OnePlus 3 review: Third time’s the charm

1 + 3 = ?


OnePlus appeals to the rebellious teen in me. They’re all about sticking it to the man and challenging the established order of things in a David vs Goliath kind of way. A lot of this attitude is reflected in the smartphones they produce and I love it.

The OnePlus One was the first Android phone I returned to after my exile to the lonely desert island of Windows Mobile. It was a dramatic change. I had never experienced this much power in my hands before because, as a college kid, all I could afford were half-arsed budget smartphones. The One wasn’t a half-arsed budget smartphone, though, oh no.


Now, there are plenty of amazing budget smartphones out there that are encroaching on OnePlus’ space. The company needs to dig deep and produce something as amazing as the One was back in the day and I think they’ve done it with the 3.

The word “immediate” was designed to describe the OnePlus 3’s performance. It didn’t matter what tasks, or how many tasks, I threw at it because the 3 would just chew it up. Apps launched in an instant, multitasking happened immediately and you could return to the home screen in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t navigating the phone with my fingers, I was just thinking my way through it.


A peek under the hood reveals one of the big reasons behind all that speed: It’s packing enough hardware to make even the mighty S7 edge blush. The Snapdragon 820 octa-core processor, clocked at 2.15GHz, with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of UFS 2.0 storage simply flies through tasks like no other phone I’ve used. It’s astonishing and, the best part is, the speed does not end there.

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The front-mounted fingerprint scanner is also lightning quick and pretty accurate. There are no fancy animations or sluggish transitions during the unlock either, just BAM! and you’re there at the home screen.


But, there is a cost to all of this phenomenal speed and that’s battery life. During my time with the device, I’ve managed to get, at most, a little over 3 hours of screen on time. Heavier days saw that dip lower to 2 hours and 45 minutes of screen on time. This means that I can just barely get through my work day before having to top up again. Keep in mind that my device is running on Oxygen OS 3.2.2 which is after the RAM management patch.


Thankfully, the OnePlus 3 does redeem itself with its blazing fast Dash Charging quick charge technology via a USB Type-C port. This fast charging standard will charge the OnePlus 3 from 0% to 55% in just 30 minutes while a full charge will only take 1 hour and 10 minutes.

It also keeps the device relatively cool during the charge which is great. But what’s better is the frankly excellent build quality. OnePlus really upped their game with the all metal unibody of the 3, something they’ve shied away from on their previous smartphones.


This metal feels great paired with nice tactile buttons and a ridged alert slider. While many may object to how thin the device is, and the sacrifices in battery capacity OnePlus had to make to keep it that thin, I really like it. That said, if adding a little thickness could give me an additional hour of screen on time, I would take that swap in a heartbeat.

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Because of the thin body, the camera module does stick out a little and can be vulnerable to scratching if you put it on a rough surface. But, the camera bump is there for a reason because the 3 has the best camera experience on a OnePlus device yet.


Sure, the 16-megapixel f/2.0 aperture camera is not a world beater like the Samsung Galaxy S7’s is, but it can hold its own pretty well. It’s quick to launch, quick to focus and quick to take a photo which I think is pretty crucial for a smartphone camera. The resulting images are pretty nice too, with nice colours, good detail and fairly good dynamic range.


That said, when you zoom in you do notice that there is sharpening going on, but not so much that you’d be annoyed with. Low light is pretty decent too as it handles noise pretty well and the phone doesn’t really lose its focusing speed.


As a whole, the OnePlus 3 is certainly the most well-rounded smartphone OnePlus has made. It brings a lot of new experiences to the table, like a metal body and Dash Charging, but it also retains a lot of what makes the OnePlus line special. I am, of course, talking about the stock-but-customisable experience of Oxygen OS, the clean good looks and the best implementation of Android navigation buttons in any Android smartphone.

Oh and how could I forget the Full HD display that OnePlus has still stubbornly stuck to. But, the AMOLED panel is still a great looking screen that’s more than readable under direct sunlight and I honestly have no complaints with the resolution in practical day-to-day usage.

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But, like I said earlier, it does have an Achilles heel and for me, that’s the battery life. Sure, it does have fast charging and that’s great but it’s a proprietary fast charging technology, not the more common Quick Charge 2.0/3.0 you’d find on most Snapdragon smartphones. This means that the device charges rather slowly on anything other than its own brick so I can’t utilise my Quick Charge powerbank either.

Is this a deal-breaker for you? I think you know the answer to that better than I do. If it isn’t, then this RM1,888 (even lower with cashback and discounts) smartphone is definitely one of the best purchases you can make right now. I definitely fell in love with it and I’ll be more than a little sad when I have to return my review unit.