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

The OnePlus X is the company’s first truly gorgeous smartphone
By Asif Iqbal Shaik on 2015-12-11
Key Features
  • 5.0-inch Full-HD AMOLED display
  • 13-megapixel primary camera
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
  • Dual-SIM and 4G LTE connectivity
What we like
  • Aesthetically pleasing design with a well-crafted body
  • Great AMOLED display
  • Good quality of buttons and notifications slider
  • Bloatware-free OxygenOS has a good mix of design and features
  • Good overall performance
  • Good battery stand-by time
What we don't like
  • Glass back is extremely slippery and attracts scratches
  • Average camera. No 4K video recording
  • OxygenOS needs a little more refinement
  • Lacks dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi ac, and NFC
  • Below-par battery life, lacks Quick Charge 2.0
  • Invite system mars the buying experience
7.5
Our Score
Introduction

OnePlus, the Chinese smartphone brand released its first smartphone, the OnePlus One, 18 months ago. This device managed to attract a huge interest due to the value-for-money factor, a sense of “nothing’s missing from the specifications list”, the presence of Cyanogen OS, and the company’s marketing strategy. However, these 18 months haven’t been a dream run for the company. During this time it had to face a lot of criticism, at times, for its silly marketing campaigns, but mostly due to its cumbersome invite system. And if that's not all, the company even faced a huge setback in terms of software, due to its fallout with Cyanogen Inc. Even though the OnePlus X is just the third smartphone from this newcomer smartphone manufacturer, the company has had enough experiences to learn from.

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Unlike the OnePlus One and the OnePlus 2, which relied on their high-end specifications, the OnePlus X takes a different approach. It relies on design and build quality rather than specifications. The OnePlus X is being marketed as a compact-yet-premium mid-range device rather than a ‘Flagship Killer’ to attract a different kind of consumer set. It competes with the likes of the HTC One A9, the Sony Xperia M5, and the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact in the same category. The device comes in two colour variants; onyx and ceramic, but the ceramic version is costlier. The ceramic version looks quite similar to the onyx one, but has chamfered edges instead of curved glass. However, you won’t be able to buy the ceramic variant easily as the company has produced only 10,000 units of those, and it takes 25 days to cast the back out of Zirconia.

With specifications that largely match with the OnePlus One, it feels as though the company simply wanted to offer the OnePlus One repackaged, but with a different approach. The OnePlus X is compact, has an attractive design, and comes with a dual-SIM card slot and a microSD card slot - all of these features were lacking in the company’s first smartphone. Most importantly, it retails for the same price as the OnePlus One. So here’s the important question - will people choose the OnePlus X over the OnePlus One?  

If you’re someone who is unable to decide between the OnePlus X or the OnePlus One, read our review to find out which is the most suitable device for your needs. This also applies to those of you looking out for the best smartphone under Rs.20,000.

Design
8

The front of the device houses the display, three capacitive buttons, the front-facing camera, a couple of sensors, and the earpiece. The capacitive buttons are not backlit, and the marking on them is quite faint as well, so it’s not easy to know which button you’re pressing, until you’re at least acquainted with it. The power button, the volume rockers, and the SIM card slot are present on the right edge, while the left edge has just the 3-way sound profile slider. The headphone jack is on the top, while the Micro-USB port, a single loudspeaker, and the microphone are at the bottom. The company’s logo resides at the back along with the primary camera lens and a single-LED flash.

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The company has definitely invested a lot in designing its third smartphone. The OnePlus X has a minimalistic yet attractive design, and you can experience the brilliant craftsmanship of OnePlus designers when you look at the 2.5D curved glass edges and feel the metal buttons and switches with your fingertips. There are several micro cut grooves on the sides, which make it grippy when held in the hand. The OnePlus X is undoubtably one of the most well-designed smartphones in the mid-range smartphone market. It feels quite light in the hand despite its metal and glass design, and due to its compactness, is extremely comfortable and pleasing to hold in hand. One-handed use is completely possible, something that’s not commonly seen in most smartphones these days.

