OnePlus Buds 3 review: Simple, excellent value

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The recently launched OnePlus Buds 3 appear to be a brand new product line as OnePlus never launched Buds 2 truly wireless earphones. Technically, these are close to the Nord Buds Z2 in terms of both features and price, so you can say that these buds are the spiritual successors to the Buds Z2. However, their price puts them just below the premium OnePlus Buds Pro 2 in the OnePlus Audio range. OnePlus, with its new Buds 3 true wireless earphones, claims to offer premium features at a low price. I've been using them for a few weeks now, and that's why I think they're an excellent choice at Rs. 5,499 in India.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Design and features

The design of the OnePlus Buds 3 case appears to be similar to that of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Pick it up, and you'll notice that it's a little thicker than the latter, and this is due to the larger case battery. The case has a plastic finish and doesn't feel as premium as the case for the Buds Pro 2, but that's okay since it also sells for half the price. Its thick overall dimensions also make the case easy to open when reaching for the earphones, allowing me to confidently open and close it with one hand.

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The OnePlus Buds 3 have a very comfortable fit with a grippy semi-chrome finish

The earbuds are available in two finishes, Splendid Blue and Metallic Grey. I received the Splendid Blue earbuds for review, and they have a nice chrome finish around the stem and open blue plastic casing close to the silicone tips. These chromed stems, which are thicker than those on the Buds Pro 2, also give it some grip (even if they're blunted), so they don't slip out of my hand when removing them or placing them in the charging case. . Like the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, the earbuds have a very comfortable fit, and I had no trouble wearing them for hours without any discomfort.

The charging case weighs 40.8 grams, while each earbud weighs 4.8 grams, which is not heavy. In fact, these are lighter than the combined weight of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 (over 50 grams). Like the OnePlus Buds Z2, the Buds 3 offer an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance. This means the buds can withstand even splashes of water or sweaty workouts. The sales package includes two additional sets of silicone ear tips and a short USB-C charging cable.

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The OnePlus Buds 3's charging case (right) is thicker but houses a larger battery than the Buds Pro 2's case (left)

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Apps and specifications

When connected to a OnePlus smartphone, all settings and customizations can be accessed under the phone's Bluetooth settings Settings > Bluetooth > OnePlus Buds 3 > i > Earbuds Function, One can adjust the effectiveness of active noise cancellation, change the equalizer, toggle 3D audio, and, more importantly, adjust the earbud controls from here. One can also find their earbuds and control the camera when connected to a OnePlus smartphone (not available on non-OnePlus devices).

For non-OnePlus smartphone and iPhone users, there is the HeyMelody app. It is available for both Android and iOS devices and offers plenty of controls and customization. You get noise control (ANC), adjustable EQ, Golden Sound, and even OnePlus 3D Audio. One can toggle dual connection and even check connected devices on the iPhone. There's even a game mode toggle for those who prefer low latency, and one can even upgrade the firmware using the iPhone, which is quite impressive. The earbud controls are available under a separate section entirely.

The touch controls that come with the OnePlus Buds 3 are brand new. These work very well and provide precise feedback when you slide your finger up or down on the stem of the earbuds. While touch controls have been present on OnePlus earbuds for some time, the new slide gesture lets one change tracks or adjust the volume.

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The Hemelody app works well on iOS and non-OnePlus devices, offering ample features and customization

Additionally, the slide gesture can be customized for each earbud, so one can be used to switch tracks while the other can be used to adjust the volume. This feature or gesture alone seems to justify many people upgrading to this pair of truly wireless earphones as even the top-end Buds Pro 2 allow you to adjust volume controls through the earphones. Doesn't give.

As for the specifications, each earbud gets a 10.4mm woofer and 6mm tweeter (dual driver) that offers a sensitivity of 110db and a frequency response range of 15Hz to 40,000Hz. There are 3 mics on each earbud which are used for calls apart from noise cancellation. Each earbud houses a 58mAH Li-ion battery, while the case offers a larger 520mAh unit. The earphones use Bluetooth 5.3 and support AAC, SBS, and even LHDC 5.0 codecs.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Performance and battery life

As expected from an audio product at this price point, the audio primarily caters to a bass-heavy crowd. However, it is not the usual dirty bass, but a clear and defined kind, which is very enjoyable when listening to dance music or even watching movies as it adds that extra thump without going overboard. But this all happens on the default Balanced EQ setting, which does virtually what it claims, reserving the more bass-heavy sound for the 'Bass' setting. As always, there's still a bit of buzz in the mids, but most users won't notice it much. For those who do, the 'Serenade' preset takes care of this to some extent.

It also has a basswave feature which I found quite unique. Activating it in the settings can not only increase the bass level but also increase or decrease it. However, using this feature only made things worse (no matter where you were going), so I preferred to keep it off.

As far as microphones go, they do an excellent job of drowning out unnecessary ambient sounds, making callers' voices loud and clear in a variety of settings. At no point during the review period did I hear any callers complain about my voice quality, which is quite impressive considering I've often heard callers complain when using the Buds Pro 2?

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While both look a bit alike, the OnePlus Buds 3 earbuds have thicker stems

The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology works as expected and is able to suppress low-frequency noise well, but not as well as they managed to achieve with mid- and high-frequency noise. Still, considering its price it is quite capable and gets the job done.

In terms of connectivity, OnePlus Buds 3 performed quite well. I was able to hold conversations and listen to music in my apartment several meters away (with solid walls with doors in between), and the connection didn't drop or struggle (provided I stayed connected to the lightweight SBC/AAC codec). When playing games, there is a separate mode to prioritize latency over audio quality when using the HeyMelody app on an iPhone or other Android device.

As for battery life, when playing music continuously at 50 percent volume using the AAC codec, the buds easily last for 10 hours on a single charge with ANC off. Turning on ANC reduced this figure to about 6 hours. As expected, switching to the heavier LHDC reduces play time even more, bringing it down to around 5 hours. Actually, this thick case comes with some benefits, due to which the earbuds can be charged 4 times in a single charge.

While the LHDC audio codec is available, it's quite obvious to conclude that it makes sense to stick with AAC for better battery life and ANC usage, as the benefits of LHDC with these earbuds are a bit artificial. They manage a minimum of 400kbps while remaining unusable (in terms of stability and range) at the promised 1Mbps or 1,000kbps bitrate.

I wasn't able to accurately test the charging speed, but OnePlus claims that the Buds 3 truly wireless earphones, when charged with the case for 10 minutes, can provide up to 7 hours of combined usage, Which sounds pretty good, so I'll take his word for it.

Decision

At Rs. 5,499, the OnePlus Buds 3 truly wireless earphones offer a ton of features that are borrowed from the more premium Buds Pro 2, with the latter becoming almost redundant when it comes to some features. Chief among these are the new slide gestures with touch controls, which create a convenient way to control volume and the music playback experience without needing to reach for your smartphone. Although the addition of the LHDC codec is questionable, you still get capable ANC and excellent sound quality. A well-designed companion app that offers most of the features of OnePlus smartphones, even on non-OnePlus devices, makes the OnePlus Buds 3 earphones a very attractive audio package at this price.


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