OnePlus 7 Pro review: the maker of “flagship killers” makes a killer flagship

Rating: 8.7/10

Yay:

  • 90Hz refresh rate makes the OnePlus 7 Pro smoother than Will Smith in Hitch 
  • You’ll want to kiss the display
  • Incredible for gaming
  • Vastly improved haptic feedback 
  • Oxygen OS is still the trump card for OnePlus
  • Dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos actually sound good
  • In-display fingerprint scanner is super duper fast
  • Nightscape photography is great

Nay:

  • Big and unwieldy
  • Discolouration at the edges of the display is evident
  • No headphone jack
  • No 3.5mm dongle or earphones in the retail box
  • Soft selfie images
  • Still no wireless charging
  • Still no IP rating

Introduction: 

When there were murmurs last year about OnePlus making a budget smartphone, I completely abhorred the idea. I always wanted OnePlus to make an all-out flagship smartphone with Pixel-grade cameras. In fact, I even tweeted about it. And, it looks like someone at OnePlus has been stalking me. 

And the result of that is the OnePlus 7 Pro. OnePlus is clearly playing in the big leagues now. 

I’ve been using the phone as my primary for a while now and I have spent all my waking hours with it. What follows is my comprehensive review of the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

OnePlus 7 Pro display: flipping hell, this display is gorgeous

I wouldn’t have, in my wildest of imaginations, expected OnePlus to actually make the display the USP of its premium flagship phone. Well, we have the OnePlus 7 Pro for proof now. The 6.67-inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED QHD+ panel on the OnePlus 7 Pro is a treat for the sore eyes. This is not the first time that we are seeing a high refresh rate display on a phone by the way. But what was exclusive to gaming phones like the ASUS ROG Phone or the Razer Phone 2, has now trickled down to a mainstream flagship. And, I am really glad this has happened because the difference in phone usage experience is palpable. 

You guys really have to see the 90Hz in real life to believe it. The motion blur is vastly reduced and this is something that I really, really want Apple to implement in the iPhone this year. By the way, that’s not the only new thing about the display, though. The display is now curved like the Samsung Galaxy S10+ or the Huawei P30 Pro. But there is no practical use of the curve like the Galaxy S10+ where you have an Edge panel. Although, the curved edge does light up when a notification comes in. That said, I couldn’t find a way to turn it off. 

If you ask me though, I am not a fan of curved displays primarily because you can see the discolouration at the edges. Furthermore, it also distorts the image when you are watching videos or playing games. Oh, and let’s not forget that curving the display increases the area of impact during a fall and there are chances that the phone can break easily. Anyway, curved displays are cool and make the phone look more premium, so I guess OnePlus had to go for it as a distinguishing factor in its Pro smartphone!

The display is protected with a layer of Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6 on top of it and another layer of a horrendous screen protector, which you must remove and throw in the dustbin. What I like about the display settings is that you can switch between Vivid, Natural, and Custom colour palettes. But taking it further — inside the Custom setting — you can also change the colour profile to NTSC, DCI-P3 or sRGB. Such flexibility is not available on other smartphones. You can also change the screen resolution to QHD+ or FHD+, but by default, it is set to Adaptive resolution. 

Obviously, you also get HDR support, which is probably why OnePlus has pre-installed Netflix with the phone. Moreover, you also get Widevine L1 certification for seamless HD streaming.

The display on a smartphone is what pulls you in immediately and the OnePlus 7 Pro seriously impresses in this regard. Dare I say this, this could be the best display on an Android smartphone yet but the Galaxy S10+ is brighter and far punchier when it comes to colour reproduction. Anyway, do you guys remember Will Smith in Hitch? He was a smooth son-of-a-gun, wasn’t he? Well, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s 90Hz display is just like Smith’s character from the movie. I don’t know if it can land you any chicks, though. You are on your own for that. 

OnePlus 7 Pro multimedia: you will want to watch all your shows on this phone

Watching videos on the full-screen notch-less OnePlus 7 Pro is a delight. Couple that with the supremely narrow bezels, you will want to use the phone and not your TV for your favourite shows on Netflix and Hotstar. Furthermore, OnePlus has added stereo speakers now. So, the massive earpiece slit on the top bezel functions as a loudspeaker working in conjunction with the bottom firing speaker. These speakers are further enhanced by the Dolby Atmos support you get on the phone. For such tiny speaker drivers, Atmos literally means nothing. However, the speakers do sound good. Not as good as the Pixel or the iPhone, but it comes really close. 

