OnePlus 7 Pro review: We lived with the flagship for three months

The OnePlus 7 Pro hit the scene a little over three months ago to a ton of fanfare. While the phone is undeniably the best device the young company has ever delivered, many people derided for its high price tag.

The $670 initial asking price was far above previous offerings from OnePlus and many consumers were hit with sticker shock. The company had built its reputation by offering budget-friendly phones that didn’t lack in the hardware department.

OnePlus phones were the next best thing to a Nexus. A large segment of enthusiasts looking for such a device after the Nexus program’s untimely demise were intrigued by its phones.

Initial reviews of the 7 Pro had little negative to say about the device. It had all the horsepower and specs one could want in a true flagship device. While it didn’t have every creature comfort (looking at you, wireless charging), it ticked almost every box for someone looking for a device to last the next two or three years.

We’ve been using the OnePlus 7 Pro as our daily driver since it hit the market. Our review unit is the model with 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage, the best combination available.

Here are our thoughts on how the last three months have gone and if the phone is still a good buy.

Build

Almost every flagship device is the same: glass back, aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass on top of the display. The OnePlus 7 Pro is no different, but we do love how the company designed the device. Let’s start with the display.

Display

We’d forgive you for mistaking the device for a Samsung flagship based on how it looks from the front. A 6.67-inch curved display gives the Galaxy impression and we’ve even had multiple people asking us which Samsung device this is. While it may look like a Samsung phone, it certainly is not.

One of the most important factors that differentiates is the display refresh rate. Most phones have a standard 60 frames-per-second refresh rate, but few go above and beyond.

The OnePlus 7 Pro joins a few others like the Razer Phone 2 that exceed this 60 FPS standard, but it’s the only one to do it with an OLED display. And boy does it make a huge difference.

The 90 FPS display on the OnePlus 7 Pro is one of the most pleasing developments in smartphones in years. The fluidity you see while scrolling and with animations is awesome and it’s honestly hard for me to go back to a phone without it.

While writing this review, I have had a Pixel 3 XL sitting next to me and Android 10 was just released. And while I’d love to play with pure Android 10, I just can’t put the OnePlus phone down.

The 7 Pro is also the first OnePlus device to exceed a 1080p panel. Its QHD panel looks fantastic but you do have the option to reduce the resolution to 1080p in settings to save some battery. I did so and didn’t see much of a change, so I stuck with 1080p for the battery gains.

Overall, the display just looks awesome. The colors are great without being massively over-saturated and the impact of the higher refresh display cannot be understated.

I predict by this time next year, all competitive flagships will have 90 FPS or higher displays because it makes that big of a difference. It’s one of those features that is immediately recognizable when you’re looking at phones side-by-side.

I do, however, dislike the curved display. While it may look cool at first and will suck in more potential customers, the usability is garbage. It’s harder to swipe in from the side of the device than on a flat screen. And with Google’s apparent move toward swipe gestures in Android 10, this could cause a problem.

There’s also some discoloration around the edges. Luckily, my brain filters it out after looking it a few hundred times a day for three months, but nevertheless it’s there. Plus, it’s easier to break and harder to hold. I doubt we’ll see OnePlus go back to flat displays any time soon, but I’m ready for the day they rethink this design choice.

Noteworthy Design

 

Flipping the device over reveals one of the nicer designs out there today. The blue gradient that graces the back looks fantastic and has held up to the test of time. I’ve had more compliments about this than pretty much every other phone I’ve ever used. OnePlus hit it out of the park here, and as an added bonus, it’s actually not a fingerprint magnet. Good job, OnePlus.

The buttons on either side of the device are deliciously clicky and the mute switch sticks around and continues to be one of my favorite features of a OnePlus device.

The bottom of the device holds a speaker grill, dual-SIM slot (no microSD support, unfortunately) and charging port.

The headphone jack is non-existent and OnePlus does not include a dongle in the box. But hey, you can buy its (honestly excellent) Bullets 2 Wireless headphones for cheaper than Airpods or Galaxy Buds.

I almost forgot to talk about the complete lack of bezels because it’s just become normal to me now. I’m not a bezel hater and I’m fine using a phone with chunky bezels if the functionality can justify them like the Soli Radar Sensor coming in the Pixel 4.

