OnePlus 7 Review: The Practical, Reliable, but Unexciting Choice for a 2019 Value Flagship
In 2019, OnePlus has increased its ambitions in an unprecedented manner. The company’s affordable flagships were always meant to deliver the best of OnePlus hardware and software at a set price. In previous years, this price used to be substantially lower than the average price of the “traditional” top-tier flagship. While the prices of OnePlus phones have steadily crept upward, the release of the OnePlus 7 Pro in May upended this thinking. It’s the first true top-tier flagship from OnePlus that features premium components, and it comes with a significant price increase from the OnePlus 6T. OnePlus is clearly proud of the OnePlus 7 Pro, and as expected, it occupies center stage in its marketing. Where does this leave the regular OnePlus 7, then?
OnePlus has opted to bifurcate its device portfolio on a regional basis. In the US, OnePlus doesn’t sell the OnePlus 7 and instead continues to rely on the generation-old OnePlus 6T as a cheaper alternative to the OnePlus 7 Pro. In India, China, and Europe, the OnePlus 6T is on its way out, and it has effectively been succeeded by the OnePlus 7. We will get into pricing differences at the end of this review, but suffice it to say that price is the biggest factor of the regular OnePlus 7. In China and India, OnePlus’ top two markets, the non-Pro is intended to fulfill the role of the “affordable flagship” at a time when the OnePlus 7 Pro tries to compete with the big leagues.
The affordable flagship market is more competitive than ever, though. In the face of strong competition from the likes of the ASUS ZenFone 6 (ASUS 6Z in India), the Xiaomi Mi 9, the Honor 20, and the upcoming Redmi K20 Pro, can the OnePlus 7 stand out? OnePlus enjoys a dominant market position in this particular segment, but can the OnePlus 7 help to prolong this success? Will it continue to be the recommended choice, or has the calculus of buyers changed? Let’s explore the answers to these questions in our review.
OnePlus 7 Specifications - Click to expand
|Dimensions & Weight||157.7 × 74.8 × 8.2 mm, 182 g||RAM||6GB/8GB LPDDR4X|
|Design & Colors||All-Glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5)|
Mirror Gray/Red/Mirror Blue
|Storage||128GB/256GB UFS 3.0 Dual-Lane|
|Display||6.41-inch 2340×1080 (19.5:9) 60 Hz Optic AMOLED display. Supports sRGB and DCI-P3.||Battery||3,700 mAh (non-removable)|
|Camera (Image)||Front: Sony IMX471 (16MP, f/2.0, 1.0μm) with EIS.|
Rear (Primary): Sony IMX586 (48MP, f/1.7, 1.6μm) with OIS and EIS.
Rear (Telephoto): 5MP, f/2.4, 1.12μm.
Dual LED Flash
|Charging||OnePlus Quick Charge (5V 4A)|
|Camera (Video)||Front: [email protected], time-lapse||Ports||USB 3.1 Type-C|
Dual nano-SIM slot
|Software||Android 9 Pie-based OxygenOS||Audio||Dual stereo speakers. Audio tuned by Dolby Atmos.|
|System-on-chip||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 CPU (1x 2.84GHz Kryo 485 + 3x 2.42GHz Kryo 485 + 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 385) with Adreno 640 GPU||Multimedia Codec Support||Audio Playback: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WAV, FLAC, APE, OGG, MID, M4A, IMY, AC3, EAC3, EAC3-JOC, AC4|
Audio Recording: WAV, AAC, AMR
Video Playback: MKV, MOV, MP4, H.265(HEVC), AVI, WMV, TS, 3GP, FLV, WEBM
Video Recording: MP4
Image Viewing: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
Image Output: JPEG, PNG
OnePlus 7 Pro connectivity and LTE band information
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz/5GHz|
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0, with Qualcomm aptX, aptX HD support, LDAC and AAC
Positioning: GPS(L1+L5 dual-band), GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo(E1+E5a dual-band), SBAS, A-GPS
|LTE Features||Supports 5xCA & 4x4MIMO.|
Supports up to DL CAT16 (1Gbps)/UL CAT13 (150Mbps) depending on carrier.
|LTE Bands – CN/IN/EN|
FDD LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/26/28/29/32
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
About this review: OnePlus India sent me a review unit of the Indian 8GB RAM/256GB storage variant of the OnePlus 7 (GM1901). OnePlus is a sponsor of XDA, but this article was produced independent of the sponsorship. All opinions in this article are my own.
OnePlus 7 Design
It would be a disservice to the OnePlus 7 to dismiss its design as a rehashed version of the OnePlus 6T. And yet, that statement has a certain degree of truth to it.
On its own, the OnePlus 7’s design looks the same as the OnePlus 6T. The OnePlus 7 Pro has a new design with smaller bezels, a pop-up front camera, and a curved display. These are three big points of differentiation versus the OnePlus 6T’s design. With the OnePlus 7, however, OnePlus opted to play it safe. This can be thought of in a positive manner, as the OnePlus 6T’s design is still one of the better designs even in 2019. However, this stagnancy in design also comes with a negative aspect, as it allows competitors like Xiaomi, ASUS, and OPPO to leapfrog OnePlus by shipping full-screen displays at the same price point with no notches thanks to innovative solutions such as a flip camera, for instance.
In terms of build quality, there’s not much to say about the OnePlus 7. It features Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and Gorilla Glass 5 on the back, while a glossy metal frame is sandwiched in between. The fit and finish of the construction here continues to be good, although the camera bump features noticeably sharper edges than the OnePlus 6T’s camera bump. Glass is here to stay now as the build material of choice, and OnePlus’ build quality has matured to the point where it’s nearly indistinguishable from flagships costing two times more.
