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OnePlus 3 review: Refining a flagship killer

By Liu Hongzuo - 18 Aug 2016
Launch SRP: S$699

Overview, Design & Handling, Display & Audio, UI & Features

Overview

The OnePlus 3 did not call itself a flagship killer this time round, but it still packs an up-to-date Snapdragon 820 processor and a whopping 6GB of RAM. And at S$699, OnePlus' reputation for packing powerful parts in a relatively affordable handset remains intact, though it has to be said that the market for such phones is now more crowded than before, with the likes of Xiaomi, ZTE, and even Huawei all churning out high-end phones in the S$600 - S$800 bracket in recent months.

In a nutshell, the OnePlus 3 basically retains the best bits of its predecessors, but with well thought out refinements done on the inside and out. The end result is a truly uni-body metallic phone with killer components and subtle upgrades all over. But how does the OnePlus 3 fare against its well-priced rivals with equally powerful hardware?

  OnePlus 3
  OnePlus 3
Launch SRP
  • From S$699
Operating system
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Oxygen OS 3.2.4
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (dual-core 2.15GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6GHz Kryo)
Built-in Memory
  • 6GB
Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (401 ppi) / Optic AMOLED
Camera
  • Rear: 16-megapixel, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, OIS, LED flash, 1/2.8" sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size
  • Front: 8-megapixel, f/2.0, 1/3.2" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual band), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, DLNA, USB Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1
Storage Type
  • 64GB internal storage
Battery
  • 3,000mAh
  • Dash Charge
Dimensions
  • 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4 mm
Weight
  • 158g

 

Design & Handling

The OnePlus 3’s aesthetics reminds us of the earlier HTC flagship phones (which were award-winning). It features an attractive uni-body build made from space-grade aluminum alloy, accentuated by its stylized antenna lines on the back. The phone feels sturdy and pleasurable to the touch, and that helps to showcase the quality of its new body. The premium build quality also shows up in its gapless appearance and thin bezel, and the final touch comes in the form of its subtly rounded rims and a well-polished Gorilla Glass front. It’s not a novel look, but it’s certainly the best look OnePlus has pulled off so far.

The 5.5-inch device has a comfortable grip. Its 7.35mm sides make the phone feel sleek, even though it looks hefty at first glance. Handling is a fuss-free experience as the phone feels secure in the palm despite its metallic body (we expected it to be slippery). All in all, it’s a phone that looks like a thousand bucks, even if it isn’t priced as such. Our only gripe is its rear camera bump. It doesn’t penalize the phone’s appeal, but it prevents the phone from lying flat on a surface when it’s facing up.

Looks like the bump on a Galaxy phone, no?

The build quality is actually quite iPhone like.

The OnePlus 3 is another phone that embraces USB-C. Don't worry, the headphone jack is still around.

 

Display & Audio

The phone uses a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) Optic AMOLED display. Like a typical AMOLED display, the OnePlus 3’s colors are vibrant. We usually pay no mind to our test image’s green hot air balloon at the back. However, the OnePlus 3 made us appreciate how it was mindful of the tonal difference between the dominating grassland against a similarly-colored object in the background. The display itself is bright, sharp, and clear, making the phone a good choice for users who care about phone display quality.

One display quirk on the OnePlus 3 is its default color balance. The phone starts off with a very warm color temperature out of the box, and we adjusted the display by tweaking its color balance in the settings. Fortunately, that was easy to ‘fix’ since the option presented itself as an adjustable slider. It’s nice to see how easy it is to tweak the OnePlus 3 for night use, but it would be a better choice to start the phone off without an overly warm temperature.

For its audio, the OnePlus 3 has its grilled speakers next to the USB Type-C slot along the bottom rim. The 3.5mm audio jack is also present. It’s sufficiently loud at maximum volume, and the speaker placement doesn’t hinder the projection or our listening experience. The audio quality is otherwise functional.

 

UI & Features

The OnePlus 3’s approach focuses on improving what it was. It has retained OxygenOS, which isn’t a bad alternative to stock Android OS. The fingerprint sensor gets a speed upgrade, with OnePlus claiming that it can unlock the phone in 0.2 seconds. Of course, we aren’t superhuman enough to detect the differences, but the OnePlus 3 certainly has a fast and accurate fingerprint sensor.

Most of its upgrades are hardware-oriented (processor, display, and design), so we’ll look at some of the features that emphasizes the phone’s strengths and flaws.

 

Alert Slider

The OnePlus 3 retains the well-loved Alert Slider, and we’re still impressed by how well it works. The tactile bumps make it easy to move the slider to your preferred setting (All Notifications, Priority, or Silent). It feels as durable as the iPhone’s slider, and it’s just as intuitive and convenient. Keep it up, folks.

 

Dual-SIM, but no microSD slot

It’s worth noting that the OnePlus 3 doesn’t have a microSD slot for storage expansion. We feel that the exclusion of the microSD slot is something OnePlus overlooked - especially when OnePlus says this is a phone conceived and built by tech enthusiasts. To be fair, it’s worth noting that the Xiaomi Mi 5 also lacks a microSD card slot. Fortunately, 64GB internal storage isn’t too restrictive, unless you install plenty of games and store thousands of photos and songs.

 

NFC

The OnePlus 2 does not have NFC, but the OnePlus 3 rectified that. It’s a feature we’d usually take for granted on flagship devices (along with the fingerprint sensor), so we're glad to see it here.

 

No more invite-only purchase

While it’s not exactly a feature, the most notable change to the OnePlus series is the death of the silly invite-only purchase system that plagued the OnePlus and OnePlus 2. You can buy the OnePlus 3 like a normal product - via an online store or at a retail outlet. While it’s not revolutionary, we would still like to commend such decisions, where brands do away with gimmicks that hinder user experience.

8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8.5
  • Value 9
The Good
Truly premium design
Flagship-tier hardware at an affordable price
Beautiful Full HD display
Quick-charging battery
The Bad
No microSD card support
No new major software features
Average camera performance
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