OnePlus 3

Tech Advisor - - Contents - Chris Martin

Now in its third gen­er­a­tion, the OnePlus 3 is the lat­est phone from the pop­u­lar Chi­nese firm. This year’s model is a stun­ner, with a metal de­sign that’s thin­ner and lighter than its pre­de­ces­sors. It also comes with im­proved spec­i­fi­ca­tions, in­clud­ing 6GB of RAM, 64GB of stor­age and a 16Mp Sony cam­era. Then there’s the price, which is around £200 cheaper than its ri­vals.


While we’ve been big fans of pre­vi­ous OnePlus phones, we’ve been a lit­tle put off by how bulky they have been (bar the smaller OnePlus X). The firm has ad­dressed this with its lat­est of­fer­ing, which is a much more slen­der 7.35mm and a more man­age­able 158g.

More ob­vi­ous is the switch to a metal uni­body chas­sis, which is man­u­fac­tured from a sin­gle block of alu­minium. It looks and feels like a pre­mium de­vice and the re­sem­blance to a other metal phones, such as those from Ap­ple, HTC and Huawei, is un­avoid­able.

What we re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate is the at­ten­tion to de­tail here, and we par­tic­u­larly like the an­gles, which not only look good but make the phone very com­fort­able to hold. We’re also fans of the cham­fered edges, which adorn the USB port and the speaker holes.

The 2.5D Go­rilla Glass 4 screen meets the metal chas­sis in a smooth and lux­u­ri­ously flush way, and the Alert Slider on the left­hand side has a solid and sat­is­fy­ing mo­tion, with its tex­tured sur­face.

If for some rea­son you don’t like the metal look or you want to pro­tect it from scratches, OnePlus of­fers a range of cases, which are ex­tremely thin, so don’t add much weight. They are avail­able in Rose­wood, Black Apri­cot, Bam­boo, Kar­bon and the classic Sand­stone, and are priced £19.99 each.

We’re re­ally im­pressed with the OnePlus 3 in terms of de­sign and build; it’s eas­ily the best we’ve seen from the com­pany. It will be a lit­tle bit big for some peo­ple, de­spite 5.5in be­ing the ‘sweet spot’ for OnePlus. It’s also a tall phone, though the tiny bezels on ei­ther side of the screen help things. We’re hop­ing that a smaller ver­sion will come in the fu­ture but we’ll have to wait and see – per­haps a OnePlus 3 mini or new OnePlus X.


The Chi­nese firm has stuck with a 5.5in screen size and a Full HD res­o­lu­tion for this phone. What is new is a change to Op­tic AMOLED tech­nol­ogy, which is the com­pany’s take on Su­perAMOLED. This looks great thanks to more vi­brant colours and bet­ter con­trast, and is also what en­ables the phone to have those tiny bezels.

Our only real com­plaint is that even at full bright­ness we oc­ca­sion­ally found it hard to read out­side in bright sun­light. This is de­spite a dual-po­lar­is­ing layer, which is sup­posed to make this easy.


The OnePlus 3 is pow­ered by a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 820 pro­ces­sor, which means it joins the 820 club, whose mem­bers also in­clude the HTC 10 and LG G5. This quad-core chip comes with the Adreno 530 GPU and is clocked slightly higher than other phones at 2.2GHz – the other two cores are 1.6GHz. The phone also comes with 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM. That’s 2GB, more than any other phone we’ve seen. In both our bench­mark tests and real-world use, the hand­set of­fered slick per­for­mance. OnePlus has done a great job of mak­ing the in­ter­face feel ex­tremely re­spon­sive and fast. The phone does ev­ery­thing you throw at it with­out hes­i­ta­tion.


The firm of­fers just one stor­age op­tion – 64GB. That’s im­pres­sive when you con­sider that many sim­i­larly-priced ri­vals tend to of­fer 16- or 32GB. The only down­side here is that there’s still no mi­croSD card slot, which may put off some.

