There were times during the inception of OnePlus that a device like the OnePlus 7 Pro looked like it was simply a pipedream. Even despite an ever-growing market share and ravenous set of fans, OnePlus has continued with their ‘Never Settle’ motto, which has led us to their apex — the OnePlus 7 Pro.
Make no mistake, this is a true out-and-out flagship with specifications, build and a price tag that really does match what the biggest in the industry offer. The OnePlus 7 Pro has all the attributes to tackle and best even the most well-known OEMs in the form of Samsung, Apple, LG et al and even beat them at their own game.
This is a handset that is a culmination of many iterative changes for the ‘little brand that could’ and represents a true step into the ‘big time’. While it is with slight disappointment that we’re seeing a true enthusiast brand step away from it’s no compromise roots, it’s arguably for the good of OnePlus that the 7 Pro genuinely steps up and sets the bar for 2019 flagships to try and follow.
But even with that in mind, what are our first impressions after some hands-on time with the OnePlus 7 Pro?
Design & Hardware
Arguably the area where the OnePlus 7 Pro has seen the biggest and most notable upgrades since the incumbent 6T line. From a well designed and objectively good-looking handset to a device that feels as though it skirts a fine line between Samsung Galaxy S9 and Oppo Find X, OnePlus has clearly set its sights on everyone else.
In the hand, you cannot help but compare the OnePlus 7 Pro to older Samsung devices. The curved glass shape and weight are eerily close, and in no way is it a bad thing as the Galaxy S9 was and still is a gorgeous handset. The weight feels much more consistent with the OnePlus 7 Pro, I found that while I love the OnePlus 6T, it can feel a little top heavy
The rounded sides can be a little slippery and I was concerned about the edges being sharp, but that isn’t the case. The chamfered bezels are smoothed out and comfortable to hold. For those with small hands, it might prove more difficult to grip effectively though.
Let’s discuss the back glass panel, which does come in a few distinct colors. The Nebula Blue option looks utterly gorgeous in person, shimmering and fading from a lighter blue hue to a darker, almost purple sheen. Different lighting really does affect just what colors you see, and it is a very striking option.
It uses a similar technique that was utilised to create the limited edition Thunder Purple OnePlus 6T that we saw at the tail end of last year. That was another spectacular looking device and with the metallic bezels and edges, the Nebula Blue OnePlus 7 Pro takes that a step further still.
While I haven’t had much hands-on time with the Mirror Gray or Almond colors, they too are much better looking in person than in press renders. The Almond skirts a fine line between rose gold and light brown, whereas the Mirror Gray retains the shiny smokey black we’ve seen on the 6 and 6T before.
The chamfered edges also hold another secret on this almost “all-display” device: a pop-up selfie camera. To remove the display notch, OnePlus has done what subsidiary Oppo has done before, opted for a hidden front-facing camera that appears from within the body of the device. As someone who doesn’t often take selfies, it’s nice to not have my display affected by something I barely use.
That said, the mechanism is neat, but it is louder than I had anticipated. There is a definite ‘whirr’ when it moves up and out of the edge of the device. It doesn’t stick up too far though, and the auto-drop tech is really neat in practice — but be careful testing it though!
For those wondering, there is ‘drop detection’ built in. Should you drop of fumble your device, the pop-up camera will retract automatically and save any potential damage.
I can’t talk about the lack of notch and not wax lyrical about the display, it is simply gorgeous. Big, bright, great viewing angles and that 90hz refresh rate makes it feel like silk. I have had real difficulty swapping back to devices that have a lower refresh rate after using such an amazing panel.
It’s not even that the just the display is great, I cannot stress enough how much of a step up the haptics are on this device. The haptics on the Pixel 3 are arguably the best on the Android side of the fence, but I am leaning towards now exclaiming that the OnePlus 7 Pro has the best haptics around — although, sadly, the iPhone XS still has it beat in my opinion.
One area I am a little sad is that in the box, there is no room for the USB-C headphone port adapter. OnePlus did include the option with all variants of the OnePlus 6T last year, but there is no love for the option here. You may want to pick one up from Amazon if you do need the ability to plug in a 3.5mm audio cable in future.
Software & Performance
Of course, the OnePlus 7 Pro has the top-tier Snapdragon 855 CPU packed inside too. The super CPU plus the inclusion of 12GB of RAM in my review unit and the lightweight OxygenOS makes for performance that is unrivalled on the market right now. I went in expecting this handset to literally blaze and boy does it perform exceptionally.
I admit that I did experience the odd issue with Wi-Fi connectivity, but that has been resolved with a pre-release software update. It didn’t hold me back though, as I powered through mundane everyday usage like a hot knife through butter. The combination of the new UFS 3.0 superfast internal storage means that apps load so quickly that splash loading screens are barely seen.
