Review

OnePlus 7 Pro review: I'm spoiled for all other screens

I've never been a huge fan of OnePlus phones. Even when I reviewed the OnePlus 6T, I said it was the best value for a flagship phone, but it still wasn't objectively the best in any category.

But this year, the firm took things to a new level with the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you want the spiritual successor to the device I just described, there's the OnePlus 7, but the Pro actually does stand out against the more expensive competition.

The OnePlus 7 Pro's big feature is that it includes a QHD 90Hz OLED display, and it doesn't have a notch. Instead, there's a pop-up front-facing camera. Naturally, it's fast, with 12GB RAM, UFS 3.0 storage, and a Snapdragon 855.

Specs

CPU Octa-core Snapdragon 855 (2.84GHz Kryo 485, triple-core 2.42GHz Kryo 485, quad-core 1.8GHz Kryo 485)
GPU Adreno 640
Body 162.6x75.9x8.8mm (6.40x2.99x0.35in), 206g (7.27oz)
Display 6.67 inches, 1440x3120, 19.5:9, 516ppi, OLED, 90Hz, HDR10+
Camera 48MP + 8MP + 16MP, Front - 16MP pop-up
Aperture f/1.6 + f/2.4 + f/2.2, Front - f/2.0
Video capture 4K - 60fps, Front - 1080p - 30fps
Storage 256GB UFS 3.0
RAM 12GB
Battery 4,000mAh
Color Nebula Blue
Price $749


The model that OnePlus sent me is the top-end one, with 256GB of storage and 12GB RAM. The base model comes with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM for $669.

Day one

Design

First of all, don't get the black one. The OnePlus 7 Pro comes in Nebula Blue, Mirror Gray, and Almond. Mirror Gray is essentially glossy black. It's nice, but not nearly as beautiful as the other two. Almond is what Apple calls 'Gold', with the almond-colored back and gold frame. No, really, it's the same color as a Gold iPhone.

But the one that the company sent me is Nebula Blue, and I think this one is the real winner. It's a matte, metallic blue that gets ever so slightly darker as you get to the top of the device. The top is almost purple.

One thing I really have to commend OnePlus on here is the diversity in the three different colors. You have black and glossy, blue and matte, and the gold and almond color.

Once again though, I need to point out that this handset is ridiculously slippery. It comes with a clear case, which you'll have to use if you don't want it to fall off of your desk. This has been the case for a few generations now from OnePlus.

The back is made of glass, which I'm completely against because there's no wireless charging. If you're using glass without wireless charging, you're making the device more fragile just to make it prettier, without any functional benefit. I hold OnePlus to a higher standard here, because I had the bamboo OnePlus One all those years ago. This company has proven that it can make cool devices with different materials.

At the top of the device, we now have a triple-lens camera module. The main lens is 48MP, there's a 3x zoom lens at 8MP, and there's a wide-angle camera at 16MP. Below the module is the flash and below that, the OnePlus logo. Oddly, it still says OnePlus on the bottom despite the logo being there.

On the bottom of the device, there's a USB Type-C port for charging, which supports OnePlus's 30W Warp Charge. And yes, it charges very fast. There's also a speaker grille and a dual nano-SIM slot. We'll circle back to why I was really happy to have dual-SIM functionality.

On the right side, there's a power button and a switch to mute your phone or put it on vibrate. I've only ever seen that switch on iPhones, so to the best of my knowledge, OnePlus is the only Android OEM that does it. I think it's a great feature, and I wish more companies would adopt it. And on the left side, there's a volume rocker.

90Hz OLED display

Ever since OnePlus produced its first handset, the company has used 1080p displays, until now. The OnePlus 7 Pro packs a 6.67-inch OLED display, which is absolutely beautiful. The main reason is that it has a 90Hz refresh rate.

If you don't think that this will make a big difference, you're wrong. Everything that you do on this device feels incredibly smooth. If you go and use another device for a time (and I do) and return, you'll immediately see and feel the difference.

It's also that the OLED panel is beautiful. As you'd expect from OLED, it provides true blacks, as pixels can be turned off. That also means that the colors are more vibrant. Moreover, this screen supports HDR10+, so it can dynamically adjust the color profile based on metadata of videos that you're watching.

And of course, there's no notch. This is because OnePlus uses a pop-up front-facing camera. The front of the device is pretty much all display. It uses the curved edges that we see from Samsung devices, something that I'm not a fan of. It makes the phone harder to use, sometimes registering false touches. Naturally, this is another area where having a case helps.

As the company first introduced with the OnePlus 6T, there's an in-display fingerprint sensor, and I'll say right now that it's the best one I've used. Typically, this is where I'd point out that an in-display sensor isn't as good as a dedicated one, but I think this one is. It's very fast and accurate. The only downside is that, as with all in-display fingerprint readers, there's no physical border around it. You can't find it without looking at it, or at least from muscle memory.

There are a couple of other things I want to point out. For one thing, while 6.67 inches seems big, especially if you're upgrading from a device that's a couple of years old, it's not. This device has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Screen sizes are measured diagonally, so 6.67 inches would have been massive in the old days of 16:9 screens, but it doesn't mean the same thing that it used to. Also, there are almost no bezels on this thing, so it has a fairly small footprint for its display size.

A lot of times, the taller screen is to accommodate for a notch. Not on this phone.

Finally, it does offer ambient display functionality, which will show you the time and notification badges. It's not on all of the time, but it does show up when you lift the phone. Naturally, this has to be on to use the fingerprint sensor. I think this is the biggest drawback to in-display fingerprint sensors, which is that the screen has to be awake to use them.

Zen Mode

Zen Mode is a software feature, that seems to only be present in the OnePlus 7 series. I don't see any reason why it wouldn't show up in other devices, but it's not currently on my OnePlus 6T.

