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OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Which should I buy?

Andrew Williams

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Nexus 5 OnePlus
Nexus 5 OnePlus

Which is the Better Phone?

The OnePlus One is one of the surprise high-end Android phones of this year. It comes from a company made by a former Oppo boss, and sells for a ridiculously low price, given its specs. It costs around £230, but can challenge phones like the Galaxy S5.

But is it really the new king of budget Android phones? We’ve compared the OnePlus One to the Nexus 5, one of the current top budget buys in the phone world.

OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Design

OnePlus One – Plastic, 160g

Nexus 5 – Plastic, 130g

Both the OnePlus One and Nexus 5 are plastic phones. This helps to keep both the price and weight down without scrimping too much on actual build quality.

However, the OnePlus One is a fair bit bigger than the Nexus 5, largely because its screen is significantly larger. The One is 153mm tall, the Nexus 5 134mm tall. Where the Nexus 5 will fit into most pockets happily, we imagine the OnePlus One will probably poke out a bit.

While these phones are naturally going to be compared because they’re two obvious smartphone bargains, many people will find the Nexus 5 a bit easier to live with. The OnePlus One is closer in size to the Galaxy Note 3.

The Nexus 5 is also 30g lighter – the Nexus 5 is 130g, the OnePlus one 160g. It's the width that actually matters most in phone handling, though, and once again the Nexus 5 is that bit more accessible in this respect. It’s around 6mm narrower, making it easier to use one-handed.

OnePlus One

OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Screen

OnePlus One – 5.5-inch 1080p LCD

Nexus 5 – 5-inch 1080p LCD

Where the OnePlus one wins back the some of the points it loses with its large footprint is the screen. It’s a full half-inch larger than the Nexus 5’s display at 5.5 inches.

It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it will be very noticeable in person. It’s roughly the difference between the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3, and will make the OnePlus One that bit better for watching movies and playing games on.

Both phones uses LCD-type displays with 1080p resolution panels. Having the same number of pixels spread over larger area makes the OnePlus One less sharp in theory, but in practice there will be little noticeable difference in normal use.

What we have heard is that the OnePlus One’s colours aren’t too hot - a little washed out. However, it may simply be that the phone has more accurate colours, like the Nexus 5, which has great colour accuracy. Then again, skipping proper calibration could be one way OnePlus has managed to save pennies on the production of this phone.

People often think accurate colours appear undersaturated because we’re so used to oversaturated colours these days. We’ll check this out in our full review. But for now, it seems that at best the OnePlus One is similar to the Nexus screen, but bigger.

Nexus 5

OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Specs

OnePlus One – Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core, 3GB RAM

Nexus 5 – Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core, 2GB RAM

The OnePlus One hardware is roughly a half-generation more advanced than the Nexus 5’s. It uses the Snapdragon 801 CPU, which is effectively a supercharged version of the Snapdragon 800 used in the Nexus 5.

It offers a bit more power, but is not something to base your buying decision on. Both phones will be able to handle top-end games like Real Racing 3 with ease. And these days there seem to be fewer and fewer high-end titles to show off the latest hardware like this, as larger devs tend to focus on more casual free-to-play games.

The OnePlus One also has 3GB of RAM, while the Nexus 5 has 2GB. This combo makes the One, in theory at least, more powerful than the Galaxy S5, the HTC One M8 and Xperia Z2 – not just the Nexus 5.

Check out our Snapdragon 805 vs 801 vs 800 comparison

OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Software

OnePlus One – Android 4.4 with CyanogenMod

Nexus 5 – Stock Android 4.4 with Google Experience launcher

One of the most interesting differences between these two phones is software. At first glance the OnePlus One and Nexus 5 software looks very similar, and they are both based on Android 4.4 KitKat. But while the Nexus 5 uses a stock version (with the Google Experience UI), the OnePlus One has a custom CyanogenMod take on Android.

CyanogenMod is a community-based, open-source version of Android that gives you loads more control over settings and other features than normal Android. It’s for hardcore geeks and tinkerers, although if you’re just out for a bargain you can treat it much like a Nexus 5.

