Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software and apps
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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OnePlus 2 Review

This beastly mid-range smartphone is a flagship challenger
By Samir Makwana on 2015-11-26
Key Features
  • 5.5-inch Full HD LTPS display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2
  • 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM
  • 3300 mAh battery
What we like
  • Vibrant and bright display
  • Oxygen OS is smooth, close to stock Android 
  • Better camera output than predecessor
  • Faster performance
  • Good, reliable battery life
What we don't like
  • A cumbersome invite system to purchase it
  • No QuickCharge support
  • Camera software needs few tweaks
  • Slow OS update cycle
  • Gets warm while gaming
7.8
Our Score
Introduction

OnePlus 2 Review - Box Shot

The year 2014 clearly had the OnePlus One disrupting the highly competitive race for the best flagship devices. This year however, OnePlus has struck back with an even more aggressive marketing strategy for the OnePlus 2. With an obvious name for its successor, the OnePlus 2 was further deemed as a “2016 flagship killer” at the time of its launch. Showing a lot of potential to attract consumers across India, the OnePlus 2 has been one of the most awaited devices this year. 

The idea of the OnePlus line is quite simple - to feature top hardware in a build that doesn’t look or feel cheap, while running the fastest software and, most importantly, packaged at an affordable price. This is precisely what worked for OnePlus One last year. Thus, in order to catch up with the top-notch flagships of 2015, the OnePlus 2 comes equipped with worthy updates in camera, processor, RAM, build quality, and battery capacity. 

We got lucky with a pre-sale review unit that ran the A2005_14_150807 build. Here’s our account after spending about a week with the OnePlus 2.

Design
8

OnePlus 2 Review - Design

OnePlus aims to be the ‘phone maker for its fans’ and tries to deliver the best of all worlds, instead of something ostentatious. The design of the OnePlus 2 focuses more on usability and the phone indeed is handful. The metal frame with anodized treatment looks plush and feels great in hand. The OnePlus 2 is merely a millimetre thicker and slightly less than a millimetre wider, than the OnePlus One.

At the front, the fingerprint reader key looks a lot like the Home button, but is not. While you can’t click on it, the button can be customized to act as the Home key and can also perform a handful of predefined tasks. The Alert Slider key that has a serrated texture, is aptly placed on the left side. On the right side are the volume rocker keys and the power buttons. Using any of these button on the sides proves to be cumbersome with a single hand.  

OnePlus 2 Review - Design

The holes for the speaker at the bottom are quite consistent with those used by Apple and Samsung in their respective flagship designs. The USB Type-C port that is placed between the speaker grille holes is yet another improvement from the fingerprint reader. A capacitive dash button rests on either side of the fingerprint reader. For a new user, this default button configuration can be quite irksome. Heck, even those who’ve used Android devices earlier might not like it. At the back, a metal strip is assigned around the imaging area. The camera sensor rests below the dual-tone, dual LED flash and just above the laser autofocus sensor. 

The removable back cover has the same rough Sandstone Black texture as that of the OnePlus One. Finicky users might notice an inconsistency in the form of a gap, that exists at times, between the back cover and the frame. The back cover needs to be removed just to insert the two SIM cards which we found quite odd, since there is neither a memory card slot nor a removable battery present there. For those of you who wish to have a different look and feel of the back cover, you can buy any one of the four StyleSwap covers - Black Apricot, Bamboo, Rosewood, and Kevlar.

OnePlus 2 Review - Alert Slider

Offering a solid build quality with great in-hand feel, the OnePlus 2 is certainly a charmer for a higher mid-range smartphone.

Display
7.5

OnePlus 2 Review - Display

Last year, the OnePlus One arrived bearing a 5.5-inch display with a Full HD resolution. While most phone makers introduced flagships bearing Quad HD resolution, OnePlus decided otherwise. The OnePlus 2 sports a 5.5-inch display with an IPS panel for best possible viewing angles. By default, it continues to offer 1080x1920 pixel resolution and thereby providing 401 PPI (Pixels per Inch). The display is bright and offers a decent gamut of colours. In comparison to the oversaturated and eye-popping colours that are being offered on Super AMOLED screens with 1440p resolutions, the OnePlus 2 display may appear rather dull.

However, we prefer the OnePlus 2 display that shows more real-looking colour gamut, to a display that offers a punchier palette. Using the phone under direct sunlight requires bumping up the brightness to the maximum to improve legibility. The OnePlus 2’s screen is fairly responsive and seldom gave any issues with the touchscreen, unlike those reported in the OnePlus One that had issues when the phone was warm.

Hardware
8

In order to cement this year’s and the next year’s flagships as the number one, one would expect the latest silicon chips inside the OnePlus 2. This is why, according to reports, OnePlus came out clean in using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2 when heating issues of the first version were running wild. The second version of the quad-core Snapdragon 810 is under-clocked at 1.8GHz, simply to avoid over-heating. The One, on the other hand, houses the Snapdragon 801 mobile chipset clocked at 2.5GHz, which is significantly faster. Also, the GPU has been upped to the Adreno 430 in the OnePlus 2, as compared to the Adreno 330 in the One. 

