowered compared to OnePlus’ model, while the Xiaomi Mi 4c has a generous 3,080mAh battery. The slightly larger 5.2-inch Nexus 5X has a, well, slightly larger 2,700mAh power pack.

The OnePlus X didn’t prove as a miracle worker and pairing an average capacity with an older chipset yields unimpressive results. While 16 hours of call times is a good performance, short of 7 hours in the video playback test and even less in web browsing are not numbers anyone would be happy with.

 

ONEPLUS X – AUDIO

The OnePlus X made a decent start in our audio quality test. The smartphone didn’t have the best frequency response or the perfect distortion readings when connected to an active external amplifier, but we can live with those flaws. And you do get just-above-average loudness with mostly excellent clarity scores, so it’s mostly good on this occasion.

Plug in a pair of headphones, though, and things quickly go south. Volume drops, a ton of distortion creeps and you get the usual spike in stereo crosstalk. Hardly the most impressive showing here by the OnePlus X and one that would make audiophiles think twice before ordering it.

PROS

  • Stunning looks
  • Great camera experience
  • Glorious AMOLED display

CONS

  • Fingerprint magnet
  • No backlight in keys

 

ONEPLUS X – THE COMPETITION

There are lots of mid-rangers out there, but at this price level none of them is as beautiful as the OnePlus X. Probably the most direct rival to the OnePlus X build quality is the recently released HTC One A9 – it’s made of metal, it has a 5″ AMOLED screen and runs on a snappy enough processor. Its camera is also a match for the OnePlus X, but it costs nearly double, which is not nice.

The Oppo R7 also looks pretty with its metal unibody and 5″ AMOLED screen. The Snapdragon 615 chip however is behind the 801 model within the OnePlus X. The camera experience is the same, while the Color OS is equally powerful. It’s noticeably more expensive and its photos are no match for the OnePlus X.

Sony Xperia M5 may not be betting on premium looks but we have to give the credit to Sony for making it look like a high-end Xperia Z member. It’s made entirely out of plastic, but it’s hard to notice because of the excellent finish. The phone is water-proof and dust-tight, offers a very good 5″ 1080p display and runs on the powerful MediaTek Helio X10 chip. The camera is better though and it can capture 4K videos. It costs extra, but it delivers better camera and overall performance.

By the way, you may be interested in some of the ex-flagships from 2014, which already have their prices reduced to the OnePlus X levels – the AMOLED-enabled Samsung Galaxy S5, the water-proof Sony Xperia Z2, or the nicely designed LG G3 with a Quad HD screen are also worth a look and can still be found online.

 

SHOULD I BUY THE ONEPLUS X?

OnePlus X does right by its name and fulfils its purpose – to be the memorable mid-ranger everyone will want. It’s an excellent piece of tech, a snappy performer with a lively hi-res AMOLED screen, with proper camera experience and all-round connectivity package. But best of all, as usual, is the OnePlus X pricing – the phone would run you $249 or €269.

It’s a device that seems to be well worth your commitment if you are after a compact, premium built smartphone and in my opinion “YES”, you can go for it. It’s beautiful and it’s powerful.

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