Two Chinese companies. Two excellent mid-range phones. Which one should you buy?
The OnePlus 3 is one of the best phones you can currently buy for under ₹30,000. With well-rounded specs and a software experience that is similar to what you’d find on a Nexus device, the OnePlus 3 offers a lot for its asking price of ₹27,999 ($ 420).
Lenovo is the latest company to focus its attention on this segment with the Z2 Plus. Offering a 5.0-inch form factor and a blocky design, the Z2 Plus is looking to upstage the likes of OnePlus 3 by being the most affordable phone to feature the Snapdragon 820. With 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, the Z2 Plus costs just ₹19,999 ($ 300), a full ₹8,000 ($ 120) less than the retail price of the OnePlus 3.
The OnePlus 3 and Z2 Plus share a lot of similarities when it comes to the internal hardware, but from a design standpoint, they couldn’t be more different. The OnePlus 3 sports a gorgeous all-metal chassis with visible antenna lines at top and bottom and a slight camera bump. The OnePlus 3 nestles into your palm with ease thanks to a gently curving back, but the 5.5-inch form factor isn’t the most conducive for one-handed usage.
The 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED panel on the OnePlus 3 is one of the best in this segment, offering saturated colors and great viewing angles out of the box. It isn’t the brightest display out there, but you do get the option of adjusting the color temperature based on your preferences. And yes, sRGB mode is included. You also get ambient display, through which you can glance at incoming notifications without turning on the screen. The front of the phone houses the always-on fingerprint sensor, which is one of the fastest around.
|Category||OnePlus 3||Lenovo Z2 Plus|
|Operating System||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
|ZUI 2.0.111 based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow|
|Display||5.5-inch Full HD Optic AMOLED display
401ppi pixel density
Gorilla Glass 4
|5-inch 1080p (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD panel
441ppi pixel density
|SoC||14nm quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Adreno 530 GPU
|14nm quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Adreno 530 GPU
No microSD slot
No microSD slot
|Rear Camera||16MP (Sony IMX 298) with f/2.0 lens
4K video recording, slo-mo video (720p at 120fps)
|13MP ISOCELL with f/2.2 lens
4K video recording, slo-mo video (720p at 120fps)
|Front Camera||8MP||8MP with f/2.0 lens
1080p video recording
|Connectivity||LTE (Bands 1/3/5/7/8/20/38/40/41), Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
3.5mm audio jack
|LTE (Bands 1/3/5/7/38/39/40), Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 4.1
3.5mm audio jack
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
|Dimensions||152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35mm||141.7 x 68.9 x 8.5mm|
The Z2 Plus also features a design that belies its price tag, but unlike the metal exterior of the OnePlus 3, Lenovo went with a reflective glass back and a fiberglass frame. The phone has rounded corners and subtle chamfers around the frame, with the overall design evoking images of the iPhone 5.
With a thickness of 8.5mm, the Z2 Plus is decidedly chunky in comparison next to the OnePlus 3’s svelte 7.35mm profile. The added thickness is in part due to the massive 3500mAh battery Lenovo crammed into the handset. The phone also sports a roll cage design where the internal hardware is mounted on a metal frame.
Think of the OnePlus 3 as a high-res texture from a recent AAA title. In comparison, the Z2 Plus is more like a voxel from an ’80s game. It is big, blocky and rectangular. And I love it. It has a nice heft to it, and the compact form factor makes it ideal to hold and use one-handed. The 5-inch Full HD display has sharp, crisp colors, and it is sufficiently bright to read under harsh sunlight. The only issue I have with the display on the Z2 Plus is the ambient light sensor, which doesn’t reduce or increase brightness nearly as quickly as it should.
The Z2 Plus has a home button up front that houses a capable fingerprint sensor. You get the option of using on-screen navigation keys, like the OnePlus 3, or you can switch to hardware buttons. Lenovo’s implementation is vastly different in this area, as the Z2 Plus doesn’t feature the usual complement of back, recent, and home buttons. What you get instead is a single home button that bundles the functionality of the standard Android navigation keys. Swiping left or right on the home button takes you to your previous apps, and a double tap brings up the multitasking pane. The button is highly customizable as well, and you can set actions for launching a particular app.
With the Snapdragon 820 powering both phones, there isn’t a vast difference between the two when it comes to the real-world performance. Qualcomm is finally back to a custom CPU core design with Kryo, and the shift to a 14nm FinFET node has paid dividends. The Adreno 530 is also significantly faster than its predecessor. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 3 is one of the few phones to offer 6GB of RAM, which sounds great on a spec sheet. When it comes to real-world usage, you’re not going to see any gains over a phone with 4 gigs of RAM, like the Z2 Plus.
When it comes to battery life, you’ll get a full day’s worth of usage out of both phones, but the Z2 Plus pulls slightly ahead thanks to its larger 3500mAh battery. It wasn’t uncommon to see the Z2 Plus last two days when I used the phone sparingly. Even if you’re a heavy user, you’ll easily get a day out of the phone.
