Oneplus has a reputation for marketing its smartphones as flagship killers. However, with the recent prices of their consecutive models going up every year, it’s getting harder to stick by that phrase. With the Oneplus 7T coming in just a few months after their last smartphone release, does it have any place in the growing market of pro smartphones? Yes, it does.
Before I go deeper into the review, I should mention that my previous device was a 1st gen Pixel XL. Having used that phone for over 3 years as my daily driver, it wouldn’t be a surprise to say that it holds a special place in my heart. With a clean Android build and fast updates, Google had possibly made the best all-out Android smartphone lineup ever. So why is it that in just a few weeks of using the Oneplus 7T, I haven’t missed the Pixel at all? It doesn’t have native Android, and the updates, while fast, still aren’t as fast as the search giant’s flagship. The camera too, while good, has never been Oneplus’ strong suit. Simply put, it’s the experience of using this device that has me hooked to it. And the lower price also helps, in more ways than one.
Design – A Familiar Face With a Dash of New
Let’s start with the design. Users of older Oneplus phones will instantly recognize the front side of the phone. It has the same teardrop notch that the company has provided in every phone since the Oneplus 6T. And honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all. A notch-less design would have been appreciated, but that’s reserved for the “Pro” model.
But here’s the big twist- rounded triple-camera layout. Remember Motorola? That’s exactly what the Oneplus 7T looks like, and the “Triple Lens” carved right above the, well, triple-lens system, doesn’t help. At its best, it helps in distinguishing itself from the rest of the lineup. At worst, it sticks out, literally, like a sore thumb. That’s not to say that I haven’t grown into it, but given the Oneplus 7T Pro’s more predictable design, it does get me to ask “Why did Oneplus make it look like this?”
The phone sports a single USB-C port which is used for charging using Warp CHarge 30T. The latest update to the charging technology will allow the phone to charge from 0 to 70% in just 30 minutes. And no, that’s not me advertising the charger. It really does work that fast. While wireless charging would have been appreciated, I’m happy with decently fast wired charging if it’s this good. On the flip side, there is no headphone jack. I know, shocker! While most smartphones have ditched the headphone jacks by now, it still stings. Oneplus doesn’t add a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter here, so you’ll have to get one on your own if you don’t own a USB-C headphone. However, you can get yourself the Oneplus Bullets, a wireless headphone made by the company itself. We’ll be doing a separate review of that soon, so keep checking this space.
Display – 90 Hz Master Race
If there was one stand out feature on the Oneplus 7 Pro, it was its super smooth display with a refresh rate of 90hz. That combined with its clean android implementation made it one of the smoothest phones to, well, do anything on. Oneplus 7T continues that tradition, with the company promising that all of its future smartphones will implement the same. Other than that, the display is also equipped with HDR10+, so expect deeper blacks when viewing supported content from platforms like YouTube or Netflix. The display is a 6.5-inch FHD OLED screen, with a taller aspect ratio of 2400×1080. While that’s nice, I personally would have preferred a 1440p screen, having come from a Pixel with one. With that said, you can fill up the screen on apps like YouTube, although that does crop out the significant top and bottom parts of the image. If you’re looking for that then you’ll have to look at the Pro offerings. Oh and the display is flat, which while it doesn’t look as good as a curved one in photos, it does make up for being ergonomically easier to use practically.
Coming to the 90 Hz refresh rate, I cannot state just how much better the experience of using the phone is because of it. Not only are all animations faster and smoother, but it even affects the readability of content on the screen. Even scrolling rigorously on the app drawer or an article, I could still discern the text that I otherwise couldn’t on a traditional 60Hz screen. And with most of the other phones slowly accepting this glorious change, I cannot wait for it to be implemented across the board. Another thing I hope to see is more games taking advantage of these faster chips and displays. There are even options to change the color space, with user control given a top priority here.
The display hides a fingerprint reader under it, and it’s blazing fast. The success rate is pretty high, although it does tend to fail sometimes when the screen is awoken from the double-tap feature. For the most part, I used the facial recognition feature to unlock my phone, which I’ll talk about in the camera section below.
