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OnePlus 7 review

A solid smartphone, but it's more of the same

OnePlus 7 review
Image Credit: TechRadar

Our Verdict

The OnePlus 7 is a dependable, affordable flagship smartphone, but if you're looking for fancy 2019 features you won't find them here. It's got high-end power and in-display fingerprint scanner, but borrows a lot from its predecessor.

For

  • Latest power under the hood
  • Premium features for less
  • Solid battery life

Against

  • Very similar to OnePlus 6T
  • Overshadowed by OnePlus 7 Pro
  • No microSD, headphone jack

2 minute review

The OnePlus 7 sits in the shadows. Not because it's a bad phone, but because it has been outshone by its headline-grabbing sibling, the OnePlus 7 Pro.

It's the latter which has inherited the bells and whistles of a new generation of device, while the incremental upgrades on the OnePlus 7 are far more modest.

There's not much difference between it and the OnePlus 6T which it replaces, but that's sort of the point. It offers a more affordable option to those who can't stretch to the pricier Pro, but still want the latest power under the hood. 

The OnePlus 7 packs in the top-end Snapdragon 855 chipset along with a choice of either 6GB or 8GB of RAM. Your RAM choice is tied to the amount of storage you'll get inside (128GB or 256GB), but even the entry-level model provides plenty.

It fits the 'affordable flagship' bill nicely, giving you enough power to run pretty much any app or game, and there's plenty of storage for your downloads, photos and music.

The camera is good, not great, the screen is bright and colorful, but doesn't match the HDR-enable QHD screens of the more expensive and it misses out on a certified waterproof rating and wireless charging.

However, if you've got a set budget you simply can't exceed, and the OnePlus 7 sits at the top of it, you're unlikely to find a better phone for the money.

Price Analysis

  • OnePlus 7 price: starts at £499 (around $640, AU$930)
  • OnePlus 7 release date: June 4
OnePlus 7 specs

Weight: 182g
Dimensions: 157.7 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.41-inch
Resolution: Full HD+
CPU: Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB/8GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Battery:  3,700mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 5MP
Front camera: 16MP
Waterproof: No official rating
Headphone jack: No 

The OnePlus 7's price starts at £499 (around $640, AU$930) for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage model, which is the same price as the OnePlus 6T started at with the same RAM and storage.

If you fancy a bit more space and power you can opt for the 8GB/256GB configuration at £549 (around $700, AU$1,000), which is actually cheaper than the 256GB 6T.

The OnePlus 7 is more expensive than the Honor 20, Honor View 20 and Pocophone F1, while it matches other 'affordable flagship' rivals such as the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and Oppo Reno.

The OnePlus 7 release date was June 4 in the UK, almost a month later than the arrival of the OnePlus 7 Pro, further making it feel like a second class citizen in its own camp. It’s widely available in the UK though, from the OnePlus website and through Amazon, EE and John Lewis.

However, there’s bad news for those in the US and Australia, as the OnePlus 7 won’t be available in either region.

Display

  • Large, colorful 6.41-inch display
  • The Full HD+ resolution gives you a crisp pixel density of 402ppi

There's a 6.41-inch AMOLED display on the front of the OnePlus 7, with a 2340 x 1080 Full HD+ resolution. That gives you 402 pixels per inch, and it provides plenty of color and detail, although the screen on the OnePlus 7 Pro is both bigger and sharper. 

The OnePlus 7's screen has a tall, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, providing you with more space for landscape gaming, and a better viewing experience for video.

The top of the screen is also interrupted by a small notch, which houses the front-facing camera. We didn't find that it got in the way during use, but it does mean you lose space for a couple of additional icons in the notification bar.

The top half of the screen on the OnePlus 7

Image Credit: TechRadar

OnePlus has managed to keep bezels around the screen to a relative minimum, but there is a small chin at the base of the display - although it's not an issue.

The fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus 7 is embedded into the display, and while it does work, it's not the fastest or most accurate in-screen scanner we've used.

It's also not quite as fast as non-screen-mounted scanners, with a split second needed for it to read your finger and unlock the handset. You can opt for face unlock instead, which is impressively fast, but you need to be looking at the device for it to work and it's less secure.

We didn't have any issues with the screen during our time with the OnePlus 7. It's bright and colorful, providing enough detail for general usage as well as gaming and video. 

It lacks HDR and a QHD (or higher) resolution, so image quality isn't as good as the OnePlus 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10 or Sony Xperia 1 - but all these handsets cost more. Considering the OnePlus 7 price, it's hard to knock the screen.