The idea is to keep you from using your phone for 20 minutes. It's that simple. Once you activate Zen Mode, you can receive calls, make emergency calls, and use the camera. That's it. Even rebooting the device won't get you out of Zen Mode.

I really like this feature. I think many of us are prone to pulling out our phones to look at them without even thinking about it. This might even happen while we should be paying attention to something else.

It does have its limitations though. I'd love to use it while driving, but it disconnects the music playing through Bluetooth. I'd also love to be able to set the timer for different amounts of time. For example, it would be nice to be able to set an hour of Zen Mode to watch a TV show or something, or read a book.

Camera

There's some good and some bad when it comes to the camera. The bad mostly has to do with the software. For example, you can't set the resolution of the images that you take, and there's no option to set it to 16:9 aspect ratio. Images can only be set to 4:3, 1:1, or fullscreen, which is 19.5:9.

I've also had some real problems with the camera launching, or switching between the standard lens and the 3x zoom lens. Sometimes, it just takes too long, or it will freeze up for 10-15 seconds before doing what it's supposed to. This has happened enough times that I have to make a note of it. When it comes to taking a picture, timing can be critical. I assume that OnePlus will fix this in a software update.

There are three rear camera lenses. The main sensor is 48 megapixels with an f/1.6 aperture, but it takes 12MP photos. This is because it uses quad pixel technology, combining four pixels into one for better low light performance. The other two lenses are an 8MP 3x zoom sensor and a 16MP wide-angle lens.

The front camera is a 16MP sensor that pops out of the top of the device when you launch it. The good news is that it's fast, when it's working properly (note the issues above). The time to launch the front camera is roughly the same as a standard front camera, and if it's longer, it's not noticeable.

This device supports portrait mode from both the front and rear cameras, although they work differently. The rear camera forces you to use the zoom lens, which is the same method that Apple uses. It's a real pain because you have to back away from your subject. Using the front camera is much easier because it's just the one sensor.

One thing that I noticed is that autofocus in low light doesn't always work very well, especially with the zoom lens. I made sure to include more than one sample in some of these cases, where I had to take a second picture to make sure it was focused properly. Again, this happened enough times where I had to mention it.

Remember, these kinds of things are important in smartphone cameras. No one wants to take a picture and come back to it later only to find it was out of focus, and no one wants to launch their camera and have to wait 15 seconds for it to work, missing their shot.

Another thing I've noticed is that the corners in a lot of the images are a bit too soft. This is also probably something that can be fixed with an update.

Other than that, the camera is pretty good. Low-light performance isn't as good as something like a Huawei P30 Pro, but it's still better than the OnePlus 6T. Portrait mode is impressive with the front camera as well. It works with the rear camera pretty well, albeit zoomed in.

Performance and battery life

The OnePlus 7 Pro is fast. Really fast. With the combination of Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 855 chipset, 12GB RAM, and UFS 3.0 storage, it's probably the fastest Android handset available. This is the first smartphone to use UFS 3.0, which offers twice the bandwidth (23.2Gbps) of its UFS 2.1 predecessor.

Add that fast performance to the 90Hz display, and you get a really smooth experience. As far as general usage goes, I absolutely love this device.

My biggest issue is with the bugs in the software, as I described in the section about the camera. Another issue that I had is that Google Hangouts didn't work. I use Hangouts for SMS with Google Fi, as it allows me to send and receive texts from all of my smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Trying to send an SMS message crashed the app.

That's when I really appreciated the fact that this device supports dual SIM cards. I popped my Fi SIM in there along with my T-Mobile SIM and turned off Hangouts for SMS. I attempted to use the stock messaging app, and quickly ran into an issue where if you're in a group text, it actually doesn't tell you who said what. I ended up settling on Android Messages, which was also nice because it has a web app that lets me send and receive texts from a browser.

I'm also not sure why there is a stock messaging app. For a company that prides itself on a near-stock Android experience, I don't know why it wouldn't use Android Messages. Oddly, I went through all of this with the OnePlus 6T, and the bug was eventually fixed.

Even with all of the bells and whistles of the OnePlus 7 Pro, battery life is pretty good. I never had any trouble getting through the day. It supports 30W Warp Charge though, which means that it charges fast. OnePlus also sent me the Warp Charge 30 car charger, so I was never far from power. In short, power was never an issue in my time reviewing the OnePlus 7 Pro.

For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 4, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 4, which tests the CPU.

The results are right on par with the Snapdragon 855 devices that we've seen so far. Next up is AnTuTu, which has an all-in-one test.

Interestingly, the biggest shortcoming here is in the memory section. It's the RAM though, not the ROM. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction to this review, I've never felt like OnePlus smartphones were the best before. Sure, they had flagship parts for a price that's much lower than competitors, but if the price of the OnePlus 6T was the same as a Galaxy S9 or a Huawei P20 Pro, I certainly wouldn't pick the OnePlus 6T.

That changes with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Despite some issues that I've had with the software, and there have been many, this is an objectively awesome phone, regardless of the price. I also have faith in OnePlus that there will be software updates that fix the issues that I've had.

Mostly, it's the display that does the trick. The high refresh rate combined with the OLED display technology really puts it over the top. The only smartphones with higher refresh rates are from Razer with their 120Hz screens, and those do not use OLED.

On top of that, this phone is fast. Everything about the performance on this device feels snappy. The camera is pretty good, even if it's not the best, and I really love Zen Mode.

While the $749 price tag (starts at $669) doesn't factor in my opinion that this is one of the best phones around, it's still a great price. You can barely get a flagship phone for $749 anymore, let alone one for $669, and not one that's this good.

 

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