Recently when the India Today Tech met OnePlus CEO Pete Lau, one question that we asked was this: Where does OnePlus go from here? The last few years have been wildly successful for the company. So what is it that the company is bringing in 2019? Lau smiled and said that it was going to be business as usual but in a direction that would see OnePlus offer a phone that would not be just a flagship-killer -- in other words, a good enough phone at great prices -- but a thorough blue-blooded flagship phone. In other words, he hinted at an ultra-premium OnePlus phone. Today, after the company's launch event in Bengaluru just hours ago, we know this phone is the OnePlus 7 Pro.
"This year we are focussing on an even more premium segment. There is a slight change in strategy. You will see more premium technologies, or even technologies not used in other phones, in a OnePlus device this year," Lau had told the India Today Tech. Today we know that this device is the OnePlus 7 Pro and as we go about reviewing it, we can see that OnePlus has indeed put some technologies in this phone that you won't find in any other smartphone right now.
If the OnePlus 7 Pro is the most advanced OnePlus phone yet, it is also the most expensive OnePlus since the company entered the market, with prices starting at Rs 48,999. The key question, considering that OnePlus has so far has made its name with good devices priced greatly, is: can OnePlus 7 Pro woo consumers and OnePlus fans in a manner earlier OnePlus phones have done? We will see as the market moves in a mysterious manner and consumers think in myriad ways. But it should be able to because the OnePlus 7 Pro is a fabulous phone with a very reasonable price. As I set out to review this phone, I do believe that the OnePlus 7 Pro is as good as any other top flagship phone. None of them is perfect and neither is the OnePlus 7 Pro. But it's right up there among the best and it is the most affordable of the lot.
OnePlus 7 Pro: Killer looks
OnePlus is changing -- and many will say improving -- the design of its phones gradually since it launched the OnePlus 3. First, there were metal and straight lines, giving its phones industrial looks. Then gradually glass came into the picture, edges became rounder, giving a warmer and more intimate look to the phones. Now, with the OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus has created a phone that is its roundest yet.
The OnePlus 7 Pro looks quite similar to the Samsung Galaxy S10 with its curved edges. The design flows around with no sharp edges, except for the rear camera module that protrudes out of the otherwise smooth glass back cover. On the whole, this is a design that attracts attention, especially when you hold the ravishing Nebula Blue variant of the phone. Do note that at 206 grams this is a relatively heavy smartphone.
To get the full-screen design and extremely thin bezels, OnePlus has pushed the earpiece to the top edge and stuffed important sensors, like the proximity and auto-brightness sensors, underneath the display. There's no notch in this phone, thanks to a motorised pop-up front camera module that we have seen before in Vivo and Oppo smartphones. The curved edges minimise the visual bulk of the side bezels while the chin is extremely slim, something of an engineering marvel in the world of Android.
The rear looks like a matured evolution of the OnePlus 6T design, especially with a triple camera setup. Since the display now curves towards the edges, the frame is thin yet houses the usual buttons. The repositioned Alert Slider is now easier to reach and I found myself using it more. There is no headphone jack -- that died with the OnePlus 6T -- and OnePlus, like Apple, has now stopped bundling the USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack dongle.
OnePlus 7 Pro display: Unique for now
Since OnePlus started teasing the OnePlus 7 Pro officially, the company CEO Pete Lau has talked again and again about how the company is focussing on offering world-class display this time that costs three times more than a conventional display in a phone. It seems worth the cost.
This may sound exaggeration but this is one of the best smartphone screens I have seen in a while. At 6.67-inches, it's large enough for everything whether that is gaming, web browsing, watching videos and texting. AMOLED screens are always known for punchy colours but OnePlus has tuned it for more natural tones. At first glance, the toned down colours may not appeal to some people, particularly if they are used to Samsung's punchy AMOLED screens, but at the same time, you will find the OnePlus 7 Pro screen more vibrantly colourful than what you see in a phone like the Google Pixel 3 XL. It's a well-balanced screen.
