OnePlus 3 Review

After more than 3.5 years of using my HTC One X, I finally bought a new phone — the OnePlus 3!

Why did I choose this phone?

I’ve been looking to buy a phone for more than a year and all the phones that I came across had one issue or the other. I wanted a phablet with the latest Android OS that didn’t cost a ton of money. This criteria of mine eliminated most of the phones in the market and last year’s OnePlus 2 came out with the dreaded Snapdragon 810 processor which suffered from heating issues. In fact, Snapdragon 615, 617, 808, 810 — all these processors suffered from overheating issues and so I had a hard time choosing a phone without any of these processors. So when I saw this phone being announced on June 14th in India, I knew that this was the one and ordered it the very next day. Amazon delivered this beauty as early as 17th.

Key Specifications:

Display: 5.5-inch Samsung-made 1080p AMOLED display with a PPI of 401

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (details given at the end of the review)

Primary memory: 6 GB!

Internal memory: 64 GB

OS: Android Marshmallow

Camera: 16 MP rear camera and 8 MP front camera (both from the house of Sony)

Battery: 3000 mah

First things first, this phone looks stunning! The full metal body and the build quality is as good as those premium phones made by HTC, Apple, and Samsung. I mean, this phone costs only 28,000 Rupees, but the build quality is that of an iPhone! The 5.5 inch 1080p AMOLED display looks great and I really have to appreciate OnePlus for not falling for the quad HD trap. Frankly, I can see no difference between quad HD and full HD displays. Quad HD screens are more taxing on the processor and it consumes more battery, and so naturally one might think that OnePlus 3 with its full HD display has a great battery life. It’s not great, but just good. This is something that I really don’t understand. Both this phone and the 5.7 inch Samsung Galaxy Note 5 have the same 3000 mah battery, but still, the battery life of the Note 5 is better than the OP3 in spite of having a QHD! What is OnePlus doing wrong? Or should I ask what kind of optimization does Samsung do? Both the Exynos 7420 processor, in the Note 5, and the OP3’s Snapdragon 820 processors are manufactured with 14 nm process, which means, their power consumption should be more or less the same. Even if the power consumption is different, it shouldn’t be a big difference. Maybe, if I root the OP3 and underclock the processor, will I get a better battery life? I’ll think about this when I see better custom ROMS out there. To be more concrete on the battery life, my SOT (screen on time) regularly crosses 4.5 hours (I don’t game) which is good; the phone solidly lasts more than 24 hours.  I am really enjoying the quick charging time of the “Dash charger” that comes bundled with the phone.

Audio: Call quality is crisp, clear and very audible. The volume of the speaker at the bottom is loud and good. To me, obviously, this phone is a fantastic upgrade over the HTC One X in every single way. Except one thing. Just one thing. The HTC One X, which came out four years ago, still beats the OP3 in one single area and that is the audio quality! Hearing music from the headphones is not as good as it is from the One X. I hear that OnePlus is prepping an update to fix this. It’s nothing serious, the audio is good, but I am so used to the superior audio quality of HTC phones. This makes me wonder how great the audio quality of the current generation HTC phones must be.

Known issues:

  1. RAM management: Much has been said about this and I didn’t feel this much on my day-to-day usage. I am not a heavy multitasker and I’ve seen a couple of reloads (mostly Facebook) now and then. But I am starting to suspect that this is a Facebook issue as I have not seen much reloads in the other apps that I’ve used. As I said, I am not a heavy multitasker and so the RAM management issue is not a big issue to me. The five or six apps that I use stays in memory without any problem. If you’re coming from a phone that has 3 or 4 GB of RAM, don’t expect a huge difference in performance. Having said that, the performance of the OP3 is extremely good. Applications open up quickly upon touch and the touch screen is silky smooth. If you’re coming from a phone that was powered by the Snapdragon 810 with 3 or 4 GB or RAM, the difference in performance would be negligible.
  2. The 5.5-inch display has been called “worst” by the people at Anandtech.com. This is exaggeration of the highest order. Not a single reviewer said this prior to Anandtech’s review and now a few reviewers are saying the same after reading about this. Anandtech’s review came out on June 20th. When you google for OP3 reviews look at the difference between the reviews that were published before and after June 20. That tells us a lot, doesn’t it? The display is good, but not as colourful and vibrant as Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels; but then, no other display is as good as Samsung’s. Gsmarena, which published its review on June 24th,  rightly said the following about the display criticism: “you really have to be nitpicking to go so far as to criticise it.”

Anyway, OnePlus’ CEO was fed up of the RAM and display criticisms (after explaining that these two were conscious decisions made by the company as most users will not find any difference) and promised an update to fix these issues. “What is the purpose of  6 GB RAM if the phone doesn’t use it all?” Some angry users have asked and it is a valid question. The answer lies in the upcoming update.

Camera: Both the 8 MP front and the 16 MP back cameras are really good. Of course, the Galaxy S7 is still the king of cameras this year, but the OP3’s camera comes a little closer to the crown. S7 beats OP3 when it comes to low-light photography and macro shots; I noticed that the images lose a little bit of detail in macro shots. But for Rs. 28,000, the camera you get is more than worth the money. A similarly priced Samsung or HTC phone usually comes with a slow, subpar camera module. Having said that, I still haven’t explored the camera completely and will be testing it more. The good news is, the upcoming software update is supposed to improve the camera quality even further!

A note on the processor: The Qualcomm-made quad-core Snapdragon 820 processor has a custom modification — it is actually a dual-dual-core processor! It follows the Big.little architecture that Samsung introduced but employs two dual-core CPUs instead of two quad cores. The most powerful dual cores are clocked at 2.15 GHz and the less powerful cores are clocked at 1.6 GHz. More cores doesn’t mean more power, it is the quality that is important and the 820 performs! No overheating here.

For the price I paid, I am amazed how fast and fluid this phone is. Apps snap open with just a light touch and the whole interface is buttery smooth. The build quality is top-notch and the phone is near-perfect. Thank you OnePlus, for making such a great phone at such a low cost!

OP3, oneplus 3

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