OnePlus hits a lower price point, and brings along much of what made its previous phones great.
Just over three months after the unveiling of the OnePlus 2, we're getting yet another OnePlus model — but this isn't replacing the flagship killer, it's going after a new market entirely. This is the OnePlus X, and it slots in comfortably under the previously-announced model at just $249 unlocked — and even though the price has dropped, OnePlus is putting plenty in the X to keep it interesting and a good value at the same time.
Let's take a look at the third smartphone offering from OnePlus, and see if it has what it takes to find a spot in the increasingly competitive low-cost unlocked phone market.
Moving pictures can help
A quick video hands-on with the OnePlus X
We really hope you'll check out our full hands-on impression of the OnePlus X below, and the rest of our coverage of the phone, but for a solid wrap-up of what this phone's all about be sure to check out the video above.
Metal and glass at $250
OnePlus X hardware Offering more for less
So let's get it out of the way right from the start — everything we're talking about here is coming in at just $249 unlocked, and that in itself is pretty great. Smartphones in this price range have increased in quality dramatically over the last two years, and OnePlus is following the trend. While the OnePlus 2 starts at $329 its most sought-after (and more likely to actually be in stock) configuration comes in at $389, and the X lands comfortably below that as to provide some separation.
There isn't much flair — this is all about a simple, well-executed design for a budget phone.
The OnePlus X doesn't exhibit much flair, but it does offer plenty of quality. Borrowing from the OnePlus 2, the X has a metal frame running through it that's exposed to form a continuous band around the entire outside of the phone. Where the design differentiates is in the finish of the metal, with a set of fine horizontal lines — 17, in fact — etched around the entire exterior, giving it a subtle glint when the light hits it, but more importantly offering tons of grip on an otherwise slippery phone.
The slip comes from having full panes of Gorilla Glass 3 on both sides of the phone, much like the Galaxy S6, exhibiting the now-standard "2.5D" style of glass that rounds off nicely from the flat portions down into the metal edges. On the front the glass is protecting a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED display, which looks quite good in my limited time with it — plenty pixel dense, and colors seem to pop just the right amount. Just below the display OnePlus is still offering optional capacitive keys (co-founder Carl Pei says 70 percent of OnePlus users use them), but on this lower model they aren't backlit so there's a better chance you'll just go with the on-screen nav bar.
Beyond the awe of nice metal and glass formed together in a proper way, there isn't too much to be excited about here. You can have the OnePlus X in just one color and configuration, and the edges are simply adorned with the standard assortment of switches and ports — headphone on the top, volume and power on the right, alert slider (same as the OnePlus 2) on the left, and a MicroUSB port and speaker on the bottom.
Some will be drawn to the compact size, and be thoroughly impressed if they buy one.
Well, I shouldn't get too carried away — there are actually a couple ways to help your OnePlus X stand out from the crowd. Much like OnePlus offers StyleSwap Covers for the 2, you can buy one of five different slim plastic or wood cases for the X. They're the same materials, actually, and they'll set you back a cool $25 each (or $20 for the Sandstone Black one) while both protecting and adding some style to your otherwise bland and monolithic new phone. There are also bright-colored silicone cases, costing $15 each, with a bit more protection. (And if I'm honest they strike me as glorious reproductions of those available from Apple for the iPhone 6S.)
OnePlus is also offering a special edition X in a limited run of 10,000 phones with a specially-crafted ceramic back instead of glass. While it doesn't look much different at a distance it's immediately noticeable up close, with sharper beveled edges, a wonderful platinum-like sheen and extra heft from the material — as well as dramatically higher damage resistance. Each ceramic back is baked at 2700 degrees fahrenheit and takes 25 days to create, with a production yield rate of just 20 percent, so no wonder OnePlus is charging an extra 100€ over the base price and limiting its release primarily to Europe.
Something adding to the appeal of this device is the size. With a 5-inch screen, really small bezels and just 6.9 mm of thickness it's amazingly easy to maneuver in one hand, which is in stark contrast to the OnePlus 2. Sure the size won't appeal to those who are looking for the biggest screen they can get for the smallest amount of money, but considering the groundswell of folks looking for a smaller device, this could be a hit with them.
