OnePlus X Review: Where does the new horse fit in the scheme?


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Many didn’t quite understand what OnePlus was up to with the OnePlus X. Their first two phones — the OnePlus One and the OnePlus 2 — have been full-blown flagships with the spec sheet being the USP of each device. This time round, OnePlus have decided to churn out something a little different, something that likely won’t be in the wishlist of OnePlus One and 2 owners.

In essence, the OnePlus X is the company’s attempt to attack the segment of the market in which people own the iPhone. OnePlus could well have priced the phone $199 (if not in the exact same form, with some corners cut), but they didn’t; that would’ve made the OnePlus X a Moto G competitor more than anything else. By pricing the phone $249 (starting) and focusing their marketing on design, OnePlus try to appeal to the perfectionist in you.

OnePlus X Review: Design

Here is where you want to be if you want to convince yourself to buy the OnePlus X.

The phone is rather petite, especially in today’s market where 5.5-inch displays are the norm. But for some reason (read: lack of thickness), the OnePlus X seems even tinier than any other 5-inch phone. The percentage of people that prefer a 5-inch phone over a 5.5-inch are clearly the minority, but in the target audience of the OnePlus X, it’s almost about everyone.

OnePlus X 3_resultThere aren’t too many design elements to the OnePlus X. It makes the cliched ‘rectangle with rounded corners’, but thankfully that isn’t done while attempting to mimic another phone.

The design will tell you that the OnePlus X wants to be used as a productivity phone more than anything else. Email, IM, phone calls, and some photos every now and then — that’s how the phone wants to be used. Coming from a 6-inch Gionee Elife E8 it felt small to the extent of feeling weird; but a couple of days in and I got fast accustomed to the design and size.

The OnePlus X looks like neither of the two OnePlus phones that came before this. Since its 2015, the OnePlus has curved glass on the front and curved onyx on the rear. I’ve never used a phone that uses onyx to be made; prior to this, you, like me, will have seen onyx only on jewellery and dinner tables.

While the design of the OnePlus X is fairly plain and simple, you are going to have a strong opinion about it nonetheless. Because this isn’t something you’ll have expected from an in-your-face kind of a company that OnePlus is.

Moving to the how the phone looks (literally), there’s the plain-yet-classy front striving for the ‘ninja’ (i.e., monolithic) effect, which isn’t quite perfected here. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make the phone look any less beautiful.

An earpiece on the top, next to the front camera on one side and a suite of sensors on the other. The part of the bezel below the screen houses three capacitive buttons — which can be configured by you — which are unfortunately, non-backlit. A neon blue backlight behind the buttons would’ve given them a killer visual appeal, I feel.

Nonetheless, moving on to other sides of the phone. The right side will have the volume buttons and the power button, positioned towards the centre of the length. Now, this takes a little getting used to; I accidentally still keep pressing the Volume Down button instead of the power button because of how low they’re positioned on the edge.

A stealthy-looking SIM tray sits above these buttons, camouflaged in the metal stripe that runs along the entire circumference of the phone. On the opposite edge, you find the three-step slider to switch between sound profiles, something you saw for the first time on the OnePlus 2. I didn’t use the slider too much, but despite that it got loose to the point of sliding to the silent mode when I took my OnePlus 2 out of my pocket. While there’s been no controversy around that yet, OnePlus seem to have realised the slider needed more quality and appear to have fixed it on the OnePlus X. It’s a lot more ‘rigid’ now.

The top edge of the phone has a 3.5mm jack, and that’s all. The bottom is a little more exciting with machine drilled holes on either side of the micro USB port. Despite what OnePlus say, the X should have had a Type-C port. Things like these are only going to make the transition to Type-C more difficult.

There’s not much on the back side of the phone besides a OnePlus logo in the centre, and of course the camera with a single LED flash.

