OnePlus 3 Review

Positives
  • Great Camera
  • All Day Battery Life
  • Dash Charge is very Cool
  • A refined Android experience
Negatives
  • Audio is weak
  • No MicroSD card

When OnePlus first launched they stepped onto the market promising to be the Flagship Killer, and they lived up to the hype. The OnePlus ball’ed onto the market with Oxygen, a highly customizable operating system, top of the line components and a camera that was all flagship.

With so much to live up to the OnePlus 2 fell short, not only because the bar was high but because they made some poor decisions. Failing to include NFC demonstrated the disconnection of a brand that was perhaps growing too fast. In China QR codes are how you pay, but the rest of the world needs NFC for Android Pay. The battery life fell short and when the first wave of devices hit the streets, the units were full of glitches which caused the initial reviews to be less than glowing.

The OnePlus 2 was a good phone but with hard lessons were learned by this Shenzhen start up. Once again, my expectations are high that they’ll deliver a refined experience with hardware that is uncompromising.

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Design

The OnePlus 3 is a design departure from its predecessors in that it now sports an all metal design, gone are the days of the soft sandstone exchangeable back plate that was made of cashew. We now have anodized space grade aluminum unibody design which in hand feels very dense and durable. At just 7.35mm thin the OnePlus 3 is very thin with soft curves that make it feel like a seamless extension of your hand.

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The 5.5 inch Optic AMOLED display pops since it’s framed by the worlds thinnest bezels at 0.75mm and a ceramic finger print sensor. The display is also 2.5D which sits on top of the metal frame, it looks and feels good but from a durability perspective I like seeing the display protected by the metal and not sitting on top, the curve is more exposed and therefore more prone to chipping. I know that 2.5D is something that is meant to scream ‘refined’ or ‘polished’ but the beautiful glint of light that it does bring sends off warning alarms in my head since I’ve chipped the exposed glass on more than one handset. It’s a good thing that the OnePlus 3 comes with a built in screen protector, but it doesn’t extend all the way to theses beautiful edges.

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Our OnePlus 3 came with all the options for back covers, the bamboo and sandstone which were iconic in previous generations are well represented. If your’e a purist and love you’re phone naked they are nice enough that you might not be offended by the SnapOn covers. But if like Mark who shot our review video, you just hate them, then you’ll miss the tactile covers which the previous generations so seamlessly integrated.

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The front facing camera is 8MP and on the rear we have a 16MP shooter with PDAF and IOS/EIS which also sits below the antenna lines which have become something other manufactures are boasting about getting rid of. Personally I don’t mind the design aesthetic they bring and if it keeps the price down I don’t need to get rid of them until it’s cheap to do so.

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On the left we have the Alert slider and combined volume rocker, we love the Alert slider and it’s something that we’ve had on all OnePlus handsets. It allows you to put your phone into mute or silent with a few movements of the nicely textured button. It really does feel great under your finger and the way it feels makes me want to use it more than is probably necessary.

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On the right we have the power button which is smooth to the touch and the dual nano SIM card slot, the option to turn one into extra storage is absent.

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The top of the handset is clean and the bottom houses the USB Type C port, single speaker and 3.5mm headphone jack.

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The design isn’t industry leading like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but it’s a perfectly executed unibody metal smartphone. The thin bezels with stunning display make this a beautiful Smartphone.

Hardware

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The OnePlus 3 has a 5.5 inch Optic AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a 401ppi and super thin bezels of 0.755mm. High end specifications include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad Core processor with Kryo, 2 cores running at 2.2 GHz, 2 more at 1.6GHz, an Adreno 530 GPU with an insane 6GB of DDR4 RAM and 64GB UFS 2.0 internal storage.

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The 3000mAh battery offers Dash Charge which will get you to 60% in 30 minutes which should be enough juice to get you through the day. The USB Type connector offers Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 technology that moves data three times faster than the more-common eMMC5.1.

