Review: OnePlus Open

OnePlus Open unfolds

With the OnePlus Open, the foldable format finally makes sense.

Published 2023-10-26 - 8:00 am
OnePlus Open
Peter Gotschalk

Fans of this type of foldable mobile phone, which is basically a hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet, have so far had no trouble deciding which model to buy. The selection has been sparse, with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold dominating. It was renewed again this summer and is now available in its fifth generation.

In other parts of the world, the selection is somewhat larger. Google Pixel Fold, Honor Magic Vs, Oppo Find N2 and Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 are the main competitors to Samsung’s foldable top model abroad, but Samsung – and of course Apple – have a strong market presence here.

But if you’ve been moaning and groaning for a foldable smartphone from a manufacturer other than Samsung, Christmas will come early this year. OnePlus has launched the foldable OnePlus Open, and this is truly a hybrid monster mobile phone that will give Samsung a run for its money in the shops. Also in terms of price, even though the OnePlus Open is by no means cheap.

L&B Tech Reviews is among the very few media outlets that have had the opportunity to test the foldable mobile phone before the official launch, and without giving too much away in advance – you usually read the conclusion at the end – the OnePlus Open is in many ways the Chinese manufacturer’s masterpiece.

OnePlus Open
The closest competitor to the OnePlus Open (left) is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 (right) (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

 

We’ve simply never seen a better and more beautifully designed smartphone from OnePlus, but maybe that’s partly because the OnePlus Open is jointly developed by OnePlus and the much larger manufacturer Oppo? The two companies are owned by Chinese BKK Electronics, which is actually the world’s second largest mobile phone manufacturer and, in addition to OnePlus and Oppo, also owns the mobile phone brands Realme, Vivo and IQOO.

So there was no shortage of resources when it came to developing the foldable smartphone, and the OnePlus Open will be available in virtually all parts of the world, although in the domestic market in China it will be known as the Oppo Find N3.

Design and construction

In other words, there is both serious money and big ambitions behind OnePlus Open, and you can see that at first glance.

While Samsung needed five attempts before the Koreans succeeded in producing a foldable mobile phone with no gap between the two halves of the screen when folded, the first foldable OnePlus mobile phone has a design so precisely cut that even a fairy hair would find it difficult to squeeze into the gap.

Now, to be fair, the design is based on the first two foldable Oppo models, the Oppo Find N and Oppo Find N2, but neither of those phones had as much trouble with air between the screen halves as Samsung’s early Galaxy Z Fold versions. And the OnePlus Open has become even more compact when folded than its Oppo predecessors, not least thanks to a new hinge, the so-called Flexion Hinge, which consists of only 69 moving parts.

OnePlus Open
The OnePlus Open (left) has such a precisely cut design that you can’t squeeze a hair into the gap between the two halves of the screen (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Not only does the tight closure eliminate the risk of, for example, a grain of sand finding its way between the two halves and scratching the screen. The new hinge design also helps make the OnePlus Open 1.7 mm slimmer than its competitor when folded.

The hinge can’t take all the credit though, because at just 5.8mm when unfolded, the OnePlus Open is the slimmest foldable smartphone we’ve tested. This also makes it feel easier to handle and lighter than it actually is. At 245 grams, it weighs five grams more than last year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max, which still was a bit of a handful, but that’s not noticeable in everyday use.

Like the spring’s OnePlus 11, the OnePlus Open has a rather large circular camera module on the back that really stands out. And while the foldable form factor is new to OnePlus, there’s still room for the popular ‘alert slider’ – a small slider that switches between sound, vibration and silent mode – at the top of the left-facing half of the screen when the phone is unfolded. The power button (with inbuilt fingerprint reader) and volume rocker are on the opposite side. However, all three buttons naturally face the same way when the OnePlus Open is folded.

OnePlus Open
The OnePlus Open is 1.7mm slimmer than its competitor when folded. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The foldable screen is made of Ultra Thin Glass, while the front screen is protected by Ceramic Guard. OnePlus claims that Ceramic Guard is 20 per cent more robust than Gorilla Glass Victus, and we’re guessing that the protection is akin to Ceramic Shield, which Apple uses as screen protection for the iPhone.

