OnePlus took a bit of skill with its naming of the OnePlus 7 series. It announced the 7 Pro as if it were the new addition to the line-up, and that is indeed a phone full of new things, but the novelty for OnePlus's strategy is that the company is now engaged in an Apple-like upcycling of older models as its input-level offer. That is what the OnePlus 7 is: a OnePlus 6T with an update for a Snapdragon 855 processor and a 48-megapixel camera and not much else.
Am I complaining? Just a little bit. The 6T had the fastest and smoothest performance of any Android device until the OnePlus 7 Pro arrived. It had a fairly large notch and slimmer display enclosures than you'll find on an iPhone XS Max. But OnePlus has now made those compromises less acceptable by hiding the selfie camera in a mechanical pop-up module, throwing in a beautiful 90Hz screen and turning the sides into pencil lines on the OnePlus 7 Pro. None of the original good things about the OnePlus 6T change to 7, for better or worse, but the 7 Pro is just constant, you mock with its superiority and availability. If you can afford it. In the UK, the OnePlus 7 with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage costs £ 499, while the same specification in a 7 Pro is £ 649.
Outside of the OnePlus portfolio, the price of £ 499 has become much more competitive lately. Google & # 39; s 399 pounds Pixel 3A undermines the 6T with a nice margin while having an enormously superior camera. And the Black Shark 2 and Razer Phone 2 both offer better gaming performance, with the latter also having a 120Hz screen like the new OnePlus flagship. Where does the OnePlus 7 fit into this highly competitive landscape?
From the point of view of the naive telephone buyer, the OnePlus 7 is pretty good. It costs less than the most expensive smartphones, while everything runs just as smoothly and looks just as glamorous. Admittedly, I hate the fingerprint magnet that is the glossy glass back of this phone, but that is another quality that it shares with super premium devices. The most important point is that if I handed a OnePlus 7 to an uninformed consumer, they would be very happy for a starting price of £ 499 (€ 32,999 in India or € 559 in the EU) or even £ 50 more with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.
This is the classic flagship-on-a-budget for which OnePlus is known and for a detailed overview of all its intricacies, such as battery life, performance, display quality and ergonomics, I lead you to my OnePlus 6T review. If you don't care if this is a good phone, that's it, and since so little has changed since the 6T, that assessment is all you need.
But value is the slippery fish that we all try to capture with a well-considered purchase as a smartphone. It is not enough just to be good, it must be worth the money and that can only be assessed in the context of the wider market.
So let's not avoid the obvious confrontation here: is the OnePlus 7 worth it when compared to Google & # 39; s cheaper Pixel 3A or 3A XL? The specification sheet would say "hell yes": the 7 is one of the most affordable Snapdragon 855 devices, it comes with at least 2GB more RAM than the meager 4GB from Google, has a larger 6.41-inch screen and the Pixel is stuck with only 64 GB of storage space that is not expandable. Lovers of dual-simphones should immediately write the Pixel away and find a cozy home for their cards in the OnePlus phone.
Although the OnePlus 7 has the reformed 2018 design, it is the Pixel 3A and 3A XL that look like they were from last year. That speaks both for the design leadership of OnePlus and for the corresponding weakness of the bezel-tolerant aesthetic of Google. If I were to buy a phone as a gift, I would opt for the OnePlus 7. But buying for myself, I would opt for the Pixel 3A XL.
It is not because the Pixel is faster. Even the premium Pixel 3 cannot match the fluency of the sharply tuned performance of OnePlus. And that's not because the speaker or display is better – both are good value for money and comparable to the OnePlus 7 – or even because the Pixel 3A models have headphone jacks. No, friends, it's almost all about that unparalleled Pixel camera. I am willing to tolerate slightly slower performance, heavier bezels and a poorer multitasking interface from Google, just to get hold of the best camera ever to grace the market under £ 500. OnePlus uses the extremely popular Sony sensor with a resolution of 48 megapixels that produces photos of 12 megapixels of decent quality. The secondary lens is intended for a 5-megapixel depth sensor to help portraits, although the Pixel camera still makes better portraits even without special depth equipment.
