OnePlus 3 review: the perfect budget flagship

The disruptors have finally cracked it UPDATED

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  • Premium design and feel
  • Flagship beating specs
  • Great price


  • No MicroSD
  • Battery life so-so
  • No QHD screen

Updated: OnePlus is currently rolling out an update for the OnePlus 3 to fix the screen’s blue-ish tint. You need the latest 3.2.1 software version and access to the developer menu. Also, the price has gone up by £20 due to Brexit. Bloody Brexit.

The OnePlus 3 was one of the most anticipated smartphones of 2016. The Chinese startup has long been one of our favourite brands, promising to offer flagship smartphones at affordable prices....

…except, due to software bugs and cheap build quality, their devices have never really been the promised ‘flagship killer’ we wanted.

Until now.

Finally, a premium build you can be proud of

OnePlus has never really made a bad looking phone, but the build quality has never been able to match the likes of Samsung and Apple. The OnePlus 3 changes that with a metal unibody design.

The great thing about the new design is that it feels premium as well, it’s very tactile. It certainly puts it up there with the likes of HTC, Samsung and Apple.

The OnePlus 3 is a large phone with a 5.5-inch screen. It measures in at 152.7 x 74.7mm, but thanks to the small bezel it is nicely balanced in the hand. At only 7.4mm it feels thin, which we like.

The AMOLED display itself it vibrant, with Full HD resolution and a pixel density of 401 PPI. Sure, that’s not as sharp as the Samsung Galaxy S7’s 534 PPI, but it’s good enough. The display is really bright but and in terms of colour is on the cooler side of neutral. We didn't have a problem with it, but some users did complain. (OnePlus has now fixed this with a software update).

The curved back and gently tapered edges make it comfortable to hold. The buttons and switches feel reassuringly solid, and it’s durable enough for me to shove in a pocket without worrying too much.

Below the screen is a pill-shaped home button with a lightning fast fingerprint sensor and two capacitive keys which can be programmed how you like (we have them as 'back' and 'multitask').

While the OnePlus 3 is a well-designed handset, it does lack the more premium features which Samsung has started to implement, like the glorious Edge display or IPX waterproofing.

How much RAM?!

The OnePlus 3 comes packing a Snapdragon 820 processor, but the headline spec is its 6GB of RAM - that’s more than any other smartphone out there, including the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Does this mean it’s noticeable faster that other flagships? Not really. But it is very fast, and you won’t be disappointed by the performance.

Navigation is smooth and apps load almost instantly. Tapping and swiping around uncluttered UI is a breeze.

I really like the very minimal skin OnePlus has put over Android Marshmallow. Oxygen is close to stock, with slight improvements over Android O.G which makes navigation and customisation just a little bit easier. Although it’s not as good as our favourite HTC 10 Sense UI.

Battery life is okay, the svelte OnePlus 3 houses a 3000mAh battery. That’s good for a day’s battery life, but where the OnePlus 3 really comes into its own is with Dash Charge.

Dash Charge is semi-proprietary tech which sees the handset replenish 60-percent of charge in 30 minutes. To do this you need to use the USB-C cable and charging block which comes in the box, otherwise, it’ll charge at a normal rate.

That’s incredibly useful if you happen to carry the Dash Charger around with you at all times.

The OnePlus 3 has 64GB of internal storage. That’s not too bad, but unfortunately, there’s no microSD card slot, so it can’t be expanded.

NFC is back after going missing in the OnePlus 2, so now you can use Android Pay.

Say cheese!

The OnePlus 3 features a 16MP camera and it’s a really solid performer. It’s quick to take pictures and usually does a pretty good job of handling light and colour when in auto mode.

The camera system is packed full of features, including phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, electronic image stabilization, HDR, HQ mode and dynamic de-noise.

Low light situations are also good, but can’t quite match the S7 with its pretty-much-see-in-the-dark capability.

Sometimes colours can look a little dull, especially if the scene is poorly lit. But on the whole, the images this camera can produce are sharp, detailed, and vibrant.

Scroll to the bottom for more image samples.

The camera app itself is simple to use. Auto mode is great, and for more advanced photographers there’s also manual controls.

The front facing camera is 8MP, and it’s also really good. Nice and sharp, perfect for selfies and probably one of the best we’ve seen.


Even forgetting the price, the OnePlus 3 is a terrific flagship smartphone for 2016 which can proudly hold it own against the likes of HTC, Samsung, LG and Apple.

It becomes an absolute steal when you consider this device only costs £329, almost half the cost of some previously mentioned.

OnePlus has nailed that ‘premium’ feel with the new aluminium unibody, and the performance is right up there with the big dogs.

What’s even more impressive is how polished this smartphone feels. Whereas previous generations lacked finesse, the OnePlus 3, from software, to packaging, to hardware, is fully thought out and realised.

Okay, so it’s not perfect - battery life isn’t amazing, the screen is only HD and the camera isn’t as good as the S7.

But at £329, can you really complain? This is a fantastic phone.

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More image samples: