OnePlus 7 Pro Review-in-Progress: OnePlus Plussed


The near-meteoric rise of OnePlus has in large part been thanks to a pretty clear strategy: offer the most important features of the year’s biggest flagships, minus the flashy fluff, at a fraction of the price. With the OnePlus 7 Pro, that all changes.

The 7 and 7 Pro phones mark the first time that OnePlus is releasing two phones at once: the 7 is the natural next step from last year’s 6T, while the 7 Pro is a step up from that. It’s a full-blooded flagship, OnePlus throwing the gauntlet down and trying to prove once and for all that it can make phones to rival the likes of the Galaxy S10 or Huawei P30 Pro if it wants to. And so far at least, it seems like it can.

I’ve been using the OnePlus 7 Pro for a little under a week, and while I’m not quite ready to issue a final verdict – look out for a full review later this week – so far I’ve been seriously impressed. The core OnePlus ethos is still present, but backed up by better specs focused on two of the areas of the phone people really use the most: the camera and the screen.

Price & Availability

The 7 Pro will be available almost immediately after the 14 May launch: the first chance to grab the phone yourself will be at a series of global pop-up stores beginning from 14 May, with a London event on 17 May. If you miss those, there’ll be a limited online Community Drop on 15 May, before the phone goes on sale for good from 21 May.

As for price, it kicks off at the surprisingly affordable £649/$669 for the base model, with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, available in grey. £699/$699 will get you an 8GB/256GB – a very modest price jump for the extra specs, and with a choice of grey, blue, or almond (from June) finishes. If that’s still not enough, £799/$749 will get you the mammoth 12GB/256GB configuration, though that’s only available in blue.

If you want the cheaper OnePlus 7, there’ll be a little longer to wait – that phone is coming out a couple of weeks later, some time in June, and will start from £499 – the same price as last year’s OnePlus 6T. Oddly, this model won’t be available in the US, with the 6T remaining as the cheaper option.

Eventually there’ll also be a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G version, which will launch with EE in the UK. We’re not sure exactly when that’s coming though other than ‘this summer’, or how much it will cost – but it will be fundamentally the same phone as the 7 Pro with the addition of 5G support, though with some likely knock-on effects to performance and battery life.

Screen time

Easily the first thing you’ll notice about the 7 Pro is the display, which excels in just about every way it is possible for a smartphone screen to excel.

Size? A whopping 6.67in. Refresh rate? A smooth 90Hz. Resolution? QHD+ – or 3120×1440 to be precise. I could go on: colour range, pixel density, curved edges, HDR, Gorilla Glass 5 – on paper this is one of the best panels you’ll find in a smartphone today, and it’s entirely uninterrupted by a notch.

The 90Hz refresh rate, hence the name Fluid AMOLED we think, is perhaps the most welcome feature OnePlus has added. Mostly limited to gaming phones like the Razer Phone or Asus’s ROG Phone, higher refresh rates smooth out animations across the board, leaving every interaction with the phone feeling faster and more fluid.

It’s a change that’s hard to put your finger on at first, but flick between the 60Hz and 90Hz options and you’ll quickly realise that just about everything you do with the phone feels smoother as a result – not to mention the benefits it brings when playing games or watching content that can make the most of the refresh rate.

There’s a battery drain of course, so if you prefer you can drop down to 60Hz – and smartly, even while on this mode the phone will still jump up to 90Hz when you’re, say, playing a game that can make the most of it before dropping back down to 60Hz for your day-to-day stuff.

There’s once again an in-display fingerprint sensor hidden below the surface, though it’s improved from the 6T. OnePlus says it should be almost twice as fast thanks to an upgraded lens and larger sensor area, and it definitely feels it. It still fails to spot my thumb a few times too often, but it feels like this is almost as good as a dedicated physical scanner, which is the highest praise it could hope to get.

Throw in the giant resolution, curved edges (with palm rejection to avoid accidental presses) and support for HDR10+ across both YouTube and Netflix – a first in a smartphone – and it’s clear that this screen is something special indeed.