OnePlus X Review: Hardware

Starting off with the screen, it’s the first time OnePlus have gone with an AMOLED display. In my opinion, it has worked well; the small screen means that you aren’t going to use the OnePlus X to consume a lot of media. AMOLED screens tend to add a little drama to the picture, and while that is the case with the OnePlus X as well, it isn’t to the extent of what you see on say, a Samsung.

The OxygenOS ROM also provides a ‘dark theme’ which attempts to extract as much battery life out of your phone as possible by switching to a dark theme with white text. This can be a little daunting if you aren’t used to this; it can hurt your eyes. But it worked alright for me, and despite not noticing an increase in battery life, I liked the dark look of the theme (and even switched to a black and white icon scheme later).

OnePlus X 13_result

The drama that AMOLED adds can be a nice change, and if you haven’t owned an AMOLED phone you totally should

The screen is no big deal (as in, it’s neither astonishingly good, nor a deal breaker), but I kind of like the idea of having an AMOLED screen on a phone I’m not going to watch sitcoms/movies on. The drama that AMOLED adds can be a nice change, and if you haven’t owned an AMOLED phone you totally should. OxygenOS’ Ambient Mode wakes the screen each time there’s a notification (and optionally when you take it out of your pocket), but in a dark black-and-white mode which hardly consumes any power and and is really convenient (great to look at as well).

Moving on to audio, I’ve had a rather poor experience with the built-in earpiece of the phone and I suspect it is something only my unit of the OnePlus X suffers from. About 5/10 times, the sound from the earpiece is completely ‘scuffed’ and its hard to tell what the other party is speaking. But then a call later (and sometimes within the same call) the sound output is back where it should be.

Read Also:  OnePlus 5/5T are receiving OxygenOS 9.0.9 update, still based on Android 9 Pie

Despite having only a single speaker (the other grille is actually a mic), the OnePlus X manages to output some really decent music. Not the most punchy, but definitely loud and distortion-free enough.

The battery on this sleek phone is a 2525mAh cell which can scare off heavy users, and rightly so. If you are going to use the phone a lot (games, web browsing, video — basically anything other than just staring at the screen), it’s sure to die on you within a few (read: 3-4) hours. But that’s not abnormal for today’s phones. In a more realistic (i.e., what the majority of the users will do) scenario — with email, text, IM, a little browsing and a few pictures from the camera — the OnePlus X will take you through one entire day on most days.

OnePlus X Review: Performance

Instead of trying to do too many things at once (OnePlus 2), the company decided to create a product that would do only some, but do them well

Instead of going for a 64-bit SoC like the Snapdragon 808 or the MediaTek Helio X10, OnePlus made a (wise?) decision to the tried and tested 32-bit Snapdragon 801. OnePlus have tried to be on top of their game by dishing the OnePlus 2 with the Snapdragon 810 (it was one of the first few to have the SoC), which didn’t go as well as they would’ve planned.

On the other hand, the OnePlus One had a Snapdragon 801 and the phone was a bestseller… so the engineers must be knowing the chip inside out. That combined with the fact that the OnePlus X was never designed to be a flagship kill probably made going with the Snapdragon 801 an easy decision for the company.

And I daresay, it was a good choice.

Instead of trying to do too many things at once (OnePlus 2), the company decided to create a product that would do only some, but do them well.

The phone doesn’t blast through benchmarking apps, nor is it the fastest phone you’ll see in your life. But it does productivity and utility very well. Perhaps the only thing that you’ll have a gripe about is knowing there’s an older-gem SoC in there.

OnePlus X Review: Camera

IMG_20151116_200343_result

The OnePlus X has the same spec camera as the OnePlus 2, but there’s a bit of a difference between the two. While the OnePlus X does manage to take some decent pictures (suggested: OnePlus X vs Letv Le 1s vs Xiaomi Mi 4c camera shootout), focus is a little fidgety and not the fastest.