The OnePlus 7 does feature minute but significant design changes from the OnePlus 6T. The first can be seen on the front. The earpiece is now significantly wider than the OnePlus 6T, just like its more expensive brother, the OnePlus 7 Pro. This marginally improves the experience of phone calls, but the difference in functionality is that it now does double duty as a secondary speaker to deliver stereo sound. I will have more to say on the audio quality from the speaker in the audio section.
There are no pop-up cameras, flip/rotating cameras, or any display punch holes to be seen here. Instead, the phone continues to go with a waterdrop notch, just like the OnePlus 6T. The design of OnePlus’ waterdrop notch is subjectively more pleasing to me than the U-shaped notch used by Xiaomi and Huawei, for example. The top bezel is fairly thin, and so are the side bezels. OnePlus continues to gain plaudits here by having a thin chin. In comparison, the ASUS ZenFone 6 has a bigger chin, for example. The fingerprint sensor is hidden beneath the display, and I’ll comment on its speed and accuracy in the performance section. Unfortunately, there is no notification LED here, something which OnePlus removed starting with the OnePlus 6T. The ambient display does a fair job, but it’s not a complete replacement.
The top of the phone features the secondary microphone. Moving to the right-hand side, we find the alert slider and the power button. Compared to the OnePlus 6T, the alert slider is significantly easier to operate on my OnePlus 7 unit, and it can be operated with a single hand. The OnePlus 7 Pro features a slight advantage here in terms of usability, but the OnePlus 6T’s slider was positively difficult to use in comparison. The alert slider works as well as ever in terms of functionality, and it’s still astonishing to me that no other Android vendor has opted to copy such a great feature. The alert slider on OnePlus phones means that silencing the phone is not only easy, but it’s also fun to do as well.
The SIM tray and the volume buttons are located on the left-hand side. The SIM tray contains dual nano-SIM slots, and as expected for OnePlus phones, there is no microSD card slot. In order to mitigate this issue, the phone’s base variant comes with 128GB of storage. The build quality of the power and volume buttons is great, as they require just the right amount of force to press. The phone doesn’t have an IP rating, but the SIM tray is sealed against water and dust. In terms of water resistance, OnePlus says that the phone will probably survive an accidental splash, but it’s best to not take any chances as water damage isn’t covered in the warranty.
The phone features two speaker grilles that sandwich the USB Type-C port on the bottom, as the left speaker grille contains the primary microphone. Carrying forward from the OnePlus 6T, the OnePlus 7 doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, and I’ll have more to say on the ramifications of this in the audio section.
The 48MP and 5MP rear cameras are placed on the center of the back alongside the LED flash in a camera module. This is a point of design differentiation from the OnePlus 6T, where the LED flash was placed below the camera module. The camera bump here is also thick. It’s much thicker than the camera bumps of the OnePlus 6T and the OnePlus 7 Pro, but this is expected as the phone itself is quite a bit thinner than the OnePlus 7 Pro while featuring the same primary 48MP Sony IMX586 image sensor, which has a 1/2″ sensor size.
The texture of the back depends on the color options. At launch, OnePlus made the phone available in Mirror Gray and Red colors. Both colors have a glossy finish on the back glass, instead of going with soft touch glass as seen in the OnePlus 6T’s Midnight Black variant. The Mirror Gray variant is available in all storage variants, while the Red variant is only available in 8GB/256GB. The Red variant is also available only in India and China. In India, OnePlus has now announced a new Mirror Blue color (available only in 6GB/128GB), which looks pretty similar to the OnePlus 7 Pro’s Nebula Blue color, except that it trades out the muted and matte finish on OnePlus 7 Pro for a much more glossy look.
I have the Red variant for review, and it stands out very much. The color is different from the OnePlus 6’s red finish last year. The red color is applied to the sides and the back, while the all-black front stays as it is. The color will certainly divide opinions. I don’t happen to like red phones, but I can see it becoming popular among a certain segment of the market. It’s hard to describe how deep red the color is. It’s a few notches lighter than a maroon shade, and it’s glossy and reflective. It catches light in a manner that draws attention, which means that it’s fair to say that it is flashy in a way that leaves even Huawei’s latest phones behind, just because of the color. For some users, this will be what they want. For the rest of us, the Mirror Grey variant or the new Mirror Blue finish will suffice.
The OnePlus 7 has gently curved sides, which makes the phone fit well in the hand. This is a lot more important for ergonomics than it sounds as phones with flat sides feel much thicker and more uncomfortable in the hand, even if their volume is lesser. It’s also noticeably thinner and lighter than the OnePlus 6T while having the same battery capacity. Compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 7 is a completely different phone on the basis of size and volume. It’s shorter, narrower, thinner, and significantly lighter. The two phones are in different price brackets, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Users happy with the size and feel of the OnePlus 6 and the OnePlus 6T will feel right at home with the OnePlus 7, which is a good thing.
Ultimately, the OnePlus 7’s design is a safe choice. The way things are speeding forward in terms of smartphone design, it’s natural to expect a new design from the phone’s successor, but a refreshed version of the OnePlus 6T’s hardware is still borderline acceptable in July 2019, even in the context of pop-up cameras making their way to lower price points.
The OnePlus 7’s box is a noticeably spartan package. We get a 20W OnePlus quick charger (formerly known as Dash Charger) and USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable, which is the same we have been seeing since the OnePlus 3 days. (The phone doesn’t feature support for the Warp Charge 30W protocol, which was introduced in the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition before making its way to the OnePlus 7 Pro.) A black transparent case is included, but that’s it.
