OnePlus 3 review: An Android smartphone that’s damn near perfect

It’s not just beautiful on the outside, but the inside, too. The OnePlus 3 sports OxygenOS, which is based on Android 6.0.1, and it’s about as close as you can get to vanilla Android. All of Marshmallow’s best features are available, including Now on Tap and Doze, the latter of which helps preserve battery during bouts of inactivity; the former is not quite as useful as we thought but it’s improving.

What makes OxygenOS such an enjoyable fork is its myriad extras, which have been carefully crafted to enhance the Android experience in a meaningful way. There is a “dark mode,” for example, and Google search bar customization. You can also easily change system icons and configure which information shows up in the status bar. You can even swap between hardware and software buttons by toggling a simple setting.

The control afforded by OnePlus is fantastic and never feels overwhelming or unnecessary. Don’t feel like tweaking anything? You’ll still have a great experience, one that’s sleek and satisfying. Not to mention there are gesture controls, an app management function, file manager, and more. The bloat is minimal—Shelf isn’t terribly useful—while retaining the best Android has to offer.

There has been a minor controversy regarding how the device manages RAM but I found it to be a non-issue. Basically, it was found that the OnePlus 3 limits how many apps can be open in the background, making multitasking a bit of a slog. However, OnePlus revealed it does this in an effort to save on battery, so there’s a positive trade-off. I prefer better battery over having a few dozen apps open in the background. As it is, I only bounce between three or four apps throughout the day.

Note: About a week after I ceased testing OnePlus released an update claiming to offer better RAM management and more accurate display calibration. I have not used the device since the update hit, so I cannot speak to whether it not it changed the experience.

One of those apps happens to be the camera, which is much improved over previous OnePlus models. It sports a 16-megapixel Sony sensor with an f/2.0 aperture lens, along with optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization. It also sports Phase Detection Auto-focus that, in normal parlance, means the device is capable of focusing quickly—OnePlus says in as little as 0.2 seconds.

The images produced by the OnePlus 3 are excellent—but that’s not unusual for smartphones today. Really, most high-end devices produce pictures that are good enough for sharing on social media, and the OnePlus 3 is no different. Auto-focus is fast, pictures are sharp, and the stock app is easy to use. If you want more control, there’s a manual mode and RAW image support for editing in post.

We did a more thorough analysis of the camera in the video above. During my time with the device, exposure and dynamic range were strong, while low light performance was decent. What I liked most about the images was how they didn’t exaggerate colors. Color is fairly flat, providing more flexibility in post. It’s a personal preference—many people prefer the saturated look of Galaxy S7 images—but I found the OnePlus 3’s camera to be very good.

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