Fin­ger­print scan­ner, NFC and con­nec­tiv­ity

The fin­ger­print scan­ner is still a key fea­ture and sits below the screen. It’s ex­tremely fast and ac­cu­rate when scan­ning (un­der 0.3 sec­onds, ac­cord­ing to OnePlus) and can be used to un­lock the phone from sleep and mo­bile pay­ments, in­clud­ing An­droid Pay.

OnePlus has also lis­tened to its cus­tomers and brought back

NFC. This can be used for a va­ri­ety of tasks, in­clud­ing An­droid Beam shar­ing, quickly pair­ing with Blue­tooth de­vices that also fea­ture NFC and mo­bile pay­ments.

Re­main­ing con­nec­tiv­ity is what you’d ex­pect at this price, with 4G LTE (Cat 6), 11ac Wi-Fi, GPS and Blue­tooth 4.2. Al­though there’s no ex­pand­able stor­age, the OnePlus 3 comes with a Dual-SIM setup fea­tur­ing two Nano-SIM slots.

Bat­tery life

The OnePlus 3 has a slightly smaller bat­tery than its pre­de­ces­sor at 3000mAh (down from 3300mAh), but that’s still a rea­son­able size. As usual, it’s non-re­mov­able.

The phone has a re­versible USB Type-C port and is a sup­plied with the new Dash Charge charger, which pro­vides 5V and 4A of elec­tric­ity (favour­ing cur­rent over volt­age). There’s also a Dash Charge car charger if you want to top up quickly when driv­ing, though this will set you back and ex­tra £24.99.

What’s in­ter­est­ing here is that OnePlus has moved the power man­age­ment con­troller to the charger in­stead of hous­ing it in the phone. This means the hand­set keeps cooler dur­ing charg­ing and can con­tinue to fast charge while do­ing things such as gam­ing as a re­sult. To avoid any mishaps, when a dif­fer­ent charger or ca­ble is used, the charg­ing re­verts to reg­u­lar speed.

In our tests, the OnePlus 3 charged 61 per­cent over 30 min­utes and was only warm to the touch, de­spite hav­ing a case on dur­ing charg­ing. We recorded a bench­mark time of six hours, 13 min­utes in Geek­bench 3 with a score of 3735, which is de­cent but a lit­tle way of some ri­vals which have hit nine-, 10or even 11 hours.


Go­ing by spec­i­fi­ca­tions alone, you’d be for­given for get­ting ex­cited about the OnePlus 3’s main cam­era. It has a 16Mp Sony IMX298 sen­sor (the same as in the Xiaomi Mi 5) and a lens with an f/2.0 aper­ture. There’s op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion (OIS), elec­tronic im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion (EIS) and phase de­tec­tion aut­o­fo­cus.

OnePlus claims the cam­era will give you clear shots in just 0.2 sec­onds, so you’ll eas­ily catch a For­mula 1 pit stop. There’s sup­port for shoot­ing in RAW, as well as JPEG files, plus a new man­ual mode if you want to take con­trol of the

ISO, shut­ter speed and fo­cus. The cam­era app’s in­ter­face is min­i­mal, so it takes a while to fig­ure out how to find the set­tings, though you’ll have to re­sort to the man­ual to un­der­stand why there’s an HD but­ton at the top, which, when tapped, dis­ables HDR. To save you the ef­fort, HD mode en­hances de­tail, sharp­ens lines and in­creases clar­ity – much like you can in an im­age edi­tor such as Snapseed.

Over­all, we were im­pressed with the cam­era. That fast aut­o­fo­cus means pho­tos were gen­er­ally in sharp fo­cus, al­though pushed to the limit (when at­tempt­ing macro shots) it can be hard to judge whether your sub­ject is too close and blurry.

Colours are life­like with­out be­ing overblown, and dy­namic range seems good even with­out us­ing the HDR mode. A fea­ture that works ef­fec­tively is Dy­namic De-noise. Our shot in a dimly lit bar (above right) shows no no­tice­able noise, but another taken in our of­fice dur­ing the day proves the al­go­rithm does work well in all sce­nar­ios.

