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OnePlus 12R review: The best flagship killer in years

Much cheaper than the OnePlus 12, the OnePlus 12R is a great value-for-money proposition with a nice display, excellent performance, and a reliable battery

For 2024, OnePlus has released the OnePlus 12R at a starting price of  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>39,999.
For 2024, OnePlus has released the OnePlus 12R at a starting price of 39,999. (OnePlus)

OnePlus found itself in a tizzy with the recently released OnePlus 12R smartphone in January. In short, OnePlus advertised that the 16GB RAM/256GB storage variant of the OnePlus 12R packed UFS 4.0 storage – a standard for flash storage. It turns out it was using the much slower USF 3.1 type as was confirmed by the president and COO of OnePlus, Kinder Liu. Good on OnePlus to offer a full refund (valid till 16 March) for all the buyers.

But let’s put the controversy aside and step back for a moment. The OnePlus 12R is the best flagship killer we’ve had in years. I’ve been using it for a little over a month now, and I’ve never felt this good reviewing a smartphone. OnePlus used to be the king of ‘flagship killers’ (with the OnePlus 3, OnePlus 5 and so on) but then the smartphones got more expensive with every new release. It slowly became a flagship on its own.

Also read: OnePlus 12 review: Betting big on better basics

The OnePlus released the R-series in response to the ever-increasing prices of their smartphones. With the R-series, OnePlus brought in powerful and feature-packed phones at reasonable prices. Sadly, the OnePlus 11R from 2023 was a huge disappointment, especially in the camera department.

For 2024, OnePlus has released the OnePlus 12R at a starting price of 39,999. It may not have the latest processor. It may not even have the best camera system. It’s also missing some additional features like wireless charging. It also looks very similar to its big brother, the OnePlus 12, and that may disappoint a lot of people. Still, with all that said, the smartphone is a special device. Let me tell you why.

What’s to love about the OnePlus 12R

Design: If you’ve used a OnePlus 11 series device, or even the OnePlus 12, then you’re going to feel right at home with the OnePlus 12R. Despite its more affordable price tag, the OnePlus 12R feels premium in the hand. It’s got a curved glass back, an aluminium frame and an overall stylish appearance. The downside is the glossy finish which does attract some fingerprints. At 180g, the smartphone is slightly on the heftier side, but it doesn’t weigh you down even when you’re using it one-handed.

Display: The display is easily the icing on the cake, as compared to the competitors out there. The OnePlus 12R has a 6.78-inch display (using an LTPO 4.0 AMOLED panel) with a 120Hz refresh rate. It has a 2780x1264 resolution, which is slightly higher than 1080p. Thanks to LTPO panel, you get a variable refresh rate, which in turn saves on battery life. This is more commonly seen in flagship devices, so it's good for OnePlus to include it in the 12R. OnePlus claims 1600 nits in high brightness Mode and 4,500 nits of peak brightness. That’s up there with some of the best displays in the market. Under the harsh rays of the sunlight, I had no problem with outdoor legibility.

The back panel is glass, but here’s the kicker. The front panel gets a coating of Gorilla Glass Victus 2. Extremely high-end, and again, a great addition.

The screen has bright and accurate colours, it’s razor sharp and the variable refresh rate helps make everything smoother.

Performance and OS: The OnePlus 12R may be powered by a 2023 flagship chipset - Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 - but that doesn’t mean it's a slouch. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the OnePlus 11, and many other flagship smartphones from 2023 had this chipset. The OnePlus 12R is blazing fast. Apps open in an instant, with no stutter or lag when multitasking.

The OnePlus 12R isn’t a gaming phone, but it does hold its own amongst the cream of the crop. I tried Call of Duty: Mobile and, at medium graphics, it played at 120 frames per second (fps). The phone got ever so slightly warm, but far from being a dealbreaker. The vapour chamber inside does its job well.

