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OnePlus 7 review: The true 'flagship killer'
The OnePlus 7 is a shining example of restraint. The company has done a brilliant job at improving the features that matter while holding back from extraneous additions that would raise the cost. As a result, the OnePlus 7 almost feels like a mid-cycle upgrade to the OnePlus 6T, an already great phone.
After spending over a week with the phone, I’m inclined to suggest the OnePlus 7 as the best option for all but the most demanding users. Why so? Find out in the Android Authority’s OnePlus 7 review.
The big picture
The OnePlus 7 is a more traditional upgrade for the manufacturer. While the OnePlus 7 Pro serves as a statement piece to show off what the company can do in the premium space, the OnePlus 7 maintains the ethos of delivering flagship-grade performance at a very palatable price point.
As such, the company has played it safe with the design and you miss out on some standout features like the 90Hz panel and Warp Charge, none of which are dealbreakers in our opinion.
What’s in the box
- OnePlus 7
- 20W charger
- USB cable
- Clear TPU case
- Quick start guide
- SIM ejector tool
The box contents of the OnePlus 7 are pretty standard. You get a 20W charger, the same that’s bundled with previous OnePlus devices. You will also find a simple TPU case. The phone ships with a plastic screen protector pre-applied. OnePlus has decided not to include a USB-C to headphone jack adaptor in the box, which is a bit of a bummer.
- 157.7 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
- Waterdrop notch
- Stereo speakers
OnePlus didn’t experiment much with the design on the OnePlus 7. The phone looks nearly identical to the OnePlus 6T, but I doubt many would complain about that. It is a utilitarian design that gets the job done. Most markets will get just the black variant, but you can opt for the much flashier red colorway if you are in India or China. It looks downright stunning.
Coming from the massive 6.67-inch display on the OnePlus 7 Pro, it took me a while to readjust to the smaller 6.4-inch screen here, but once I did, the OnePlus 7 felt just right. It was easy to use the phone in a single hand and I could comfortably reach out across the display to pull down the notification shade or tap an icon.
The phone feels perfectly weighted and sits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The phone feels perfectly weighted and the curved edges on all sides help the phone sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. The OnePlus 7 weighs in at just 182g and it makes all the difference when you are holding up the phone over extended periods of time. A minor niggle, but the camera module on the OnePlus 7 sticks out a bit too much. I noticed that it kept catching on to the pocket of my jeans while sliding the phone in.
There’s a whole lot that has been said about pop-up cameras. Some people like them, while others think they are a costly repair waiting to happen. People have a love/hate relationship with notches, too. With the OnePlus 7 family of phones, the company has an option for you no matter your preference. The OnePlus 7 sports a water drop notch that is fairly discrete. Once you start using the phone, you barely notice it.
FAQ: Does the OnePlus 7 have a pop-up camera?
No, only the OnePlus 7 Pro has a pop-up selfie camera. The OnePlus 7 uses a conventional selfie camera embedded in its "water drop" notch.
You can crank up the volume on the dual stereo speakers.
You will, however, notice the much larger earpiece at the top. The phone gained stereo speakers that sound pretty darned good. Cranking up the volume muddies the sound quite a bit, but there is noticeable stereo separation and it’ll serve in a pinch when you just want to watch some YouTube videos. It helps that the speakers get fairly loud.
The rest of the hardware is finished in classic OnePlus style, with the alert-slider on the right and power button below it. On the left lies the volume rocker as well as the dual-SIM card tray. The bottom edge has a USB-C port, now upgraded to the USB 3.1 standard, and can do video-out as well. No, the OnePlus 7 does not have a headphone jack, nor does it have a MicroSD card slot for memory expansion.
The in-display fingerprint sensor is fast and reliable.
The phone uses an in-display optical fingerprint scanner that is a marked improvement over the implementation on the OnePlus 6T. It turned out to be fast and reliable in our experience. The phone has support for face-unlock too, it works fine as long as there is sufficient ambient light. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 7 misses out on the updated linear haptics motor from the Pro. The haptics here aren’t bad, but they’re just not as tight as on the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Pixel line up.
- Full HD+ resolution
- Optic AMOLED
- Gorilla Glass 5
The screen on the OnePlus 7 is the same “Optic AMOLED” panel that we saw on the OnePlus 6T. It looks plenty good and offers a range of calibration options to tune it to your preference.
I liked the out-of-the-box color tuning and didn’t really feel the need to make adjustments here. The display goes bright enough to be mostly visible outdoors, but a slightly higher peak-brightness level would’ve been nice to have.