OnePlus 2 Review - Hardware

The model comes with 64GB on-board storage and 4GB of fast dual-channel DDR4 RAM which is significantly faster than the previous generation DDR3 RAM, consuming the same or lesser power. As usual, there is no expandable storage. Other regular set of things include Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.1 with A2DP, and GPS with A-GPS as well as GLONASS support. NFC capabilities have been removed on this device, because OnePlus thought that people were barely using this feature.

The fingerprint reader is one of the key changes in the OnePlus 2. Placed in the same location as the home key, the fingerprint reader is quite useful to get a security layer and also quickly unlock the phone. When we used the fingerprint reader, we found that it unlocked the phone pretty fast and also that it worked like a charm when the assigned finger or thumb was placed properly. However, it is yet to catch up with the Touch ID-like smooth experience. A dedicated alert slider on the left of the frame is very useful when quickly stepping into a meeting, while working or at night. In terms of hardware, the OnePlus 2 covers all bases, at least from the Indian consumer perspective, and offers a really competitive package that can be easily pitted against flagship devices.

Software and apps
7.5

After breaking off with Cyanogen Inc a couple of months ago, OnePlus has decided to run the Oxygen OS in all regions, except on its home turf. In China, the One Plus 2 runs on Hydrogen OS, that comes in Chinese and is slightly different from the Oxygen OS. Meanwhile, the Oxygen OS 2.0 is a leaner, cleaner, and a more optimized version of the Android 5.0 Lollipop. Though it uses a custom skin, a lot of features of stock Android are offered as is, such as the app icons, layouts and notification drawers. 

The changes are mostly visible in the hardware dependent options, such as the fingerprint reader and alert slider. The Oxygen OS has added several nifty improvements atop the vanilla Android code. Quick Settings lets you hide and re-arrange the icons as per your requirements by simply tapping on the “Edit” mode. ‘Double tap to wake up’ option exists alongside other custom gestures to launch predefined apps. For instance, when the phone is in sleep mode, drawing “o” on the screen opens the Camera app, whereas drawing “v” turns on the flashlight.

OnePlus 2 Review - Software

An audio tuner powered by MaxxAudio is quite handy as a software equaliser, with a lot of presets and slider options that are customizable to suit one’s preference. We do miss the AudioFX of Cyanogen OS on this device, but the Audio Tuner isn’t too bad either. The capacitive keys with blue backlight that are placed on either side of the Home button can be customized to perform predefined functions such as launching the Google Search Assistant, opening the camera app and opening the last used apps. A new feature dubbed Shelf is accessible from the home screen by simply swiping from the left to the right. The Shelf is basically a custom drawer that stores the frequently accessed apps and contact cards. Under these two folders, you can also add widgets, with the default one being Google Calendar. 

A dark mode reverses the white background-bearing interface to a darker colour. In this theme, one can switch accent colours found on the toggle switches and other system interfaces, to any of the eight different colours. The LED notification colours can also be customized, irrespective of the dark mode. SwiftKey’s keyboard has been baked inside the OS, which means that it has been integrated to be a part of the system and is not a removable app. But, you can easily switch to default Google Keyboard or install another third party one. App permissions for third party apps have been added to basically control the way they behave or consume resources while running in the background.

We are certainly going to wait to see the App permission implementation from the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update, once it is made available by OnePlus. The Oxygen OS is one of the most slick and smooth custom skins coming with a useful bunch of additions in non-Nexus phones right now. The overall experience on the OnePlus 2 is lag-free and we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take that it offered.

Camera
8

The OnePlus 2 has a 13-megapixel rear camera which includes an OmniVision OV13860 PureCel-S image sensor offering 1.3 micro-pixel size. This technical jibberish translates to great quality images in broad daylight and ample light. This image sensor was introduced last year and packs big promises. The laser autofocus quickly locks on objects that are close. While capturing images is fun, the only drawback we found was that while the 13-megapixel photos are shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, the camera shoots 8-megapixel photos in 16:9 aspect ratio. In low light, the phone performs well, especially with the dual-tone dual LED flash and when the phone is held steady. But the results are still quite close to what the iPhone 6 Plus delivers. Still images give a good depth of field, have good amount of detail and give vibrant colours.

