The Nexus 5 is still one of the most popular devices in the United States, even though it has become outdated over the past year. Google and Motorola have launched the Nexus 6 already, which comes in with a much larger body, and a much higher price. The OnePlus One counters the tendency of OEMs to increase their prices and provide hardware that is the latest and greatest in the game with up-to-date hardware and a much more affordable price. That notion is valid for the Nexus 5 as well, as it is one of the cheapest stock-Android devices that you can get, and it still comes with flagship specifications. The nickname of the OnePlus One is the flagship killer, and with good reason: the specs and price add up to amazing value and bang for buck, but that doesn’t mean the Nexus 5 isn’t worth its money, especially now.
Google and LG have collaborated on the Nexus 5 and launched the stock-Android device in October 2013. More than a year has passed since, but the smartphone is still high up there in the list of favorite Android devices across the U.S. There are many people out there who still believe that the Nexus 5 is just as future-proof as any other phone launched this year, and most of those opinions motivate their choice with software. The best feature of the Nexus 5 is the fact that it runs on stock Android, which means that there’s no bloatware on top and that the OS is clean, and not skinned. That contributes to way better performance compared to phones which use bloatware and skins, such as TouchWiz, Optimus, Xperia, MIUI, ColorOS and more. Moreover, when you own a stock Android smartphone like the Nexus 5, you’ll be among the first people to receive fresh updates from Google, which is always a plus when thinking about upgrading your smartphone.
The OnePlus One doesn’t boast with stock Android software, but it does boast with a few very interesting things. One of these is that rooting the OnePlus One will not void your warranty given by the company, which means that you can customize your phone as much as you want to, and the company won’t hold it against you if your phone has issues later in its lifetime. The OnePlus One was created with the aim of giving smartphone enthusiasts as many customization options as possible, starting with the crowd-favorite custom ROM, which is by default on the phone, CyanogenMod.
CyanogenMod is one of the best custom ROMs for Android smartphones that you can find out there, and while it does have a few bugs here and there, it is mostly a smooth software experience for most users. The Nexus 5 also has the possibility of running CyanogenMod 12, the latest installment from the company, although there are fewer users who would prefer fiddling with flashing a custom ROM instead of using the stock Android interface that comes out of the box. The OnePlus One comes with CyanogenMod 11s, and while you can install unofficial versions of CyanogenMod 12s, a stable version is on its way and should be released in the next two weeks. Although the OnePlus team promised that both CyanogenMod and OxygenOS, the company’s own custom ROM would be released by the end of March, they have missed their deadline once again.
Before getting into how well these smartphones perform and what the differences are between the UI, let us see what hardware specifications they have so that we can get a better idea of what is running their proprietary interfaces. First off, the Nexus 5, although older, boasts with rather current specs, some of which can be seen even on recently launched devices like the HTC One M9. The Nexus 5 display is a 4.95 inch True HD IPS+ display with a 1080*1920 resolution that amounts to a really nice 445 ppi pixel density. It’s got good viewing angles, good outdoor visibility, a nice design with pretty thin bezels around the screen and a pretty light weight of 130 grams.
The OnePlus One gets a much larger LTPS LCD display measuring 5.5 inches with a resolution of 1080*1920, which adds up to a slightly lower 401 ppi pixel density. The OnePlus One is definitely the phablet out of the two, but the screen to body ratio is actually better on this one. You get a very similar design, with thin bezels, but the weight is heavier at 162 grams. The display is pretty good and although it isn’t as saturated and bright as the one on the Nexus 5, it looks rather appealing. Some people have had issues with their touchscreen not working properly or weird smudges showing up on the screen, but from what we gather, these issues are rather isolated, so you might have to be really unlucky to get a defective unit in your mail.
The Nexus 5 comes with a rather outdated Snapdragon 800 CPU with four cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, and backed by an Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB RAM. You get either 16 or 32 GB internal storage, and you don’t have a microSD card slot to supplement storage space in case you need it. Turning to the cloud might be your only alternative in this case, but the 32 GB version is usually enough for most power and average users. Since we’re talking cloud, I would recommend ditching microSD cards in favor of cloud storage, because as it turns out, microSD cards tend to fail. A lot. Just my two cents. Performance is flawless with this hardware setup on the Nexus 5, thanks to the stock Android OS that it comes with, which keeps memory and processor use at a minimum, all the while keeping the phone cool. Gaming is exempt from this, though.
The OnePlus One isn’t far ahead when it comes to specifications, so its Snapdragon 800 CPU with four cores clocked at 2.5 GHz, backed by an Adreno 330 GPU and 3 GB RAM doesn’t make too much of a difference. CyanogenMod uses up a bit more memory than stock Android, as it’s basically a skin, so to speak. Custom ROMs are usually built around Android, so you still have something on top of the stock software, which will impact performance, but not as much as you would expect in the case of CyanogenMod. Since the processor is a bit faster and it’s got more RAM to work with, it does seem to be just a bit snappier than the Nexus 5. But the difference is truly minimal, as a good deal of processing power goes towards the extra 0.5 inches of display that needs to be powered and ran.