As expected, the phone has support for the Widevine L1 DRM so that you can watch all the HD content you might want. The regular OnePlus 7 does not have an HDR-capable display panel.
- Snapdragon 855
- Adreno 640
- 6/8GB RAM
- 128/256GB storage
What happens when you combine one of the fastest processors on the market with oodles of RAM and optimise it for speed? Well, you get one of the fastest Android phones around. The OnePlus 7 is blazing fast at any task you throw at it. From games to swiping around the UI or multitasking, there is no task too much for the phone. Coupled with the excellent software, you get one of the best Android experiences this side of the Pixel. RAM management, too, was generally great and the 8GB of RAM proved to be perfectly adequate.
We put the OnePlus 7 through a range of benchmark tests and the results are just as good as expected.
- 3,700 mAh
- 20W fast charging
OnePlus did not change or update the battery when comparing the OnePlus 7 to last fall’s OnePlus 6T. Battery life is generally similar to the previous generation hardware. The phone lasts though about a full day of use. I regularly managed a little over six hours of screen-on-time from the phone with a mixed use of social media, web browsing, and a few phone calls.
When it is time to top up the phone, the phone supports rapid charging that will fully charge the battery in just under 120 minutes. While not as fast as 30W Warp Charging on the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 7’s charging performance is still quite impressive. If you are interested in how the OnePlus 7 compares to the OnePlus 7 Pro in terms of battery life, we’ve got you covered.
Update, March 2020: OnePlus pushed out the update to Android 10 in October 2019. Read more about it here.
Most would say that the price-to-performance ratio is what makes OnePlus phones so popular, and while that isn’t wrong, for me it is Oxygen OS that really sells the phone. It is an extremely clean, straightforward take on stock Android with no gimmicks. All the additions come across as thoughtful additions.
Running OxygenOS 9.5, based on Android Pie, the OnePlus 7 gets a few interesting new features like Zen Mode to help you disconnect from your phone. Part of a greater push towards digital wellbeing, the mode will disable everything except the camera and the ability to make emergency phone calls for a duration of twenty minutes. Once activated, there is no provision to turn it off and you are forced to disconnect from your phone.
Zen Mode is a nifty tool for moments when you just need to focus and finish off a task.
Lately, I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate on reading because of the constant urge to check my phone. Activating Zen Mode was almost a revelation for me. Did I still try to unlock my phone? For sure, but the fact that I simply could not deactivate Zen Mode for the entire twenty minutes helped me go back to the task at hand. I did not expect Zen Mode to be anything but a gimmick, but it turned out to be a rather nifty tool for moments when I just want to focus and finish off a task. That said, I would really like the ability to set longer durations for Zen Mode.
The built-in screen recorder is another nifty addition, and the OnePlus 7 carries over reading mode and night mode to filter out blue light.
- 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor
- 5MP depth sensor
- 16MP selfie sensor
When I first started reviewing the OnePlus 7, the camera came across as the one major weakness of the phone. As it turns out, after a series of updates, OnePlus improved it to the point where I can comfortably say that it is good enough for the majority of users.
FAQ: Does the OnePlus 7 have a wide-angle camera?
The OnePlus 7 does not have a wide-angle camera. Instead, it features a 5MP depth sensor that helps with portrait mode. Many other OnePlus 7 competitors feature wide-angle cameras, which are great for capturing large scenes like landscapes and group shots.
No, the phone is still not capable of delivering mind-boggling dynamic range like we’ve seen on Pixel phones, nor can it see in the dark like the HUAWEI P30 Pro. The OnePlus 7 delivers an image signature that is more along the lines of Samsung and LG, which means slightly over-saturated and bright — seemingly ready to be tossed on your social media platform of choice.
In the shot above, you’ll notice the phone does a decent job at retaining the highlights. Clouds don’t get blown out despite the shot appearing a bit brighter than it really was. The green foliage looks just a bit too saturated at the expense of a loss of details in the shadow region.
The same goes for this seascape where the image is very bright and saturated. It makes for a great Instagram shot, but might not be the most accurate representation of the scene. In less-than-great light, images end up losing shadow details and there is a fair bit of noise reduction at play as well. Interestingly, the latest updates from OnePlus tone down on the watercolor-like noise reduction patterns that made it infamous.
Low-light imaging has seen major improvements. The above shot was taken with a single lamp and natural light. While the default image looks good enough for a value-segment phone, certainly better than any OnePlus phone before it, the Nightscape mode now has a legitimate effect on the final output. As you’ll notice, the Nightscape shot is certainly brighter but it also exhibits signs of over-sharpening and over-saturation.