The OnePlus 12R runs on Oxygen OS 14 (based on Android 14) and it has a clean interface. It’s one of the most user-friendly Android skins out there. OnePlus has promised three years of software updates and four years of security updates. It’s one year less than on the flagship OnePlus 12. That’s a disappointment.

It’s not the fastest smartphone out there, but if you are to get the smartphone, I’d recommend the 16GB RAM variant.

Battery life: One area where OnePlus shines is battery life. With a 5,500mAh battery and well-tuned software, you needn’t have any battery anxiety. This is one of the largest batteries ever put inside a OnePlus smartphone. The OnePlus 12R easily lasts a day and then some with a mixed-to-heavy usage pattern.

I comfortably got over 7 hours of screen-on-time (SoT) during my review period. If you do need to top up the smartphone, the 100W Super VOOC charger (included in the box) will come in handy. It’ll juice up your smartphone in around 30-35 minutes flat.

Camera: a mixed bag

The OnePlus 12R’s camera system is a step up from the OnePlus 11R, but overall, it is a mixed bag.

OnePlus missed a punch by not including a telephoto camera. It’s baffling that in 2024 the company chose a macro camera over a telephoto camera when it has the tech to take macro shots with the ultra-wide camera. There’s the 50MP (Sony IMX890) main sensor, a 112-degree ultra-wide camera, a macro camera (which is not worth talking about) and a 16MP selfie camera.

The main 50MP camera impressed me, especially when using the standard 1x shooting mode. In a variety of lighting conditions, the smartphone produced photos with rich colours, great details, good HDR and a great deal of exposure. The 2x setting is also very capable as it is digital zoom (and not lossless crop zoom).

Even in low light, the main sensor did a decent job. I tried out the camera during the dim lighting hours at a bar in Delhi and I got some sharp photos with a lot of details retained. This was, in part, due to the fast shutter speed of the camera. Portrait mode is good, but OnePlus limits you to 1x setting.

The ultra-wide also delivered clear, crisp and colourful images. They were expansive shots with good detailing. It was a little less punchy, but still, quite usable.

It’s when you go to 5x zoom, that the camera starts to disappoint. The photos are messy and the detailing is completely lost.

The less said about the macro camera the better. There is absolutely no excuse for OnePlus to include a macro camera in a smartphone costing 40,000. Was it just to bump up the number of cameras? Only the company knows.

Videos are good, but not great. The selfies turned out pretty impressive in good lighting.

What I don’t like about the OnePlus 12R

Curved edges: Something I didn’t like about the OnePlus 12R is the curved edges. Accidental touches happen often, and the phone feels slightly slippery. Sometimes, the text or a menu option will disappear off the side of the screen. It can be more annoying than not. Most smartphone manufacturers are reverting to flat edges, but OnePlus is persevering with the curved edges.

Wireless charging: Something that is a bummer, but not a dealbreaker, is the lack of wireless charging. Yes, the OnePlus 12R supports wired charging, but wireless charging could have been included. The flexibility of having wireless charging, despite it being much slower than wired changing, is unmatched.

Verdict

If performance is what you’re after, then look no further than the OnePlus 12R. At a much cheaper price than its sibling (the OnePlus 12), the OnePlus 12R is an exciting value-for-money proposition. It’s got a great display, excellent performance, a battery that lasts for a day and then some on a single charge, and a battery that can be juiced up in just 35 minutes.

The camera, for the most part, is good enough for most people and the clean software will excite many. Yes, there are some downsides. There’s the lack of an IP68 rating, the inclusion of an utterly useless macro camera, the curved displays and lesser software support than with the OnePlus 12.

Still, at a starting price of 39,999, one just can’t complain. There is a distinct lack of similarly priced smartphones. You’ll have to up your budget for something like the Google Pixel 7 or go all the way down to 30,000 for the Realme 12 Pro+. The only similarly priced smartphone out there is the Nothing Phone 2, and that’s slightly old now. One could also wait for the upcoming iQOO Neo 9 Pro.

Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.

Also read: All you need to know about the new OnePlus 12 smartphones

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