Hi All, this is Aswin from TechieDrone. This will be my first article in this blog. First and foremost, I would like to thank my good friend Karthick on getting me started on blogging. Sometimes in life, even if you have many ideas, you need someone to bring those ideas into reality. Since this is my first article, I am choosing something I feel special about. Yes folks, the title says it all. This is my review of the legendary Oneplus One in 2017. So let’s get started, shall we?
Hardware and Design
As far as the introduction is concerned, I have been using this phone for almost 3 years. I bought it from Amazon sometime in the beginning of 2015. Since then, it has been an impressively reliable device. Speaking of the design, I need to say it is a unique looking device at the very least. The front is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The display is slightly raised from the edges. It gives an understated and minimalistic look yet it looks cool. With no branding on the front whatsoever, it also looks clean. Once you hold the phone, you immediately notice that the back of the phone is not made of the regular metal or glass we get so much these days, but it feels like sandblasted velvet paper. It looks unique and also provides very good grip. This is a big phone weighing 162g. With the camera placed at the very top and a clean front, it certainly stands out of the crowd.
Now coming to the actual hardware, you get all the usual stuff. Headphone jack is at the top, power button on the right, volume keys at the left and finally a microusb port flanked by speakers on either side. The volume and power buttons feels like the one in Nexus 5. They are tactile enough and provide good feedback. Double tap to wake feature means the life of the power button is prolonged significantly. The phone feels sturdy enough and it has coped up very well with daily use. I usually take good care of my phone and haven’t dropped it once but still this phone can take some minor falls without too much damage.
Next is the display. It has a 5.5 inch LTPS IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1080×1920. That accounts to 401 ppi(Pixels per Inch). To be frank, this is one of the most pixel dense screen I have ever used, since even my desktop has only 1600×900 resolution screen. The display is amazing with rich colours and great viewing angles. It is also bright enough to be used outdoors without too much issues. It holds up very well even today. We are at an age where 4k screens are being crammed into small screens. But personally, I feel that Full HD resolution hits the sweetspot between display quality and battery efficiency. It is perfect for watching videos and playing games. So no complaints here.
Let’s now talk about the speakers. As mentioned earlier, there are two speakers located at the bottom. They are separated by a small gap. Also these are not to be mistaken as stereo speakers(Where each speaker emits different audio channel), in fact these are dual mono speakers. Nevertheless audio is good with loud volume. They sound a bit tinny but they get the job done. Also their placement means they are less likely to get muffled when placing the phone on a flat surface like a table either with the face of the phone up or down.
Now that we are done with the boring stuff, let’s talk about performance. I can summarize it in two words, BLAZING FAST. I want to share some personal thoughts in this section. I will also be comparing the Oneplus One with the Samsung Galaxy S5(Exynos variant), since I have used that phone too. The moment I started using the phone, I was mindblown by its scintillating performance. Never had I experienced such smooth operation in a phone. I thought that since it is a new phone, it is fast and after some time, it will start to lag like all others, right? Wrong. It has been almost 3 years since I have bought the phone. To this date, I have not experienced any unexpected slow downs. Now, this section might be lengthy, but I want to give an honest opinion. At the heart of the exhilarating performance demonstrated by the Oneplus One is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (Specifically the MSM8974AC model) with four Krait 400 custom cores ticking at a blistering 2.5GHz. It was one of the fastest clocked SOC at that time. This is paired with the Adreno 330 GPU which deserves a special mention in its own right. Specifically in the Snapdragon 801AC model, it is clocked up to 578 MHz. It was also one of the fastest GPU available at that time. So let’s do some comparison, shall we? The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with the Exynos 5422 SOC(an octa-core chipset) paired with Mali T628-MP6 GPU. Now comparing the Oneplus One and the Galaxy S5, the exynos 5422 in the S5 puts up a good fight against the SD801 in the Oneplus One in terms of CPU benchmarks. The GPU is where the Galaxy S5 disappoints. I am not saying that the Mali T628-MP6 GPU is so bad but when compared with the Adreno 330, it can’t even hold a candle to the Adreno 330. The Adreno 330 simply thrashes the Mali T628 when it comes to real world performance. In my time with the Galaxy S5, I have noticed lagging and frame-drops even in some small games. This is further made worse by the implementation of DVFS(Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling), an algorithm designed to prevent overheating. Due to this, heavy games like Asphalt 8 starts to lag after just a small duration due to the throttling of the processor. Factor in the price of Rs.51,500 (This was the launch price but I got mine in 2016 for Rs.11,999), you are sure to get disappointed. Also Galaxy S5 was a 3G smartphone whereas the Oneplus One was a 4G smartphone supporting all the major bands in India.
