OnePlus has a crazy marketing team, and they had some of the most unique ways to showcase themselves in the market – Smash your phone and get a OnePlus One, register for an invite to purchase our phone, and some festive tie-ups to help people buy them. For sure the numbers they boast are tiny, when compared to the smartphone giants like Samsung and Apple, but the company can be trusted as one that doesn’t like to compromise on quality, yet keeping the price much lower than what competitive smartphones are priced at.
In comes OnePlus X, the third smartphone that follows OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, the flagships, but the X isn’t a flagship. It indeed has some specs that are matching the first flagship, yet we have a few things to laud about it, while some points might make you think twice before choosing the phone as your next daily driver.
Design: This reminds us of the iPhone 4s, and even of Sony’s Xperia compact series, but all this makes it a rather good device than something one could just want to pass on calling it a copy. This is one of the best phones I’ve held in the recent times, and not just the size, but the curved edges on both the sides, glass body, and the rightly placed buttons make it all one of the best designed devices of this year.
The company calls it a fire-baked scratch-resistant glass, so it is clear that you might see a shattered back of the OnePlus X, if it slips down on the floor from a good height. For that small size, 138gm is some weight but it doesn’t feel like that due to the even distribution of weight.
Scratch resistance is again a strong word here, since even though I never intentionally tried to scratch the back glass, it already has mild scratches after a few days of regular use, keeping it without much care, and having it among coins and keys in the pocket. There are some back cases available though, if you are keen on protecting the back from scratches, but that takes away the purpose of good aesthetics.
The back cover cannot be removed, and the glass front and back are joined by a metallic frame on the side. The cutouts for MicroUSB port and speakers are located in the bottom, and although there is a single speaker on the left side of the port, the frame in the bottom is made to look symmetrical and neat. On the front, there is a 5-inch display, the set of sensors, earpiece and the camera above it, while below the display are the touch-sensitive navigation buttons, which sadly don’t have any light underneath them.
The inclusion of Alert slider button is interesting and useful, as it helps choose between all notifications, priority notifications and no notifications. The camera on the back is given a bit more towards the corner, thus there is interference from the finger sometimes while trying to take a picture and stabilize the phone at the same time.
Let’s talk about the negatives as well. While the phone once slip out of my pocket while sitting, the glass was safe but the aluminum frame took the beating and a dent was easily formed. Other con about the design is that the phone is too slippery to stay on a soft place, though it was comfortable in the hand.
Display: The display on OnePlus X is an AMOLED one, and that is quite an improvement from the previous devices of OnePlus, though we aren’t talking of overall quality but the color output, since the OnePlus 2 had a good display.
The AMOLED display has almost a true black output, which makes it very good in viewing with perfect colors and good brightness levels. OnePlus did a much better use of the Ambient display functionality, where the display periodically turns on in a monochrome look, which reminds of the pending notifications, but doesn’t use up much battery. When this is turned off, the user can turn to the option of Proximity wake, where the device relies on front-facing camera to check for any hand wave to wake the screen.
Interface: The OnePlus X runs Oxygen OS, based on Android Lollipop version, and the good thing is that the device will get Android Marshmallow update in the future. That’s actually a great point to note, since the OxygenOS is almost what stock Android ROM is, so the experience is neat and smooth.
No unnecessary bloatware, and only the apps that one might want to always use, compromises the list of apps in the device. Though, the photos can be viewed only on the Google Photos app, so better to download one from Play Store to get going for a proper gallery experience. OnePlus Radio is a new addition, and it works quite well.
Under the settings, you can see what stock Android doesn’t have – option to have on-screen navigation buttons and change their order, gesture features like double-tap-to-wake, drawing O and V to toggle camera and flashlight on turned-off screen, and music control gestures. Of course the Cyanogen OS has much more in the list, but these little ones are enough for users to customize and make things a bit more personal.
