OnePlus 7 Pro review (early verdict): more features, more cameras, more money

OnePlus 7 Pro is designed to compete on features, not on price

OnePlus 7 Pro review
OnePlus 7 Pro Key Specs

Dimensions: 162.6x75.9x8.8 mm

Weight: 206 g

Screen: 6.67-inch AMOLED, 90Hz, 3120 x 1440 at 516 ppi

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855

RAM: 6GB / 8GB / 12GB

Storage: 128GB / 256GB

Battery: 4,000mAh

Cameras: 48MP main + 8MP telephoto + 16MP ultra-wide / 16MP selfie

OS: OxygenOS / Android 9.0 Pie 

OnePlus has taken the wraps off its all-new flagship, OnePlus 7 Pro, during a series of feverishly-anticipated launch events held in the United States, UK and India.

The arrival of the OnePlus 7 Pro signals a dramatic departure for the Shenzhen-based company which has always launched a single flagship handset each year, with an iterative refresh rolled-out ahead of the Black Friday sales. 

OnePlus fans are now faced with a choice, though – do they want to pay the same £499 price tag as the OnePlus 6 last year and get an iterative update with faster internals, an improved vibration motor, more accurate fingerprint scanner and a tweaked camera? 

Or do they want to cough-up £799 for an all-singing, all-dancing flagship that really pushes the envelope with the best features and design that OnePlus can muster at the moment?

The latter is a very different proposition from a company that has always positioned its smartphones as "Flagship Killers" – with a specs sheet that competes with the best from the likes of Samsung, Sony and Huawei but costs much less. Lest we forget, OnePlus only charged £329 for its flagship handset just three years ago.

So, is the OnePlus 7 Pro worth doubling the asking price? After years of attempting to kill flagship smartphones with its aggressively-priced rivals, has OnePlus done enough to convince us that it's worth paying the price tag it used to mock?

Ahead of the OnePlus 7 launch, we spent some time with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Below are our initial thoughts on the handset. Check back soon for a star rating and more analysis of the most expensive smartphone OnePlus has ever launched. 

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Price, Release Date 

Just how expensive is the OnePlus 7 Pro? While it's comfortably the costliest handset launched by the company, that's not saying much for a start-up that used to price its flagship devices well under £400. Although the OnePlus 7 Pro is a step-up for the Shenzhen-based company, it starts at a fairly reasonable £649. For that, you'll get 6GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage. This entry-level model is only available in the Mirror Grey finish, which is basically identical to the glossy Mirror Black colour seen on the OnePlus 6 last year.

Those who want beefier specs – and some slick new colour options – will have to cough-up at least £699 for the 8GB/256GB variant. This is available in Mirror Grey, Almond and Nebula Blue. 

Almond has a gorgeous cream-ish glass colour with a brushed bronze-gold colour band around the chassis, while Nebula Blue takes a leaf from the Huawei P20 playbook and includes a gradient effect that transitions from a dark to a light shade of blue depending on how the light hits it. It's absolutely stunning – and OnePlus knows it, since this will be the only colour option available on the maxed-out 12GB/256GB model, which costs £799.

OnePlus 7 Pro will appear on shelves worldwide on May 21, except for the Almond finish, which won't be available until an unspecified date in June. There's also a 5G-enabled variant of the OnePlus 7 Pro in the works which will have the same design and internals but will ship exclusively on EE when the super-fast, low-latency mobile networks rolls-out to UK cities sometime in the coming months. OnePlus has kept shtum about when we'll see that, confirming only that it is "coming soon".

OnePlus 7 Pro review

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Display, Design

From the moment you pick-up the OnePlus 7 Pro, it's clear this is a different beast from previous efforts. It feels premium, weighty and well-built. Granted, it doesn't quite match the iPhone XR and Galaxy S10e in terms of build-quality – no other manufacturer boasts quite the same high level of fit-and-finish as those two. However, it's right up there with the likes of the Huawei P30, for example.

As with every other flagship smartphone launched in the last few years, OnePlus 7 Pro has an all-glass design, with an aluminium band around the handset. Unfortunately, while you get the whatever you do, don't drop it risks associated with a glass rear case, you won't get one of the primary benefits: wireless charging.

Yes, OnePlus has decided against incorporating the feature again as it believes the technology isn't fast enough yet compared to what its customers have come to expect from its own speedy wired charging solutions. 