Three months on, I find myself taking the 7 Pro out of my pocket and just being blown away by how attractive the all-display front is. It feels like the future every time I use my phone.

Performance and Battery Life

Do you want a phone that crushes every task put in front of it? You may want to consider the OnePlus 7 Pro.

I don’t want to gush about this phone because the internet tends to think anyone who has a positive opinion is a shill, but this is the best performing phone I’ve ever used and it’s pretty easy to understand why.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor is a monster and the lean build of Android that comes on board doesn’t get in its way. It’s a recipe for success.

OnePlus includes an eye-popping 12GB RAM in our review unit (and a healthy 6GB in base models) but that’s just a spec sheet stuffer. In 2019, you do not need 12 GB of RAM. You more than likely won’t in 2020 and I doubt you will in 2021 either. But hey, it’s nice to have, I guess.

One of the most underrated features of the OnePlus 7 Pro is the UFS 3.0 storage. UFS 3.0 is a faster flash storage than most devices feature and it’s noticeable here. App loading times are great and there’s nary a stutter in the system as it looks to load from memory.

Battery life, on the other hand, is pretty standard. I truly wish I could say it went above and beyond like with the flash storage, but we’re getting between four and five hours of screen on time with standard usage. No heavy gaming or long Netflix sessions, just surfing the web with several email accounts synced.

When I do get short on battery, I plug the phone into the included Warp charger and watch it go. Warp is the newest proprietary charging standard from OnePlus and is one of the fastest on the market.

I generally don’t charge my phone at night and just throw it on the charger in the morning while I’m getting ready for work and during my 20-minute drive to work. I’m good to go after that for the rest of the day.

Previous OnePlus devices could only fast charge using OnePlus’ chargers, but luckily the 7 Pro can juice up quickly with pretty much any USB-C fast charger (up to 5V at 3A).

Oh, and I almost forgot, the vibration motor in the OnePlus 7 Pro is as good as any other Android device on the market. It still lags behind anything from Apple since the iPhone 8, but it’s fantastic nonetheless.

Software

Playing into the excellent performance of the 7 Pro is the excellent software that it ships with. We still see some device manufacturers like LG and Huawei ship bloated and ugly Android skins that tend to bog systems down. OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is pretty much the opposite of that — a simple and light skin that brings smart features while still sticking to the core of Pure Android.

Before we get into what Oxygen OS does right, let’s point out that it is far from perfect, and in fact, can be really frustrating.

As stated above, our unit comes with 12GB RAM, yet the system never uses above six in my daily usage. I’m not sure what the point in sitting on all that extra RAM is when you could load just about every app on the phone into memory.

Load times are still great so it’s not a huge issue but the system does like to randomly close an app here and there, luckily it’s not while I’m actually using it.

The other massive annoyance is the system sleeping apps that I rely on for timely notifications like email and chat apps. I had to actually move back from Spark to Gmail due to this issue. I just was not getting my notifications in a timely manner and sometimes being forced into going in to check my emails manually.

I know that might sound like a first-world problem, and it is, but this phone has a gigantic battery (4,000 mAh) and there’s really no reason to restrict apps this hardcore, especially after I’ve turned off all battery restrictions in settings.

Those are my two big gripes, but the phone really does a lot right. OnePlus’ launcher is one of the best first-party launchers out there. The ability to choose your accent color is an underrated luxury, and smart additions like second space and app locker are nice to have around.

There’s obviously lot of thought put into the software by OnePlus. The company’s devices started with the OnePlus One shipping with Cyanogenmod and while that relationship went south, the software experience has only gotten better since.

OnePlus has stuck to the same core values. Speed, simplicity, and customization live at the heart of every OnePlus device and the OnePlus 7 Pro is no different.

Camera

Triple camera setups are now the norm and the OnePlus 7 Pro is no different. The rear of the device houses a 48MP f/1.6 wide-angle lens, an 8MP f/2.4 telephoto lens, and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens. The wide/zoom/ultra-wide lens is quickly becoming the new default among flagship phones, giving users the versatility needed for every varying situation.

