OnePlus 5 vs OnePlus 3/3T: Should You Upgrade?

The OnePlus 3 – and its successor, OnePlus 3T – was an extremely popular phone, with the 3T being what was, and still is, in my opinion, one of the best bang-for-buck that you can get for an Android phone with top-of-the-line specs, a delightful near-stock software experience, and impeccable build quality.

With the OnePlus 5, OnePlus builds upon the successes of the OnePlus 3/3T, but at a more premium price tag. For current OP3/3T owners, is the OP5 worth the upgrade? And for those considering purchasing a OnePlus phone for the first time, should they fork out a premium for a shiny new OP5, or settle for a much cheaper OP3/3T?

I’ve been using the OP3 as my personal daily driver for more than a year now, and I’ve been using an OP5 review unit (courtesy of Lazada) for over a week; I believe that I have some insights regarding these questions.

Jelly Scrolling

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: jelly scrolling. The OP5 has become infamous for this hardware issue. And because it’s a hardware issue, it cannot be fixed via a software update. If you’re getting an OP5, you have to be certain that you’re okay with living with this.

But how bad is it exactly? It certainly is noticeable (for me at least), and it is present throughout the UI: browsing the web, scrolling through your messages, etc.

The effect is reminiscent of the effect that you get when scrolling through messages in the iOS messaging app (since the iOS 7 redesign), where text bubbles bob around with some sort of innate inertia. It’s not as pronounced on the OP5, but it’s present on any screen that involves vertical scrolling. I suggest you get your hands on an OP5 and see for yourself whether it bothers you.

The OP3/3T on the other hand, does not have this hardware defect.

That being said, I’m personally not too bothered by it, even though I do notice it.

Design and Build

When I first saw images of the OP5, I was disappointed by what a blatant rip-off of the iPhone 7 Plus it was – replace the OnePlus logo on the back with the Apple logo, and most people will be hard-pressed to tell the two phones apart.

But after getting my hands on the phone in person, I must say that I don’t mind it at all. Because even though the back looks like an iPhone 7 Plus, it feels nothing like it. Next to the OP5, the iPhone 7 Plus is much wider and a hella more uncomfortable to hold, despite having a screen of the same size.

Compared to the OP3/3T, the OP5 feels much more refined and comfortable in the hand. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s the most comfortable 5.5 inches I’ve ever held. OnePlus has managed to slim down the already impressively narrow side bezels of the OP3/3T, cutting down the width by a further 0.6mm.

The thickness is about the same as before – just 0.1mm thinner – but it feels much, much thinner than it actually is. This is because OnePlus narrowed down the flat sides of the OP5 and made the curve on the back more pronounced. This substantially adds to the overall ergonomics of the phone, as the more pronounced curve fits the palm of your hand much more comfortably.

The corners of the OP5 are also much more rounded and hence jut into your palms less.

All of these add to a phone which is much more comfortable to hold than its predecessors.

Performance

Even though the OP5 comes with Qualcomm’s shiny new 10nm Snapdragon 835, I must say that I do not notice a tangible improvement in performance compared to the Snapdragon 820/821-wielding OP3/3T. Both devices are absolutely lag free and snappy, even on my year-old OP3. Both devices have an ample 6GB of RAM (8GB on the 128GB version of the OP5).

I did notice that boot-up and shut down times are a little faster on the OP5. But that’s it.

Camera

The OP5 comes with dual 16MP cameras, one normal and one telephoto, a la iPhone 7 Plus. The main camera is f/1.7 as opposed to the f/2.0 on the OP3/3T, meaning low-light performance should be better in theory. It holds up in real life, with the OP5 performing slightly better than my OP3.

The OP3/3T is a bit more hit-and-miss when it comes to its camera, but the OP5 provides a more consistently above-average experience.

As for the telephoto lens, I don’t find it useful on the iPhone 7 Plus, and I don’t find it useful here. It performs more poorly in low light thanks to its f/2.6 aperture, making motion blur more common. The OP5 actually knows this, and so it may choose to stay on the primary camera if the lighting conditions aren’t ideal, opting for digital zoom instead of optical even if you hit that “2x” button. This gives you a loss in resolution for slightly better low-light performance.

Perhaps the only tangible feature you get from the telephoto lens is the depth effect when shooting in portrait mode. It works, but bokeh is overrated.

I would’ve preferred a dual-camera setup similar to what the G6 offers: one normal lens and one wide-angle lens. Wide-angle is much more useful in many more scenarios than a telephoto lens. Trust me, you don’t know the benefits of a wide-angle lens until you’ve had it. And once you do, you’ll wonder how you’ve gotten this far without one.

The OP5 has a pro-mode, which one-ups the manual mode on the OP3/3T by providing a live histogram on the viewfinder and a digital spirit level. Unfortunately, the spirit level is far from accurate, but this is probably an issue with my particular unit.

Both the OP5 and OP3/3T can shoot in RAW.

Software Support

OnePlus has confirmed that the OP3/3T will receive Android 8.0, but I wouldn’t expect any major Android updates after that. The OP5 will likely be supported for at least one more major version of Android (the one after 8.0) before OnePlus calls it quits.

That being said, because the OP3/3T is one of the most popular phones on XDA, you get excellent developer support. So if you have the technical knowhow, you’re likely to have access to many custom ROMs and mods that will carry you long after official support has ended.

Pricing and Conclusion

The OP5 is being sold officially on Lazada for S$769 for the 6GB/64GB model and S$869 for the 8GB/128GB model, and comes with 18 months of warranty.

The OP3T is not sold officially by OnePlus, but a quick search on Lazada shows that you can get one brand new for as low as S$550. However, you likely will only get a warranty of one month if you purchase the OP3T. Also, when purchasing an OP3T you should aim to purchase the Asia/European model (A3003), or at least the Chinese model (A3010) that has been flashed with Oxygen OS to ensure network compatibility in Singapore.

If you’re an OP3/3T owner like I am, I’d say that the OP5 isn’t worth the upgrade. Sure, it’s more refined in almost every single way, but the user experience is almost identical to what you already have.

For those considering getting a OnePlus phone for the first time, consider whether or not those little improvements (and an official 18 month warranty) are worth the extra $200. If your answer is yes, go get the OP5. Otherwise, the OP3T is technically a better deal bang-for-buck wise.

As always, using Shopback with your purchase will allow you to get some pretty decent cashback, cutting the cost further.

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