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Hands on: OnePlus X

Ceramic on the back, OLED on the front, the OnePlus X impresses from any angle

Cheaper, better looking, and easier to buy, the OnePlus X is more exciting than the OnePlus 2, but the specs will disappoint some.

I overheard at least one person at the OnePlus X launch say the inclusion of a Snapdragon 801 processor, rather than a newer Snapdragon 808 or Snapdragon 810, was a disappointment. Talk about missing the point. Specs here don’t really mean anything: The OnePlus X is all about the design, the style, and the looks. Even if it wasn’t, it’s not like the phone is powered by a wood-burning stove. The 801’s damn capable, plus it has 3GB of RAM to give it plenty of zip.

OnePlus has found itself with two flagship phones.

Forget the specs for a moment. The OnePlus X is a statement phone, and not just for the eventual buyer. It’s a statement from OnePlus. The original OnePlus and the OnePlus 2 aren’t stunners, they’re built to perform a purpose, and do so in an unobtrusive and non-controversial way. The OnePlus X is ridiculously attractive, and the company’s showing us it actually does have a team of designers, and they know how to make a good-looking phone.

Related: Everything you need to know about the OnePlus X

It’s not the most original look though. The OnePlus X has a glass front and a glass rear panel attached to a metal chassis, making it reminiscent of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, plus Sony’s Xperia range. There are two different versions, the Onyx and the Ceramic. The former has a glass rear panel, and the latter one is made from ceramic. It’s here where OnePlus’s eagerness to show what it can really do shines through. The ceramic panel takes 25 days to produce, and the yield is around 20-percent, meaning it discards way more than it accepts. This isn’t a Vertu phone, it’s a OnePlus, and that’s an insane statistic.

There are other subtle differences between them. The Onyx has a deep black gloss to the rear panel, while the ceramic panel has a lighter sheen, plus the edges have a sharper angle, rather than a soft curve on the Onyx. The OnePlus X Ceramic is noticeably heavier, but the Onyx is a delightful featherweight, and at under 7mm thick, it’s a joy to hold. The sensible 5-inch screen size helps, and it’s easily usable with one hand. Look closely and little details emerge, such as the carefully ridged metal sides, and intricately crafted buttons. The glass panels are slippery though, and absolute fingerprint magnets.

It’s not like the phone is powered by a wood-burning stove — the 801 is damn capable.

To make sure the OnePlus X stands apart from the OnePlus 2 even more, an AMOLED screen graces the front of the device, and the contrast and black levels are as expected — full of depth and clarity. To emphasize them, OnePlus has added a cool black theme to OxygenOS that’s already activated on the X, and the black of the screen means the panel almost disappears into the black of the glass front. It borders on the monolithic.

A flagship phone, but for different reasons

People’s preoccupation with the Snapdragon 801 aside, the OnePlus X isn’t style over substance. The 13-megapixel camera has an autofocus system that apparently works in just 0.02 seconds, but in our brief time with the phone, it was impossible to test this properly. It certainly didn’t seem confused by rapid focal length alterations. The X has one of those clever dual-SIM trays, where one of the slots also takes a MicroSD card, adding up to 128GB of memory to the measly 16GB of internal storage space. There’s an FM radio too, an unusual but apparently oft-requested feature on modern phones. It’s music without a subscription plan, or the need to use data.

OnePlus X
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus X comes just a few months after the OnePlus 2, and it raises the question, which is the real flagship phone here? Sure, the OnePlus 2 has the higher specs, bigger screen, and some cool modern features like a fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C. But’s it’s a bit dull to look at. The OnePlus X is the opposite. It’s exciting, and the type of phone that lends itself to those arty lifestyle photo shoots, where it’s placed on a restaurant table surrounded by beautiful people. The OnePlus 2 would be on an app developer’s desk next to a mug with the words, “No, I won’t fix your computer,” written on it. OnePlus has found itself with two flagship phones — not bad considering that’s the extent of its range.

It’s going to be slightly easier to buy, too. The invitation system remains, but after a month, OnePlus will hold weekly open sales, where anyone can buy it. Initially the open sales will only last an hour, as time goes on and inventory grows, the open sales will last longer. Additionally, there will be pop-up stores in cities around the world to try the OnePlus X out, and you’ll actually be able to buy one at the same time. You’ll pay less for the X than you will for the OnePlus 2, because the OnePlus X is $250 in the United States, or £200 in the UK. That’s how to price a phone you want to sell, HTC.

Related: Read our review of the OnePlus 2

OnePlus wants to put the X in your hands. It’s almost as if it’s prouder of the X than the OnePlus 2, but is at a loss on how to let people know how good it looks and feels. Maybe it’s right to be proud, because this slim, sleek, pretty — and best of all — cheap phone leaves quite an impression.

Highs

  • High quality materials
  • Beautiful design
  • AMOLED screen
  • Slim and lightweight

Lows

  • Specs will disappoint some
  • No fingerprint sensor
  • Attracts fingerprints anyway