At a maximum screen resolution of Quad HD+, the display is noticeably sharper than OnePlus 6T display. The 90Hz refresh rate of the display, meanwhile, makes a difference. It's not just talk but substance too. Currently, there are just a few phones that have high refresh rate screens. On the OnePlus 7 Pro, I found that the faster refresh rate of the display makes the animations and user interface slick. Whether I was watching YouTube videos or gunning down opponents in PUBG, the experience always seemed smoother.
One bit that I believe could have been better -- and I am here comparing the OnePlus 7 Pro with the Rs 1 lakh iPhone XS Max -- is the screen brightness. Again compared to a phone like the Pixel 3 XL, the OnePlus 7 Pro has a brighter screen. But it doesn't get as bright as the screens in the Galaxy S10+ or the iPhone XS Max and that shows if you look at these phones in direct sunlight.
OnePlus 7 Pro performance: Fast and faster
I don't recall anyone complaining about the performance of a OnePlus smartphone, not since the company moved beyond the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X. Starting with OnePlus 3, the company has always offered great performance in its phones. The OnePlus 7 Pro outdoes, handily, the previous OnePlus phones as well as the existing Android phones.
The OnePlus 7 Pro, like other 2019 flagships, gets the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. The variant that I had for testing was the top-end model -- 12GB RAM and 256GB UFS 3.0 storage - the latter being another technology that is unique to the OnePlus 7 Pro right now. As usual, Oxygen OS based on Android 9 Pie is there to make efficient use of resources.
Out of the box, the OnePlus 7 Pro is effortlessly fast. The Snapdragon 855 offers much more raw performance compared to the Snapdragon 845. But I believe it's the combination of extremely smooth screen and the fast read and write speeds from the UFS 3.0 storage offers that give the OnePlus 7 Pro an edge. Maybe 12GB RAM too helped on the variant I reviewed as I switched between apps, including gaming apps, effortlessly and without any lags on this phone. For example, one day I was playing PUBG MOBILE and frequently in between I was switching between Gmail, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and there was no lag.
The good performance is also likely due to refreshed Oxygen OS that managing apps and how they use the resources more intelligently. The interface is mostly unchanged, with the exception of new wallpapers. Oxygen OS gets some new goodies such as a Zen Mode, which urges you to stay away from the phone for up to 20 minutes at a stretch, in case you want a quick digital detox session. The Messaging app can now intelligently sort SMSes and organise OTP-based texts in a more presentable way, something that will be handy for Indian users. The Roaming feature is a boon for those who frequently travel abroad and need to switch to international networks on the move.
That said, I would have liked faster animations in new Oxygen OS, particularly on the OnePlus 7 Pro that has such a fluid screen with a high refresh rate. Occasionally, I found the animations on the slower side.
There is one area where the OnePlus 7 Pro is much improved compared to earlier OnePlus phones: the in-display fingerprint sensor, likely because the OnePlus 7 Pro is using a newer fingerprint sensor. The sensor on the OnePlus 7 Pro is "OnePlus-fast". You touch it and it unlocks. The Face Unlock, meanwhile, is slower because before it can work the front camera needs to pop out. Also, I found that in good light, the Face Unlock works brilliantly but in low light it is iffy.
Another aspect of the OnePlus 7 Pro that deserves special mention is its audio performance. With a dual stereo speaker setup, the OnePlus 7 Pro can get decently loud and there's often no need for a Bluetooth speaker to watch a video with a couple of friends.
OnePlus 7 Pro cameras: 3 lenses and some magic
First, the numbers. The OnePlus 7 Pro scores 111 points (118 for still images and 98 for video) in DxOMark score. This is very impressive. And these scores come with camera hardware that too is seemingly very impressive. The main rear camera uses a 48-megapixel Sony-made IMX586 sensor. The actual pixel size is small but using pixel binning the OnePlus 7 Pro main camera can churn out large 1.6um pixels. The camera supports both OIS and EIS. The second camera is a telephoto unit with an 8-megapixel sensor and offers 3X optical zoom with OIS support. The third camera is a 16-megapixel wide-angle unit that has a 117 degrees field of view. The main camera can record up to 4K videos at 60fps and, for the slow-motion side, it can do 780p videos at 480fps.
