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The OnePlus 7 is, without a doubt, a great phone. However, it’s cursed by the presence of its predecessor, the 6T, and by its more expensive cousin, the 7 Pro. It also doesn’t help that the 7 isn’t available in the US. Should you buy one, given the quality of its closest competitors? And, if you’re in the US, should you feel aggrieved for missing out? Find out in our OnePlus 7 review.
The OnePlus 7 is currently the baby in OnePlus’ lineup, sitting below the all-screen, pop-up camera OnePlus 7 Pro and the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. However, the 7 doesn’t really have any significant upgrades over the 6T it replaced – some bumped up cameras, a new processor, and an HDR-enabled screen will all make for a nicer phone, but not necessarily a new experience.
None of this means that the OnePlus 7 is a bad phone, however. Its cameras are fantastic, its performance is remarkable, and the overall OnePlus experience is super-slick. And yet, when placed in its market context, it can be difficult to really make a compelling case for the OnePlus 7 given its range of rivals.
Oh, and for some bizarre reason, you can’t buy it in the US.
In this OnePlus 7 review:
- OnePlus 7 design and screen – Impressive screen but oddly plasticky construction
- OnePlus 7 performance – Easily competes with the fastest phones on the market
- OnePlus 7 cameras – Very impressive rear camera, front not so much
- OnePlus 7 battery life – Will easily goes the distance for most people
- OnePlus 7 cost and value for money – Undercuts similarly-specced rivals, but more expensive than previous OnePlus models
- OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 7 Pro – Get the Pro model if you can afford it
- OnePlus 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S10 – Save £100 and get the OnePlus 7
- OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 6T – Almost too close to call, but probably worth saving for the 7 Pro
- OnePlus 7 review verdict – A good phone, but outclassed by its bigger brother
OnePlus 7 Design and Screen
OnePlus decided to push the boat out with the screen on its 7 Pro – a 6.7-inch, notchless, 1440×3120 pixel AMOLED, with HDR10+ support and a market-leading 90Hz refresh rate for super-smooth on-screen movement.
The OnePlus 7 didn’t get this treatment. Instead, you get a smaller (and admittedly more manageable) 6.4-inch display with a lower 1080×2340 resolution, and only HDR10 support. However, the OnePlus 7’s screen is still great, and on-par with many of its contemporaries. Its colors are bright and sharp, and it's great for watching videos. It's a good screen but not quite as strong as that on the Samsung Note 10 Plus.
We did find that that 7’s screen wasn’t quite as strong in direct sunlight compared to recent Samsung phones, but should you buy the OnePlus 7, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the display.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the phone’s overall design. Again, it’s not a bad-looking phone, nor does it commit many major design sins. But compared to the 7 Pro and (again) recent Samsung phones, it doesn’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor.
The notch is small and unobtrusive, and the bezels are pleasingly slim. The phone’s rear case has a gentle curve towards the sides, making it fit neatly into the palm of your hand. The OnePlus 7 is only available in Mirror Gray, but it shows flashes of purple in the right light – it's a nice, restrained design choice.
However, despite OnePlus’ claim that the 7 uses the new and super strong Gorilla Glass 6 on the rear panel, it still felt plasticky to us. When pressed or tapped it felt tinny and thin, and the handset itself was incredibly slippery – we lost count of how many times we accidentally dropped our phone, or how many times it slid off a surface after we’d placed it down.
Sticking a case on the 7 should solve most of these problems, but really, we shouldn’t have to.
Find out more – Best Phones for 2021
OnePlus 7 Performance
The OnePlus 7 is a seriously fast phone. It uses a top-of-the-line SnapDragon 855 processor, and is available with either 6 or 8 GB of RAM. We tried the 8GB version – which jacks the price up by around $50 – and it blew our socks off.
Apps load in a flash, and there’s no noticeable slowdown when multitasking. However, you truly notice the OnePlus’ power when it comes to gaming. The 7 can easily handle PUBG Mobile at its highest settings, for example.
In fact, it even has a dedicated gaming mode, which optimises the Snapdragon processor, GPU, and RAM to achieve improved performance. In truth, we didn’t notice too much difference in performance, but we did notice that it felt significantly cooler during heavy gaming sessions.
