OnePlus 7 Pro Review: All grown up

The OnePlus 7 Pro is a major turning point for the brand. The once tiny Chinese phone maker entered onto the scene with style back in 2014, quickly establishing a vocal fan base and causing a media stir with its invitation-only ‘flagship killer’, the OnePlus One.

Despite starting life as a plucky underdog, however, OnePlus has had to grow up fast and nothing highlights the momentum the company has amassed like its debut entrants into the phone market for 2019: the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro.

For starters, a two-phone launch strategy (a first for the company) suggests that OnePlus is hoping to attract more than just the die-hard fans that have supported it thus far. The OnePlus 7 Pro is for those who want the best the company has to offer and a phone that packs in enough to compete with the latest rival flagships; devices like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and Huawei P30 Pro.

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OnePlus 7 Pro design brings a new level of attention to detail

The OnePlus 7 Pro looks and feels unlike anything the company has produced thus far. While the standard OnePlus 7 bears more than a passing resemblance to last year’s OnePlus 6T, the Pro model is a wholly different beast.

The lessons that Oppo learnt creating its Find X 2018 flagship may well have played a part in the engineering used by OnePlus’ new star player (as OnePlus uses Oppo’s production facilities to build its phones), based on not just its looks but the way it feels too.

Almost bezel-free

An expansive and near bezel-free curved display stretches across the phone’s front, granting it an impressive 88.6 percent screen-to-body ratio; one of the highest of any current smartphone. Essentially, when looking at the front of the 7 Pro, all you’ll see is screen, especially thanks to the display’s curved edges.

With a curved Gorilla Glass front mirrored by the phone’s curved glass back, the metal frame that sits within this sandwich is decidedly thin, but in spite of this, the phone still feels sturdy and well-built.

OnePlus 7 Pro alert slider

There’s still room for OnePlus’ signature physical alert slider along its right side – a defining feature on the company’s phones that lets you quickly switch between ringing, vibrating and silent sound profiles without having to look; it’s a small but important bonus that you’d miss, were it taken away.

With no notch or hole-punch camera to speak of, OnePlus has instead opted for a motorised pop-up front-facing snapper, akin to the one found on the Vivo Nex (although this one looks and feels a lot more robust).

It’s quick enough for face unlocking and, as with every phone that’s integrated such a system, comes with claims of rigorous testing and reliability.

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OnePlus 7 Pro OxygenOS

OnePlus states that the phone’s front camera mechanism has withstood some 300,000 actuations during testing, without any sign of lag, slowdown or breakage. There’s fall detection in there too, which will pull the camera back inside the moment the phone detects itself hurtling towards the ground.

Collectively, you should feel comforted by these assurances, but as ever, in the real world, I still have my doubts about the longevity of any moving parts on a phone, especially one a delicate and intricate as a motorised camera unit.

For all the care and attention OnePlus has poured into the aesthetics of the 7 Pro, such beauty does come at a practical sacrifice that some might not be willing to overlook.

For a start, with a 6.67-inch, 19.5:9 display; this is a very big device – OnePlus’ largest ever. It’s almost identical in width to its predecessor but notably taller, plus those narrow metal sides give you less purchase, making one-handed use precarious.

OnePlus 7 Pro one hand reach

Just out of reach

Add to that a complete lack of any one-handed mode within the software and elements at the top of the screen within apps (such as the placement of Instagram’s story ‘bubbles’) require two hands or a risky shimmy up and down the phone’s body to be pulled in reach of a thumb.

There’s also the matter of the finish of the phone. I appreciate OnePlus’ decision to shy away from a boring all-black body, instead offering up three colours at launch (partially tied to different RAM and storage configurations).

For the base 6GB RAM/128GB internal storage SKU your only option is ‘Mirror Gray’ – an understated colourway for those uninterested in flash and flare, or ideal if you’re looking to slap a case on it immediately. This is the closest thing to black on offer from this generation of OnePlus.

Fork out for the 8GB/256GB model and you have the full gamut of colours available to you. Mirror Gray is accompanied by ‘Almond’ – a mix of polished gold metal and an iridescent cream tone set behind glass, similar in styling to a gold iPhone XS. Nebula Blue is arguably the biggest head-turner and the finish that my review unit (pictured) came in.