Performance – Faster than The Flash
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ and 8 GB of RAM in it, it’s easy to look at this phone as having very similar specs as most of its competitors. However, there’s one thing those competitors don’t have: Oxygen OS. Longtime users of Oneplus phones will know that Oxygen OS is their custom version of Android, and compared to vanilla Android it comes with a few more customization options. But these extra features are more than just a novelty. Unlike other competitors like, say, Samsung these are features that I can actually see myself using more than once in the honeymoon period. Being able to change everything from the fingerprint animations to the touch gestures are a breeze.
With the display being smooth as it is, it also helps that the 855+ (an overclocked 855) can easily keep up with the refresh rate. Animations never drop, and this is especially helpful during gaming. My model comes with a whopping 256GB of storage, which stands for one thing – More media, and in turn- more games. I’m no mobile gamer, but when the experience is this good one can’t help but try their hand at a few of the mobile games that many despise.
The phone also has excellent RAM utilization, which translates to more apps being kept in memory for longer. But all this combined with the refresh rate does take a hit on the battery. The 3800 mAH battery gets me till the end of the day just fine, but if I toggle the refresh rate to 60 Hz, it lasts even longer. So for people who’re not comfortable with the newer display features can rest easy. There’s also a new “Video Enhancer” mode which aims to enhance color while playing videos. I personally didn’t find it to be a game-changer, so I turned it off. It generally pushes the colors but only works in certain apps. Other things like Night Mode and Reader Mode are just serviceable.
Coming with Android 10 out of the box, Oneplus is aiming to update the firmware more regularly than ever before, and that’s great. The built-in Community app is great for finding peers to solve problems. With the current rate of update delivery, I expect the Oneplus 7T to last till Android 13 (or whatever it’ll be called) at the earliest. As far as community engagement goes, Oneplus is leading the charge here with even extended warranty support for its recent customers!
Camera(s) – Three’s a Crowd
Now, much has been said about the triple camera lens design on the back of the phone. Love it or hate it, but you can’t change it. What you can change is your POV when clicking a photo. The camera system consists of 48MP main lens (at f/1.6), 12MP telephoto lens (f/2.2) as well as a 16MP Wide-angle lens (f/2.2). It can record up to 60fps at 4K, but other features like slow-motion videos are not present here. The cameras themselves are just fine, but it did leave me wanting more. Having used a Pixel for the last 3 years, I was surprised at the slower shutter response in the main camera app. Hopefully, it’ll be fixed with a software update. Otherwise, I’m gonna have to use GCam here too however I can.
Along with that you also get other features like Nightscape, Portrait mode and even a new macro mode, which can snap photos of subjects when the camera is super close to it (up to 2.5 cm). This is one of the most interesting, and unique, features of the camera. Nightscape is similar to, if not as fast as the Pixel’s Night Sight and the portrait mode works just as well. Here are some samples:
Coming to the front camera, it’s a 16MP lens that can record up to 1080p, which is fine except when you use it in a high contrast situation. Funnily enough, every time I pointed either the front or the back cameras at such situations, an “HDR” notification popped up on the screen. Thanks Oneplus, I wouldn’t have known.
But easily one of the best features of the front-facing camera is face unlock. I’ve used the same feature on a number of other phones but never as fast as it works here. 90% of the time I double tapped to bring up the fingerprint icon, the phone instantly unlocked with facial recognition. While it can get annoying sometimes if you were aiming to just check the notifications, I didn’t mind it. Just keep in mind that it’s not as safe as using biometric authentication. It only works when you’re directly in front of the display, so odds are if you’re holding the phone in that orientation you were going to unlock it anyway.
In conclusion, Oneplus 7T is a great smartphone. While the company has been increasing the phone’s prices every year, their phones can still beat their competitors at relatively affordable prices. The 7T’s design might not be its best, however, the software optimization makes it a breeze to use. With the clean Oxygen OS based on Android 10 & a super smooth 90 Hz screen at a lower price, the Oneplus 7T is at its best when it comes to Pro features for budget pricing.
The Oneplus 7T is available right now starting from Rs. 37999, and you can buy it from here.