At its launch event in London OnePlus spent almost its entire presentation time on showing off its first ultra-premium smartphone: the OnePlus 7 Pro. And understandably so. The Pro has a market leading screen, with no visual disturbances like notches or punch-hole cameras, built on to a phone that redefines what we think fast means for smartphones.

The OnePlus 7 then was never going to spend as much time in the spotlight, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not worth your time or attention. Yes, it's familiar, but inside there's more power, a must faster storage system and on the back it has the same primary camera as its bigger sibling. It's also more affordable, which might just be the key factor for loyal OnePlus fans who have always been drawn in predominantly for the company's bang-for-buck.

Same design, same screen?

Look at it from the outside, and you might not notice much difference between the OnePlus 7 and the 6T that came before it. In the same was as the 6T itself was a subtle change from the 6.

The front is almost entirely dominated by the AMOLED fullHD+ panel, which has only the slightest of bezels on the side and the top, with only the small dew-drop notch on the top edge encroaching on screen real estate. What is different about its look from the front, however, is the earpiece.

OnePlus 7 initial review 6T evolution image 4

OnePlus incorporated the same dual speaker system in the OnePlus as the 7 Pro, which means a much longer earpiece grille on the top edge, allowing more space for bigger sound to come through, and making space for that loudspeaker that joins with the repositioned speaker on the bottom edge to create the Dolby-powered stereo effect.

On the back, it's similar, but not exactly the same too. We only got hands on a Mirror Grey option, which shares its glossy finish and colouring with the OnePlus 7 Pro. It's attractive to look at, and makes a change from the usual pitch black glossy finish of the previous two generations.

Having used the 7 Pro for a little while, the one thing that seemed striking initially was how small and light the OnePlus 7 felt, but in reality it's not that much different to the standard OnePlus phones that came before it.

As for that screen, it certainly seems as punchy and vibrant as we've seen from OnePlus before. It doesn't have the same sharpness and detail as the 7 Pro, understandably, but is definitely eye-catching. We'll wait until we've had longer to test the device to bring our final assessment on that though.

Relentless speed

  • Snapdragon 855 processor
  • 6GB or 8GB RAM
  • 128GB or 256GB UFS 3.0 storage
  • 3,700mAh battery
  • OnePlus fast charging

OnePlus has always been about fluidity and speed. It's the key driving force behind its phones, and it's why they always have the latest, most powerful Snapdragon processor. It's no different for the OnePlus 7. Despite not being the Pro model, it's still equipped with the Snapdragon 855 processor, which should ensure ultra-smooth and speedy animations and transitions.

OnePlus 7 initial review 6T evolution image 3

It also means that you can play graphically intense games without experiencing any lag or stutter. With that said, you won't get the ultra-smooth animation offered by the Pro display's 90Hz refresh rate. It won't seem slow, but compare the two, and you might just wish you have the Pro model.

One other element which OnePlus says makes a big difference to speed in general (or anything that requires reading and writing on the built-in flash storage) is UFS 3.0. It's the next generation of flash memory, and boosts speed of just about anything. Whether you're opening apps, downloading/transferring files, you should notice an increase in speed here.

As with the display, we need to test much further on this to see how much of an impact it really makes in daily use, but it certainly seemed speedy enough in our short hands-on time.

The one element that doesn't make it across to the regular model is the Warp Charge 30. Rather than have the 30W fast-charging tech that first made its appearance on the limited McLaren Edition of the 6T, OnePlus has stuck to the 20W fast-charging tech that it's used for the past few years in most of its models. And that's to fill the 3,700mAh battery which we suspect might actually perform better than the 4,000mAh one in the more powerful, higher screen resolution Pro device. 

Enhanced Oxygen

  • Latest Oxygen OS
  • Based on Android Pie
  • New Zen Mode

It's a new phone, which means a new iteration of the company's own Oxygen OS platform. Unlike many other Chinese manufacturers, OnePlus' Android skin is traditionally very lightweight and customisable, and that remains the same for the OnePlus 7.

OnePlus 7 initial review 6T evolution image 5

This new software includes added new features like Zen Mode, that encourages you to put your phone down and not use it at all for 20 minutes. It blocks all functions except incoming calls, outgoing emergency calls and the camera. Apart from that, you can't get to your apps for 20 minutes, and there's no way to cancel it. We've used it on the Pro, and it can genuinely be quite useful when out for a meal, or just any time when we needed a break from the constant pinging of notifications.

You get your usual customisation options, allowing you to change your theme to a dark theme, or change the accent colours throughout the user interface. Plus, there's the Reading Mode which turns the screen grey scale, and drops the refresh rate to make it more efficient during e-book reading sessions.

All the megapixels

  • Dual camera system
  • 48MP primary camera with OIS
  • 20MP secondary sensor
  • 16MP front camera

While the OnePlus 7 doesn't have the versatile triple camera system of its "Pro" counterpart, it does have a better dual camera system this time. It takes the big 48-megapixel sensor that's used in the Pro and pairs it with the secondary sensor used for additional depth information and data for sharpness.

This 48-megapixel camera is the same that's in the Pro, and uses a technology to bind four pixels together, creating one larger pixel, and that means 12-megapixel automatic shots. You can shoot in 48 if you want to, but that means manually selecting it and shooting in Pro mode.

OnePlus 7 initial review 6T evolution image 2

With its newly enhanced algorithms that also means you get a sharp, dynamic image with its combined Ultra HDR tech, which layers up multiple exposures to both balanced out the dynamic range (enhancing shadows and toning down excessive highlighting) while also increasing detail and bringing out the vibrancy of colours.

Of course, since we couldn't properly test it at the event, there's no way of knowing how great it is. With that said, we have tested the same tech on the Pro model, and for the most part, it is a good camera. We experienced a couple of odd glitches when using HDR, and saw some slight inconsistencies, but there's always a possibility these are addressed by the time the regular OnePlus 7 comes out in June.

First Impressions

In pretty much every way, the OnePlus 7 is essentially the "T" version of the OnePlus 6T. It looks virtually identical to its predecessor, but with upgraded internals for faster performance, a better camera and better sound. 

The question remains then, as to who this OnePlus 7 is for. Is it for the OnePlus 3/3T/5 user who really needs an upgrade after two to three years, or is it those who still want that fast performance, and don't want to spend the £650 required to get the Pro model. 

Then there's also the fact that the trend for 2019 seems to be launching an ultra-premium phone, and a less ultra, but still premium flagship. We've seen it from Apple with the iPhone XR and Samsung with the Galaxy S10e. The only difference for OnePlus is that it made this move in reverse. It's always offered that low-cost flagship phone. For 2019, this is that phone. 

Check out our video review of the bigger, badder OnePlus 7 Pro: 

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