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OnePlus 2 Review: Is this the best phone for value minded Slickdealers?
Here at Slickdeals we’re all about value and savings, so when the first OnePlus 1 came out, we were stoked. OnePlus was a company that claimed it was going to change the way we think about phones, creating what it called a “Flagship Killer” with high-end specs at an attractive price. Its latest phone claims to keep that tradition going. All things considered, while the new OnePlus 2 might not be a true Flagship killer, it might be a killer value.
OnePlus is following its success with their latest creation, the OnePlus 2 - currently priced at $329 for 16GB and $389 for 64GB. It’s a marginal price increase from the previous model which was $299, but all in all, still a great value for an unlocked phone without contracts or strings. Its specs make it a formidable contender, but when it comes to competing against true flagships from Samsung, Motorola or Apple, it doesn't seem to measure up to “killer” status. That might not be a fair comparison considering the flagship phones from the competition are nearly double the price. If we look at it from a value standpoint, however, you’re getting a lot of it, especially if you need an unlocked, contract-free phone.
Read on for our hands on review of the OnePlus 2 and your chance to win our OnePlus 2, which we were able to review courtesy of the OnePlus Team.
Design - 8.0 of 10
The OnePlus 2 takes a lot of design cues from its predecessor. The form factor and even design is relatively the same, but the build quality seems higher this time around. When you first pick up the phone, you notice the all-metal frame construction and its simplistic but functional design. Unlike some plastic phones, the OnePlus 2 has virtually no flex, but as a result it feels substantial, almost hefty. The phone itself features an all black fascia, so when the phone is off, it looks very clean and almost understated.
Like many manufacturers, OnePlus is also offering swappable rear-covers and these come in a variety of options including kevlar, bamboo, rosewood, black apricot, and the original grippy sandpaper-like “sandstone” cover that many users loved about the previous OnePlus 1. One would think, though, that if the rear cover were removable and replaceable that it would grant access to the battery or an external storage slot - but neither are available. It seems to be the trend that manufacturers are going towards with sealed, non-removable batteries and no expansion slots. You’ll find that as we compare against many of the other flagships in the comparison table, those features are seemingly becoming extinct ones.
Oddly enough while there are two sets of sound grills at the bottom of the phone, suggesting there might be stereo sound, but it seems that only the right side produces sound. This didn’t stop the OnePlus 2 from producing loud, crisp sound from that speaker, though.
Looking at the edges of the device, the team at OnePlus has put the buttons in smart places. They’re tactile and easy to find without looking at the phone. Both the power and volume rockers are on the right side of the device, making it very friendly to operate with one hand. However, in testing we found that its often easy to hit the power button on accident when trying to lower the volume. On the left side of the device is a new feature: a physical alert slider, allowing you to change the phone from all, priority, or alert only notifications. Seemingly taking a page from the Apple playbook, it reminds us of the mute switch on the iPhone. If we had a request for the OnePlus team, it might be to move the volume to the left side, and leave the power button standing alone on the right to make it easier to use without having to look at the device.
There are no buttons on the top of the device that makes you stretch or reach for it, and no crazy buttons on the back like the LG G4. Speaking of the back, the other great thing about the OnePlus 2 is that the camera doesn’t protrude much like many of the other phones on the market. It is relatively flat and is stylishly adorned with a metal faceplate.
The phone features back-lit, capacitive buttons for the back and task buttons, which are software configurable thanks to the fact that they appear as simple, glowing lines. There is a physical home “button” which doubles as the fingerprint reader. Our largest complaint about the physical design of this phone would unfortunately be that fingerprint sensor/home “button.” We put the word “button” in quotes because it actually isn’t something that pushes down. It is a flat, fixed pad which is slightly recessed and you actually have to press harder than you’d expect. There’s no click, so the only way you know you’ve pressed it is a haptic vibration from the entire phone - which if you’ve turned off probably leaves you wondering. On top of that, pressing the pseudo home button doesn't wake the phone, which is a bit counter-intuitive compared to many other phones. At best it’s a bit of a weird, if not slightly frustrating, experience. On the bright side, the fingerprint sensor seemed to be on par with Apple’s or Samsung’s when it came to reliably sensing our fingers.