While the OnePlus 3 doesn’t last quite as long, it has several battery optimizations in place to eke out the most out of its 3000mAh battery. And when you need a quick top up, you can rely on Dash Charge. The technology is licensed from OnePlus’ parent company OPPO, and offloads the charging circuitry to the wall unit to minimize risk of the phone overheating. For this reason, you’ll need to use the bundled Dash Charger for taking full advantage of the fast charging tech, but you can also use any Qualcomm-certified QC 2.0 or QC 3.0 charger with the OnePlus 3.
The Z2 Plus uses a standard implementation of Quick Charge 3.0, but the bundled wall unit charges at 5V/2A. If you want to hit QC 3.0 speeds, you’ll have to buy a separate charging accessory.
With not a whole lot to separate the two phones when it comes to hardware, software is the main differentiator. OxygenOS 3.2.7 on the OnePlus 3 features a stock Marshmallow build, and the few additions to the software experience include a new Shelf that takes up the left-most home screen by default; and gestures for waking the screen, controlling music playback, and launching the camera.
Meanwhile, Lenovo has played it fast and loose with key UI elements in the Marshmallow-based ZUI. The notification shade is bare and doesn’t offer in-line replies or the ability to expand notifications, and the multitasking pane looks is more suited to iOS. In a bid to improve one-handed usage, Lenovo moved the quick settings toggles to the bottom of the screen, where they’re accessible with a swipe up gesture. Although Lenovo is offering the Google Now Launcher as standard on Indian units of the Z2 Plus, some of the customizations — the multitasking pane in particular — don’t mix with the launcher, and make the user interface seem disjointed.
OxygenOS edges out every other Chinese ROM, including ZUI on the Z2 Plus.
Most Chinese brands design unnecessarily complex user interfaces as a way of differentiation for their local audience, which doesn’t translate when the phones go on sale in global markets. In this regard, OxygenOS is a breath of fresh air. Incidentally, both OnePlus and Lenovo dabbled with Cyanogen OS. For OnePlus, that relationship came to an end when Cyanogen started partnering with Indian vendor Yu Televentures. Lenovo broke away from the custom ROM maker after it dragged its feet in rolling out the Marshmallow update to the Z2 Plus’ predecessor, the ZUK Z1. To this day, the ZUK Z1 is running Android 5.1.1.
Software updates are a source of worry for both phones, although OnePlus seems intent on fixing its track record in this area. The OnePlus 3 has picked up constant updates since its launch to address bugs, with the latest update bringing the September security patch. Lenovo is doing likewise following its issues with Cyanogen.
The OnePlus 3 has a 16MP camera (IMX 298) with an f/2.0 lens, whereas the Z2 Plus features a 13MP ISOCELL camera with f/2.2. Both phones offer auto-HDR and the ability to shoot 4K video at 30 fps, as well as slow-motion video at 720p at 120fps. The Z2 Plus uses image processing smarts to slow videos all the way down to 960fps, but that particular mode isn’t worth your time.
Much like most of the software, the OnePlus 3’s camera app has a basic layout, with toggles for HDR, flash, and switching between front and rear cameras. You also get a manual mode that lets you adjust ISO, white balance, exposure, and shutter speed. There’s no manual mode on the Z2 Plus, but its camera app is similarly flush with options, although the interface isn’t as intuitive to navigate.
OnePlus 3 on the left, Z2 Plus on the right.
When shooting in auto with HDR enabled, the OnePlus 3 does a better job of capturing detail and accurate colors in brightly-lit indoor scenarios, with photos from the Z2 Plus looking slightly washed out. The OnePlus 3 has optical image stabilization, leading to sharper images in low-light conditions. The feature allows the camera to increase sensitivity to ISO3200 at 1/17 for nighttime shots, and while the Z2 Plus also takes decent images at night, they aren’t as detailed or vivid. However, the Z2 Plus managed to hold its own when shooting outdoors in bright conditions.
Overall, the camera on the OnePlus 3 edges out the Z2 Plus, although there isn’t a vast difference between the two.
Which should you buy? OnePlus 3
Both the OnePlus 3 and Z2 Plus are very capable phones. Choosing between the two comes down to individual preferences and budgetary constraints. For ₹27,999, the OnePlus 3 offers flagship-level hardware, a gorgeous metal chassis, a great camera, and a software experience rivaling that of Nexus devices. Mid-range phones don’t get much better.
The Z2 Plus is no slouch either. The phone has near-identical specs as the OnePlus 3, and offers the benefits of a compact form factor along with a large 3500mAh battery. The roll cage design is an inspired idea, as is U-Touch navigation. However, the glass back is a smudge magnet, and the software can get annoying to use at times. That said, the Z2 Plus is an excellent value proposition for ₹19,999. If you’re on a limited budget, you can’t go wrong with the Z2 Plus.