OnePlus 3 Review: If you’ve never heard of OnePlus, it’s time for that to change. The OnePlus 3 packs premium performance and startlingly good features like the insanely fast Dash Charge, for just £309 – almost half the cost of the best 2016 phones so far, like the Galaxy S7. Here’s our full OnePlus 3 review.
We absolutely love the pants off of the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10, just three of our favourite Android phones of 2016 so far, but they all have one thing in common: a rather steep asking price. SIM-free they’re all sat around the £500 mark, which for us common folk is quite a lot of cash to cough up.
Sony is taking steps to correct this with the slightly cheaper Xperia X, but if you want a seriously good phone for a lot less money, don’t fret. The OnePlus 3 ticks all the right boxes, and does it in style.
Sure, at £309 SIM-free, the OnePlus 3 is still in no way ‘budget’. You want super-cheap? Go check out the Moto G4, which still boasts some great specs and features (including a solid camera) for £169. Or the Moto G4 Plus, which for a wee bit extra (£199) upgrades the camera and slaps in a fingerprint sensor.
But the OnePlus 3 is still definite competition for the ‘best Android phone of 2016’ trophy, at almost half the price of most other flagship mobiles. Check out our full OnePlus 3 review to see why.
OnePlus 3 review: Design
For a start, the OnePlus 3 is blooming gorgeous. That aluminum frame is like a skinny version of the HTC One M9’s full metal jacket, but made even more elegant with a front glass panel that stretches edge-to-edge (with a pleasing curvature where glass meets metal).
For a 5.5-inch phone, the OnePlus 3 is surprisingly comfortable to use one-handed. Stretching right up to the notifications tab could be easier, but the phone’s narrow and slender design means it fits the hand nicely. Of course, if you’re after something a little more compact for true ease of use, may we point you at our round-up of best mini mobiles.
The back end of the OnePlus 3 doesn’t lift off, so you have a drawer on the right edge of the phone to slip in up to two SIM cards. Sadly there’s no microSD memory card slot, so you can’t expand the on-board storage.
If you’re not a fan of the metallic surfacing, the OnePlus 3 can be customised with one of OnePlus’ official covers, including some neat OnePlus 2-style wooden efforts. Personally, the only part of the OnePlus 3’s design that I’m not a huge fan of is the sticky-out camera lens around the rear. When the handset is lying back on a desk or other flat surface, that lens causes the phone to wobble every time it’s poked near the edges. Still, it’s a minor quibble at best.
Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S7, the OnePlus 3 isn’t water resistant. However, the splash-proof coating means you can happily use it in the rain without frazzling it. The screen will still go a bit nuts when it’s wet, but no more so than other phones.
OnePlus 3 review: Screen and media
The OnePlus 3’s 5.5-inch screen is bound to appease any media fans, even though OnePlus stuck with a Full HD resolution instead of going all Quad HD on us. That massive panel may not be as super-sharp as premium rivals (like the LG G5 and HTC 10), but clarity is still strong and photos and movies look perfectly sharp.
Colours are punchy without being excessively vibrant, seeming a little dialled down compared with the OnePlus X and Galaxy S7’s uber-rich output. You have full control over colour warmth in the display settings, so you can fiddle around until it’s just the way you want, while a handy iOS-style night mode can be used to soften glare when you’re tucked up with teddy.
A single speaker sits neatly on the bottom of the OnePlus 3 and unfortunately it’s not very good. On top volume it’s certainly powerful, but music is distorted and just plain bad to listen to. Unless you’re merely kicking back with YouTube cat videos, you’ll want to stick in some earphones.
Iffy news if you prefer to carry around a massive media collection rather than streaming your stuff, too. The OnePlus 3 doesn’t support microSD memory cards, so you can’t expand the on-board 64GB storage (of which 52GB is free to use). Still, you’ll be able to pack a fair few movies and albums on there before it fills up, while still leaving space for apps and photos.
OnePlus 3 review: Oxygen OS and features
Android lovers will be happy that OnePlus has slapped Android Marshmallow on the OnePlus 3, with no heavy overlay changing the look and feel. Instead, the OnePlus 3 keeps a streamlined version of Android that boasts some excellent bonus features stapled on via OnePlus’ Oxygen OS, most of which can either be used to personalise the phone or give you fast access to your essential info and contacts.
We’ve covered Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 3 in detail in our OnePlus 3 tips and tricks guide, so go check that out if you want to know more.
Security is strong on the OnePlus 3, thanks to the fingerprint sensor built into the phone’s home button. Like the HTC 10, the scanner is set into the surface of the phone rather than a button that juts out. It’s perfectly responsive and very rarely requires more than a quick single tap to register your print and unlock the handset. And also like the HTC 10’s sensor, it’s stunningly fast.
Unlike the OnePlus 2 the OnePlus 3 also packs in NFC support, so you’ll be able to use the likes of Android Pay (which actually comes pre-installed) to pay for goodies on the go. Good news as Android Pay has finally hit the UK.
We’re also pleased to see the return of the profiles switch on the left edge of the phone, which can be quickly used to skip between your standard profile and Do Not Disturb. Great news if you’re always heading into meetings.
OnePlus 3 review: Performance
Not only does the OnePlus 3 boast the latest Snapdragon 820 processor (something missed from the similarly-priced Galaxy A5 2016 and the more expensive Xperia X), but it’s backed up by a rather eye-watering 6GB of RAM. As tech geeks will no doubt expect, this means the OnePlus 3 is one of the most powerful smartphones of 2016, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Galaxy S7.
For the record, our OnePlus 3 scored 139329 in AnTuTu v6.1.4, which places it top of the charts above the Xiaomi 5, iPhone 6s and every other super-powered blower right now. Nice.
As well as smooth everyday performance, the OnePlus 3 obviously smashes its way through the latest games. And impressively, it stays pleasingly cool throughout.
OnePlus 3 review: Battery life
One of the OnePlus 3’s most impressive and surprising features is the super-nippy Dash Charge tech, used to power the phone up when the battery is dead. OnePlus boasts that Dash Charge is even faster than Quick Charge 3.0 (found on the LG G5 and HTC 10), and with no heating issues either, so the phone shouldn’t get toasty as the battery fills.
Is Dash Charge really that good? Check out our Dash Charge review to find out!
Battery life is certainly solid, with a full day and a half of life offered from a full charge. That includes plenty of camera use, regular messaging and web browsing and keeping the phone switched on all night long. And if you want to stream video on the OnePlus 3, you’ll manage an impressive ten hours of entertainment before the battery drains. That’s on par with the best result of 2016, from the Galaxy S7.
OnePlus 3 review: Cameras
The OnePlus 3 also gives the flagship Androids a run for their money with its mighty 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras. Check out our in-depth OnePlus 3 camera review for our full thoughts, as well as photo and video samples.
OnePlus 3 review: Verdict
The OnePlus 3 may not be perfect, but it comes pretty damn close considering the £300 asking price. Dependable cameras, premium-beating performance, impressive battery tech and a slick, sexy design combine to make the OnePlus 3 one of the best Android phones of 2016. If you’re tempted by a Galaxy S7 or LG G5, take a long moment to pause and consider this blower instead.