OnePlus is known for not bundling earphones, but the box doesn’t even have a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter for users having 3.5mm audio equipment. This leads to the reality where users who don’t have USB Type-C earphones or Bluetooth earphones/headphones have no way to listen to wired or wireless audio from the OnePlus 7 without buying accessories. OnePlus still sells the adapter separately, but in my opinion, this is the very definition of an anti-consumer move. Sadly, more and more companies are traveling this same road.
OnePlus 7 Display
The OnePlus 7 has a 6.41-inch Full HD+ (2340×1080) AMOLED display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and 409 pixels per inch (PPI). The display’s dimensions are 147 mm x 68 mm. The tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio means that the display isn’t actually as unwieldy as the numbers make it seem. The display’s width, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, is no wider than a traditional 5.5-inch 16:9 display. The added length does become enormously useful, and this is probably the optimal screen aspect ratio for one-handed usability. Going to an even taller aspect ratio (such as 21:9, as seen on the Sony Xperia 1 or Motorola One Vision) has to be questioned at this point as screen width plays an important part of not making the display feel cramped. A plastic screen protector is pre-applied on the OnePlus 7’s display, and it can be easily removed.
The OnePlus 7’s display is an understated upgrade from the OnePlus 6T’s display, which was already one of the better displays at its price point. The display doesn’t support either of the HDR standards in the form of HDR10, HDR10+, or Dolby Vision, unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, which supports HDR10+. It is also a flat display instead of being a curved display, but this is actually a plus as a flat display is less affected by glare, distortion, and accidental touches. Thankfully, curved displays have yet to arrive at this price point.
The OnePlus 7’s Full HD+ resolution at a 6.41-inch display size diagonal may raise a few eyebrows. However, it’s not all that it seems. Undeniably, the display is less sharp than the QHD+ display of the OnePlus 7 Pro, as well as other QHD+ displays such as the Google Pixel 3 XL and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. All these phones are more expensive than the OnePlus 7, though, and to its credit, this is an excellent 1080p display. OnePlus’ text rendering continues to be excellent, and subpixel anti-aliasing has advanced to the point that the PenTile matrix is hardly visible at such sizes. Effective color resolution may be lower than an LCD having the same resolution, but this no longer makes a difference in the real world.
The OnePlus 7’s display continues its good performance in the brightness section. Its display can go to an approximate maximum brightness of 450+ nits at high APLs using manual brightness. The maximum brightness of the display is higher than the OnePlus 6T’s display. High Brightness Mode is accessible in a stock state this time around, and the display can reach 550+ nits in sunlight thanks to it, just like the OnePlus 7 Pro. The sunlight legibility is great, helped by OLED’s high contrast.
The contrast of the display remains a plus point because of OLED’s inherent characteristics. LCDs in phones like the ZenFone 6 will be noticeably inferior here, as the affordable flagship market slowly moves towards all-OLED. The viewing angles of the Samsung-sourced panel are the same as the OnePlus 6T’s display. This is a bit disappointing to see as the rainbow out effect at extreme angles is still present. The OnePlus 7 Pro features a higher quality display with negligible contrast deterioration and color shift even at extreme angles, while the OnePlus 7 doesn’t move the goalposts forward in this respect. Being an OLED display means that brightness and contrast degradation are significantly lesser than even the best LCDs, so it’s a matter of different strengths and weaknesses.
The color accuracy of the display is where things get interesting. The OnePlus 7’s display supports automatic color management in the Natural display mode. Users are asked to choose the display gamut right at first boot, and the available options are the Natural and Vivid presets, as well as the Advanced mode. In terms of color options, the OnePlus 7 is a nice step forward as OnePlus shows a meaningful understanding of color accuracy that seems to evade some other device makers.
The Vivid display mode targets the DCI-P3 gamut, and it supports color management in an incorrect manner, which means colors are stretched out. It can be used for enjoying oversaturated, boosted colors. The Natural mode, on the other hand, does support color management, although color management in Android is still at a nascent stage. This means that it’s calibrated to both the sRGB and DCI-P3 gamuts, but the white point is warmer than it should be. The Natural mode is a reference mode for color accuracy, and it’s hard to find any complaints apart from the warm white point (which is closer to 6100K than 6504K). Grayscale, saturation, and gamut coverage are all good.
The Advanced mode provides options for sRGB, DCI-P3, and “AMOLED Wide Gamut” (which is the native gamut coverage of the panel, and which is, therefore, a lot wider than sRGB). The default white point in this mode is extremely cold, although OnePlus does provide a color temperature slider. Most users will be better off sticking to the Natural mode for an optimal viewing experience.
The next display aspect is the display refresh rate. 90Hz displays are arriving in Android phones. The Razer Phones first showed off high refresh rates, but it is only now that the technology is taking off on smartphones. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s QHD+ AMOLED display is a phenomenal display, and a large factor in making it phenomenal is the 90Hz refresh rate. 90Hz is perceivable during scrolling, and it significantly improves the fluidity of the phone. To a lesser extent, it also improves the gaming experience in games that support 90Hz. The Nubia Red Magic 3 has a 90Hz Full HD+ AMOLED display for nearly the same price as the standard OnePlus 7, which gives it an advantage. The OnePlus 7’s 60Hz display is still fine for now as the displays of most competitors also have the same refresh rate, but OnePlus is highly advised to include a 90Hz panel in the phone’s successor. It can’t be overstated: the 90Hz refresh rate transforms a phone’s user experience.
