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OnePlus 2, First Take: No flagship killer, but still good value

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It comes to something when a relatively new handset maker bills its new smartphone as a '2016 Flagship Killer'. That's an aggressive claim: OnePlus -- founded in Shenzhen, China, in December 2013 -- is implying that a reasonable outlay will buy you a handset that can knock the top vendors' flagship phones into a cocked hat.

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A bold claim... Image: OnePlus

The comparison needs to be made partly in terms of raw specifications, partly in terms of value for money, and partly in terms of build quality. As far as the latter is concerned, a handset's overall feel can really help determine its fate -- something that OnePlus got right with its debut product last year.

There are two versions of the OnePlus 2 available. For £239 (US$329) you get 16GB of internal storage and 3GB of RAM, while £289 (US$389) you get 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. There's no MicroSD card slot to boost the storage capacity, so you'll need to make the right decision at purchase time. The OnePlus 2 is on sale now, but you'll need an invite and only the 64GB/4GB model is currently available on the OnePlus store. You can also choose from four optional SwapStyle Covers to smarten up the back of the handset: these come in Bamboo, Rosewood, Black Apricot and Kevlar, and cost £19.98 ($26.99) each.

The remaining specs are the same for both models, and they are impressive considering the handset's price.

Features

The 8-core, 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC is no slouch, and for those who have read about it running warm in other handsets I can say that in my relatively short time with the OnePlus 2, using it for mainstream communication/media consumption/productivity tasks, it has run impressively cool.

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Optional SwapStyle Covers are available in Bamboo, Rosewood, Black Apricot and Kevlar, at £19.98 ($26.99) each. Image: OnePlus

The OnePlus 2's Gorilla Glass-protected 5.5-inch screen has a relatively moderate 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 401ppi -- the same spec as its predecessor. By contrast, Samsung's 5.1-inch, 2,560-by-1,440-pixel Galaxy S6 delivers 576ppi. That said, I found the OnePlus 2's screen resolution and image quality perfectly acceptable.

The rear 13-megapixel camera has a 6-element lens, a dual-LED flash and optical image stabilisation, while the front-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Limited opportunities to test the camera thus far have not revealed any serious problems with point-and-shoot photography.

Oxygenated OS

Android 5.1 comes with a proprietary layer -- OxygenOS. This is a change from the CyanogenMod that came with the OnePlus One. It's a light-touch addition to Android, and those who don't like their OS customised beyond all recognition should find it fine to work with. Additions like Waves MaxxAudio for tweaking sound output and the ability to set permissions on an app-by-app basis are nice to have -- and you can easily ignore them if they aren't useful. The same goes for icon packs that can be used to customise the look and feel of the user interface.

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A three-position slider lets you dictate how notifications are received. Image: OnePlus

There are some nice extras too. On the hardware side, a slider button on the left edge has three positions that dictate how notifications are received -- all, just priority notifications or no notifications. Yes, that could be controlled in software, but it's a differentiating touch.

There's a fingerprint sensor below the screen which you can configure to unlock the handset. I found it a little tedious to set up, with multiple taps on the sensor pad required before my finger was recognised. Once that job is done (for up to five fingers), the unlock process is accurate and fast.

Lift the backplate and you'll find two Nano-SIM slots. Dual SIM support is still a rarity, and a welcome feature -- particularly for business travellers.

The vibrant red USB cable is a USB type C. One immediate benefit is that it's shaped symmetrically at both ends -- no more fiddling to get the cable the right way up! Of course that does mean your 'standard' USB cable for charging multiple devices doesn't fit the slot.

There's no NFC, so OnePlus 2 owners might miss out if NFC-based payment systems take off; and if you're a fan of infrared for remotely controlling your TV and other home entertainment kit, you might rue its absence here. But in general the OnePlus 2 has a good set of specifications. It's a GSM/WCDMA/LTE handset (with support, outside North America, for LTE band 20, which was missing from the OnePlus One). It supports the full complement of wi-fi standards (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), along with Bluetooth 4.1, GPS (with GLONASS support) and a digital compass.

The battery is a 3,300mAh lithium polymer unit -- slightly more capacious than the 3,100mAh battery in the OnePlus One. There's no support for fast charging or wireless charging, though.

As far as build quality is concerned the OnePlus 2 is slim, and quite tall for its screen size, measuring 151.8mm by 74.9mm by 9.85 mm. It's also on the heavy side at 175g (6.17 ounces). I certainly noticed it sitting in a pocket. Still, it feels tough, and the grippy 'wet-and-dry-sandpaper' finish to the standard backplate is retained from the OnePlus One.

Flagship killer?

So, is the OnePlus 2 really a 'flagship killer'? That's a bit strong, in my opinion, given the number of missing features -- notably NFC, fast charging and wireless charging. If money were no object I'd still rather have a truly boundary-pushing top-of-the-range handset. But if your budget won't stretch and you're looking at £290/$390 or thereabouts as your limit, then the OnePlus 2 looks as though it will remain a strong contender well into next year -- unless more big-name vendors start slashing the prices of their flagship handsets, Motorola Moto X Style-style.

Specifications

Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor
Additional Features Intelligent typing (SWIFTKEY), notification LED, Dual noise reduction microphones
Security Devices Fingerprint reader
Details
SAR Value 0.205 W/kg (body) / 0.428 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, audio player, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Sandstone black
Cellular
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type smartphone (Android OS)
Integrated Components audio player, front-facing camera, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation GLONASS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System OxygenOS (based on Android 5.1)
SIM Card Type nano SIM
SIM Card Slot Qty dual-SIM
Input Device Multi-touch, capacitive
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, proximity sensor
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, LTE
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Display
Technology IPS
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Pixel Density (ppi) 401
Contrast Ratio 1500:1
Diagonal Size 5.5 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 14 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.5 in
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass (scratch resistant glass)
Color Support color
Features In-Cell Display Technology
Processor
Clock Speed 1.8 GHz
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty 8-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Camera
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source dual LED flash
Features 6-element lens, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Slow motion video, video recording
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MKV, AVC, AVI, MOV, XviD, MPEG-4, ASF, DivX, MPEG-2, 3GP, H.264, HEVC, H.265
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, AAC, AMR, MP3, FLAC, AAC +, OGG, WMA v10, WMA v9, EVRC
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 430
Digital Camera
Lens Aperture f/2.0
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source dual LED flash
Video Recorder Resolutions 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
Features 6-element lens, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Slow motion video, video recording
Header
Brand OnePlus
Product Line OnePlus
Model 2
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Touchscreen Technology capacitive
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyro sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Additional Features Dual noise reduction microphones, intelligent typing (SWIFTKEY), notification LED
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC, AMR, EVRC, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA v10, WMA v9
Supported Digital Video Standards 3GP, ASF, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, XviD, AVC, AVI, DivX, H.264, H.265, HEVC, MKV, MOV
Sound Enhancements MaxxAudio sound enhancement
RAM
Installed Size 3 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 16 GB
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 430
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 13 megapixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 5 Megapixel

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Where To Buy

OnePlus 2 (sandstone black)

Part Number: CNETOnePlus 2-sandstone black