OnePlus may only be on its third handset with the 5-inch OnePlus X, but its predecessors have both been very well received. The OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 both represented excellent value for money, and that’s the target for the OnePlus X too. Anyone with around £200 to spend on a phone will struggle to find a match for this handset in terms of build quality and features, and its dual SIM support will appeal to many.
Be aware, though, that you can only buy the OnePlus X by invitation. Just sign up at the OnePlus website and you’ll be told when a handset is available.
There are two versions of the OnePlus X — Onyx and Ceramic. This relates only to the chassis manufacture. In all other respects the versions are identical.
Ceramic is the heavier and more expensive choice — 160g and £269 versus 138g and £199 — and has 25-day manufacturing time, according to OnePlus. Its scratch resistance is top class, with a rating of 8.5 on the Mohs scale that’s used to measure gemstone hardness — diamond, the hardest gem, has a rating of 10. So, if scratch resistance is your thing, then the Ceramic edition may appeal, but numbers are limited and as we write this model is sold out on the OnePlus website.
The Onyx edition comes a very close second in terms of build quality. It’s made from black glass on a metal bezel, and the backplate of our review unit was smooth, sleek and shiny. It is somewhat slippery under the fingers, though, so you’ll appreciate the transparent gel bumper case that comes in the box. This does hide some of the nice design but provides a better grip.
The 5-inch screen sits almost flush to the handset’s long edges, and there’s not a huge bezel on the short edges. This makes for a relatively compact phone overall at just 69mm wide by 140mm deep by just 6.9 mm thick. The screen is an active-matrix OLED with a resolution of 1,080 by 1920 pixels (441ppi). Colours are bright and viewing angles very good.
For a £199 handset the hardware design standards are high, and the OnePlus X punches well above its weight. Curved long and short edges on both back and front, a tactile and visually attractive ribbed finish to the metal frame and inward angles on the frame where it meets the handset’s back and front are features normally associated with more expensive phones.
On the right edge you’ll find the volume and power buttons. Side buttons can sometimes feel a little rocky under the fingers and either protrude too much or too little. Not so here. The buttons are solidly in place, protrude just the right amount to find easily with touch alone, and depress with a reassuring audible click and tactile response.
On the left edge there’s a three-position Alert Slider button that you can easily switch between all notifications, priority only or no notifications without bothering to turn the handset on. A tiny vibration tells you a setting has been made. You’ll have to remember what each of the slider’s positions do if the screen is off, but if you’re on the lock screen or are using the phone a small alert box reminds you of the setting you’ve made.
The caddy for Nano-SIMs and MicroSD card is also on the right edge. The OnePlus X is a dual-SIM handset, but there’s a catch: the caddy combines the second SIM and MicroSD card container, so you can have one or the other but not both. Having to relinquish MicroSD storage in favour of a second SIM is not an elegant solution, and it’s a shame the designers couldn’t have found a way to accommodate two SIMs and a MicroSD card at the same time.
The speaker, housed in the bottom edge delivers good volume, and although bass punch is (understandably) lacking the output is certainly good enough for some leisure listening.
The 13-megapixel rear camera shoots full-HD 1080p video and will capture slow-motion 720p video at 120 frames a second. This delivers nicely when played back on the handset, although of course you have to select slow motion shooting mode before taking your video rather than playing back normal speed video in slow-mo mode. There aren’t many other bells and whistles, but you get time-lapse shooting, HDR and the ever-annoying Beauty mode for narcissists. The front camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels.
The OnePlus X’s 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor is no leading-edge SoC, but it coped fine with everything we asked of the handset. It’s supported by 3GB of RAM and there’s 16GB of internal storage, of which 10.56GB was available on our review unit. Given the price, these seem fair specifications.
Notably absent from the features line-up is NFC, and the wi-fi support is 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n only. We can live with this, but we’re less impressed by the 2,525mAh battery, which failed to deliver all-day battery life during the testing period. If you’re a heavy user of power-hungry applications, you’ll need to keep a battery charger and a Micro-USB cable to hand.
OnePlus uses its own Oxygen OS, a tailored version of Android. In this case the base is Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) and the Oxygen OS version is 2.1. While you might wish for Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), there are some useful additions that Oxygen OS provides to the older — still almost ubiquitous — Android version.
You can opt to use either on-screen or off-screen navigation buttons and can customise the buttons’ functions, giving them both long-press and double-tap actions. Unfortunately, the range of options is limited, but it’s a neat feature. Be warned that the off-screen buttons are not backlit. To the right of the home screen you’ll find Shelf, which provides access to shortcuts for your most frequently-used apps and contacts.
OnePlus has also added a range of gesture controls for the lock screen. Sadly the range of things you can do with gestures is limited, but we found drawing a V on the lock screen to launch the flashlight was particularly useful.
A couple of other features, such as displaying notifications on the lock screen and waking the display when your hand is nearby (when you reach for it to take a call or access an app, for example), are nice additions, although perhaps more useful is the granular control of app permissions. You can also select an accent colour, which works really well if you chose the ‘dark mode’ theme against which accent colours stand out brilliantly. You can also change LED notification colours to reflect your own preferences.
Of the very few app additions OnePlus makes to Android, the FM radio and file manager are both welcome.
Overall, Oxygen OS treats Android with a very light touch, so that Android feels uncluttered and unhampered by bloatware. It’s an elegant and refreshing take on Android embellishment.
The OnePlus X is an excellent entry into the budget Android handset market. We have very few grumbles about this phone. We’d have liked longer battery life, but recognise that a higher-capacity battery would have added to the handset’s overall size.
We’d also have liked an optional backlight for the off-screen buttons, and it’s a real pity that you can only have either a second SIM or a MicroSD card but not both. None of these are deal-breakers, though, and in terms of both hardware and software this is another impressive handset from OnePlus. If £200 is your limit, then the OnePlus X should definitely be on your shortlist.