OnePlus X review

Continuing its whirlwind adventure in the smartphone market, OnePlus' smallest and cheapest phone yet is the OnePlus X. Here’s our full and in-depth OnePlus X review, often referred to as the OnePlus mini. See also: OnePlus 2 Mini rumoursOnePlus 3 rumours and Best phones of 2016

Update 15 June 2016: Speaking at the OnePlus 3 launch event, OnePlus has confirmed that there will not be a successor to the OnePlus X, and that it will focus on a single smartphone product line in future. That would also seemingly rule out the possibility of a OnePlus 2 mini.

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 £249 (64GB), but the OnePlus X is even more affordable at only £189. 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 the Nexus 5X, impressive as it, costs more than 50 percent more at £339 for the entry-level model. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.

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.

OnePlus X review design

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. 

That button you see on the left side of the phone (above) 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 helps this is OnePlus’ range of cases for the X which come in various options like the StyleSwap backs for the OnePlus 2 at a cost of £24. Some are still a little slippy but nothing like the glass - opt for the Sandstone cover if you want maximum grip.

OnePlus X cases

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 too 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.

OnePlus X: Specs

  • Ceramic, Onyx versions
  • OxygenOS based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801, quad-core
  • Adreno 330
  • 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 16GB, plus up to 128GB microSD
  • 5in full-HD (1920x1080, 441ppi) AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 3
  • 13Mp rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video/120fps slo-mo at 720p
  • 8Mp front camera, f/2.4 aperture
  • accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, hall sensor
  • 2,525mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • Micro-USB charging port
  • 4G bands 3, 7 & 20 (EU & Asia model)
  • dual-Nano-SIM (one SIM slot can be used for microSD card)
  • 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • bottom-facing speaker
  • dual-mics with noise cancellation
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • FM radio
  • 140x69x6.9mm
  • 138g (Onyx), 160g (Ceramic)
  • Ceramic, Onyx versions
  • OxygenOS based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801, quad-core
  • Adreno 330
  • 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
  • 16GB, plus up to 128GB microSD
  • 5in full-HD (1920x1080, 441ppi) AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 3
  • 13Mp rear camera, f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video/120fps slo-mo at 720p
  • 8Mp front camera, f/2.4 aperture
  • accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, hall sensor
  • 2,525mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • Micro-USB charging port
  • 4G bands 3, 7 & 20 (EU & Asia model)
  • dual-Nano-SIM (one SIM slot can be used for microSD card)
  • 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • bottom-facing speaker
  • dual-mics with noise cancellation
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • FM radio
  • 140x69x6.9mm
  • 138g (Onyx), 160g (Ceramic)

OUR VERDICT

The OnePlus X was the best value smartphone of 2015. We love the premium design in a smaller form factor to the firm’s other phones. Software is a strong point and you get a gorgeous screen. However, cuts had to be made somewhere and the X is lacking features such as NFC, 11ac and Wi-Fi. It also is missing the fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port found on the OnePlus 2. Battery life isn’t great and cameras aren’t best in class but this is a great phone for the price.

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