While all three looks deserve praise for their ‘understated cool’, if you’re planning on going caseless, ergonomics once again come into play. The gloss finish of the Mirror Gray and Almond models backs attract fingerprints as readily as any of their competitors, while the finely-textured glass given to the Nebula Blue model will remain comparatively smudge-free.

The trade-off is that the blue model’s treated rear also lacks grip which, paired with it’s already unwieldy form, pushes the chance of the phone slipping from your fingers way up. While I haven’t asked OnePlus directly, I have no doubt that the 7 Pro’s fancy new screen isn’t cheap to replace. You have been warned.

The OnePlus 7 display is the first truly competitive mobile HDR screen

On a more positive note, that display is nothing short of exceptional. Out the box, it may not be as accurately tuned as some of its rivals’ screens but there are plenty of tools to customise the viewing experience should you wish to tinker around.

The company also lauded the screen’s A+ rating from independent body DisplayMate, before the 7 Pro had even officially launched, just in case there was any doubt about its capabilities.

OnePlus 7 Pro HDR test

HDR visuals on 6.67-inch display are stunning

It’s the first time we’ve seen a OnePlus screen transcend above Full HD+ resolution. This Quad HD+ panel is also HDR10 complaint, with approved support for services like Netflix – a popular service that previously only offered limited support for OnePlus devices.

Related: What is HDR?

The ‘Fluid AMOLED’ panel, as OnePlus calls it, gets its name not just from the inky blacks and vivid colours it can push out, but the intriguing 90Hz refresh rate that it supports.

Although you can manually dial it down to 60Hz, as most phones use (or have it jump down when battery saver mode is activated), the 7 Pro’s screen remains fixed at 90Hz. The result is an effortlessly smooth-looking user experience that lends itself perfectly to the idea that this is a cutting-edge handset.

Seeing really is believing, especially as only a handful of other devices offer anything close to what OnePlus has cooked up here.

Apple’s ProMotion technology, along with the Asus ROG Phone‘s OLED and the Razer Phone series’ IGZO displays all have the ability to operate at refresh rates notably higher than 60Hz, but in the smartphone space, the OnePlus 7 Pro might be the most approachable and mainstream handset to showcase such technology.

There are known concerns around the impact on battery life leaving the smooth 90Hz setting on all the time might have, but based on the longevity I experienced without ever switching it off (or rather, down to 60Hz), I’d just enjoy its inclusion and how it elevates acts as simple as swiping around the interface.

The worst thing about the feature? You really notice its absence when using any phone that doesn’t support it.

OnePlus 7 Pro handheld apps drawer side

The display smarts don’t stop there. There’s also the integrated optical in-display fingerprint sensor – an evolution on the feature that OnePlus introduced with last year’s 6T.

This time around, OnePlus has enlarged the sensor’s read area and reduced latency; all I can say is that it feels much faster and more reliable than its predecessor, even if it can still be tripped up by particularly cold or wet hands.

OnePlus 7 Pro handheld fingerprint

With next-to-no bezel, there’s no notification LED to speak of, so instead light pulses down the curved edges of the display in the corresponding app colour to great effect – a feature that both Samsung and Oppo have used on curved-display laden devices.

OnePlus 7 Pro camera has greater versatility, but is that enough?

OnePlus has kept up with principle imaging trends in the realm of smartphone photography, and the OnePlus 7 Pro makes the same move that many of its contemporaries already have; implementing a triple-sensor on the back.

The 7 Pro’s three-lens arrangement is comprised of a 48-megapixel main snapper with OIS (optical image stabilisation), an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor, again with OIS, that grants the phone 3x lossless optical zoom, while a 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor, with an impressive 117-degree field of view, rounds things out.

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OnePlus 7 Pro main camera closeup

OnePlus has worked hard to ensure the hardware is put to good use, with the phone boasting enhanced versions of the company’s Nightscape (version 2.0) scene mode and pixel-binning technology (condensing the image data of four pixels into one to reduce shake and noise) as a result of that huge 48-megapixel main sensor.

Natural light: OnePlus 7 Pro (left), Huawei P30 Pro (right)

This isn’t the first phone to use Sony’s IMX586 sensor and the resulting picture quality is easily comparable. Xiaomi’s Mi 9 flagship relies on a similar triple sensor array with the same high-res primary sensor and I was left mightily impressed by the quality such an affordable flagship was able to put out.

