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The Flagship Killer Has Returned

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OnePlus 12R

Key Takeaways

  • The OnePlus 12R is a budget-friendly smartphone that offers a high-quality phone experience without breaking the bank.
  • It has a stunning display, a long-lasting battery, and super-fast charging, making it a great choice for anyone.
  • The OnePlus 12R performs excellently with its powerful processor and plentiful RAM, providing a smooth and responsive user experience.



OnePlus’ original promise of affordable “flagship killer” phones has slowly faded over time. So much so that the company launched the budget Nord series to fill in the gap. However, the OnePlus 12 series is here now, and while the OnePlus 12R isn’t the headliner, it feels like a return to form.


The OnePlus 12R is the first R-series device to be available in North America. That’s great because it also happens to be one of the best bang-for-your-buck OnePlus devices in years. While it doesn’t have the bleeding edge processor like the standard OnePlus 12, it does have a lot of the same features for $300 less. Let’s take a look at how much of a phone you can get for only $500.

The Flagship Killer Has Returned
OnePlus 12R

The OnePlus 12R is a budget-friendly smartphone that offers a lot of power and features. It has a stunning display, a long-lasting battery, and super fast charging. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a high-quality phone without breaking the bank.

SoC
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2

Display
6.78-inches, 2780 x 1264 pixels, 450 ppi, 1-120 Hz dynamic, AMOLED ProXDR Display with LTPO4.0

RAM
8GB/16GB

Storage
128GB/256GB

Battery
5,500mAh

Ports
USB 2.0, Type-C, Dual nano-SIM slot

Operating System
Android 14 (OxygenOS 14)

Front camera
16MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0 µm, EIS

Rear camera
50MP Sony IMX890, 1/1.56″, ƒ/1.8, 1.0 µm, EIS, OIS / 8MP Ultrawide, ƒ/2.2, 1.12 µm, 112-degree FOV / 2MP Macro lens, 4cm shooting distance

Dimensions
163.3 x 75.3 x 8.8mm

Colors
Cool Blue, Iron Gray

Weight
207g

IP Rating
IP64

Security
In-display fingerprint sensor

Pros

  • Superb battery life
  • Excellent performance
  • Premium, high-end build and design
  • Very competitive pricing
Cons

  • Cameras are just okay
  • IP64 water and dust rating
  • No wireless charging
  • Only 3 years of OS upgrades

OnePlus 12R Design: A Refined Classic

The camera on the OnePlus 12R
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek


The OnePlus 12R continues the company’s trend of putting huge, circular camera housings on the back of phones. The bump on the 12R is not as ridiculous as the OnePlus Open, but it’s still an eye-catcher. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as annoying when the phone is lying on a flat surface despite being off-centered.


The phone comes in two colors and two finishes. The “Cool Blue” variant has a glossy back, while the “Iron Gray” model, the one I used for this review, has frosted glass. I really liked how the frosted glass felt in my hand, and I love that it doesn’t show fingerprints. Both models also have a subtle brushed pattern that made me question if the back was made of metal or glass. I’m sure the glossy model is not as slippery, but I’d still prefer the smooth, frosted feel.



The left and right edges of the phone are completely rounded over, but the top and bottom curve slightly into flat edges. It’s almost like a much more subtle version of the classic Nokia Lumia Windows Phone design. The power and volume buttons are on the right edge—where they should be—and the company’s standard mute switch is on the left.


Most importantly, the OnePlus 12R does not feel like the “budget” option in the OnePlus 12 family. It’s $300 cheaper than the standard OnePlus 12, but I would not have guessed that based on the feel of the phone. When I’m holding the 12R, it feels weighty, solid, and premium. That’s not always the case with budget devices.

OnePlus 12R Display: Big, Bright, and Beautiful

The lockscreen of the OnePlus 12R
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek


OnePlus has generally equipped its flagship phones with great displays (though I can’t say the same for the Nord series), and the 12R is no exception. The phone has a 6.78-inch LTPO4.0 AMOLED panel that boasts a resolution of 2, 780 x 1,264, a dynamic refresh rate of 1-120Hz, and a peak brightness of 4500 nits. It also has ProXDR display technology that enhances the contrast, color, and clarity of the screen.


