A barebones flagship that best covers the basics
OnePlus 7 256GB detailed review
OnePlus 7 Pro has now become the de facto flagship of the company, in 2019 OnePlus is a modified company with one foot towards premium while one still pulls along the line of a budget flagship. Forgetting its roots, OnePlus has announced the regular OnePlus 7 as well as the Pro version with some obvious downsizing. The company launches one flagship smartphone a year, has gone through a 6 month refresh cycle and now, we have two OnePlus phones for your attention at the same time. This is no longer where a device gets all the attention. Instead, the focus was split into two – everything that would be present in the premium (90Hz display, triple camera) Pro variant while what was not (a regular AMOLED display, dual camera) would be reserved for the regular variant. Does that sound bad for OnePlus fans? You’ll still find flagship Qualcomm processors with more RAM and storage that you can probably use, but here’s the thing. The OnePlus model of success is now copied by almost everyone. Sitting in the second half of 2019, we have more flagship phones in the south than this one above Rs 50,000, and although this is definitely a good thing for the customer, this is something that OnePlus probably thinks is spending many sleepless nights. So OnePlus 7 is coming to a crowded place now, does it still keep the same promise as before? Find out.
OnePlus 7 vs. Competition
OnePlus 7 is pitted against Asus 6z, Oppo Reno 10X Zoom and Black Shark 2. The upcoming Redmi K20 Pro will also be a tough competition for smartphones. All of these devices are powered by Snapdragon 855 processors and, as such, good flagship performance is more or less guaranteed. Where OnePlus 7 provides a better software experience. It’s better than most budget flagships out there. OxygenOS 9 has regular updates, offers smooth, lag-free performance and a minimalist design. However, not everyone likes the OnePlus 7’s camera. The Oppo Reno 10X Zoom’s camera, in my opinion, offers punchier, more vivid colors and flexibility to go up to 10X zoom and 120-degree wide-angle. Asus 6z is unique in its own way. The phone’s flip camera doubles as the rear and front cameras, with the same 48MP camera on both sides. OnePlus 7, as a result, is different for covering the basics really well and offering something more in terms of uniqueness.
Performance and battery
Let’s start with the most important aspect first. The performance of the OnePlus 7 is quite flawless where the battery life is enough to last all day. Inside the phone is Snapdragon 855 with up to 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and 256GB UFS 3.0 storage. There is no question of slowing down the phone anytime soon. It saves the components that OnePlus uses, similar to the Pro variant, for lack of a 12GB RAM variant. As a result, the phone’s performance is one of the best on an Android device. Credit should also be given to OxygenOS which is based on Android 9 Pi and comes with interesting onboard on-line optimizations that ultimately allow for quick app launches, unlocks and boot-ups and likes. That said, if you’re coming from OnePlus 6 or OnePlus 6T, you probably won’t notice any significant increase in speed.
Benchmark analysis reveals that the OnePlus 7 is as fast as its siblings and in some cases even ahead of other Snapdragon 855-powered phones. You can see the estimated scores in the graphs below to get a better idea of where the OnePlus 7 stands. For more detailed analysis, see us Performance comparison between Asus 6z, Oppo Reno 10X Zoom and OnePlus 7.
The burning speed of the OnePlus 7 is also due in part to the software the phone uses. This is a customized tech on Android 9 that is very close to the stock Android interface in terms of aesthetics and there are deep-seated optimizations that make the phone very smooth. On top of that, there are now a number of India-centric features such as parking location, live cricket scores and a dedicated gaming mode that frees up resources, retains calls and notifications, and choices. Then there is the Zen mode which I found particularly useful. When the mode is on, you can’t do anything on your phone for 20 minutes. The goal is to free users from smartphone addiction and although this has failed to do so in my case, the mode has allowed me to focus better on my work.
The OnePlus 7’s 3,700mAh battery is the same as its predecessor. But while the capabilities remain the same, there is a slight increase in screen-on time, thanks to the 7nm efficiency brought to the Snapdragon 855 table. In the Geekbench battery test, it took about 10 hours and 15 minutes to drain the battery whereas PUBG Mobile’s 15 minutes battery drains about 5 percent. On the other hand, Netflix’s 30 minutes (including HDR on) drains 7 percent of the battery and reduces the charge on an hour by 8 percent. These are compatible with decent numbers and most other Snapdragon 855-powered phones, so the efficiency is on par with other budget flagships in the market.
