OnePlus 11 Review – A return to form, but a tough sell

I’m loving saying this, but it feels like OnePlus is almost back with the OnePlus 11. In hindsight, I feel like I was probably complementary to the OnePlus 10 Pro in several areas by calling it an unfinished work of art, which it was. The problem is that it was such a step into what OnePlus used to be against that it perhaps should never have been a OnePlus branded device.

The OnePlus 11 does feel — both literally and figuratively speaking — like a return to what OnePlus initially set out to be: The Flagship killer. It’s more reasonably priced, the specs aren’t bleeding edge, but very much enough for the majority of users, and the device really looks the part.

A look at the hardware and specs

The physical hardware looks nice, as almost all previous generations of OnePlus devices have. The colour choices are pleasing to the eyes — Eternal Green and Titan Black — and the phone design has evolved once again. The evolution of the camera bump is fascinating, with a rounded look that melds into the side of the device, almost a reversal of the OnePlus 10 development towards the layout offered on the OnePlus 9 devices.

Added to this, the OnePlus 11 is also noticeably flatter than the previous generation of OnePlus devices, making it easier to hold and reducing the chances of dropping your device. Perhaps more importantly than this is an item that needs to be mentioned: The volume slider is back!!

On the surface, the specs are what you’d expect from a high-end, “flagship killer” device, but if you just skim the surface, you’ll miss some of the big points. This is a fascinating point to me in a couple of areas, but we’ll explore the specs as a package first. On the surface, you’re getting what you’d expect from a “flagship killer” with a current generation process in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, a reasonable amount of storage and good RAM.

But there’s more to the story here, with the storage — on the 256GB model — being UFS 4.0 and the 16GB of memory begin LPDDR5X. They’re small but measurable differences, and in the long run, will make the user experience that much better.

The screen is a QHD 6.7-inch Super Fluid AMOLED with LTPO and the screen offers a remarkably smooth 525 PPI and dynamic 1-120Hz refresh rate. The less technical version is it’s smooth and pretty battery efficient. I feel like this is becoming a regular statement on OnePlus phones that the screen is a real highlight of the user experience.

Keeping with the market norm, OnePlus has decided to keep the in-screen fingerprint scanner. I’m of the belief we’re probably at a point where the fingerprint reader is probably becoming secondary, if not tertiary, to how people unlock their devices, with face unlock being a preferred option now, which is very fast.

Given the generally high level of delivery from the OnePlus 11, I find myself disappointed that it’s only IP64 rated for “splash and dust resistant”. IP68 feels like the level it should be at, it’s where a lot of the higher-end devices land and if OnePlus want to reclaim the “flagship killer” mantle then they need to deliver on the specs.

The OnePlus 11 is a device with solid specs that will see you through the next few years; it’s a nice-looking device and feels solid in your hand.

It charges quickly, and the battery lasts well, but something is missing

OnePlus charging is fast and has been for a few generations of the device now. The OnePlus 11 continues to be fast, in fact, it’s ridiculous just how fast this thing charges. With the OnePlus Charging brick, you’ll go from borderline shutting down from low battery, to fully charged in half an hour.

There are a few problems here, though; the first is that the charging brick doesn’t come with Australian plugs, the second is that because of this, it’s not actually approved for use in Australia. You can use an OPPO SUPERVOOC charger with pretty quick charging results, but you shouldn’t have to buy another charger when you’ve just purchased a device.

The other issue is that there is no wireless charging. Don’t get me wrong, I get it… The OnePlus 11 has been made to meet some high standards but still maintains a budget level but this is another swing and a miss. Perhaps they’re relying on the outstanding wired charging speeds, but if you’re shooting at that high-end market; you’ve got to tick some of the simpler boxes like Qi charging.

Rather than relying on the wired charging speeds, though, I suspect OnePlus are actually thinking their battery and power optimisation is going to get everyone through a full day.

My phone charges overnight, unplug around 6 am and goes back on charge around 11 pm. Even on a heavy day of use, with several hours of screen time for video calls, email, social and streaming media, I was getting to bed with over 20% remaining in the 5.000mAh battery. This is honestly a really impressive outcome, but the power optimisation is pretty aggressive at times.

This was shutting down apps that I want, in some cases need to have always pinging for data, such as my Emergency Services response app. Where, if we’re called to a rescue situation a few minutes delay in delivering messages can make the difference between me making or missing the truck and a significant difference to the person who has called for help.

The camera is getting better

This is the second generation of the OnePlus cameras that benefit from the Hasselblad partnership. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because the photos you get when subjects are still and well-lit are excellent; the colour balance and crispness of the pictures are outstanding. Clearly, there’s quite a bit of post-processing going on, but that led to issues on the OnePlus 10 Pro with overheating…

The other issue is that fast-moving targets are extremely hard to catch as you want them. The OnePlus 11 is a step forward compared to the previous device in that the shutter lag is reduced, but there’s still a moment where you think you’ve captured a great photo, but what you see on that preview seems to be a screen capture of the moment you hit the shutter. What was actually captured is a fraction of a second later and can completely change the photo.

That’s not to say that the OnePlus 11 has a bad camera on board, far from it. The camera specs are impressive and, providing your target is not moving quickly you’ll get some excellent photos.

If you’re going to be taking lots of night photos, then I’d probably recommend a small tripod just to make sure you get results that are a bit more polished. The low-light photography is, again, very good, but a little bit of movement will translate to a potentially poor-quality photo, particularly on timelapse.

The software is still very “OPPO”

In last year’s review, it was noted that the software has begun to morph into ColorOS and that transition hasn’t stopped. There are plenty of hardened OnePlus fans who — like myself — far prefer the very stock feeling of previous versions of OxygenOS over the current; however, I do understand why.

If you’re working to keep multiple versions of Android up to date for multiple phones, the workload is significantly higher than if you’ve only got one version (ColorOS) that you have to update. This also helps with positioning OnePlus as a more viable option commercially, rather than just for enthusiasts, across new markets.

Unlike last year, this version of the software feels like it’s finished.

So how does this translate to daily use?

The short answer is: Really well if you can overcome the fact it doesn’t support VoLTE. Now, that’s a problem very soon for a lot of potential buyers, particularly if you’re on the road and reliant on your phone data to get your job done.

With that aside, the specs are at a level that means the phone just does its job and does it well throughout the day.

The battery life is very good; the charging is mind-blowing, the camera is a solid pass mark and the performance, even on games, is more than enough to keep even relatively heavy users happy.

The OnePlus 11 is a really nice device, but it’s just not for Aussies

There are a few reasons I say this, starting with the fact that there is no official pathway to acquire a OnePlus device in Australia. Yes, you can get them relatively easily, but it is usually through importers and can leave you with an issue should your phone be defective.

If you shop around, you should be able to pick one up for between $1,100.00 and $1,200.00 at a variety of online retailers. At that price, however, I’d probably point most people to the Pixel 7 or (when it’s on sale) the Pixel 7 Pro.

I’m genuinely excited about what OnePlus offers next, but until there are pathways to getting the device “officially” with a recognised support pathway as well as an Australian network and electrical certifications, I just can’t recommend them to anyone in Australia.

Disclosure Statement

Due to the cost of shipping, OnePlus have not requested the return of the device.

Luis Robinson

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