OnePlus 3 Review: Killing the Flagship Game!


OnePlus unveiled its long-awaited flagship smartphone OnePlus 3 in a VR event couple of weeks ago. The Graphite variant of the OnePlus 3 is currently available from Amazon.in for INR 27,999/- and the Soft Gold variant will be launched in the near future.  Let’s review and see if the phone stands true to the “flagship killer” moniker at the current price point.

Gone are the days where an invite was required to purchase an OnePlus phone. Kudos to the team for getting rid of invites. This feels super awesome as a buyer. Inside the box, you also get this note from Carl Pie where he talks about the company, customers and how to reach him.

OnePlus Founder Carl Pei Letter OnePlus 3

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The OnePlus 3 is a 5.5” 4G Dual-SIM device featuring an ultra slim uni-body metal design which according to the company is carved out of single slab of space-grade aluminum alloy, pretty much like what we have seen on the HTC 10. The build quality is solid and the phone looks premium. Weighing 158 grams and at 7.3 mm thickness, it ranks 3rd in thinnest flagships available currently in the market. Make no mistake in underestimating the build quality of the phone. Its strong and durable in every aspect, be it the keys, glass, finger print scanner or the whole construction.

The Dual-SIM tray & power keys are located on the right, while the alert slider & volume rocker are placed on the left. Top stays flat and the bottom houses the speaker grill, type-c port and the 3.5 mm audio jack. The Alert Slider from the OnePlus 2 has been retained in the OnePlus 3 as well. This helps in toggling between silent, priority and all notifications with the reach of a button and is unique to the OnePlus phones.

OnePlus 3 Slider

A ceramic finger print sensor is available on the front similar to the HTC 10. Unlike the Xiaomi mi5, the sensor is not located on a physical home button, but on a capacitive home key. The Sensor is blazingly fast unlocking the device in 0.2 seconds from sleep and accurate most of the times. It’s a true 360 degree sensor in a way that it works perfect when pressing from any direction.

Another interesting thought with the OnePlus 3 sensor implementation is, it does not wake the screen up with incorrect inputs like the HTC 10 does. The sensor just vibrates the phone when finger print is not recognized and wakes up only when there is a match. This is a good use case since there will be multiple instances you ending up touching the sensor by mistake while holding the phone.

OnePlus 3 FingerPrint Sensor

Primary camera is located on the centre of the back with a visible protrusion which according to us is not the best in design and may not be for everyone’s liking. With a phone case, this protrusion should not be too annoying. OnePlus has released a variety of cases for this device which are available on Amazon.in

The OnePlus 3 runs on top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor seen in 2016 flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 (US), LG G5, HTC 10, Le Max2 and the Xiaomi Mi5. Out of the four Kryo cores available, two are clocked at 2.2 GHz and other two at 1.6 GHz. There is Adreno 530 GPU for handling those graphic intensive tasks.

The device comes with impressive hardware specs like 64GB storage (based on UFS 2.0 technology), 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, Dash Charge, Type-C port, Bluetooth 4.2. The device also supports NFC.

Currently this is the only smartphone available in India with a mammoth 6 GB of RAM. While this may sound an overkill by today’s standards, we appreciate this move from OnePlus since this makes the phone future proof. Also this combination of RAM and processing power makes the phone a very smooth device. UI is snappy, and even 4K video editing is a breeze.

Display:

The OnePlus 3 sports a 5.5″ FULL HD (1080p) Optic AMOLED display protected by a 2.5D curved gorilla glass 4 from Corning. With a pixel density of 401 PPI and a maximum brightness of just over 400 nits, the display is crisp & vivid with deeper blacks and brighter whites.

Outdoor visibility is excellent with the Adaptive brightness coming to play and automatically optimizing the screen brightness level based on available light conditions. There is a night mode when enabled filters out harmful blue light emission from the screen and reduces eye strain in the dark. Additional display features include a color balancing slider to choose between warmer and cooler color temperatures according to the user preference.

While the 2.5D curved glass looks gorgeous with the thin bezel on the OnePlus 3, we encountered a minor niggle while watching videos on YouTube. While holding the phone in one hand and scrolling through available videos, my palm would occasionally touch the sides of the screen and play an unintended video from the list. However this should not pose any problem since this can be avoided by going for a phone case or by using two hands. Not a deal breaker but slightly annoying.