The HDR photos bring a lot of detail to the subject closer to the camera, however, at times, posterisation creeps in. The camera app lets you record up to 4K resolution videos. Slow motion is one function that requires immediate attention and needs to be fixed with a software update. The phone makes use of a dual-microphone set-up with noise cancellation. The front facing 5-megapixel camera has an OmniVision OV5648 image sensor and can also record Full HD videos without any issue. Moreover, the camera app comes with a Beauty option that can tweak the final output. Though the OnePlus 2 has a great image sensor, the custom camera app could use some tweaks and fixes in order to deliver even better images.  Here are some samples:

OnePlus 2 Review - Camera Sample 1

OnePlus 2 Review - Camera Sample 2

OnePlus 2 Review - Camera Sample - HDR ON

OnePlus 2 Review - Camera Sample - Low Light

Audio and video
8

OnePlus 2 Review - Audio and Video

OnePlus really needs to work at bringing dedicated apps for music and video. While neither of these are available currently, the onus of music rests on the Play Music app which does a decent job. Meanwhile, videos fall back on to the Photos app for playback. While the audio performance of the One was brilliant, in the OnePlus 2, the company uses Qualcomm WCD9930 audio codec. The same chip has been used in the Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G4 smartphones. Keeping technical details aside, the  sound output of this handset, over a good pair of headphones, is excellent.

Regardless of whether we used the affordable Cowon EM-1 or the Audio Technica ATH-M50s, the music quality was quiet pleasing. However, we felt that the audio output did not outperform its predecessor. Also, the music was quite muddled at higher volumes. When it came to videos, the phone easily plays 1080p and 4K resolution video files. All types of video as well as audio file formats are supported. When it comes to the multimedia experience, we recommend using VLC for Android for an all-round seamless performance.

Performance
8

OnePlus’ claim to fame and a key differentiator that sets it apart from the other smartphone makers is its best-in-class performance. With the OnePlus 2, the company delivers its promise. The phone works brilliantly out of the box, just as one would expect from a flagship and premium grade device. When we received the device, the initial AnTuTu benchmark score in 32-bit mode recorded a 51128, but after the phone was updated to build 150807, it dropped to 49,583. The drop was mostly noticeable in the 3D-graphics section. However, in the 64-bit mode, the phone managed to score 43661.

Surprisingly, the OnePlus 2 still ranks under OnePlus One in terms of performance. We suspect that under-clocking the Snapdragon 810 v2 could be the reason behind it. However in terms of the PCMark benchmark test, the work performance score bumped from 4073 to 5103, thereby offering the work battery life of 6 hours and 48 minutes. On the popular 3DMark benchmark test, the phone scored 21,641 and managed to rank above the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. 

OnePlus 2 Review - Benchmarks

The voice calling quality of the earpiece is comparatively low, but we hope it gets bumped up with a minor update. Although the audio on the native speakers seems weak, it sounds fine when playing high quality 4K videos. Google Maps is quick to respond when location-based services were switched on by default; location-locking is also quick. The metal frame of the OnePlus 2 does start to get warm after strenuous gaming session. So yes, heating issues exist, but the phone doesn’t become scalding warm. That apart, the OnePlus 2 is undoubtably one of the best performance-delivering handsets out there, which competes with premium flagships.

Battery life
7

OnePlus 2 Review - Battery

After installing the build 150807, there was a slight change in the battery life. Moderate usage involving voice calls for almost two hours, watching videos on YouTube, listening to music, using social network apps, and clicking a few images made the phone last for more than a day and a half. It also gave us a screen-on time of 4 hours 48 minutes. Following that, if graphics intensive games were played for about half an hour or more, the screen-on time would drop close to 4 hours and 10 minutes. But, do take note of the fact that the phone was used in single SIM mode. We expected that the phone would run for at least a day.

Charging a phone is not exactly a great experience for OnePlus 2 users, as they will have to carry the Type-C cable everywhere, else they’re likely to be stuck with the slab in their pockets. The device doesn’t offer wireless charging and there is no support for QuickCharge either. So users are stuck with the regular method for charging, which takes roughly about 2 hours and 20 minutes to charge from 0 to 100 percent. Otherwise, we were satisfied with the battery life of this device but it did leave us to desire for more.

Conclusion

OnePlus is selling its second generation flagship with 64 GB storage capacity on Amazon for Rs 24,999. The OnePlus 2 did impress us, but we will highlight some key issues that didn’t.  

Firstly, if the flash sales system was considered bad, then the invite system is worse. This is because an invite-system only results in a large group of disgruntled folks who couldn’t get their hands on an invite and are likely to eventually buy another device. This is exactly what happened to the OnePlus One last year. Secondly, you will have to bear with several incremental updates and wait for a long time until the Android 6.0 Marshmallow is ready for the OnePlus 2. Thirdly, in order to be really future-proof, you will have to buy an extra pair of an USB Type-C cable if you have a habit of leaving one behind at office or at home. 

In its price segment, only the Samsung Galaxy A8 delivers compelling performance and is a good alternative. A spiffy software is the icing on the cake on a device with compelling hardware, packed in sturdy build. This phone proves to be miles ahead in terms of in-hand feel, as compared to the OnePlus One. We would certainly recommend it to those who have enough patience to wait for an invite. All in all, the OnePlus 2 is one of the best mid-range and flagship challenging phones out there in the market and meant for those who are looking for a great performance-delivering device.

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