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Overall, it’s a well-made smartphone, but fragile at the same time, and that’s due to the use of glass panels at the front and the back. Unlike the Gorilla Glass 3 panel that’s fitted over the display, the glass at the back isn’t scratch-resistant, and attracts scratches and scuffs easily. We would advise every OnePlus X user to protect the device using a case and a glass protector at the back. Moreover, the flat glass back is very slippery, and we've noticed the device slipping away even on flat tables and beds. So you should place it with caution, otherwise, there is a high possibility that it may fall and the glass may shatter. Beauty definitely comes with a cost here.

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Display
9

The OnePlus X is the company’s first smartphone with an AMOLED display. It comes with a 5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080x1920p (diamond pentile sub-pixel arrangement), which is covered using Gorilla Glass 3 with 2.5D curved edges. Other things include a 10-point capacitive multitouch system and an ambient-light sensor. The capacitive multitouch screen can recognise up to 10 fingerprints at the same time, and the touchscreen accuracy is quite decent. It comes with an adaptive brightness feature where you essentially set a brightness level, and the device changes its brightness around that level. Let’s say if you set the brightness level at 60 percent, the screen brightness varies from 50 percent to 70 percent depending upon the ambient light.

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It’s a pixel dense (~441PPI) screen, so you won’t notice jaggedness while looking at the text while browsing the web or while using other text-heavy apps. It’s in an AMOLED panel's nature to show popping colours and deep blacks, and similar is the case with the OnePlus X’s screen. The viewing angles are wide with a slight dip in contrast and colours, but the brightness isn’t as high as some of the AMOLED panels from Samsung in the Galaxy E7 and the Galaxy J7. However, as the protective glass is fused to the display panel, there’s minimal reflection. So, the content on the display is visible even under direct sunlight even though the screen is not as bright as on the OnePlus One. Overall, it’s a good display, and you won’t be dissatisfied with it. However, it isn’t as good as the displays that are shipped in some of the mid-range smartphones from Samsung.

Hardware
7

The OnePlus X has a processor setup that is similar to the OnePlus One’s; last year’s top-tier chipset, the Snapdragon 801, and 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. There’s 16GB of onboard storage and a provision to expand the storage capacity using the hybrid dual-SIM card slot that takes in a microSD card, if required, in place of the secondary SIM card. However, you should note that you could either use a microSD card or a secondary SIM card slot, so both can’t be used at once. Even though Adreno 330 is about more than a year old now, it has enough graphical crunching power to run most high-end games at smooth frame rates. 

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At the rear of the device, is a 13-megapixel primary camera with an ISOCELL sensor from Samsung. A front-facing 8-megapixel camera rests above the display.

In terms of connectivity, you get two SIM slots with 4G LTE cellular standards. It is compatible with Band 3 (1800MHz), Band 20 (800MHz), and Band 40 (2300MHz), so it will work with pretty much every 4G LTE service in India. We reviewed the device with Airtel’s 4G SIM in Hyderabad, and it performed quite well. Other connectivity options include all the regular features such as Wi-Fi b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS, and microUSB v2.0 port.

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With the OnePlus X, it seems as though OnePlus is acting against its own tagline – Never Settle. There’s no NFC, and even gigabit or dual-band Wi-Fi standards are missing. There’s no quick charging either, so the battery charging isn’t going to be as fast as on some of the recently released smartphones in its price range that support some type of faster battery charging protocols. While we admit that not a lot of people might use Wi-Fi ac, we also feel that dual-band Wi-Fi should have been included. Android 5.0 introduced Tap and Go, a simple way to transfer data from an older smartphone to a newer one, but it requires NFC, so it doesn’t work on this device.

 

Software
8

After its fallout with Cyanogen Inc., OnePlus started developing its own ROM called OxygenOS. It was first rolled out to the OnePlus One as an alternative to Cyanogen OS, and then the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X were released with its second version. If we were to describe the OxygenOS, we would say that it’s a near-perfect combination of stock Android UI design with useful additional features. It comes with a better camera app, an ability to rearrange quick setting toggles, and an ability to switch between capacitive or touchscreen navigation buttons.