The on-screen navigation buttons are a great help, since we cannot rely on the off-screen ones, because OnePlus chose not to have any LEDs under those physical keys and they become a pain when using the device in dark conditions. Sometime in 2016, the X will be getting the Marshmallow update, that is on Oxygen OS.
Performance: It isn’t the best, to be fair to OnePlus’ previous device having the same chipset, the OnePlus One. The OnePlus X doesn’t show up any hiccups on the daily regular usage, but on gaming, there is easily noticeable frame dropping and minor lags that are enough to annoy you, while thinking that the Snapdragon 801 with Adreno 330 GPU is known to be great for gaming. Changing the quality to Medium did make the things better and the lags were eliminated.
While I was at a point very happy with the fact that OnePlus has included a chipset that did so well in several flagships last year, these issues of frame drops and lags (even while typing for a long time) weren’t expected, and are a bit disappointing. But on the other side, it is only these specific areas where it shows that issues with performance, otherwise you are looking at a good performer.
Camera: The camera combination with megapixel count is actually better than the one on flagship OnePlus 2, since we are looking at a 13-megapixel rear and a 8-megapixel front-facing camera. The rear one is an ISOCELL sensor and has a F/2.2 aperture, while the front camera has an Omnivision sensor with F/2.4 aperture. The rear camera is capable of well detailed and neatly saturated captures in day light.
There is no OIS, so there was always a need for very stable hand to take captures in HDR mode, but in Auto mode, there was no such need because the camera was quite quick on not just focusing, but also with capture and processing of the image.
Check: OnePlus X Camera Samples
As you can check in the camera samples, some of the bright light captures make it look like something taken with the flash in low light, since there is unnatural washing out of the colors, but that was nothing very often. As for the front camera, since the aperture is poorer than the one on the back, there is a bit of work needed in low light conditions. OnePlus has done quite well with reduction of noise in the selfies, even if it shows up before the capture.
A downside against OnePlus One, even if a better megapixel combination, is that the OnePlus X can record only 1080p videos, unlike the 4K video recording possible in the One. The video recording is decent, but again shakes are quite evident.
Battery, in a way, is quite disappointing since for the price range, there are quite a lot of devices offering better battery life and not just the capacity. A 2500 mAh battery should actually be enough for day’s use, but if you are someone keeping your eyes on the screen for a long time, it won’t give you over four hours of screen-on time, except when you are totally limiting the usage to Wi-Fi.
The standby on OnePlus X is great, and there is very little background drain noticed, but while using it on 4G with some web browsing or YouTube video play, you’d notice the percentage falling quite fast.
Though there are two grills on the bottom, only the left side one has a speaker that has not a loud but very accurate and clear sound output. Though I love the position, i.e. in the bottom frame and not on the back of the device, but if that was on the right side, it wouldn’t have seen the accidental blocks from the palm when playing games on landscape mode.
With the introduction of OnePlus One last year, the company raised the bar of expectations in the user’s minds, and thus, every release from OnePlus would be seen with a spotlight on them. OnePlus 2 might not have impressed a lot even if it packed the right set of specs for the price, but the OnePlus X has some points too right, while left users asking a few questions in some particular areas such as battery, and the gaming performance.
The same chipset as the OnePlus One, then why the lags and frame drops on high-end games? Why no 4K video recording which was given in the One? But at least, you are not asked for a higher price for any better storage variant, and a MicroSD option might make the users feel happy about not just the expanded storage but also about the easy transfer of media across their devices.
So, is this still a good choice? There are actually a lot of phones in this price range that might make it difficult for the OnePlus X to climb to the top. Lenovo’s Vibe S1, Vibe P1, Honor 6 Plus, Xiaomi Mi 4i, Moto X Play, and Asus ZenFone 2 are all some of the tough competitors to this, but you if retain the faith on OnePlus, the X is there to last and make you feel about holding it and using it for long. Keep the competition aside, the OnePlus X is worth the price for that excellent design and build one can flaunt, for the cameras and for the neat user experience.