Galaxy S8 vs. OnePlus 5: Is it worth going cheaper? – CNET

For years, Samsung has dominated the Android phone market and it’s easy to understand why. With its latest Galaxy S8 flagship, it delivered yet another top-tier phone with gorgeous looks and a super-fast, reliable performance.

But it’s certainly not the only top choice out there. Chinese-based company OnePlus has been making a name for itself, clawing its way up with its consistent line of premium phones that not only look and work great, but cost hundreds of dollars less than the high-end competition. Its most recent phone, the OnePlus 5, gives the most bang for your buck and earned CNET’s Editors’ Choice award.

But which one should you buy? The OnePlus has an amazingly high value, but the Galaxy S8 is a premium phone of the highest order with very few compromises. Read on to find out which is the phone for you.

Price

Here are the price breakdowns of the phones:

Samsung Galaxy S8 and OnePlus 5 pricing

Samsung Galaxy S8 OnePlus 5
Price off-contract (USD) AT&T: $750; Verizon: $720; T-Mobile: $750; Sprint: $750; U.S. Cellular: $675 $479 (64GB), $539 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £689 £449 (64GB), £499 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,199 Converts to AU$636 (64GB), AU$715 (128GB)

Winner: This one’s a bit of a no-brainer and doesn’t need much of an explanation. At over $200 cheaper, the OnePlus is a better friend to your wallet.

Design

With its barely-there bezels and slim silhouette, the Galaxy S8 is smaller and narrower than the OnePlus, but has a bigger display. It also has an edge-to-edge screen and a glossy glass back that adds to the S8’s overall sleeker looks. But the biggest S8 advantage is that it’s rated IP68 water resistant, so you can submerge it in 4 feet of water for 30 minutes and it’ll survive.

The OnePlus can handle a few drops of water here and there like most phones, but don’t dunk it for any significant amount of time and expect it to keep working. As for its design, it has a familiar look with iterations past. But it has a solid build and its fingerprint reader is in a better location than the S8 (under the display instead of right next to the camera lens in the back). Plus, its metal backing gives no chance of shattering the back if you drop it.

The comfortable OnePlus (left) with the sleek Galaxy S8.

Josh Miller/CNET

Winner: The S8’s sleek, dunkable body easily edges out the OnePlus’s uninspired looks.

Camera

Both phones take bright, vibrant photos as well as clear and focused closeup shots. But both edge the other one out in different ways. The OnePlus 5 takes better low-light pictures and the dual-camera telephoto setup renders smoother, more dramatic portrait shots with a blurred background. The Galaxy S8, on the other hand, takes sharper pictures with more details at full resolution. And I preferred the white balance on the Galaxy S8 too, as the OnePlus made some pictures a little too warm for our taste. Click here for the full Galaxy S8 vs. OnePlus 5 camera shootout.

s8-and-op5

Photos taken on the Galaxy S8 retain more details at full resolution.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Galaxy S8 (left) doesn’t render bokeh photos as smoothly as the OnePlus 5.

Lynn La/CNET

Winner: It’s a toss up. What phone you like depends on your priorities. If you want a strong low-light performer that can take “bokeh”-esque shots, go for the OnePlus. But if you want your pictures with more true-to-life colors and can look as clear on a desktop as they do on Instagram, choose the Galaxy S8.

Processing and battery life

Both our review units pack a Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm (though the Galaxy S8 has another variant with Samsung’s Exynos processor). As such, the phones are speed demons, and day-to-day tasks like launching apps, firing up the camera’s shutter and calling up the keyboard worked smoothly on both. We saw the same thing with the benchmarks we ran, as the phones earned similar high marks. Keep in mind, however, that OnePlus recently came under fire for skewing the 5’s benchmarks (something Samsung has done itself in the past), though we used tests that bypassed OnePlus’ tweaks.

When it came to battery life, the OnePlus surpassed the Galaxy S8, clocking in 17 hours and 50 minutes of continuous video playback (on Airplane mode) against the S8’s 16 hours. Both phones charge quickly though, using their respective proprietary charging technology. But the Galaxy S8 adds wireless charging, which the OnePlus does not have.

Winner: I think the OnePlus 5, with its near two hours of extra battery life that helps when you’re in a pinch, over the convenience of the S8’s wireless charging.

Software and other goodies

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The Galaxy S8’s customizable Edge Panel gives quick access to contacts and apps.

CNET

If you’re a no muss, no fuss type of person, you’ll likely prefer the OnePlus’ cool minimalism over the Galaxy S8. It features no bloatware, a clean OS interface that’s nearly vanilla Android and a small number of customizable options (like accent colors and LED lights) that don’t overdo it.

But while the Galaxy S8 has a higher learning curve, it can do a lot more “stuff” and Touchwhiz is a lot easier to navigate now compared to years past. You’ll also get Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby — which as it stands right now is kind of a mixed bag. You can still do the sort of stuff you can already do on Google Assistant (look at your calendar, count your steps, read the news). It hasn’t reached its full potential yet, but we’re looking forward to when it does.

Winner: Galaxy S8. While I love the cleanliness of the OnePlus, the Galaxy S8 can do a lot more (even if Samsung has some problems to iron out with Bixby).

Which one should you buy?

The S8 is notably pricier than the OnePlus but has a lot more features — so which one should you get?

Josh Miller/CNET

This really comes down to your budget. If you can afford to pay the $700 and up price tag, you’ll be satisfied with the Galaxy S8’s sleek looks, durable water-resistant design and feature-packed software.

But if you want to save a lot more dough and as long as water-proofing isn’t all that important to you, the OnePlus 5 is the way to go. Personally, I’d choose the OnePlus for the price. The lack of water resistance is a drag, true, but its dual-camera, longer battery life and premium hardware make up for it. I won’t feel like I compromised much and I’ll have extra cash in my pocket to spare.

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