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Technology: The OnePlus 3 in the test

High-end quality at a low price - that's what the Chinese start-up OnePlus promises. The third smartphone from the manufacturer keeps the word of honor.

The Chinese startup OnePlus has grown up, it seems. Gone are the days when prospective buyers had to search the net for "invites" in order to hold one of the coveted cheap flagships in their hands after a long delivery time. The company, which was founded in 2013 and is largely owned by the established manufacturer OPPO, has now got the production chain under control well enough to be able to react flexibly to demand instead of processing the orders bit by bit. Their headquarters in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are extremely helpful in this regard. Systems, expertise and manpower are concentrated here in the smallest of spaces - it is the world's workbench.

New quality

The OnePlus has already matured a lot from the outside. In the predecessor, only the frame was made of metal, this time the entire housing shell is milled from aluminum. With the flat, curved shape and the plastic antenna strips embedded in the back, it is reminiscent of the HTC One M7 from 2013 or its successors. The metal surface is matted and gives very little adhesion. OnePlus offers (probably also for this reason) a selection of cases that can be clipped onto the back and also protect the sides. In addition to various woods and carbon, there is again the "sandstone" variant, which is known from its predecessor.

Despite the large amount of metal, the OnePlus 3 is lighter than its predecessor

A pleasant side effect of the cases: The thick camera lift disappears inside, the device lies flat. Despite the large amount of metal, the OnePlus 3 is almost 20 grams lighter than the second generation. The screen is the same size (5.5 inches) and still has a full HD resolution. For the panel technology, OnePlus is now using AMOLED for the first time. As with many other manufacturers, the screens are supplied by Samsung. The term "Optic AMOLED" used by the manufacturer should only be used for marketing purposes - apart from a few changes in contrast and color temperature, it is Super AMOLED.

Bright and colorful

In our measurements, the panel turned out to be above average with a maximum of 532 cd / m². The brightness is distributed somewhat unevenly (almost 20% lower in the lower third of the screen than at the top), but it is not noticeable to the naked eye. The good black values ​​and the strong colors, the temperature of which can be changed in the settings, are definitely noticeable. There was some criticism of the color calibration that OnePlus uses - another point that the (unsuspecting) unobstructed eye hardly notices. In a recent update, the manufacturer added a slider to the developer options, with which the color space can be restricted to the usual sRGB.

Fingerprint sensor: Hui!

Another highlight of the cheap flagship sits directly under the screen: the fingerprint sensor in the capacitive home button. This is not only significantly more reliable and faster than its predecessor, it also leaves the competition far behind in terms of speed. A comparison with Samsung's Galaxy S7, the Nexus 5X and the iPhone 6S leaves no doubt: it is currently the best fingerprint sensor on the market.

A new addition to the equipment list is an NFC module with which OnePlus corrects a gross omission in the predecessor, which had to do without NFC. Otherwise everything is on board that you would expect from a high-end device: Bluetooth 4.2, fast WiFi ac and LTE Cat. 6. The latter creates 300 MB Down and 50 MB Up, if the mobile phone contract allows it. The LTE band 20 (800 MHz), which is urgently needed in many areas, is also supported, which is not always the case with imports from China. Like its two predecessors, the OnePlus 3 offers space for two SIM cards; the use of the cards can be set separately for data, telephony and SMS.

Memory: "Only" 64 GB

In contrast to the first two generations, the OnePlus 3 is only available in a single memory variant: 64 GB. The entry-level version with 16 GB has therefore been omitted. OnePlus has never had storage expansion via microSD - but most buyers should be satisfied with 64 GB anyway. In addition, thanks to UFS 2 technology, the onboard storage is significantly faster than an expansion card.

