Technophile

Settling down in the mid-range

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on November 18, 2015

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OnePlus takes a break from flagship-killing to take a shot at buidling an affordable Android smartphone for the rest of us



Chinese startup OnePlus’s much anticipated mid-range device is finally available for sale. Just like its flagship brethren, the OnePlus X will only be sold through the infamous invite system, which continues to keep demand up and supply down for the two-year old company.

There will be two variants of the device up for grabs – the Ceramic edition which costs almost as much as a OnePlus Two and the cheaper Onyx edition.

We got our hands on the latter and put it through the wringer to find out whether it’s worthy of the money in your wallet and the space in your pocket.

Design

This has been the year of metal and glass in the smartphone space. While a few manufacturers continue to persist with and get good mileage out of plastic shells, a glass back and metal frame has become the de-facto standard of sorts for phones that are trying to project a premium feel. The OnePlus X, with its grey aluminum chassis and highly reflective black glass rear, continues the trend.

With the rear cover soldered into place, the dual SIM and microSD slots are made available via a removable pinhole tray on the right side.

However, users will have to choose between a second SIM and expandable memory. On the left side is the notifications toggle, which can be set to allow all, only priority or no notifications at all.

The edges on this device are sharper than most other smartphones these days, but they are chamfered to ensure easy handling. The capacitive keys below the display are not backlit and locating them is entirely dependent on the user’s muscle memory.

The display is a 5-inch AMOLED capable of HD resolution. Colour reproduction is good enough to satisfy most users, but it will not stand up to comparison with a flagship panel. Contrast is excellent thanks to the AMOLED’s true blacks and this really accentuates the finesse of OxygenOS’ dark mode.

Viewing angles are excellent even outdoors, but brightness is on the lower side compared to the gold standard of the iPhone and Galaxy S6 Edge+.

Performance

The engine room of the OnePlus X is identical to that of the company’s first generation flagship killer, the OnePlus One. It runs on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with Adreno 330 graphics and 3 GB of RAM.

This configuration was adequate to shame a few flagships last year and is more than capable of mixing it with the new generation of mid-range processors.

Benchmarks put its performance slightly behind the One, which is down to the slightly lower clock speed of the Krait 400 cores. Real-world performance is snappy and devoid of lag. The device handles heavy multitasking and graphics-intensive games with ease.

Camera

The rear camera on the OnePlusX matches the Two in terms of megapixels and the front camera manages to exceed it on that front. This will undoubtedly help with the marketing push but there’s a lot more that makes a camera than mere megapixels.

The 13MP rear shooter doesn’t have optical image stabilization or laser autofocus and has a much slower f/2.2 lens. All this adds up to a far worse imaging experience than on the OnePlus Two. Even with a reasonable amount of light, photos lack crispness and detail. In low light, the camera is just as bad (or good) as any other mid-range smartphone.

The camera can record video at 1080p and the quality of capture is fairly good. There is also a slow-mo mode which records at 720p, but the results are so washed-out that it’s hard to see anyone finding a use for it unless they’re shooting exploding firecrackers or something equally bright.

Software

OnePlus is yet to recover from the loss of the feature-packed CyanogenOS. Its in-house replacement, OxygenOS – now up to version 2 – is a lightly tweaked version of stock Android Lollipop 5.1.1. The major addition is the ability to set custom permissions for installed apps. Besides that, there are also a few bells and whistles like gesture-based shortcuts and customizable software navigation keys. Most of these features are now becoming common to every company’s custom skin of Android, and OnePlus will have to innovate a lot more if they want software to be a selling point for their phones like it used to be in the OnePlus One’s heyday.

Battery life

The 2,525mAh on the OnePlus X consistently managed to last till the end of the day despite the higher power consumption of the previous generation chipset used in the device.

Our usage is typically higher than the norm, consisting of multiple hours of music playback, constant web surfing and instant messaging, intermittent camera usage and the occasional gaming sessions with 4G always on.

Bottomline

The OnePlus X has an excellent design and good build quality. It has a powerful processor and a generous helping of RAM. It could make a good buy for anyone looking for an Android all-rounder. But, despite the company’s “Never Settle” tagline, this device incorporates a few compromises– most notably the camera.

Thankfully, competition in the mid-range is fierce. If performance is what you’re after, similar if not slightly better processing power can be had for half the price from the likes of Yu and Lenovo. Motorola has a much hardier offering in the form of the G if it’s a no-nonsense phone you want.

The added annoyance of having to jump through the hoops of OnePlus’ invite system means that you will most definitely have plenty of time to consider the options before pulling the trigger.

Love: Performance, design

Hate: Camera, invite system

Price: ₹16,999

Published on November 18, 2015
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