We took sev­eral com­par­i­son shots to see the dif­fer­ence be­tween HDR and HD (above left), but none ex­isted. Whether look­ing at our usual fram­ing of St Pan­cras or a macro photo, it was im­pos­si­ble to see any im­prove­ment in clar­ity or de­tail when us­ing the new HD mode.

The rear cam­era is also ca­pa­ble of record­ing video in up to 4K, but while there’s OIS for pho­tos, this doesn’t ap­pear to be used for video, which re­lies on EIS. It’s rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive if you stand still, but start walk­ing or moving the phone around and you’ll soon find its lim­i­ta­tions, with slightly jerky move­ment and odd sparkling ef­fects in skies. 4K video qual­ity is very good, though: sharp and packed with de­tail. What’s unim­pres­sive is the sound­track. Voices sound dis­tant and muf­fled, as though un­der­wa­ter – this could well be a fail­ure of the noise can­cel­la­tion of the dual mi­cro­phones.

At the front is an 8Mp cam­era with 1.4μm pix­els. It can record 1080p video at 30fps. Self­ies are sharper than we ex­pected, and the field of view is eas­ily suf­fi­cient for two peo­ple at arm’s length. A Smile Cap­ture op­tion saves you stretch­ing for the shut­ter but­ton.


This phone comes with An­droid 6.0.1 Marsh­mal­low out-of-the box. OnePlus pro­vides its Oxy­genOS 3.1, which is a very close to stock An­droid with a few dif­fer­ent fea­tures and ways to cus­tomise the in­ter­face.

Open it up and you’ll no­tice that there is next to no bloat­ware in­stalled on the phone. You get the usual suite of Google apps, plus the odd du­pli­cate from OnePlus such as Gallery, Mu­sic and Files. Con­trol over apps is very good as Oxy­genOS al­lows you to set per­mis­sions for in­di­vid­ual apps as well as con­trol no­ti­fi­ca­tions, too.

Not a great deal has changed with Oxy­genOS for the OnePlus 3 – a key new soft­ware fea­ture is the lat­est cam­era app as de­tailed above, but that’s not a bad thing. It of­fers a slick and easy-to-use in­ter­face with a great deal of cus­tomi­sa­tion.

Ges­tures are still avail­able to switch on in the set­tings to do things like wake the phone with a dou­ble­tap, open the cam­era by draw­ing an ‘O’ and tog­gle the flash­light with a ‘V’. You can also draw dif­fer­ent shapes to con­trol mu­sic play­back. We like ex­ist­ing fea­tures such as the dark mode, an ac­cent colour for the themes, cus­tomis­able LED no­ti­fi­ca­tions and the Shelf, which is a swipe away from the home screen. It lets you quickly ac­cess apps, con­tacts and in­for­ma­tion, and you can also add wid­gets like you would on the home­screen.

Ei­ther side of the fin­ger­print scan­ner are two ca­pac­i­tive but­tons, sim­i­lar to the Galaxy S7, though you can choose which one is use for back and re­cent apps. In ad­di­tion, you can choose for short­cuts for long presses. Fur­ther­more, you can use on-screen but­tons if you want.

Other op­tions in­clude the abil­ity to re­ar­range the quick set­tings, cus­tomise the Google search bar or re­move it and make use of the prox­im­ity sen­sor to ac­ti­vate the screen when you wave in front of the cam­era. The lat­ter is turned off by de­fault.

You can also cus­tomise the size of icons, the grid in the app draw and switch fea­tures like quick search (swipe up) and quick no­ti­fi­ca­tions (swipe down once in­stead of twice).


The OnePlus 3 is another amaz­ing smart­phone from the Chi­nese com­pany and is eas­ily its best ef­fort yet. It’s a lit­tle bit more ex­pen­sive than its pre­de­ces­sor, but it’s still great value con­sid­er­ing the de­sign, build and hard­ware on of­fer, which not only matches ri­vals but beats them in some ar­eas. There’s very lit­tle to dis­like here un­less you re­ally need ex­pand­able stor­age.

Geek­bench 3

GFXBench Man­hat­tan

GFXBench T-Rex


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