Beyond the design, there are a few more details to make note of here in the hardware space. Remember we're talking about a $249 unlocked phone, so there are a few things "missing," if you will, compared to more expensive phones. There's no NFC, wireless charging, quick charging, USB-C port, fingerprint sensor, advanced camera features, ac Wifi speeds or fancy powerful speakers. But OnePlus has listened to feedback a bit and added in a MicroSD card slot, and also includes a protective plastic case in the box with each phone.
The internal specs on the OnePlus X round out to a rather simple equation. Rather than go with a newer, cheaper processor OnePlus has stuck with a relatively old Snapdragon 801 — the same chip as the OnePlus One, if you'll recall — and paired it with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. That should be plenty to power the aforementioned 1080p display, and the only real initial concern I have about this package is how well it can manage battery life with just 2525 mAh to work with.
|Operating System||OxygenOS, based on Android 5.1.1|
|Display||5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED (441 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core @ 2.3 GHz
Adreno 330 GPU
|Storage||16GB eMMC v5.0
MicroSD expandable up to 128GB
|SIM||Dual SIM slots or single SIM + MicroSD card|
|Rear Camera||13MP ISOCELL 3M2 CMOS, f/2.2
1080p resolution video; Slow Motion: 720p video at 120fps
|Front Camera||8MP OV8858, f/2.4|
|Network (U.S.)||GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
|Connectivity||802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio
GPS, GLONASS, BDS
|Battery||2525 mAh LiPo|
5V/2A charger included
|Colors||Onyx (glass) or Ceramic|
Given my short time with the phone I wasn't able to test the camera much, but it seems like this will be a pretty basic affair. We're looking at a 13MP ISOCELL sensor — the same you'll find in an Oppo R7 and not far off from the Galaxy S5 — with an f/2.2 aperture and phase detection auto focus, but no OIS or advanced features. Given the mixed camera results we saw from the OnePlus 2 despite its great hardware chops I'm hesitant to plant a stake and say this will be a capable shooter, so we'll just have to see when I have more time with it.
Simple and customizable software.
OnePlus X Sticks with OxygenOS
The software story hasn't really changed from the OnePlus 2, and considering how closely together these phones were announced that's not surprising. This is OxygenOS, which is built on Android 5.1.1 and keeps the feel of that stock system while adding some useful tweaks and customization options.
You get a customizable home screen, notification shortcuts and themes, as well as some optional gestures and quirky new FM radio app. There's also a dark mode for the entire interface to take advantage of the power savings on an AMOLED display, as well as a new ambient mode that will pulse and give you glanceable information on your locked screen.
Beside that it's all routine here — the Snapdragon 801 and 3GB of RAM should be capable of pushing this interface around just fine, and OxygenOS is going to be super familiar if you've spent time on a Nexus or recent Motorola phone. OnePlus isn't dropping any kind of information on a forthcoming Marshmallow update, unfortunately.
Enough to be a winner?
OnePlus X A serious value proposition
I have to say I'm super impressed by what you're getting from the OnePlus X at the price of $249. While some missing features and specs may be issues at the higher price point of the OnePlus 2, when you drop down to this price range you just can't complain about what you're getting. And it seems as though OnePlus has spent the money in the right places here — great build, a good screen, capable internals and a few key specs to give it some aspirational qualities. Pair that up with lightweight software, and you have yourself a really solid package that's a clear considerably less than the next tier of devices.
Of course with OnePlus there's always a catch — well, you guessed it, there are invites. In Europe OnePlus is kicking off the invite process on November 5, with the U.S. following two weeks later on November 19. OnePlus is moving in the right direction this time, though, and is setting a one month time frame for needing an invite — after that month is gone (presumably on December 19), things will open up for anyone who wants to drop $249 or 269€ on the phone without getting in line for an invite.
And if you have both a need for an inexpensive — but solid quality — phone and the opportunity to do so, I recommend you give it a look. The OnePlus X seems to get really close to a winning recipe.