Superb Hardware, Excellent Value
The OnePlus 3 annihilates the competition at its $400 price point. This handset is just as good as more expensive rivals, making it a fantastic choice for nearly all consumers after a high-end smartphone.
This smartphone’s build quality is fantastic, featuring a premium metal unibody that comfortably wraps around all four edges. The OnePlus 3 is slimmer than its predecessor and feels absolutely fantastic to hold, with an attention to detail helping deliver a beautiful design. There’s a range of great features around this device too, like a fast fingerprint sensor, USB-C, and dual-SIM support.
The performance is another standout feature. The Snapdragon 820 SoC is extremely fast, especially when paired with a 1080p display. Chart-topping NAND performance leads to quick app loading, while 6 GB of RAM delivers a great multi-tasking experience. OnePlus has learned from their mistakes, which is why this handset includes NFC, and this is the first high-end device I’ve used in a long time that doesn’t throttle during lengthy gaming sessions.
The OnePlus 3’s camera is a very solid performer, delivering accurate and colorful photos in the vast majority of lighting conditions. The phase detection autofocus system is fast, OIS helps with exposure in poor light, the level of detail is above average from the 16-megapixel sensor, and the camera app is clutter free. Add in a decent front-facing camera and 4K video recording, and the entire camera package competes well with the best on the market.
The display included on the OnePlus 3 is pretty good though not outstanding for a flagship product. The AMOLED panel delivers perfect contrast and great viewing angles, and despite below average brightness it’s still easy to see in most conditions. By default, the display is very oversaturated and quite inaccurate – although that’s a look some people enjoy – but a recent software update introduced a reasonably accurate sRGB mode that’s suitable for those who require a calibrated display.
I haven’t spoken at length about the OnePlus 3’s software because it’s essentially stock Android. It runs Android 6.0.1 out of the box with very few additions, delivering a consistent software experience that’s free of most bloatware. If you love stock Android, you’ll love what the OnePlus 3 has to offer. OnePlus also has a better-than-average track record for delivering minor patches, so I hope the OnePlus 3 will get security patches from Google on a reasonably frequent basis.
Most of my complaints about the OnePlus 3 are very minor. Quick charging only works with the included charger and cable, which is disappointing. There’s no microSD expansion, although 64 GB of storage should suffice for most users. The display is only 1080p while competitors use 1440p hardware, although this doesn’t have significant usage implications. And there aren’t many software additions, which is a byproduct of using near-stock Android.
There are some reasons you may decide the OnePlus 3 is not the best choice for you. At 5.5-inches, this phone is larger than the average smartphone, so a smaller device like the Huawei P9 or Galaxy S7 may be a more comfortable option for some users. It doesn’t feature the best camera hardware, which is why some may opt for the LG G5 or Galaxy S7. Storage is limited to 64 GB, which may not be enough for power users. The build is sturdy, but it’s not waterproof or as rugged as other devices on the market.
But for the most part, the OnePlus 3 will satisfy the wide majority of users and use cases. When the OnePlus 3 costs just $400 unlocked and off-contract, it’s hard to recommend any other flagship smartphone. This device has essentially everything you’d want from a high-end product at a price that undercuts the competition, and that is a truly winning combination.
Pros: Excellent value. Fantastic metal unibody build. Impressive Snapdragon 820 and storage performance. Great 16-megapixel camera with OIS. Runs stock Android.
Cons: Limited quick charging support.