Final Words

Update: With OnePlus's addition of an sRGB mode my verdict on the phone has changed. Click here to read my more recent conclusions, which complement those in this section.

As I think about the OnePlus 3 and all of its aspects, I'm left with both some good and bad surprises, but mostly good ones. When I reviewed the OnePlus 2 I didn't really understand how OnePlus could regress from the OnePlus One in so many ways. Part of it was probably due to the end of the partnership with the Cyanogen team, which seemed to have input on matters such as the display calibration. Another part was due to the state of Qualcomm's SoCs at the time, and OnePlus's less than optimal choices for managing the thermals in circumstances like web browsing. Beyond all of that, I'm reminded of a statement that a friend and colleague of mine made regarding the OnePlus 2 the day my review went live. What he essentially said was that it's no longer sufficient to do minimal engineering and just sell a phone on the basis of a low price and good specs on paper. I think there's a lot of truth to that, and I think moving beyond that kind of design process is something that OnePlus succeeded in with the OnePlus 3. Before I come to a conclusion on the phone, I'd like to go over its core aspects and how they measure up in this increasing competitive market.

The design of the OnePlus 3 really is a level above that of the OnePlus 2. The move to an aluminum unibody combined with reduced thickness and mass makes the device feel of a might higher quality than the OnePlus 2, and it sits more comfortably in the hand. The entire design also feels much more thought out. When you look at the OnePlus 2 the little island with the camera, flash, and IR module looks like it was just slapped on without any thought, while on the OnePlus 3 the camera is met by the antenna bands and has the LED flash set right underneath it. There's just a greater cohesiveness to the entire device, and really my only complaint comes back to the slightly misaligned 3.5mm jack, but that's quite a nitpick. If you were a fan of the OnePlus 2's sandstone back, you can get a case for the OnePlus 3 made of the same material, which addresses that section of the OnePlus fanbase.

While Snapdragon 810's throttling issues certainly presented problems, the OnePlus 2 made the situation even worse with its ridiculous throttling mechanism for Google Chrome that would shut off the A57 cores instantly. This provided web performance that was in the same range as the Moto E and the Moto G, which were available for only $100-200 at the time. Even outside of Chrome, performance in CPU-bound tasks was often worse than the OnePlus One. This could be felt in apps, and throughout the entire UI which made the phone feel painfully slow and sluggish. The OnePlus 3 addresses all of these problems, and it provides class-leading performance among Android devices at this price, while also being one of the fastest devices among all smartphones.

The OnePlus 3 takes some great photos. Whether you're shooting in the day or at night, the sharpness and detail retention is quite good. Like all manufacturers, OnePlus still has some room for improvement. My first photo test exposed a case where a scene with a great deal of foliage could skew the white balance toward green when it shouldn't, but these kinds of issues can be improved over time. Images taken in the dark also demonstrate a good balance between noise reduction, sharpening, and exposure, and of the devices I tested they were clearly the best. Video quality isn't at the same level, and despite the relatively high bitrate there are very visible macroblock artifacts when moving the camera, and the OIS stabilization just doesn't work very well.

Unfortunately, the display really kills the phone for me. Based on every other aspect I think it would be a no-brainer to replace the Nexus 5X with the OnePlus 3 as my daily driver, even if it is bigger than I'd like. I simply can't though, because I just feel unpleasant whenever I look at the OnePlus 3's display. I don't think it's a stretch to say it's the worst display I've examined during my time at AnandTech, as despite the Nexus 6's faults it didn't have the ghastly blue appearance of the OnePlus 3.

Of course, many people may not care about the display accuracy to the extent that I do. If you're part of that group then I think the OnePlus 3 should be high up on your list of phones to consider, because beyond the display, and to an extent, the camera, the OnePlus 3 is a great smartphone. For someone like me the inaccuracy is just far too severe to be tolerable. I've used many smartphones where the display calibration is anything but perfect, like the Moto E, the Honor 5X, and the Zenfone 2, and they were usable because the extent of the errors wasn't that severe even if the display wasn't something you'd want to edit professional photos on. The OnePlus 3 just pushes things way too far, and at least in my opinion the decisions made regarding the display's color characteristics demonstrates that OnePlus needs to bring people into the company who really understand the complexities regarding displays and color management.

What gives me hope is the quick response from OnePlus on the issue. While it's concerning that OnePlus didn't understand that an sRGB mode is needed and that NTSC is completely irrelevant, their quick response and plans to implement an sRGB mode show great initiative and how a smaller company is able to react quicker to these situations than a large company can. It remains unclear as to when an update with an sRGB setting will come, and I'm skeptical about how much the display can be fixed after shipping as the unconstrained gamut is hardly the only issue, but there's still hope that things can be improved. I will definitely be revisiting the OnePlus 3 when this update ships, and I hope that my conditional recommendation can become an unconditional one. 

As it stands, my recommendation on the OnePlus 3 is exactly that, a conditional one. If the problems with the display don't bother you then there's a lot to like here. Despite the small problems it has besides the screen, the OnePlus 3 represents a really great device at a more than fair price. If OnePlus can actually fix the display with an OTA update it will be the obvious recommendation for an Android phone at $400.

Right now my best advice to potential buyers is to think about whether or not the inaccurate display colors will bother you. If it won't, and if you're looking for an Android phone priced at around $400, then the OnePlus 3 should be on your list of considerations, if not at the top. It's obviously important to also consider whether or not you can comfortably use a 5.5" smartphone, but I assume that by this point smartphone buyers have figured out what sort of device size they enjoy using. I can't yet replace the Nexus 5X as my daily Android phone, but I hope that I'll be able to soon after OnePlus resolves this problem. I'll be keeping my eye out for updates to OxygenOS, and I hope you'll keep an eye out for my second look at the OnePlus 3's display, which I hope I'll be able to do soon.

Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • Ian Cutress - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    We did some in the past, when Audio Precision let us borrow the $50k+ kit needed to do some proper testing. However, AP wanted the hardware back and Chris is no longer at AnandTech. If someone can convince AP to long-term loan us the hardware, I'm sure one of our smartphone team would pick up the mantle for the devices they test (and because the team is four people, it would only be tested on 1/4 of devices unless we get duplicates or can hand some off when people travel internationally for events. It also means you'd be lucky to see release day data, and we might have to do audio focused testing. But that all depends if we can get the hardware.)

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/8078/smartphone-audi...
    Reply
  • dishayu - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Thanks for the response. Yeah, sounds like a challenge and a half. I am aware of the past audio testing, which is why I was hoping for more. Maybe a more practical approach would be to send one person to a partnered lab and run a gauntlet test on all phones released in that year... like a shootout, maybe. Reply
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I'm no longer here but the equipment made to do that level of audio testing is incredibly expensive. I live down the street from Audio Precision so I could borrow it, but most people testing audio quality are using gear with noise levels that are high enough that you can't trust the testing unfortunately. Reply
  • Spectrophobic - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    That... is one disgusting screen.
    Google please refresh the 5X with an 820 and UFS 2.0.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    So provide 6GB RAM, then make the software aggressively cull its use to save energy?

    Apart from future proofing (and to be real, it'll probably run out of Android updates well before 3/4GB would be a limit), that seems rather pointless.

    I'd hope like the author hopes that an over the air update would address that, but if the founder said it was to save energy, maybe it's just an intentional choice they'll keep around until 6GB makes any sort of sense in a phone (which again, is probably outside of the usable life of this one).

    That said, I think they're generally back on track which is nice. The Oneplus One was a hit, the Two was a miss, this seems closer to the One competitively.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    So 10 months after launch, much closer to the launch of the 7 now than the 6S, the NVMe storage solution is still pooping all over everyone elses, huh? The OP3 is the closest to bridging the gap on reads, but still a whole 128MB/s behind, and much further in writes (which are cool particularly for app installs - I barely see the install icon anymore after the download).

    I'm curious, is it *because* of NVMe? It doesn't seem like it should be, I mean NVMe is awesome but mainly reduces the AHCI latencies and gives a stupid amount of in flight queues that consumers probably don't approach often. Is it just how many channels Apple gives their NAND? Is there a limit to how much UFS 2.0 can scale up?

    All this said, on the flip side, NVMe seems to take a hit in 4KB random reads/writes, with Samsungs controller overtaking the 6S there, among some others.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Hm, I see the author also suggests it's because the 6S was the 128GB model. I guess I had assumed they'd all perform the same, despite always knowing larger SSDs usually do better due to more channels.

    Now I want to test a 16GB 6S to see how the storage fares. What test is used?
    Reply
  • Pissedoffyouth - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Random read and write matters much more than sequential, expect for heavy burst photography which the 6GB RAM should help with Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    I recall some of the early generations of SSDs had 4K random read/write performance as a culprit for why they would freeze up for a second in worst case situations on a PC, and increasing the random performance was found to be an important metric back then as much as if not more than sequential transfers.

    However I do wonder at what point of 4K random read/write performance increases is where it will no longer provide any extra kick to most consumer workloads, while hopefully the OS is writing app binaries in nice sequential rows for app launch reads. Going down to 4KB reads would still very much be a very worst case scenario.
    Reply
  • thek - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    I feel like the reviewer reviewed this device as on-par with other premium/flagship devices that literally cost twice as much and not take into account the device's cost. And I'm not talking about just mentioning the cost itself here.
    The question should be if devices that cost less(and we're really talking about 1/2 the price of any flagship, with literally the same hardware) should be reviewed differently. Now, by differently I don't mean with different or lower standards ,but maybe with the knowledge that this device is clearly cheaper than other flagships devices for a reason. Something had to be cut back.
    If the display was premium as well, that device wouldn't been able to get to a 399$ price mark and make a profit (only makes sense). So if it's not reaaally crucial I'd say it's a slight issue but not one to make you not purchase the phone.
    Basically I'm just saying all of this because the last 3 paragraphs really dished the device into making it seem like a no-buy right now to anyone that doesn't want to suffer from a really bad display (again, this is how it sounds to a non-technical guy that just wants a smartphone). Furthermore, as you mentioned, you are a pro reviewer and have different standards, that maybe do not imply to regular users? Yes, you've mentioned it(very slightly), but saying something like you won't replace your old low end phone for this one just because of the display makes it sound probably worse than it is(or actually, the worse it can be: ''but for anyone who cares even the slightest bit the issues with the OnePlus 3’s display will be too severe to live with.''). I'd recommend providing the device for some day to day users/family members and asking if they enjoy the display.

    With all of that said, I think that companies that are trying to do things differently for the better or to be cheap on the consumers expense (like Samsung, Apple, and basically any other that charges double the amount for the same hardware or charges premium prices every year for the same old battery's and storage- which Xiaomi showed us with the Redmi note 3 pro that a 4000 battery is possible with a 200$ or less phone) should be praised.
    Only god knows why reviewers provide each year an A grade score for the Galaxy's and Iphone's when they don't even provide bigger batteries which is clearly out of making us buy their next phones again next year.
    I'd bash them, and not OP or Xiaomi for trying to provide more for less. just my 2 cents
    Reply

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