The phone has a reasonably good front-facing camera as well. The 16MP sensor is able to capture good looking images but doesn’t do all that well in low-light. Video recording tops off at 4K, 60fps and looked quite crisp. Compared to the Pixels, the video stabilisation isn’t quite as good. You can take a look at full resolution image samples by clicking here.
- Stereo speakers
- Dolby Atmos certified
- No headphone jack
- USB-C to 3.5mm adaptor is not provided
The OnePlus 7, like the OnePlus 6T, does not include a headphone jack. Instead, OnePlus would rather have you buy their rather good Bullets Wireless 2 Bluetooth headphones. Moreover, you will have to either reuse an existing adapter or buy a new USB-C-to-3.5mm audio adaptor in case you wish to use your existing wired headphones.
This time around, the phone comes equipped with stereo speakers. Like we mentioned earlier on in the review, the wide earpiece at the top serves as a front-firing speaker. The downward-firing speaker located along the bottom edge serves as the second channel. The positioning isn’t ideal but it does manage a bit of stereo separation. Playing games, you will likely end up covering the bottom speaker, which could make it sound muffled.
With the volume set to medium levels, the OnePlus 7 would serve in a pinch to listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or YouTube videos. Cranking up the volume, the speakers can get quite loud, but the output is fairly muddy and music sounds less than appealing.
OnePlus 7 specifications
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
Supports sRGB, DCI-P3
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Main: Sony IMX586 48MP, f/1.6 aperture, OIS
with 0.8μm pixels,
Secondary: 5MP depth sensor
Dual LED flash
Video: 4K at 30/60fps, 1080p at 30/60/240fps, 720p at 30/480fps
Main: Sony IMX471 16MP, f/2.0 aperture
Video: 1080p video at 30fps
USB 3.1 Type-C
No headphone jack
Dolby Atmos certified
20-watt fast charging
Optical in-display fingerprint sensor
Ambient light sensor
LTE: Supports 5xCA, 64QAM, 256QAM & 4x4 MIMO,
up to DL CAT16 (1Gbps)/UL CAT13 (150 Mbps) depending on carrier support
NA/EU: FDD LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/66/71
TDD LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41/46
TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39
UMTS(WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19
CDMA: BC0/BC1GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
CN/IN: FDD LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/1213/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/66
TDD LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41
TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39
UMTS(WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19
GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
Wi-Fi: 2x2 MIMO, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G
Bluetooth 5.0, support aptX & aptX HD
GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo
Dual nano-SIM slot
OxygenOS based on Android 9 Pie
Mirror Grey, Red (China and India only)
157.7 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm
Value for money
- OnePlus 7: 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 549 euros / 32,999 rupees (~$475)
- OnePlus 7: 8GB RAM, 256GB ROM — 599 euros / 37,999 rupees (~$550)
At half the price of flagship devices, the OnePlus 7 continues to offer incredible value for money. Unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 7 is a flagship-killer in the truest sense. It gives you the same performance and all the essentials that you have come to take for granted. Nothing about the experience of using the OnePlus 7 seems second-tier.
With the latest update, the camera is almost as good as much pricier phones. Indeed, short of buying a Pixel or HUAWEI P30 Pro, the OnePlus 7’s camera quality will satisfy most users. The company expects people who want a more versatile shooting experience will step up to the Pro.
There is nothing about the display, performance, or build quality that seems second tier.
Some alternatives to the OnePlus 7 include:
OnePlus 7 review: The verdict
The OnePlus 7 builds on a tried-and-tested formula. Take a great base, improve it further and don’t take too many risks. For the most part, it works. I’d have liked a better haptics motor, something that the company updated for the OnePlus 7 Pro. An official IP rating would have also gone a long way in cementing the phone’s position as best in class.
However, these are minor niggles when looking at the overall package. It may not garner the attention-seeking OnePlus 7 Pro, but the OnePlus 7 truly is a flagship killer. There are no standout issues and the internals are good enough to last you a couple of years. If you are looking for a value-segment flagship, it doesn’t get much better than the OnePlus 7.
More OnePlus coverage
- OnePlus in 2020: Going to be some growing pains
- OnePlus will change up its branding this week, new logo leaks early
- If the rumors around the OnePlus 8 Pro are true, I probably won’t be upgrading
- OnePlus 8 launch could happen April 15, but one device could be missing
- OnePlus 8 series: All the rumors in one place
- Want to improve OnePlus’ OxygenOS? The company wants your ideas.
- OnePlus 7T, 7T Pro gets first Open Beta, along with Live Caption
- Software teardown suggests OnePlus 8 will land on Verizon
- Buying a OnePlus phone used to be simple, but that’s changed in multiple ways