OnePlus may not be the first brand that comes to your mind when you think of Smartphones, but over the past two years, they have proven that they should be. The Chinese company has built a reputation for bringing out spectacular smartphones like the One Plus One and the One Plus Two at ridiculously low prices. The theme continues with the OnePlus X, which is the company’s first mid-range phone. The One Plus X offers an excellent design and a compelling spec sheet with prices starting at only 249 USD. In fact, One Plus claims that this is the first truly premium affordable smartphone. But does it live up to the company’s claims? Let us find out
ONE PLUS X GALLERY
(Click on the thumbnails for the high resolution images)
Before we get into it, here’s an overview of the key specifications and features
Display: 5 inch Full HD AMOLED screen protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Camera: 13 MP, f/2.2 rear camera + 8 MP, f/2.4 front camera
Connected by: 4G LTE + Standard connectivity options
Running on: Oxygen OS based on Android 5.1.1
Powered by: A Snapdragon 801 processor with four 2.3 GHz cores + Adreno 330 GPU + 3 GB Ram + 16 GB internal storage and a 2525 mAh battery
UNBOXING THE “X”
The One Plus X comes in a nicely presented package which makes you feel like you are getting something of good quality right from the start. Pull of the white lid and you’ll find the X in white or black sitting on top of the red box which contains a red micro USB cable, a 5V, 2A charger, a protective case, a SIM tray ejector, a quick start guide and a user guide. There are no headsets in the package but I’m not surprised as this is becoming the norm with mid-range devices nowadays so as to cut on costs.
The One Plus X has three different versions; The Champagne (white) and the Onyx (black) versions which both have a glass back and the limited Ceramic version which as the name suggests, has a ceramic back. If you are going to buy the X then chances are that you’ll either end up with the Champagne or the Onyx version because OnePlus made only 10,000 ceramic units so you’ll have to win battles to have that. The Ceramic version also costs more at around 269 USD.
My review unit was the cheaper Champagne version. Nonetheless, I was still very impressed by the level of craftsmanship that went into it factoring in its cost – The champagne (also known as rose gold) metal frame together with the rounded display glass at the front and glass back makes for a device which looks and feels premium in every single way.
Looking around the One Plus X, the power button, the volume together with the Nano-SIM slot which also doubles as the memory card slot are found on the right hand side. The combined SIM card and memory card slot can easily be accessed by poking the SIM tray ejector into the little hole which is located above the volume rocker.
On the left side of the device is a very useful alert slider which lets you switch effortlessly between sound/notification profiles.
Up on the top is a headphone jack and a microphone while the micro USB port and two speaker grills can be found at the bottom.
At the front is the 5 inch AMOLED display. Above it is a speaker grill, the front 8 MP camera and a multi-colored notification light. On the back of the X is the 13 MP flash, an LED flash and the One Plus logo.
The One Plus X offers a 5 inch display. I’m really glad that One Plus chose a 5 inch screen for the X instead of the huge 5.5 inches which is becoming very common for mid-range and high-end smartphones alike. That said, the 5 inch screen makes the X more compact than its larger siblings thus using it with one hand is not a problem at all.
The One Plus X has an AMOLED display rather than the IPS screens that you find in most smartphones around this price range. The main difference between the two screen types is basically how they work – IPS displays are backlit whereas AMOLEDs produce light from each individual pixels thus using less power when much of the screen is black (More on this here). What you get from this is great contrast and vibrant colors with deeper and richer blacks. One Plus has also integrated a dark theme (this really looks good) together with some colorful wallpapers to take advantage of the deep blacks and the saturated colors that the screen offers.
The display has a full HD resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels with a high pixel density of 441 PPI (pixels per inch) hence images are sharp and texts are crystal clear. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 which can survive small falls and deep scratches.
The One Plus X is a dual-SIM phone with support for Nano-SIM cards only. Nano-SIM cards are about 40% smaller and 15% thinner than the popular Micro-SIMs therefore they cannot be cut from a Mini-SIM card or Micro-SIM with ease. If you were previously using a Mini-SIM or a Micro-SIM, I suggest you visit your network provider’s customer care outlet as they’ll replace it for you at no cost.
The One Plus X comes with 16 GB internal storage but this can be expanded further up to 128 GB using a MicroSD card. It’s worth noting that you can’t use two SIMs and the memory card slot at the same time so if you are going to use a MicroSD card which you’ll have to eventually, you’ll have to do away with the second SIM.
The One Plus X has an alert slider on the left side of the device which lets you switch through the different sound/notification profiles easily. This is very handy for when you are going into class or a meeting and you need to quickly silence the phone without turning on the screen.
The device comes with the standard suite of connectivity options as well as 4G LTE though only a few bands are supported. Nonetheless, The X still managed to connect on Safaricom’s 4G network but the signal was inconsistent and weak in most places.
As for the battery, the One Plus X is powered by a small 2525 mAh non-removable battery which will last you through an entire work day with moderate use. If you take advantage of the stock Android Lollipop battery saver and the battery saving properties of AMOLED displays by using the system-wide dark theme, your battery might last longer but this all depends on how you use the phone.