With the headphone jack gone, you will have to depend on a dongle for your 3.5mm accessories. But OnePlus doesn’t bundle one in the box. Neither does it bundle a pair of earphones. This is a major letdown if you ask me. However, I did try the sound quality through the OnePlus 6T’s dongle and it was pretty good. The wireless audio performance was great too with the new OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 that uses the aptX codec for streaming. By the way, if you have a pair of LDAC wireless headphones – like the Sony WH1000-X M3 – you are going to get an even better sound because the OnePlus 7 Pro supports Sony’s proprietary high-resolution codec. 

All in all, the multimedia experience on the OnePlus 7 Pro is second to none and this is easily one of the reasons why I’d recommend the OnePlus 7 Pro to a lot of folks. 

OnePlus 7 Pro design: looks good but bogs you down with its gargantuan profile

If you look at it closely, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s design ID is a mashup of other smartphone designs like the Galaxy S10+, Vivo Nex, and the OnePlus 6T. The OnePlus 7 Pro is similar to the Galaxy S10+ when it comes to the curved front glass. From the rear, except for the triple camera setup, it looks a lot like the OnePlus 6T. And yes, the pop-up selfie camera has been passed down from the Nex, which is made by Vivo – a sister company of OnePlus from the BBK family. 

But all of it together looks cohesive and super premium. The Nebula Blue variant looks attractive and the best part is that it is a matte finish. Unlike glossy back smartphones, like the OnePlus 6T Mirror Black variant, for example, the fingerprints are not immediately visible on the phone. By the way, the pop-out selfie camera looks damn cool and it is genuinely functional. It can also be used for face unlock and it works extremely fast. However, using it often will reduce the lifespan of the module. So, I’d suggest against using face unlock. In any case, it doesn’t work well in the dark. And that’s fine because the new in-display fingerprint scanner is super duper fast. It unlocks in a jiffy.

However, the pop-out selfie camera adds to the girth of the phone. And, this is where the design takes a hit. The ergonomics are fine for a big phone but it is just too big in my opinion. Using the phone with one hand is not easy. Also, the 206g weight of the phone makes it super heavy. I couldn’t play PUBG for an hour straight without it hurting my wrist. 

This is a massive phone and if a big man like me is uncomfortable with the phone, people with smaller hands are bound to be even more annoyed. In comparison, the Galaxy S10+ is big too but it makes up for that size with its 175g weight. Moral of the story: big phones need to be lighter. Also, considering it has a fairly thick 8.8mm profile, the camera bump on the rear could’ve been avoided. 

But, the Alert Slider has now been moved slightly lower making it easier to reach. I think this is one of my most often used features on the phone. Moving on, I’d be doing injustice to this review if I didn’t talk about the improved vibration engine on the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is really, really good and is now up there with the Pixel 3 XL and the iPhone XS Max. There are times when the vibration motor fails especially when two apps need to ping the phone for vibration feedback.

For example, if you are scrolling through the app drawer using the “Alphabet” handle on the right edge, you can feel the phone vibrating when you land on each alphabet. It feels so darned good. But, if a message pops up at the same time, the vibration motor fails on certain occasions. I think OnePlus just has to code the software properly. 

Otherwise, the vibration feedback that you get while typing or in a game like PUBG is just next level. When you pull the trigger in any gun in PUBG, you can feel the vibration at the trigger icon. It just enhances the gaming experience by leaps and bounds. In fact, you can also feel vibration feedback when you are straightening the image using the edit feature in the default Gallery app. It also works when you use the optical fingerprint scanner. 

Unsurprisingly, in order to reduce the price, OnePlus has not gone for an IP certification but claims that the phone is water-resistant. But without the IP certification, I doubt regular users will be okay with taking the phone swimming like they can with the Galaxy S10+ or the P30 Pro. I wouldn’t do that either.  

OnePlus 7 Pro software: Oxygen OS brings fresh new features

The OnePlus 7 Pro runs on Oxygen OS 9.5.2 based on Android Pie. It is running on the April 1 Security patch. Oxygen OS is the most polished Android skin that doesn’t take away from the essence of stock Android. It continues to be my favourite Android operating system, even more than stock Android because the additional features are extremely useful. For example, I really love the dark Theme and the fact that you can have custom colour accents. Also, the flexibility to change grid sizes and icon packs are super useful too. 

  

Having said that, the OnePlus 7 Pro brings a few new features in the new build and they are all pretty cool. 