Now, while nobody is arguing with that bulletproof argument, it'd still be really nice to have – not least because wireless charging is almost ubiquitous now, appearing on portable battery packs, built into IKEA furniture, and found in a range of coffee shops and restaurant chains. 

Wireless charging is not fast, but it is convenient – and can help you out of a bind when you're running low on charge and have left your OnePlus wall plug at home. While this kind of omission is easy to shrug off at a lower price point, wireless charging is commonplace on many of the Android handsets that OnePlus is challenging in this price bracket.

One area where OnePlus 7 Pro does blow all of its competitors out of the water is the screen. And what a screen it is.

OnePlus 7 Pro boasts a 6.67-inch display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, making this comfortably the biggest phone that OnePlus has ever launched. Not only that, the panel on the Pro uses a technology the company is branding Fluid AMOLED. Instead of the typical 60Hz refresh rate we see on most flagship smartphones, this panel is capable of a refresh rate of 90Hz. That equates to 90 frames-per-second.

Given that Hollywood blockbusters are projected at 24 frames-per-second, that should give you a rough idea of just how smooth the screen looks. It's not always noticeable when you're swiping around the home screen, but whenever you're scrolling through a list the effect looks breathtaking. The animations look smoother than any other smartphone display. This is easily the best handset on sale right now to mindlessly scroll your Twitter and Instagram feed, bar none.

OnePlus 7 Pro review

It's a brilliant addition to the OnePlus 7 Pro and you'll really miss it when you pick-up a smartphone with a bog standard refresh rate. However, it's not quite transformative in the way that we would've hoped. Sure, it makes scrolling around your favourite apps look nicer and makes the system animations look slicker, but it's not essential. You won't notice a difference when watching Netflix or YouTube videos on your OnePlus 7 Pro since these aren't shot in the higher frame-rate.

Of course, the display on the OnePlus 7 Pro isn't just about the 90Hz refresh rate. There's also HDR10 and HDR10+ support built-in, which does make a massive difference when watching box sets on your morning commute. You don't need to worry about squinting into the gloom during the epic battle scenes in Game Of Thrones Season 8, Episode  3 "The Long Night" – there's a stunning number of gradients and rich details visible with the AMOLED on this flagship. For our money, it's still not quite as lavish as the display on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, but its damn near close for a smartphone that costs half the price

To accommodate that monstrously large 6.67-inch 90Hz panel, OnePlus 7 Pro boasts a truly edge-to-edge screen design, complete with dual-curved edges à la Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro. There is a very small curved bezel at the top and bottom of the screen, but it's hardly noticeable – especially when compared to the eye-spanking notch on the rival Google Pixel 3 XL

Despite taking the screen to the very edge of the chassis, OnePlus 7 Pro is still a very big smartphone. The handset is extremely tall – and can feel very unwieldy in your hand when trying to reach apps at the top of the App Drawer, or the Quick Settings at the top of the Notification Shade. Make no mistake, in landscape this is a stunning screen that is perfect for catching up on the television shows and movies that everyone is talking about at the water-cooler. But when you're holding the phone one-handed while you walk, juggling house keys and a steaming mug of coffee – you'll curse the OnePlus R&D team for being quite so generous with the display size.

Another quibble with the elongated footprint of the OnePlus 7 Pro is the button placement. The trademark Alert Slider, which lets you cycle through Silent, Vibrate-Only and Ring modes without delving into the settings menu, makes a very welcome return. But it has been placed exactly where your thumb naturally falls on the side of the device, meaning we found ourselves constantly and fruitlessly pressing it in an attempt to wake the device. OnePlus has placed the sleep/wake button below it, which for our money, doesn't feel anywhere near as natural.

The small teardrop-like notch seen on the OnePlus 6T has also been sacrificed at the expense of the all-screen design. Instead, the f/2.0 16MP selfie camera has been relocated to a mechanised pop-up that rises from the chassis. According to OnePlus, there's no need to fret about durability as the pop-up will automatically withdraw back into the phone whenever it detects that it's falling. We tested it a few times, and it worked like a treat. Pushing on the pop-up also triggered the motor to retract the drawer – and surfaces a scolding message not to manually push on it on the screen. 

OnePlus 7 Pro review

OnePlus says it rates the mechanism for at least 300,000 return journeys out of the chassis. That equates raising the selfie camera 150 times a day for three years, which is a lot of selfies. However, if you want to use the unbelievably fast Face Unlock feature that OnePlus includes with its handsets, then that could be used much faster. Research shows that the most smartphone-dependent amongst us can pick-up and unlock their devices thousands of times every day.

