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OnePlus 11 5G Review: The 2023 flagship to bet your cash on?

Running on the all-new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, the OnePlus 11 5G will please OnePlus loyalists

The big changes are on the camera island — last year’s square design has gone circular this year
The big changes are on the camera island — last year’s square design has gone circular this year

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Talk about the burden of responsibilities. The OnePlus 11 lands without a Pro model accompanying it, and the vanilla version has its task cut out for it — course-correct after the OnePlus 10T, all while staving off competition from the likes of Vivo and iQOO. From what we’ve seen so far, the OnePlus 11 is not only a return to form but also to a degree of OnePlus-ness that recent phones have missed. The question is — is this the 2023 flagship to bet your hard-earned cash on?

Launched in two spec combinations — a base variant with 8GB of memory and 128GB of fast UFS 4.0 storage for Rs. 56,999 and one that doubles both the specs (16GB/256GB) for Rs. 61,999 — there’s the choice between a glossy grayish green (Eternal Green) and a grippier, matte-textured black (Titan Black) finish.

Look and feel

OnePlus skips on a long overdue, pricier 512GB storage version, unlike the Galaxy S23 series. By and large, the OnePlus 11 looks rather similar to the 10 Pro, with similar in-hand feel and dimensions, which is to say, very comfortable with ideal weight distribution. 

The big changes are on the camera island — last year’s square design has gone circular this year, almost as if OnePlus went back into the archives and married the OnePlus 7T design with the OnePlus 10 Pro’s aesthetic. The result is a chromed-out stainless-steel bump that looks premium but altogether too busy, what with the four circular cutouts and a textured finish with Hasselblad branding in between. Looks are, of course, subjective and in my two weeks of walking around with the device, many have liked the design.

What will certainly elicit cheer, particularly among long-time OnePlus fans, is the reintroduction of the Alert Slider that went missing on the OnePlus 10T. This metal slider lets you quickly switch between silent, ring and vibrate modes, and it’s one of the most convenient features on a OnePlus device. On the durability front, there’s a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear and Gorilla Glass Victus on the screen, but models sold in India lack an official IP rating for dust and water ingress protection, although OnePlus has confirmed that the device can handle splashes of water but not submersion.

The Alert Slider lets you quickly switch between silent, ring and vibrate modes, and it’s one of the most convenient features on a OnePlus device

The Display  

The 6.7-inch AMOLED display is one of the highlights of the phone, checking off the flagship screen boxes by including a QHD+ (3216 x 1440 pixel) resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, Dolby Vision HDR playback and LTPO 3.0 display tech, the latter allowing the OnePlus 11 to dynamically drop down to as little as 1Hz to save battery life when high refresh rates aren’t needed, such as when you’re staring at the always-on display on the lock screen or when reading static content. 

While the screen is great for consuming content, games like Call of Duty: Mobile are somewhat oddly locked to 60Hz despite the underlying Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 clearly capable of handling the higher framerates. Likely something to do with whitelisting apps post retail launch, but something OnePlus should address.

Chip off the new block

The OnePlus 11 is only the second phone after the iQOO 11 (read our review here) to bring in the all-new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, and we’re consistently seeing the benefits of the new chip, plus the bump up to faster LPDDR5X memory and UFS 4.0 storage, although the latter is available only in the pricier model. One suspects one will tire of saying this about 8 Gen 2 devices in the near future, but the OnePlus 11 too is a beast that delivers not only on the performance front, but also keeps cool during extended gaming sessions, a marked improvement over past flagship chips. 

The new chip is proving to be a real winner for Qualcomm and is helped along by OnePlus 11's Cryo-velocity vapor chamber cooling design. In addition, there’s a new RAM-Vita feature that optimizes allocation of memory to active apps that need it the most. The OnePlus 11 runs Oxygen OS 13, based on Android 13, and the phone is expected to get four years of Android updates and five years of security updates.

In a nutshell, there’s plenty of power on tap and you should expect lag-free, thermally restrained performance no matter what you demand of the OnePlus 11. Shoutout to the excellent haptic (vibration) motor on the device, which makes interacting with the device feel premium and responsive. Given our recent experience with the iQOO, battery life too was expectedly good with the 5000mAh dual-cell setup, with the device regularly lasting in excess of 6 hours of screen on time despite the heavy workload of tasks a typical review puts smartphones through. If you’re exceptionally paranoid about battery life, the OnePlus 11 allays these fears by packing in 100W SuperVOOC charging, which charges the phone from empty in just over 25 minutes. No wireless charging, though.

Let's talk about the camera 

OnePlus’ Achilles’ Heel has often been its camera performance, and one can count more OnePlus cameras over the years with camera tuning issues than those without (trust me, I’ve used them all!). The OnePlus 11 is a welcome change to that stereotype, with an overhauled camera setup – a 50-megapixel Sony IMX890 sensor and OIS, alongside an ultra-wide 48MP Sony IMX581 sensor and a 32-megapixel Sony IMX709 telephoto sensor with 2x optical zoom. The Hasselblad partnership is finally bearing fruit in its final year, with better tuned shots in practically every scenario. 

Daylight shots on the primary camera are packed with details, great dynamic range and accurate colors, and the story continues on the wide-angle shooter – colors are consistent with the primary shooter and textures are clearer, and with its autofocus capabilities, the ultra-wide switches to macro shots when you get close enough. Even the 2x telephoto turns out shots (till 10x zoom) that are usable for social media. This is a three-camera setup done right. What surprised one the most is how well the OnePlus 11 handles low-light shots – colors are not artificially boosted, noise levels are restrained, and detail levels are much improved. I did notice the HDR algorithms trip up in trickly lit indoor situations, where it cast unnatural glows on the subject, but everywhere else, this camera is a real upgrade over the 2022 OnePlus flagships. The only baffling inclusion is the persistence to continue with an older Sony IMX471 16-megapixel sensor for selfie duties, which is a clear downgrade from what the OnePlus 10 Pro offered.

Cost factor

In a case of OnePlus doing what loyalists expect OnePlus to do, the OnePlus 11 comes in at an aggressive price point, undercutting the iQOO 11 by a significant margin (before bank offers). Here’s how they stack up – the iQOO may win fans with its BMW livery, a brighter display and gaming performance, while the OnePlus has the slightest of edge on everyday performance and battery life, and the cameras are better across the board. You’re likely better served (and for longer) by software updates with the OnePlus as well.

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