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OnePlus 3 Review: The real 2016 flagship killer

By Scorpus · 49 replies
Aug 6, 2016
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  1. 2016 Flagship Killer. That’s the tagline that OnePlus used for the 2015 OnePlus 2, a claim that in hindsight seems ridiculous. It was a decent smartphone for the price, but it wasn’t the best phone of last year, let alone this year. OnePlus should have reserved this tagline for the OnePlus 3, because it is a superb piece of hardware at a very affordable price point.

    It’s not just the hardware that impresses: OnePlus has finally ditched their ludicrous invite system, so anyone should be able to purchase the OnePlus 3 with relative ease. For a phone that’s sure to be popular over the next twelve months, availability is key.

    Priced at $400, the OnePlus 3 does not compromise on hardware. This 5.5-inch handset is powered by a modern Snapdragon 820 SoC, and there’s a huge 6 GB of RAM complemented by 64 GB of storage as standard. There’s also a fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C, a 16-megapixel rear camera with OIS, and dual-SIM support.

    Read the complete review.

  2. fktech

    fktech TS Addict Posts: 202   +53

    No removable battery!

    No expansion slot!
    DaveBG and veLa like this.
  3. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    If it has no removable battery or SD expansion slot, surely it wouldn't be that much extra work to make it water resistant? The only bit that actually comes out is the SIM card tray.

    Either way, incredible phone for it's price.
    veLa likes this.
  4. madboyv1

    madboyv1 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,446   +349

    The choice to go with Dash Charge instead of Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3 is rather disappointing which severely limits an otherwise great feature that many flagship phones are starting to offer. Other than that This phone really seems tough to beat if you're staying off of a provider contract.
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,986   +2,878

    And no IR emitter ;) All three of which are pretty superfluous in this day and age, even more so given this devices price.
  6. These features may be considered irrelevant by you (which if fine), but I will not be spending hundreds of dollars on a new phone that doesn't have EVERYTHING I want - and the 2 things topping this list is a mircoSD slot and the removable battery.

    Having said that, it's difficult to justify calling this phone a flagship killer - even for those that don't care about these features.
    DaveBG likes this.
  7. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 1,960   +230

    Your only choice for a removable battery in a flagship smartphone these days is the LG G5, and it will cost you battery life (unless you hotswap all the time). And I wouldn't recommend the G5 over a range of today's best phones.

    The lack of microSD is a small issue, but I think this is well compensated for by having 64 GB of internal storage.

    But in any case, you'll need to spend $50 more for the two features you want, and you'll get a worse phone (the G5). Having used both - and admittedly I don't care about removable batteries - there is no way I'd choose LG's phone over the OnePlus 3
    Lionvibez, madboyv1, Reehahs and 2 others like this.
  8. SirChocula

    SirChocula TS Booster Posts: 92   +78

    Personally, I bought a ZTE Axon 7 over the OP3. For media/gaming, the Axon 7 is an easy no brainer. It has a better screen, front facing speakers, high quality DAC, bigger battery, as well as expandable microSD slot. If you're into the software side, it seems that the OP3 has better software support due to the community as well as a slightly better performing camera (better night shots). Both are great phones, can't lose with either one really so it's really personal preferences and use.
  9. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,986   +2,878

    If those features are important to you, that's perfectly fine but I'm afraid you're going to struggle more and more finding them going forward as most manufacturers are leaving them out although I'm sure you'll adapt and cope very well.
    Personally I like having expandable storage but 64GB on a $400 device is a fair trade off for it's absence. I used to think removable batteries were a must as well for various reasons, I don't have one anymore, haven't for a while and I've never missed it, not even a little bit. Everybody's needs and wants are different but manufacturers cater to the masses and changing market trends.
    Reehahs likes this.
  10. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 641   +348

    The sales pitch didn't work. This device kills nothing.
    p51d007 likes this.
  11. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,041   +793

