ONEPLUS X REVIEW: Continuing its whirlwind adventure in the smartphone market, OnePlus is back with its smallest and cheapest phone yet. Here’s our full and in-depth OnePlus X review, often referred to as the OnePlus mini. See also: Best phones of 2015
ONEPLUS X REVIEW: PRICE AND COMPETITION
OnePlus has made a name for itself by offering phones as far lower prices than you would expect if you looked at the spec sheet and images of the device itself. The theme continues with the OnePlus X, which is actually the firm’s cheapest smartphone to date.
The OnePlus 2 is a steal at just £239, but the OnePlus X is even more affordable at only £199. It is in essence the OnePlus 2 mini, if you like. Everyone we’ve shown the OnePlus X to is astonished to find out how cheap it is after seeing and feeling it. (We’ve also compared the phones in our OnePlus 2 vs OnePlus X comparison review.)
There is little competition below the £200 mark in the smartphone market but the OnePlus X does have some rivals. The Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) springs to mind, which offers pretty decent specs for juts £159 as standard, but doesn’t offer the same level of design and build; plus if you use the Moto Maker to customise it, it can cost more than the X.
A Nexus device would normally be a rival for best value smartphone but this year’s Nexus 5X, impressive as it, costs more than 50 percent more at £339 for the entry-level model.
At this price, you’re probably already interested in getting your hands on the OnePlus X, but that’s where we run into a small problem. Like previous phones, you need an invite to buy one, which is a bit of a spanner in the works… unless you buy from a third-party retailer such as Geekbuying, which we outline below.
ONEPLUS X REVIEW: HOW TO BUY THE ONEPLUS X WITHOUT AN INVITE & HOW TO GET A WHITE ONEPLUS X
The OnePlus X we review below is the black ‘Onyx’ glass version supplied to us by OnePlus itself. It’s the UK edition of the phone; a limited-edition Ceramic model is also available if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one.
We also received a white and gold OnePlus X from Geekbuying that is available only in China. As you’ll see in our comparison shots below it is a gorgeous phone and, arguably, more attractive than the black ‘Onyx’ version. More importantly, you don’t need an invite to buy the white (or black) OnePlus X today, and it could cost you less.
OnePlus X white vs black
Geekbuying lists the OnePlus X much more cheaply than does OnePlus itself. You can buy the black model with 2GB of RAM for £187.09, or 3GB of RAM for £192.84. The white OnePlus X costs £187.09 with 2GB of RAM, or £180.31 with 3GB of RAM (prices correct on 16 November 2015). Shipping to the UK is free, but you should note that these products are sent from China and if your parcel is picked up by customs you’ll be invoiced for import duty before you receive your handset. (Read our advice on buying grey-market tech.)
There are a couple of things you should note before you buy from Geekbuying, however. First, this is the Chinese model of the handset, and it supports different frequency bands to that sold in the UK. Most importantly for UK users, it does not support the 800MHz 4G LTE band. This will affect O2 users and other mobile operators which use its network, such as Giffgaff. You’ll be able to use the phone, you just won’t receive 4G connectivity.
OnePlus X white vs black
Second, the software is not exactly the same out of the box. On the sample sent to us by Geekbuying there are a few additions that cannot be uninstalled. These include the KK Browser (which introduces pop-up ads), DCShare, Clean Master, DU Battery Saver and DU Speed Booster, plus UC Mini. It also adds a second Search app, and replaces the Google search widget on the home screen with its own.
A factory reset won’t clear these apps; the only thing that will remove them from the phone is to flash a stock version of Oxygen OS, which is not something we’d recommend unless you know what you’re doing.
For what it’s worth, the most irritating app of all these additions is the DU Battery Saver, which sits in the notification bar by default. We couldn’t uninstall it, but we opened the app and entered its settings menu to turn off this ‘Power indicator’, disable all its reminders and remove all apps from its Protection Lists. Then again, you might find it useful.
OnePlus X white vs black
Now back to our OnePlus X review…
ONEPLUS X REVIEW: DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
As we’ve already given a decent hint of, the OnePlus X doesn’t have the type of design and build which you’re probably accustomed to with a phone under £200. We were frankly quite shocked when it arrived at PC Advisor and we got it out the box.
The firm has really thought long and hard about the look and feel of the X and has done a sterling job. The metal frame with its almost nano- sized ridges and dark glass front and back features a bevelled edge adding both style and comfort.
It reminds us of the gorgeous Sony Ericsson C902 from yesteryear and there’s almost no faulting the OnePlus X in this area. It’s thin and light which is a big improvement on the pretty brick-like OnePlus 2 – just 6.9mm ad 138g.