Regarding the performance of the Oneplus One, it has been smooth and is capable of playing high-end games without issues even today. I feel that the SD801 was well ahead of its time. I also want to share about the multitasking performance since it also deserves a special mention. In Galaxy S5, we get 2GB of RAM. It simply struggled holding just a few small apps. If you open a game, almost everything gets reloaded. On the contrary, the multitasking in the Oneplus One was just spectacular. Calling its multitasking performance excellent would be an understatement. On one instance, I remember testing the multitasking of the Oneplus One and I wanted to push the 3GB RAM to its limit. I opened these games and checked if it was able to keep them in memory. The games were Asphalt 8, Real Racing 3, NOVA 3, Implosion and NFS MW. The reason I picked these games was that all the aforementioned games weigh well over 1GB in size. Also I had these other apps open. They were Riptide GP2, subway surfers, Gmail, settings screen. Believe me, not even a single app was reloaded. All apps resided in its memory. This is how multitasking should be. The beastly SD801 chipset and generous 3GB RAM is a potent combination and it is indeed implemented beautifully. So I would gladly give the performance 10/10 even to this date.
I personally believe and I think most of you will agree that, a good software is necessary along with good hardware for providing an optimal experience. The prime example of this is the iphones. Even though their spec-sheet might not look strong compared to top android flagships, in terms of speed tests or real world performance, the iphone trounces the competition. So this is one of the reasons I was excited when I heard that the Oneplus One was going to come with CyanogenMod preinstalled. Just so you know, CyanogenMod was an almost stock version of android but with some useful tuning and customisation options available out of the box. But now we all know what the fate of CyanogenMod is.
Anyway when I received my phone, it was preinstalled with CyanogenMod 11s (a special commercial version designed for the Oneplus One). It was having lots of extra features but it still had an interface familiar to stock Android 4.4.4 Kitkat. It even had an option to change the CPU Governor (Options range from Interactive, Conservative to Performance). I have never really seen these kind of options from a stock version of android. Due to the various optimizations and relatively bloat free android version, it provided a really smooth user experience. It gave an insane battery life (I will discuss the battery life in detail in the upcoming section).
Then one day, I decided to update to Cyanogen OS12(Lollipop version). The lollipop update was a terrible one. It was riddled with bugs and the battery life was abysmal. I also faced a major issue after this update. The volume of the dual mono speaker was reduced considerably. To give a perspective, The full volume in COS 12 could not equal 35-40% of the volume in CyanogenMod 11s. I then searched in net for a solution. One of the solution required to make changes in Mixer_paths.xml file located in the System folder. But this required root. So I took the risky step of rooting my phone which was my daily driver. It anything bad happened during rooting, I was screwed (At that time, I was new to the rooting of phones and all). But I just couldn’t tolerate the low volume. So I followed step by step instruction provided in the net. Finally my phone was rooted and immediately I made the changes as required. Finally my problem of low volume was solved.
This was the start of the real potential of the Oneplus One. For the uninitiated, the Oneplus One is an extremely popular device among the developer community. This was due to the openness of both the software and the hardware. The kernel sources and the device tree was released by Oneplus. This helped immensely in developing new custom ROM’s for the device. Some ROM’s that I have tried are CyanogenMod 13, Resurrection Remix 6.0, Darkabos, Lineage OS 14.1 and now I have finally settled on Sultanxda cm13. This particular ROM has great stability and some features related to camera not found on other ROM’s.
Not only this but there are several other ROM’s for this device. Even Xiaomi had ported their MIUI due to the popularity of the device. Then there are others like Sailfish OS and even Ubuntu for this device. There is a saying that goes like “Legends never Die”. This applies perfectly to the Oneplus One. After CyanogenMod vanished, came Lineage OS like a phoenix arising from the ashes. Among the list of devices in which Lineage OS has been installed, Oneplus One stands at No.1. There has been reports that an unofficial version of Android 8.0 Oreo has been released for this device. Though it is filled with bugs, it goes to show that the device can hold its own even to this date. So I can conclude by saying that this device might be a flashaholics dream.
The first thing that gets affected by a phone’s age is the battery life. Due to repeated charging and discharging, the battery eventually loses its ability to hold the charge. When I was using my phone with CyanogenMod 11s, I was getting very good battery life. On one particular occasion, with some light to moderate usage, I got exactly 7 hrs and 10 mins of screen on time. This usage was stretched across 3 days. So it is truly superb result for a phone with 3100 mAh battery.
But when I updated to lollipop OS, battery life took a hit. After changing multiple ROM’s, I am satisfied with the battery life I am getting on Sultanxda’s CM13 ROM. It lasts me a full day for moderate to heavy usage. If used sparingly, It lasts me 1.5 days comfortably. If it had a user-replaceable battery, I could have changed it by now, but since it is sealed inside, it is more complicated to do so. But its not a huge issue so its fine by me. The bundled charger completes charging the phone within 2 hours from zero percent.
