OnePlus jumped on to the ‘Pro version’ bandwagon this year, launching the OnePlus 7 Pro alongside the OnePlus 7. But unlike other manufacturers and their ‘Max’, ‘Plus’, ‘XL’ models, the OnePlus siblings differ in much more than just the screen size. Infact, if you closely analyze the hype surrounding the OnePlus 7 series launch, and the marketing efforts being done since, it’s clear that OnePlus is only trying to push the OnePlus 7 Pro (review) to the consumers, with the OnePlus 7 being more of a fallback option, for people who aren’t ready to buy a 50K OnePlus phone yet. So is the OnePlus 7 really just a contingency measure or is there more to it? Does it even make sense to buy the OnePlus 7 at all? Let’s find out in my full review.
OnePlus 7Rs 32,999
Design & Build7.5/10
Value For Money9.0/10
What Is Good?
- Unbeatable Performance
- Oxygen OS is a treat
- Dual Stereo Speakers
- Great AMOLED Display
- Easy to use single-handed
What Is Bad?
- No Headphone Jack
- Lacks Expandable Storage
- Looks too similar to the 6T
- Battery Life isn't Stellar
- No Wireless Charging or IP Rating
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OnePlus 7 Design & Build Quality: A Pleasant Deja Vu
One look at this phone and you realize, OnePlus put all their designing brains and efforts to make the OnePlus 7 Pro stand out. The OnePlus 7 is hardly distinguishable from the OnePlus 6T, as it retains the same glass sandwich design, with a metal frame running around the sides. The glass on the front is Gorilla Glass 6 while that on the back is the older Gorilla Glass 5. The sides of the phone are slightly curved from the back, thus making it easy to grip and improving the in-hand feel. On closer inspection, we find the first aesthetic difference, in the form of the camera module which now also houses the LED flash, and isn’t as flush with the body as on the 6T. Infact, the camera bump on the OnePlus 7 is quite prominent and it’s better if you use the phone with a case, lest you end up scratching the camera module when placing the phone on its back. The phone itself sits quite comfortably in the hand and is much easier to hold and operate single-handedly than the massive 7 Pro. It comes in two color variants, a Mirror Grey and Flame Red, both of which have super shiny glossy backs, which can attract fingerprints faster than you can say the word ‘fingerprint’.
The power button is now flanked by the alert slider on the right side of the phone. One small complaint I have with the alert slider is that you have to slide it all the way up to silent notifications, and slide it down to set your phone to ringing again. Intuitively, I think killing the volume down by pulling the switch down would have made more sense. But yeah, the alert slider is nevertheless a great feature and I would like to see it on more phones. Another physical change that you will notice on the 7 compared to the 6T is that the earpiece is now much wider and takes up almost the entire top bezel. That’s because the OnePlus 7 comes with dual stereo speakers with the earpiece acting as the secondary speaker. Having a stereo speaker setup massively enhances your multimedia experience on the phone and full marks to OnePlus for not skipping this feature in the name of cost-saving. At the bottom of the phone, we have the bottom-firing speaker, along with the USB Type-C port. The OnePlus 7 too misses out on a headphone jack, and this is one thing I’m never forgiving them for. Talking about missing things. there’s no wireless charging, no official IP rating on the phone, and OnePlus doesn’t even bundle in a 3.5mm to type-C adapter in the box. What you do get in the box though is a soft silicone case. The phone comes with Dual SIM slots, however there’s no room for expandable storage onboard. Overall, the OnePlus 7 is a well-built device and I don’t have too many complaints about it looking the same as 6T. I’m super glad that despite keeping the design pretty much unchanged, they’ve added stereo speakers onto the phone.
OnePlus 7 Display: Great, But Not Breathtaking
The Display on the OnePlus 7 is another thing, that’s practically unchanged over the 6T. You still get a 6.4-inch SUPER AMOLED panel with a water-drop notch on top. The screen resolution caps out at FHD+, unlike the 7 Pro which packs in a QHD+ screen, and there’s also no HDR10 certification or 90Hz refresh rate unlike its elder brother. Coming to the actual screen performance though, I have very little complaints. The AMOLED panel used is great, with punchy colors, deep blacks and it gets really bright, especially under direct sunlight when some kind of a brightness boost is applied automatically. The phone does come with Widevine L1 certification, so you can stream Netflix, Prime Video etc in High Definition quality.
The one thing that has improved in the OnePlus 7’s screen over the 6T is the fingerprint scanner. The OnePlus 7 also uses an optical fingerprint scanner, but this time around the sensor being used is bigger and also considerably faster. And it shows in real-life usage as this phone has one of the fastest unlocking times using the fingerprint scanner. I still don’t like in-display fingerprint scanners as much as their physical counterparts though, and thankfully, the Face Unlock on the OnePlus 7 saves me the hassle of using the fingerprint scanner mostly. The Face Unlock works super-fast (bright side of not having a pop-up camera) quite reliably, even in low-light conditions, where it’s aided by the screen brightness compensation feature. Overall, the screen experience on the OnePlus 7 isn’t as flashy as the 7 Pro but it will still satiate all your media consumption needs without any compromise.