In addition, the exterior of the phone is made from an alloy that combines several types of metals, including titanium, with the stated aim of striking the perfect balance between lightness and robustness. Perfection is a big word, but what is certain is that the OnePlus Open feels extremely robust. And it’s the first time we’ve tested a foldable smartphone without ever being afraid of breaking it!

OnePlus Open
The OnePlus Open has a rather large circular camera module on the back that really stands out. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Our test sample was matte green (called Emerald Dusk by OnePlus), and this is the only colour we’ll see in our latitudes. However, the phone is also available in a black colour (which OnePlus calls Voyager Dark).

Display and sound

Both the front display and the foldable display deliver a razor-sharp, high-resolution screen with an almost velvety smooth user experience. Add to that a hefty brightness of up to an insane 2,800 nits, which in practice means that the display can be used seamlessly outdoors, even if the sun is shining from a cloudless sky.

The refresh rate of both displays is adaptive up to 120 Hz (1-120 Hz for the foldable display and 10-120 Hz for the front display), which in practice means that the display frequency adapts automatically depending on what’s happening on the screen. The result is a smooth and fast user experience.

But most remarkably, the 6.31-inch front display with its 20:9 aspect ratio is as wide as we know it from regular smartphones. In other words, it’s actually usable, which is in stark contrast to all previous Samsung Galaxy Z Fold models. And even though Samsung’s front screens have justifiably become bigger and wider over time, even the latest model, the Galaxy Z Fold 5, has to make do with a front display in a mysterious 23.1:9 aspect ratio, which is significantly narrower than you’re used to from your normal mobile phone

OnePlus Open
The 6.31-inch front display with its 20:9 aspect ratio is as wide as we know it from regular smartphones. In other words, it’s actually usable. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

A narrow display format significantly impairs the user experience, which is why it’s a huge advantage that OnePlus Open has managed to make room for a 20:9 aspect ratio front display. This is exactly the same format as the OnePlus Nord 2 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and in daily use, this means that you have far more flexibility than with Samsung’s foldable mobile phone.

OnePlus Open
Both displays offer a hefty brightness of up to an insane 2,800 nits, which in practice means that the displays can be used seamlessly outdoors, even if the sun is shining from a cloudless sky. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

You can simply open your mobile phone and use the large display when it makes sense to do so. The rest of the time, you can use the OnePlus Open with the front display as a regular mobile phone, and although it may sound like a small thing, it’s exactly the kind of thing that could make more people opt for a foldable smartphone.

If the front display format is too narrow, you don’t want to use it more than necessary, but instead have to open the phone to use the large display. It’s an extra action that takes time and quickly becomes annoying when you have to do it 60 times an hour, which is not unrealistic given how often most of us use our mobiles anyway.

With OnePlus Open, it’s as easy as a regular smartphone to reach into your pocket and check Facebook or read the latest email while waiting for the bus. And you can do it with one hand. If you’re sitting down and have time to be productive or entertained, you can open your phone and take advantage of all the possibilities the foldable display offers. That’s how the foldable format makes sense!

The OnePlus Open is also at the front of the bus when it comes to the audio experience. The phone is of course equipped with aptX from Qualcomm, which optimises the sound when streaming wirelessly via Bluetooth, and the integrated speakers have both Dolby Atmos and spatial audio, which provides a unique sound experience, whether you use the phone to listen to music, watch videos or play games without headphones.

Cameras

The large circular camera module houses a triple camera consisting of a 48 Mp wide-angle with optical image stabilisation based on Sony’s latest LYTIA-T808 sensor, a 48 Mp ultra-wide-angle with a 114° field of view, and a 64 Mp telephoto with periscope technology and 3x true optical zoom plus 6x hybrid zoom. On top of that, there’s a small selfie camera integrated into each display.

OnePlusOpen_zoom1 OnePlusOpen_zoom2 OnePlusOpen_zoom3 OnePlusOpen_zoom4
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Same subject photographed with ultra-wide angle, wide angle, 3x optical zoom and 6x hybrid zoom. High image quality across all zoom levels, with good colour reproduction and depth of field across the board. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

The aforementioned LYTIA-T808 sensor from Sony uses Dual-Layer Transistor Pixel technology, which optimises light collection by separating and stacking two layers of pixel transistors under the photodiodes to improve image quality in low light. And OnePlus doesn’t disappoint.

