OnePlus One vs Galaxy Note 3 first look

April 23, 2014
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OnePlus just launched its first device and, we have to say, it’s a very impressive debut. Packing high-end specifications, an attractive design, and the power of CyanogenMod out of the box, the OnePlus One is a great phone, even without mentioning its starting price point of just $299.

But the OnePlus has one “drawback” that could turn off many customers – its large footprint. The 5.5-inch display puts the OnePlus One on a collision with Samsung’s mighty Galaxy Note 3. So, if you favor large phones, which one is better for you?

We try to answer this question in our OnePlus One vs Galaxy Note 3 first look.

Design and build quality

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The appearances of our two contenders are starkly different, with one side favoring minimalism and the other embellishments and texture richness.

Starting with the OnePlus One, we see the general features of the cousin device Oppo Find 7, with the two phones seemingly sharing the same chassis and general dimensions. But there are a couple of features about the One that set it apart, including the chrome plate around the camera and flash assembly, the monolithic black of the front screen, and the distinctive logos of OnePlus and Cyanogen on the back.

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The unadorned front of the screen features capacitive keys, but, in an interesting twist, you can turn them off in favor of an on-screen navigation bar, making them disappear in the phone’s bottom bezel. With speaker grills on the bottom and a classic power and volume rocker setup, the OnePlus One looks and feels premium, without innovating in terms of functionality.

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The flashier Note 3 combines Samsung’s tried and true design language with the now well-known faux leather texture of its back cover. Samsung wanted to evoke the feeling of a nice leather-bound notebook, the sort of object an executive would use in the boardroom to take notes. Speaking of, the phone’s S Pen stylus is probably its most distinctive and, arguably, most useful feature. Samsung stuck with the physical button on the front of the device, which may or may not please you. The device feels premium too, though some users might find themselves tired of an appearance that has not changed in its essence for a few years.

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Size is important for this type of devices, but there’s no big difference in this department between the Galaxy Note 3 and the OnePlus One. The One is a bit lighter (6 grams) and a bit narrower (0.6mm), but we’re not sure you will be able to tell the difference. Both devices feel great in hand, but don’t expect easy one-hand usage from either one.

Display

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We have a battle of the best in their classes here. The Note 3 features a superb Full HD AMOLED display of 5.7-inch that’s only matched in terms of color vibrancy, contrast levels and, brightness by the newer Galaxy S5. You get a no compromise display here, even if pixel density is a bit smaller than on some other high-end Android devices, at 386 ppi. Even the color accuracy, long an issue with AMOLED panels, is now improved, especially in Cinema Mode, which is very close to the standards in this respect.

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Representing the LCD camp, the 5.5-inch Full HD display of the OnePlus One holds the flag up without any faltering. The display is made by Japan Display Inc using a Touch On Lens technology manufactured using the Low Temperature Polysilicon process. In plain English, that means you can expect great brightness, clarity, and color vibrancy, and, as a bonus, better resistance to mechanical shocks. At least that’s what OnePlus One’s marketing’s team claims, and we definitely wouldn’t go knocking the OnePlus One around.

This is probably a tie – both phones come with top-notch displays and any preference of one over the other may be subjective.

Performance and hardware

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The OnePlus One may have a nominal advantage in the slightly better Snapdragon 801 processor inside, but the differences between it and the Snapdragon 800 in the Note 3 have no truly discernible effect in real life usage. Both phones come with 3GB of RAM, which should be more than enough for day to day tasks involving multitasking and gaming.

At a quick flick through the user interface, we spotted no true lag on either device. With that said, the OnePlus One’s CyanogenMod implementation is clearly more agile, and the absence of flashy animations accentuates this perception.

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In terms of bells and whistles, you get about the same endowment on both phones, with the notable exception of the SD card slot. The OnePlus One lacks one, even if does feature a removable back plate – that’s only for cosmetic purposes, unfortunately. With the base version featuring 16GB of storage, we therefore recommend shelling an extra $50 for the 64GB model, though that only comes in black.

