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.
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.
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. 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 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 fingerprint scanner, NFC and connectivity.
The fingerprint scanner is still a key feature and sits below the screen as usual. The fingerprint is extremely fast and accurate when scanning (under 0.3 seconds according to OnePlus) and can be used to unlock the phone from sleep and mobile payments including Android Pay.
We've got good news as OnePlus has listened to its fans and put NFC back into the OnePlus 3 – this can be used for a variety of tasks including Android Beam sharing, quickly pairing with Bluetooth devices which also feature NFC and mobile payments.
Remaining connectivity is about what you'd expect from a high-end smartphone with 4G LTE (Cat 6), 11ac Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth 4.2. Although there's no expandable storage, the OnePlus 3 feature a dual-SIM setup featuring two Nano-SIM slots.
OnePlus 3 battery life
The OnePlus 3 has a slightly smaller battery than its predecessor at 3000mAh (down from 3300mAh) but that's still a reasonable size. If you're thinking that you'd rather have a fatter and heavier phone with a larger battery then OnePlus' answer is fast charging. As usual, the battery is non-removable. Also see: OnePlus Power Bank review.
The rear camera is also capable of recording video in up to 4K, but while there’s OIS for photos, this doesn’t appear to be used for video, which relies on EIS. It’s reasonably effective if you stand still, but start walking or moving the phone around and you’ll soon find its limitations, with slightly jerky movement and odd sparkling effects in skies.
4K video quality is very good, though: sharp and packed with detail. What’s unimpressive is the soundtrack. Voices sound distant and muffled, as though underwater – this could well be a failure of the noise cancellation of the dual microphones. Hopefully it’s fixable in a software update.
Extra modes include a great panorama function which deals well with changes in brightness across a scene, and a slo-mo mode which records at 720p.
At the front is an 8Mp camera with 1.4um pixels. It can record 1080p video at 30fps. Selfies are sharper than we expected, and the field of view is easily sufficient for two people at arm’s length. A Smile Capture option saves you stretching for the shutter button.
As you'd expect, the OnePlus 3 comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the box. OnePlus provides its OxygenOS 3.1 which is a very close to stock Android with a few different features and ways to customise the interface.
Update: OnePlus is rolling out OxygenOS 3.2.0 to OnePlus 3 owners. The software update brings bug fixes and improvements such as sRGB mode in developer options, RAM management, enhanced audio playback and camera quality/functionality. Find our more here.
For starters, it's nice to see OnePlus hasn't gone down the route of some rivals by keeping the app draw/menu. Open it up and you'll notice that there is next to no bloatware installed on the phone. You get the usual suite of Google apps plus the odd duplicate from OnePlus such as Gallery, Music and Files. Control over apps is very good as OxygenOS allows you to set permissions for individual apps as well as control notifications, too.
Not a great deal has changed with OxygenOS for the OnePlus 3 – a key new software feature is the latest camera app as detailed above - but that's not exactly a bad thing. It offers a slick and easy use interface with a great deal of customisation. OnePlus said it has polished it to ensure animations and transitions are as smooth as possible.
Gestures are still available to switch on in the settings to do things like wake the phone with a double tap, open the camera by drawing an 'O' and toggle the flashlight with a 'V'. You can also draw different shapes to control music playback.
We like existing features such as the dark mode, an accent colour for the themes, customisable LED notifications and the Shelf which is a swipe away from the home screen. Shelf allows you to get quick access to things like apps, contacts and information; you can also add widgets like you would on the homescreen. If you like, you can switch Shelf off completely if you want.
Either side of the fingerprint scanner are two capacitive buttons, similar to the Galaxy S7 but you can choose which one is use for back and recent apps which is a real boon. In addition you can choose for shortcuts for long presses. Furthermore, you can use onscreen buttons if you really want.
There's more as you can rearrange the quick settings, customise the Google search bar or remove it and make use of the proximity sensor to activate the screen when you wave in front of the camera. The latter is turned off by default – presumably to save battery – switch it on in Settings > Display > Ambient Display.
You can also customise the size of icons, the grid in the app draw and switch features like quick search (swipe up) and quick notifications (swipe down once instead of twice).
As previously OxygenOS comes with the SwiftKey keyboard which is widely regarded as one of the best available for Android. The MaxxAudio app is no longer present but the OnePlus 3 does support 24bit/96kHz audio playback.