When it comes to camera, the Nexus 5 definitely doesn’t shine in this aspect. Many Nexus 5 hands-on videos and reviews demonstrate that the camera setup is rather bad, which is something people seem to associate with the Nexus brand. In my personal experience with the Nexus 5, I found the camera satisfactory for my needs, but that’s about it. Since I’m not a fan of smartphone photography and rarely shoot more than the occasional cat photo and video, it didn’t bother me. But power users are rather disappointed with the Nexus 5 camera performance on the whole. Android 5.0 Lollipop has improved the software a bit, but there’s no change to write home about. The numbers are: 8 MP rear camera with autofocus, optical image stabilization and an LED flash and a 1.3 MP camera on the front. It’s not bad, to be fair, but it’s not good either. But this comparison is not about camera performance.
The OnePlus One handles camera surprisingly well, for the price. It gets a 13 MP sensor on the rear with autofocus and a dual-LED flash, but there’s no optical image stabilization, so your videos will be shaky. The OnePlus One camera performance and experience is surprisingly good, although it still can’t rival with what the Nexus 6 or the Galaxy Note 4 can do. It does rival with the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8, though. It produces good photos, even in low-light conditions, as per most people. The front facing is a 5 MP sensor, which is decidedly better than what the Nexus 5 front camera has to offer.
The final thing one might want to know about a phone before talking about performance is the battery size. The Nexus 5 has a non-removable 2300 mAh battery, while the OnePlus One battery measures a whopping 3100 mAh. Both these phones go the mile when it comes to battery life, and most Nexus 5 reviews and OnePlus One reviews say that the battery life of both is average and slightly above average. Both these phones will go through two days of moderate to light use, but that’s about it. Unless you do some power saving by turning brightness down, deactivating certain features and disabling certain apps, you’re not going to get a shiny battery life out of either. But compared to other devices, such as the Galaxy S5, LG G3, Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 4 and others, the battery life on both the Nexus 5 and OnePlus One are admirable.
Moving on to performance, I must say that this is a though one to compare. First of all, both the Nexus 5 performance and OnePlus One performance are exemplary. Although both get bugs, and both tend to annoy users from time to time, the overall performance rating for each is really good. If we take a look at benchmark results from various tests, their results point out the obvious: the Nexus 5 and the OnePlus One are very close in scores to each other. In Antutu benchmarks, the OnePlus One scored about 1000 points higher, which goes for GeekBench and GFXBenchmarks scores as well. In 3DMark, the difference was below 100 points in favor of the OnePlus One. Those general results demonstrate that there shouldn’t really be any difference in performance between these two, regardless if they run stock OS like the Nexus 5 or a custom ROM like the OnePlus One.
In real life tests, you would expect these minor differences to show drastic differences between performance. But truth is, both the Nexus 5 and OnePlus One run the generic gaming, social media and camera apps smoothly, without any hiccups. If we disregard some of the bugs in CyanogenMod 12 and some of the bugs in Android 5.1 Lollipop, such as the memory leak bug, then both these devices are as smooth as silk. The OnePlus One is better in one category, as I’ve come to understand from my own tests: gaming. Gaming is smoother on the OnePlus One, but the Nexus 5 doesn’t stutter either. It’s a difference of load times and framerates, and to be fair, the differences I’ve noticed are minimal.
When watching videos, the OnePlus One does use up more battery than the Nexus 5, but the experience on both is really great. The same goes for social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others, where refresh doesn’t impact performance and the devices will not show any sign of unresponsiveness. The occasional crash will happen, but that’s something to be expected from every smartphone on the market. Although gaming is slightly better on the OnePlus One, it does have a slightly slower camera response, but not as much as to make you throw the phone out the window for causing you to miss a shot. Neither of the cameras have great response times, especially if you try accessing them from the lock screen, but they are average.
There’s not much to say about the difference between the Nexus 5 performance and OnePlus One performance, which means that the Chinese company did a rad job with their flagship killer. Although the prices aren’t that far away from each other at this point, both being a bit outdated, the OnePlus One does demonstrate that good performance doesn’t have to cost you an entire month’s paycheck. The Nexus 5 is also an affordable phone, which in conclusion demonstrates the same thing. Software and software optimization tends to matter more than hardware in most cases, as seen on TouchWiz-heavy Samsung Galaxy smartphones, which perform worse than our two competitors right here.
In conclusion, although it’s not a surprising one, you’d get top notch performance from both the Nexus 5 and the OnePlus One. If you’re a stock Android fan and appreciate that Nexus 5 updates come in quickly, then Google’s phone is definitely for you. If you’re a fan of custom ROMs and like fiddling around with your smartphone, and don’t mind that updates are usually very late, the OnePlus One should be your pick. I would personally prefer the OnePlus One, but my decision is based on design and display size, rather than software updates and performance. Which would you prefer? Currently, the OnePlus One costs $300 for the 32 GB version and $350 for the 64 GB version. The Nexus 5 price on Amazon is between $340 and $430 for the 16 GB version, while the 32 GB version will set you back between $370 and $500. depending on the seller. If price is important to you, than be sure to check in with the OnePlus website every Tuesday, as you can order it online.