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OnePlus 7 Pro review: playing in the big leagues

Curved full screen display? Check. Pop-up selfie camera? Check. Snapdragon 855? Check. In display fingerprint scanner? 12GB RAM? Big battery with fast charging? Check, check and check. OnePlus has packed everything but the kitchen sink into its 2019 flagship, the OnePlus 7 Pro. And while this is the most expensive OnePlus phone yet, it’s still considerably cheaper than Android flagships like the Galaxy S10 Plus and Huawei P30 Pro. This year, it’s clear that OnePlus wants to play with the big guns, and it’s leaving no stone unturned. Will it succeed? Or will it remain just another aspirational flagship, out of reach of the majority of users? I tackle these questions and more in my review.

Display and design

The OnePlus 7 Pro has the best display I’ve seen on a smartphone. It’s fitted with a 6.46-inch AMOLED QHD+ panel that’s also HDR 10+ certified, which means you can watch compatible content from Netflix. Colours are deep and rich, and sharpness and clarity are exceptional. The inclusion of a pop-up selfie camera means that OnePlus could go with a nearly bezel-less design, with a screen that tapers off the edges. The screen has an excellent brightness range that goes down to 0.27 nits when Night Mode is activated, making it comfortable to use in a dark room. But my favourite feature of this display (and possibly the phone itself) is the 90Hz refresh rate. Higher refresh rates mean smoother animations, swipes and scrolls – whether you’re browsing your Instagram or Twitter feed, or enjoying fast-paced games like Asphalt 9 or PUBG. Refresh rates of up to 120Hz have been seen on gaming phones like the Razer Phone 2, but by bringing it to a mainstream device, OnePlus is upping the ante. Even my iPhone XS felt painfully sluggish after using the OnePlus 7 Pro.

OnePlus sent out Nebula Blue units of the 7 Pro to reviewers, and this variant is a personal favourite (you can also get it in Mirror Gray and Almond). OnePlus says the Nebula Blue version is crafted out of multiple layers of glass, and sheathed by a coating of Gorilla Glass 5. Despite this, you get a matte finish that doesn’t attract smudges or glare. The phone features a nice curvature too, making it comfortable to grip. Even so, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a large phone that makes one-handed use almost impossible for me. Plus, it weighs 206g – that’s ridiculously heavy for a phone, and my wrist felt the side-effects after using it for extended periods. You’d definitely want to slap a case on this phone (unless you’re a monster). I used the gorgeous Nylon black bumper case OnePlus bundled in my reviewer’s kit. OnePlus bundles a TPU case in the retail box, but it’s a crime to use something that flimsy on the phone.

As for the ports and buttons, the trusty alert slider is still around, letting you switch between regular, vibrate and silent sound profiles. As with the 6T, there’s no headphone jack on this phone, so you’ll have to use either Type-C or Bluetooth headphones. OnePlus doesn’t bundle earphones or even a 3.5mm to Type-C adapter in the box, which feels a bit cheap considering OPPO includes the former with its flagship Reno 10x Zoom Edition. One area where the OnePlus 7 Pro is sorely lacking is an IP waterproof rating. OnePlus’ promotional materials suggested that the phone could be water resistant, but without a definite rating, I wouldn’t take this phone out for a dip in the pool.

Cameras

The OnePlus 7 Pro is the first phone from the brand to ship with triple rear cameras. Let’s get the specs out of the way first – there’s a 48MP Sony IMX586 primary sensor with f/1.6 aperture and both OIS and EIS. By default, this camera shoots 12MP images, but you can enable the full 48MP resolution in the Pro mode (or even shoot in RAW). Apart from the resolution, the overall quality remains pretty much the same between 12MP and 48MP, and I used the former through most of my testing.

The second sensor on the camera is an 8MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture, 3x lossless zoom (not 3x optical, as OnePlus claims) and OIS. Finally, you get a 16MP 117-degree ultra wide angle lens with f/2.2 aperture. The pop-up selfie camera gets 16MP resolution and f/2.0 aperture. It takes milliseconds to pop-up, and is fast enough to offer usable face unlock too. OnePlus says the front camera can be used 300,000 times without the module wearing out, which works out to about 150 selfies a day over 5 years. There’s also a cool feature that automatically retracts the selfie camera during usage if the camera detects a fall. I tested it a few times (over the bed, relax), and it worked every time.