Everything feels slick and undoubtedly smooth. It also helps that the 12GB of RAM feels like overkill and keeps apps in a permanent state of stasis, ready to resume in mere moments. The only negative to that is I’m so used to apps loading again when I relaunch, that I have felt a little lost when the app loads to the previously stored point I was browsing or using. In practice, it is just so satisfying to fly through anything and everything on this device.
I’ve not even mentioned that the 90hz display also makes everything feel just that much faster. Swapping out for my Pixel 3 XL, although it has a superb display, it feels a few steps behind and that is even despite having the Android Q beta 3 installed which has new animations and smoother overall performance.
I’ll be delving more into the performance of the OnePlus 7 Pro in the full review, but during my short hands-on time so far, I can imagine this device being blazingly fast for a long time to come.
As this is a new device line for OnePlus, there hasn’t really been a ‘battery bump’ per se, but going from a 3,700mAh cell on the 6T to a 4,000mAh cell on the 7 Pro is a wise decision. The QHD+ display with it’s higher refresh rate will no doubt prove to be a hungry beast.
I can’t definitively give you my impressions of the battery life on this device just yet, but I will say that it has been mixed. Naturally, the first day you get a device the battery tends to deplete a little quicker as you go through the power-hungry setup process. In the days since I’ve had screen on time fluctuate to say the least.
It’s still not a great metric, but it’s a baseline that changes based on my overall usage. General texting, calling, email and social media usage pose no problems. I have had the screen on time reach the high six-hour mark with such basic usage. Heading out to take photos, get GPS directions with Google Maps and some YouTube/Netflix sessions depleted the battery at a much higher rate — as I expected. On these days I managed the low four-hour mark.
I can imagine it will improve as the RAM boost tech learns my app usage a little better. At the moment though, I’m saving judgement until I have spent a significant portion of time with the device.
One area where the OnePlus 7 Pro has truly taken leaps is the camera array. We’ve seen that previous OnePlus devices have had solid camera systems in the past, but just really lacked a little something in overall performance. The 7 Pro does have a fantastic setup that offers a little bit of everything for the avid smartphone photographer — or videographer.
The new 48-megapixel main sensor uses pixel-binning tech to produce impressive 12-megapixel shots that have solid dynamic range and color reproduction. Are they top-tier? I would have to say no, but they more than compete and stack up well against the best in the business.
I have found the 3x telephoto zoom lens to produce excellent images, and even when using the 10x digital zoom you get respectable results. That said, these telephoto images don’t quite stack up against the Huawei P30 Pro. The new Nightscape 2.0 is also another area the camera is said to have been tweaked and improved. OnePlus is not wrong, Nightscape is leaps and bounds better than it was before, but it still can’t get close to Night Sight and Huawei’s Night Mode.
The pop-up selfie camera is actually pretty good from my short usage. The software blur added isn’t perfect when using the portrait modes but you get crisp, clear and petty color accurate selfies out of the hiding camera system.
Video is one area where I feel that the OnePlus 7 Pro is ahead of many other options out there. The inclusion of OIS and EIS even at 4K 60fps is bound to be a massive attraction. The dual-pixel autofocus is also a dream to use when in video modes. You can be confident that you’ll have perfectly focused video and in buttery smooth form.
We’ll get more in-depth with the camera in the full review but during our hands-on time with the OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s clear that the OnePlus camera system has come on leaps and bounds.
Even after a relatively short hands-on period, the OnePlus 7 Pro looks set to be the complete package. While the camera improvements are substantial, I’m not so sure it can quite compete with the undoubted King in the form of the Huawei P30 Pro. That said, the rest of the package is exceptional.
To move from the often-cited “budget flagship” range to the genuine top-tier premium flagship with such ease is no mean feat. While I feel the OnePlus 7 Pro might arguably be on of the devices to beat at this stage of 2019, diehard OnePlus fans may be concerned that the ‘flagship killer’ is heading straight into the flagship segment — especially where pricing is concerned.
The release of the standard OnePlus 7 might be enough to quell initial concerns, but how will OnePlus sustain a potential four device per year release schedule?
Those concerns aside, even after a relatively brief hands-on time with the OnePlus 7 Pro, it looks to be a successful step-up into the segment that for years the company has sniped at and made jokes of since inception. It seems that the OnePlus approach to killing the flagship is simply to become one.
More on OnePlus 7 Pro:
- OnePlus 7 Pro goes official w/ Snapdragon 855, pop-up selfie camera, 90Hz display, starts at $XXX
- OnePlus 7 goes official w/ familiar 6T design, available online only in US, more
- OnePlus 7 Pro 5G adds next-gen connectivity to device, “coming soon”