Now let’s come to the camera. Overall its a very decent camera. This is one area where the costly flagships overtake the Oneplus One in terms of image quality. Again its a very decent camera in daylight, but in low light, its strictly average. It ships with the Cyanogen camera app. It has some cool features like changing the video codec and recording in 4K DCI format.
Now that I am rooted and running on sultan’s CM13 OS, the snapdragon camera included with it is quite powerful. It lets you to record 1080p 60fps(with audio) which was not possible with any other ROM I had previously tried. You can also record video at 1440p with the front camera. But both these features work only with the included Snapdragon camera. The biggest reason why I am still using this ROM is that the issue with the flash is not present here. Previously if you used a third-party camera app and shoot pics using the flash, you get a image with a line separating the pic in the middle and both halves of the image have different exposure levels(i.e one half is dark and other half is bright). Finally this is solved in this ROM.
I also have the Color OS camera installed because it provides manual focus option and other stuff. As far as the actual image quality is concerned, in Auto mode, the pics are good with mostly natural colors. The white balance is also good. Details in shadow have some noise but overall it looks very good.
HDR mode though, is totally a different beast. It turns the saturation dial to a eleven. It boosts the brightness and pumps the saturation to an almost cartoon like level. It looks punchy and some may like it. It comes to personal preference. Personally I like it a lot.
I have attached some samples for you guys to check out.
Here are some Landscape shots
Here are some HDR shot comparisons. Left side image is taken in normal auto mode while the images at the right are taken with HDR option enabled. Also notice that the HDR shots are brighter and punchy with saturated colors.
Here are some pics taken at less than ideal light levels
Some pics taken in foggy weather
Images taken using Panorama mode
Some of the above shots were taken in Munnar. I have taken almost 400 photos there. That is how much I like this camera. It doesn’t have the best image quality in the world but it surely is a reliable performer and a dependable second set of eyes.
Since from the beginning, you may have noticed that this is not a complete review but some personal experiences about how well the phone is holding up in 2017. As far as you have taken care of the phone, there is no major issues to speak of. Now let’s wrap this up, shall we?
The company Oneplus was founded in 2013. They announced that they were going to release their first phone in 2014. From the time they were discussing about the specifications of the phone, the company has been very vocal in the forums. At a time when competition to Industry giants like Samsung and Apple were far and few, Oneplus set out to shake up the mobile world. Their motto “NEVER SETTLE” was truly reflected in this phone. At a time when flagships from top companies were disappointing, arrival of a new challenger was a refreshing change. At less than half the price of top flagships, the Oneplus One was not only able to give a tough fight, but it stood neck and neck with the rivals. I think it is safe to say that the term “FLAGSHIP KILLER” was popularized by this legendary phone.
This phone did not show up in any TV adverts or was popular with regular smartphone users. Yet, this phone was incredibly difficult to get due to the invite system chosen by Oneplus for managing supply and demand. Initially when I bought this phone, I was faced with one particular question. When people asked what phone I was using, I used to say “Its a Oneplus One”. People used to look like, “I am Sorry, but what was it again?”. It was only with Oneplus 3, that the popularity of the brand rose among the common people.
Until the Oneplus One arrived into the scene, big companies were providing mediocre hardware and charging whatever they wanted. Specifically, the galaxy S5 with its 16GB internal storage and 3G only network looked like an antique in front of the Oneplus One with its 64GB internal storage and 4G compatibility. The price difference in particular was huge (Rs. 51,500 for S5 Vs Rs.22,000 for the Oneplus One). That’s a difference of Rs. 29,500 between the two. And yet, the Oneplus One was running circles around the S5 in terms of sheer performance.
The popularity of the Oneplus One was so much among the enthusiasts, that the Oneplus 2 was unable to garner the same kind of attention that its predecessor was capable of. To be fair, initially the after sales service of Oneplus One was almost non-existent. But they have come a long way.
So the word “ORIGINAL FLAGSHIP KILLER” sums it all up about this legendary phone. Even though Oneplus has dropped the ‘Flagship Killer’ moniker from latest devices, the Oneplus One has paved the way for others. It proved that a good and competitive smartphone need not cost a fortune. It also proved the fact that a comparatively cheap phone need not be embarrassed about its performance compared to top flagships from the big players. It went toe to toe with every other high-end phones released that year. It was also competing well against phones that were released in the subsequent years. In an industry saturated with many competitors, you got to stand out of the crowd to make a name for yourself. This is what Oneplus has done with this phone. Now they have released Oneplus 5 with an industry leading 8GB of RAM.
So these were my thoughts about this legendary phone in 2017, what are your thoughts? Please share with us in the comments section. Also since this is a new blog, stay tuned for more interesting articles on technology. Please subscribe to our newsletter to get updates as soon as we post something new. Also feel free to share it in facebook and twitter. Thanks and have a great day 🙂