OnePlus X review design
That button you see on the left side of the phone is called the Alert Slider and it means you can easily switch between three different notification profiles. Handy when you want to quickly make sure your phone stays quiet or doesn’t with minimal effort.
We say almost because the glass back does make for a slippery experience, whether it be sliding off the arm of your sofa or moving gradually across a flat surface when you’re trying to scroll – you get the idea. Something which may solve this is OnePlus’ range of cases for the X which come in various options like the StyleSwap backs for the OnePlus 2.
Comparing the X to the Moto G there’s no waterproofing here so it’s more about style and we’re fine with that.
We took a look at the Onyx black glass model but there is also a limited edition ceramic version if you happy to pay more and deal with the increased weight of 160g. We’re not bothered about this option really.
ONEPLUS X REVIEW: HARDWARE AND SPECS
Treating the OnePlus X as a mini version of the 2, there are a number of downgrades and that makes a large amount of sense since the X is a cheaper option.
A major difference is that the screen is smaller and we’re pleased that the firm has chosen to offer a device more compact than its others. Not everyone wants a heavy 5.5in handset after all.
OnePlus X review screen
The resolution remains at Full HD though so it’s actually got a higher pixel density. Using AMOLED technology, we’re impressed with the deep blacks of the display, great viewing angles and the brightness on offer – we’ve found ourselves using it on the lowest setting quite comfortably.
A 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor seems to be a cost cutting measure since the chip is now fairly out-of-date. Accompanying this is 3GB of RAM and although this combination doesn’t make for particularly exciting reading, we’ve found performance to be fairly smooth. The main thing is that the chip isn’t 64-bit.
We’d also like to add in that the OnePlus X does get quite hot in normal use such as web browsing. The back heats up near the top but not to the kind of worrying amount where you could cook bacon on it or anything.
OnePlus has fitted a 2525mAh battery inside the X and a benchmark results of four hours and 57 minutes and a score of 2656 isn’t the best. It matches the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact and in real life you’re likely to need to plug it in every night.
There’s just 16GB of internal storage available here – you’ll get around 11 to play with after the pre-installed software. Luckily, there is a Micro-SD card slot available so you can add up to 128GB more.
However, it’s worth noting that the OnePlus X is dual-SIM and putting a memory card in takes up one of those slots, so you can’t have all three in at the same time.
OnePlus X review hardware
At this price, there has to be cuts somewhere so compared to the OnePlus 2, the X doesn’t offer a fingerprint scanner or reversible USB Type-C. It also lacks 11ac Wi-Fi and NFC which is a shame for anyone wanting to use payment systems or other near field benefits.
When it comes to cameras, the OnePlus X has a 13Mp camera at the rear with an LED flash. It shoots in a 4:3 aspect ratio by default (as does the front camera), which is novel, and the app is simplistic. There’s no optical image stabilisation but there is phase detection auto focus. The results are good but generally not great and we’ve seen much better 13Mp cameras. At the front is an 8Mp camera, which is good but not quite as detailed and sharp as we normally find at this resolution.
OnePlus X test photo
ONEPLUS X REVIEW: SOFTWARE AND APPS
Moving on and software is another strong point for the OnePlus X as the phone is running the firm’s own Oxygen OS which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop. We would have preferred the latest 6.0 Marshmallow but it’s not the end of the world, partly because OnePlus has added similar features anyway.
Although it might sound like a heavily modified user experience, it couldn’t be much further from the truth. Oxygen OS is very much a stock Android look and feel. This means you get pretty much all the same bits and pieces compared to getting a Nexus device including the notification bar and recent apps.
Motorola offers a slightly more stock experience with Google Now a swipe away from the homescreen. Oxygen OS instead has Shelf, a way of getting access to your most used apps and contacts. If you’re not fond of Shelf it’s totally optional.
Another bonus in this area is the lack of bloatware so you get Google’s range of apps and not much more, giving you a nice blank canvas to get started with.
You can choose on-screen navigation buttons, the usual Android ones, but it’s probably worth opting against this during setup. The X has touch sensitive buttons below the screen which can be utilised, even if they are quite hard to see with no backlight. Each one can also be assigned a long press- and double tap action which is great.
We mentioned that you get Marshmallow features with the OnePlus X so you can adjust individual app permissions and you can re-arrange the quick settings tiles.
You also get nifty features like gestures (double tap to wake the screen, draw an O to open the camera etc) and customisation including the accent colour of the interface and the LED notification light.