The camera app is a stock OxygenOS feature you’ll have seen on the OnePlus 2 as well. The UI can be a little tricky at first but then you kind of get used to it. There’s no manual mode, and therefore no long exposure shots as well — a feature that’s been growing on almost all of us.

IMG_20151111_225428_resultThere is, however, OnePlus’ own ‘Clear Image’, which I suspect takes a handful different shots and puts as many depth-locations in focus as possible. And of course, there’s HDR.

Other features supported include slo-mo video, beauty mode and time-lapse.

I’ve been impressed with the low-light ability of this phone. You’d expect a phone like this to excel in taking daylight photos, but that isn’t the case. It is above average, but still not up to the mark and definitely second to the OnePlus 2, for one.

OnePlus X Review: OxygenOS

Being a hardcore lover of the OnePlus One, the OnePlus-Cyanogen Inc. fallout was nearly heartbreaking. Cyanogen OS on the OnePlus One produced some insanely great results, from battery to performance; OnePlus have tried to replicate that with their own rendition of an Android fork, in OxygenOS.

Screenshot_2015-11-18-00-49-46_result

OxygenOS isn’t as customisable as Cyanogen OS, but is certainly getting there. The best part about OxygenOS is that it is completely free of ‘features’ you aren’t going to use (for that matter, even Cyanogen OS is starting to get bloated). You do have a few customisation options — such as toggling between hardware and on-screen navigation buttons, light/dark theme, off-screen gestures (including double tap to wake), and more — which should keep the boat floating till OnePlus figure out a few more features for OxygenOS.

I’ve had no force close issues or anything else complain-worthy about the OS. In fact, just a day after receiving my review unit, there were a couple of OTA’s waiting to be pushed to the phone.

Another OxygenOS specific feature on the phone is what OnePlus call ‘Shelf’. You get to Shelf by swiping right (how you’d normally get to Google Now on the GNL/Nexus phones). Here, you can choose to add some context-aware ‘widgets’, such as frequent contacts, weather (on by default), or add your own widgets. Not a lot of people seem to like Shelf, but I simply love the feature myself for it allows me to access my widgets in one place, without filling up home screens.

OnePlus X Review: Gallery

OnePlus X Review: Specifications

Model OnePlus X
SIM support Hybrid dual SIM (dual SIM OR one SIM + microSD)
Color Onyx/Ceramic (International); +White (China)
Storage 16GB
Chipset CPU: Snapdragon 801 2.5GHzRAM: 3GB
Android Version Android 5.1
Screen Display Size: 5-inch FHDResolution: 1920 x 1080
Camera 13 mega-pixel rear camera (f/2.2, PDAF)

8 mega-pixel front-facing camera

Network and Wireless Connectivity GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
TDD-LTE: B38/40
WCDMA (EU): 1/2/5/8
WCDMA (US): 1/2/4/5/8
FDD-LTE (EU): 1/3/5/7/8/20
FDD-LTE (US): 1/2/4/5/7/8
Battery capacity  Removable 2525mAh
Size Dimensions: 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm

Weight: 138g

OnePlus X Review: Verdict

OnePlus X 5_result

Despite the shortcomings, the X is a phone you will want to feature on any sub-$250 buying guide

The OnePlus X is definitely among the better looking phones I’ve used this year. I also love that the phone’s easily usable in one hand, but at the same time understand that it’s not what the majority of the market wants which puts the OnePlus X in a tricky position.

If you own a OnePlus 2 or even the OnePlus One, there’s no reason you should switch to the OnePlus X unless you REALLY need a phone that fits your tightest pair of jeans. On the other hand if you’re an iPhone user looking to make a switch to Android, the OnePlus X can be a good place to start.

Better battery and a slightly better camera (simply faster/sharper focus) would make the OnePlus X a much better phone than it actually is. Despite the shortcomings, the X is a phone you will want to feature on any sub-$250 buying guide… I’m not too sure about the rather pricey Ceramic version though.

You can get yourself a OnePlus X via SPEmall who have these in stock by following this link.

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