Quality is impressive at the phone’s maximum 3x lossless optical zoom

In natural light, the 7 Pro is on par with every other high-end snapper worth its salt right now, save for the Huawei P30 Pro and Pixel 3, both of which offer greater detail capture and dynamic range. The 3x lossless optical zoom also means cropping in on subjects and scenes is no longer a fruitless effort, with impressive amounts of detail held in images.

OnePlus needs to work on the 7 Pro’s low light performance: OnePlus 7 Pro (left), OnePlus 6T (right)

OnePlus worked hard to improve the 6T’s low light capabilities last year, but the move to new hardware has clearly added a bump to the development of this year’s setup. While the pictures it produces are still usable, there’s an evident lack of detail that the competition – including its predecessor – has a better handle on.

The newly improved Nightscape feature goes a long way to improving the 7 Pro’s low light shooting but more work needs to be done before it’s a true contender in this area.

OnePlus 7 Pro camera natural light Tate Modern ultra-wide

Elsewhere, that triple camera arrangement is a joy to use. The weaker wide-angle lens is best used in bright environments but can capture interesting and arresting perspectives not otherwise possible on the phone.

OnePlus 7 Pro camera sample indoor ultra-wide

Portrait mode adds pleasant and realistic bokeh to situations but any face detected in-frame, be it in the foreground or background, will appear sharp, which sometimes works against the artificial depth effect, breaking immersion.

OnePlus 7 Pro camera Portrait mode

Faces can throw off the artificial bokeh if they show up where the phone isn’t expecting

With the phone’s capable hardware, the inclusion of up to 4K video recording at a smooth 60fps is also a welcome inclusion, with decent stabilisation to boot.

With the OnePlus 7 Pro speed and power are tantamount

The OnePlus X notwithstanding, OnePlus isn’t in the business on skimping on performance. When you buy a OnePlus phone, you know you’re getting a top-notch processor and complementary smarts to match. Never has that been truer than with the OnePlus 7 Pro.

I already mentioned the memory and storage options that the 7 Pro is available in, which range from generous to pure excess (with up to an additional £150 in tow) but speed and power are everywhere within the phone’s internals.

OnePlus 7 Pro benchmarks 3D-Mark-Scores

The latest and greatest 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset takes charge, which is also how OnePlus is able to convert the 7 Pro into the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G – the 5G-capable brother to the standard model that also integrates Qualcomm’s complementary X50 5G modem.

OnePlus 7 Pro benchmarks Antutu

Then there’s the inclusion of Universal Flash Storage 3.0. OnePlus has managed to beat Samsung to the punch after the Korean tech giant had to pull its first foldable, the Galaxy Fold, before launch as a result of engineering and reliability issues.

Related: Samsung Galaxy Fold – The final chapter

With the Fold out of the way, it looks as though the OnePlus 7 Pro will be the first phone on the market to support UFS 3.0, with Samsung following with the rumoured Galaxy Note 10 later into 2019.

OnePlus 7 Pro benchmarks Geek-Bench

The technology is theoretically up to twice as fast when it comes to read and write speeds, which affects everything from app load times to file transfers.

There’s so much powerful hardware here that I can’t find fault with the 7 Pro’s performance, and this new addition only serves to help the 7 Pro take the lead in an area that its pricier competitors still haven’t ventured.

OnePlus 7 Pro battery life goes beyond expectation

The story of speed on the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t stop with the phone’s fluid user experience and raw performance; it sports suitably solid fast charging technology too.

We first encountered the company’s Warp Charge feature on last year’s OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition and it’s now become part of the mainstream offering here.

The 30W Warp Charge adapter and complimentary cable are unquestionably sizeable (although the previous generation Dash/Fast Charger wasn’t really any more compact) but the convenience they bring nullifies the hassle of carrying them around.

OnePlus 7 Pro Warp Charge

The 7 Pro’s large footprint means it’s also able to carry a hefty 4000mAh battery within its belly and, with the included Warp Charger, that sizeable cell can be refilled from flat to full in under an hour and twenty. What really impresses is the initial charge rate, however.

A third of the battery can be filled in just 15 minutes and more than a day’s worth of juice can be replenished within 30. Most of the battery can be charged within an hour too, so you never have to wait long to give the 7 Pro a meaningful top up.