Overall, the camera in the OnePlus Open delivers on both counts! It captures the finest details with impressive sharpness. Images are generally good with a wide dynamic range and colours appear vibrant and natural without any traces of over-saturation, which is a sign of excellent colour calibration. Furthermore, the camera handles different lighting conditions with ease, even in dimmer lighting, where images remain noise-free.

The periscope lens also delivers. Even at higher magnifications, the camera manages to maintain sharpness and detail without noticeable loss of quality.

In other words, there are no compromises when it comes to the camera, even though the OnePlus Open is a foldable smartphone.

Macro image with bokeh effect. Notice how the camera has captured the bee’s hair and the petals of the flower. The image has a smooth and pleasing bokeh, which helps focus on the main subject (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Performance

Like the OnePlus 11, OnePlus’ foldable phone is also equipped with 5G and Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and 16 gigabytes of memory, and the two phones are roughly equally fast. What’s certain is that the OnePlus Open is not only blazing fast, it can handle all tasks – including large apps and games – without overheating. And without the power consumption going crazy. On the contrary, the battery lasts longer than we expected, considering the large, bright screens. Charging is also fast. The phone comes with a 67 watt fast charger that can charge the battery from 0 to 100 per cent in about 45 minutes. The only downside is that the OnePlus Open doesn’t have wireless charging, but that’s about the only compromise you have to make with an otherwise almost perfect smartphone.

Features

Using the front screen, the OnePlus Open works just like any other smartphone. It’s when you open the foldable mobile phone that the magic happens. The 7.82-inch screen gives the user a true tablet experience, and of course, the OnePlus Open can multitask like any other tablet and foldable smartphone. There is also a computer-like taskbar that provides an overview of recently opened apps etc. This in itself is nothing to brag about. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 also has a taskbar and can handle four apps at once. But it’s hardly manageable and not very useful in practice.

Self-portrait. The main subject is sharp and detailed, with virtually no noise in the image, but 100 per cent control of the depth of field. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

No, the speciality of OnePlus Open is the way the app windows are displayed. OnePlus calls it Open Canvas, and the idea is that you see two (or three) apps on the screen at the same time, but you can “push” the one or two you’re not actively using to the side. It’s like pushing a piece of paper to the side of your physical desk so it doesn’t get in the way of what you’re doing.

In practice, this has the same effect on the foldable screen as if it were a window to a larger workspace, and you simply drag the app(s) you need to use right now into your field of view. It’s the best thought out and most elegant multitasking solution we’ve seen. Well done, OnePlus!

Conclusion

The OnePlus Open is the best foldable tablet-sized smartphone we’ve ever tested. There’s no one above and no one below.

Why? It took two simple moves to change the foldable form factor forever and make it truly usable.

Although this portrait of a cardboard figure was taken in poor lighting, the exposure is appropriate and there is almost no image noise. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

Firstly, the OnePlus Open can be used as a normal mobile phone because the front display has the same format as many regular smartphones. Think about how often you take your mobile phone out of your pocket to check this or that. With OnePlus Open, you get an ordinary user experience, making the unfolded display an added luxury and not an annoyance because you have to open it all the time, as is the case with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold models, for example. Yes, they also have a front display, but it’s too narrow and limits usability.

Secondly, multitasking just plays on the large foldable display thanks to Open Canvas. The new interface OnePlus has created for this purpose is easy to use and a real game changer.

OnePlus Open
The idea of ‘Open Canvas’ is that you see two (or three) apps on the display at the same time, but you can ‘push’ the one or two you’re not actively using to the side. (Photo: Peter Gotschalk)

On top of that, by all other parameters – construction, design, image quality, sound, camera and performance – the OnePlus Open just oozes quality. This is a smartphone from the very top shelf.

Karakter
OnePlus Open
High End

We think

The 'proper' smartphone-sized front screen and innovative new multitasking interface is a game changer. Add to that a new hinge that eliminates the gap between the screen halves, brilliant and sharp displays, excellent camera with periscope lens, great sound quality including spatial sound, high performance and long battery life. And fast charging. No wireless charging.

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