In addition to having optical image stabilization, the OnePlus 3's camera also has phase-detection autofocus (like the OnePlus X), which makes locking on to subjects nearly instantaneous. It's too bad, though, that OnePlus did away with the laser autofocus module from the OnePlus 2 -- the cost of the 3's other components probably made the team cut it. The phone also ships with a manual mode that offers access to ISO, shutter speed, exposure and focus settings. Thankfully, shooting in full auto is just about always good enough.
The same can be said for the 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which consistently produced handsome selfies. Even better, there's an option for a smile detection mode that usually does a fine job detecting grins on your face and initiating a selfie countdown. It's not as good at noticing subdued, coy smiles, so just grin and bear it for a moment until the countdown begins.
Performance and battery life
As you'd expect from a phone with a first-rate list of specs, the OnePlus 3 just flies. My week of testing involved putting the phone through my usual workday routine, plus lots of extracurricular time playing Real Racing 3, Mortal Kombat X and Hearthstone. None of that stuff managed to faze the OnePlus 3 -- not even the sort of frenzied multitasking that only ever happens when I'm trying to break a phone.
Really, the best compliment I can pay the OnePlus 3 is that after a while, I stopped noticing how fast it was; everything just worked. It's still not the quickest-feeling phone I've used recently, though. That honor goes to HTC's 10 because of its super-low-latency touchscreen; it's so good, it feels like you're pushing the pixels around yourself. By comparison, there's just the faintest hint of latency when swiping around the OnePlus 3's interface, though I'm probably being a little picky here. After all, that's the sort of distinction that's apparent only if you've spent time playing with loads of new phones; few will take issue with what OnePlus brought to the table.
| ||OnePlus 3 ||HTC 10 ||Samsung Galaxy S7 ||OnePlus 2 |
|AndEBench Pro ||13,841 ||16,673 ||14,168 ||9,945 |
|Vellamo 3.0 ||5,202 ||4,876 ||4,285 ||3,025 |
|3DMark IS Unlimited ||30,058 ||26,747 ||28,529 ||23,598 |
|SunSpider 1.0.2 (ms) ||699 ||608 ||1547 ||1,516 |
|GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) ||48 ||48 ||45 ||25 |
|CF-Bench ||41,653 ||49,891 ||51,227 ||N/A |
|SunSpider 1.0.2: Android devices tested in Chrome; lower scores are better. |
Same goes for the battery, mostly. It's never fun to see a company use a smaller battery in the next iteration of its flagship device, but that's exactly what happened here: There's a 3,000mAh cell in the OnePlus 3, down from 3,300mAh in the OnePlus 2. Normally that'd be cause for much wailing and gnashing of teeth, at least in my house. Fortunately, the shift hasn't really changed much here. In our standard video rundown test (looping a video with the screen brightness set to 50 percent and WiFi connected), the OnePlus 3 stuck around for nine hours and 56 minutes, or about 50 minutes more than what its predecessor could muster. That's not much less than the HTC 10 and LG G5, but flagships like the Galaxy S7 siblings pack enormous batteries that last more than 13 hours in the same test.
Day-to-day use is a different story, though. The OnePlus 3 typically finished a 12-hour workday with about 25 percent charge left, and even if I forgot to charge it, I could usually count on it to see me through an early lunch the next day. On the occasions you'll need to charge the OnePlus 3 mid-slog, be sure to use the included Dash charger and cable -- the company says they can take the device from bone-dry to about 60 percent full within 30 minutes.
In fact, Dash is actually Oppo's VOOC tech rebranded. In this case, it uses a fast 4A current but with the regular 5V voltage, which keeps the device cooler than those based on other fast-charge technologies that use higher voltages; plus VOOC's charging speed remains the same when the device is being used, unlike others which require lowering the voltage then. The downside of this is you need to use the bundled 7-pin USB cable to make full use of the Dash charger. As I write this, I have the OP3 connected to its original charger with a Nextbit USB Type-C cable, and it's not charging even close to the advertised speed.
I've spent a decent chunk of this review comparing the OnePlus 3 with the HTC 10 and the Galaxy S7 siblings, but that's not terribly fair. While they all share the same flagship ambitions, don't forget that the OnePlus 3 only costs $399 (£309). That's both a huge selling point and a hindrance; the former doesn't need much explaining, but component and feature restrictions because of price mean the OP3's competitors can bring more to the table. Ultimately, here's how I'd break it down: If money is no object and you need a tremendous camera, get a Galaxy S7. If money still isn't an object and you're a sucker for great multimedia chops and build quality, get an HTC 10.
If you want an experience that gets awfully close to what those two devices can offer, and can live with a few trade-offs, the OnePlus 3 is a tantalizing choice for the price. The performance gap between these phones basically doesn't exist, which frankly is sort of crazy when you think about it. The lone, seemingly direct competitor to the OnePlus 3 is ZTE's Axon 7, with the same Snapdragon chipset paired with a Quad HD screen and 4GB of RAM for $449. That's not a bad premium to pay for a higher-res screen, but it's unclear whether the Pro version with 6GB of RAM will even make it to the States. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see how these two devices stack up soon.
At the end of the day, no phone is perfect, and the OnePlus 3 doesn't try to be. What it does try to do is capture the essence of a flagship smartphone -- impeccable performance, smart software and top-notch build quality -- and squeeze it all into an affordable package. Guess what? The company succeeded. You can certainly do better if you're fine with spending more money, and there are better deals to be found if you're not a stickler for high-end performance. The careful balance OnePlus has struck here is impressive, though, and while the OnePlus 3 isn't for everyone, anyone looking for high quality without the corresponding price should start their search here.
Richard Lai contributed to this story.