OnePlus 3 full review

The OnePlus 3 is another top-notch smartphone from the Chinese breakthrough. With a new metal design, upgraded specs and the latest software it does a fantastic job of taking on the big name flagship phones like the Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S and LG G5. Here's our full and in-depth OnePlus 3 review. Also see: Best smartphones 2016.

This phone has now been discontinued and replaced by the OnePlus 3T - although O2 still has stock on contract (see below). The good news if you already have a OnePlus 3 is that you can get the update to Android 7 Nougat in beta form. 

It's called the Open Beta 8 and brings features to OxygenOS such as the Nougat design for notifications, setting and Multi-Window. Being a beta, you can expect bugs, and there are known issues such as Android Pay won't work. Read more and download the update via the OnePlus blog.

Also see: Best Phone Deals

Now in its third-generation, the OnePlus 3 is the best phone from the popular Chinese firm aiming to take on the big name flagships of 2016. This year's model is a stunner featuring a metal design which is thinner and lighter than before. It also has lots of upgraded specs including 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage as standard and a 16Mp Sony camera. Then there's the price which is around £200 cheaper than rivals.

Update 2 February 2017: OnePlus has been caught cheating popular benchmarks such as Geekbench and GFXBench with its OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T. XDA-Developers accuses OnePlus of having configured the processor to automatically switch into overdrive mode when a popular benchmark is detected (you can read the full story here). OnePlus has confirmed the practice and apologised, stating that "In order to give users a better user experience in resource intensive apps and games, especially graphically intensive ones, we implemented certain mechanisms in the community and Nougat builds to trigger the processor to run more aggressively. The trigger process for benchmarking apps will not be present in upcoming OxygenOS builds on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T."

For now you can see our benchmark results below as accurate as they were run on OxygenOS before the changes were implemented. Also note that with the flagship-level hardware onboard both phones should be decent performers, and behaved as such during real-world testing.

OnePlus 3 review: Price, availability and rivals

O2 has confirmed it will exclusively stock the OnePlus 3, the first UK operator to do so. It'll be available on O2's Refresh tariff that allows customers to upgrade early from another handset. O2 will offer the OnePlus 3 on data tariffs ranging from 500MB to 20GB, so there's something for all budgets. 

If you're interested in upgrading, visit this link from 29 September.

As previously reported due to shortages, the phone will still be available in the UK, but customers elsewhere may soon find themselves having trouble purchasing the OnePlus 3. Following higher than anticipated demand, OnePlus has taken the difficult decision to pause sales of the smartphone between 9 August and 12 September 2016. Affected countries include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Hong Kong. More details here.

OnePlus has confirmed that the price of the OnePlus 3 is going up following Brexit and the falling value of the pound. Following a warning, OnePlus said "Given the effects of the unstable markets on our extremely thin margins, we’re reluctantly going to have make some small changes to our pricing structure for the device."

There's still time to buy the OnePlus 3 at the original price but it will be hiked up to £329 on 11 July. Accessories will remain the same price, more info here.

You can also go check out the OnePlus 3 in the flesh via the Euro Tour which starts on 15 July in Manchester. The bus will tour 13 European cities and although you can't buy the phone from it, you'll be able to "engage in some fun activities, win some exclusive swag, and hang out with OnePlus staffers." Find out more about the OnePlus 3 Euro Tour here which will include the soft gold colour.

It seems that OnePlus is hitting its stride in the smartphone market as the OnePlus 3 is available straight away and not only do you not have to wait for a release date, you also don't need an invite to buy it. Those days are over and good riddance to them as it was harder to full recommend a phone which was difficult to buy.

The OnePlus 3 price is a very mid-range £309 ($399) and this will get you the lone 64GB model – there's no choosing here this time around.

Although that price is a little more than the OnePlus 2 at launch (£289) it's a small increase considering the upgrade (read on to find out) and even more so when you consider that you'll save around £200 or more compared with flagship devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 6S, HTC 10 and LG G5. Also bear in mind that you get a lot more storage for this price, double that of most rivals.

OnePlus 3 price

Once again, OnePlus is killing it on value for money with only really Google's Nexus devices and the Huawei P9 able to compete. That said, the Nexus 6P and Huawei P9 are still a lot more at £449 and while the Nexus 5X is marginally cheaper at £299, it has a plastic chassis.

One phone which can compete on value is the Xiaomi Mi 5 which can be yours for just £230 at the time of writing from Gearbest but you'll need to pay import duty of around £40.

OnePlus 3 review: Design and build

While we've been big fans of previous OnePlus phones, we've been a little put off by how bulky they have been (bar the smaller OnePlus X). Well the firm has addressed this with the OnePlus 3 which is a much more slender 7.35mm and a more manageable 158g.