The OnePlus 7’s display has support for DC dimming, which is an alternative of PWM. DC dimming has yet to become a full-fledged replacement for PWM, as it has its strengths and weaknesses. However, we have been seeing quite a few vendors add support for it as an option. The display also has support for night mode and OnePlus’ reading mode, which turns the display grayscale to mimic the experience of an e-reader.
The waterdrop notch of the OnePlus 7 provides a good experience in terms of usability. A hole punch display provides pretty much the same experience, depending on the execution. However, a notchless display is even better. With pop-up cameras arriving in affordable flagships as seen on the Redmi K20 Pro, this is a bit of a sore point for the OnePlus 7. A safe choice? Absolutely. Could OnePlus have done better? Yes. In what has become a recurring theme in this review, the waterdrop notch is still acceptable but true full-screen displays are slowly starting to become more popular.
Overall, the OnePlus 7’s display quality is competitive for its price point. Both the OPPO Reno and the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom have notchless displays, which gives them an advantage. In terms of quality, however, the displays of the Reno 10x Zoom and the OnePlus 7 are similar. The ZenFone 6, on the other hand, has a noticeably weaker display with lower brightness, less contrast, and inferior viewing angles. The OnePlus 7’s well-defined color profiles also help it to stay ahead of the curve in this respect.
OnePlus 7 Performance
The OnePlus 7 is powered by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, just like the OnePlus 7 Pro. At this point, we have tested the Snapdragon 855 in depth, gone over its AI performance, and tested its performance in four phones: the Xiaomi Mi 9, the OnePlus 7 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S10, and the Nubia Red Magic 3. This makes it a known quantity. The Snapdragon 855 is the current top SoC in the Android world in 2019, as it’s appreciably better than the Exynos 9820 in the international Galaxy S10 phones and also has better GPU performance than the HiSilicon Kirin 980 while having competitive CPU performance. The SoC will likely hold on to its position until the launch of HiSilicon’s Kirin 985 SoC, at the very least. There are subtle differences in performance optimizations between different vendors, but OnePlus has a very strong record here, and the OnePlus 7 doesn’t disappoint.
The Snapdragon 855 has a 1+3+4 CPU core setup as it makes use of ARM’s DynamIQ. The big core is the Prime Core, a semi-custom ARM Cortex-A76 clocked at 2.84GHz. The three middle cores are the A76 cores clocked at 2.42GHz, while the four ARM Cortex-A55 cores are clocked at 1.8GHz. The SoC features the Adreno 640 GPU and the Hexagon 690 DSP.
To start off, we put the OnePlus 7 through its paces in PCMark, which holistically tests performance across common use cases such as web browsing, photo editing, writing, and more using a range of Android APIs. For example, the Writing 2.0 test uses the AndroidEditText view and the PdfDocument APIs.
The OnePlus 7’s PCMark Work 2.0 overall score is very good, matching the OnePlus 7 Pro and coming below the Nubia Red Magic 3. It’s significantly ahead of all other phones we have tested in this test, including Huawei phones like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and it beats the Exynos 9820 in the Samsung Galaxy S10e by an enormous amount. In the Web Browsing 2.0 test, the OnePlus 7 falls below the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and virtually ties with the Exynos Galaxy S10e. In the Video Editing test, the OnePlus 7 slightly falls behind the Xiaomi POCO F1, but all phones are separated by razor-thin margins because of the age of this test.
In the Writing 2.0 test, the OnePlus 7 posts a chart-topping score by defeating all of its competitors. In the Photo Editing 2.0 score, the phone continues its great run by posting another chart-topping result that is significantly ahead of the rest of the group. Finally, the phone continues to lead its competitors in the Data Manipulation score.
In Speedometer 2.0, the OnePlus 7 posts a slightly lower score than the Huawei Mate 20 Pro while beating the Exynos Galaxy S10e.
In Geekbench 4, the single-core and multi-core scores are on par with the phone’s Snapdragon 855 and Kirin 980-powered competition, so there are no surprises here.
In terms of storage performance, the OnePlus 7 has UFS 3.0 dual-lane NAND like the OnePlus 7 Pro. This should theoretically give it a performance boost over its competitors in its price bracket, which still have UFS 2.1 NAND. To test this, we turn towards the aging AndroBench benchmark, which tells an interesting story. As expected, the OnePlus 7 posts chart-topping results in the sequential reads, sequential writes, and random reads portion of the benchmark. In the random writes, section, however, its storage speed is on par with most UFS 2.1-powered phones. Huawei’s phones are an outlier here as the Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei P30 Pro are a whopping 10x faster. This could be a bug with the benchmark, but it’s difficult to tell.
What’s easy to tell are the real world differences. They are barely noticeable at this point, and this is not a critical remark on the OnePlus 7. Phones are so fast now that differences in app installation speeds have to be measured by a stopwatch. The OnePlus 7’s UFS 3.0 acts more as a future-proofing aspect.
UI performance, RAM management, and unlocking speed
The OnePlus 7’s UI performance is phenomenal. OnePlus keeps excelling in this respect, as the speedy Snapdragon 855 makes for an excellent combination with fast UFS 3.0 storage and cleverly sped up animations in OxygenOS. Although it’s not the smoothest phone on the market — that award would currently go to the OnePlus 7 Pro thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate — it’s no slouch. At launch, the OnePlus 7’s animations weren’t as smooth as they should have been, as they showed jank in some areas. Thankfully, this was solved with the OxygenOS 9.5.4 update.