  1. The new Zen mode is genuinely useful. It shuts down the phone for 20 minutes so that you can spend time with your loved ones. You cannot cancel Zen mode once you activate it. You cannot make calls except for emergency ones, notifications are shut off, and you can use only the camera app. I actually used the Zen Mode on a dinner date with my wife and we had a legitimate conversation for once. We, as a nation, really need to cut down on our time with the phone drastically. Well, I find it difficult because it is an occupational hazard. What is your reason?
  2. Gaming mode has been improved to include a Fnatic mode. For those who don’t know, Fnatic is a professional esports organisation with players from across the world competing in popular e-sport tournaments of games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and more. Now, this mode will be appreciated by gamers. Apart from optimising the performance on the CPU and GPU, it also puts the phone in an advanced DND mode. Furthermore, the haptic feedback improvements in a game like PUBG are actually applied in this mode. These are legit improvements and I genuinely used the Fnatic mode while playing PUBG. 
  3. You also get a new Screen Recorder, that is extremely minimalistic and easy to use. 

OnePus 7 Pro camera: detailed landscape shots, above average everything else

For the first time on a OnePlus smartphone, you have a triple camera setup on the rear. What you get is a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with an f/1.6 aperture lens, an 8MP telephoto camera that can do 3x lossless zoom, and a dedicated 16MP wide-angle camera with a 117-degree FoV. There’s also the 16MP Sony IMX471 selfie camera in the pop-out module. The camera app is mostly the same with well-laid out modes. But, you get the additional toggles to switch on the wide-angle and telephoto lenses. 

(For full resolution samples and video samples head to this link.)

Additionally, you now get a few notifications to ensure that you don’t damage the pop-out selfie camera. Firstly, if you drop your phone while taking a selfie, the phone detects the fall using the gyroscope and the selfie module quickly retracts ensuring that you don’t break it. And secondly, if you open and close it too often you get a pop-up that requests you not to do that. And finally, if you push it manually with your finger the phone asks you to refrain. 

  

Coming to the pictures, l have a detailed comparison with flagship phones that include the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, and the Samsung Galaxy S10+. However, let me break down my findings for you. 

  1. The primary rear camera takes great landscape shots with crisp details. But as usual, it suffers from the over-saturation syndrome that plagues OnePlus phones. Faces look soft too. 


  2. In fact, faces look soft in selfies as well. I like the colour tone of the faces in selfies but the crisp details are missing. 

  3. Close up shots are replete with fine details that look stunning. 

     

  4. I don’t know why OnePlus had to use the telephoto lens to crop in so close for Portraits. The implementation is very weird and you also get a very average cutout. 

     

  5. The phone struggles with exposure in warmer settings as the final image end up looking like someone infused the picture with jaundice. 
  6. The telephoto camera is useful for a closer crop and the colour reproduction is identical to the main camera. But, I could notice some noise at a closer crop.
  7. The wide-angle camera is another useful addition but the images look soft. The fixed focus is also an issue. Unfortunately, you can’t shoot videos with the wide-angle camera. Interestingly, you can shoot videos with the telephoto or switch when you are shooting using the regular camera.

  8. Talking about videos, the image stabilisation, and the picture quality is great in 4K video recording. However, I find it annoying that the OnePlus 7 Pro has the same red face issue that I encountered in the P30 Pro. The 1080p video looks great, though. Sound recording is good but still not flagship-grade unfortunately. 
  9. Low light shots, by default, are noisy and look average. But, the Nightscape mode is a marked improvement over the OnePlus 6T and it looks really, really crisp. It looks almost as good as Pixel’s Night Sight and that is saying a lot. But, if you want the best low light shots it is better to stick with the Huawei P30 Pro. Because the Nightscape mode still works only with landscape shots and close-ups in low light are not going to be drastically different. 


    Without Nightscape

    With Nightscape

     

  10. Finally, you can also shoot 48MP images using the Pro mode. That said, the details in the JPEG are not as impressive as the results I achieved with a phone like the View 20. Having said that, you can shoot in RAW and maybe make a better photo with post-processing using Lightroom. 

The one thing OnePlus needed to make the OnePlus 7 Pro the most desirable flagship is Pixel-grade cameras. But, it does fall short on more than a few counts and there is still a lot of room for improvement in the next edition of the OnePlus Pro series flagship. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind paying more for the OnePlus 8 Pro if the company spends more R&D money to improve the algorithm and give a tough competition to the proper flagships next year. 

