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The OnePlus One has been causing quite a stir New Apple Products, Internet Bill Of Rights, OnePlus One, Street View Time Machine [Tech News Digest] New Apple Products, Internet Bill Of Rights, OnePlus One, Street View Time Machine [Tech News Digest] Apple's new products, Brazil's Internet Bill of Rights, OnePlus One turns heads, Xiaomi international expansion, Google Street View time machine, Amazon Prime Pantry, Apple's recycling efforts, and the creepiest light bulb ever. Read More in the recent months, and it’s just beginning to arrive at the doorsteps of eager customers. I received my OnePlus One (OPO) about three weeks ago, and I’ve come to love the phablet-sized device.

But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Let’s run through some of the great things about this device, and one not-so-great thing.

That Gorgeous Screen

opo-front-camera

OnePlus has been hyping the screen on this thing for a while now, and it was clearly for good reason. The screen is gorgeous. As someone who generally prefers AMOLED displays over LCDs, I was surprised at how deep the blacks were on the OPO and how much livelier the colors were than on other LCD screens.

Plus, you’re obviously dealing with a phablet here when you’ve got a 5.5″ display. This thing is about the size of a Note 3, and it’s impossible to get around that. It will be big in your hand and really difficult to use one-handed. That being said, the huge screen is wonderful for scrolling through web pages and watching videos. With a OPO, you don’t need a phone and a tablet, just this one device.

Rather Loud Speakers

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They’re no HTC BoomSound speakers, but they’re pretty dang good anyway. One user on the OPO forums has pointed out that despite there being two speakers along the bottom, the OPO actually plays the same audio from both — not left channel and right channel like true stereo speakers. Still, the dual speakers give it a bit more oomph and certainly make it louder and crisper than your average smartphone.

If speakers are the deciding factor for you, know that they won’t top the HTC One M8’s, but they will top just about every other phone on the market.

Killer Camera

opo-rear-camera

The Sony Exmor IMX214 shooter in the OPO is another of their greatly hyped features, and it doesn’t disappoint either. It’s a 13MP camera, but as you should know by now, megapixels don’t make the camera. Still, everything I’ve taken so far has turned out crisp and well-lit. There’s also a 5MP front-facing camera which takes the best selfies of any device out there right now, since the rest of the crowd seems to be sticking with 2MPs on the front.

Now, I don’t want to flood this article with images taken from the OPO’s camera (which, admit it, is always the most boring yet extensive part of most reviews), but here are a couple photos I took outside in sunny weather with the Auto mode in the stock CM camera.

opo-sample-1

Above, the colors are really well-balanced. Other phones would have blown out the sky or darkened the island, but the OPO did extremely well.

Below, the OPO’s quick shutter speed allowed it to catch the waves as they were crashing, although you only see a black hole where there is actually a very dark cave. But contrasting the near-complete darkness with the bright outside would be a feat for any phone.

opo-sample-2

Even some Lens Blur photos taken with the Google Camera app (which we’ve reviewed Google Camera: The Official Vision for An Android Camera App Google Camera: The Official Vision for An Android Camera App Today I'd like to tell you about a camera app that doesn't do very much -- by design. You should still try it, though, because it comes direct from Google. Read More ) turned out really well, and these three secret features of the Google Camera app Three Secret Features Of Google’s New Camera App That Will Blow Your Mind Three Secret Features Of Google’s New Camera App That Will Blow Your Mind Google’s recent update to the KitKat camera app boasts a few secret abilities, including an accidental tilt-shift effect, 3D image capability and something of a wide-angle effect. Read More  worked fabulously. If you don’t like CyanogenMod’s camera app, or you just want to try some of the new features, definitely download Google Camera.

Better Software Than Stock Android

opo-cm11s-themes

CyanogenMod11S, the software that ships on the OPO, is the best of both worlds: the style and speed and stock Android, but the customizability of CyanogenMod. This isn’t a heavy-handed Android skin Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More , it’s a lightly altered stock Android that allows for in-depth customization in the settings, including a Theme engine that has endless capabilities.