OnePlus also has a Fnatic mode – named for the London-based esports team – which one-ups the gaming mode. It blocks all calls and notifications, stops the secondary SIM card (if you have one) to improve network speeds, and restricts background processes. If we’re honest, it’s a bit of a gimmick, although we’ll admit it can be annoying when you’re in the final circle on PUBG Mobile and the group chat springs to life.
OnePlus 7 Cameras
Back to the good stuff. The OnePlus 7 has dual rear cameras – one 48Mp lens and one 5Mp depth-sensing lens – and they take fantastic pictures.
Regular shots are detailed, with good contrast between different colors. Admittedly, the shots can sometimes lack the pop and warm tones found on Google’s phones, but the OnePlus 7 can still confidently compete with the best phone cameras on the market.
However, it really comes into its own with Portrait mode photos. The 5Mp depth sensor means that the phone can accurately gauge the point of focus, and adjust the photo accordingly. From our experience, it’s the closest a phone has come to accurately replicating the bokeh effect you get on full-frame DSLR cameras.
However, OnePlus’ nightscape mode – designed for low-light situations – is not the best. It seems to pick out significantly less color than the current best low-light phones, such as the Samsung S10 Plus and Google Pixel 3a.
The front camera is a fairly standard 16Mp lens. It has a tendency to smooth textures, although shots are well-lit and colorful. While it isn’t the best on the market, it’s more than good enough to be a useful Instagram selfie snapper.
OnePlus 7 Battery Life
The OnePlus 7 uses a 3,700 mAh battery. That’s not huge in the grand scheme of things, but it is certainly large enough to consistently give well over a day’s battery life. During our time with the phone, we were getting close to a full day-and-a-half, which is pretty impressive.
However, the most impressive aspect of the OnePlus 7’s battery is its fast charging. It can fully charge from flat in just under an hour-and-a-half – incredibly handy if you’re ever in a tight spot.
OnePlus 7 Cost and Value for Money
As we mentioned above, the OnePlus 7 isn’t available in the US. We’re not sure why OnePlus decided against bringing the 7 to the US, but it’s a shame. The 7 costs £499 in the UK, or just over $600.
This means it’s expensive when compared to previous OnePlus efforts, but it still comfortably undercuts the flagship models with which it competes. Let's take a look at how it stacks up against its admittedly more expensive rivals.
OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 7 Pro
The OnePlus 7’s biggest rival is, obviously, its bigger brother – the 7 Pro.
If we’re honest, the 7 Pro has the 7 licked in almost every aspect. It costs £150 more than the base 7, and £100 more than the 8GB variant we tried.
For that extra £100, you get the incredible 90Hz screen, the motorized pop-out front camera, and an extra rear camera. If you can stomach the extra cost, it's well worth it.
OnePlus 7 vs Samsung Galaxy S10
The Samsung S10 costs £100 more than the OnePlus 7. But is it £100 more phone?
Not in our mind. While the S10 is undoubtedly a great phone, so is the OnePlus. The OnePlus will likely feel slightly cheaper in-hand, but it is easily as fast as the Samsung. We also prefer OnePlus’ OxygenOS variant of Android to Samsung’s (admittedly improved) skin.
OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 6T
While the OnePlus 7 can’t hold a candle to the excellent 7 Pro, is it a worthwhile upgrade over the 6T?
At first glance, it seems like the two phones – which launched just seven months apart – are remarkably similar. In fact, the 7’s only tangible upgrades over the 6T are some improved cameras, a slightly improved screen, and a newer and faster processor.
So, if you have the 6T, should you upgrade to the 7? No. But, if you’re weighing up which to buy from new, we’d try and save a bit longer for the 7 Pro.
OnePlus 7 Review: The Verdict
It’s not without some minor issues, but the OnePlus 7 is a fantastic phone. It’s powerful beyond belief, OxygenOS is probably the best Android skin on the market, and the phone is significantly cheaper than many of its rivals.
However, if it were our phone, the slippery case would drive us crazy – as would the feeling that we missed out on an even better phone in the 7 Pro.
If you choose to buy the 7 – which, don’t get us wrong, you should definitely consider – you’ll be pretty pleased with your purchase. But, whatever you do, avoid anyone with the 7 Pro – jealousy is never a good look.
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