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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  • fanofanand - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Not to mention I call BS on his entire statement. You really sit around the water cooler with your colleagues discussing the screen quality of your phone? You discuss how great the colors are? Unless you work for a mobile phone manufacturer, you are either lying or the most boring guy in the office. Reply
  • shktr - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    I work at an IT company. Talking about new tech on a daily basis. So why would it be BS? Who wouldn't discuss their brand new phone and its performance? That aside, I'm curious why most of the people that review the phone are positive about the display? They are all lying? I agree its not the best out there. Yet saying its a poor display is just wrong. Reply
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - link

    I am not a big display quality nut, but the two things I really care about is max brightness and black levels, which basically means that I expect the screen to look good to an untrained eye, either outdoors or in the dark. So it is disappointing to see that Oneplus 3 has max brightness about on the level of Asus Zenfone 2. A lot of people thought this was not even acceptable on a 200-300 dollar device which Zenfone 2 was, but for a 400USD 2016 "flagship killer" it's ridiculous. Reply
  • Eden-K121D - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Yep.People should stop whining and accept the fact that oneplus 3 has a POOR display Reply
  • grayson_carr - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    If you call the OnePlus 3 display poor, then I think you have to call the Galaxy S7 display poor as well because by default its display is no more accurate than the OnePlus 3 display. You have to change the display mode from adaptive to basic to make the S7 display accurate, which let's be honest, only about 0.1% of people who buy the S7 do that. I think Anandtech needs to start publishing display measurements using the default display settings as they come out of the box, because that's what 99.9% of people will use and see when they buy the phone. I'm fine with including measurements of the basic mode as well, but I don't think it should be the only measurements shown. The default settings should be measured and discussed considering that's how most people, even enthusiasts who read this site, will use it. Reply
  • Eden-K121D - Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - link

    At Least they give an option to change the mode. Oneplus doesn't even do that Reply
  • Lolimaster - Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - link

    You have the option and if you care about accuracy you will use it.

    Avrg people like colors to poop but once you show them how the colors should look (specially when white/black/greyscale are involved) they dont look back after switching to "basic".
    Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    The screen is not better than the OnePlus One at all. There's no subjectivity here, these are purely objective measurements. If someone enjoys that a display shows completely inaccurate gaudy colors and has a severely blue-shifted white point, there's nobody trying to stop them from enjoying it.

    An analogy: I enjoy The Room, but I would never try to argue that it's an objectively high quality film on the basis that I enjoy it. You can enjoy a display with poor image rendition, but that doesn't make it good.
    Reply
  • grayson_carr - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    While we're complaining about gaudy colors and shifted white points, I would like to request that Anandtech start publishing display measurements for the default display modes of phones. For example, the Galaxy S and Note lines and the Nexus 6P both ship with displays with gaudy colors and shift white points but default, but we never see those measurements, but just the measurements after you have set them to sRGB mode. The problem with that is that 99.9% of people who buy those phones leave the display settings at the default. I would bet you cold hard cash that even the majority of Anandtech readers leave the display settings at default. And so now we have a bunch of people running around claiming "Anandtech said my phone has like the most accurate display, dude", but then I look at their phone, and uhhh, no. They are using the default display mode and have been mislead into thinking those colors are accurate. I realize that most Anandtech readers aren't dumb enough to pull that, but the problem is, when Anandtech publishes its findings, a bunch of other news outlets come along and say "Anandtech and DisplayMate say this phone displays the most accurate colors ever", but conveniently leave off the part about have to change settings for that to be true. I'm not saying you should test and publish the results in the sRGB modes. You should. I'm just saying you should ALSO publish the results for the default display settings for a device. And if the accuracy sucks at the default settings, you should call it out and complain about it a bit, even if there is an sRGB setting buried in developer options somewhere. You can tell me the Galaxy S7 has a more accurate display than the iPhone 6S all you want, but if I run meet two people when I'm out and one has an S7 and one has a 6S, guess which one is going to be more accurate 99.9% of the time?

    /rant
    Reply
  • grayson_carr - Monday, June 20, 2016 - link

    Err, should have proofread before posting. Autocorrect killed me and there's no edit button.

    "I'm not saying you *shouldn't test and publish the results in the sRGB modes."
    Reply

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