What does CyanogenMod let you do? There’s proper integrated FLAC support, which is patchy with Android 4.4, you can turn the phone on with two taps, and developers get loads more control over performance, and more information on how the system is running. The OnePlus One also has its own bespoke tweaks, as it runs a special '11S' version of CyanodenMod. These seem to include a new lock screen and a special theme that brings its own look to icons.

You still get Google Play and Google apps with the OnePlus One, so you don’t miss out on anything.

OnePlus One vs Nexus 5: Camera

OnePlus One – 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash, f/2.0 lens, software stabilisation

Nexus 5 – 8-megapixel sensor with dual LED flash, f/2.4 lens, OIS

The camera is one of the weaker parts of the Nexus 5. It has an 8-megapixel sensor of 1/3.2-inch size and an f/2.4 lens. Neither of these is particularly impressive for a £300-plus phone.

The OnePlus One sensor is larger (1/3.06-inch) and higher-res – and it has a faster f/2.0 lens to make up for having smaller sensor pixels. Its flash is also a dual-LED model rather than a single one. Its specs are better across the board.

You might have read about the OnePlus One having image stabilisation, but this is software based, rather than using actual dedicated camera hardware. The Nexus 5 does have the real deal - proper optical image stabilisation. And we found it really helps out with low-light shooting in our Nexus 5 camera review.

Still, on paper the OnePlus One is an immediately more impressive camera, which should be able to produce better photos. And, as we saw in the Galaxy S5, some software stabilisation modes are pretty good anyway.

Which is the better phone?

The OnePlus One is a bit of a tech Top Trumps style mobile phone. It has deliberately gone out to one-up most of its rivals by packing-in high-end hardware at a low price. The Nexus 5 had no real chance to compete now that it is more than six months old, but still sells at its original price as a ‘current’ model.

However, we still think many of you will find the Nexus 5 easier to live with. It’s a significantly smaller phone, and while the OnePlus One boasts some hardware benefits, they’re not ones most normal buyers need to worry about. We're keen to see if our initial feelings are right, however, once we get the chance the OnePlus One properly.

Next, read our Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S comparison

Daniela

April 23, 2014, 6:59 pm

I hope they made the Plus One with a 4.5 or 4.7 inch screen for all of us with small hands. I really don't understand why phone manufacturers believe that people want phones that we have to hold with both hands.

Uncle Lincoln

April 23, 2014, 8:35 pm

Fun fact: the Nexus 5 DOES have optical image stabilization.

Dustin

April 23, 2014, 8:57 pm

The nexus 5 does have optical image stabilization.

jimv1983

April 23, 2014, 10:50 pm

I totally agree and I don't even have small hands. My Nexus 5 is a pain in the ass to use with one hand and comfortable pocketability isn't possible either. The same was true with my smaller Galaxy S2.

jimv1983

April 23, 2014, 10:55 pm

"It's the width that actually matters most in phone handling, though, and once again the Nexus 5 is that bit more accessible in this respect. It’s around 6mm narrower, making it easier to use one-handed."

Ummm....NO!

Easy one handed use is more about the height than the width.

androidjunkie11

April 23, 2014, 11:23 pm

You mixed up a few of the camera features. The Nexus 5 is not the one with the Dual LED Flash. And the Nexus 5 DOES have OIS (Optic Image Stabilization), and it works quite well I might add. I'm writing this on a Nexus 5.
Pardon my frustration, but it seems as though there is ALWAYS between 1-5 incorrect specs in these tech journalists' articles. How hard is it to check your work before you post it to the masses??
Take some pride in your work...

Eyean

April 23, 2014, 11:26 pm

When the phone breaks which company has better support? I'll go with Nexus since LG does all their repairs.

YL9307

April 24, 2014, 12:05 am

EXACTLY what I thought!

Antwan

April 24, 2014, 2:06 am

I believe you misread. They didn't say the Nexus 5 had dual led flash. They said the One did. They also said the One had software based stabilization, which means it's digital image stabilization not optical image stabilization. Everythings pretty accurate.

Andrew Sheng

April 24, 2014, 2:42 am

Or that they stuck to their tease that the 5.5 inch display will fit in the body of the Sony Xperia Z1

Andrew_TR

April 24, 2014, 9:05 am

Sorry about that one - brain fart on my part. To make it worse I tested the Nexus 5's stabilisation myself at review!

