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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  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - link

    Sadly, in the world of Android the competition has forced the companies to start hyping the features nobody asked for, such as QHD screens, octa-core processors, and now I guess RAM (6GB of it, no less). At the same time, the Android vendors often fail to deliver features people really wanted, such as better battery life, quality screens (as in good brightness and black levels, at least), sd card slots, unlocked wireless bands, and single-core performance that could match at least the three year old Snapdragon 800/801 at an affordable price. Reply
  • fanofanand - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    I seem to recall them highly lauding the Moto-G, and even the Moto-E. Your complaints are largely invalid, as they do take price into account. They are technical reviewers, if they started every sentence with a caveat about price it would be unbearable reading. "Xiaomi showed us with the Redmi note 3 pro that a 4000 battery is possible with a $200 or less phone".

    Then go buy the Xiaomi. If you think that phone is the bee's knees then vote with your wallet. If a massive battery is the sole important factor in your phone purchasing then your search is over! For the rest of us, it's nice to see the technical analysis and decide for ourselves what amount of compromise is worth the cost savings.

    FWIW I am on my 2nd Nexus 5 because no company has made anything since that is a better value. I get the value proposition, I do.
    Reply
  • thek - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    You obviously didn't understand the argument, sir.
    The point was that if even a low end cheap Chinese phone can have better batteries, than huge companies can include them too. But they don't. So why is that?
    Reply
  • fanofanand - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Maybe because there are no employee protections in China? Maybe because there are no real consumer protections in China? The cost of doing business as a Chinese company is a fraction of the cost of doing business in the EU or the US. There is a reason most Chinese products don't get sold in either of those two markets, and it isn't just patent/copyright laws. You might as well ask yourself why you can buy 10 Chinese t-shirts for the same price of one US made t-shirt. BOM is not static between nations. Reply
  • thek - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    You do realize that the IPhone is made in China right?
    ..You missed it again: the correct answer was that those companies are being cheap on us consumers, even on their premium priced flagships because they want to keep making billions of dollars of revenue per quarter (not even talking yearly!!).
    they can provide 64GB as base storage and 4000+ batteries as minimum. They just don't want to.
    Reply
  • melgross - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Ah, you're missing the point. Quality manufacturers all pay about the same thing for the same things. A screen may be made by one manufacturer, but their customers may spec a lower, or higher quality for brightness, speed, color quality, contrast, power draw, and other matters.

    The same thing is true for everything else. There are higher quality batteries, and lower quality batteries. The better ones may last for 1,000 recharges, and the cheaper ones may just last 500. Storage is, again, the same. Apple obviously uses higher quality NAND, hence the much higher speeds. It's been said elsewhere too. When making cheaper phones, compromises must be made. Not spending the money to calibrate a screen is a factor that we see here. Even if they come out with an sRGB update, without calibrating each screen, it will still look pretty bad. Cheaper components and fewer features are the way to go. How a manufacturer balances that all out is the differentiating factor.
    Reply
  • kurahk7 - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Here are a few reasons why the display is the single most important part of a smartphone-
    1. You stare at it all day long.
    2. The image that you see while taking a photo is expected to be the same as when you print it out or share to a friend.
    3. You will be able to enjoy content the original creator intended.
    Reply
  • echoe - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    I mean, if a phone didn't have a working display it would not be usable. The screen needs to be good. They mention the caveats to this judgment in the review, but obviously it's pretty bad ... Reply
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - link

    Why do you think that 400USD is not enough money for the vendor to deliver a quality screen? In fact, the vendors have gotten quite lazy recently. The 600+ USD prices were artificially inflated to herd the consumers into signing the multi-year cellular plans so they got big discounts on hardware. Now that the heavy discounting of the locked carrier-branded smartphones by the carriers is nearly gone, I don't know what's going to keep justifying the 500-600USD prices on the flagship phones when a phone like Nexus 5X offers 90% of functionality, at 40 percent discount. The Nexus 5X normally sold for well under 400USD. It had a great display and great camera, and was basically a good all-around phone. Yes, the SoC was slower than that in OP3, but that issue affected most phones of the 5X generation. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Hey look it's... not a GTX 1080 review. Reply

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