OnePlus 7 Pro Review: A fast upgrade with a few kinks

0
84

This year saw OnePlus add two flagship smartphones to its lineup. A cheaper OnePlus 7 and a more expensive OnePlus 7 Pro. The latter comes with the more superior specifications if the Pro moniker does not give that away already. But does the OnePlus 7 Pro genuinely surpass traditional flagship features yet stay lower in price?

OnePlus 7 Pro: Design and build

The OnePlus 7 Pro is available in black, blue and almond colour variants. All three allow for a different aesthetic in a chassis that feels robust and heavy. At 206 grams, you can notice its extra heft, which may not be ideal for people switching from more slender smartphones. Its smooth curves and back go quite a fair bit to ensure comfort when in the hand. In fact, the only disturbance is the protruding triple-camera setup on the phone’s top half. However, for people with small hands like myself, the phone is hard to manage and becomes slippery.

In spite of the premium-feeling Gorilla Glass 5 protection on both the front and back of the phone, I would still recommend using a case with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Even the plastic one included out of the box will give it some degree of impact resistance and will stop the phone from rocking on a flat surface because of its camera bump.

The glass build of the OnePlus 7 Pro has a matte effect to attract less fingerprints

More importantly though, the case is essential because the phone is one polished slab of glass. With the all-screen front, the phone has practically no bezels to it. Off to the right, you find the power button and OnePlus’ traditional alert slider. Here, the same textured finish found on the slider might have been a better design choice on the power button too. On the right, you only find the phone’s volume rocker. As far as the optical in-display fingerprint scanner is concerned, it is quick, responsive and comfortable to reach on the display.

Pop-up selfie cameras are slowly becoming the norm

On the top edge, the phone houses a mechanical pop-up selfie camera and the earpiece. On the bottom, there is the dual-SIM tray, a type-C USB port and a speaker. Unsurprisingly, the 3.5mm headphone jack is omitted but instead, OnePlus bundles a stereo speaker experience. But instead of an official IP-rating, the OnePlus 7 Pro is built and rated for unofficial water and dust resistance, meaning it is capable of surviving a dunk or two during daily use but there’s no guarantee to fall back upon.

OnePlus 7 Pro: Display and multimedia

The majority of OnePlus’ innovation lies in the 7 Pro’s Fluid AMOLED display. At 6.67 inches, it takes advantage of the phone’s large footprint, but there is more. It packs a 1,440 x 3,120 QHD+ resolution and supports a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, making everything on screen extremely smooth. With these specifications, the OnePlus 7 Pro display boasts an impressive A+ rating from critique DisplayMate. There is support for HDR10+, which makes content rich and vibrant on screen. Add to that the curves of the display and the OnePlus makes a case for itself for boasting one of the best screens on the market.

With HDR10+ and virtually no bezel, the display is a treat for multimedia consumption

As for fluidity, the 90Hz upgrade is definitely a big change. You can notice it when scrolling, clicking on elements or more evidently in games. But constantly using the phone at this refresh rate and at its maximum resolution can drain battery quicker, something that is addressed further in a later section. Going with the dual-stereo speakers on the OnePlus 7 Pro is also a good call by the company. In combination, these are noticeably louder than before. But they still lack crispness at higher volumes. There is a slight bit of distortion and sound isn’t as full as it is from other flagship devices.

OnePlus 7 Pro: Performance and software

It is no surprise that the OnePlus 7 Pro is fast. The variant we have for review has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Having that RAM enables you to multitask without any worry. Whether you want to browse social media or open up multiple games, the applications stay in memory. The fluidity in user experience is also because of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 octa-core processor. Clocked at 2.84GHz, it allows the phone to function at an unbelievable pace. Add to that the phone’s 90Hz display and you are looking at one of the smoothest Android phone experiences.

Oxygen OS is as close to stock Android as it can get

What OnePlus prides itself in most though is software. And it may the primary reason for the phone’s performance. Oxygen OS, based on Android 9.0 Pie, is as close to stock Android as possible. It remains bloatware free but brings a ton of value at the same time. OnePlus’ native screen recording feature, gaming mode and the ability to tweak display settings are handy utilities. Speaking of gaming, it is a big part of the phone. Right from the phone’s storage, which is of the UFS 3.0 type. This means install times are significantly reduced for games. Playing titles such as PUBG or Fortnite is also extremely smooth with little to no stutter or frame drops. And above all, the phone stays relatively cool throughout.

OnePlus 7 Pro: Pop-up selfie camera

One thing that is clear is that the OnePlus 7 Pro’s camera performance is a big step up. The most unique aspect about it is the front pop-up style sensor. It is a 16MP f/2.0 camera that captures selfies with good dynamic range. The quality of photos tails off in lower light but there isn’t a major drop off. I like how OnePlus is not pushing aggressive beauty effects or AI in its selfies. But rather, it aims to reproduce as natural of an image as possible. When using portrait mode, the sharpness in selfies seems to drop and edge detection is patchy, especially in lower light.