If that sounds like you, it might be worth avoiding Face Unlock or you could find yourself burning through your 300,000 selfie camera pop-ups much faster than three years. Even if you're the sort of person who doesn't hold onto a phone for more than two years, it could still negatively impact the re-sale value.

There's no getting around it, the selfie camera drawer is a really inelegant solution. It looks weird, not least because it's slightly off-centre at the top of the device and it makes an infuriating wrrizzz noise every time that it emerges. We definitely got more than our fair share of odd glances on public transport as the pop-up noisily hoiked itself out of the phone, like a bit of spy apparatus from The Naked Gun.

If you're not a fan of waiting the 0.53 seconds for the camera to emerge and unlock when it spots your face, the OnePlus 7 Pro also has a fingerprint scanner embedded beneath the AMOLED screen. The sensor is 36% bigger than the one included with the OnePlus 6T, which should make for faster and more accurate unlocks. According to OnePlus, the scanner can now unlock in 0.24 seconds. 

In our experience, it feels even faster than that. With the OnePlus 7 Pro, it seems in-display fingerprint scanners have finally matched their physical counterparts in terms of speed and accuracy. Remember, this is still an optical sensor, which means it uses light to illuminate your fingertip to check the print – so don't expect to be able to use it in heavy rainfall, like the ultrasonic variant included in the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. It also means that if your fingertip isn't completely covering the portion of the screen used to check the print first thing in the morning your room will be illuminated by a glaring flash of radioactive-green light. Not ideal.

Finally, although OnePlus 7 Pro does boast some water and dust resistance, it doesn't have an IP Rating. That's because getting the handset officially certified costs money and OnePlus says it prefers to conduct its own internal tests and pass the savings onto you. Call us old fashioned, but we'd much rather pay a little more and be safe in the knowledge that our handset has passed a standardised, industry-recognised test. Would you buy a car from a manufacturer that said it saved money by forgoing any official certification but the airbags definitely deployed in its own internal tests?

OnePlus 7 Pro review

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Camera

Following the recent trend in flagship smartphones, OnePlus 7 Pro sports a triple-camera set-up on the back. However, this isn't simply a case of slapping an extra lens onto the camera that featured on its predecessor, this has been re-engineered from the ground-up. According to OnePlus, it is well aware that the cameras have often been one of the weakest elements of its earlier handsets – and that's something it's desperate to change with its latest effort.

As such, the new system is designed to actually be able to stand toe-to-toe with the flagship rivals that OnePlus has always positioned itself against. The triple-camera system starts with a 48MP main sensor that is 29% larger sensor than the one included with the OnePlus 6T. It's also fitted with both Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS).

That 48MP shooter is coupled with a 16MP ultra-wide and an 8MP telephoto lens. Combined, these two additional cameras mean the OnePlus 7 Pro is able to keep up with all the latest tricks you'll find on rival flagships, including fish eye touting ultra-wide shots and 3x lossless optical zoom. The latter works well and means you'll be able to convince Instagram followers that you were much closer to the front of the gig than you actually were. There's also 10x digital zoom, but frankly, the quality starts to erode pretty darn quickly as you approach that upper limit. If you're looking for the best zoom available, this ain't it – you'll be happier with a Huawei P30 Pro.

Overall, photos from the OnePlus 7 Pro are solid. Colours are vivid and details are sharp. It's definitely a step-up from past efforts from the company. However, it's not going to take podium position in the smartphone photography wars anytime soon. Those who want to replace their DSLR with a smartphone should look to the Google Pixel 3 XL or the iPhone XS Max instead, although both will cost you more.

The triple-camera on the OnePlus 7 Pro can muster all the usual effects and tricks you'd expect from a modern flagship smartphone, including portrait photos with artificial bokeh-style blur behind the subject. These look good, although it's a shame the amount of blur can't be altered after the fact. The default is pretty aggressive and can lose almost all of the details from the background, which isn't necessarily the effect that you're always going for with this type of shot.  

Video performance is solid, with slow-motion now available all the way up to a ridiculously sloooooooow 480 frames-per-second. We'll have to spend a little more time with the camera before giving our definitive verdict, but this is easily the best camera OnePlus has ever produced, whether that's enough to compete with the smartphones in this price bracket remains to be seen.

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Software, Specs, Other Features

Powering the handset is a flagship Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip, coupled with anywhere between 6GB and 12GB of RAM. As you'd expect from OnePlus – a company that has adopted "Fast and Smooth" as its mantra for software and hardware – this feels seriously slick. 