The OnePlus 7 feels appreciably faster than other Snapdragon 855 phones such as the OPPO Reno 10X Zoom and even the ASUS ZenFone 6 thanks to OxygenOS and its shorter, quicker animations. It’s designed to give an emphasis on speed, but fluidity is competitive as well. In terms of speed and fluidity, it’s a match for the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei P30 Pro, while beating the Pixel 3 for speed. It’s fast now, and real-world performance should be great for another two to three years, going on account of the excellent long-term performance of previous OnePlus phones. Buyers will have no complaints here.
The RAM management of OnePlus phones has been a controversial issue as the company seemingly doesn’t use the RAM capacity to allow more apps to be held in memory at the same time. The OxygenOS task switcher doesn’t show as many apps as stock Android does, although OnePlus is looking to rectify this in the future. While multiple games can be held in memory, apps can still be randomly closed sometimes, even when there is plenty of free RAM. For example, Chrome tabs will reload sometimes, but the cut-off point is difficult to determine. There is still room for improvement here for OnePlus, as currently, there is no app holding difference between 6GB of RAM, 8GB of RAM, and even 12GB of RAM in the company’s current phones.
The unlocking speed of the optical in-display fingerprint sensor is a plus point. While the OnePlus 6T’s fingerprint sensor was finicky in terms of accuracy and speed, the OnePlus 7’s fingerprint sensor is great to use. It’s almost as fast as a capacitive fingerprint sensor now, and it has competitive accuracy as well, negating two of the biggest complaints with in-display fingerprint sensors. It’s not an always-on sensor, which is a minus, but ambient display means that this is not a big issue. The ambient display also no longer blinds the user at night by increasing the brightness to full to provide light for the optical sensor. The clock is no longer displayed as soon as the user presses the finger on the fingerprint sensor icon. This was a major irritation with the OnePlus 6T, and it’s been fixed with the OnePlus 7 (as well as the OnePlus 7 Pro).
Face unlock also makes a return here. It’s 2D-based, which means it’s not secure. For convenience, it can still function well as a secondary unlock mechanism, and it works fine in low light as well. It’s speedy and accurate, and this is one case where not having a popup camera is actually a benefit as the front camera doesn’t have to pop out.
The thermals of the OnePlus 7 are also excellent. In comparison, the Exynos Galaxy S10e heats up a lot more and stays continuously warmer. The OnePlus 7, however, is not an outlier as other Snapdragon 855 phones also manage to stay cool during moderate loads.
Overall, the OnePlus 7 passes the real-world performance test easily. There are still some improvements that can be made with respect to RAM management, and a 90Hz display refresh rate would have resulted in enormous improvements to fluidity, but the phone is one of the fastest, smoothest phones at its price point.
The Adreno 640 GPU in the Snapdragon 855 is best-in-class in the Android market. It’s better than the Mali-G76MP12 GPU in the Exynos 9820 and the Mali-G76MP10 GPU in the Kirin 980. It also posts incremental (20%) improvements over the Adreno 630 GPU in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The GPU benchmarks from 3DMark and GFXBench confirm our expectations as the OnePlus 7 aces through them all by posting chart-topping results. The phone has better GPU performance than the Exynos Galaxy S10e while having a significantly cheaper price.
The OnePlus 7 Pro passed our gaming tests with a lot of room to spare, and the OnePlus 7 is sure to follow in its footsteps. This level of high-end GPU performance again acts as a future-proofing aspect as the phone will be able to play high-end 3D games even after two to three years.
OnePlus 7 Camera
The OnePlus 7 features a dual camera setup. The primary camera has the 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with 1/2″ sensor size, 0.8um pixel size, f/1.7 aperture, 26mm equivalent focal length in 35mm equivalent terms, phase detection autofocus (PDAF), and optical image stabilization (OIS). The OnePlus 7 Pro has the same sensor, but it has a wider f/1.6 aperture and it also comes with added laser autofocus to help the PDAF system. The IMX586 sensor is a Quad Bayer sensor, which means the effective color resolution is less than 48MP. It features 4-in-1 pixel binning to deliver an effective 1.6um pixel size, and users are meant to take photos in the default 12MP resolution. There is a 48MP resolution option in Pro mode, but it comes with critical compromises and is best avoided.
While the OnePlus 7 Pro features a triple camera setup with telephoto and ultra-wide angle cameras, the OnePlus 7 drops both of them in favor of a 5MP depth sensor. (The OnePlus 6T had a 20MP depth sensor, which makes no difference.) This is a very disappointing decision to make as the depth sensor serves no purpose except for portrait mode. OnePlus could have easily added a telephoto lens or an ultra-wide angle lens, but the company chose to cut costs here. In contrast, the ZenFone 6 has an ultra-wide angle lens, and the Redmi K20 Pro has both a telephoto lens and an ultra-wide angle lens. The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom has a 5x optical zoom telephoto camera and an ultra-wide angle camera as well. The OnePlus 7, therefore, is a negative outlier in this price segment.
We will soon publish an in-depth camera review of the OnePlus 7 Pro, which will include a comparison with the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom and the Samsung Galaxy S10e. The OnePlus 7’s camera is pretty similar to the OnePlus 7 Pro in daylight, so stay tuned for the camera review for our findings on the OnePlus 7 Pro’s camera.
In low light, it’s a different story, however. The OnePlus 7’s low light photos are worse than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s photos. There is less resolved detail, higher levels of luminance noise, and worse color reproduction. I don’t know why this is the case as the only differences between the two phones’ primary cameras is the narrower aperture on the OnePlus 7 as well as the lack of laser autofocus on the cheaper phone, but the differences seem too big to be accounted by these factors. Maybe it’s the fact that the OnePlus 7 is still running an older software version.