As noted earlier, the standard photo mode takes 12-megapixels as it uses pixel binning to join four pixels together to create superpixels. In good light, the OnePlus 7 Pro captures true-to-life colours with just the right amount of contrast and brightness. In the portrait mode, I found the details somewhat lacking but the separation between the subject and the background is well detailed. The 48-megapixel mode offers more sharpness and gets slightly more accurate colour tones.
In lower light, the camera does an aggressive correction to reduce noise and judiciously uses exposure to get the photo right. The results in most cases are impressive. In extremely low light, the normal mode struggles with photos coming out with noise and level of detail going down. But here too if you use the NightScape mode, it is possible to get fairly good-looking and useable photos.
Both the zoom lens and wide-angle lens cameras are fun to use, albeit they click fantastic photos only in good light. In low light, their performance comes down a notch or two, with colours losing out on natural tones and loss of detail evident in photos.
While shooting 4K videos at 60 fps and 30 fps, the camera ironed out the distortion in terms of brightness and exposure. The OIS and EIS ensure good video stability.
The 16-megapixel front camera that uses Sony IMX471 sensor is something I wish could have been better. In well-lit scenarios, the selfies clicked with the OnePlus 7 Pro have vibrant -- but enhanced -- colours and well-preserved details. But the phone struggles to get the skin tones right in low light and the loss of sharpness is visible in indoor shots as well.
Overall, I think that with the OnePlus 7 Pro, finally, OnePlus is offering a phone that has top class camera performance. No, it's still not the Pixel-class -- only Google Pixels offer that -- but it is right up there with the sort of performance that you get with the phones like iPhone XS or the Galaxy S10.
OnePlus 7 Pro battery: All-day smartphone
The OnePlus 7 Pro gets a large 4000mAh battery. It's the biggest one ever to be stuffed in a OnePlus phones. This, when paired with well-optimised Oxygen OS, offers entire day's battery life even with heavy usage. On an average day, I left my home with the full battery in the OnePlus 7 Pro. Through the day with an hour of gaming, some considerable camera usage and juggling between the usual array of social media and communication apps, I was returning back home late at night with around 25 per cent juice to spare. With more careful usage, I was able to extend the usage to the next day as well.
The OnePlus 7 Pro doesn't have wireless charging but OnePlus has included the fast Warp Charge 30 from the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition with the phone. It recharges the battery faster than the older 20W charger and goes from around 30 per cent to 100 per cent within an hour.
OnePlus 7 Pro review: Conclusion
For OnePlus, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a very important phone. Year after year, its fans have asked for a no-holds-barred flagship phone. With the OnePlus 7 Pro, the company tries to answer the prayers of its fans. And it mostly succeeds. There are a few things that could have been better with the OnePlus 7 Pro -- screen brightness and the front camera -- but truly these are niggles and what phone doesn't have a few of these.
Overall, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a dependable phone from OnePlus, which plays to its strengths and at the same time, tries to give consumers something extra in areas that matter. The OnePlus 7 Pro, like other OnePlus phones, is fantastically fast. Similar to phones like the OnePlus 6T, it comes packed with a gorgeous display. It offers that incredible fast charge. But at the same time, it throws in something extra and improves on areas where the improvement was needed, such as the camera performance.
The design changes are subtle -- and better -- in many ways, albeit I would have liked a slightly lighter phone. But then, that probably would have also smaller battery, and I do prefer the battery life of the OnePlus 7 Pro. The cameras, with their wide-angle and zoom lenses, are not only fun but are improved enough to be in the top league. Oxygen OS is clean and useful. What more do you need, particularly when you are spending Rs 48,999 on a phone? Probably nothing more because if you are looking for something more, you are looking for something perfect -- perfect doesn't exist. The OnePlus 7 Pro is near perfect and that should be good enough for you.