New this time around is what OnePlus calls “Aqua Touch,” which is able to detect the difference between water droplets and splashes. If you’ve ever tried to use your phone while it’s raining, you probably know how annoying it can be. It worked pretty well in my experience, but I’m not sure I would have noticed a major improvement if I wasn’t looking for it. The screen also supports 10-bit color depth and HDR10+, which means it can display over a billion colors and deliver a lifelike HDR experience.


OnePlus app folder on the OnePlus 12R
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek


As mentioned, the OnePlus 12R’s display has an adaptive refresh rate that can automatically adjust from 1Hz to 120Hz, depending on what you’re doing. This saves battery life and ensures a smooth and responsive performance when needed. The screen also has an adaptive brightness that can adjust from 1 nit to 4500 nits depending on the ambient light. All in all, this is a great display, up there with the best of the best from Samsung.


In terms of durability, the display is protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2, which is the toughest glass ever made by Corning. The display is curved along the edges, and a lot of people complain about that, but it’s not something that has ever bothered me. The screen also has an in-display fingerprint sensor that I found to be fast and accurate and a centered punch-hole selfie camera that is barely noticeable.

OnePlus 12R Software: Steady as She Goes

The quick settings menu of the OnePlus12R
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek


The OnePlus 12R ships with OxygenOS 14, the latest version of the Android 14-based skin. This is the same software that was launched with the OnePlus Open. It brings some subtle but welcome changes to the interface, performance, and features.


OxygenOS 14 is not a radical overhaul of the previous version but rather a refinement of what already works well. I’m pretty picky about Android skins, and I generally like OxygenOS. The design language is still familiar and minimalist, with a focus on usability and customization. OnePlus has also added some new features, such as a new AOD style, new ringtones and notification sounds, and improved security and privacy options.



Just like my time with the OnePlus Open, I was impressed with the responsiveness of OxygenOS 14. That’s likely due to what the company calls the “Trinity Engine,” which is a set of six tools that optimize the CPU, ROM, and RAM usage, as well as the touch response, gaming performance, and rendering speed. OnePlus claims that these tools can boost the battery life, free up storage space, and enhance the smoothness of the system. Some of that is just marketing-speak, but performance was very good in my experience.


Software support is another big thing to mention. OnePlus promises only three years of OS upgrades and four years of security patches. That’s far behind what Samsung and Google are offering these days. OxygenOS is a perfectly fine UI, but it might not be the best if you plan to use the 12R for many years down the road.

OnePlus 12R Performance & Battery: The Main Event

Box with included accessories for the OnePlus12R
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


The OnePlus 12R is a beast when it comes to performance. It has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, which is the same one that powered the Galaxy S23 series. The model I tested had a whopping 16GB of RAM, and that is more than enough for any task I threw at it. Whether I was doing mundane daily tasks, scrolling social media, or watching a video while making my grocery list, the OnePlus 12R handled it all with ease.


This is definitely the area where the OnePlus 12R excels. I could switch between apps, open multiple windows, and use the split-screen mode without any lag or stutter. This chip has been used in devices such as the OnePlus Open and Galaxy Z Fold 5, which are essentially tablets, so it handles phone tasks with no problem at all. Granted, the 16GB RAM model is $100 more than the standard 8GB model, but that’s still an excellent price.


Close up of the OnePlus12R front camera
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


On the battery front, OnePlus has put its biggest battery yet in the 12R. It packs a 5,500mAh battery along with 80W SUPERVOOC charging. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad experience with battery life on OnePlus devices, and the 12R is no exception. In the past, I’ve said phones could last multiple days if you adjust your usage, but you truly can make the 12R last multiple days just by using it normally (assuming you aren’t gaming and watching videos all day).