The OxygenOS on the OnePlus X works well on top of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and the company has announced that it would release Android 6.0 Marshmallow to it, sometime in the first-half of next year. The Oxygen Launcher resembles the Google Now Launcher, but comes with some even more useful additions such as an option to use icon packs. Instead of Google Now, you get the Shelf screen when you swipe to the left most home screen. You can choose to use capacitive or on-screen navigation buttons. You can also set the capacitive home button to stay active even when you choose on-screen buttons. Lock screen gestures and double-tap-to-wake feature is present as well.

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There’s an option to activate Dark Mode, and it would be beneficial to use it as the AMOLED display would use power slowly rather than gulping it. Moreover, you can also select accent colours – the colour of switches and other UI elements such as icons and labels – from a limited choice of eight colours. The UI was swift most of the times, but before the recent update, there was lag (a kind of pause to be exact) while moving back to the home screen from an app. There was no icon redrawing though, just the pause. Ambient Display is like Nokia’s and Motorola’s display feature where you can see clock and notification text without wasting a lot of power. Performance of the OxygenOS is quite smooth throughout and the company has preserved stock Android animations.

The Shelf screen, which is a vertically scrollable page, contains a clock widget, shortcuts to eight frequently contacted people, and shortcuts to eight frequently used apps. You can also add other widgets, but we noticed that only 4x2 widgets work well with the Shelf. You can change LED notifications colour as well as long press actions for the navigation keys. Long pressing the home button will bring up the Google Now screen. It is unacceptable for OnePlus to not bundle a dedicated gallery or a video player app with the device. However, we like the direction in which OxygenOS is heading to, and it is one of the most well-done Android UXs in the market.

Camera
7

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Similar to the OnePlus One, the OnePlus X comes with a 13-megapixel camera, but with an ISOCELL sensor from Samsung. It also has a hybrid autofocus system (with phase-detection), which is definitely better than OnePlus One’s contrast-detection autofocus, along with a single-LED flash. The rear camera has an aperture of F2.2, while the front-facing 8-megapixel camera has an F2.4 aperture. The ISOCELL sensor is known to contain noise in a better way when compared to regular BSI sensors due to thicker walls between pixels. Sadly, there’s no OIS or 4K video recording, a feature that’s present on the OnePlus 2. The hardware is definitely capable of shooting in 4K, so it’s surprising that OnePlus isn’t offering this feature on the device. Video recording is limited to 1080p resolution, and there’s slow-motion as well as time-lapse video recording.

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The camera app used on the OnePlus X was initially introduced with the OnePlus 2, and it has a very simple and easy to understand UI. A swipe gesture can be used to switch between various camera modes. There are four shortcut buttons near the camera shutter button which can be used to perform various functions such as to switch between the front and the back cameras, to toggle flashlight, to activate self-timer, and to open the camera settings menu. You can choose to change the image and video resolutions from the camera settings menu, and also choose to activate or deactivate the camera grid. The app works quite fast, and the shot-to-shot time is also pretty short. This device takes images in low-light conditions surprisingly faster than the OnePlus 2. 

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Images taken using the OnePlus X have decent amount of details, and the colours are captured pretty well too. The dynamic range is a bit limited, though. That, however, can be improved by activating the HDR mode. If you wish for even more details in your pictures, you can use the Clear Image mode, but we suggest that you use it only when the subject is steady. The White Balance is good, but the details aren’t as good as on some of the other smartphones in its price range such as the Meizu MX5 and the Motorola Moto X Play. The resolved detail in the 1080p videos recorded using the rear camera is just about average. Clearly, the OnePlus One is miles ahead in terms of video recording when compared to the OnePlus X. 

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The 8-megapixel front-facing camera captures very good selfies, and there seems to some sort of beautification algorithm working in the background that renders lighter skin tones. But if you prefer natural looking selfies, you might have an issue since there’s no option to turn it off. The front-facing camera too, can record 1080p videos, which is a good thing. However, it would have been great if the front-facing camera had a wider-angle lens or a selfie panorama mode to fit in more people into the frame easily.

