OnePlus One: Australian hands-on

Taking on the established heavyweights and making it look easy

OnePlus has the smartphone elite in its sights with the price-savvy One. The 5.5in smartphone throws together top-tier hardware with software from professional modders CyanogenMod into one of the best bodies we've seen in 2014.

Jaw-dropping good looks

From every angle the OnePlus One is a stunning piece of technology. Front on a 5.5in screen appears to float on-top of the body. Flip it over and the downright sensuous back dazzles. Even the charger makes us giddy, with its thick red cord and gold-on-white contacts. We may have even taken a few steps back just to appreciate the packaging.

Few smartphones look this good, let alone a 5.5in phablet

The centrepiece of course is the smartphone. It’s tall at 153mm, but the One is easily redeemed by its ‘phablet’ sized 5.5in display. The IPS display has a commendable 1920x1080 resolution for 401 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Remember Apple’s iPhone 5S Idles at 326ppi and Samsung’s Galaxy S5 boasts 432ppi.

Nominate the silky white colour (pictured) and the One will strike a two-tone contrast. The inactive screen, side buttons, camera and insignia are all coloured black for a black-on-white look. The plastic back has a matte finish and an enjoyable ceramic feel. OnePlus claims it is removable, but there’s no guarantee the solid piece won’t yield to pressure and snap.

Few smartphones look this good, let alone a 5.5in phablet. In fact, only one other 5.5in smartphone excels just as well in design.

Mobicity, who provided Good Gear Guide with this review sample, is currently selling the OnePlus One

The people’s software

All this marvelling takes place before the smartphone is turned on. Presented on the Full HD screen is Android 4.4 KitKat, albeit revised by hardcore modders CyanogenMod. Software is stock for the most part, but CyanogenMod does add a few flavoured touches in an effort to elevate the experience.

The homescreen and application drawer remain stock, but application iconography is different for the most part. The notification drawer is now populated with more relevant and attractive shortcuts, while interfaces such as the camera have been redesigned for the better.

The One can be tailored to individual tastes

Some of the changes, even though they’re small, mark a bold deviation from the norm. The battery indicator is a circle now and the system’s loading icon is a hexagon — a nod to CyanogenMod’s logo.

Plenty of options means the One can be tailored to individual tastes, as does the inclusion of a ‘themes showcase’.

The software stays true to CyanogenMod’s modus operandi by keeping the software light, flexible and pleasing.

Heavyweight hardware, 13MP UHD camera

On paper the OnePlus reads like a well-oiled machine. Inside is a Snapdragon 801 chipset complete with a 2.5GHZ quad-core CPU, an Adreno 330GPU and a 4G modem. The smartphone has a whopping 3GB of RAM, comes with either 16GB or 64GB of flash storage and has an in-built 3100 milliamp-hour battery.

OnePlus’ ‘no compromise’ mantra is evidenced by the company’s innards. Only Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and HTC’s One M8 has a CPU running as fast, while its RAM tops the industry alongside Sony’s Xperia Z2.

Connectivity is just as strong with support for dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC.

Topping it off is a rear camera that captures photos at 13 megapixels, is complemented by a dual-LED flash and records video in Ultra high-definition. Lower the resolution to high-definition and it will increase the framerate to 120 frames per second for slow motion recording.

Fans of ‘selfie’ photography will appreciate the front-facing 5 megapixel camera. It too records video in HD resolution.

First impressions

OnePlus has proved to the Samsung and Apples of the world that a flagship smartphone can be delivered for less. This is one cool device on the basis of its design, features, price and rebellious bravado.

Read more: Motorola Moto E review

Stay tuned: Good Gear Guide will bring a full review of the OnePlus One shortly.

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