SMARTPHONE MAKER OnePlus was, until now, solely in the business of building so-called 'flagship-killers': high-spec, low-price handsets like the recent OnePlus 2.
The newly revealed OnePlus X is not a flagship-killer. It's maybe a flagship-botherer or a flagship-annoyer, but with a downsized 5in display and an old Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, this smartphone seems more concerned with taking a swing at the mid-range market with a £199 price to match.
Here's our first impressions of the OnePlus X, having grabbed some hands-on time with it at the launch event.
The OnePlus X comes in two varieties: the standard Onyx edition and the Ceramic edition, which costs a hefty £70 extra and will be available only in limited numbers. Our advice? Save your cash. The two variants look almost identical, and the Ceramic model, which includes a glossy ceramic backplate, weighs 160g compared with the Onyx's featherweight 138g.
Besides, the Onyx's glass back is plenty stylish by itself. Glass and ceramic don't sound like the toughest materials but both models feel strong and sturdy, particularly with the lightly ridged metal frame running around the edge. These material combinations also give the OnePlus X a lovely premium feel which is rare in its price range. It's highly compact as well, measuring just 140x69x6.9mm.
The downside of glass, and apparently ceramic, is that they are spectacularly good at picking up fingerprints. Both sides of each phone were covered in smudges within a couple of minutes, and we've never pined for a microfibre cloth so much in our life.
Still, there are some nice design touches that more than make up for it. The same Notifications control button from the OnePlus 2 is present here, allowing you to limit notifications to priority senders or block them completely for some peace and quiet. The camera sits flush with the backplate, instead of awkwardly sticking out like on most devices.
For connectivity, OnePlus has paired a standard microUSB port with a similar 2-in-1 card tray to that of the Honor 7. It can fit two nano SIMs, or one nano SIM and one microSD card. We'd be inclined towards the latter as the OnePlus X includes only 16GB of internal storage, although dual SIMs can be useful when travelling abroad or doubling up your personal smartphone as a work device.
This is the first OnePlus smartphone to include an AMOLED display, and it's an excellent addition even on the OnePlus X's smaller 5in screen. Colours appear vibrant and bold, with clean whites and deep blacks. The glass was fairly reflective, but a high default brightness helps deal with this common problem.
A Full HD resolution of 1920x1080 also means that the OnePlus X is attractively sharp. In fact, the 441ppi isn't too far off the pixel densities of top-end smartphones, and even small text is perfectly clear and readable from a decent distance. It's actually slightly crisper than the OnePlus 2, which has the same resolution but a larger 5.7in screen, reducing pixel density to 401ppi.
Operating system and software
It's a shame that the OnePlus X won't launch with the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS. At least the included Android 5.1.1 Lollipop is a good alternative, offering useful tools like multiple user accounts and hardware encryption.
It comes with OnePlus' OxygenOS skin, which thankfully doesn't make too many changes. We're not overly fond of the keyboard design or camera UI, which is simplified so much it loops back to being confusing, but Android's core interface and features have been left mostly untouched.
There's also next to no bloatware or pre-installed apps, barring what was added for demonstration purposes, which is a nice change by custom skin standards. Our main concern is how much it delays future Android updates, which remains to be seen.
The quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 was a top notch chip in 2014 when it appeared inside the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3. But it's been outpaced and overshadowed by the preposterously powerful Samsung and Apple processors powering the Galaxy S6 family and the iPhone 6S, but it's still more than fast enough on paper to stage a cut-price comeback, especially with a big, fat 3GB of RAM.
Indeed, operating the OnePlus X is buttery smooth. We could open apps and menus instantly, and slip between multiple tasks without delay. The lack of an internet connection at the launch event meant we couldn't perform benchmarks, but we can confirm that INQ favourite Crossy Road runs like a dream.
Again, the OnePlus X's numbers make for some intriguing reading: £199 gets you a 13MP rear camera as well as an 8MP front camera, not bad considering that most selfie-cams tend to hover around the 5MP mark.
In practice, though, these cameras aren't quite as impressive as the rest of the device. We hate to damn with faint praise but they're both merely decent, capable of good colour reproduction but slipping into fuzziness where the finer details should be, especially on the front camera.
The rear camera can also record 1080p video, but playback is stuttery and even small lights can create screen-filling beams of lens flare. It will suffice for casual filming, but we've seen better, such as from the 2015 Motorola Moto G.
Another minor let down is the lack of internal storage. 16GB is the only option here and, according to the Onyx model we checked, which to be fair included a few added games and apps, only 9.9GB of this was free.
Still, that's not terrible for the price, and we suspect that most will happily sacrifice dual SIM support to make use of a microSD card anyway.
Besides the Ceramic and its weirdly inflated price, it does indeed look like OnePlus has done it again, crafting a mass-appeal Android smartphone that's much better equipped than its low cost suggests.
Perhaps this could help it steal attention from the top-end handsets after all, but we're keeping an eye on the mid-range market. The OnePlus X's powerful processor, wealth of RAM and deeply stylish design could make it the first worthy rival to the current sub-£200 king, the Motorola Moto G.