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OnePlus 12R vs. Google Pixel 7a: Two budget titans

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oneplus 12r rear on a white background

  • OnePlus 12R

    Basically a flagship

    The OnePlus 12R is a stunning showing of what a $500 device can truly be. It has flagship-level performance, battery life, and a top-level display. There were some sacrifices made along the way, but a midrange device has no business being this good.

    Pros

    • Excellent performance
    • Multi-day battery life
    • Flagship-level display
    Cons

    • Camera system is mediocre
    • No wireless charging
    • Only three years of Android updates

  • google pixel 7a, front and back views

    Google Pixel 7a

    It’s all about the camera

    $374 $499 Save $125

    With a decent display, good overall performance, and an amazing camera system, the Google Pixel 7a is a solid phone for the price point. If you are a fan of near-stock Android and love to take photos, then the Pixel 7a may be for you.

    Pros

    • Top-tier camera system
    • Very good display
    • Pixel UI is fast and fluid
    Cons

    • Slow charging speeds
    • Tensor G2 lags behind the competition


No one phone is perfect for everyone or every budget. Sure, the best Android phones currently available will bring you a well-rounded and speedy device, but it’s also going to come with an inflated price. What if you don’t want to spend a thousand dollars on a device for budget reasons or simply because making phone calls and sending text messages shouldn’t require that kind of payment? In the past, you would be forced to choose a device that wouldn’t come close to a more premium device.



Over the past couple of years, that approach has been slowly changing. Companies are still pushing the envelope with their latest flagships but are quietly creating midrange phones that may be good enough for most shoppers.


The two that should come immediately to mind are the OnePlus 12R and the Google Pixel 7a. Each company has a different take on what a midrange device should look like and targets different areas of need. Today we break down what they do well and what users would benefit from them.


Price, availability, and specs

The OnePlus 12R was announced on January 23, 2024, and comes in two configurations. You can get it with either 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, which retails for $500 and $600, respectively. It comes in two color options; Iron Gray and Cool Blue, although Cool Blue is only available in the pricier configuration. Like most recent OnePlus devices, you can’t get it directly from the carrier. Instead, you will have to purchase it from OnePlus directly or an authorized retailer like Amazon or Best Buy.


Google announced the Pixel 7a on May 10, 2023, and it comes in a single configuration that retails for $499. Google gives you a greater range of color options, including Sea, Charcoal, Snow, and Coral — a Google Store exclusive. Since it’s a Pixel device, you can find it from all the major carriers as well as directly from Google or a retailer such as Amazon or Best Buy.


  • OnePlus 12RGoogle Pixel 7a
    SoCSnapdragon 8 Gen 2Google Tensor G2
    RAM8GB or 16GB LPDDR5X8GB LPDDR5
    Storage128GB or 256GB128GB
    Battery5,500mAh4,385mAh
    PortsUSB-C 2.0USB-C
    Operating SystemAndroid 14 with OxygenOS 14Android 13
    Front camera16MP13MP, f/2.2
    Rear camera50MP, f/1.8 main; 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide; 2MP, f/2.4 macro64MP, f/1.9 main with OIS; 13MP, f/2.2 ultrawide
    ConnectivityNFCNFC
    Dimensions163.3 x 75.3 x 8.8mm152.4 x 72.9 x 9mm
    ColorsCool Blue, Iron GrayCharcoal, Snow, Sea, Coral
    Display typeLTPO AMOLED, 120HzOLED, 90Hz
    Weight207g193g
    Charge speed80W wired (100W international)18W wired, 7.5W wireless
    IP RatingIP54IP67
    PriceFrom $500From $499
    StylusNoNo
    Display dimensions6.78″, 19.5:96.1″
    Display resolution2780 × 12641080 x 2400
    Charge optionsUSB-C SuperVOOC wiredWired, Wireless
    SIM supportDual Nano-SIMDual SIM (Nano SIM and eSIM)
    Cellular connectivitySub-6 5G, LTE5G, mmWave, LTE
    Wi-Fi connectivityWi-Fi 7WiFi 6E
    BluetoothBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.3

Design

The OnePlus 12R held facedown in a hand


From the design alone, it’s clear that these two devices are targeting different users. At 163.3 x 75.3 x 8.8mm and tipping the scales at 207g, the OnePlus 12R is for fans of a larger device. The Pixel 7a is quite a bit smaller at 152 x 72.9 x 9mm and weighs 193.5g. The OnePlus 12R has Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the front, an aluminum frame, and a glass back. The Pixel 7a has Gorilla Glass 3 on the front, an aluminum frame, and a plastic back.


The OnePlus 12R has a curved display, has almost no bezel, and is IP65-rated against dust and water. Flipping the 12R over reveals a circular camera assembly similar to what OnePlus has used for its past few major phone launches. Maybe because it’s not as large as the one on the OnePlus 12, or it just looks better thanks to the color options this time around, but the camera design is starting to win me over. You also get an alert slider on the left side of the device.


Google’s Pixel 7a feels a bit dated by comparison. It has larger bezels on the front, and the camera bar on the back is starting to lose its design luster. I have been a champion of the camera bar for years, but now, it’s starting to feel a bit tired. It’s still unique in a world of imitators, but Google needs to change things up a little. The Pixel 7a has an IP67 rating, making it a bit better against dust and water ingress.

Display

The Pixel 7a lying on a mossy rock with the homescreen shown


The display on the OnePlus 12R has no business being this good on a midrange device. OnePlus outfitted the 12R with a 6.78-inch, 2780 x 1264, LTPO4 AMOLED display. It has a 120Hz refresh rate and can hit an incredible 4500 nits of peak brightness. The display does curve a little at the edges, but it’s just a beauty to look at.


