Will the OnePlus X be the best budget Android phone?

New OnePlus handset comes with a choice of exotic finishes and an even lower price

Price when reviewed 
199
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Samsung’s doing it, Apple’s doing it. Hell, even Sony is doing it. It seems every smartphone manufacturer on the planet has a multi-flagship device policy these days – and now OnePlus is joining in, by launching its second smartphone of the year: the OnePlus X.

The new phone follows the template of the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus One before that. You’ll only be able to buy it by invitation - at least during its first month on sale - and in that way, OnePlus has been able to keep the price extremely low. The cheapest version of the OnePlus X is a mere £199 inc VAT, and if the specifications are anything to go by, invitations will be thin on the ground.

Fortunately, after the first month, OnePlus is making the phone slightly easier to buy, with hour-long flash sales once a week in month two and longer flash sales thereafter.

OnePlus X: Design and features

The OnePlus X is a smaller device than the OnePlus 2, with a 5in, 1,080 x 1,920-resolution AMOLED display. That isn’t a huge difference; what truly sets the OnePlus X apart is the care and attention the firm has clearly taken over design.

The OnePlus X will be available in two exotic finishes: Onyx, and Ceramic, with the screen at the front topped in Gorilla Glass. It’s the ceramic version that really catches the eye, however, and it’s the handset that OnePlus is clearly most proud of.

OnePlus said the ceramic backplate of the phone takes a total of 21 days to produce. It’s first fire-baked at almost 1,500˚C for 28 hours, then cooled for two days before being polished and attached to the frame of the phone. The result is a material that’s nearly as hard as Sapphire, so says OnePlus, which is itself one step below diamond on the Mohs scale of hardness.

The downside is that the ceramic version of the phone costs significantly more than the glass version at £269 inc VAT, and OnePlus will be producing only a limited run of 10,000 units. If you want one, you’re going to have to be quick on the draw.

Other significant features include a new 13-megapixel camera - complete with isocell sensor tech, phase detect autofocus and an f/2.2 aperture - while the front-facing camera has an impressively high resolution of eight megapixels.

As with the OnePlus 2, the X has a handy Alert Slider that lets you quickly switch between three different sound profiles, and the whole thing runs on OnePlus’ own version of Android 5.1.1 – OxygenOS. There’s no going back to CyanogenMod, it seems.

OnePlus X: Specifications

As for the internals, the OnePlus X is a bit of an odd beast. Powering the phone is the generation-old quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, running at 2.3GHz, and it’s accompanied by 3GB of RAM, an Adreno 330 GPU and 16GB of storage, expandable up to a maximum of 128GB via a microSD slot.

I haven’t seen this combination of components in a phone since the days of the OnePlus One and the LG G3. It looks as though OnePlus found a load of old components left over in a dusty corner of the factory and decided to put them to good use.

Still, based on the performance of the LG G3, results in the benchmarks ought to be decent, and it should also be remembered that, although old, the Snapdragon 801 is still a faster chip than you’ll find most budget devices – the Motorola Moto G 3 being a prime example.

What’s slightly more concerning is the size of the battery. It’s only 2,525mAh in capacity, which is down by nearly 500mAh on the OnePlus One, and nearly 800mAh on the OnePlus 2 – and I wasn’t blown away with the stamina of that phone.

It’s hard to say at this stage how good the OnePlus X is going to be. On the one hand, the design looks absolutely stunning, especially the ceramic model; on the other, the specifications aren’t exactly cutting-edge, and the battery in particular looks to be on the small side.

Rest assured, though, we’ll be publishing a full review when we get our hands on an official sample. That should be very soon, so watch this space.

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