Now, while the Pixel 3 can do magic with a single camera, there’s no denying the versatility three cameras offer. I found myself using the telephoto and wide-angle lenses frequently, and the flexibility to shoot different scenes is unmatched. That said, the quality of OnePlus’ cameras leave something to be desired. Faces for example, are almost always softened, making them look artificially beautified. The edge detection and background blur in Portrait mode is pretty realistic, but here too, details in skin and hair are lost. In daylight however, you can capture some stunning macro and landscape shots, filled with detail. The colour tones tend to be a bit too warm for my liking though. Wide angle shots are also decent, and without the fish-eye like distortion you see on many phones which offer this camera. In lower light or even indoors, images lack detail, with even the tiniest movement resulting in motion blur. However, turning on Nightscape makes a world of difference. Images captured in this mode exhibit a lot more detail, with darker areas coming to life without artificially brightening the entire scene.

Software and Performance

Oxygen OS is my favourite Android skin, hands down. I’d go so far as to call it a better version of stock Android. It’s virtually devoid of bloatware (Netflix was preinstalled, but I would have downloaded the app anyway). Apart from the various customisations possible in settings, there’s also a system-wide dark theme, reading mode and screen recorder function. I particularly like the Zen Mode, which is a great way to take time away from your phone. Activating this will turn off all functions from your phone for 20 minutes, barring incoming and emergency calls and the camera. I used it quite often just to decompress – during my lunch break, or when I needed to work distraction-free.

While the cameras leave something to be desired, the OnePlus 7 Pro is no slouch on the performance front. It comes kitted with a Snapdragon 855 chipset clocked at 2.84GHz, with 6GB/8GB/12GB of RAM, and either 128GB/256GB of UFS 3.0 storage. OnePlus sent me the top-of-the-line 12GB + 256GB option for review, and needless to say, it’s a beast. I used this phone for a couple of weeks, with never a slow down or a frame drop. UFS 3.0 means faster read/write speeds, useful for transferring data between your phone and laptop. Gaming on this phone is smooth as silk, and if you’re playing a graphics heavy game, the fluid animations really improve the experience.

The battery of the OnePlus 7 Pro is quite the beast. At 4,000mAh, it lasted me over 36 hours on average, with around 6-7 hours of screen on time. This was with the refresh rate set to 90Hz, and the resolution set to auto switch. Warp Charging, which first made an appearance with the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition charges the phone at 30W, juicing it up to usable levels in minutes. In our video loop battery drain test, the phone lasted 17.5 hours, while recharging it completely took about 1 hour 20 minutes. Unfortunately, OnePlus didn’t add wireless charging to the 7 Pro, a feature available on nearly all its peers.

The in-display fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 7 Pro is the best I’ve used on a smartphone yet, with a wider area that makes placing your thumb easy. It unlocks almost instantly, and I didn’t miss a physical sensor on this device in the least. The phone comes with stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos output. While these aren’t really powerful enough to benefit from Atmos, they’re still pretty loud, and perfect for watching Netflix or YouTube.

Verdict

With the 7 Pro, OnePlus is graduating from flagship killer to just flagship. And this shows not only with the price, but the hardware OnePlus has opted for this time around. While the cameras and large form factor still leave something to be desired, there’s little else I can find fault with on this device. Buying a phone you know will be replaced in just 6 months is a bitter pill to swallow, but OnePlus sweetens the deal by ensuring frequent and long-standing updates that far surpass most brands today. I don’t know if OnePlus will sell big numbers of the 7 Pro in India given it’s price – that might fall to the plainer but more practical OnePlus 7. The 7 Pro instead comes across as a serious option for anyone looking for a true flagship experience – one that plays in the big league right alongside the Pixel 3, Galaxy S10 and Huawei P30 Pro.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

What works:

  • Gorgeous, 90Hz display
  • Silky smooth performance
  • Good battery life
  • Warp charging is super fast

What doesn’t:

  • Phone is large and heavy
  • No waterproof rating
  • No wireless charging

Photos by Raj Rout

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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.