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OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3 review: Still a flagship killer despite the newer OnePlus 3T

Katharine Byrne
20 Jan 2017
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
309
inc VAT (SIM-free, as of 15th June)

Page 1 of 2OnePlus 3 review: Still a flagship killer despite the newer OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3 shows those flagship smartphones how it's done, but what about the shinier OnePlus 3T?

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Screen Size: 5.5in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Rear camera: 16 megapixels, Storage (free): 64GB (52.6GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 153x75x7.3mm, Weight: 158g, Operating system: OxygenOS (Android 6.0.1)

Buy the OnePlus 3 now from OnePlus

Until now, new OnePlus phones always came with a caveat: 'it's a great handset, but you need an invite in order to buy one'. It was the hardware equivalent of a closed beta, with only those in the know, and their mates, able to get in. That put them out of reach for a lot of people, which is a shame, as the OnePlus 2 in particular was a really, really fantastic smartphone for the money, as it offered exactly the same amount of power as many of last year's top flagships for almost half the price.

To be fair, OnePlus did eventually lift its invite restriction for both the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X a few months after their initial launch, but this year OnePlus has ditched the invite system altogether, making its latest flagship, the OnePlus 3, available to everyone from day one on their website. It's also now available on O2 too.

Not convinced? Here are the best smartphones you can buy in 2016

The OnePlus 3 has finally made its first steps onto the UK high street, with the flagship killer appearing in O2 stores this week. Available to buy both in store and online, tariffs start at just £28 a month as part of O2 Refresh. Seeing as the handset goes pretty toe-to-toe with the big names such as Samsung and Apple, this new offer makes a lot of sense considering the OnePlus 3 is that perfect blend of affordability and performance.

Its more widespread availability is fantastic news, as this is by far one of the most powerful handsets you can buy today. Armed with a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip and a massive 6GB of RAM, the OnePlus 3 is just as fast as the LG G5 and HTC 10, which is pretty impressive considering it costs just £309 – over £200 less than either of its rivals SIM-free.

OnePlus 3 side

Performance

That's a huge saving, and it begs the question why you'd bother paying so much more for something that's not much better. Indeed, OnePlus' Oxygen OS, which is based off Android 6.0.1, feels lightning fast on the OnePlus 3, and it makes the whole phone feel quicker and more responsive than either of its rivals.

It showed in our Geekbench 3 tests, too, as its scores of 2,371 in the single core test and 5,416 in the multicore test actually puts it quite some way in front of the HTC 10. Admittedly, its multicore score still has some way to go before it can beat Samsung's Exynos-powered Galaxy S7 family, but the OnePlus 3 definitely has the edge when it comes to single core tasks, as the S7 and S7 Edge only managed scores of around 2,100, so the OnePlus 3's certainly up there with the very best when it comes to overall speed.

Of course, with a Snapdragon 820 at its disposal, the OnePlus 3 also has one of Qualcomm's Adreno 530 GPUs as well, making it an absolute fiend for gaming. In GFX Bench GL, for example, it finished the offscreen Manhattan 3.0 test in 2,901 frames, equating to an average of 47fps. This is a superb score for the money, especially when you consider its nearest competitor, the £300 Nexus 5X, only managed 986 frames (16fps). As a result, everything from Hearthstone to Threes! ran absolutely fine on the OnePlus 3, so it's more than up to the task of keeping you entertained.

The OnePlus 3 also handled media-heavy web pages with aplomb. Admittedly, its Peacekeeper score of 1,166 falls some way short of the LG G5, HTC 10, Galaxy S7 and even the Nexus 5X, but scrolling up and down web pages at speed still felt perfectly smooth and snappy and I only ever experienced one or two instances of stutter and momentary slowdown in the entirety of my testing.

OnePlus 3 fingerprint sensor

^ The OnePlus 3's fingerprint sensor is exceedingly quick and very accurate

Battery life

If that wasn't enough, the OnePlus 3 has an absolutely stonking battery life. In our continuous video playback test, its 3,000mAh battery lasted an astounding 16h 56m with the screen set to our standard brightness measurement of 170cd/m2. The only phones to beat that score are the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and Samsung's Galaxy J5, making the OnePlus 3 one of the most reliable smartphones you can buy today.

The OnePlus 3 is incredibly quick to charge, too, thanks to OnePlus' Dash Charge technology. This allegedly produces a larger electric current than traditional Quick Charge technologies, and it also operates at a lower temperature, allowing OnePlus to forgo a dedicated cooling system to dissipate the extra heat. The company's claim of getting up to 60% charge in just 30 minutes is bang on, too, which is extremely handy if you need to quickly top it up during the day.

OnePlus 3 USB-C port

Design

Couple its blistering speed and excellent battery life with a full aluminium unibody design and a sleek 7.3mm profile, and the OnePlus 3 is arguably one of the most luxurious £300 phones ever made. When you pick it up, it looks and feels like a £600 smartphone, and it's easily as gorgeous as the HTC 10, and certainly a lot more attractive than the LG G5. I also greatly prefer it to the rather grubby glass rear on the S7 and S7 Edge, and the rougher texture of its antenna lines and company logo provide a pleasing sense of contrast to its smooth, sand-blasted rear.

That said, there's something oddly familiar about the OnePlus 3's design, and if it weren't for the OnePlus badge on the back, you might almost mistake it for either the Huawei Mate S, or the HTC One M9. In a way, it's a shame the OnePlus 3 isn't more distinctive, as resembling two other rather bland and uninspiring smartphones hardly does it any favours.

OnePlus 3 rear

Of course, you can always whack one of OnePlus' many cases on to the back of the OnePlus 3 to give it a more distinctive look, but I wasn't really that fond of any of the official cases that came with my review sample. The Black Apricot case felt particularly cheap and tacky, and I didn't get on with the rough, grainy Sandstone case at all. Even the Bamboo case felt a little cheap, and the soft-touch Karbon case was just a fraction too slippery for my liking. The Rosewood case was probably the best out of the lot, but when the rear camera hole has to extend so far down to accommodate the flash, you're still left with a sliver of metal peeking through, which doesn't look quite right against its dark wood effect.

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