Finally, the batteries of the OnePlus One and Note 3 are about the same capacity. The Note 3 is among the best Android smartphones in respect of longevity, and we expect the OnePlus One to give Samsung’s phone a run for its money, at the very least.

Camera

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If you were impressed with the camera on the Oppo Find 7, you will be impressed with the OnePlus One, with the only big difference being the camera app, now supplied by CyanogenMod. You get a Sony Exmor RS sensor of 13MP, coupled with a 6-part optic system that should remove most distortion. The dual-tone LED on the back should come in handy when taking portraits, as it’s better at illuminating human skin in a natural way, compared with single-LED flashes.

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The Note 3 holds its own, even if it’s a bit behind in the camera arms race. You also get a 13MP camera with an excellent f/2.0 aperture (just like on the OnePlus One), and, from our experience, the resulting image quality is great in most situations.

The OnePlus takes a lead in the front camera race, with its generous 5MP sensor and 80 degree viewing angle, perfect for group selfies or video chat sessions.

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While the camera app on the OnePlus One is not by any means lacking in features, the Note 3 is probably better equipped in this area, at least when it comes to the sheer amount of features and options you can fiddle with.

Software

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The OnePlus One is special because – among other things –  it’s the first phone co-developed with Cyanogen Inc, makers of the popular custom ROM for Android. Based on Android 4.4 KitKat, the OS on the One is actually called CyanogenMod 11S, with the “S” serving to indicate the customizations and special features present on the phone compared to the regular CM version.

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In terms of appearance, the OnePlus is the stock-like beast we all know, but the OnePlus One gives you the option to change the interface radically from the Themes settings area. You can easily change icons, fonts, general UI appearance, and wallpapers, and you can browse and download additional ones from the built-in store.

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Feature-wise, the OnePlus One stands out through its emphasis on security and privacy, with CyanogenMod’s Privacy Guard and secure messaging service front and center. OnePlus’ contributions are the voice commands, that let you wake up the phone without touching it, and the gestures shortcuts, that let you quickly launch your favorite apps by scribbling a gesture on the screen, even when the phone is sleeping.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 jet black aa 47

Samsung strikes back with its TouchWiz overlay and feature set, that we won’t dwell upon too much, as they are almost universally known. Highlight features of this eye-candy heavy OS include the multiwindow multitasking mode, as well as the collection of productivity features enabled by the S Pen. It is the S Pen that sets the Note series apart from any other phone in its size class, and if writing on the screen and manipulating the interface with a stylus is important for you, there isn’t any better option than the Note 3.

Specs Comparison

 
OnePlus One
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Display5.5-inch LTPS IPS with TOL display, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 401 ppi. 5.7-inch Super AMOLED, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 386 ppi
Processor2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330
2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800
Adreno 330
RAM3 GB3 GB
Storage16/64 GB, no expansion16/32/64 GB, expandable
Camera13 MP rear LED flash, Sony Exmor RS sensor, 6p lens, f 2.0, 4K, HDR
5MP front, f 2.0, 80 degrees field of view
13 MP rear camera, LED flash
2 MP front
Battery3,100 mAh3,200 mAh
ConnectivityGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFCGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 3.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
NetworksGSM/WCDMA/FDD-LTE/TD-LTEGSM/WCDMA/FDD-LTE/TD-LTE
SoftwareCyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4 KitkatAndroid 4.3 Jelly Bean
Dimensions152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
162 grams
151.2 x 79.2 x 8.3 mm
168 grams

Gallery

Pricing and conclusions at a glance

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There you have it – two of the most impressive smartphones of the moment battling out for your favor. The winner might actually be decided by its price, rather than feature set, and this is where the OnePlus One truly impresses. Available for $299 for the white 16GB model and $349 for the black 64GB model, the OnePlus One is cheap enough to offset any shortcomings it may have.

