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OnePlus 7 review: this flagship killer offers the best bang for your buck

Unpopular opinion alert: I prefer the OnePlus 7 to the 7 Pro (review). Now, I know what you’re going to say, so let me just say it for you: no, it doesn’t have a 90Hz, QHD HDR 10+ display. It doesn’t have a 4,000mAh battery with Warp Charging. It doesn’t have 12GB of RAM. And it certainly doesn’t have a fancy pop-up selfie camera. So why do I still feel the OnePlus 7 is a better value proposition? Read on, and maybe I’ll convince you by the end of this review.

Design and display

If you’ve seen the OnePlus 6T, the OnePlus 7 will look instantly familiar. The display is the same 6.4-inch panel with full HD+ resolution and a waterdrop notch housing the selfie camera. Bezels are thin on the top and sides, with a slightly thicker one at the bottom, and a layer of Gorilla Glass 6 offers protection from minor scratches and scuffs. You still get an onscreen fingerprint sensor, although in this case, the surface area is slightly bigger, making it easier to locate. The fingerprint sensor itself is sensitive and quick to unlock, and there’s an option of face unlock too, which works just as well.

The display offers rich, punchy colours, good viewing angles and excellent sunlight legibility. The lack of QHD resolution isn’t a deal breaker for me – text and icons appear perfectly sharp and clear. The only feature from the Pro I sorely missed was the buttery-smooth 90Hz refresh rate, which is a gamechanger on smartphones. That said, a high refresh rate is still a rarity on phones, and unless – like me – you’re switching from the Pro to the OnePlus 7, you won’t notice anything amiss.

The port and button placement remain the same – the trusty alert slider that lets you switch between Ring, Vibrate and Silent modes is present on the right, while the Type-C port flanked by the dual speakers (upgraded from the 6T) are at the bottom. As was the case with the 6T, the headphone jack is missing, and unfortunately, OnePlus hasn’t bundled Type-C headphones or even a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.

The back panel is made of gorgeous curved glass, and comes in two finishes – Mirror Gray and Red. I had the former for review, but the Red variant is a stunner, and my personal favourite. The vertically-aligned dual camera module at the rear now includes the LED flash, making for a more cohesive design. So, with not many design changes compared to the OnePlus 6T, what do I like about the OnePlus 7? Put simply, its size and weight. The OnePlus 7 Pro, for all its stunning design elements, is large, heavy and unwieldy, and for the duration of my review period, I lived in constant terror of dropping it. Curved displays, for all their beauty, are also more fragile, so the OnePlus 7 in comparison felt like a much more solid phone for daily usage. It fits nicely in one hand, while still offering a large enough screen for watching Netflix or gaming.

Cameras

The OnePlus 7 features dual rear cameras, compared to the 7 Pro’s triple camera setup. You get the same primary 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, however the aperture gets a slight downgrade from f/1.6 to f/1.7. Laser autofocus is also missing on this device. The secondary camera is a 5MP depth sensor to help you take portrait shots with bokeh backgrounds. In comparison, the OnePlus 7 Pro offers an 8MP telephoto lens and a 16MP ultrawide lens along the main camera. As a result, you’re forgoing wide-angle shots and 3x lossless zoom with this phone. The front camera is the same 16MP Sony IMX471 sensor, minus the pop-up selfie mechanism.

The image quality on the OnePlus 7 was pretty much on par with the Pro variant for macros and landscapes. Despite the lack of laser autofocus, the camera can quickly focus on the subject, leading to incredibly detailed shots. Images feature slightly oversaturated colours and are skewed towards warmer tones, but they’re still attractive and definitely share-worthy. The camera app continues to display a 1x 2x zoom toggle, but in this case, the zoom is digital instead of optical. Even so, I found the 2x zoomed images to have less grain compared to the Pro model, because they’re captured via the 48MP main sensor which has a wider aperture. On the Pro, the 8MP telephoto camera has f/2.4 aperture, leading to visibly noisy zoom shots. Thanks to the dedicated depth sensor, portrait images also look much better on the OnePlus 7, with good edge detection and a nice bokeh effect. Night shots are slightly noisy, and even though the Nightscape mode does a good job of bringing out detail in darker areas, the effect looks a tad oversharpened. The selfie camera is on par with the Pro, turning out decent, albeit oversmoothened clicks.

Performance & software

Both OnePlus flagships feature the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset at their core, with the main differentiator being the RAM. While both phones offer variants with 6GB and 8GB of RAM, only the Pro model offers a 12GB RAM variant. The storage however remains the same, with 128GB and 256GB options on both, with neither including a microSD card slot for expansion. The OnePlus 7 also retains the UFS 3.0 storage from the Pro, ensuring fast file transfers between your phone and laptop. The performance on both phones is on par, and I didn’t notice much difference between the 12GB OnePlus 7 Pro and 8GB OnePlus 7 units I reviewed, except for the Pro’s 90Hz refresh rate which makes scrolling and animations much faster.

The battery on the OnePlus 7 is slightly smaller – a 3,700mAh unit, and it comes with 20W Fast Charging (previously Dash Charging). For my usage, the phone easily gave me over 5 hours of screen time, and lasted an entire day without requiring a refill. Warp Charging on the Pro is definitely faster, but the OnePlus 7 is no slouch either. In our battery drain test, the OnePlus 7 lasted a full 17 hours before running out of juice.

On the software front, you get OxygenOS based on Android 9. OnePlus is one of the best when it comes to rolling out software updates, and I updated my phone twice during my review period. OxygenOS marries the best of stock Android and useful extras. Apart from a clutter-free interface, you get extras like a system-wide dark mode, screen recording and my favourite – Zen Mode. This helps you reduce your screen time by blocking all access to the phone except emergency and incoming calls for 20 minutes.

The competition

The main competition for the OnePlus 7 comes from the ASUS 6z, which offers similar specs and an enviable Flip camera for a slightly cheaper price. If your budget is higher, the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom is another compelling option, but only if you’re considering the 8GB + 256GB OnePlus 7 that retails at Rs 37,999. Xiaomi’s upcoming Redmi K20 Pro will also be another key competitor, and I suspect, will be priced far more affordably to boot. The launch is still a month away though, so OnePlus has the upper hand for now.

Verdict

One of the key complaints most people have about OnePlus is the yearly bump in its phone prices. The brand’s “flagship killer” mantra has graduated to plain flagship, and the OnePlus 7 Pro, with its starting price of Rs 48,999, is testament to that. This year, OnePlus has softened the blow by launching the OnePlus 7 as a more affordable alternative. With a Rs 32,999 starting price, it’s even cheaper than the OnePlus 6T at launch, and brings the key features of the OnePlus 7 Pro in a more compact, sedate package. The phone might not make heads turn, but it’s a powerhouse and should meet your needs on most fronts, including performance, cameras and battery life. When it comes down to pure value for money, the OnePlus 7 outpaces the Pro, and is likely to be the more popular choice for the price-conscious Indian consumer.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • Smooth performance
  • Good cameras
  • Day-long battery life

What doesn’t:

  • No 90Hz display
  • Type-C headphones/adapter not included in the box
  • No expandable storage
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.