Flagship killers continue to be a thing as OnePlus 12R works a familiar draft - Hindustan Times

Flagship killers continue to be a thing as OnePlus 12R works a familiar draft

Feb 14, 2024 10:48 AM IST

OnePlus 12R is attempting to deliver an experience that’s a notch above what the price tag suggests, and succeeds for the most part. It is a fine balancing act with the processor, display, cameras and underlying optimisations

Hierarchy has always been crystal clear. Simplified too, over time. OnePlus always has a flagship Android phone, and another one that sits a rung (a rung, and a half) below on the pricing scale. This year, while the OnePlus 12 assumes the role of a torchbearer, it is the OnePlus 12R which is comparatively more affordable but also determined to get as close to the flagship experience as possible. Its positioning in terms of the monetary outlay is such that there’s significant potential for deriving value for a more conscious buyer. The question therefore arises — does it deliver?

The OnePlus 12 (left) and OnePlus 12R define a refreshed flagship line-up. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)
The OnePlus 12 (left) and OnePlus 12R define a refreshed flagship line-up. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)

I must put forth an observation at this point. It was OnePlus that defined ‘flagship killer’ phones many years ago. The OnePlus One, just to refresh your memory. It has many successful successors too. Therefore, if any phone maker understands the delicate balance of specs, experience and price, it is this bunch. Pricing illustrates the approach. The OnePlus 12R is priced at 39,999 for 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, and 45,999 for 16GB + 256GB; significant gap with the flagship OnePlus 12 that’s priced 64,999 onwards.

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Also read:OnePlus 12 is a refined flagship, bravely walking the path of conventionality

The fact that they’ve adopted an Apple-esque method with the chips for its two differently positioned flagships helps differentiate and crucially, open margins for the lower priced OnePlus 12R. It is understandable the more expensive OnePlus 12 gets the latest generation Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip. That the OnePlus 12R follows through with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip instead, is not, for most intents and purposes, a step down in terms of performance, experience or the aspect of longevity. For the buyer likely looking to get the most out of every rupee they spend on a new phone now, it seemingly ticks most boxes.

But what is the OnePlus 12R missing out on? Let us place the cards on the table, with the OnePlus 12 as a reference at points. Wireless charging is one. Camera combination, a big difference. Your RAM options are 8GB or 16GB, and if you choose the 256GB storage option over the entry spec 128GB, you’ll not get the faster UFS 4.0 standard instead of UFS 3.1, something OnePlus has clarified to HT during the process of this review. It is a launch-time communication mistake that shouldn’t have happened, and yes, there will be slightly slower real-world read and write speeds on UFS 3.1 standard in comparison. Yet, for most users, it may not be a matter to ponder over for long. For the rest, it may be a different story. Similar battery capacities too (5,500mAh to be precise) with 100-watt wired charging but as you’d expect.

No compromises with what’s on the menu, and that lends value. There’s parity with the flagship too. Take for instance, the Trinity Engine. This platform has a series of customisations that potentially improve performance and responsiveness. One of those is ‘CPU-Virtualisation’, which alters the behaviour of the chip with regards to frequency and energy usage for individual apps and scenarios, to reduce battery consumption. There are alterations to how memory is used for each task and there’s more aggressive release of memory from background apps. Something called the RAM-Vita understands which apps you tend to use more at specific time of the day, and this pre-determination allows for optimisation that reduces load times.

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The OnePlus 12R isn’t short of power, with the previous generation flagship chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, as its beating heart. The passing of time hasn’t dulled this chip’s comparative performance, and the result is, you’ll have a phone that’s snappy to use, doesn’t slow down when you’re gaming for extended periods and returns battery life that should get most users through a day of fairly heavy usage. The 100-watt fast charging is a good thing to have. There’s elegance in the OnePlus 12R’s design, and consistency with experience.

It is a triple camera system, but we would recommend sticking with the primary 50-megapixel sensor for as many photos as possible. The 8-megapixel ultrawide and 2-megapixel macro can do whatever additional data input the camera’s image processing algorithms need, but that’s about it. You’ll be reasonably happy with the 50-megapixel sensor as it goes about delivering very likeable photos. Particularly, good light snaps. But often, there is the nagging feeling that a few photos and complex lighting scenarios don’t have the soft of dynamic range and richness that you’d expect from a camera system in a phone at this price. Perhaps my judgement suffering some bias post the OnePlus 12 camera tests. That does more dynamism.

All of this can be sorted with manual editing for now, but there is the pressing need of a software update to add more liveliness to photos. I also couldn’t find the option to shoot in RAW format at high resolution, though again, an update can add that if OnePlus wishes to. A slight lean towards warmer tones, coupled with excellent detailing and dynamic range. Details are held nicely even with 2x digital zoom, for instance (no optical telephoto; not entirely surprising at this price). Mind you, stable hands are crucial to getting a good photo. Stretch this to 5x, and you’ll not have as precise details coming through, and colours aren’t as well separated either. Around the edges, in particular. That’s perhaps the biggest trade-off with this 8-megapixel sensor.

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The OnePlus 12R continues with a formula that simply works. At least it would, for a broad demographic looking for a powerful phone, but keeping costs down by removing a few bells and whistles. An impressive 6.78-inch AMOLED display that ticks off the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support, enough RAM for the lower priced spec, smarts that work behind the scenes to boost performance whilst keeping the phone cool (and it works, particularly with gaming) and the largest battery (it is 5500mAh capacity) ever in a OnePlus phone, are some standout elements.

How many phones use their processor’s capabilities to calculate if there are water drops on the display and alter touch responsiveness accordingly to ensure no finger tap goes waste? Not many, to be fair. We can always debate the benefits of the duration of software update support for a phone, but will you really hold on to it for more than 5 years? Very, very few would. Overall, it is the composition that makes the OnePlus 12R deliver on an experience that matches and often surpasses its direct competition. You don’t always need the most powerful phone. You simply need a smart phone.

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    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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