OnePlus 7 Pro review: reinventing premium

The real “flagship killer” is finally here

OnePlus 7 Pro review
Bottom Line
A spectacular premium flagship that makes very few compromises and delivers amazing value.
features
Pros
Incredible price
Beautiful design
Gorgeous display
Versatile triple camera
Top-notch performance
Stock Android experience
Cons
No headphone jack
No IP rating
No wireless charging
No notification LED
4.8

It was just six months ago that OnePlus launched the excellent OnePlus 6T and announced its US partnership with T-Mobile. This marked a major turning point for the company, helping it raise awareness for the brand and put its latest phone within reach of a broader audience. As such, OnePlus was able to move beyond its traditional tech-savvy early-adopter market into the mainstream. Today, the company cranks things up another notch, and (spoiler alert) the result is magnificent.

For months now, rumors have been swirling that OnePlus was working on two new handsets, and that’s precisely what it delivered. The OnePlus 7 is exactly what you’ve come to expect from the company — an almost-flagship for about half the price. But it’s not coming to the US. Instead we’re getting the OnePlus 7 Pro, a phone that answers the question: what if OnePlus made a proper flagship, something premium that’s aimed more directly at the iPhone XS Max and Galaxy S10+?

So, is the OnePlus 7 Pro the no-compromise handset we’ve always truly wanted? How does it stand up to the competition? Is it still affordable? What does this mean for the future of premium flagships? Find out in my review.

Hardware and design

OnePlus has been crafting quality phones for a while now, and the OnePlus 7 Pro is no exception. It’s a beautiful curved Gorilla Glass 5 and polished aluminum sandwich that’s close in proportions to the svelte OnePlus 6. As such, it looks more refined than the OnePlus 6T. My Nebula Blue review unit is particularly striking thanks to satin-finished rear glass. Other colors include Mirror Gray and Almond (with gold accents). The notchless, bezel-less display and triple rear camera further position the 7 Pro as a premium flagship.

At 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8mm and 206g, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a big handset. In fact, it’s about the same size as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. Still, it’s easy to grip, at least if you have larger hands, thanks to the curved glass front and back. It feels substantial (which is good) but also a bit wide (which is bad). The front is dominated by a 6.67-inch OLED screen, with only a tiny chin at the bottom and a sliver of an earpiece along the top edge. No notch or bezels means there’s a motorized pop-up selfie shooter that automatically retracts when free-fall is detected. Neat.

Round back, you’ll find a trio of lenses (regular, wide-angle, and 3x telephoto) arranged in a vertical pod, a dual LED flash, and the OnePlus logo. That’s it. A pair of microphones, a speaker, the USB Type-C port, and the SIM tray line the bottom edge of the phone, with the aforementioned pop-up selfie camera and a third mic located up top. The right side is home to the power button and mute slider, while the volume rocker lives on the left side — following the now familiar OnePlus 6 / 6T layout.

Unfortunately, the OnePlus 7 Pro lacks a headphone jack. Worse yet, OnePlus doesn’t include a dongle in the box, hoping perhaps that you’ll spend extra on its new Bullets Wireless 2 instead. Not cool. There’s also no official IP rating, but the company says the handset is splash resistant, whatever that means. You know what, OnePlus? It’s time to stop making excuses. If you want your premium flagship to be taken seriously, it needs to be certified against water ingress, even if this raises the price a little.

A beefy (and welcome) 4000mAh battery hides under the rear glass, but there’s no wireless charging coil back there. It’s a bummer, and another reminder of OnePlus’ ruthless drive to save costs. Or is that stubbornness? Ultimately, though, the OnePlus 7 is one of the company’s best designs to date. It’s a sexy phone with solid build quality.

Display

OnePlus 7 Pro review: reinventing premium 2
The OnePlus 7 Pro has a notchless display and pop-up selfie camera

Most premium flagships have Quad HD+ displays these days and for the first time, so does the OnePlus 7 Pro. But the company didn’t stop there. This is a massive 6.67-inch edge-to-edge Fluid AMOLED panel with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio (3120 x 1440 pixels) and a whopping 90Hz refresh rate, hence “Fluid”. There’s no notch here, just a tiny chin and acres of screen covering almost the entire front of the handset and curving into the left and right sides. It’s like Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Infinity-O display, but without the hole punch “O”.

It’s a gorgeous screen that compares favorably with today’s best OLED panels. Viewing angles are excellent, with no obvious off-center discoloration. Colors are vivid but accurate, and blacks are super deep. It’s also bright enough to be usable in direct sunlight and supports HDR10+. But it’s the 90Hz refresh rate that really shines. It delivers an incredibly smooth visual experience no matter what you’re doing. Combine this with a crisp 516 ppi resolution and automatic down-scaling to preserve battery life, and it adds up to one impressive display.

Of course, no notch or bezels means the earpiece is reduced to a slit in the aluminum frame above the screen, and the front shooter lives in that slick motorized pod that slides up from the top edge of the phone. There’s no notification LED, but the curved edges can be set to light up for some notifications. Also, unlike other premium flagships, the Ambient display isn’t a proper always-on mode (it only activates when you lift the handset or notifications come in). My only other gripe, and it’s minor, is that the screen’s corners are too rounded for my taste.