Quick note on the Multimedia performance of the phone here: The stereo speaker system on the OnePlus 7 is quite good and definitely sounds a lot better than any previous OnePlus phones. The speakers are loud enough and there’s just about enough low-end to the sound too. It’s not in the same league as the Galaxy S10 or the iPhones though, but then, it costs 1/3rd of their price too. Sound output via earphones/headphones is good too. I used my LSTN in-ear earphones with the 3.5mm to type-C adapter that we got with the 6T, and the sound is plenty loud and rich. The phone also come with Dolby Atmos support which helps you tweak your sound output to suit the kind of content you’re consuming.
OnePlus 7 Hardware & Performance: Best In Class
I’ve got one word to say about the OnePlus 7’s performance: Absolutely Brilliant! Ok, I know these are two words, but then that’s just how good the performance on this device is. Starting off with the specs first, the OnePlus 7 siblings were the first phones in India to come with Snapdragon 855 SoC. It is Qualcomm’s most advanced mobile chipset till date, and is also miles ahead of at least its Android counterparts, the Exynos 9820 and the Kirin 980. The phone comes in two memory variants – 6GB RAM variant with 128GB storage, and an 8GB RAM variant with 256GB storage. Go for the higher variant only if you need that extra storage though, as for all practical purposes, 6GB RAM is more than sufficient to run this phone. What’s even more impressive is that OnePlus has packed the 7 series with UFS 3.0 storage, which is considerably faster than the UFS 2.1 storage which most high end phones come with today. Coming to the actual performance of the phone, this phone is a beast, much like its elder sibling the 7 Pro. Day-to-day tasks are a breeze and it hardly breaks a sweat whether its multi-tasking or quick app-switching. The phone’s performance shows even in the benchmark tests as it absolutely dominates every test that you throw at it.
Coming to the gaming performance of the phone, it comes with the Adreno 640 GPU which is a powerhouse when compared to GPUs on other Android flagship processors. I played long hours of Asphalt 9 and PUBG mobile on this phone. The phone is able to run PUBG mobile on ‘HDR’ graphics and ‘Ultra’ frame rate perfectly fine. There are absolutely no lags or stutters whatsoevers and only very rarely, will you notice a frame drop or such while gaming. Overall, the performance on this phone is an absolute treat.
OnePlus 7 Software: As Clean & Fast As You Like
OnePlus’ software experience has been traditionally one of its strong points, and the trend continues with the OnePlus 7. You get the latest Android 9.0 Pie with Oxygen OS 9.5.x on top. Oxygen OS is arguably the best way to use Android as, even beating Google’s own stock interpretation. It’s super-fast, very clean, offers a ton of customization options, and doesn’t bog you down with any bloatware or heavy theming etc. I really love the fact that Oxygen OS now comes with a baked-in screen recorder and hopefully other OEMs would follow suite. Then there is the all new Zen mode, which kind of ‘forces’ you to take a 20 minute break from your phone, if it detects that you’ve been using your phone continuously for too long. I have tried it only once, and since you can’t turn if off once started, it did help me fall asleep as I couldn’t use my phone (That was the longest break from memes I’ve taken in quite some time).
When the OnePlus 7 series launched, there were some minor differences between the OnePlus 7 and the 7 Pro. But with continuous updates, OnePlus has all but ended any such parity. For example, the ‘Fnatic Mode’, which is a super-charged gaming mode, was earlier only available on the 7 Pro, but was pushed on to the 7 eventually. The OnePlus 7 misses out on the dedicated haptic feedback engine on the 7 Pro though, but still, the vibration feedback on the OnePlus 7 is quite good, if not the best. I really like the OnePlus shelf option, which is basically an additional panel to the left of your home-screen, which comprises of most used apps. favorite contact shortcuts, news snippets, cricket scores etc.
A quick note on the network and connectivity options. The phone supports Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band WiFi. I constantly got superb Wifi speeds and strong connectivity indoors. Even the mobile network reception is quite commendable and the earpiece/mic performance during mic calls was consistently good.
OnePlus 7 Cameras: Improvements All Around
Cameras.. The one thing that OnePlus always got away with, citing their ‘budget flagship’ pricing. Since the last couple of iterations, we’ve seen OnePlus really stepping up its camera game, or at least trying for so. The OnePlus 7 comes with a 48MP primary camera on the back. It’s the same Sony IMX586 sensor, used on the 7 Pro, but on the 7 it’s mated to an f/1.7 aperture lens as compared to the wider f/1.6 lens on the 7 Pro. Unlike the 7 Pro though, the 7 doesn’t have any dedicated wide-angle or telephoto lenses, and instead comes just with a 5MP depth sensor. On the front of the device, we get the same 16MP selfie shooter with an f/2.0 aperture lens. The primary camera on the rear gets OIS support and also features Laser PDAF. For video, the phone supports 4K video upto 60fps, and can also shoot slo-mo videos but only upto 480fps (at 720p resolution). Video performance is reliable enough, with the phone being able to capture ample amount of details, colors and dynamic range. The OIS does play its part here.