At launch, the OnePlus 7’s camera was a noticeable regression from the OnePlus 6T, which was disappointing to see. However, the OxygenOS 9.5.5 update has put the camera ahead of the OnePlus 6T and closer to the OnePlus 7 Pro’s OxygenOS 9.5.7 update. The camera quality of the current generation OnePlus phones has been changing quite rapidly and unpredictably with software updates, so it’s difficult to give a definitive analysis. Our upcoming camera review will attempt to do that, however.
At this point in time, the OnePlus 7’s camera is okay for its price point, without moving the goalposts forward. It still suffers from smoothing and softening issues in indoor and low light photos, caused by aggressive noise reduction. Low light performance still isn’t good, although the improved Nightscape mode makes it much better at the cost of shutter lag. In daylight, it’s nearly up there with some top-tier flagships, but as light levels fall, so does the camera’s image quality (in a disproportionate way). The Google Pixel 3a is a much better camera in comparison, and it’s the benchmark at this price point. The Honor View20 also has a better camera despite using the same image sensor. OnePlus, therefore, has some way to go before the company can say it has fully solved its camera woes. The good news is that at least, it appears to be trying.
The plus points for the OnePlus 7? It still has a better camera than the ZenFone 6, which suffers from very poor low light image quality and which also has issues with color accuracy. It’s unclear where the Redmi K20 Pro will fit in, but it’s likely that the phone will have superior image quality to the OnePlus 7. The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom also beats the OnePlus 7 in terms of both flexibility and image quality, but it’s more expensive. The OnePlus 7 passes the acceptability test — but yet again, it’s a borderline pass.
Here are the daylight and low light image samples captured from the OnePlus 7. All samples were taken after the OxygenOS 9.5.5 update.
OnePlus 7 Audio
The OnePlus 7’s stereo speakers are a significant improvement over the OnePlus 6T’s mono speaker. The earpiece acts as the secondary speaker, while the primary speaker is placed on the bottom. The speaker can get loud, but the real improvement is with clarity. Is it as good as the Samsung Galaxy S10’s acclaimed stereo speakers? It’s not quite there, but it’s a lot closer than it was in the past.
The OnePlus 7’s lack of the 3.5mm headphone jack is still inexplicable, especially for an “affordable flagship.” The lack of an adapter in the box adds insult to injury. The phone’s USB Type-C port supports audio accessory mode, which is a plus point. The company sells a passive adapter on its website and going on account of the OnePlus 6T’s audio adapter, the audio quality will be fine for most people. The OnePlus Type-C Bullets are also one of the better USB Type-C earphones out there, but they should have been bundled in the box just like how Google, OPPO, Huawei, and others do it.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 earphones, on the other hand, sound very well and have excellent battery life. They are quite expensive, though. The humble 3.5mm headphone jack would have been a welcome addition, but OnePlus has stubbornly chosen not to bring it back. The ASUS ZenFone 6 and the Redmi K20 Pro both have headphone jacks, while the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom doesn’t have it. In the audio aspect, OnePlus is, overall, at a disadvantage here as the absence of the jack leads to reduced flexibility, and the company is advised to reconsider its decision.
OnePlus 7 Software
The OnePlus 7 is powered by OxygenOS 9.5 on top of Android Pie. We have gone into OxygenOS’s features in-depth in our OnePlus 6T review, as well as in our OnePlus 7 Pro review. Therefore, I’ll only post my subjective observations of the latest OxygenOS 9.5.6 software on the OnePlus 7:
- Overall, OxygenOS continues to be one of my favorite custom user interfaces. I find it better than the minimalism of stock Android. The lack of ads means that it’s currently better than MIUI. The unparalleled speed and fluidity means that it’s better for performance than Samsung’s One UI. EMUI is a lot more feature-rich, but OxygenOS’s stock look and feel edge it out for me.
- The feeling of speed that OxygenOS gives is the best part of the OS. The animations are sped up with clever transitions, something which has to be done manually on other phones. Most other phones will feel slower even if their hardware is equivalent.
- All the stock OxygenOS apps are decent in terms of functionality. Added features such as parallel apps, status bar customization, three-finger screenshots, and others are useful additions.
- Did I mention how much I like OxygenOS’ navigation gestures? They are probably the best implementation of full-screen gestures as they don’t interfere with the navigation drawer, and are fast and smooth. You can also choose Android Pie’s 2-button navigation or traditional 3-button navigation.
- However, it’s not all good news. OxygenOS continues to have persistent app management issues in terms of delayed notifications for some apps. The aggressive implementation of Doze means that the data network (Wi-Fi/mobile data) is disabled after some time, which means notifications from vital apps such as WhatsApp, Hangouts, or Slack are delayed until the display is switched on. This issue still hasn’t been fixed in the current software, though we were told it is under investigation.
- The India-specific additions in OxygenOS have yet to graduate to stable software. You can read about them here.
OnePlus 7 Battery Life and Charging
The OnePlus 7 has a 3,700mAh battery with 20W Dash Charging. The phone’s battery life is solid. Users can expect an average of five to six hours of screen-on time depending on their unplugged time and the apps they use. The battery life is similar to the OnePlus 6T’s battery life, which was also very good. The software optimization is good as the phone has very little idle battery drain, which means that it lasts for a long time on standby.