More obvious is the switch to a metal uni-body chassis which is machined from a single block of aluminium. It looks and feels extremely premium and the resemblance to a few other metal phones – Apple, HTC and Huawei spring to mind – is unavoidable really.

What we really like is the attention to detail here where it's clear that OnePlus has been thorough, leaving no stone unturned as it were. We particularly like the angles which not only look good but make the phone very comfortable to hold. Then check out those chamfered edges which adorn the USB port and even the speaker holes.

OnePlus 3 metal design

The 2.5D Gorilla Glass 4 front meets the metal chassis in a smooth and luxuriously flush way and the Alert Slider on the left side even has a solid and satisfying motion with its grippy textured surface. It's this attention to detail which is missing from flagships like the LG G5.

If for some reason you don't like the metal look or you want to protect it from scratches, OnePlus is offering the usual range of cases which are extremely thin so don't add much weight. You can get (from left to right) Rosewood, Black Apricot, Bamboo, Karbon and the classic Sandstone – they all cost £19.99 each.

OnePlus 3 cases

To begin with, the OnePlus 3 is only available in Graphite silver but there will be a Soft Gold option soon. We've now taken a look at one and it's rather nice - a very subtle colour as the name suggests, although it's worth noting that the front is white instead of black and the fingerprint scanner has a gold trim around it.

OnePlus 3 soft gold

We're really impressed with the OnePlus 3 in terms of design and build; it's easily the firm's best work yet. It will be a little bit big for some people despite 5.5in being the 'sweet spot' for OnePlus. It's a very tall phone but the tiny bezels on either side of the screen help things. We're hoping that a smaller version will come in the future but we'll have to wait and see – perhaps a OnePlus 3 mini or new OnePlus X.

The only thing missing from the design compared to some rivals is waterproofing. For some this will be a big deal and for others it won't matter at all. Nevertheless, it's not a feature of the OnePlus 3 so you'll need to look to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Sony Xperia Z5 for this.

OnePlus 3 review: Hardware, specs and performance

As usual, there's a lot to talk about when it comes to the OnePlus 3 specifications with some rumours being spot on and others being way off the mark. We'll go through all the different elements of the hardware in manageable sections so you can read about what most important to you.

OnePlus 3 screen

OnePlus has stuck with both a 5.5in screen size and a Full HD resolution for the new phone. It feels that this is the sweet spot on both fronts as the firm tells us it believes you can't see the difference compared to Quad HD. The resolution also helps with things like performance and battery life.

What is new is a change to Optic AMOLED technology, which is OnePlus' take on SuperAMOLED. This looks better thanks to more vibrant colours and better contrast and also is what enables the phone to have those tiny bezels.

OnePlus 3 screen

Although we'd argue that you can see the difference between Full HD and Quad HD, the OnePlus 3's screen is still excellent quality. We can particularly understand the choice from a performance point of view as the GPU has less work to do rendering the interface so it feels slicker in use.

Our only real complaint on the display side of things is that even at full brightness we occasionally found it hard to read outside in bright sunlight. This is despite a dual-polarising layer which is supposed to make this easy.

OnePlus 3 processor, RAM and benchmarks

It's fairly predictable that the OnePlus 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, considering the OnePlus 2 uses the 810. This means it joins the 820 club frequented by the HTC 10 and LG G5. The quad-core chip comes with the Adreno 530 GPU and is clocked slightly higher than other phones at 2.2GHz – the other two cores are 1.6GHz.

Not only is the phone clocked higher than rivals, the slightly outrageous sounding rumours surrounding the memory are true. The OnePlus 3 comes with a slightly insane 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM. That's a full 2GB, or 50 percent, more than any other phone we've seen.

In both benchmark results and real life, the OnePlus 3 offers outstandingly slick performance – especially the latter. The firm has done a great job of making the interface feel extremely responsive and fast. The phone does everything you throw at it without hesitation. Check out the OnePlus 3 benchmark results below compared to its predecessor and rivals in Geekbench 3, GFXBench and JetStream - higher scores are better.

OnePlus 3 storage

Although there were totally understandable rumours of different OnePlus 3 models, the firm has gone for just one capacity this time around. You won't need to spend time deliberating as it's a OnePlus 3 with 64GB of internal storage or nothing at all.

That's an impressive amount considering the price where rivals tend to starts at 32GB or even 16GB. The only down side here is that there's still no Micro-SD card slot for expanding storage which may put off some users - 64GB will be enough for most, though.

OnePlus 3 storage