    No Explanation at all?
  12. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Maniac Posts: 411   +221

    My question to you would be "Which flagships have those features?" Apple has never had them and Samsung was the last holdout, though the removable battery has nearly disappeared altogether.
  13. PhDChef

    PhDChef TS Rookie

    Eh, I've used both OP3 and G5 and decided to stick with the G5. How it is a worse phone is strictly your subjective opinion rather than an objective fact. For instance, having a spare battery is great for when I get stuck in an airport terminal that still hasn't caught up with the times in terms of having outlets. Besides, the whole argument of "hotswapping bad" is really peculiar, since the alternative would be your phone powering down due to depleted battery anyway. Additionally, given that I have a baby at home, I'm taking pictures and recording videos all the time. 64GB gets filled up extremely quickly. A 128GB microSD card costs only $30 these days. As for the contention that G5 is a "worse phone?" Sorry, the fact that the G5 has a wide-angle lens alone makes it better than OP3. The 6GB RAM and better benchmarks ultimately make very little difference in day-to-day use.
  14. OcelotRex

    OcelotRex TS Maniac Posts: 411   +221

    I really think that removable batteries are gone because of cheap battery charging packs out there. For $10 you can get something a little bigger than a credit card with a 4,000 mAh battery, good enough to charge almost any phone once. 10,000 mAh packs go on sale often for under $20.

    Between those, quick charging, wireless charging, and usb car adapters the hassle of having a second battery makes little sense.
    Reehahs, hahahanoobs and Panda218 like this.
  15. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,986   +2,878

    I fully appreciate that having a removable battery is a necessity for some people, in fact back in the day (3 years ago) it was a must, but for the vast majority, removable batteries are a non issue these days.
  16. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,160   +829

    It would only be somewhat needed for when batteries eventually die out, but still it's cheaper to send it to be replaced in the long run. Faulty batteries on this time and age are rare. I'm also a big supporter of battery packs, much more convenient than swapping and having to swap to charge both.

    At that price point unlocked without contracts KILLs every other option out there.
  17. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Posts: 7,413   +809

    Removable batteries have not been a flagship requirement for a few years now, that's just reality. The lack of a microSD slot may be less forgivable for some so this wouldn't be your choice of smartphone, but for a $400 handset I'd rather that be the tradeoff and not build and overall hardware quality (or software), which is what Tim concludes for such high marks and I agree.
    Kenrick, Panda218, veLa and 7 others like this.
  18. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,160   +829

    Also, I would like to agree, have a 32gb phone and I would like to consider myself a power user, who has learned to not have all the unnecessary crap people normally carries, and at this time and age (I love that phrase) who carries all their photos and music IN the device, however whomever does deserves to loose it.
    Panda218 likes this.
  19. Spike666

    Spike666 TS Rookie

    No support for wi-fi calling. Why isn't that in the review? It's essential for some of us, and it's in other non-carrier phones like the Nexus devices. How can you kill a flagship when you can't support the basic calling features?
  20. Tanstar

    Tanstar TS Evangelist Posts: 581   +159

    Like you, these are important features for me, but saying it shouldn't be called a Flagship Killer if these aren't important to you, implies you don't know what the term means. A Flagship Killer is a phone that gives you everything a Flagship does, but for much less money. In many of the performance criteria shown in thios review, this phone BEAT all the Flagships! The camera seems to be as good as anything out there (second best at every quantifiable item, never to the same phone). The size and look is excellent. Flagship Killer. The first one I'd ever give that name to personally.
    Reehahs likes this.
  21. AsianEd

    AsianEd TS Rookie

    OP made an interesting design choice to not implement the Qualcomm Quick Charge feature. According to their documentation (or AMA, or whatever), they chose a different technical solution to accomplish the same goal and have a few pros/cons for why they did Dash over QC.