Display - 7.0 of 10
The OnePlus 2 comes with a 5.5-inch 1080p screen. Most other phones on the market are moving towards much higher resolutions/pixel densities, so the OnePlus 2 choosing to stay at 1080p is probably a cost-saving measure, but in actuality it’s hard to notice any difference. The OnePlus 2’s display is easily viewable thanks to its 178 degree viewing angle and, unless placed side by side to another phone, we didn't really miss the extra pixels. It is usable in sunlight with the OnePlus team claiming it has 600 nits of brightness, which is higher than all of the competition, although those figures are from OnePlus’ in-house testing. In practicality, we didn't really notice much of a difference, but when placed side-by-side with some AMOLED based phones, the OnePlus 2’s IPS display didn’t seem as vibrant or even as bright.
Camera - 6.5 of 10
The original OnePlus 1 had a pretty mediocre camera, and this time around we can see that they put some focus into making that better. Promises of a better software along with a new 13 megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, and a laser auto focus were all improvements to help address those early complaints. Spec wise, this is a very impressive feature set, which made it all the more disappointing when it came to our field trials. In those trials, the camera produced pretty nice pictures, however the laser auto focus seemed to have issues, often requiring a second attempt to focus. This combined with a relatively slow photo capture time made it less than convenient to capture photos quickly. You'll see in our sample photos below, that it was almost impossible to capture a picture of our resident, fidgety office puppy - even though we were in good lighting conditions. Additionally, when recording videos with loud sounds, like at concerts, the phone doesn't seem to be capable of normalizing the volume, resulting in clipping.
This is unfortunate, because if you compare it to devices like the iPhone, LG G4, or Samsung S6, all three of those devices have better, faster cameras and video. We hope though, that because the base camera hardware behind this phone is impressive, that these issues can be addressed with software updates (similar to how the original Nexus had a pretty terrible camera experience when it first launched).
Battery / Charging - 7.0 of 10
3300 mAh is actually one of the largest batteries available on the market, which contributes to the "heft" of the phone. That battery size will get most people through the day, though. We assume the reason the OnePlus team decided to put a large battery in the phone is to offset the lack of fast charging or wireless charging. Most of the other phones on the market now offers Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0, which ups the volts and amperage delivered to the phone, resulting in very fast charge times. Our Samsung Galaxy S6 or Note 5’s can get to a 25% charge in a matter of minutes, but the OnePlus with its standard charging will take double the time, if not more. We find this to be a pretty large oversight, because once you've experienced Quick Charging, it becomes a must-have feature.
Because the OnePlus is using practically stock Android, there aren’t any special or fancy power-saving features with the phone. This means if you’re playing games or watching videos, you’ll drain through that battery quickly. That’s pretty reasonable though as most phones would suffer the same fate.
The OnePlus 2 is the first phone to the market that utilizes the new USB Type-C Connector and perhaps did so a little too early. As connectors go, both ends are reversible so you don't have to worry about orientation which makes these cables really convenient. The downside is that no one else has this cable. Need to bum some power when you’re running low? Be sure to carry your Type-C Cable with you everywhere.
Software - 9.0 of 10
The OnePlus team went its separate ways from the Cyanogen team, creating their own version of Android called the Oxygen OS. It is largely a stock Android experience with some tweaks here and there for usability and customizing the phone. These include things like themes, the ability to define gestures, button shortcuts, or customize the LED indicator. All in all, we really appreciate the fact that the OnePlus team used a light touch. They provided basic tools to take advantage of the phone’s features and nothing more. No bloatware to be found, which is refreshing considering most devices came with scores of permanent, non-removable crapware (we're looking at you Samsung/Verizon).