Those curved edges help the phone feel slim – though at 8.8mm it’s not the absolute thinnest device around – while the Gorilla Glass 5 protection extends to the rear as well. This comes in one of three finishes: Mirror Gray, Nebula Blue (pictured), and Almond. The blue in particular is stunning, with a slightly matt effect to the gradient design, while Almond is a creamier take on Apple’s Gold iPhones.

Of course, I can’t talk about the display or the design without addressing the notch – or rather, the lack thereof. The 7 Pro is one of the latest proper full-screen phones to hit the west, in this case by shifting the selfie camera into a small slider that pops up when needed, and retracts just as quickly.

Fall detection means it withdraws if you accidentally drop the phone, and naturally OnePlus assures us it’s tested the mechanism hundreds of thousands of times for durability’s sake. It works for face unlock too, and is astonishingly quick there – the camera retracts almost as soon as it’s opened, so it is still a split-second process.

Candid cameras

The selfie shooter isn’t the only exciting camera here though (and beyond the novel design, that one isn’t all that exciting otherwise: it’s a similar 16Mp camera to the one found in the 6T, just in a new spot).

More interesting are the cameras you’ll find when you flip the phone over (after briefly pausing to admire that blue gradient for the umpteenth time, of course). For the first time OnePlus is offering a triple camera setup, and one that could rival the best around.

Let’s take it one lens at a time. The main camera is 48Mp, f/1.6 with optical image stabilisation (OIS). It’s powered by the same Sony IMX586 sensor you’ll find in a few other similar smartphones, but the actual lens is an entirely custom design.

Sitting above the main camera is a 16Mp ultra-wide lens, with an f/2.2 aperture and a 117-degree field of view. There’s a very slight fishbowl effect (which actually looks worse than it is thanks to the curved screen) but otherwise this does a good job.

Finally, and more excitingly, the bottom camera is an 8Mp telephoto, with OIS and up to 3x optical zoom – while you can go up to 10x hybrid optical & digital zoom. This isn’t quite into the 5x zoom territory of the Huawei P30 Pro (in fact this whole rear camera setup is almost identical to the regular P30) but it is capable of some seriously sharp zoomed in shots.

The software underlying all that hardware has had an update too, and the newly dubbed UltraShot algorithm is clearly an attempt to catch up with the competition – it’s fair to say OnePlus has never been renowned for its photography flex.

Photos process more quickly, despite additional computational work as the camera makes more use of multiple shots to extract more information and enrich images – especially in a revamped take on Nightscape, OnePlus’s take on a flash-free low light mode.

I’m still testing the camera out, but you can see a few of my shots so far in our Flickr gallery below. Details are crisp and I’ve been impressed by the dynamic range, while colours tend to be fairly accurate. That can mean photos look slightly muted if you’re used to the heavily saturated shots taken by Huawei and Samsung’s latest, but will deliver if you prefer something that looks more true to life.

OnePlus 7 Pro camera test

As for video, the rear cameras can shoot up to 4K at 60fps, while the selfie lens will do 1080p at 30fps, and you also get the option of super slow motion from the rear cameras – either 1080p at 240fps, or 720p at 480fps.

Specs savings

It’s probably clear by now that OnePlus is really leading on the display and camera when it comes to the 7 Pro – two areas where the company has never previously made a name for itself, no doubt not by chance.

Still, it hasn’t exactly skimped elsewhere. The processor is the flagship Snapdragon 855, and it’s backed up by some meaty memory options, with up to 256GB storage and 12GB (!!!) of RAM available – though there’s no support for microSD cards, so what you get is what you get.

That storage is special too: the 7 Pro uses UFS 3.0 – universal flash storage, fact fans – which is a fancy way of saying that it should be able to save and access files much quicker. That means faster app opening, game loading, and file transferring – it’s the equivalent to plugging an SSD into your computer. It’s also the only phone on sale right now to boast the tech, though technically not the first – the Galaxy Fold uses UFS 3.0 too, but we all know how well that launch went. It’s not clear yet how much of a difference the new drive is making in and of itself, but it’s contributing to silky smooth performance across the board.