We are a fan of USB Type C in terms of future proofing your devices, but even though we review a lot phones with this connector the transition to the new standard can leave you constantly cable hunting. During this period of growing pains I keep wishing that Wireless charging could also have been included to eliminate cables all together. Since OnePlus has gone the route of adding cases instead of backs, it would have been great to have offered that as a case option!

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For those of you who do use dual SIM, like I do, it’s nice to have Dual nano-SIM that offers dual standby (DSDS) support to quickly and easily switch between networks. The interface is clean, quick and seamless, which is important if you like to change which card you use get data from or make calls from. If available in your geography you’ll also have access to 200bps LTE speeds.

Correcting an oversight in the OnePlus 2 we finally have NFC which is great for Android Pay or pairing accessories which is something I do all the time.

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The Fingerprint sensor is made of ceramic and feels excellent, the feedback is solid as has been the performance during the length of the review period. Our problem with the Fingerprint reader wasn’t it’s performance. We’re just working though issues with interactivity as a home button, since it doesn’t travel sometimes we held our finger on it a little long thinking we’d just be heading back to the home screen and instead it would launch Google Now. This is pretty irritating, there is a little vibration to let you know that you’ve pressed the button but Google Now seems to pop up so frequently, they should give a little more of a grace period between pressing the button and Google Now launching.

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Like I mentioned in Design, I like the Alert slider which integrates seamlessly with Android’s notification settings. It allows you to effortlessly switch between three notification profiles: All, Priority and None. It’s a hardware feature that works seamlessly with the way you’d prefer to interact with your phone. You can turn your phone to silent or mute with our even looking at it thanks to the texture on the button.

OnePlus 3 Specification

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Display: Size: 5.5 inches Resolution: 1080p Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) 401 ppi Bezel: 0.755 mm Cover Glass: Gorilla Glass 4 Type: Optic AMOLED Aspect Ratio: 16 : 9
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Quad Core, Kryo: 2x 2.2 GHz, 2x 1.6 GHz
GPU: Adreno 530
RAM: 6 GB LPDDR4
Storage: 64 GB UFS 2.0
Rear Camera: Sensor: Sony IMX 298 Megapixels: 16 Pixel size: 1.12 µm OIS: Yes EIS: Yes Autofocus: PDAF Aperture: f/2.0 Video: 4K resolution video at 30fps Slow Motion: 720p video at 120fps RAW Image Support: Yes Auto-HDR, Dynamic De-noise, Manual Control, Clear Image Sensor:
Front Camera: Sony IMX179 Megapixels: 8 Pixel size: 1.4 µm EIS: Yes Autofocus: Fixed Focus Aperture: f/2.0 Video: 1080p video at 30fps
Sensors: Fingerprint, Hall, Accelerometor, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light and Electronic Compass
Ports: USB 2.0, Type-C Dual nano-SIM slot 3.5 mm audio jack
Battery: 3,000 mAh (non-removable) Dash Charge (5V 4A)
Butons: Capacitive hardware keys and on-screen navigation support
Connectvity: GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
North America Model: WCDMA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8
FDD-LTE: Bands 1/2/4/5/7/8/12/17
CDMA EVDO: BC0
Europe / Asia Model: WCDMA: Bands 1/2/5/8
FDD-LTE: Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20
TDD-LTE: Bands 38/40/41
Wireless Standard: 4G LTE (Cat. 6)
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2
NFC: NFC enabled
Positoning: GPS, GLONASS, BelDou
Audio: Speakers: Bottom-facing speaker Microphones: Dual-microphone with noise cancellation
Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm
Weight: 5.57 ounces (158 g)
Material: Anodized aluminum
Colors: Graphite Soft Gold (Available shortly after launch)
Operatng System: OxygenOS based on Android 6.0.1

Display

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This is the first Optic AMOLED display that we’ve reviewed and we’re a fan! The 5.5 inch FHD display really pops and has wide vibrant viewing angles. The display also includes a dual polarizing layer that makes it easy to use outdoors in direct sunlight. If you’ve seen the way the Lumia devices of years back used to crisp up in direct sunlight, this is similar. There are also some software tweaks to make the display more natural with custom engineered gamma corrections.