Taking the Pixel path has other advantages. Although both the 3A XL and the OnePlus 7 have a 3,700 mAh battery and a 1080p screen, the smaller Pixel screen drains the battery more slowly and makes that phone a bit of an endurance champion. I may be in the minority, but I also really enjoy the lighter feel of the plastic Pixel 3A devices. They are easier to handle and operate, and I really don't know how we have come to believe that phones that weigh more than 180 g / 6.4 oz, as the OnePlus 7 does, are normal. It is as if we have developed collective memory loss over the glorious polycarbonate-clad Nokia N9.
The OnePlus 7 has one specific design function that bothers me, and that is the camera bubble. It is much more pronounced on this phone than on the 7 Pro, Pixels, Galaxy devices or anything that makes Huawei or Apple. The Huawei P30 Pro and iPhone XS Max both have nice soft edges on their pill-shaped camera modules and their designers have the good sense to place those bumps on the side of the phone. OnePlus sticks this large, almost sharp plate in the middle of an otherwise highly polished and soft shape and it is a persistent irritation in the hand.
Regarding the gamer-oriented Black Shark 2 and Razer Phone 2, both now identically priced to the OnePlus 7, I find another situation where my experience does not match the specifications. Only this time are the other phones with juicier specifications, whether it's the Black Shark 2 and the boosted cooling system or the Razer Phone 2 and the extra creamy 120Hz screen. Both have illuminated logo's on the back, are used for signaling notifications, turning on game mode or completely ignoring the user for good taste by the user. Both have great speakers. Both can be treated roughly without worry. And both are ridiculously heavy to be considered as everyday telephones.
The OnePlus 7 is a graceful spring compared to those few fleshy beasts and yet it still has that top-tier Snapdragon system on a chip to make every game task light. The 1080p resolution is useful here to ensure a good battery life by not overloading the GPU. It has the most gaming options of the Black Shark and Razer Phone, but does not shout about its performance like the other two.
I would be negligent if I did not mention the Xiaomi Mi 9, perhaps the most similar phone as the OnePlus 7, with the same 48-megapixel sensor, albeit in a better triple camera arrangement. Xiaomi also fits on the Snapdragon 855 and wireless charging within the Mi 9, but that phone is a total non-starter for me because of EMUI. OnePlus simply does the best version of Android, and I could even include Google's original flavor in that statement. In addition, OnePlus has promised, in words and deeds, to provide fast and long-lasting Android updates for its phones. Xiaomi is still living in the 2012 era of Android skins.
My lasting impression of the OnePlus 7 is that it is a OnePlus 7 Pro Lite. The Pro has the 90Hz screen, which is not only smoother, but also more accurate. That phone also gets the 30W Warp Charger in the box, while the OnePlus 7 has the same fast charger as you had with the OnePlus 3T. And although both phones have the 48-megapixel sensor and UltraShot camera technology, the 7 Pro has a wider aperture on the main camera, ultra-wide and telephoto camera & # 39; s and the ability to take slightly better shots. On the aesthetic level, you only get the option of choosing a fingerprint-loving mirror on the 7 (with a red edition for India with the higher memory specification), while the 7 Pro has that beautiful matte blue and an upcoming almond edition, the last of which have seen and very much like.
Two points work in favor of the OnePlus 7 compared to its nicer, bigger, more powerful brother or sister. The first is the size, because the OnePlus 7 still appears in the & # 39; large phone & # 39; category, while every reviewer who has struggled with the OnePlus 7 Pro for more than a day has noticed its large proportions. The other thing is the absence of the curved screen sides. The OnePlus 7 still has the so-called 2.5D Gorilla Glass, but that is only a softening of the edge, while the 7 Pro has a number of unnecessary gradients on the sides making it harder to grasp and easier to accidentally put something on it screen. The Huawei P30 is a comparable example of the cheaper version of a phone with the better screen ergonomics because the designers simply do not have the budget to fiddle with too much.
It seems as if OnePlus has invested all its time in designing the 7 Pro, after which the company seeped through what it could fit into the OnePlus 6T chassis and budget space. I'm totally okay with that. I think the OnePlus 7 is a phone that most people like to use, although it can be a frustrating reminder of the existence of the 7 Pro for the geekier among us.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge
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