OnePlus 7 Review: Maintaining the “Affordable Flagship” Legacy
OnePlus has become quite a reliable name in the smartphone industry. Year after year, the company has improved on its products and has gradually gained success. This time around though, things are different. While most smartphone makers brought mini or compact versions of their flagship phones, OnePlus took an opposite route. It launched a minor update to last year’s model, but also introduced a more high-end ‘Pro’ model with all the latest features one would expect on a proper flagship smartphone.
Now we have already tested the OnePlus 7 Pro, which definitely feels and qualifies for flagship material, however, we had some mixed feelings about it. Then there is also the OnePlus 7. A simple update to the OnePlus 6T featuring a very similar design with minor upgrades on paper. But at a starting price of Rs 32,999, the company has shrewdly launched this cheaper than the launch price of the outgoing model, which was launched at Rs 37,999.
The design is similar to the OnePlus 6T, even the overall dimensions, and the weight. However, the glass back feels a bit more premium. Also, there are now two new colour options- Mirror Gray and a gorgeous looking Red finish. The latter is only available in the 8GB RAM + 256GB memory option. Also, OnePlus has now put stereo speakers on the phone, one above the display and one on the bottom edge. The other minor difference is that the dual camera module at the back now houses the LED flash. Just like the Pro, there is no waterproof certification, but some sort of water repellent coating which should keep it safe from minor water splashes.
OnePlus is using the same 6.41-inch AMOLED display too and sadly there is no 90Hz fast refresh rate as the high-end model. Nonetheless, it is an appealing panel with nice colours and contrast. The in-display fingerprint scanner also makes a comeback.
The OnePlus 7 doesn’t have a lot of flashy features like the pop-up selfie camera or a triple camera setup like the Pro. But what you get is a really powerful smartphone at a justified price. Mind you, this is the most affordable handset you can buy today powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. Compared to the 845, the new chipset is significantly better as it is manufactured using a 7nm fabrication process, making it less power hungry but all the more powerful. The company has played safe and launched only two memory variants, 6GB RAM with 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM with 256GB of storage. Makes sense as there are already three variants of the Pro. Also, OnePlus is making use of UFS 3.0 standard for the internal storage making the overall read and write speeds faster.
Performance is top notch. I have been using the 8GB RAM model and needless to say, but OnePlus has one of the snappiest phones on the market. The OnePlus 7 is no exception. With the all mighty powerful hardware, combined with the fairly clean OxygenOS, the experience has been flawless. Never once did I face any lags, slowdown or app crashes. Multitasking is a breeze, the on-display fingerprint scanner has improved, and the face unlock is uncannily fast, at least in proper lighting.
Gaming is super smooth and I had no hiccups playing PUBG Mobile at the highest settings. It does get a little warm after say a 30-minute gaming session, but that is only if you are sitting in a city like Delhi without an air conditioner. At the time of writing the review, the phone had received a new update which brought Fnatic Mode to the handset. This is a part of the Gaming Mode and once enabled, you get extra features during your gameplay sessions like Advanced DND, Enhance process regulator and Network enhancement. All of these extra enhancements felt more like a placebo to me.
OnePlus’ new Zen Mode also makes way to the OnePlus 7 which disables all functions of the phone for 20 minutes except to make and receive emergency calls, and take photos. This is basically so the user can take a break from the digital world and focus on other things in life. It's a nice feature to have when you want to unwind yourself.
The dual camera on the OnePlus 7 now includes a 48-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 wide-angle lens with PDAF and OIS paired to a 5-megapixel depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture lens. At the front, you get the same 16-megapixel f/2.0 camera that was on the OnePlus 6T. The primary camera is a pretty good update thanks to the high-resolution sensor. The 48-megapixel sensor offers 0.8-micron pixel size but thanks to pixel binning it goes up to 1.6-micron.
Shots taken in the regular Photo mode results in sharp 12-megapixel photos and you can get full resolution photos using the Pro mode. In broad daylight, pictures offer a decent amount of detail, but as soon as you move to artificial light, colours seem undersaturated. Focusing is fast and quick though, despite not having the laser-assisted autofocus from the OnePlus 7 Pro. It can struggle a bit in low light though. Speaking of which, low light performance is not bad at all, and with the night mode enabled, you do get brighter photos. The only issue is, you can spot noise when you zoom into your pictures.
You can shoot 4K 60fps videos with the primary camera but there is a 5-minute limit when you shoot at this high resolution. If you lower the frame rate to 30fps, you can go as much as 10 minutes. You can also shoot slow-motion videos- 1080p at 240fps and 720p at 480fps. Video quality is good enough and seems stable thanks to OIS. It can, however, struggle to get the right colours and exposure. As for the front camera 16-megapixel camera, selfies look above average with low-light selfies being soft and lacking details.
The battery on the OnePlus 7 hasn’t witnessed any change, so you get the same 3700mAh unit with the same 20W charger. Notably, the company has dropped the Dash Charge branding. Battery life on the handset is great, as you can easily go through all day with about 25-30 percent left at the end of your day. Of course, that number drops if you play a lot of PUBG like me. But thanks to the fast charging, the handset can hit 50 percent in just half an hour and full 100 percent in just an hour and 15 minutes.
I absolutely love the OnePlus 7, especially that flashy red paint job. It doesn’t feel as fragile as most glass-clad smartphones out there, especially the OnePlus 7 Pro with its frosted finish at the back and curved display at the front. Of course, that is a personal choice.
Realistically, at its price you get a great display, flawless performance, long battery life along with fast charging and smooth lag free software experience. Unlike its elder sibling, this one is more of a conscious effort from the company to maintain its “affordable flagship” image. I think this is a perfect device for someone who demands the best performance at a sub-Rs 40,000 budget.