With respect to its competitors, the ASUS ZenFone 6 is an outlier as it features a massive 5,000mAh battery with 18W Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0. The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom has a 4,065mAh battery with 20W VOOC charge, while the Redmi K20 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery with support for 27W USB-C PD fast charging. Going by the numbers, the OnePlus 7 would seem to have the weakest battery life, but a lot depends on software optimizations. It’s fair to say, though, that the tough competition here means that OnePlus is in a defensive position from the start. Battery life is great, but it could have been even better. A recurring theme, indeed.
It’s a different story when it comes to charging speed. Dash Charge may be old now, but it’s still superior to the 18W version of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4 (Quick Charge 4+ supports 27W USB Type-C chargers). The benefit here is that the phone doesn’t heat up even if it’s being used while charging. The downside is the compatibility, as Dash Charge is a proprietary standard.
Odds and Ends
As expected, the OnePlus 7 supports dual 4G VoLTE on both SIM slots simultaneously. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi 6 support, but only the Galaxy S10 series has had this feature until now. I didn’t experience any issues with cellular call quality or reception.
The OnePlus 7’s vibration motor is sadly not as good as the OnePlus 7 Pro’s much-improved vibration motor. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s motor is nearly as good as the Pixel 3’s motor, but the OnePlus 7 is some way behind. The OnePlus 7’s motor is also inferior to the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom. It still seems to be better than the OnePlus 6T’s motor, but that may be due to software tuning. Yes, it’s still good enough, but this is another example of cost cutting done to differentiate the phone and its more expensive brother.
After careful analysis, the OnePlus 7 seems to be another winner for OnePlus. Its blend of specifications and pricing provide for an attractive package. Let’s summarize the main aspects of the phone:
The OnePlus 7’s design is a rehash of the OnePlus 6T’s design with two important course corrections. It’s thinner and lighter than the OnePlus 6T, which makes a positive difference in ergonomics. Apart from the addition of stereo speakers and a thicker camera bump, there is not much new here. The waterdrop notch seems old-fashioned in the face of pop-up cameras, and the ZenFone 6 even brings a flip rotating camera to the equation. The OnePlus 7’s design, therefore, is slightly inferior to its main competitors, despite its plus points of slim bezels, a variety of color options, and great ergonomics.
The display of the OnePlus 7 is one of its strongest points, as there is very little to criticize. While the Full HD+ resolution may be getting long in the tooth, subpixel anti-aliasing is good enough to hide its flaws. The brightness, contrast, viewing angles, and color accuracy of the display are all up to the mark. It’s not a forward-looking future-proof display because of the absence of the 90Hz display refresh rate, but in all other aspects, it’s good enough for an affordable flagship.
The OnePlus 7 excels at performance. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 is the best SoC for Android smartphones on the market right now. The announcement of the Snapdragon 855 Plus with an overclocked CPU and GPU means that a hypothetical OnePlus 7T will be faster than the OnePlus 7, but the differences are unlikely to be felt in the real world, considering that even Snapdragon 845 phones remain very fast and smooth. The real-world performance of the OnePlus 7 is near chart-topping because of fast UFS 3.0 storage, sped up animations in OxygenOS, and excellent software optimization. The RAM management could still be a little better, but the unlocking speed is now a plus point. The GPU performance remains as good as ever.
The camera of the OnePlus 7 was a sore point at launch, but it has improved significantly with software updates. It’s still not what I would call a great smartphone camera, but at its lower price point, the expectations for its image and video quality are lower than the expectations placed on the OnePlus 7 Pro’s shoulders. The camera takes very good photos in daylight, but it struggles indoors, while outdoor low light image quality continues to remain a weak point because of the aggressive noise reduction that deteriorates fine detail. The flexibility of the camera is a big weak point for the OnePlus 7 as there are no telephoto or ultra-wide angle cameras here, unlike its major competitors which incorporate at least one of the two lenses. The lack of the ability to take photos with different focal lengths is a downer for a 2019 affordable flagship. The video quality of the camera is more of the same story with predictable strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately, OnePlus needs to step up its efforts here.
In terms of audio, the OnePlus 7’s stereo speakers are a significant improvement over the OnePlus 6T’s poor sounding speaker. It’s no longer a disadvantage now, and it sounds on par with or better than phones in its price class. However, OnePlus’ decision not to bundle wired USB Type-C earphones as well as an audio adapter feels strange as the phone lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, which itself continues to remain a decision made more for monetary reasons rather than for making way for benefits elsewhere in the phone.
The software remains another selling point for OnePlus. OxygenOS still remains one of the most well-rounded and feature-rich custom user interfaces while maintaining simplicity and ease of use with stock Android’s look and feel. The only major issue here is the aggressive battery management which leads to delayed notifications. This can be a deal-breaker, so it’s unclear why OnePlus hasn’t fixed it already. (It may be mitigated by turning off “battery optimizations” for apps that the user needs timely notifications for.) The lack of ads in the UI is another plus point these days!
The battery life of the phone is also better than what the numbers make it seem. Low idle drain and what seems to be a power efficient Full HD+ display results in good battery life. It’s not quite the eight hours of screen-on time workhorse that some may have wished it to be — users will have to turn to the ASUS ZenFone 6 or the Huawei P30 Pro for that. It will prove to be enough for most users, though, and 20W Dash Charging that keeps the phone cool while charging is another plus point.
We turn towards the pricing, the competition, and the value proposition. In India, the OnePlus 7’s starting 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant is sold for ₹32,999 ($481), while the 8GB RAM/256GB storage variant has a price tag of ₹37,999 ($554). The OnePlus 7, therefore, is actually cheaper than the OnePlus 6T was at launch, as that phone launched for ₹37,999 for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant. The reduced pricing is great to see, as it’s not often we get to see something like that with a new phone launch. The affordable flagship segment in India is more competitive than it ever was before, and with the Redmi K20 Pro set to make its grand entrance in less than two days’ time, there is absolutely no shortage of competition. In China, the OnePlus 7 is sold for nearly the same price, which makes it a great deal in that country as well.