The camera is the second most important thing in a smartphone. Straightforwardly, it became clear that the OnePlus 7 Pro company was more focused on what, when the OnePlus 7 camera came off as a thought. The 7 Pro’s triple-camera offers flexibility with an ultra-wide angle lens, a 3X telephoto lens and a 48MP primary sensor. For the OnePlus 7, only the 48MP sensor has been brought down and paired with a 5MP depth sensor. By default, you are limited to shooting regular wide-angle photos or portrait shots with blurred backgrounds. It has 2X zoom, but it does not offer the same quality as digitally acquired and optical zoom.
For photos, they carry the typical OnePlus look. Neutral colors, excellent HDR performance, and now extra sharpness thanks to the pixel exchange that the camera performs by default every time you take a picture. As such, the OnePlus 7 camera is quite reliable for landscape photography, but struggles to take close-up shots. The AF system with 48MP sensor makes it difficult to lock focus even after tapping the area you want to focus on. For example, in the photo below, you can see that the branch is in focus and the flower is blurred even though they are both at almost the same distance.
The camera has OIS which helps to take a stable shot while zooming in, but it also helps when shooting video where OnePlus 7 does a decent job and focusing is much more reliable. This may be a bug in the camera software and, if highlighted, can be fixed via an OTA update.
Then there is the portrait mode. The feature works well on most previous OnePlus phones, at least when supported with adequate lighting, and on the OnePlus 7, it works well on objects close to the camera. Objects a little farther away have inconsistent subject segregation which is ironic considering that the secondary 5MP depth sensor only has to get more depth of field.
There is also a nightscape mode that works quite well, but not without its own flaws. For one, it takes a long time to shoot the image regardless of the amount of light available. Huawei’s phones, for example, have noticed that it takes less time to shoot multi-frame night mode images when there is at least some level of illumination. In the case of the OnePlus 7, the number of shots, and consequently, the time taken, is a constant. Fortunately, there are algorithms that control the amount of exposure needed for shots. Shots are sharper when you shoot with night mode (the subject remains fixed for how long it takes to shoot), but don’t expect too much from them. Zooming in a nightscape shot will show the details have been artificially rendered and touched with lots of noise reduction.
As such, the OnePlus 7’s rear camera stack is reliable, but not exciting. Closer to the price of the OnePlus 7, you have a phone with a wide-angle camera, while paying a little extra you get three lenses with a telephoto lens with 10X hybrid zoom.
Design and display
Although the OnePlus 7 is made of glass, it looks quite tough. Gorilla Glass 5 on the back and Gorilla Glass 6 on the front allow at least some level of protection. The display has a built-in screen-protector that is easily scratched and the mirror red finish we got for review is quite swollen. Unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, which offers a new design, the OnePlus 7 bears a striking resemblance to the OnePlus 6T – a waterdrop notch, slim bezel, curved rear panel and a sturdy aluminum frame. What has changed is the huge bump around the camera module that makes the phone shaky when placed on a flat surface. Otherwise, the quality of the buttons and the sensitive response give the feeling of being quite stiff and long lasting.
OnePlus 7 has no advertised IP rating, but OnePlus assures that there are some levels of water resistance but water damage is not covered by the warranty. What’s missing is a 3.5mm headphone jack but dual stereo speakers make their way into the OnePlus 7 with the support of Dolby Atmos as well. It also has an in-display fingerprint sensor that is visually faster and more accurate than the OnePlus 6T. However, Face Unlock still works fast and I’ve rarely had the opportunity to use the in-display fingerprint sensor on the phone.
The OnePlus 7’s display will be a big compromise if you get your hands on the OnePlus 7 Pro. For one, it’s a small 6.41-inch AMOLED panel with a waterdrop groove in the middle. It has FHD + instead of QHD + in Pro and 60Hz instead of 90Hz screen refresh rate. Not that the OnePlus 7 looks bad or anything else, but once you use the display in the Pro, it won’t go back to the regular display. That said, the OnePlus 7’s display is bright and vibrant. It is HDR rated and supports Netflix HDR.
The last row
OnePlus 7 is the budget flagship OnePlus was known for. They wanted to kill the segment they were entering. The good thing about this is that when the OnePlus 7 Pro breaks the 50,000 50,000 mark, the OnePlus 7 starts at a lower price than the OnePlus 6T. For a lower price, you’ll not only get the same raw performance as the OnePlus 7 Pro, but also an HDR display and a robust build. In fact, a colleague of mine told me that he thinks the OnePlus 7 is more convenient than the OnePlus 7 Pro because the form factor holds it back from its predecessor. On the other hand, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s heavy and curved display often turns into an accidental touch. If OnePlus is the brand of your choice and spending over Rs 50,000 is unquestionable, then OnePlus 7 is like getting the phone.