OnePlus has, over the years, developed a reputation for producing well-balanced smartphones that hit the sweet spot between price and performance. It comes as no surprise that the brand new OnePlus 7 smartphone delivers on this promise yet again. It was the first mid-range phone in India to be based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, and at a starting price of just Rs. 32,999, it offers incredible value.
Last year, Asus brought the fight to the OnePlus 6 (Review) with its ZenFone 5z (Review), and this year, it's trying to do the same with the Asus 6Z (Review). With similar specifications and pricing as the OnePlus 7 (Review), the Asus 6Z features a bold new design and unique camera system which is the first of its kind in the market.
So, if you are shopping for a mid-range flagship in the Rs. 30,000 to 40,000 price segment, do you pick the more familiar OnePlus 7 or the futuristic-looking Asus 6Z? Let's find out.
Let's begin with the Asus 6Z. The new bezel-less display looks striking and modern, and the whole phone feels incredibly solid and well put-together. The 6.4-inch full-HD+ IPS panel produces vivid colours and has high levels of brightness. It even supports HDR10 which is a bonus.
The Asus 6Z doesn't have a screen guard pre-applied but that's okay since it uses Gorilla Glass 6 for scratch protection. You also get stereo speakers, a headphone jack, and a dedicated slot for expandable storage, in addition to the two SIM slots. However, its biggest design strength is the flip camera, which can be rotated manually and also used for selfies.
A few things that we don't like about this phone are its weight and thickness. It's a tad bulky and heavy, even without a case. The customisable Smart Key is also placed a bit too high up, and isn't always easy to reach. Instead of an in-display fingerprint sensor, you get a rear-mounted capacitive one, which works well, but it's a bit too small to use confidently.
The OnePlus 7 doesn't take any risks with design. It uses a very similar body as the OnePlus 6T (Review), which is familiar, but now looks a little dated and boring compared to the Asus 6Z. Build quality is good, and the phone is lighter and slimmer than the Asus 6z. You get a similar sized 6.41-inch display, but with an AMOLED panel.
It's not HDR certified but its colours and brightness are still very good. The stereo speakers sound good, in fact, a bit better than those of the Asus 6Z, and the in-display fingerprint sensor works a lot better compared to last year's model.
Besides the older design, this phone also lacks a headphone jack and expandable storage. The rear cameras stick out more than on the Asus 6Z too. This phone doesn't have any extra customisable buttons, but you do get the signature alert slider, which is immensely useful.
Overall, we have to give this round to the Asus 6Z, for bringing a modern and innovative smartphone design to a very accessible price. Also, the dedicated expandable storage slot and headphone socket are welcome bonuses.
Looking at the core specifications, you can't go wrong with either of these phones. Both use Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 855 SoC and are available with either 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM. The 6Z starts with 64GB of storage, which is how Asus has managed to undercut the OnePlus 7 in terms of base pricing, but the 128GB and 256GB versions of the Asus 6Z are more expensive than the OnePlus 7 equivalents by about Rs. 2,000.
Both phones also have Bluetooth 5, NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and dual 4G VoLTE. The Asus 6Z has FM radio, which the OnePlus 7 lacks, but on the other hand, the OnePlus 7 uses the newer and faster UFS 3.0 storage standard whereas the Asus 6Z sticks with the more common UFS 2.1 standard.
The OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z have skinned versions of Android 9 Pie and both are pretty lean and unobtrusive. OnePlus calls its own UI OxygenOS and this phone runs version 9.5. This has been one of our favourite customised versions of Android for a long time. It runs smoothly, looks slick and packs a tonne of useful features such as a reading mode, a screen recorder, and lots more.
OnePlus has also been pretty aggressive when it comes to software updates, and this phone is part of the Android Q beta programme, so it should be among the first, after Google's own Pixels, to get the next flavour of Android.
The one thing that's missing from an otherwise robust set of features in OxygenOS is Google's Digital Wellbeing. The Asus 6Z retains this feature in its skin, simply called Asus UI, and unlike OxygenOS, the UI looks very much like stock Android. Asus has still added some conveniences such as the ability to run two instances of certain apps, an in-built screen recorder, and plenty of gestures.
With top-end components in both smartphones, it's no surprise that we didn't face any noticeable issues with day-to-day use. Navigation is quick and painless, apps generally run smoothly and are quick to load, and there was no unwanted heating with casual use. Games run well too, including high-end titles such as PUBG Mobile.
Thanks to the efficient SoC, the phones don't heat up too much when gaming either. In benchmarks, we noticed that the OnePlus 7 delivered slightly higher scores compared to the Asus 6Z, but with actual usage, it's hard to tell the difference between the two.
The biometrics on both phones work well but we'd pick the OnePlus 7 here, simply because it's faster and easier to use. The in-display fingerprint sensor is actually quicker compared to the capacitive one on the Asus 6Z, and face recognition just works, without you having to tap or swipe on the screen. With the Asus 6Z, you have to tap the little face icon or swipe upwards, only after which the camera flips over and authenticates you. This unnecessary step makes it a little annoying to use.
