OnePlus 3 First Impressions: A Contender for the OnePlus One’s Legacy
The OnePlus 3 is looking to take back the flagship killer title after last year’s overconfident OnePlus 2. With an all-metal design and refined specs, OnePlus once again challenged flagships asking for twice as much.
I’ve only spent 24 hours with the OnePlus 3, but I feel like I can already at least begin assessing whether this phone has the level of bang-per-buck OnePlus fans have been longing for. Indeed, a quick glance at the specification list shows this is a very competitive package. But that said, a phone is more than the sum of its parts as far as the user experience goes. While we have one of our traditionally long and insanely in-depth reviews coming your way in a short couple of weeks, we will also show you how we dissect the OnePlus 3 along the way, starting with these first impressions.
This phone’s design is almost incomparable with that of the OnePlus 2 — few design elements made the cut as far as overall aesthetics go, mostly on the front of this device. Many have criticized the OnePlus 3 for looking generic, and I can’t blame them — the metal body and antennae bands bring memories of One M8s and iPhones, not to mention the fact that various chinese OEMs are opting for a similar design language. That being said, the OnePlus 3 is built exquisitely and ultimately feels much more polished than both previous OnePlus offerings and also what other OEMs accomplish with a similar design aesthetic.
The front of the device is what ended up resembling its predecessors the most, as well as the overall curvature of the frame. But the back and sides look and feel different, first because there is no longer sandstone by default (but there is a case), but also because the metal itself has changed from the OnePlus 2 — now aluminum instead of the magnesium alloy surrounding the older one’s edges. This design works, and I’d say it’s meant to go hand in hand with the cases OnePlus offers, which mimic the swapstyle covers of the OnePlus 2 and previous devices by bringing back the same textures. The OnePlus 3 itself is pretty thin at 7.3mm (as thin as a Nexus 6P), and these fit very well, reducing the amount of bulk and footprint they add to the phone. Coupled with the pre-applied screen protector, it’s not hard to keep the OnePlus 3 safe from damage.
There is a lot more to say (and to discover, I imagine) about the OnePlus 3’s body, but it’s also worth noting that the buttons are extremely solid. Frequent readers might recall that I am very picky with buttons, but the OnePlus 3’s have me rather satisfied. The texture of the alert slider returns too — a nice detail when you need to access it in a pocket. The most lackluster aspect of the OnePlus 3’ tactile experience, however, comes from the inside: the vibration motor is rather weak, with low-vibration keyboard settings (the same I use on other devices) giving frustratingly little feedback. You will likely want to crank up the vibration of your keyboard if you are used to more potent motors, but the touch feedback on navigation keys, for example, will remain rather puny and will require more in-depth tweaking.
The OnePlus 3’s 6GB of RAM does not make a meaningful difference
With a Snapdragon 820 and 6GB of RAM, the OnePlus 3 has some big shoes to fill. Oxygen OS is advertised as light-weight and many would call it “close to stock”. Indeed, the phone does come without bloatware or carrier annoyances (although some users found odd NSFW exceptions!). But while I want to reserve overall performance judgements for more in-depth writings after more thorough testing, I can and want to dispel the notion that the OnePlus 3’s 6GB of RAM is currently meaningful in any substantial way.
While one would expect 6GB of RAM to mean a better app-switching experience, the software at hand does not seem to be utilizing the insane amount of RAM to its fullest. We’ve seen similar cases with the Galaxy S6 and Note5 among other Galaxy devices post-Lollipop, and while the OnePlus 3 is not as bad as those devices were, it does not really perform better than other 4GB RAM devices from what I’ve seen so far. In my testing I found that I could retain about 12 applications (in this case, those pre-installed) in memory with no usage, but opening more applications past that point started to close the earlier apps. It’s also worth noting that this more noticeable with mixed usage of heavy apps or games and lightweight apps than it is with just heavy games, for example, where the OnePlus 3 did a very good job. What’s more worrying is that I find over 4GB unused at any given time with about 25% of memory utilized.
As far as real-world performance, I have not faced any slowdowns so far. The phone is very zippy as far as the eye can tell, but further testing and comparisons, as well as a better look at the background processes and CPU management, might reveal a different story for our full review. I have begun controlled benchmarking, though, and so far I’ve been pretty surprised: while sustained GFXBench testing saw drops of over 20% in the HTC 10, the OnePlus 3 maintained its Manhattan score thorough 30 iterations with less than 10% of a drop in frames, and T-Rex didn’t see overall losses. There is still a lot more to test (and re-test) but I attribute good graphics performance to the 1080p display, which greatly benefits various on-screen tests. We’ll show you the specific frames per second and thermal distributions of games and benchmarks later on, but so far it looks like a promising performer.
I have not had enough time or samples to even begin forming a solid opinion on battery life, the phone’s camera, and the quality of the display — this last one is particularly tricky to judge given the 1080p AMOLED display will see lower effective resolutions for certain images depending on their color, and that OnePlus has also tweaked the gamma to make it worthy of the “Optic” title. I did, however, test the DashCharger and it did in fact charge close to 63% in 30 minutes. The charger itself is a bit louder than other chargers, but this is understandable given it does power regulation and helps with thermals in the charger itself. The phone did not get hot at all during charging, and I cannot wait to test whether it can indeed sustain respectable charging speeds (and to which extent) while doing heavy usage or gaming.
So far the OnePlus 3 shows that the company listened to many of the complaints people had with the OnePlus 2, and effectively upgraded many of its weaker points. For example, the OnePlus 3 brings NFC to the table (thankfully!), and manages to take the OnePlus 2’s 3-hour-charging to the top of the game with Dash Charging. Something I appreciate a lot about this release, however, is how much more reserved it was. While the OnePlus 2 had a “#HYPE” train that could not quite get to the station, OnePlus handled this launch much more effectively and, dare I say, humbly. The OnePlus 2 was no flagship killer, and certainly no 2016 flagship killer. But the OnePlus 3 actually has a shot at the title. I will refrain from making the call for myself until I am done with XDA’s in-depth review… but so far, this feels like possible successor to the OnePlus One’s legacy.