In the UK and in Europe, the OnePlus 7’s pricing is less impressive. In the US, the phone is not on sale as OnePlus has opted to focus on the higher-end OnePlus 7 Pro and rely on the aging OnePlus 6T for the affordable flagship market. This means that out of all the international markets OnePlus does business in, the OnePlus 7 makes the most sense in India. OnePlus is intentionally targeting India for selling this phone, as the company is aware that the OnePlus 7 Pro’s pricing is a lot higher than affordable flagship pricing territory. While the OnePlus 7 Pro competes with the Galaxy S10e in terms of pricing, the OnePlus 7 is free to compete with its traditional competition from the likes of ASUS, Xiaomi, Honor, and OPPO.
In itself, the OnePlus 7 is a great deal — there is no doubt about it. The starting variant should be enough for most users, and the phone has a lot of pros. But the competition has to be looked at first. We start with the OnePlus 7 Pro, funnily enough. OnePlus’ flagship phone has a bigger 6.67-inch notchless QHD+ 90Hz AMOLED display with a pop-up front camera, faster 30W charging thanks to Warp Charge 30, a slightly better primary camera at this point in time, a telephoto camera with 3x lossless zoom, and a 16MP ultra-wide angle camera. It’s steeply more expensive, though, as it starts for ₹48,999 ($715) for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant, stepping up to ₹52,999 ($773) for the 8GB RAM/128GB storage variant, and going all the way to ₹57,999 ($846) for the 12GB RAM/256GB storage variant.
Ultimately, it’s clear to see that the regular OnePlus 7 has a better value proposition, but users interested in performance should go for the OnePlus 7 Pro because of its unmatched fluidity with its 90Hz refresh rate. The OnePlus 7T, if it comes into existence, may have this feature, too, but at this point, this is pure speculation.
We move on to the ASUS ZenFone 6 (ASUS 6Z in India), which is one of the most potent competitors to the OnePlus 7. The ASUS ZenFone 6 has a notchless display thanks to the flip camera, a notification LED, a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a much bigger 5,000mAh battery, an ultra-wide angle camera, and a better front camera thanks to the rotating camera mechanism. The OnePlus 7, on the other hand, fights back with a better display, OIS in the primary camera, better image quality, future-proofed USB 3.0 storage, and slightly faster software thanks to the sped up animations. The ASUS 6Z’ base 6GB RAM/64GB storage variant costs ₹31,999 ($467) in India, while the equivalent 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant costs ₹34,999 ($511) — ₹2,000 ($29) more expensive than the OnePlus 7’s starting 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant.
Both phones are very closely matched, and readers should make the choice based on their preferences. A similar comparison can be made for the OPPO Reno phones. The regular OPPO Reno has a notchless display but is let down by the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 SoC. The Reno 10x Zoom, on the other hand, has a bigger notchless display thanks to a shark fin popup camera, a microSD card slot, a better primary camera, a telephoto camera with 5x/6x/10x zoom (optical/hybrid), an ultra-wide angle camera, and a bigger battery. The phone is, however, more expensive as it starts at ₹39,999 ($584) for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage variant and goes up to ₹49,999 ($730) for the 8GB RAM/256GB storage variant. The OnePlus 7’s list of advantages includes cleaner software, UFS 3.0 storage, and a cheaper price tag.
The Redmi K20 Pro seems to have what it takes to dethrone OnePlus’ position. It has a notchless display with a popup camera, a headphone jack, a notification LED, a telephoto lens, an ultra-wide angle lens, and a bigger 4,000mAh battery. On the other hand, MIUI is currently a lot more intrusive than OxygenOS thanks to built-in system ads. The pricing of the Redmi K20 Pro will determine the success of the phone as well as the effect on the OnePlus 7’s popularity.
The Honor View20 may be six months old now, but it’s still quite a contender. It has a great design, a hole punch display, great battery life, and a better camera than the OnePlus 7. It’s also ₹4,000 ($58) cheaper than the OnePlus 7 during the ongoing Prime Days sale in Amazon as it’s being sold for ₹27,999 ($409), which makes it a great deal. The Honor 20, on the other hand, has a smaller display and (strangely) a less impressive camera. The Honor 20 Pro, the last of Honor’s contenders, has been stuck with launch difficulties.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei P30 Pro are too expensive to compete with the OnePlus 7, even if they do have much, much better cameras. The Samsung Galaxy S10e has wireless charging, a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, an ultra-wide angle camera, and a better primary camera, but the OnePlus 7 fights back with faster performance, better battery life, cleaner software, and a substantially cheaper price tag (₹32,999 vs. ₹55,900).
Overall, the OnePlus 7 is a phone that users won’t be disappointed by, as long as they keep their expectations in check. It’s not a forward-looking flagship like the OnePlus 7 Pro, but its price tag means that it doesn’t have to be. It’s a recommended choice in July 2019 and will continue to remain a recommended choice in the next few months to come. It’s a practical phone at a time of mechanical pop-up cameras. It’s also a reliable phone because of its speedy performance and solid battery life. Is it unexciting? Yes. OnePlus could have opted to take more risks with the phone. The fact that the company chose not to may well be the phone’s biggest flaw, but its affordable price tag and powerful internals means that this shortcoming may not be too hard to swallow.