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The 2.5D display is made of Gorilla glass 4 which should help with scratches, like I mentioned in design, I’m not sure the aesthetic of the glass is worth the compromised position of the glass which leaves it more exposed to chips. I have personally chipped the edge of more smartphone since this became a trend. The displays doesn’t shatter but I have taken chips off the edge. It’s a design trend that I’m wary of as someone who is good at breaking phones.

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The pre-installed screen protector is great, it feels good to the touch and doesn’t offer and haze or glare. We do wish that it was a bit more custom and covered the front of the handset completely. It’s always better when you can’t tell that it’s even sporting a screen protector and since it’s shipped with one it seems odd they wouldn’t have one that fit perfectly.

Regardless of how I feel about 2.5D this display is beautiful and on par with more expensive handsets.

Accessories

The OnePlus 3 comes with a whole host of accessories, a VR headset which the phone slides into and there are several snapon back covers to customize this unibody metal smartphone. They are of course at an extra cost, head on over the OnePlus to find out more.

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Software

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There isn’t much new in terms of software features, but this time everything works perfectly. We’ll take a well baked OS with flawless execution over feature creep any day. So if you’re familiar with OxygenOS from the OnePlus 2, imagine it with the benefits of Android 6.0.1 perfectly executed with no glitches.

OnePlus is well known for having an open and flexible operating system, OxygenOS is easy to use for those new to Android but complex enough that enthusiasts can customize the crap out of it. If you’re familiar with Nexus devices there is something very familiar when you start using the OnePlus.

Feature rich without any bloatware, we’re happy that Android 6.0.1 comes with Doze, which minimizes power consumption when you’re not using your device. For those who wan to have total control of their handset the bootloader is unlocked so you can flash root it or flash other firmware.

Like on the OnePlus 2 we have Shelf, it’s an easy place to find favorite or recent apps, quick contacts and frequently used information and apps. Widgets, memos or reminders are just a few things you go customize in Shelf. To get there, swipe right on the home screen.

There are quite a few inclusions that we’re fans of, they aren’t new but are useful. Dark Mode let’s you change the menues to black for easier night time viewing. Custom LED Notifcations, let you choose from eight LED notifcation colors so you can figure out what’s going at a glance. (Settings > Customization > LED notifcations) Google Search Bar Customization, let you change the look of the home screen Google search bar (or get rid of it entirely) by long-pressing the home screen and going to ‘Customize.

Swappable Hardware/Software Buttons let’s you choose to swap the back and recent app buttons in both hardware and software button mode. (Settings > Buttons)

Proximity Sensor let’s you Activate the display when you wave your hand in front of the camera or take your phone out of your pocket. (This is disabled by default; it can be activated by going to Settings > Display and toggling Ambient Display.)

Quick launch gestures aren’t new, but we do love them, double tap to wake up should really be standard from Google. Little things like drawing a O on the lockscreen launches the camera or a V activates your camera. Like we said, not new, but great to have.

Camera

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The OnePlus 3 camera quality is great, it doesn’t take down the top camera phones on the market, but it does compete with them. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that this phone didn’t impress the pants right off of us! It blows every other Smartphone in a similar price point right out of the water. We never felt like heading into manual mode, everything we took was either in auto or HDR auto.

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Shot in Auto. Check out the way the OnePlus 3 caught the water splashing!

The rear camera uses a 16MP Sony Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) sensor with a f2.0 aperture as well as EIS/OIS. And the software is there to back up the more than capable sensor.

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The lighting was actually low light, and you can’t really tell!