I've added a link in the section in question if you want to see the Nexus 5's OIS results. They make quite interesting viewing vs an iPhone 5C.

moruz

April 24, 2014, 12:28 pm

Hey man..tell us something about battery..don`t hide it !

Frank Bostick

April 24, 2014, 8:54 pm

Sounds like a nice piece of tech. I wouldn't give up my nexus 5 for it but I may try to get one to tinker with. Supporting one plus one will hopefully shake up a closed industry which in turn is awesome for us consumers.

Laurent Grimal

April 24, 2014, 10:39 pm

Actually Oneplus hired one of the best screen calibrators (Francois Simond). There was an article on this. That guy is a calibration Guru, before he was hired he developed new cross-platform methods of automated calibration so the Information you post as a "maybe" is incorrect. Francois Simond is also the Sound engineer on the OnePlus in Charge of Sound measurements.
Overall th One+ gives what the market wants, thinner bezel, i.e. a 5.5 screen in a 5.2 inches frame. Currently nothing better exists on the market.
Also, although the battery is officially 3100 it is natively a 3250 battery, and coupled with CM Software optimizations, it is sure to outlast any phone in the market at the moment. The CyanogenMod Team is reputed for improving on the work of Samsung, LG, HTC, etc... and designing improved Software (in Terms of battery life and performance) for the big flagship devices. Now they have their own Smartphone. That's pretty unbeatable in my opinion. The software development that OnePlus has alone is worth the phone...

Laurent Grimal

April 24, 2014, 10:46 pm

What good is easier one handed if the phone is too narrow for two handed use? Most of the time we use our devices two handed, so the two handed Operation is more important and it is definitely easier to type on a larger Display. My Hands get numb from typing on 5 Inch screens.

Laurent Grimal

April 24, 2014, 10:48 pm

What size do you wear? My S5 is way pocktable...and no problem with 1 hand operation.

jimv1983

April 24, 2014, 11:16 pm

You might use your phone with two hands most most people don't unless the phone is so biog that they don't have any other choice. I want to be able to reach anywhere on the screen with just my thumb and have my other hand free to do other things.

jimv1983

April 24, 2014, 11:23 pm

I wear normal sized pants. If you read my comment you'll see that a said COMFORTABLE pocketability. My phone fits in my pocket easily but it's FAR from comfortable.

When it comes to one handed use you might have huge hands. I have average sized hands for a 6 foot tall male. Or maybe we have a different ideas of what one handed use really means. For me it means having a good grip on my phone(fingers wrapped all the way around the back of the phone and little finger supporting the bottom) and still being able to reach everywhere on the screen with just my thumb.

For example:
http://techpinions.com/wp-cont...

http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/ar...

http://tr2.cbsistatic.com/hub/...

Daniel Isaiah Porter

April 24, 2014, 11:49 pm

Where I live, you better use your phone with two hands or someone will snatch it easily.

Daniel Isaiah Porter

April 24, 2014, 11:51 pm

That's dudes with skinny jeans, can handle the big phones.

henry3dogg

April 25, 2014, 12:23 am

True it does.

But it doesn't seem to help the pictures any. Its just a poor camera

Dustin

April 25, 2014, 2:32 am

I don't really think the camera is that bad.

toboev

April 25, 2014, 9:44 am

I'm with you on the one-handed thing, except that it's a secondary consideration for me. So whilst I'll agree that (on my Galaxy Note 1) one handed use is a little awkward, I would not trade the larger screen that it gives. To me the screen size is fundamental to what I use the phone for, which is less about telephony and more about web browsing, looking at photos, sat-nav. Sure, I can't text one-handed, but I'd rather deal with that problem than have to endlessly zoom in and squint at the screen (or give up) for all the other uses.

toboev

April 25, 2014, 9:51 am

Which one should you buy? How do you actually buy one of these Ones? I've skimmed their website, some stuff about being invited, or smashing up your old phone. They give their reasons (like how difficult it is to guesstimate production run volumes accurately versus customer frustration at out-of-stock problems), but I'm still none the wiser as to how to give these people my money.

Nebojsa Zdravkovic

April 25, 2014, 11:34 am

I guess the answer to the title should be: since I cannot buy oneplus anywhere, I should go for Nexus 5. Or am I missing something?

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