Coming to the still photography performance, well there isn’t much to say. Day-time photos look crisp and colorful, with plenty of details and good amount of dynamic range. Like the 7 Pro though, the camera sometimes struggles when trying to take pictures against direct sunlight. There are no secondary lenses available here, and after using a lot of phones with wide-angle and telephoto lenses, the lack of options feels a bit disheartening to be honest. The phone can take 2x digitally zoomed pictures and can go up to 10x zoom, but obviously the details take a huge hit.
Now, for the low-light performance, that’s one area where software updates have significantly improved the phone’s performance. The dedicated ‘Nightscape Mode’ is able to add a lot of light to the images and they do look sharp enough, at least on the surface. The details do appear smudgy if you zoom in, but then to get a better low-light performance than this, you’ll have to jump straight to a Huawei or a Pixel phone, both of which cost a minimum of 2x of the OnePlus 7 price.
The selfie camera is a similar story, delivering good-looking selfies both during the day and night. There’s enough details on offer, but the skin sometimes looks over-softened. The selfie camera can shoot 1080p videos at 30fps. If selfie camera is a priority for you, the Asus 6Z will do a much better job with its rear camera module which doubles up as its selfie camera too. Flipping fantastic, Right?
Overall, phone delivers satisfactory results 9/10 times you’ll use it, and OnePlus has been releasing constant updates which are tweaking and improving the camera performance and AI algorithm at work here.
OnePlus 7 Battery Life: Well, If It Ain’t Broke..
Battery is one department on the OnePlus 7 which is literally unchanged from the 6T. We still get a 3700mAh battery, and the charging tech remains the same too at 20W Dash Charge. OnePlus already upgraded to the 30W Warp Charge for the 6T Mclaren edition, and it carried over to this year’s 7 Pro too. I would have really loved to see the same 30W charging on the OnePlus 7 too. But that wasn’t to happen. The Dash Charge is still fast enough though, taking about an hour and 20 minutes to juice up the phone from 0 to 100%. It can go from 0 to 50% in just about 30 minutes and that’s still impressive to this day.
As far as the battery life is concerned, I am what you’ll consider a heavy user of my phone. My typical day includes uninterrupted internet connectivity (split about 50-50 between Wifi and mobile data), extensive use of social media apps, an hour or so of music listening via Bluetooth, and the occasional use of Google Maps. The OnePlus 7 is no battery beast but still manages to keep up for almost the entire day most of the times. I got anywhere between 6.5 to 7.5 hours of Screen On Time, which is not bad by any standards. What’s more, there’s always the assurance of Dash charging to top up your battery quickly. There’s no wireless charging onboard but honestly I don’t miss it anyway. Wired charging is just way more faster and convenient, at least as of now.
OnePlus 7 Verdict: Should You Buy It?
The OnePlus 7 is the textbook definition of an ‘incremental upgrade’. It’s almost impossible to tell it apart from the 6T, and the overall marketing effort they’ve put on the 7, is a clear indication that OnePlus wants people to go for the 7 Pro only. But that doesn’t mean the phone is bad by any means. The OnePlus 7 delivers almost the perfect no-nonsense experience you can get from a phone. It feels good in hand, has a great display, outperforms almost all other phones in the market right now, comes with a super-smooth software experience, packs in some good camera performance and tops it up with reliable battery life and that super fast dash charging. If you buy the OnePlus 7, you’ll almost certainly have no problems with the phone. The best part is it doesn’t even cost too much. It starts with Rs 32,990 for the 6/128GB model and goes upto Rs 37,999 for the 8/256GB model. What’s surprising is that the starting price of the OnePlus 7 is the exact same as that of the OnePlus 5 which launched 2 years ago. The phone does lack an official IP rating and Wireless charging but then again, it’s kinda criminal to expect all that on any phone that doesn’t cost a bomb. If it wasn’t for the lack of headphone jack, recommending the OnePlus 7 would have been an absolute no-brainer. But that’s where the problem starts.
Asus has just announced the 6Z, which, for a starting price of Rs 31,999 offers the same processor, same primary camera, an extra ultra-wide camera, a massive 5000mAh battery, and A HEADPHONE JACK! It does miss out on an AMOLED display though, but to be honest the LCD panel on the 6Z isn’t half bad. Then there is the upcoming Redmi K20 Pro. Similar hardware specs, bigger battery, notchless AMOLED screen, a headphone jack, much more flashy looking design, and it’s also expected to under-cut the OnePlus 7’s price by at least 5-6K. And that would decide the OnePlus 7’s fate. Like I said, the OnePlus is sure to satiate all your expectations from a phone, but the K20 Pro and the 6Z might just do that too, and offer some added X-factor for desserts. Under these circumstances, it only makes sense to consider the Asus 6Z or wait for the K20 Pro announcement. And that’s why I say – The OnePlus 7 is the perfect nice guy we deserve, but it’s not the bad boy we’ll want to chase.