I’ve been testing the 12/256GB model, and unsurprisingly all that power has seen it sail through most of our benchmarks, with results up there with flagship rivals – though not quite blowing them away. This is on pre-release software though, which can complicate things – I’ll be running these benchmarks again on final software this week to double check things hold up, and I’d expect some of these scores to increase slightly as a result.

Either way, this thing is fast, and it’s at the point where it’s so fast that minor variations in individual benchmarks really don’t reflect anything to worry about unless you’re absolutely obsessed about maxing out your framerate in Fortnite.

The 4,000mAh battery just about stretched out to 48 hours of usage, so if you charge every day you shouldn’t ever have to worry about running out – again, this is pretty much in line with similarly priced rivals. The inclusion of 30W Warp Charging also means it’ll top up fast – it managed to get 64 percent of its battery back in half an hour when charging from empty which is crazy.

That charging is USB-C (still no support for wireless here, OnePlus says it just isn’t good enough yet), with a USB 3.1 port. There’s NFC, Bluetooth 5.0 (with aptX HD support), and stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos – they sound good for a phone, but y’know. There’s even a new haptic motor – something previous OnePlus phones have struggled with. These still aren’t the best vibrations out there, but how many people really worry about that?

Finally, waterproofing. OnePlus says getting an official IP rating is a waste of money that drives prices up, so there’s no official measure of how water-resistant the phone is. The company itself says the phone can survive a splash (there’s even an extra layer of liquid protection around the sliding selfie cam) but still doesn’t exactly recommend you take it swimming.

Ultimately, an IP rating offers peace of mind that the 7 Pro just won’t offer in that regard, but as OnePlus is quick to point out, no smartphone manufacturer covers liquid damage in its warranty – even those with industry-leading IP68 ratings. So basically this *should* keep working if you drop it in the bath, but I’m not about to risk the phone and this review to find out.

Oxygenated

Let’s wrap it all up on a high note. As ever, OnePlus excels on the software side – Oxygen OS is probably our favourite Android skin, and the only one that’s arguably better than Google’s own efforts on the Pixel phones.

The look is close to stock, but with usability tweaks across the board and subtle UI tweaks to smooth over some of Android’s rough edges. Not everything is perfect – swiping up for back remains one of the less intuitive gesture controls out there, and the lack of a true always-on display is still a frustration – but for the most part this is about as good as Android gets.

Tweaks this year are mostly minor, but welcome. There’s a built-in screen recorder in case you want to share footage direct from your phone, which lets you record for as long as you want, pausing and resuming at any point, and record either internal or external sound.

Gaming mode has had an upgrade to give more granular notification controls, and there’s even an enhanced version – branded with esports team Fnatic – that not only blocks any and all notifications but also re-routes almost all of the phone’s processing power and network signal towards your game.

If that all sounds a bit intense, Zen Mode is its chilled out counterpart. This also shuts down every notification, but goes even further: it basically locks you out of the phone entirely, leaving you able only to receive calls, phone emergency services, or use the camera. This lasts for 20 minutes – no more, no less – and once activated it’s impossible to turn off. Yup, even if you turn the phone off and on again – this is the nuclear solution to terminal procrastination.

Early Verdict

I want to spend a few more days with the 7 Pro before I give a final verdict, but so far I’m honestly struggling to find much to fault. The display, camera, and core specs are essentially all best-in-class – or close enough to count – while the few shortcuts (wireless charging, an IP rating) are easily explained away by a price point that still undercuts the closest comparable rivals.

Yes, this costs a bit more than you’re probably used to from OnePlus, but it seems to deliver on enough of its promises to justify that price hike – and if you’re not convinced, the regular 7 is always there, at the same ol’ price OnePlus has been hitting for the last year or two.

In a year that’s already seen both Samsung and Huawei drop pretty phenomenal flagships, OnePlus has still managed to drop a device that says this might just be the phone to beat in 2019.



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