 
The one on the left has been shot by OnePlus’ default app and the other one by Gcam.

Having said that, here’s something that should excite the tinkerers. The OnePlus 7 Pro has camera2api support out of the box. Obviously, there is no official port yet for the OnePlus 7 Pro but I tried @Arnova8G2 version of the app that worked for the OnePlus 6 and it worked fine. Anyway, the difference in image quality and colour processing is night and day. I absolutely love how the pictures look from the Gcam port. I am sure that someone will make a proper stable build for the OnePlus 7 Pro and that could make this phone the unbeatable flagship. 

OnePlus 7 Pro performance: nothing to see here folks, excellent as usual

The OnePlus 7 Pro is the first phone with the Snapdragon 855 SoC that we’ve had the pleasure of testing. All the other specs are excellent too. The OnePlus 7 Pro starts at 6 gigs of RAM and goes up to a whopping 12 gigs! We got the highest variant with 12GB RAM and 256GB of fast flash storage using the UFS 3.0 2-lane file system. Note this, before the OnePlus 7 Pro only the Samsung Galaxy Fold came with UFS 3.0 storage. With UFS 3.0, we now have Android phones in the touching distance of the iPhone XS Max when it comes to storage performance. 

In the Androbench run, the OnePlus 7 Pro achieved read/write speeds of 1443.64MB/s and 385.52MB/s. The read speed is lower than the iPhone XS Max, which is the fastest we’ve recorded to date, which was 1519MB/s. But, the write speed is higher than even the iPhone XS Max which had hit 236MB/s in our testing. Okay, these are just numbers and what does it mean for the end user. All of this power is required for the systemwide UI, animations, and app scrolling to run smoothly at a max of 90fps to go in sync with the 90Hz display. The OnePlus 7 Pro is undoubtedly the fastest and smoothest phone I have ever used, Android or otherwise. 

And, with 12gigs of RAM, apps and even high-end games stay in memory for longer than you’d actually want it to. The raw performance on offer here is phenomenal and it shows in the excellent daily performance. Given below is a handy comparison of the AnTuTu and Geekbench scores of the best Android phones we’ve tested till date and the iPhone XS Max. 

The OnePlus 7 Pro is among the best phones for high-quality, AAA mobile titles. I ran the Gamebench test in PUBG at these settings: HDR, Ultra fps, anti-aliasing on, and shadows on. I played the game for 62mins and I got a median fps of 40 with 98% stability. Moreover, it just went from 36-degree to 39-degree, staying under the 40-degree mark even when the actual temperature in Delhi NCR was at 40-degrees. The new 10-layer liquid cooling really does a great job.

Up until now everything about the daily performance and gaming has been hunky dory. Wait for it, there is one problem though. OnePlus didn’t share a list of games that support the 90Hz display, which means that these games have to be unlocked by the developers to run at 90fps. So, I took a list of games from other phones like the ROG phone and the Razer Phone 2. For some odd reason, not a single game crossed 60fps; not Super Mario: Run, Darkness Rises, Vainglory, Real Racing 3, or the many other games that played at higher frame-rates on the ROG Phone or the Razer Phone 2.

In fact, even in a  game like FZ9: Timeshift that lets you change the fps setting to 200fps, the OnePlus 7 Pro was capped at 90fps. It was completely baffling considering there was no game that could make use of the smoothness offered by the 90Hz display. Well, I did ask OnePlus. And, at the time of shooting this review, OnePlus hadn’t whitelisted games yet that could run at 90fps. The engineers are apparently testing these games for the effect it has on battery life and heating if any.  

I shall update this review in case there are games added to the list. Maybe by the time retail buyers start getting the phone, we should see some games optimised for the 90Hz display on the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

OnePlus 7 Pro network performance: solid

For the duration of the review, I used the OnePlus 7 Pro on a Jio and an Airtel connection. I didn’t face a single call drop or network issues in my time with the phone. The OnePlus 7 Pro supports Dual-VoLTE as well. The earpiece sounds good too, nothing much to complain really. The 4G data was stable as well and there were no connectivity issues like when I faced with the Samsung Galaxy S10e or the Galaxy S10+. The Wi-Fi connectivity was stable and the speeds were good too. 

OnePlus 7 Pro battery life: great until you push it beyond its capacity

It is no surprise that OnePlus had to bump up the battery capacity on the OnePlus 7 Pro. You now get a 4000mAh battery inside. In addition, there is the proprietary 30W Warp Charging. But still, no wireless charging, why OnePlus why? I mean, just do it already. 

