OnePlus 3 Review - "Flagship killer" title justified... somewhat
When the brand OnePlus came into the market just under 30 months ago – we were promised flagship-level specs, and affordable sticker price. OnePlus, a company created by the former Oppo vice president Pete Lau released the OnePlus One – which delivered the promise of the affordable "flagship killer". However today we are seeing many other phones that claims to be cheaper than a flagship, yet perform just as good out of the box. Does the new OnePlus 3 still deliver the company’s motto – ‘Never Settle’ – to the users?
Design – Smooth and comfortable metal
The OnePlus 3 offers a smooth shiny surface on the front
OnePlus really knows how to design their phones. The OnePlus 3 is no exception. The curved back makes it comfortable to use in any hand, and it is made out of metal, so it gives out a very nice upmarket feel to it in the hands. The glass on the front is made from Corning Gorilla Glass 4, so it can withstand a significant amount of abuse before any scratches appear on it. It is also thin, at only 7.3mm at its thickest point.
The OnePlus 3 packs in a slimm full metal body
As much as we tried, there was no creaks when we tried to flex it, so it is a solidly built phone. OnePlus says that it is milled out of a single block of aluminium – we believe them. Buttons are well placed, with each location thought out nicely. The buttons themselves have a very nice tactile feel to it, with no mushiness that can be discerned when pressing on it. The buttons are located primarily on the left and right, with the top and bottom devoid of any protrusions.
Power button and SIM-slot bay
On the right side, at where your thumb will naturally fall while holding the phone lies the power button, as well as the SIM card tray. On the left are where the volume rocker buttons and the Alert Slider button sits. This switch works to set the phone in three modes – Normal, Priority and Silent, so you can set what kind of messages goes through as you go along the day by just sliding up or down.
The Alert Slider button
A big sore design point for us is the protruding camera module. This is one design aspect that the reviewer does not fancy, but to some it can be a boon. The visible antenna lines are also a design facet that may appeal to some, and not to others – so it’s all up to your own tastes.
The rear looks pretty good here - but the camera protrudes a bit more than we like
The fingerprint sensor of the OnePlus 3 is located on the front of the device, so it is nicely designed for use with your thumb. It is fast and responsive - and it is also your home button, so press on the touch-sensitive buttom to return to the home screen.
The front fingerprint sensor/home button
Tech specs & Features – Flagship-class
As a recap, the specs of the OnePlus 3 are listed below:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core processor (2x 2.2 GHz, 2x 1.6 GHz)
- Adreno 530 GPU
- 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM
- 64GB of UFS 2.0 internal storage
- Front fingerprint sensor
- 5.5-inch display (Optic AMOLED, 1920 x 1080 pixels)
- 16-megapixel rear camera, f/2.0 lens with Autofocus and LED Flash + 8-megapixel front camera
- Supports GPS, WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth V4.2, Dual micro-SIM, Dual SIM Dual Standby
- OnePlus DASH fast-charging
- 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm, 158 g
- Oxygen OS, based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Available in Graphite & Soft Gold
Here are the tech specs for the OnePlus 3
This is definitely a flagship-class spec, with the Snapdragon 820 running the show. It is also one of the first phones on the market with 6GB of RAM, making sure all apps will run with nary a problem. The large 64GB of internal storage is very helpful, especially as the phone itself does not come with a microSD slot for any further expansion. To the majority of users however, the 64GB of storage is definitely more than sufficient for photos, videos, apps and more in the pocket.
This is the OxygenOS
The OxygenOS has strong stock Android feel to it – it is as close to stock as one can get in an OEM environment. OnePlus has pledged that their phones will be getting the latest updates to the Android OS soon, with Android 7.0 Nougat being developed as we speak. There is also the word that OnePlus is combining their China-only HydrogenOS and the OxygenOS into a single build, but we shall wait and see if this news will hold any water.
As you can see, it has all the specs you need, and Android Marshmallow too
Performance – Everything and the kitchen sink
Thanks to the combination of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and the 6GB of RAM, we did not encounter any problems whatsoever with the phone as a daily driver. The quad-core processor run all of our apps without any problems, and we are happy to say that the hype of having 6GB on tap is justified. The combination of the two makes this a very, very good flagship smartphone to consider owning for 2016. And you even get it at less cost than other flagships!
AnTuTu scores are way above most of the pack...
...And so does 3DMark scores
Constant 60FPS at Full HD resolution
Asphalt 8 looks gorgeous on the AMOLED screen
The battery life on the OnePlus is excellent – we routinely can go a full 24 hours between charges, even with a long 5-plus hours of on-screen-time. Add to the fact the inclusion of the OnePlus DASH charging technology, you can literally have the phone go on and on and on. The DASH charger will give you about 60% of charge with a 30-min plug-in time, at least on paper. What we found was almost there – the charger gave us about 54% charge in 30 minutes, and a full charge can be done in just over an hour. Be warn however that the DASH charger can only be used with the OnePlus 3, and only certified to be used with the included USB Type-C cable, so if you are using any other chargers out there, the experience will be less than optimal.
Battery usage is above average - you can live on one charge for a whole day...
... or top up with the OnePlus DASH charger and USB-C Cable
Speaking on calls with the OnePlus 3, the sound quality of the calls was above average, and the callers did say that all the calls made was clear and crisp. The one bottom-firing speaker on the OnePlus 3 also showed good performance, with the audio sounding crisp and clear even at higher sound levels.
Good yet simple camera interface
The camera on the OnePlus 3 can best be described as a bit above average. The 16-megapixel camera module is a Sony module, and OnePlus has worked with their engineers to squeeze the best they can from the module.
You do get a full range of controls though
Generally, the images captured out of the camera are well exposed, and it performed above expectations in daylight. It did have some problems during low-light situations with some shots looking a bit grainy, but it is still manageable for most users.
What makes the camera different, at least for this price range, is the ability to shoot RAW files out of the box. The camera outputs both in JPEG and DNG file, the former can be opened in any image editing software to be developed as per the user’s want and needs. We have linked a couple of out of camera images, the unedited RAW, as well as some post-processed images below to showcase the power of having RAW capture in your camera. While there are apps out there which allows this to be done, it is nice to see the option straight from the box available to the user.
Good colour reproduction for skin tones
Good dynamic range captured with the sensor
Indoor shots looks good
Low-light photos appears grainy, as you can see here
The following photos are pictures taken using the RAW file format, and the resulting DNG files edited in Photoshop software afterwards:
Straight out of camera
Straight from DNG
Edited from DNG
Straight out of camera
Straight from DNG
Edited from DNG
As you can see, by shooting with the RAW format, more details can be recovered afterwards, making post-processing a great thing to have, especially for power users.
Conclusion – The flagship killer with tiny nitpicks
This is definitely the flagship killer that many are looking for. The performance, the speed and the capacity of the phone is what makes a flagship killer, well, a flagship killer. The camera performance did suffer a little bit in low-light situations, but we are more than happy to have this in our pockets day in and day out.
There are other phones out there within the price range, such as the Huawei P9 (with its excellent camera performance), the upcoming Honor 8, as well as the reigning king of smartphones right now, the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge. However the OnePlus 3 is unique that it gives all of the best features of a flagship, but at half the price of one, which makes it a recommended buy to anyone out there.