Performance and Storage - 9.0 of 10
If you didn’t know about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, it is notorious for overheating and creating some toasty phones. Reports indicated that the processor could heat a phone up to a fiery 111 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to tackle that, the OnePlus actually chose to underclock the processor, which is a practice also adopted by the HTC M9. In the OnePlus 2, it has four cores at 1.5GHz and four more at 1.8GHz instead of the typical 2.1GHz. This underclocking coupled with thermal throttling seems to have helped the overheating issues, but at a cost to performance. If you ran performance benchmarks before and after doing an intensive process that woud heat the phone up (like games or videos), you could see as much as a 30% drop in its benchmark scores. Given that this is a new OS for OnePlus, they are probably working out the optimizations.
In terms of onboard ram, the OnePlus 2 has matched the industry leaders at 3GB in the 16GB model and 4GB in the 64GB model, which helps make the phone fast and performant. Even considering the thermal throttling, the OnePlus 2 sat within the top 10 phones when it comes to benchmarking stats.
Price - 9.0 of 10
Certainly, in an era where flagship phones are upwards of $600-700 for an unlocked phone, the OnePlus 2 provides a lot of horsepower for nearly half the cost. At $329 for the 16GB model and $389 for the 64GB model, these phones are attractively priced and dollar for dollar they are probably the best value available on the market.
While there's no MicroSD card slot, the fact that you can get upgrade to 64GB of storage for an extra $60 dollars makes the OnePlus 2 the most cost-effective phone when it comes to storage space. This is a pretty commendable pricing model, as many Slickdealers will point out that ram and flash storage chips actually are not much more expensive as we go from 16, 32, or 64GB. In reality, manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are charging a huge price differential and forcing users to get a more expensive phone if they need more storage - which is especially heinous to some since those manufacturers have also started to eliminate external storage options from their phones.
Verdict - OVERALL RATING: 8.1 of 10
Flagship Killer is a term that the OnePlus team has regularly bandied about, claiming that users should “Never Settle” and that consumers should be able to get a great phone at a reasonable price. The problem is when you claim to be a flagship killer, you get compared to other flagship phones. In that light, the OnePlus 2 simply just doesn't compete when it comes to specs or performance. Additionally, it’s omission of some pretty useful features like wireless charging, fast charging, NFC, or support for Sprint/Verizon make us wonder if the OnePlus team isn't a little behind on consumer expectations. But, if you do consider the price, its a little unfair. The OnePlus 2 might be half the cost of those flagship phones, but you're not getting half the phone.
Unfortunately, what’s left to chance is the ability to actually procure one of these phones due to OnePlus’ limited, invite only system. We’ve also seen hints of displeasure around the net from OnePlus customers saying that customer service leaves much to be desired, not to mention a string of delays in production and shipping that the company has apologized for. These things make us worry for the success and wide-spread adoption of the OnePlus phone.
However, if we evaluate the phone based on its price point and feature set we find that you get a solidly built phone with medium to high specs at a very reasonable price. All in all, while the device isn't a flagship killer it is best-in-class at the $329 price point, making it a killer value. So, if you're willing to trade off on some features such as NFC, Quick Charging, or the best camera, and you're looking for the best bang for your buck this could be the right phone for you.
This editor would also advise people that the new LG Nexus 5x and the Huawei Nexus 6P are due to be released late September 2015, and are likely to be competitive. We know that historically, Nexus devices have been pretty cost effective but the new pricing announced for the LG Nexus 5X puts that device at $379 for 16gb and $429 for 32gb - meaning that the OnePlus 2 still gives even the new Nexus devices a run for their money.
- Affordable Price / Unlocked
- Solid build quality
- Dual SIM
- Near Stock Android Experience
- Home Button isn't great
- Slow camera
- No Quick or Wireless Charging
- No NFC
- Too early on USB Type-C
- Doesn’t work on Sprint/Verizon
- Invitation system
Let us know what you think of the OnePlus 2 in the comments below! Would you rather spend several hundred dollars more for an iPhone 6s or Galaxy Note 5, or is the OnePlus 2 a better value and therefore a better choice?
OnePlus 2 Complete Specs and Comparison Chart
Sample Photos and Videos
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