The problem is not all of you reading this post will be able to buy the OnePlus One, as it will only be available in some markets and through an invite system. At least in the period right after the launch, we expect it to be rather hard to come by.

The Note 3, while more expensive, could well justify its price tag if you look for a strong productivity device or you favor Samsung’s features and design. And, given its worldwide availability, you’ll certainly be able to buy it, unlocked or on contract.

Which phone do you prefer?

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Comments

  • Igor Antolović

    New smartphone is prove that top models don’t need to be too expensive

  • Fauzan Adhi Rachman

    A bit laggy i see on touch home button

  • Beci

    But the problem is that the oneplus one is 1 year later in the market.
    And now we are all waiting for an prototyp note 4 (with new design , 64 bit procesor, 4 gb Ram )
    In my opinion 2014 trend smarphones will be of course note 4 with iphon 6 or iphone phalbet

    • roger w

      The note 3 launched October 17. Hardly a year. Try 6 months. While the newer device should always be spec’d better the pricing offset is the game changer for me. $299 on contract or no contract with CM is a no brainer.

  • tehdef

    Lol, can somebody tell me why we are comparing the One Plus One to a Galaxy Note? Do you compare a Nexus 5 to a Galaxy Note? You compare it to the Galaxy S line, as you should with the One Plus. Bad review. HEY GUISE LOOK AT THIS PHONE THAT IS MEANT TO BE A PHABLET BY INCLUSION OF A HUGE PEN VERSUS THIS OTHER PHONE THAT ISNT. How are people paid for this junk journalism?

    • Chris

      Don’t get so butt hurt

      http://www.androidauthority.com/oneplus-one-vs-gs5-371686/

      And this phone is closer in size to the Note 3 than S5 anyway

      • tehdef

        Who cares about size? It’s the feature set of the phone. The specs and features of the device more closely match that of the HTC M8 and Galaxy S 5. I’m all for good reviews, but this is simply a comparison between a big phablet with a pen, and a ton of functionality to be a business palm, versus a Smartphone that adheres to more Nexus like philosophies. It’s just simply a bad comparison, and there is no way around that. Size =! Good Comparison.

        • Chris

          Why not compare tho? They obviously did both. I was glad to see this comparison. I have a Note 2 and am starting to think about upgrading. I was excited for this, Note 4, and LG G 3. This gave me a good idea of Oneplus vs something like that note.

    • Michael Samsara

      I disagree – totally – with you. Comparing the two is perfectly logical since the One Plus One is obviously by design intended to go after the same market as the Note 3 – the “poor man’s version” if you will. As always, Joshua’s analysis is thorough; gives the pluses and minuses of the various units under his microscope and then, after supplying us with all of the above, sums up in a way that lets us use our heads – and the information he supplies – as we see fit, which I did if you look at my comment below.

  • Mike Bastable

    As more and more android OEMs emerge with reasonably priced equally specced handsets the big established names will see their android profits dwindle away to nothing. Apple will continue to mint its dollars at record pace…all this underlines how SMART Samsung is to take all the time needed to develop TIZEN and wait until the time is right to launch high end handset that will be able to differentiate themselves from the standard Android ecosystem phones…and most importantly be profitable at competitive prices.
    2014 is when it all changes for Android. New high end handsets at under $300 are going to impact every one’s market share. THIS is why Google is focusing on tighter Android branding and why the S5 was not the revolutionary handset some expected (Samsung is saving its new design for the TIZENs on our way). It will be interesting to see how this all pans out, but today (like the day iPhone launched) changes everything (for Android)
    Before anyone trolls me for being an apple fan, i use a lg g2 (best phone ever) and a Nexus7…also some mac stuff but i am moving away from Apple as i replace products.