Both phones have vivid displays, which makes watching videos a real joy. The Asus 6Z offers a slightly more immersive experience as there's no notch at the top of the screen. However, for audio, the OnePlus 7 wins easily as it produces a more balanced stereo effect, has good volume output, and better mids and highs. The Asus 6Z sounds very one-sided as the main speaker overpowers the earpiece, which doesn't really contribute much to the stereo effect.
The Asus 6Z tumps the OnePlus 7 in battery capacity, packing in a 5,000mAh battery compared to 3,700mAh in the 7. However, despite this big advantage, we didn't find much of a difference in our HD video loop battery drain test. Surprisingly, the OnePlus 7 ran our standard HD video in loop for an hour longer than what the Asus 6Z managed. With actual usage, we found that both phones would easily cross the 24hour mark, with the Asus 6Z being able to sometimes go up to half a day more, before needing a charge.
The OnePlus 7 features 20W fast charging while the Asus 6Z ships with an 18W fast charger. Due to the difference in capacities, the OnePlus 7 charges to about 93 percent in an hour while the 6Z manages to get to only 70 percent in the same amount of time.
The OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z both have dual rear cameras but the combinations are different. They both share the same 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 primary sensor, which saves an oversampled 12-megapixel image by default. However, the OnePlus 7 has a second 5-megapixel camera for depth calculations, while the Asus 6Z uses a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera, which is more useful in our opinion.
In daylight landscapes, the Asus 6Z has a clear lead over the OnePlus 7, as it manages better dynamic range when shooting against the light. You can see a lot more detail in shadowy areas, and edge-to-edge sharpness is also far superior. Here, the wide-angle lens comes in handy as it lets you capture a lot more of any scene.
In close-ups, the OnePlus 7 produces a warmer and more natural colour tone. The Asus 6Z messes up the colours of the flowers a bit in the first scene. In the second scene, the Asus 6Z once again pulls ahead, with a more balanced exposure.
In low light, the OnePlus 7 fares slightly better in terms of detail, colours and sharpness. With Night mode, the Asus 6Z produces sharper photos, but the OnePlus 7 does a better job with shadows and colours when using Nightscape.
With close-ups, the Asus 6Z has a slightly brighter image compared to the OnePlus 7 in the shot of the bike. With macros, both produce average details but the OnePlus 7 does a slightly better job with sharpness.
When shooting selfies, the Asus 6Z has a clear advantage since the rear cameras double up as the selfie cameras. You get a lot of creative freedom since you can use the primary camera's shooting modes, including Night mode, as well as the wide-angle camera for selfies. The details, colour, and HDR effect are a lot better than what the 16-megapixel selfie camera on the OnePlus 7 can capture.
The Asus 6Z does a good job with portraits too. Even without using Portrait mode, the Asus 6Z straight up has better white balance, colours, and detail. With Portrait mode, the OnePlus 7 has a more natural blur but the colour tone is a bit too warm. The Asus 6Z has a more aggressive blur but you can adjust this before and after you've taken a shot, which is something the OnePlus 7 doesn't let you do.
Both phones can record video at up to 4K resolution and 60fps. In daylight, the Asus 6Z shoots good quality footage with good stabilisation. Colours are nicely balanced, details are good, and white balance is handled well. The OnePlus 7 also does a good job with stabilisation too but colours look too warm at 4K resolution.
Things get a little better at 1080p resolution. In low light, the Asus 6Z captures comparatively brighter footage but at the cost of some colour noise. The OnePlus 7 has cleaner footage but it's a bit darker. Both devices struggle a bit with autofocus, and there is some slight distortion due to electronic stabilisation.
Overall, we'd pick the Asus 6Z for its cameras. It generally delivers better white balance and colour tone, it has a more useful secondary camera, and you get some fun shooting modes such as focus tracking for videos, which the OnePlus 7 lacks. Also, as detailed in our Asus 6Z review, there's the fact that you can manually adjust the camera's position — to be in between the "selfie" and "rear" camera — which gives you new and interesting perspectives and ways of capturing creative shots.
Picking one of these two phones is tough, especially since they are quite similar in many ways. If you don't have any brand preference, we recommend the Asus 6Z (Review) over the OnePlus 7 (Review). With the 6Z, you get a more modern design, a unique camera system with capable sensors, good battery life, a lean skin on Android, excellent performance, and other little conveniences such as expandable storage and a headphone jack.
It is on the heavier side, and its stereo speakers aren't as good as those of the OnePlus 7, but as an overall package, the Asus 6Z delivers good bang for the buck, especially the base variant. The higher storage variants are slightly more expensive than equivalent OnePlus 7 offerings, but one again, we feel that premium is justified when you consider the features you get.
The OnePlus 7 is by no means a bad phone. It's slimmer, lighter, just as powerful, and slightly more affordable than the Asus 6Z for higher storage variants. In our opinion, this phone would have benefitted from the OnePlus 7 Pro's (Review) newer and fresher design language. Instead, it looks just like the OnePlus 6T, which doesn't give it much flaunt value. However, if you're a long term OnePlus user, then you might favour the 7 for OxygenOS and its familiar design, and you'll still be getting a highly capable smartphone.
Can innovative cameras, aggressive pricing help Asus 6Z beat OnePlus 7? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.