OnePlus has always had great camera hardware. It uses the same camera modules that we see on other devices but is routinely panned for their pictures. While the hardware screams flagship, the pictures normally whisper mid-tier.

As someone who isn’t especially camera-needy, I’ve never really had an issue with OnePlus devices and their cameras, but I do know coming in that they’re always going to be beaten by the Pixels and Galaxy’s of the world.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in 2019. While the hardware is there, OnePlus still seems to lag behind in post-processing. While it’s getting better, and don’t get me wrong, this is the best OnePlus has ever done in this department, it’s still not class-leading. That’s disappointing when OnePlus is asking for even more money this time around.

If you’re a camera nut and you’re looking to spend under $800, would you really go and pick up the OnePlus 7 Pro instead of the Samsung Galaxy 10e? It comes in at a similar price and with similar specs, but a far better photo experience. I don’t think so.

Pictures don’t pop the way they do when taken on other phones. Maybe that’s because the Samsung phones of the world are oversaturating and pumping up the brightness on their pictures, but I don’t think most people care.

Smartphone pictures are mostly used to take quick shots that are shared on social media and through messaging apps, two systems that compress the hell out of pictures. Few people care if colors are accurate in those situations, they just want them to look pretty.

The 7 Pro can also suffer from some focus lag and blurring in the corners of pictures. We also noticed that dynamic range wasn’t especially good and we’d occasionally get some detail lost in shadows in challenging lighting situations.

When lighting is good, however, it’s a different story. Pictures look great and focus is clear most of the time. It’s easy to pull the phone out of your pocket, double click the power button and snap a quick picture due to the fast shutter speed.

Shooting with the wide-angle lens is also a ton of fun. This makes capturing landscapes and busy shots like crowds at a festival way more fun and brings the pictures to life just a little bit more. We were bummed that you couldn’t record video with the super wide-angle lens, but that feature has been added in the Android 10 beta and should make its way to the full release, barring any major bugs.

All in all, the camera is perfectly fine. It’s above average for the smartphone market but below average for premium smartphones. It sits behind the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy series, Pixel lineup, and pretty much everything released by Huawei this year. With that said, you’re still going to get some great shots most of the time.

I wouldn’t warn anyone away from the 7 Pro because of the camera. If you’re that serious about photography, you probably already carry around a dedicated camera or own a Pixel 3.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the best phone on the market, it’s not a stretch to say you should start with the OnePlus 7 Pro. If you’re looking for the best phone OnePlus has ever produced, you definitely start here.

We’re in a holding pattern where devices release and their predecessor gets a hundred bucks knocked off the price tag. We’re sometimes left wondering what we’re even getting in an upgrade because the market feels so stagnant right now. The OnePlus 7 Pro breaks the mold.

The OnePlus 6T is by far one of my favorite phones of all time and I wasn’t sure OnePlus could really improve on its previous flagship, but it did in almost every way.

The display is not only better, but it’s also one of the best on the market. It’s also probably the fastest phone widely available in the United States right now. And, it’s also one of the best-looking devices ever made.

Those are the headline-grabbing features, but there’s so much else to like here. The software support has gotten better and better as time has gone on. Android 10 Developer Previews have been around for a while and on the day Android 10 dropped, OnePlus was right there with an Open Beta for anyone to install.

Smart, simple, and lightweight features like a theme customizer, a feature to clone social media and messaging apps to make multiple user logins easier, and customizable software buttons make the device feel like your phone instead of just another phone.

Not everything is perfect, such as the lack of a headphone jack or dongle in the box, but I think this is a war that has been decided and consumers are not on the winning side.

As more people move away from wired headphones towards Bluetooth offerings, device makers are going to use the scarce space inside of a phone for something else. Maybe it’s a bigger battery or a better vibration motor, but it’s going to be something else.

When you look at the whole picture- the excellent all display design, the blazing speed, beautiful display, adequate camera, Warp Charging, etc – it’s not hard to make the case that the OnePlus 7 Pro is still the best phone on the market.  Even after the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.

Then, look at the price tag, starting at $670, and it’s hard to believe you can get a phone this good this cheap. $670 isn’t a little bit of money, but it is for a flagship Android phone in 2019. Hell, you can almost buy two of these for the price of a Note 10+.

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