Dynamic De-Noise works in the background to reduce noise, this is a tough one since so many manufactures screw it up because denoising means loosing detail, so it’s a fine line between maintaining structural integrity and smoothing things out just a bit. Here are a series of photos which we think were taken in low lighting conditions, they don’t look low light at all. If you’re familiar with ASUS’ pixel master technology that can pretty much take photos in the dark, we’re reminded a little of that ability to brighten up gloomy looking photos.

HD Mode is a toggle which lets you inhance images, if you use Instagram it basically slightly increases structure and ambiance to brighten and clear things up. Big fan of this since it’s the first thing that I do when I upload a photo to Instagram.

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You can see in the well lit outdoor photos that we’re approaching real camera quality, the way it captures the water and wake boarders in the air is phenomenal.

Even though we were perfectly happy with Auto the OnePlus 2 does have a Promode, it has ISO between 100 and 3200 we’re not happy that it does not go down to 50, which is perfect for night time shots. And with 30s shutter speed you’re able to take long exposure photos.

The OnePlus 3 is also capable of 4K video which we tried out at a water park, it performed quite well, except when you want to pinch to zoom while taking a video. This is not smooth, you’ll want to set you frame and take a video.

When it comes to selfies we have an 8MP shooter on the front which has smile capture so you just need to show those pearly whites to take a shot. With an aperture of f2.0 and 1080p capabilities your selfies are in good hands.

Battery

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The OnePlus 3 will get an aggressive user through the day, we even found over the review period that we didn’t feel complelled to charge the phone overnight. It would always have enough juice to get me through my morning routine and Dash charging is eye opening. Not because it’s fast (which it is) the claim that it gets 60% in 30 minutes is true (1 hour for full charge), but because it’s REALLY COOL. We’re talking literally not figuratively. It never gets warm when you’re charging it, not even a little. What this makes us realize is just how frighteningly hot other devices get when they are fast charging.

Performance

The OnePlus 3 has a buttery smooth UI that hasn’t glitched or hick-uped once the entire time we’ve been using it. Large apps open quickly and benchmarks are exactly what you expect from the Snapdragon 820.An AnTuTu score of 137394 isn’t the highest we’ve seen, however these days we’re more about how quickly we can move through the UI and open apps and so far we’ve seen no signs of slowing down. However, one thing to look out for the the extended review is that OxygenOS on the OnePlus 2 slowed down significantly over time. This is something that we’ll only be able to tell after a month of real world use, so be sure to check back for an extended long term review.

Sound

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The OnePlus 3 is lacking audio chops, there is not high rez audio and the mono speaker is too average. Speaker placement at the bottom is problematic for those who play games in landscape or if you spend a lot of time sharing YouTube videos you’ll have to cup your hand across the bottom so you don’t muffle the sound. Apart form the precarious position it is just loud enough with acceptable quality. A device this thin would need some dedicated features to improve the audio quality. The sound it not very full but it is clear and un-distorted at maximum volume.

Price

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The OnePlus 3 isn’t coming it at the bargain basement price of the OnePlus One, but for what you’re getting it’s is taking on the industry’s top flagship smartphones and in many cases stepping ahead. At $399 you’ll be hard pressed to find a Smartphone with a better camera and build quality.

The best thing about buying one this time around is that there will be no more vying for invitations, you can just head on over to OnePlus.net and put your order in. If I were you I’d be quick since they said there are no more invites, but no one said anything about wait times.

 

 

Rating
Design / 8
Camera / 8.5
Sound / 6.5
Performance / 9
Battery Life / 8
Software / 8.5
Price / 9
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 8
Display / 8.5
OnePlus 3

The OnePlus 3 is a great smartphone whose camera makes it an easy decision for those looking for a Smartphone that checks all the boxes, all day battery life, dash charge, buttery smooth performance with a clean, open and flexible version of Android. If you're looking for a flagship device at a very reasonable price, we see no reason not to pick up the OnePlus 3.

What is even better news is that now that they've gotten rid of the invite system it's going to be a easy to pick one up.

8.2
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