    • Michael Samsara

      Perhaps Samsung is saving “the good stuff” that is waiting in the wings re its Galaxy line for after the debut of the next iteration of the iPhone? This to me makes more sense than them hoping that a new operating system that would require the complete demolition derby of introduction, building customer confidence and marketing would entail. Besides, every new Galaxy doesn’t need to be a major departure from the past with “move the earth under your feet” changes – look at how the iPhone – throughout its entire existence has managed to be “exactly the same but different”. (Reference stolen from the Cheech and Chong movie Up in Smoke.)

      Then, once Apple reveals whatever “revolutionary” “advances” that their new issue contains – like a revolutionary bigger than their current mini-micro screen – and Samsung sees the target they must hit to make it seem more blasĂ© than revolutionary – put their people to work and say, “Ok, now you know what they did and didn’t do – make them look badder than bad (even to people wearing the …”supplied with each unit Apple blinders”) – beat every single spec they have by at least half but, preferably one and a half.

      I would always prefer to know before hand what the competition’s best shot is – then – like the fixed fortifications of the French that Hitler simply went around – it is too late for them to change, but not for you to adapt and prevail.

      I, personally, am waiting for the Note 4. Price is important to me but going with an untried unit – in the real world – that has no micro SD card, no stylus, no major corporation standing behind it should I need help getting it serviced does not for myself at least make up for the attendant problems that buying the one plus one could entail. Perhaps though I care more about living my life without the unpleasant surprises a new and totally untried company and operating system might bode. Remember, Mr. Murphy? He’s the guy that strikes – and throws a wrench into your plans – “At exactly the most critical, most inconvenient moment that could possibly be and then laughs at you for thinking you smarter than he.” LOL

      Sounds like the people at Oppo are trying hard and being very creative as respects their marketing and their efforts to produce a quality product. We will just have to see what tale time tells.

      • Mike Bastable

        Good maginot and C&C references there dude!, smart. But i really do believe that these new phones are gonna effect eveyones bottom line profitability. As a result there will be little to be earned from Android, THIs was always a danger using someone elses OS. Samsung is better placed than anyone to introduce its own OS (with limited toe in the water industry support)…they can then focus ALL marketing on a Tizen (hardly mentioned)GALAXY phone with a sweet new design and lower than expected price, able to run Android apps and really make an impact!, without people even knowing they have a new OS! Only we AA reader nerds know much about Android really, standard consumers are not that aware.
        I think we will look back at this OnePlus product launch as the day real profits were eviscerated from the Android ecosytem and the majors OEMs started to move on. I am not slavishly addicted to Android but i am addicted to new better handsets. We will hopefully see these emerge this year. As a previous owner of a real premium build BADA handset, i hope Samsung makes a go of TIZEN and surprises us all.

        • Michael Samsara

          Thank you Mike. We do our humble best to make our writing interesting and stand out from the rest! Sms

          You are correct in thinking that few people are as aware as we, who for God only knows what reason love to read about this phone or that; care about the RAM or ROM, etc. Most though if queried might know they have Android as opposed to Apple but as to the relative advantages or disadvantages of same have not only no real clue – but don’t care. (If you ever happen to be in a position selling cell phones you will see first hand – not that you don’t already know – the irrefutably of that statement.)

          Given that, your assessment that Samsung simply by virtue of its credibility and ubiquity in the market could literally start selling say “The New and Improved, Totally Revolutionary (whoops Apple has a patent on that word) Galaxy S-X-TRA with Tizen” and maybe get away with it – as long as it did what everyone else’s devices did, is actually – now that I think about it – thanks to you! – quite plausible.

          How it all shakes out in the end will be determined by which companies have the best, most prescient leaders at their helms.

          • Michael Samsara

            One last Post Scriptus (I made the mistake of taking Latin in school and by God I intend to get some use out of it! Lol)

            Re leaders. In our politically correct – head in the sand – world we live in today it is not considered polite to ascribe the success (or failure) of an organization to its leader. The supposedly egalitarian (Ivory towered, heads-in-the-clouds) take is that it is we are a kinder and gentler type of organization, society and the old fashioned idea that one man – alone – (Don’t worry, I am not going to break into song and give you my rendition of The Impossible Dream from Don Quixote.) -can and literally in almost all cases DOES make the difference is quaint.