performance

Like most of the smartphones in the current flagship lineup, the OnePlus 3 is based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 system chip with two computing cores at 2.15 GHz and two at 1.6 GHz. The new CPU is a big step forward compared to its predecessor, in which the unfortunate Snapdragon 810 was installed. It had eight cores, but it overheated so quickly that OnePlus was forced to simply switch off the four more powerful ones in some situations. This greatly reduced the performance when surfing the web, for example. There is no trace of it in the new generation: Applications load extremely quickly, switching between apps is often almost instantaneous and performance remains stable for a long time even under load. The device achieves a new record in the GFXBench graphics benchmark.
In addition to the processor and the fast device memory, the 6 GB of RAM also contribute to the high performance reserves. An initial bug in the RAM management (to save battery, apps in the background were thrown out of the memory too quickly) has now been fixed with an update.

camera

The weak camera was one of the strongest points of criticism of the "flagship killer" of the second generation - the autofocus had problems in poor light, the image processing calculated details flat, the photos often turned out to be muddy. OnePlus has thoroughly revised the camera for the new edition. The resolution increases from 13 to 16 MP, instead of a sensor from OmniVision, the Sony IMX 298 is now installed, which e.g. also works in the Xiaomi Mi 5 or Huawei Mate 8. Although the sensor area is smaller than that of the predecessor, nocturnal recordings are much less noisy, and photos taken in daylight show considerably more detail and sharpness. In comparison with the current top camera - that of Samsung's Galaxy S7 - there is still room for improvement: even greater light intensity, even more sharpness. It is still enough for 5 points in the camera rating. A short route with test photos can be found at bit.ly/op3fotos.

"Dash Charge"

The OnePlus 3's battery has shrunk by around 10% compared to its predecessor. Strangely enough, the runtimes have nevertheless increased very significantly. Especially when it comes to video streaming and 3D games, the device is way ahead in our ranking - 80 to 90 percent of the devices tested ran less here. The exact terms can be found in the table on the right.
Once the battery is empty, it can be recharged very quickly with OnePlus ‘“ Dash Charge ”charging technology. It is a variant of OPPO's "VOOC Flash Charge", which pumps up to 4 amps at 5 volts into the battery. Our timekeeping (see illustration on p. 43) confirmed the 63% in 30 minutes that the manufacturer promises - currently no other smartphone charges as quickly. The catch: for fast charging you not only need the original charging adapter but also an original charging cable. With a normal USB-C charger (5 volts and a maximum of 3 amps), the OnePlus 3 only charges about half as fast and a charger with Qualcomm's Quick Charge does not bring any speed advantage.

Software: Android 6 Plus

Oneplus ‘software interface Oxygen OS is based in version 3.2.1 on Android 6.01 Marshmallow and contains some very useful extensions. Various actions can be carried out with gestures on the deactivated screen - an "O" drawn with a finger starts the camera, a "V" activates the flashlight.

OxyGen OS: Close to AndTechniroid Marshmallow, useful extensions

In addition, the "do not disturb" mode can be set a little more precisely than in the "bare" Android - to switch between the mute modes (all notifications - priority - mute) the device has a physical slider on the left side of the housing. And night owls will be happy about a feature that Google first planned and then discarded for both Android Marshmallow and the upcoming Android 7 “Nougat”: The “night mode” ensures warmer colors so that short-wave screen light does not disturb the sleep rhythm disturbs. It's just a shame that it cannot be activated according to the schedule.

Conclusion

The OnePlus 3 eliminates most of the weaknesses of the previous model and only has to admit defeat to the current frontrunner Samsung Galaxy S7: In terms of performance, it is both measured and felt on par or better. The fingerprint sensor unlocks much faster and the software is much leaner. The ample onboard memory and extras such as dual SIM and the lightning-fast charging process "Dash Charge" compensate for the missing microSD slot. The Chinese flagship killer only falls slightly behind the Primus in terms of camera and battery life - but both can still be rated very well. The 399 euros that OnePlus charges in direct sales are therefore a first-class bargain. One can only hope that the Chinese will do their homework with the software updates: Owners of the previous model had to wait a full 8 months for the then latest Android version (Marshmallow).