Developers are busy making new CM11 themes everyday, and they customize so much more than is possible on stock Android. It takes it a step further than customizing your homescreen How to Make Your Own Uniquely Gorgeous Android Home Screen How to Make Your Own Uniquely Gorgeous Android Home Screen Here's a detailed look at the whole process. If you follow it step by step, you can get the same eye-catching home screen for your device and learn to experiment with design recipes. Read More , allowing you to customize system-wide fonts, certain apps like Settings and Phone, and even the icons used in Quick Settings. To really make your device yours in the simplest way possible, you’ll want to get a OPO and spend some time scrolling through the Themes Showcase app.

Replaceable Backplates With Awesome Textures

opo-speakers

I never much cared for the material my phone was made out of. Samsung plastic? Sure. Sony glass? Okay. HTC metal? Why not.

But that changed when I received the OPO. The version I received, the 64GB Sandstone Black version, has a textured back unlike anything I’ve felt on a phone before. It’s rough and soft at the same time, like a kind of sandpaper/felt material. Sandstone is actually a pretty accurate descriptor. This backing not only makes it feel secure in your hand, but it also solves the fingerprint problem. The backside of this device is matte enough that fingerprints are not an issue at all.

Plus, the backplate on the OPO is removable and customizable. Right now, the 16GB ships with a Silk White backplate, but OnePlus will begin selling alternative backplates (including Silk White, Sandstone Black, and Bamboo) towards the end of August. OnePlus has said that the Sandstone Black and Silk White covers will cost $29, and the Bamboo will cost $49.

While I love the Sandstone Black backplate, I am interested to see how the others would feel.

This Thing Is Cheap

opo-prices

At $299 for the 16GB version and $349 for the 64GB, this phone is clearly the cheapest high-end phone you can buy. Case closed.

Its competitors — the Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S5 Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy S5 Review and Giveaway The S5 can no longer be considered brand-new -- but it is Samsung's flagship, at least for the next few months. Read More , One M8, Xperia Z2, and LG G3 — all feature similar (if not arguably worse) specs, and yet retail for $600-$700. The OPO literally cuts that price in half. There’s no dancing around the fact that this smartphone has the best value of any on the market — if you can buy it.

The invite system has been confusing and frustrating for many. I received my OPO invite for being an early member on the forums, and OnePlus has been holding more and more competitions to release invites since then. Full retail availability should come sometime within August or September, though.

One Problem: Huge DPI

Now, my biggest bone to pick with the OPO: its default DPI. DPI stands for Dots Per Inch, and its actually different than the PPI (Pixels Per Inch) that you often hear brought up when discussing screen size and pixel density. PPI is a hardware dimension — and the OPO’s is 401 PPI, since it has 1920×1080 pixels squeezed into a 5.5″ display.

The iPhone 5S, for comparison, has a 4″ 1136×640 pixel display, coming in at 326 PPI. Apple called that a retina display How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] These days, people are crazy about the Apple Retina Display. Supposedly, it does wonders! A completely non-pixelated screen? Who would have ever thought?! However, many questions loom the supposedly revolutionary technological advancement. Is it really... Read More , since the PPI was too high for the human eye to distinguish pixels. At 400+ PPI, we’re far in the clear in terms of quality here, and nitpicking a slightly higher PPI display at these levels really doesn’t matter. The LG G3 for instance has a 5.5″ 2560×1440, which is 538 PPI. Impressive? Yes. Necessary? Not at all.

