OnePlus X review: this £199 smartphone is slick, stylish but smashy

There's a reason they put a case in the box

and dups

Written in accordance with our Reddit-inspired review policy.

While it’s not what you’d call a household name, Chinese brand OnePlus has risen to prominence among the Android community in an impressively short time. The OnePlus X is their third phone (after the inventively-named One and Two) and offers some mid-high end tech for the alluring price of just £199.

The X is the first phone from OnePlus not to use their much-maligned invite system (you can just buy it), and achieved the unique feat of massively increasing Google searches for “1 + sex.” Why? Because of people doing voice searches for the phone. Amazing.

If good performance and classy design for under £200 sounds good, here’s our full OnePlus X review.

1. The handset

  • 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm
  • Onyx, Champagne, Ceramic
  • 138g for Onyx and Champagne, 160g for Ceramic

I didn’t get off to the best start with my OnePlus X.

Learn from my fail: use the case that comes in the box. I’m not a big fan of putting cases on phones because I don’t think it should be necessary (a nice addition, yes, but not essential), and because it means all the work done on making a beautiful handset is immediately covered up with the case. But with the OnePlus X, the case comes free in the box for a reason: the handset is useless without it.

Essentially, the Champagne X (I can’t speak for the others, it may just be this colourway) is made of soap. It is the world’s slipperiest phone. Put it on a flat surface and it’ll start moving. Put it on your bedside table and a minute later it’s leapt onto the floor by itself. It’s the phone equivalent of a Premier League footballer: constantly diving to the ground when no one touched it. The case adds a bit of friction which prevents this, but it does seem like a design flaw to make a handset that you can’t use without a case.

As for the rest of the handset, it’s surprisingly premium-looking for a £200 phone. Textured metallic edges, a physical notification slider, a volume rocker and power button adorn the sides, with the 3.5mm headphone port on the top. The front is understated with no branding, just glossy white strips bookending the screen, and champagne-coloured icons on the capacitive buttons at the bottom.

The sim slot is cleverly designed to take either two nano sims or a sim and a microSD card, and the multicoloured notification LED on the top right is invisible until lit. The bottom edge of the phone houses twin sets of drilled holes, with the micro-USB charging port in the centre. Unlike the OnePlus 2, this is the old-style micro-USB rather than USB C – but that’s a sensible decision at this price, and the phone comes with OnePlus’s well-loved and nicely-designed USB charging cable and plug in the box.

There’s no fingerprint sensor, which shouldn’t surprise us at £199 except that the Honor 5X has one, and that’s £10 cheaper. But it’s fair to say that most manufacturers wouldn’t include one at this price.

2. The speakers

While there are two sets of holes on the bottom of the OPX, only one is a speaker (on the left). Bass is a little thin, but overall the sound quality is plenty good enough and gets fairly loud. Just be careful not to muffle the speaker with your hand – always an issue with bottom-edge speakers.

Unusually, we’ve had some issues with call quality on this phone – it can be very difficult to hear the other person, even on max volume, when there’s noise in the room. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it can be quite frustrating – I had an important phone interview where I had no clue what the interviewee had said until I listened to the recording later. Not ideal.

3. The screen

  •  5.0″
  • 1080p (full HD), 441 pixels per inch
  • Gorilla Glass 3

Other than the fact that the first one smashed within two days (!), I have no complaints about the screen on the OnePlus X. It’s glossy, colourful and sharp with wide viewing angles.

It has Gorilla Glass 3 for protection, which is the version before the current one (this year’s flagships have GG 4), which means it shouldn’t smash or scratch easily. As we’ve learnt, though, it’s not foolproof: it smashed after falling off a table face-down, due to the slippiness of the back panel without a case. With a case, you shouldn’t have to worry about it – we’ve been using our second OnePlus X for weeks now with no further issues, including some fairly major drops.

Image: OnePlus

4. The hardware

  • Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor (4 x 2.3 GHz)
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3GB RAM

At this price, we wouldn’t have been surprised to see 2GB of RAM, so 3GB is a welcome bonus. Coupled with a very able processor, performance on this phone is good for the price. However, we’ve had more crashes than we’d have liked: usually relating to the lock screen, which suggests a software problem. OnePlus updates its OxygenOS frequently, so we wouldn’t expect this to be a long-term issue.

The one downside of the hardware on the OnePlus X is – as with the OnePlus 2 – the lack of NFC. Short for Near Field Communication, this is the tech behind Apple Pay – and the feature we like to use to transfer files and settings from our old phone to our new one. No can do on the OPX. This also means you can’t use Android Beam to send a photo to a friend, for instance (though we don’t know many people who make use of that feature), and more importantly, that you won’t be able to use Android Pay (the ‘droid equivalent of Apple Pay) when it comes to the UK this year.

OnePlus have repeatedly commented that there’s no NFC on their phones because they don’t believe customers use it, which is probably fair up to now – but when Android Pay comes out, that’s going to change. And anyone using a OnePlus phone in the UK will be left behind for the sake of a chip that hardly costs anything – a strange decision. Hopefully now that Android Pay is rolling out to more territories, OnePlus will change tactics.

