A few years ago you had to spend big bucks to get a smartphone that was actually enjoyable to use. Things changed when great unlocked devices like the Moto G and OnePlus One came out. Suddenly, you could have a reliable phone without selling your soul to a carrier. OnePlus has been particularly aggressive moving into the high-end to compete with the likes of Samsung. The OnePlus 5 has much of the same hardware as the Galaxy S8, but it costs hundreds of dollars less. Is it as good, though? Let’s break it down.
Samsung has been on a glass and aluminum kick for the last few years, and the trend continues with the Galaxy S8. This phone has an aluminum frame and curved glass on the front and back. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 5 is all aluminum with a black or gray anodized finish. The GS8 is a more attractive device, but the OnePlus 5 is more functional and durable.
OnePlus still has physical capacitive buttons on the front of the device, including a home button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. Interestingly, the OP5’s sensor is one of the fastest available. It’s much better than the Galaxy S8’s fingerprint sensor, which is in a strange place high on the back of the phone. Although, the Galaxy S8’s on-screen buttons are better than OP’s capacitive ones. Luckily, the OnePlus 5 has optional on-screen buttons.
Samsung has an iris scanner to make up for the lack of a fingerprint reader, but that can be finicky as well. OnePlus’ unique hardware feature is the notification slider, which lets you toggle between sound, do-not-disturb, and silent without even waking up the phone.
The Galaxy S8 is a more attractive phone with great build quality, but the OnePlus 5 is not far behind. The OP5 seems more durable, too.
Samsung turned heads with the Galaxy S8’s “infinity display,” which is a fancy way of saying the screen is curved with almost no bezel. Almost the entire face of this phone is the 5.8-inch 1440p AMOLED, and OnePlus can’t match this kind of engineering for the price. The OP5 has the same 5.5-inch 1080p OLED display it used in last year’s phone. Samsung also has the larger 6.2-inch Galaxy S8 Plus with the same design.
Samsung’s AMOLED panels are still the gold standard for brightness and color accuracy. The GS8 has what is simply the best panel you can get. OnePlus’ OLED is nothing to sneeze at — it has solid color accuracy and good viewing angles. It’s just not as sharp or bright as the Galaxy S8.
The Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5 both have an octa-core Snapdragon 835 chip, which is the latest from Qualcomm. However, Samsung’s devices never take full advantage of the hardware’s speed. The GS8 is not slow, but I wouldn’t call it fast, either. The OnePlus 5 is an obviously faster device.
OnePlus also equipped the OnePlus 5 with an obscene amount of RAM — either 6 or 8GB depending on the version you choose. It’s really overkill, but the OP5 does keep apps in memory as it should. This aspect isn’t much different than the GS8 with a mere 4GB of RAM, though.
The battery life is a draw. Both phones will get you through a day no problem, and likely most of the next one. The OnePlus 5 might eke out a little more screen time thanks to the lower resolution, but the difference is negligible. Both phones fast charge when the juice gets low. However, OnePlus uses a proprietary standard called Dash Charge. Samsung uses Qualcomm Quick Charge, but it’s an older version that isn’t as fast as Dash Charge.
Overall, the OnePlus 5 is more impressive in terms of raw speed, if that’s what you care about.
OnePlus took a step into the world of dual cameras with a 16MP standard shooter and a 20MP sensor with a 2x telephoto lens. The idea is you can “zoom” in to get a better shot without using digital zoom, which lowers quality. Meanwhile, Samsung has the same 12MP rear-facing sensor it used last year. You would think OP had an advantage here, but no.
OnePlus uses aggressive software processing of images, which tends to blur fine details. You really can’t crop photos at all because of this. The zoom lens is also not used in low light because of its narrow aperture. Instead, the phone uses the main sensor with digital zoom. There’s no indication in the software that’s what’s happening, though.
The Galaxy S8 only has one rear-facing camera, but it’s fantastic. Focus is lightning fast, images are crisp, and HDR is robust. It can take images in low light that put most other devices to shame. The OnePlus 5 takes better photos than other sub-$500 phones, but it can’t touch the Galaxy S8.
Both phones run Nougat, but the style and features are radically different. Samsung has its TouchWiz UI, which has changed a lot over the years. It used to be clunk and ugly, but it’s been streamlined. The style is light and consistent, though there are still a lot of features crammed in there. And it can get a bit sluggish at times.
OnePlus uses its own OxygenOS ROM, which is very close to stock Android. It includes some cool extras like gestures, a dark UI mode, and various status bar tweaks. The real advantage to OxygenOS is that it’s fast and clean. There are a few more bugs right now than I’d expect on production software, but they’re minor things.
While Samsung’s modern Android software isn’t bad, OnePlus’ version of Android is better. If it can get those last bugs ironed out, it’s a real win.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a better phone, but it’s not as much of a blowout as you might have thought. Samsung has clear wins when it comes to the display and camera, but the OnePlus 5 is faster and has better software. The hardware design is a bit of a toss-up depending on what you like. The GS8 is a beautiful phone, but the OP5 is a bit more understated.
The OnePlus 5 is an unlocked GSM/LTE phone, so it won’t work on Verizon or Sprint. At $479 for the 64GB/6GB RAM mode, it’s an excellent value. However, you have to pay it all at once. The Galaxy S8 costs around $750, but you can pay monthly through a carrier. If you don’t mind making a few sacrifices, the OnePlus 5 could serve you almost as well as a Galaxy S8.
Now read: 25 Best Android Tips to Make Your Phone More Useful