The pop-up selfie camera automatically retracts when a fall is detected

Due to the pop-up style though, the selfie camera’s placement is off centre. This makes taking selfies feel awkward and harder to frame. Sometimes, selfies in groups can prove to be difficult and in such a case, a wider angle mode for selfies could have improved the experience. As for the pop-up mechanism’s durability, there is no major concern. Forcing the mechanism in or prying it out is not recommended. However, it is not as fragile as you might think. Hearing the gears in the mechanism is oddly satisfying and if you’re wondering what happens if the phone drops when the camera is out, OnePlus has bundled in a handy retraction feature. The phone’s gyroscope detects the falling motion and retracts the camera to protect it from damage.

Primary triple-camera: Photos

One of the things that kept us from reviewing the OnePlus 7 Pro earlier were the constant updates it received to improve camera performance. The 48MP f/1.6, 8MP f/2.4 telephoto and 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide trio of cameras are more than capable.

This is the first triple-camera setup on a OnePlus smartphone

Pictures generally have a warmer than natural tone to them but in terms of sharpness and detail retention, there is no complaint. The telephoto lens gives you 3x optical zoom with a picture that has a slightly lower 2,448 x 3,264 resolution instead of the conventional 3,000 x 4,000 one so you do not get full 3x optical zoom. The other side to the telephoto lens is portrait capture. Here, the OnePlus impresses with the way it retains sharpness in the subject. However, edge detection struggles in more complex objects and you are limited to using the telephoto lens meaning the field of view in portraits is not particularly wide. Have a look here for some full-resolution samples.

Lastly, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s ultra-wide angle lens is a new addition this year. With it, you diversify your smartphone camera experience and pictures do not retain any distortion, which is a good thing. The ultra-wide lens is not as sharp is the standard wide but for the extra detail, it may be worth it in certain situations. Even in the case of colour accuracy, it over-saturates tones compared to the standard wide lens. OnePlus does not throw in an AI option to take pictures, which we are not too disappointed by. However, its Nightscape mode is the answer to everyone’s night mode. Before the recent slew of software updates, OnePlus’ night mode was terribly inconsistent.

However with time, its quality has improved drastically. There are evident differences between photos taken without and with night mode. And all of them are good for the most part. At times, the artificial brightening of the image may introduce some noise and colour tones look a bit more saturated however that aside, the experience is above par.

Primary triple-camera: Videos

The primary trio of cameras also comes with up to 2,160p video support at 60fps. Due to the phone’s dual-OIS configuration, 1080p footage remains extremely smooth but a few major jitters creep up when recording 2160p video. As mentioned before, the 2,160p video support at 60fps is impressive however stabilisation can be improved so using an external stabiliser when capturing video on this setting is a must. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 7 Pro does not support video recording with its wide-angle lens, which is a shame, but we are hoping this feature gets added in at a later stage.

OnePlus Pro 7: Battery life

One compromise that comes with super smooth performance is battery. The 4,000mAh cell on the OnePlus 7 Pro is big however delivers only average battery life. With my usage, I hit 4.5-5 hours of screen-on time keeping the display at half brightness. OnePlus also bundles a sleep standby optimisation feature to allow for better battery backup on standby by disabling notifications. But then again, that means you may not receive important notifications in a timely manner.

With its 90Hz refresh rate, battery life takes a hit so it may be worth using the phone at 60Hz

I am all for OnePlus’ new Warp Charging though. The 30W power delivery is instrumental in recharging the phone on the go. With our testing, we got to 58 per cent of juice in just 30 minutes on the charger. However if you are someone who has heavily invested in the wireless charging ecosystem, you will be disappointed to know that there is no wireless charging support on the phone despite its glass back.

OnePlus 7 Pro: Verdict

If not already evident, using the OnePlus 7 Pro is a thoroughly satisfying experience. Its display and performance are key features that make it stand out from the crowd. However, at a starting price of Dh2,499 on Amazon, it puts itself up there with other high-end flagships from Samsung and Huawei. Both Samsung’s and Huawei’s smartphones one-up the OnePlus with official IP-protection and wireless charging among other differences. Or slightly lower in the pecking order could be Xiaomi’s Mi 9, offering the same degree of performance and camera features, at Dh1,899.

The way OnePlus has priced itself may be its drawback. The 7 Pro is not the best value for money smartphone anymore. But rather, it is competing to be the best Android smartphone of this year. And that is where things may get a bit hazy for OnePlus in this fiercely competitive and price-driven market.