But, DPI is different. DPI (otherwise known as LCD Density) is in the software, and its the density at which images, text, and anything displayed on your screen is rendered. As smartphones have gotten larger and packed more pixels, the default DPI of Android has gone up. The OPO ships with a DPI of 480, which is huge for a phone. When I first started using it, I noticed that compared to my old Galaxy S3 (which has a 4.8″ screen), the OPO was showing about the same amount of information on the screen, just with larger buttons, images, and text. That would be great if I had huge fingers and poor eyesight, but I have neither, and I would prefer to get more information on my screen if I have to carry around such a huge device.

opo-dpi-comparison-1

Above you can see my screen set to the default 480 DPI on the left, and how it looks after I changed it to 380 DPI on the right. Much more information is displayed on the right, and with a gorgeous 5.5″ screen, text is still crisp and buttons are still pressable. I played around with the DPI for a while, staying at 400 for a bit and then deciding I wanted it even smaller. Your perfect DPI would likely vary, but 380 was great for me.

The only problem is that while the fix is simple, it requires your OPO to be rooted. Thankfully, this is an incredibly easy task thanks to the folks over at OnePlus and CyanogenMod, but still unfortunate that it ships with such a huge DPI and users need root to change it.

One user over at the OPO forums posted a fantastic tutorial on how to root your OPO, and I was able to do it in just a few minutes. Seriously, it’s completely worth it. Then I downloaded ROM Toolbox from the Play Store and used the built-in build.prop editor to change the LCD Density (ro.sf.lcd_density=480) to 380.

Do note, however, that things can go wrong when rooting your device and messing with your build.prop, and I’m not responsible if you brick your device. Be sure to make a Nandroid backup through CWM recovery or TWRP before starting.

What Do You Think Of The OPO?

I love this device, but I’m curious to know what you think of it. Is it a game-changer, or will this just be a blip in the radar a few years from now? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Corinne Larimore
    September 1, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I like the bigger print as I hate websites that the print is so small I really can't read it even with my glasses on.

  2. Gallie Malle
    April 30, 2015 at 2:31 am

    What theme do you use?

  3. Salamandar
    November 25, 2014 at 10:41 pm
  4. Maggie Nikkel
    November 19, 2014 at 7:10 am

    What carriers have it? I'm shopping for a new phone and this one sounds amazing! Great review too!

    • Anonymous Coward
      November 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      No carriers *officially* carry it, but it's compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and their Prepaid affiliates. You need to obtain an invite or pre-order on OnePlus' website to buy it.

  5. Nirpati
    November 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I am using this phone for last two weeks. Its owsome phone with great hardware software capacity. I reviewed it on my blog lookatmobile.com

  6. Doug
    October 31, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I had an iPhone 5 for 2 years and switched to this when I upgraded. 3 of my kids work at AT&T selling phones, 2 of them have this phone. AT&T doesn't sell this phone. That should tell you something. My son that didn't buy it is worried about support since OnePlus is such a new company. I love the phone, I can actually see everything on the screen and it is lightning fast

  7. Nate
    October 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I've had my OnePlus for a few days now. All I can say is wow! This phone is awesome. Someone mentioned cheap chinese phablets. Well you get what you pay for... except with the OnePlus you get way more.

  8. dragonmouth
    August 13, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    "That would be great if I had huge fingers and poor eyesight, but I have neither"
    But there are those who do. Not everyone who is in the market for this phone is a young snot with perfect eyesight.

  9. Howard B
    July 27, 2014 at 5:05 am

    This sounds like a *great* smartphone. Can I win it? Worlds better than my crappy Huawei Glory...4", no flash, crappy cameras, and crowded internal storage (it was originally designed for 2.3 and *barely* qualified to be (factory) upgraded to 4.0.1, including the HeartBleed bug; barely 500M free out of the box).
    Only downside I've heard of is no SD card slot. Boo! - but 64GB would probably take the sting out of that....

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      Sorry, we're not doing a giveaway for this phone at the moment. :(

      I would've liked an SD card slot too, but with the 64GB model I don't think I'll be running out of space anytime soon!

  10. Alexis C
    July 26, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Too much screen and too much powerful. Really, if you are not going to play 3D games with this beast, do not buy it. There are plenty of other Chinese smartphones of this size cheaper and less powerful that would be enough to media apps.

  11. Tom S
    July 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    I love this phone...now this is an awesome smart phone, very tech endowed, and classy.

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