    QC gets more power to a phone by increasing the voltage supplied to the device at a standard 1.5A. This means that all phones that implement QC must also include circuitry inside the phone to step the voltage down from the 6-12V provided by the charger to the 5V normally expected by the phone. The advantage to this is that almost all existing cables can carry this extra voltage, so as long as the phone and charger are compatible, things will work. The downside is that the step-down circuitry generates a lot of heat, so your phone will heat up significantly while being charged.

    Dash implements things a bit differently in that it uses a higher current at 5V to achieve the same power delivery. Instead of the normal 1.2-2.4A charger, Dash uses a 3-4A output at 5V. This means the overall power delivery compared to QC is almost the same, but the increase in current requires more robust cables. There's also no voltage step-down, so the phone doesn't have to take on the extra heat generated by that part. Finally, the control circuitry for Dash was moved from the phone to the power brick itself, further reducing heat in the phone while charging.

    While heat isn't normally a problem if the phone is just sitting on your desk, it can come into play if you're charging and using the phone at the same time (gaming, GPS, etc.) It could introduce thermal throttling under certain conditions.

    I can personally attest to the sheer speed of topping up my OP3 using Dash. I'll be at about 50% when I get home from work and need to go out for the evening. I'll plug my phone in to the Dash charger, spend about 20 minutes getting ready, and be ready to go with a phone that's 90%+ charged. It's pretty insane. On a recent trip to a tech conference, I actually stopped carrying around an external battery pack to top off my phone throughout the day, because I knew I could just plug in for 15 minutes and get enough power to last me through the rest of the day.
    Reehahs and madboyv1 like this.
  22. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Evangelist Posts: 583   +317

    No removable battery!
    No expansion slot!

    They've basically KILLED the biggest attraction to Android over iOS.

    I personally prefer iOS to Android.

    I prefer the performance of Apple NAND flash to memory cards.

    I bought a Mophie 8X for $150 which allows me to recharge my iPhone 6s Plus 128GB while I'm recording 4K video for my Youtube channel.

    Once I get iPhone 7 Pro 256GB, I'll be able to record 4K video for 6 hours straight.

    right now I have 30GB of files/documents which leaves me with less than 100GB to make videos. That means I can't make more than 3 hours in 4K or risk having no space to finalize in iMovie.

    With iPhone 7 Pro 256GB, I can still have up to 40GB or apps/documents and settings...yet have a RIDICULOUS 200GB for recording my Youtube videos.

    My Youtube earns over $2000 a month.

    It's worth it.

    this phone up there is just not worth my time.
  23. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,160   +829

    Mr successful youtuber:

    Please let me know how the swapable battery helps you achieve more 4k recording, versus a mophie battery pack as you are implying in the post.

    Also, I would say you require a dedicated device for your needs, it makes no sense to prefer an iphone for what you are doing.
    Reehahs likes this.
  24. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Evangelist Posts: 583   +317

    I have a Sony NX5u THAT DOES NOT take video or pictures as well as iPhone 6s Plus.

    FURTHERMORE, that camera weighs so much - when this iPhone fits in my pocket.

    If you take a look at the videos I made in the Seychelles (the REAL SEYCHELLES part 1 - 5) you'll see the color quality is fabulous and optical image stability work well.

    I am going to use iPhone 7 Pro to make several travelogues.

    Montevideo/ Buenos Aires
    Taj Mahal

    Removable batteries are in NO WAY as efficient for me as Mophie 8x - partly because I can charge more than one device if needed on the go.

    iOS/ iMovie is EXCELLENT and has made me so much money on Youtube I would never switch to this junk up there ^
  25. robb213

    robb213 TS Addict Posts: 328   +98

    I'd call it the opposite. 1440P...let alone the pixel density on something that small, is totally worthless and just is another battery drain.

    I just got my HTC 10, which I overall do like, but the OnePlus 3 seems nicer. I am surprised they opted for dual-SIM support over a single SIM and an expansion slot.

    Not to mention it's heat that is quite damaging to the battery's total lifetime charge.

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