The OnePlus 7 held in the hand

Image Credit: TechRadar

Design

  • Very similar to OnePlus 6T, with the addition of a front-facing speaker
  • Looks and feels premium, but slippery in the hand

The design of the OnePlus 7 is very similar to the OnePlus 6T, but look closely and there are a few minor differences between the two handsets.

There's a notch at the top of the phone housing the front-facing camera, which you may feel already looks a little dated, especially as the Pro version doesn't have any notch, instead employing a pop-up selfie camera.

As noted above there's also an in-screen fingerprint scanner here, which generally works well, but it doesn't seem as accurate or fast as the digit readers we found in the screens of the Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10.

The scanner itself is bigger than the one in the OnePlus 6T, meaning your thumb should be able to find it more easily - although it's not always perfect.

It does allow the rear of the phone to be almost completely flush, with just the centralized camera module interrupting the shiny glass finish. 

The in-display fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus 7

Image Credit: TechRadar

That rear glass doesn't offer up much in the way of grip, so a case may be called for it you want to have a better hold of the OnePlus 7. In some markets a simple silicone case is included in the box.

There's still a silence slider on the right side of the OnePlus 7, just above the power key, which is a feature many like about OnePlus phones. This handset doesn't have an IP rating though, so we wouldn't recommend taking it too close to the pool or using it in the bath.

The OnePlus 7 is only available in one color in Western markets: Mirror Gray. Those who live in China and India are also able to buy the phone in red, but there's currently no plan to bring that color to other countries. 

The OnePlus 7 also gets stereo speakers, and you can see this with a slender speaker grille which runs along the top edge of the phone. That's a new addition over the 6T, and it joins the down-firing speaker on the base of the handset.

For those of you who like every feature possible packed into their smartphone, the OnePlus 7 does have a few other omissions on top of no IP rating, including no microSD card slot, wireless charging or headphone jack.

The rear of the OnePlus 7

Image Credit: TechRadar

Camera

  • Dual rear cameras with a powerful main 48MP lens
  • Front-facing 16MP selfie camera

Another upgrade the OnePlus 7 has over the 6T is its cameras, and while you still get dual rear cameras, their values have changed.

The main sensor is now Sony's mammoth 48MP f/1.7 offering, and that's joined by a 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor, used for portrait mode and the 2x zoom.

That increase in megapixels on the main camera means shots carry more detail, providing better quality images, although visually it's not a huge leap forward.

Outside, in good light, the OnePlus 7's cameras perform well, providing a good level of contrast and color. Inside the quality dips slightly, but results are still strong.

The rear cameras on the OnePlus 7

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The camera app on the OnePlus 7 is straightforward, with only a few options visible when you load it up.

There are four modes to choose from at first - photo, portrait, nightscape and video - but swipe up over the shutter key and you'll open up an expanded menu revealing more options, including a pro mode and slow motion video capture.

Slide sideways to switch from the standard photo mode to portrait, and the OnePlus 7 does a good job of blurring the background around your subject, making for some striking shots.

Switch to the 16MP f/2.0 front-facing camera and selfies are of good quality. There is a beauty mode, which is thankfully turned off by default, and there's a portrait mode available here as well.

With no secondary depth sensor on the front, the OnePlus 7 uses machine learning to blur the background. It still does well, but it's not quite as accurate as the rear setup.

OnePlus 7 camera samples

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Battery

  • 3,700mAh is fast charging compatible, but there's no wireless charging
  • Will last a full day on a single charge

The OnePlus 7 comes with a 3,700mAh battery which, yes you've guessed it, is the same size as the power pack found in the OnePlus 6T.

We found that it would easily see us through a full day on a single charge, and we tended to get to bed at around 11pm with roughly 20% left in the tank.

Our general usage tended to involve taking it off charge at 7am and using it for a couple of hours of video streaming, an hour or two of gaming, and a healthy dose of messages, emails, social media, camera and web browsing throughout the day.

The battery in the OnePlus 7 is also fast charging compatible, via the USB-C port on the base of the device, allowing you to quickly top up if you spot yourself running low. You will need the bundled-in-the-box Dash charge plug to take advantage of the increased charging speeds though.

You have to plug the OnePlus 7 in to charge as well, as it does not support wireless charging.

The base of the OnePlus 7

Image Credit: TechRadar

Performance

  • Flagship performance and dedicated gaming modes
  • Latest Android software with plenty of customization options

There's plenty of power under the hood of the OnePlus 7, and with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 chipset featuring as its beating heart, you can be safe in the knowledge that your phone is bang up to date.