5. The software

  • OxygenOS based on Android 5.1.1
Left: Notification shade. Right: Shelf

Other than the aforementioned lock screen crashes, I’ve enjoyed using the software on the OnePlus X. It’s a version of Android they developed themselves, and it’s different enough to be useful but not so different that it loses the Android feel. One of the main differences from stock Android is the ‘shelf’ to the left of the home screen, which shows you your recent apps and contacts. I don’t use it personally as I have all my main apps on my home screen, but it’s quite a nifty feature for people who prefer minimalist backdrops to their phones.

I’ve had some issues with WiFi on the OnePlus X: the phone will claim to be connected to a network when it’s actually still connecting or has already disconnected, and often it doesn’t seem to realise it’s no longer within range of a particular network. This is also a problem I had on the OnePlus One, although that was running Cyanogenmod rather than OxygenOS. Perhaps it’s a OnePlus issue.

6. The storage

  • 16GB
  • Expandable by up to 128GB with microSD

16GB is not a lot of storage. But £199 is not a lot of money, and this phone has a microSD slot so you can add more space to your phone. Other brands, meanwhile, sell 16GB phones for considerably more with no expandable storage at all (the cloud does not count).

Fair enough, then.

7. The selfie camera

  • 8MP
  • F2.4
  • QHD video

The front-facing camera on the OPX won’t rival the likes of the Galaxy S7, but it’s not bad. It delivers fair-to-good quality photos depending on the light: there’s often some grain, but I was happy with the image quality in most environments. Low light selfies tend to come out grainy and dark, but that’s also the case on phones costing twice this price.

The OnePlus X uses the Google Camera app rather than a custom one. That means the love/hate Beauty Mode feature is included, but it’s a toggle rather than a slider, so you can’t ramp it up to wax figurine levels. Which is probably a good thing.

OnePlus X selfie camera samples:

The OnePlus X: not ideal for dark corners

8. The main camera

  • 13MP
  • F2.2
  • Full HD (1080p) video recording
  • Slow motion video (720p at 120fps)

No complaints here. The 13 megapixel main cam takes quick and colour-true photos, although I’d have appreciated a double-tap shortcut to open the app. Low light performance is fair, though as with many phones, it’s not much good for gigs: the digital zoom introduces a lot of grain and the mic is overwhelmed by bass for videos. For everyday snapping, though, this is great.

OnePlus X camera samples:

9. Battery life

  • 2525mAh
  • Non-removable

Stamina on the OnePlus X is not amazing. It won’t last you the day unless you’re a light user, and I’ve had to be extra-diligent about carrying a power pack since using this phone. However, considering it costs £199, it actually performs better than we expected. I’m a heavy user, and it usually lasts until late afternoon before it’s dropping below a third, which is when I start to get antsy about charging.

Image: OnePlus

The OPX unsurprisingly doesn’t have or wireless charging, but the included charger does power it up fairly quickly.

An hour’s screen-on time at max brightness will cost you 18% of your battery. That’s an improvement over the OnePlus 2 (20%), and about the same as the similarly-priced Honor 5X (19%). Compare that to the 12% we got from flagships like the Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy S7, and it doesn’t seem half bad for the price.

Example battery stats on the OnePlus X

10. Gadgette’s verdict

The OnePlus X is my favourite OnePlus phone. OK, that’s not the most ringing endorsement considering I had a faulty OnePlus One and wasn’t overly enamoured of the Two, but I’m actually quite fond of the X. It goes back to OnePlus’s founding principles – great specs at a surprisingly low price – but without the “flagship killer” hype.

OnePlus has considerably more competition in that space than they did when they launched the One, with phones from other Chinese brands like Honor creeping into their territory, but this phone proves they can still produce something that costs a lot less than you’d expect. The downsides are the lack of NFC and fingerprint sensor, and the fact that the case is mandatory – but those don’t seem like dealbreakers for £200. OnePlus offers some nicer cases than the one that comes in the box on their website, I’d recommend picking up one of those when you buy the phone.

As we mentioned in our S7 review, one of the best measures of how much we like a phone is how sad we are to give it back after the review. In this case, I’ve been stalling on writing up the phone because I wanted to keep it a bit longer. Considering it’s a third of the price of many phones I review – and considering it’s made by a brand I haven’t got on too well with in the past – that’s impressive.

UK price and availability

The best news is, OnePlus have dropped their unpopular invitation system for this phone. The Champagne and Ceramic versions are often out of stock, but the Onyx edition is available to buy freely on the website for £199. It doesn’t have to be a particular day (seriously, for a while you could only buy the phones on Tuesdays), and you don’t have to trade in a phone costing 3x as much. It’s nice to innovate, but sometimes the best strategy is to do what everyone else does: let people buy your phone when they want to.

You can get the OnePlus X now directly from the website.

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 291 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.