Camera:

For the primary camera, the OnePlus 3 uses Sony’s 16MP IMX298 sensor (1.12 µm pixels and f/2.0 aperture) available on the Xiaomi mi5. There is hardware OIS and an additional EIS (Electronic image stabilization) for those less shaky photos & videos. The front camera is an 8MP Sony IMX179 shooter with 1.4 µm pixels and f/2.0 aperture.

Camera interface is simple and includes features like Auto HDR, a robust manual mode, Panorama and support for RAW images. Thanks to PDAF, the primary camera is quick to focus and shoots good pictures in both outdoor and artificial lighting conditions with very little noise. Occasionally, there are some focus stacking issues when the subject you click is busy. See Sample below. I believe, this would be fixed over a software update.

OnePlus 3 Focus Issues

Though the OnePlus 3 has an OIS built in, the videos aren’t as great as an iPhone even without an OIS. Maybe, the camera software needs better stabilisation algorithms. Video recording features include support for time lapse, slow motion (720p at 120fps) and 4K video (30fps). Recorded audio from video footage could have been louder.

Coming to the front camera, it can shoot up to 1080P video at 30fps. We personally liked the Smile Capture feature for selfies which triggers a 3 sec timer shot when you smile. The circle gesture for launching camera from sleep mode worked flawlessly every time. Unfortunately with the finger print setup on the device, we had to go through an extra step of unlocking the device to launch the camera.

Have a look at some of the camera samples below. We will add more samples as we use the device.

Software, User Experience:

OnePlus 3 comes with the latest edition of Oxygen OS which is based on Android Marshmallow 6.1. Oxygen OS is a clean, light, bloat-free OS supporting UI customisation, gesture support etc. A lot of bugs from the OnePlus 2 have been addressed in this update. There is option to enable software navigation buttons and they can even be customized for performing different actions based on user preference. For users who don’t prefer the white theme, there is a dark theme that can be customized with an accent colour.

Screen-Off Gesture support include features like double tap to wake screen, drawing a circle to launch camera, drawing a V for flashlight, two finger swipe downwards to play/pause music, </> for previous/next track navigation and all of them worked flawlessly during our testing. Unfortunately, these are the only options which have been available since OnePlus One. We wished if there were more options or custom gestures.

OnePlus 3 Oxygen 3 Android OS

With Oxygen OS, the same phone can be used by multiple users. New users can be added to the system and each user will have their dedicated space comprising of apps, wallpapers, layout etc. Also, features guest mode which is a nifty feature when enabled hides all photos, call history, messages etc.

Powered by the Adreno 530 GPU, gaming performance is excellent and there are no frame drops while playing graphics intensive games. Call quality is good and the Built-in speaker is loud and clear.

Dash Charge:

The OnePlus 3 features a 3000mAh non-removable battery with an impressive proprietary quick charge technology which the company calls Dash Charge. While keeping the phone cooler, Dash Charge replenishes more than 60% of the battery within half-an-hour. This is made possible by leveraging a large electric current (5V 4A) for stable, consistent charging speeds and shifting the power management system from phone to the Dash Charge adapter. While this setup helps in maintaining lower temperatures during charging, it brings another great advantage. There won’t be any CPU throttling issues and hence the charging speed won’t get affected by intensive phone usage in parallel like streaming video or playing heavy games.

During our battery charge test, the OnePlus 3 managed to stay cool throughout the time. While reaching 96% in under an hour, the phone managed to charge the battery to 100% in one hour and eleven minutes which is incredible.

The only downside we see with the dash charge technology is the limitation of relying on the dash charge adapter for faster charging. In other words, when using a 3rd party Type-C fast charging adapter, the OnePlus 3 will charge in regular charging speeds and won’t get charged quickly.

Power management options include a battery saver feature that can be trigged automatically when battery reaches a percentage level. However the battery saver settings cannot be customized.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

Great Display, Impeccable Finger Print Sensor, A very good Front & Rear Camera along with the 6 GB RAM definitely makes it worth the buy. The dash charge is worth a mention. The form factor is slightly on the larger side; however, it isn’t very uncomfortable to use. The performance is top-notch, and the phone gives a very premium feel; certainly making it the Flagship Killer.

OnePlus OnePlus 3 rear side

I would certainly recommend OnePlus 3 to anyone who is looking at buying a flagship smartphone with a bigger screen. However, if you are looking at a lighter phone with a slightly smaller form factor, then the Xiaomi Mi5 is a good alternative.

Do let us know your thoughts and questions if any. Thanks for reading.