That's paired with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM (we reviewed the latter), and in reality you're unlikely to see much difference in day-to-day performance between the two models.

Apps load swiftly and you can easily jump between multiple apps without any sign of slowdown. 

If you're someone who likes to play a lot of intense mobile games - we're talking the likes of Fortnite or PUBG (PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds) with the graphics cranked all the way up - then the 8GB model will fare better, but the 6GB OnePlus 7 won't be a slouch.

We ran the Geekbench test on the OnePlus 7 and it managed to gain an average multi-core score of 10,576, just below the OnePlus 7 Pro, which racked up 10,960 in the same benchmark test.

That puts it just behind some of the best performing smartphones around, including the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus (11,002), Sony Xperia 1 (11,192) and iPhone XS (11,481). Considering the OnePlus 7 is considerably cheaper than these handsets, it's a great result and shows it has flagship power packed inside.

Gamers can also take advantage of Gaming mode on the OnePlus 7, which lets you lock the screen brightness, enhance the display and choose whether or not you want notifications or call pop-ups to display on screen.

If you want to take things a step further you can engage Fnatic mode which, when enabled, blocks notifications and calls, restricts background activity to provide more power to your game, and disables your second SIM (if you have one) to enhance your network connection and reduce latency.

Whenever you load up a game, you'll see a gaming mode pop-up at the top of the display, and you can tap it to fine-tune your settings.

Apps on the OnePlus 7 screen

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The OnePlus 7 runs the latest version of Google's operating system, Android 9 Pie, but it's not the stock version of the software.

OnePlus applies its Oxygen UI over the top of Android, a relatively light skin which doesn't mess around too much with the look and feel of Google's software, but rather builds in additional features and customization for users who like to dig through various options in the settings menu.

It's easy to navigate and feels fluid under-thumb.

Who’s it for?

You can't afford the OnePlus 7 Pro
The OnePlus 7 is a solid smartphone offering flagship features at a price point that easily undercuts the likes of Apple, Samsung and Sony - making it an attractive option. The OnePlus 7 Pro is a better, more exciting option, but it does cost more and if you're on a strict budget you'll be well-served by the 7.

You want an affordable flagship phone
While it may not be as feature-packed as the Pro, the OnePlus 7 still boasts a premium build and flagship power under the hood, along with a sizable display, dual rear cameras and a fancy in-display fingerprint scanner. All at a price which is much cheaper than the bigger players.

You want to try something new
Have you always stuck to the big brands for your smartphones? The likes of Apple, Samsung and Sony? Well perhaps it's time to try something different. OnePlus is now firmly established in the market and the OnePlus 7 is a premium, powerful handset that won't break the bank.

Who’s it not for?

You want all the latest features on your phone
While the OnePlus 7 does have the latest chipset at its heart, it doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of a new flagship phone - it's very similar to the OnePlus 6T. If you want the latest and greatest you'll have to pay a bit more (see the OnePlus 7 Pro).

You want a photography powerhouse
The cameras on the OnePlus 7 are good, but they're not the best on the market. If you're wanting to get the best shots from your smartphone you'll want to look at the Huawei P30 Pro or Google Pixel 3.

You live in North America (or Australia)
OnePlus decided that it would only offer the pricier 7 Pro in North America, so if this is the part of the world you call home then it's tough luck, you can't get the OnePlus 7. OnePlus also hasn't launched a new phone in Australia since the OnePlus 5, and there's no sign of the OnePlus 7 bucking that trend.

Competition

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Image Credit: TechRadar

OnePlus 7 Pro

The OnePlus 7 Pro is the super sibling of the OnePlus 7, with an all-screen front, pop-up camera, QHD HDR display and even more RAM crammed into its premium body. It costs more, but it's still cheaper than the top-flight offerings from Apple and Samsung.

Read our OnePlus 7 Pro review

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Image Credit: TechRadar

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

Impressed by the large, bezel-free, uninterrupted screen of the OnePlus 7 Pro, but can't quite afford it? The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 also offers up a notch-less display and its own eye-catching slider mechanism for around the same cost as the OnePlus 7.

Read our Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 review

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Image Credit: TechRadar

Sony Xperia 10 Plus

Do you love watching movies on your phone? Well, the 21:9 aspect ratio screen on the Sony Xperia 10 Plus could well be what you've been waiting to slide out of your pocket. It's cheaper than the OnePlus 7, and less powerful, but if film is your first love you'll want to check it out.

Read our Sony Xperia 10 Plus review

First reviewed: June 2019