Audio and video
7

The device ships with Google Play Music for music playback, and the Photos app to playback images and videos. There is nothing special here in terms of multimedia playback. A customary equaliser menu allows you to adjust the sound according to your preferences, and you can also set the 3D effect and the bass level. Even though it looks like a dual loudspeaker setup (similar to the OnePlus One) at the bottom of the device, one of those grills is just an opening for microphone, while the other is a loudspeaker. 

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The volume level is low, which is unsatisfactory, and the sound quality isn’t as good as we had hoped. This is something that company has ruined compared to the OnePlus One. Moreover, the sound gets distorted at the highest volume level. You might miss some calls when you are in a loud environment. Similar is the case with the audio output through headphones. There’s nothing special here for audiophiles. However, it comes with a new OnePlus Radio app that supports RDS and has an appealing UI design.

We were able to playback 4K videos using the VLC player, but at times, we faced the issue of audio not being played back in some videos with AC3 encoding. It’s quite a treat to watch videos on the OnePlus X, especially movies, thanks to inky blacks on its AMOLED display. Since there’s no specialised video player, you can’t expect features like subtitles or pop-up videos (somethings that you can do on Samsung’s smartphones).

Performance
8

The OnePlus X performs quite well, thanks to the combination of a quad-core Krait 400 CPU, Adreno 330 GPU, and 3GB RAM. We’ve never felt the need for a more powerful processor in real life scenarios. There were no stutters or frame drops while browsing the web or while gaming. We tried some games on the device with varying graphical requirements such as Crossy Road, Leo’s Fortune, Riptide GP2, and Modern Combat 5. All the games ran smoothly, thanks to the powerful Adreno 330 GPU. Multitasking performance is quite satisfactory, and even while using a lot of apps together, apps weren’t killed in the background.

We noticed that the device was able to hold on to the cellular signals quite well throughout the review period, and that might be due to its intelligent design. Generally, devices with full metal casings struggle to hold on to cellular or Wi-Fi signals if there are no special antennas on the surface. The OnePlus X has three antenna extensions, one at the top and two at the bottom of the device, which helps to a great extent in catching cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signals. The device showed two bars of signals in areas where a lot of other smartphones struggled to catch signals.

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In terms of benchmarks tests, the OnePlus X scored 1,519 in the metal test, whereas it scored 1,718 in the multi-core test. It ships with Google Chrome as its default web browser, and it scored 2,607 in the test. In the AnTuTu benchmark test, it scored 39,487, which is good for its price range. The device ran the T-Rex HD 1080p Offscreen test score of 24fps in the GFXBench suite, which tests the raw gaming power of a device. The GeekBench single-core score was 913, while the multi-core score was 2,340.

Battery life
6.5

We installed over 130 apps and games with most of them connected to the Internet. We also set up six email accounts with real-time sync and a bunch of IM apps. Google Photos and Dropbox were set to sync camera images when connected to a Wi-Fi network. Two Bluetooth devices – an LG Watch Urbane and a Misfit Shine – were also connected to the OnePlus X. 

To make the device beautiful (and thin and compact in the process), OnePlus had to cut the battery capacity in the X to just 2,525 mAh. Even though the OnePlus X has a smaller 5-inch AMOLED display with a black theme, we had our concerns regarding its battery life, as it didn’t seem enough for a device in this price range. With our usage pattern, the OnePlus X lasted around 20-22 hours with around two to two and a half hours of screen-on time. When we tested it for two to three days without connecting my Bluetooth devices, the device lasted for around 26-28 hours with a similar screen-on time. In the last three days of this two week-long review, we decided to use it only in LTE mode, and there was no change in battery life.

 

Conclusion

The OnePlus X is a well-crafted smartphone, and might even be the best-looking one in the mid-range price category. If you’re looking for a flagship-like specifications list or a feature set, this device isn’t the best choice for you. But, if you want a compact smartphone with good looks and decent performance under Rs. 20,000, the OnePlus X could be the smartphone you are looking out for. If not, there are some better options out there including the Motorola Moto X Play, the Samsung Galaxy J7, the Meizu MX5, and the company’s own OnePlus One. The OnePlus X could have been the best smartphone in the price range if OnePlus had not settled to cut some corners such as dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, and quick battery charging, but clearly the company is targeting a different audience here.

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