While quick in their own right, OnePlus’ fast-charging capabilities are no longer industry-leading; Huawei has instead taken that crown. The OnePlus 7 Pro does also lag slightly behind due to its lack of any form of wireless charging – an absentee feature that the company has explained may never be part of the equation on its devices.

OnePlus 7 Pro Battery

As for longevity, the OnePlus 7 Pro, left me thoroughly impressed. While charging the OnePlus 7 Pro is a lot less painless an experience compared to some phones (I’m looking at you Apple), not having to charge it all was an even bigger win.

I was consistently reaching two days of use and up to 5 hours of screen-on time on a single charge, which is well above most modern phones’ more approachable promised day-long endurance.

If I had flipped the refresh rate down to 60Hz or relied on battery saver mode at all, there’s every chance the phone would have lasted even longer.

Little has changed with OnePlus 7 Pro software, and that’s no bad thing

Android 9.0 underpins the software experience on this generation of OnePlus phones but the company’s OxygenOS overlay (version 9.5.2 as tested) is what you’re actually navigating around. It’s a great tweaked take on base Android that’s slick and clean, easy-to-use and powerful.

OnePlus 7 Pro OxygenOS

Integrated gestures make it easier to summon the notifications and quick settings (particularly useful with the 7 Pro’s tall display), as well as activating features like the camera and the flashlight without ever having to wake the phone up.

‘The Shelf’ is a dedicated space for iOS-like widget placement which keeps things tidy, and there’s a hidden ‘second space’ where you can place apps that you want to hide from prying eyes should you hand your phone to a friend. These are all pre-existing features, however.

Notable new additions for the 7 Pro include an enhanced gaming mode that silences notifications and locks screen brightness down, or by enabling ‘fnatic mode’ the phone directs all CPU, GPU and memory usage to your current gaming session and nowhere else.

The new Zen mode was born from the mindfulness practices of OnePlus’ senior staffers and takes a hard stance on pervasive phone checking by locking down everything, save for emergency calls, incoming calls and camera access, for 20 minutes at a time.

Not even restarting or powering the phone off and back on can you escape out of this experience, so make sure that you’re ready for the break, before committing.

OnePlus 7 Pro Zen mode

The feature feels like OnePlus’ extension of Android Pie’s native digital wellbeing toolset and as with much of what makes the 7 Pro decidedly OnePlus, it’s an odd inclusion but one that I appreciate nonetheless.

Should I buy the OnePlus 7 Pro?

When I first took delivery of the OnePlus 7 Pro, I wasn’t told how much it would cost (that information came later), and I was a little worried.

This phone is undoubtedly feature-packed, the richest the company has ever made, but its higher price warrants greater scrutiny. Previous OnePlus phones have always been pit against the flagships of the time but the comparative affordability they’ve offered has absolved them of any minor shortcomings that would otherwise have been met with disappointment or beratement.

Even so, the OnePlus 7 Pro still undercuts the majority of the 2019 flagship pack (by several hundred pounds in some cases), meaning I can forgive the absence of features like water resistance and wireless charging – this phone will still leave you impressed (and with more money in your pocket).

Where Huawei’s P30 Pro takes the cake for smartphone camera and battery ability, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen is easily one of the nicest I’ve clapped eyes on, plus OnePlus’ user experience is among the best skinned Android experiences you’ll find out there.

The OnePlus 7 Pro shows that the company is able to grow, bring about meaningful changes and greater competition without losing what makes the brand and its devices so uniquely appealing.

OnePlus 7 Pro – Price and Availability

The OnePlus 7 Pro launches on May 14 and is available to buy in-store at pop-up locations all over the globe from May 15 for a limited time.

The phone goes on sale online from May 21, with the 6GB/128GB Mirror Gray, 8GB/256GB Mirror Gray and Nebula Blue, and 12GB/256GB Nebula Blue models all on sale on this date, while the 8GB/256GB Almond model will be made available later in the year, sometime in June.

The 6GB/128GB SKU costs £649, while the 8GB/256GB SKU costs £699 and the top-tier 12GB/256GB model jumps up to a princely £799. OnePlus hasn’t yet revealed pricing or a release window for the 5G model.

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