It's baffling that OnePlus can create such an exemplary, buttery-smooth Android experience when Google, the company that actually designs the open-source mobile OS, cannot match this level of performance with its flagship Pixel 3 series, which has been plagued with stuttering animations and crashing apps since its launch.

The car salesman slick level of performance on the OnePlus 7 Pro is helped by the move to UFS 3.0 storage, which dramatically improves speed across the entire operating system – from loading-up a hefty PDF document for the first time, to saving photos from the camera, and launching apps. OnePlus favoured UFS 2.1 storage for its OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T, which offer sequential read speeds of 800MB/s. According to OnePlus, UFS 3.0 is at least twice as fast. 

All of this means that if you're looking for the best showcase of what Android OS can be, look no further than the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Out of the box, OnePlus 7 Pro runs Android 9.0 Pie – complete with a few very subtle tweaks from the Shenzhen-based company that you can largely ignore if you want to. The ability to record your screen, like on iOS, and edit and share the video from directly within the Gallery has been added to the latest version of the OxygenOS operating system, as well as a new "Zen Mode". The latter locks your handset for 20 minutes, stopping you from doing everything except make and receive emergency calls and take photos. OnePlus believes the restrictive new mode will appeal to students and families with phone-obsessed offspring.

Although there are plenty of warnings before you initiate the software feature – to make sure you don't accidentally switch it on in your pocket just before you really need to access your phone, there isn't currently a way to deactivate the feature early... so you better be sure before you try. It's a nice idea, but feels a little like the kind of gimmicks that Samsung used to pour into its own version of Android. Sure, this might help a few students go cold turkey while they finish an important essay, but it's not got the depth or value that something like Digital Wellbeing, the usage tracking feature built into all Pixel smartphones, can offer.

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Elsewhere, OnePlus 7 Pro is fitted with an improved vibration motor designed to make notifications and calls more noticeable. It's also used to make the small haptic taps that have been scattered across Android 9.0 Pie more enjoyable. These are a lovely addition and makes it feel like you're really interacting with the operating system. Android still doesn't use its haptics quite as well as iOS, which has a little more consistency about when you'll get a tap from the software.

While there's no wireless charging option on the all-glass OnePlus 7 Pro, it does use the new Warp Charge 30 solution developed by the company. This will refill your battery from 0-50% in 20 minutes. It's seriously fast. In fact, it's so good it changes how you think about charging your phone. Rather than planning well ahead, like leaving your handset on-charge overnight, you can literally plug it in for a few minutes in the morning, which makes sharing a single USB-C cable between your wireless headphones, smartphone and portable battery doable.

OnePlus says users can charge the handset and play graphic-intensive video games without compromising the charging speeds or getting the phone hot under the collar. Unfortunately, that's not something we've had the opportunity to really test quite yet. OnePlus 7 Pro has a capable 4,000mAh cell, which is a step-up from the 3,700mAh battery fitted inside its predecessor. We haven't had the OnePlus 7 Pro in our pocket long enough to really test its longevity, but initial impressions are good.

OnePlus 7 Pro review

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Early Verdict

OnePlus is trying something very new with the OnePlus 7 Pro. After spending the last five years of its existence trying to convince customers they don't need to cough-up for a flagship smartphone from more-established players – and will get a comparable (or even better) experience from its aggressively-priced competitor, OnePlus has started singing from a different hymn sheet.

Rather than being a simple "Flagship Killer", OnePlus wants to show its rivals how its done – proving that it can now compete at this level and price point. And in some ways, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a bona fide victory lap for the company – the 90Hz Fluid AMOLED is astonishing, the smartphone is blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast, and the wired Warp Charging is the best you'll find on any phone at the moment.

However, there are other areas where the OnePlus 7 Pro still doesn't quite feel like it's on the same level as the Samsung Galaxy S10e and Huawei P30, which are all similarly priced – there's no wireless charging, no expandable storage, no adjustable bokeh blur in Portrait Mode, no IP Rating for water resistance... the list goes on.

OnePlus fans will find a lot to love here, and its great to see the spunky Shenzhen start-up really flex its muscles and show what it's capable of when it's not designing a budget-conscious smartphone. Unfortunately, while small niggles are easy to dismiss when the device is competitively priced, they're magnified when it's not.

Without a shred of doubt, OnePlus 7 Pro is the best smartphone the company has ever produced. But it's not the best smartphone you can buy for £799.