The One Plus X is powered by a Snapdragon 801 processor with four 2.3 GHz cores backed by an Adreno 330 GPU and 3 Gigabytes of RAM (The snapdragon 801 is the same processor that is used by most 2014 flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the legendary HTC one M8 and Abuya’s LG G3). In terms of performance, the older chipset still offers great performance and there is nothing to complain about. Normal operations were smooth on the X with the very little lag. In fact the only time I experienced a bit of lag was once when I was switching between two games i.e the adrenaline-packed NFS Most Wanted and Ubisoft’s Rayman Adventures which is normal really for most phones. At least the X didn’t heat up when gaming like the Infinix Zero 3 which I had reviewed earlier. About switching between apps, multitasking is also an easy job here thanks to the 3 GB RAM.
The One Plus X has a 13MP f/2.2 rear camera with an Led flash. The rear camera offers different camera modes including the photo, slow motion, time-lapse, video and panorama modes. The photo mode which is the default allows you to shoot in three different options; clear image, hdr for photos taken against strong backlit and beauty mode which applies some skin softening magic to your photos.
The rear camera also has a manual mode which allows you to have more control over the photos you take just the same you’d do in a professional camera. In terms of image quality, the rear camera really takes good photos outdoors and in well-lit indoor scenes with quick focusing speeds thanks to the phase detection autofocus.
I visited the Murumbi African Heritage Collections (also known as the Nairobi Gallery) when I had the X and took some photos with it. Below are the original unedited photos. The photos were taken in the clear image mode. You can also check out some of the edited samples on my Instagram profile
(Click on the thumbnails for the high resolution images)
From the sample images above, it’s evident that the camera really gets some detailed shots even when indoors and colors also appear natural without you having to play with the white balance in the manual mode. You’ll also notice that the images were taken in the 4:3 ratio. For you take photos at the maximum resolution of 12.4 MP, you are restricted to this ratio (4:3). I really don’t like this because I like my photos wide in either 16:9 or 16:10. That way, I can easily crop to different aspect ratios without ‘hurting’ the original image. For you to shoot at 16:9 you’ll have to lower the resolution to 7.9 MP.
In front of the X is an 8MP, f/2.4 camera which is a step up from the 2MP and 5MP that we are used to in other Smartphones. In terms of pixel count, it’s one of the best front cameras you’ll find at the mid-range segment. The front camera like the back, also has a beauty mode which softens skin and hides blemishes thus producing some very clean selfies.
The One Plus X runs Oxygen OS based on Android 5.1.1 out of box and I really like what One Plus has done with this customized version of Android. Oxygen OS offers the same user experience of the plain Android OS you’d get in a Google Nexus device together with a few added enhancements which are very useful – It’s like using a stable version of a custom ROM which modders like us will tell you, aren’t easy to come by.
Looking at the home screen, the app drawer and the notification bar, everything looks identical to that of the stock android interface. The only difference is a feature known as Shelf which sits where you’d find the Google Now page on stock android (swiping to the right from the home screen). Like the name suggests, Shelf is a feature which will help you stay organized. It holds all your favorite apps, widgets, contacts and the current weather. All these shortcuts are added and maintained automatically based on your usage.
Oxygen OS also allows you switch from the default light theme introduced in Lollipop to a dark one. This is very useful especially if you find it hard staring at bright displays like I do. In this case you can turn on the dark theme which puts white text on black instead of black on white hence making texts easier to read. The dark theme also looks better on the AMOLED screen compared to the light one and that’s probably the reason why it’s set as the default. Other than this Oxygen also gives you the option to choose between on-screen and capacitive buttons, a feature that is mostly found on custom ROMS like CyanogenMod. This gives you the choice to ditch the capacitive buttons which may be confusing at times because they are not backlit and also the back and recent-apps buttons are labelled the same. Despite this annoying little issue, chances are that you’ll still end up using the capacitive buttons because they provides more screen real-estate for apps which would have been wasted by the on-screen buttons.
Other notable features in Oxygen OS include app permissions which is a Marshmallow feature (more on this here), gestures, accent colors and ambient display which gives you a glimpse of your notifications when you remove your phone from your pocket, pick it up or when new notifications arrive.
All in all, I really like Oxygen OS and I’m sure you will too especially if you are one of those people who like keeping things close to stock. It makes me reminisce the good times I spent flashing ROM’s on my ZTE Blade and Xperia SP back in campus while on the search for ‘the perfect ROM’ – one that offered the stock android experience while still incorporating those little features that you can’t find on the plain android that you get in a Nexus. I finally found it on the X but it’s sad that we’ll have to part ways soon when it goes back and I’m left with the unsightly UI on my current Smartphone.
The one Plus X is the perfect all-round mid-ranger offering great performance, premium design and a high quality build. In addition to this, you also get an excellent AMOLED display, decent cameras, storage expansion as well as the option of using an extra SIM card. What makes the deal sweeter is that it costs only 249 USD internationally.
What it all comes down to is availability, which has been a great issue for One Plus since it’s still a small company and so they cannot manufacture so many units like big companies would. Initially, the X was sold on an invite only basis but now anyone can order it directly from the company’s website. If you are living in Kenya and you want the X without going through the process of importing one then you can find it at Avechi Kenya but here you’ll have to pay more because they are selling it at 29,999 Kshs.
What do you think about the One Plus X? Also, I’d like to get your feedback on the reviews we have done so far and suggestions on what you’d like to see in the future. Kindly do that in the comments section below.
Related Review: The Infinix Zero 3 review: high-end specs at a mid-range price