With the charger, I could charge the battery from 0 to 100 in 1 hour 43 mins on an average. This is noticeably slower than the 50W fast charging that you get on phones like the Huawei P30 Pro. Anyway, to assess the battery life, we really have to look at the display settings minutely. Why? Because the 90Hz refresh rate setting can really suck the life out of the battery. See what I did there?

  

In my testing, I got a SoT of 4 hours and 37 minutes with the display resolution set to QHD+ and refresh rate set to 90Hz. This is the highest setting mind you. The phone lasted me a little more than half a day in this first battery run. This got me worried. But with auto-resolution and 90Hz refresh rate, and moderate usage, I could push it up to 6 hours and 57 minutes before I had to charge the phone, which is great. Obviously, when you add gaming to the mix, the SoT will decrease. 

Now, this means that you can pick and choose the settings you want. In real-world usage scenarios, you can choose to save battery or drain through it based on your plan for the day. For example, if you are at home on the weekend and want to game on your phone, you can switch to QHD+ res and 90Hz refresh rate because you can plug it in immediately. The flexibility is available for you to improve your battery life. And of course, there is also the Power Saver mode. To tell you the truth, unless you max out the display settings, the battery life is not much to worry about on the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

Should you buy the OnePlus 7 Pro?

After using the OnePlus 7 Pro, I can only think of one thing: the brand originally known for making “flagship killers” has finally made a killer flagship. It has everything you ever asked for. From adding a QHD+ display to dual stereo speakers, OnePlus is actually listening to its core community. I really like the phone despite its quirks. For example, I still don’t understand why there is no wireless charging. OnePlus, you decided to go all out but didn’t think a wireless charging coil was important? Also, it could have been slightly slimmer and lighter. Just saying.

Anyway, this phone is going to be an easy recommendation and if I wasn’t doing this job, I’d have probably picked one up for personal use as well. But how does it compare against other flagships? 

Huawei P30 Pro

The best smartphone for photography in my opinion – the P30 Pro – is a good phone too. However, the Oneplus 7 Pro is better in many areas. I believe the QHD+ 90Hz notch-free display is better than the P30 Pro’s FHD+ teardrop notch panel. You also get better performance from the OnePlus 7 Pro and an infinitely better software experience. But yes, the ergonomics of the P30 Pro are definitely better and you get the wireless charging+IP certification. That said, I might still pick the OnePlus 7 Pro over the P30 Pro if I were buying a phone. 

Also read: Huawei P30 Pro review: this 5-camera system has a phone for some odd reason

Huawei P30 Pro 23

Google Pixel 3 XL

The Pixel 3 XL has an excellent set of cameras and is still one of my favourite phones from 2018. Yes, the P30 Pro might have technically better cameras but I’d still go for the Pixel 3 XL for my go-to everyday shooter. This is the reason why I still have one with me at all times. The Pixel 3 XL, however, doesn’t hold a candle to the OnePlus 7 Pro when it comes to the display or the performance. Moreover, the battery life on the Pixel 3 XL has always been a pain point for me. That’s definitely not the case with the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

Also read: Google Pixel 3 XL review: shoots drool-worthy images that will persuade you to make a switch

Pixel 3 XL 13

Samsung Galaxy S10+

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is by far the most well-rounded flagship phone this year. This is the reason why the Galaxy S10+ is the highest-rated phone here at Mr. Phone. From the camera performance to the display quality to the reverse wireless charging, the Galaxy S10+ has something for everyone. It looks, feels, and behaves premium. If you are considering the OnePlus 7 Pro over the Galaxy S10+, the only tangible benefit is the 90Hz display. Otherwise, the Galaxy S10+’s Snapdragon 855 variant is really a great buy. Not so much the Exynos one, because battery life and performance are both underpowered. Which means, in India, the OnePlus 7 Pro still has a fighting chance against the Galaxy S10+.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: hands down, the best Android phone right now

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 3

At the time of shooting this review, I have no idea about the price yet. But, I am sure OnePlus will price it sensibly. And, please don’t outrage over a price bump. Cut OnePlus some slack if it raises prices. The OnePlus 7 Pro cannot come at the same price as the OnePlus 6T now, can it?

To round it up, the OnePlus 7 Pro feels like a gamble that has worked for the brand. I can feel that the phone is going to attract a lot of chatter. But should you buy it? My answer is a resounding yes. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?