OnePlus One Review

on Thursday, December 18, 2014


  • Superb value
  • Plenty of power
  • Large, high-quality screen


  • Patchy 4G support in UK
  • Too-quiet call speaker
Review Price £229.00
Key Features: 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen; Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz CPU; 3GB RAM; Android 4.4.2 with CyanogenMod Manufacturer: OnePlus

What is the OnePlus One?

The OnePlus One is the most hyped-up handset ever to come from a brand that most people have never heard of. Just over a year ago, OnePlus as a company didn't even exist.

There's no denying the amazing value of the OnePlus One, with a measly £229 price tag for hardware that can genuinely compete with the Galaxy S5 and Nexus 5. However, the fact that it isn't compatible with some 4G networks in the UK will mean it's an instant no-no for many of you.

With that caveat in place, let's take a closer look...

OnePlus One – Design

It is sold as an alternative to phones like the Galaxy S5 and One M8, but the OnePlus One is actually significantly larger than the competition. It's because the phone has a 5.5-inch screen – we imagine OnePlus takes no small amount of glee in offering such a large screen at half the price of its competitors.

Consequently, though, the OnePlus One does take a bit more getting used to than those phones. But it is way off the ridiculous size of supersize phones like the Samsung Galaxy Mega and HTC One Max. You can still use it in one hand. It's just big.

Another way the OnePlus One claims its own style is by using a very unusual rear finish. We used the black 64GB version and it has an oddly, deliberately rough soft touch finish. It's like a cross between sandpaper and felt. That may sound terrible, but it's very tactile surface that makes the phone feel that bit more substantial than a lot of other phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S5. 
The OnePlus One also comes in white, but only in its lesser 16GB storage edition. OnePlus plans to offer other back covers made of different materials, but don't hold your breath about these being easily available in the UK.

The back of the phone is removable, but it's not designed to be removed frequently, there's no hidden memory card slot and the battery is locked in place. You need a tool to get the back off too – it's just there to let people customise the phone.

OnePlus is a Chinese company and China is famous for its phones that 'borrow' the designs of other better-known phones. But the OnePlus One successfully creates its own look and feel, and one that compares fairly well with all the other top-end phones we have here in the UK.
The design is deliberately simple, too. A micro-SIM tray sits near-invisibly on the phone's side, and as the volume and power buttons are a similar colour to the OnePlus One's back, they're effectively hidden when viewed from any distance. Even the OnePlus logo is remarkably small – especially given that building a brand is OnePlus's number one priority at this point in its sub 1-year existence.

Clear design thought has gone into the OnePlus One. It's not as stunning as the HTC One M8, but for a first effort from a small company, it's quite the achievement.

OnePlus One – Dimensions

This picture tells you a little more about quite how bit the OnePlus is. While the LG G3 has the same size screen, the OnePlus One is still significntly bigger as it doesn't have the super-slim screen surround of LG's latest.

The OneOlus One is 153mm tall, 76mm wide and 8.9mm thick. It is thin, but has a substantial footprint. Weight is no real issue, though.

As its core is made of lightweight magnesium, the OnePlus One weighs 162g. That's a very similar weight to the smaller HTC One M8.

OnePlus One – Connectivity

The hardware is a success story as long as you can handle that extra size. But there's a serious problem under the hood of the OnePlus One, and we think it is the number one problem with the phone.

What is the issue? 4G. The phone supports the 700, 1700, 2600, 2300, 2100 and 1800MHz bands. If this means nothing to you, don't worry – it's not what's there that matters.

The problem is that there's one missing band that's extremely important in the UK – 800Mhz, also known as band 20. Several networks here use this band, and as the OnePlus One doesn't support it, you can't get 4G on O2, Vodafone, GiffGaff, Tesco or Lycamobile. Three also relies on the 800MHz band for some of its 4G, so 4G signal on that network in certain areas may not be too hot.

That only leaves EE and Three, which use the 1800MHz band that's compatible with the OnePlus One. If you're on one of those networks, you're good to go (4G).
This is a serious issue, and is the best reason to leave this phone on the shelf. Why has OnePlus left such an important band out? Because it's not really an important band in other key territories.

An official statement on the OnePlus forums suggests the band was left out as it is only used to supply rural areas of the UK and other countries with 4G. Last time we checked, London wasn't all that rural. Still, let's not forget this is OnePlus's first go at a phone.

The one other missing connectivity bit is an IR blaster, which lets you use a phone as a universal remote for your TV, Blu-ray player and so on. Over the past couple of years we've mellowed from thinking this is pointless to kind-of useful, but we're yet to meet many people who have the feature and actually use it.

All the other high-end bells and whistles are here. NFC, ac-grade Wi-Fi and Cat4 4G are all in place in the One.


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