Fans of smaller displays will rejoice here as Google went with a 6.1-inch OLED display for the Pixel 7a. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 and a refresh rate of 90Hz, the 7a’s display looks and feels great. But it doesn’t get as bright as the 12R, topping out at 1000 nits of peak brightness.


When the Pixel 7a launched, it was a quality display that was fantastic to have at this price, but OnePlus just blew it out of the water here. The Pixel 7a isn’t a bad display, far from it, but it can’t match the performance level that OnePlus brought to the table.

Software

oneplus-12r-review-05


The OnePlus 12R ships with Android 14 and OxygenOS 14. The OxygenOS experience delivers serviceable results but is far from the best skin available. At first glance, it looks and feels similar to OneUI, but lacks the sheer level of customizability that Samsung offers. Where OxygenOS does wonders is getting out of your way. Once you get it set up and running how you want it, it largely doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day use.


The Pixel 7a launched with Android 13 but was quickly upgraded to Android 14. Since it’s a Pixel device, you are getting a near-stock, buttery-smooth Android version. It lacks a bit of the customizability that you will find on other skins, but the fluidity of the Pixel is second to none. Add in the Material design that inherits its colors based on your wallpaper, and it just feels more cohesive than OxygenOS.


Both companies guarantee three years of Android OS updates. OnePlus offers an additional year of security updates, while Google gives you five years. The Pixel 7a is a bit older and will be upgraded to Android 16, while the 12R will see Android 17.

Performance

Google Pixel 7a


If overall performance is a priority, then know that these two devices aren’t on the same playing field. The OnePlus 12R ships with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor and either 8GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, or 16GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage. The Google Pixel 7a comes with a Tensor G2 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage.


The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the Tensor G2 processors aren’t in the same league. The Snapdragon processor is a beast of a chipset aimed at bringing the best performance for productivity and gaming. It’s the same processor used in most 2023 flagship phones, and for good reason.


The Tensor G2 isn’t a bad chip per se, and it does allow Google to perform some nifty software tricks, it’s just not as well-rounded or reliable as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. It can’t keep up with the Snapdragon’s raw performance and suffers a bit when performing complex tasks like video editing or gaming. It also tends to get warm when pushed too hard.


In day-to-day use, you likely won’t notice too much of a difference outside any heat-related issues. The OnePlus 12R is just going to perform better overall and run cooler while doing it. It’s also more likely not to slow down over time with future Android updates.

Battery life

A close up on the OnePlus 12R camera lineup


Thanks to its 5,500mAh battery, the OnePlus 12R has great battery life. You can expect multiple days of use between charges. OnePlus is one of the few companies that still includes a charger in the box, and it’s a doozy. Using the included 80W (100W outside the US) SuperVOOC charger, the 12R is capable of going from no charge to full in as little as 30 minutes. OnePlus did drop wireless charging from the 12R, which is a little disappointing, but you can’t complain too much at this price.


The Google Pixel 7a comes with a 4,385mAh battery that will get you through a full day of use, but not much more. It can be charged at up to 18W wired and 7.5W wirelessly. It’s nice to see wireless charging included, but expect to wait a while when charging using either method — roughly three times longer than it would take the OnePlus 12R to charge.

Camera

The Google Pixel 7a against green plants.


OnePlus had to cut corners somewhere, and the easiest place to see where is with the camera system. The OnePlus 12R has a 50MP f/1.8 primary lens, an 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide, and a 2MP f/2.4 macro lens. The primary lens is decent, but not great, and can get you some decent-looking photos. Quality drops off a bit when using the ultrawide camera and the 2MP macro lens really isn’t worth talking about.


On a positive note, the primary lens is capable of recording 4K content at up to 60fps. The 16MP f/2.4 front-facing camera is also just fine. It’s not terrible, but don’t expect to be using it for your next YouTube upload.


The Pixel lineup has become synonymous with good camera systems that can take amazing-looking photos. The Google Pixel 7a carries that torch forward and is an excellent camera phone. The 7a has a 64MP f/1.9 primary lens and a 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens that are very capable and versatile performers. The Pixel 7a has about as reliable of a camera system as you could hope for, regardless of price. Thanks to its combination of hardware and Google’s post-processing goodness, the Pixel 7a excels in good lighting conditions, low light, and everything in between. It can record video from its primary lens at 4K up to 60fps and a 13MP f/2.2 selfie camera that takes decent photos.

Which is right for you?

Both of these devices won a couple of categories and are some of the best budget Android phones you can get. For most, the OnePlus 12R is the hands-down winner. Thanks to its stunning display, powerful performance, and amazing battery life, you just can’t do any better at this price point. OnePlus did have to make some sacrifices to get the price down, namely with the camera system and lack of wireless charging, but those sacrifices are easy to look past thanks to how excellent the rest of the phone is.

oneplus 12r rear on a white background

OnePlus 12R

Editor’s choice

Great phone from top to bottom

The OnePlus 12R is a great phone made incredible due to its price. With a flagship processor, display, and battery life, you can’t do any better at $500. OnePlus did sacrifice camera quality and wireless charging to cut costs, but the trade-off is well worth it.

The Pixel 7a is still a great device, particularly if you love close-to-stock Android or value its photo capabilities above all else. The 7a has a good-looking display and gets decent performance from the Tensor G2 processor. It’s just not in the same league as the OnePlus 12R in most categories. Maybe the Pixel 8a will do something to change that.

google pixel 7a, front and back views

Google Pixel 7a

Good alternative

Good alternative with a top-notch camera

$374 $499 Save $125

If you love taking photos and enjoy a near-stock Android experience, then the Google Pixel 7a may just be for you. It has a top-tier camera setup that is capable of getting good photos in just about every condition. The rest of the device is good but fails to match the OnePlus 12R.

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