            Just ask the Germans, who went up against General George S. Patton in WW II, how much difference one man, who isn’t conflicted by a metro-sexual, Upper West Side Limousine Liberal lady’s ideal of emasculated manhood, can make.

          • Mike Bastable

            First..a genuine lol for the Latin!
            Second: totally agree, the fact that we miss Mr Gates and Mr Jobs savy acumen supports your thoughts.

    • T.J.

      I doubt it will even make a dent in Samsung’s sales. There is almost no marketing for this phone or even the company. If the general public doesn’t know about it, it won’t be very successful. It is a beautiful phone though and I would consider getting it as my next phone if it weren’t for the size.

      • Mike Bastable

        Again this is the beginning of the change, one phone, one launch is not defining …how we the public react and what a how we buy in the future WILL.

        • T.J.

          The Nexus 5 had the same low price point and so did the Nexus 4 before it. It’s not going to happen anytime soon. Until the carrier subsidized phone program stops, everything will stay the same.

          • Mike Bastable

            T.J some nice thoughts but I would point out that the Nexus programme is controlled and developed by Google. The rapid rise of one+ (running cyanogen) and the soon to emerge Amazon phone running their version of android will threaten the current market share of the major android players. Things are really beginning to change and the carrier subsidies are going to go away sooner rather than later… We are setting this happen in Europe, probably the most mature of all markets for mobile tech.

          • T.J.

            I really hope it does happen soon, the price inflation is getting old. I would love to get behind a reputable developer like Cyanogen. Unfortunately the GSM carriers around here (southeast Nebraska) don’t have the best coverage. I would also like a sub 5″ screen.

  • TechGuy

    No mention of whether it is easily rootable (or even pre-rooted). Will be very interested in camera comparisons especially in low light. the Note 3 really falls down in low light whereas it is fantastic in bright sunlight. My biggest disappointment is the lack of additional storage as I carry tons of media on a 128Gb MicroSD with me and the lack of a non-removeable battery. Will be waiting to see how it performs in teh real world before I decide whether to replace my Note 3 with a Note 4 (despite my hate of Knox, regional locks and bloatware) or go for the OnePlus or an Oppo. Plenty of time and I suspect some more contenders will appear. Samsung and HTC need to look out for these new guys on the block!

    • mobilemann

      need to get me a 128gb sd card…

      • TechGuy

        Think they will be available again in mid-May – initial stocks all gone.

  • Tom Constantineau

    So big!

    • George MeBoy

      That’s what she said.

  • Jonathan TAM

    Can you do a comparison on the Oneplus one and the nexus 5? thanks.

  • AndrĂ©s

    My Note 3 is equiped with NFC and also runs Android 4.42 kitkat. I think the others specs are accurate.

  • Báşżp Ä‘iện khuyáşżn mại

    http://bepdientuduc.vn/bep-dien
    the OnePlus One is cheap enough to offset any shortcomings it may have.

  • Anon

    Definitely prefer the One Plus One. For a while I could only dream of having that Galaxy Note 3. But the price was just too high. After finding out about the One Plus One, I fell in love with it. Not only are the specs just as great or even greater, it is a lot cheaper. And also, I’ve long since grown bored of that “Galaxy” look.

  • Tommy

    With the performance aspect, the above average camera quality, and Cyanogen in its corner, the price you pay for such a powerful package seems way too good to be true. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.

    http://9cases.com/2014/06/best-and-cheap-oneplus-one-cases-2014/

  • Jacob Bourgeault

    I have the Galaxy Note 3. I was shifting towards the one plus one until I found out the only way to get it is through an invite system. Therefore the Note 3 still takes home the prize in my humble opinion.