The insanely fast charging (1-100% in 31 minutes) is very cool, but I miss wireless charging. However, I understand the omission for a $500 device, and to its credit, OnePlus finally added wireless charging to the standard OnePlus 12. If you do try to stretch the battery to last multiple days, that super speedy charging time comes in handy for topping off outside of the typical sleep charging routine.

OnePlus 12R Cameras: Pretty Standard, Again

The camera on the OnePlus 12R
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek


Camera quality is one area where OnePlus has never really excelled. But it’s hard to miss the big triple camera setup on the back, consisting of a 50MP main camera, an 8MP ultrawide camera, and a 2MP macro lens. Of the three, only the main camera has autofocus and OIS, which is especially disappointing for the ultrawide camera.


The 50MP main camera is the star of the show, as it uses the Sony IMX890 sensor, which is a Quad-Bayer unit with a large 1/1.56″ size and 1.0 µm pixels. It has multi-directional PDAF and OIS, and it can capture perfectly fine social media-ready photos in any lighting condition.


The 8MP ultrawide camera is not as good as the main, with a 1/2.2″ size and 1.12 µm pixels. It has a fixed focus and a 112-degree field of view, and it can take decent shots in good light, but it struggles in low light and with distortion.



The third camera is unremarkable and, in my opinion, not very useful. I can’t say I ever miss a macro lens while using phones that don’t have one, but I always miss a telephoto camera. In general, it’s not a good sign for a phone’s overall camera experience when a macro lens is thrown in. They’re usually trying to compensate by hitting the “three cameras!” mark.


Despite the lack of a telephoto lens, OnePlus still has shortcuts for 2x and 5x zoom in the camera app. Digital zoom is never going to be as good as a dedicated zoom camera, and that’s the case here as well. The 2x option is passable, but photos get pretty bad at 5x zoom.


The OnePlus 12R also has a 16MP selfie camera. The selfie camera doesn’t have autofocus or OIS, but it does have EIS (electronic image stabilization). The most important thing to me with a selfie camera is Portrait Mode, and OnePlus has one of the best. It’s not quite as good as Samsung, but probably on par with Google.

Should You Buy the OnePlus 12R?

Close up of the rear camera of the OnePlus12R
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek


There aren’t many super solid, near flagship-level Android phones that cost only $500. The small, afterthought Galaxy S24, for example, is still pretty pricey at $800. The OnePlus 12R’s closest direct competitor, at least if you live in the U.S., is the Pixel 7a, which also costs $500.


The OnePlus 12R has a couple of large advantages over the Pixel 7a. First and foremost, the 12R bests the Pixel 7a in terms of performance and battery life. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is generally better than the Google Tensor G2, plus the Google Tensor G3 has already been out since October, which puts the 7a farther behind. The 12R also has a much bigger battery—a full 1,000mAh more—which makes it the clear winner for people who want a phone that can easily last all day.


Where the Pixel 7a wins is with the cameras and software. The Pixel 7a’s main camera is 64MP, and a 13MP ultrawide camera joins it. However, it isn’t just about megapixel numbers. Google’s photo processing and top-notch camera features are hard to beat with any device, let alone the firmly “mid” OnePlus 12R cameras. And not only is Google’s camera software better, but I also prefer the Pixel UI in general over OxygenOS.


In terms of sheer specs and raw power, I don’t think you can beat the OnePlus 12R for $500, especially not in the U.S., where choices in this price range are limited. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is excellent, the 5,500mAh battery is massive, and the 6.7-inch display is big and beautiful. Even the design and build feel like a premium flagship phone.


The only things that would degrade my experience with the OnePlus 12R over time are the cameras just being okay, small OxygenOS quirks, and the lack of wireless charging. Putting my personal preferences aside, that’s actually not much. The OnePlus 12R is the closest the company has gotten to its old “flagship killer” mantra in a while. This device is a winner.

OnePlus 12R

The Flagship Killer Has Returned
OnePlus 12R

The OnePlus 12R is a budget-friendly smartphone that offers a lot of power and features. It has a stunning display, a long-lasting battery, and super fast charging. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a high-quality phone without breaking the bank.

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