Camera

Like most premium flagships these days, the OnePlus 7 Pro packs three rear cameras — a first for OnePlus. It features a 48MP f/1.6 main shooter with OIS built around Sony’s excellent and popular IMX 586 Quad Bayer sensor (1.6-micron 4-in-1 pixels), a 16MP f/2.2 wide-angle camera (117-degree field-of-view), and an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto shooter (3x optical zoom) with OIS and 1-micron pixels. Phew. These three cameras use a combination of phase detection, laser, and contrast autofocus. A dual-LED flash completes the package.

Overall, the OnePlus 7 Pro takes lovely pictures. It’s the company’s best shooter to date, almost matching Samsung’s Galaxy S10, but still falling short of imaging champs like the Pixel 3 and P30 Pro. Exposure and colors are quite accurate, dynamic range is decent, and the main camera performs well in low light, especially when using Nightscape, a mode that’s similar to Google’s Night Sight and Huawei’s Night mode. Strangely, Nightscape isn’t available on the wide-angle or telephoto lenses. Other modes include portrait, manual (called Pro), and panorama.

For selfies, there’s a 16MP f/2.0 fixed-focus shooter with 1-micron pixels. It’s mounted in a motorized tab that comes up from the top side of the handset as needed. Clever. Vivo originally introduced this design with the NEX S last year, but it’s appeared on a few other phones since, primarily in China. OnePlus claims it’s tested this mechanism 300,000 times without problems. The resulting selfies are fine, but don’t particularly stand out in terms of image quality. Ditto portrait mode, which is driven by face recognition instead of depth sensing.

On the video front, the OnePlus 7 Pro captures up to 4k / 60fps stabilized with the main rear camera, and 1080p / 30 fps stabilized with the front shooter. It also handles slow motion video at 1080p / 240fps and 720p / 480fps, and a time lapse mode is available on both the front and rear shooters. For some odd reason, neither the wide-angle nor the telephoto cameras can record video. What’s up with that, OnePlus? Ultimately, the resulting videos look pretty good, with nice, clean stereo audio.

Reception and sound quality

My OnePlus 7 Pro review unit is the unlocked dual-SIM model, not T-Mobile’s single SIM version. I tested it primarily on Verizon and AT&T in San Francisco and New York City without any issues. Calls were loud and clear, and data speeds were quick — just as expected. Like last year’s OnePlus 6T, this new handset is compatible with Verizon’s LTE spectrum (without legacy CDMA support). It also connects to band 71 (600MHz) on T-Mobile’s LTE network, which is great news.

Audio on the OnePlus 7 Pro is kind of a mixed bag. On the plus side, the new stereo speakers sound much better than anything the company’s shipped before. This setup combines the earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker into a stereo pair, like many other premium flagships. On the other hand, the 7 Pro lacks a headphone jack once again. This is annoying at best, and user hostile at worst — especially since there’s no bundled USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box this time around.

Yes, the phone features aptX HD over Bluetooth, and the new Bullets Wireless 2 are pretty decent, but this isn’t what people want — especially OnePlus fans. At least the OnePlus 7 Pro supports both analog and digital USB Type-C audio accessories, and the built-in DAC and amp sound great, even with difficult to drive headphones and earbuds. Finally, it also features Dolby Atmos, which lets you fine tune the audio. I prefer turning it off when listening with headphones or earbuds, but I can see the appeal when using the built-in speakers.

Performance and battery life

As expected, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a powerhouse. It rocks Qualcomm’s mighty Snapdragon 855, complete with an octa-core Kryo 485 CPU, Adreno 640 GPU, and X24 Gigabit LTE (CAT 18) modem. My review unit came with 12GB RAM and 256GB of built-in UFS 3.0 storage, but there are 6GB / 128GB and 8GB / 256GB variants as well. Like previous OnePlus devices, there’s no SD card support here. Other specs include 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.0 (with aptX HD), NFC, A-GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo, and a comprehensive suite of sensors.

Performance is outstanding. The OnePlus 7 Pro is lightning fast and silky smooth no matter what you’re doing. Whether you’re casually watching Netflix, jumping between several productivity apps, editing a bunch of RAW photos, or playing an intense round of PUBG with friends, you won’t be left wanting (or waiting, for that matter). The display’s 90Hz refresh rate makes everything even smoother. It’s subtle yet noticeable, especially if you switch back to another handset after using this phone for a while.

Overall though, the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t necessarily feel quicker than last year’s OnePlus 6T, despite the newer SoC. That’s likely because the Quad HD+ screen and 90Hz refresh rate require more processing. Speaking of which, there’s a 10-layer liquid cooling system to keep the processor ticking when things get hot. OnePlus also updated the vibration motor to a linear motor for much improved haptics, and the in-display fingerprint sensor to a third gen optical sensor, which is now more responsive than the ultrasonic tech in the Galaxy S10. Nice.

Battery life is great, thanks to a capacious 4000mAh battery and a chip that’s 20% more efficient — and despite a more power hungry display. While I didn’t measure exact screen-on times, I twice used the OnePlus 7 Pro for two days without a refill. Basically, most people won’t have any trouble getting through a busy day on a single charge, and when it’s time, the supplied Warp Charge 30 fast charger makes topping off a breeze. Unfortunately, this handset doesn’t support Qi wireless charging. That’s just bad news for a premium flagship.

Software

Like the company’s previous devices, the OnePlus 7 Pro runs OxygenOS (v9.5.2), an almost stock version of Android 9 (Pie) that includes a custom launcher and some (mostly welcome) tweaks. In addition to Reading Mode, which turns the screen black and white, Night Mode 2.0 filters out blue light and lowers the display brightness to an incredibly dim 0.27 nits for use in complete darkness. RAM Boost caches apps in memory for faster load times, and complements Gaming Mode, which mutes notifications and improves graphics performance.

Zen Mode is by far the most interesting new feature. It encourages you to take a break and focus on life by disabling the phone for 20 minutes. During that time, you can still make and receive emergency calls and use the camera, but that’s about it. OxygenOS now also comes with a handy screen recorder. In all, there’s little to complain about — OnePlus’ software is super polished, and a perfect match for the 7 Pro’s superb hardware. Premium flagships manufacturers take note.

My only real gripe is with Shelf. For some reason, OnePlus insists on replacing Google’s Discover page left of the home screen with its own useless alternative called Shelf. T-Mobile’s OnePlus 7 Pro lets you choose between Discover (the default) and Shelf, but the unlocked model is stuck with Shelf unless you install a third party launcher that supports Discover. Why?

Price and competition

The OnePlus 7 Pro is available unlocked in three configurations and two color options: 6GB RAM / 128GB storage for $669 (Mirror Gray only), 8GB RAM / 256GB storage for $699 (Mirror Gray or Nebula Blue), and 12GB RAM / 256GB storage for $749 (Nebula Blue only). It’s also available from T-Mobile for $699 with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage (Mirror Gray or Nebula Blue). OnePlus is also introducing a trade-in program in partnership with Phobio that offers up to $449 for eligible phones towards a 7 Pro.

At these prices, it doesn’t matter which OnePlus 7 Pro you pick. You’re absolutely getting a premium flagship for hundreds less than the competition. Its closest rivals are Samsung’s Galaxy S10+ ($999), Apple’s iPhone XS Max ($1099), and Huawei’s grey market P30 Pro ($999) and Mate 20 Pro ($699). Google’s Pixel 3 XL is out of the running since it’s getting long in the tooth (4GB RAM, Snapdragon 845), and the new Pixel 3a XL offers the same excellent camera and user experience in a mid-range package for $479.

The only wildcards are the Honor 20 Pro which is launching in London on May 21, and ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro — assuming these are coming to the US. If you’d rather have a smaller handset, consider the Galaxy S10 ($899) or S10e ($749), iPhone XS ($999) or XR ($749), LG G8 ($650), or Huawei P30 ($600).

Myriam’s bottom line

I’m not going to mince words. The OnePlus 7 Pro is a spectacular phone, and that’s before you even consider the value proposition. At $669, it’s just an incredible deal. It wraps a brilliant screen, amazing performance, a competitive triple camera, and stock android experience into a beautiful, premium device. The fact that it works on Verizon and is available subsidized on T-Mobile is just icing on the cake. In the US, the choice for most people now truly comes down to Samsung, Apple, or OnePlus.

Still, the company made a few compromises. The lack of headphone jack, water ingress certification, wireless charging support, and notification light are all disappointing. Yes, I know — the 3.5mm connector is on its way out, and a missing LED isn’t really a deal breaker — but an official IP rating and Qi charging are par for the course in this category. I realize the company’s modus operandi is to undercut the competition, but I can’t help but wonder how much more expensive (and awesome) a OnePlus 7 Pro with these features would be.

If the OnePlus 7 Pro is on your list and you want a premium flagship but also care about value, performance, and user experience, go ahead and pull the trigger. I’ve tested every premium handset mentioned in this review, and after living with the 7 Pro for two weeks, I can’t help but think it might just be the “flagship killer” OnePlus always promised.

Helena’s bottom line

OnePlus has outdone themselves again, taking things to a whole new level with the OnePlus 7 Pro. To that effect, the camera, display, design, and even the performance have all leaped ahead dramatically from the 6T.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of curved edge displays on a smartphone, but the OnePlus 7 Pro has the best implementation of a curved display that I’ve come across to date, and yet it’s still super ergonomic to grip. Furthermore, the phone’s finish isn’t just pretty, but I really appreciate how its backside isn’t slippery as it tends to be with most other flagships. Instead, it feels practically as comfortable to hold as the OnePlus 6T.

Overall, between its new design and premium specs, the OnePlus 7 Pro is ready to rival the likes of the Galaxy S10 and wipe the floor with them thanks to its combination of excellent hardware and intuitive user interface. Samsung, Huawei, and the other big players should be getting really nervous.

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