Saturday, 20 July 2019

OnePlus 7 Pro review – Digital Trends

Is it really possible to have a multi-phone winning streak? Can a manufacturer keep making phones that are easy to recommend over several years without a misstep? If you’re OnePlus, then yes, it is. I’m beginning to assume it has made a deal with a very powerful entity somewhere to ensure its continued success.

The OnePlus 7 Pro may cost more than any other OnePlus phone before it, but no matter if you class it as a mid-range or a premium device, it still manages to blow the competition away. If you want the 12GB RAM model, which comes with 256GB of internal storage, OnePlus will relieve you of $750. That’s a lot more than the $580 OnePlus 6T — but make no mistake, you’re getting a lot of impressive tech for this price.

But at the same time, as the cost creeps ever higher, there are missing features I’m less willing to forgive. None are deal-breakers, but it’s a cutthroat world out there, and the competition has never been tougher.

Stylish, with a fantastic screen

Unless you’re allergic to phones that look absolutely fantastic, you’ll love the OnePlus 7 Pro’s style. It’s around the front that OnePlus scores the biggest points. Just look at the bezels around that enormous 6.67-inch AMOLED screen. Or rather, don’t. Because they’re almost not there, and neither is a notch.

Not since the Oppo Find X have I gaped over such a wonderful expanse of screen so unencumbered by ugly bezels. It’s glorious in every way — gigantic to the point of overkill, bright like a star going supernova, and smoother than a freshly-waxed seal.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This slippery smoothness comes from a 90Hz refresh rate for low latency and greater response. Does it work? Yes, it does. The Asus ROG Phone shares a 90Hz refresh rate screen, while the Razer Phone 2 has a 120Hz refresh rate, so it’s not the first time we’re seeing this technology. But the implementation is more extensive here because OxygenOS supports the refresh rate. This means everything from the menus to standard apps will feel buttery smooth and very responsive as you scroll. There are games that support the 90Hz refresh rate, and I didn’t notice annoying stutters when scrolling quickly though Twitter and Chrome, so it works well.

Play 1440p content like this Iz*one music video, and you instantly see how fantastic the screen looks. It’s AMOLED too, thanks to a collaboration with Samsung, so the black levels and overall contrast is spectacular. The massive 3,140 x 1,440 screen resolution means there’s more detail available than most content will offer up anyway. There’s even HDR10+, for more accurate colors on supported platforms.

Unless you’re allergic to phones that look absolutely fantastic, you’ll love the OnePlus 7 Pro’s style.

Do you get the message? Looking at the OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen is more captivating that staring into the eyes of an angel, but what about the body it’s wrapped up in? More than ever, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s design and style can be traced back to Oppo and Vivo, its compatriots in the BBK Electronics family. The deep, matte-finish Gorilla Glass 5 panel on the back is part OnePlus 6T and part RX17 Pro. It looks great, but it’s relatively ordinary. The centrally-mounted camera lens hump sits above the OnePlus logo, and that’s about it for singling it out as a OnePlus phone.

It’s quite thick and heavy too. The 7 Pro weighs 206 grams, and it’s really noticeable, especially coming from lighter flagships like the Huawei P30 Pro and the Pixel 3 XL. Put it in a case, and it gets worse; an already sizeable 8.8mm thick chassis gets bigger.

It’s nicely weighted though, and given the size of the phone and the technology inside, the weight is to be expected. The shape is reminiscent of the Galaxy S9 Plus, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. There is a noticeable taper around the sides, although OnePlus said the screen has a different level of curvature at the edges than the S10, despite it being a Samsung panel.

All the visual action is around the front on the OnePlus 7 Pro, and I can’t stop staring.

Camera

How did OnePlus get away without a notch, and where is the selfie camera? Again, drawing on experience from Oppo and Vivo, the OnePlus 7 Pro has a pop-up 16-megapixel selfie camera hidden in the top. All sorts of speed, durability, and usability worries come with this type of tech, but OnePlus has worked hard to solve them. It takes a Viagra-charged 0.53 seconds to rise from the body, standing to attention so quickly that it’s genuinely usable for face unlock duties.

oneplus 7 pro review pop up cam xxl
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Once up and about, the selfies it takes are good too. It offers natural skin tones, and an effective portrait mode, where edge detection sometimes even gets the frames of my glasses right.

OnePlus has put the pop-up camera through 300,000 cycle tests, which it says will see it happily last for 5 years even if you use it 150 times a day. There’s a cool fall detection mode too, where the camera retracts in less than a second when the gyroscope notices a drop. Push the camera into the body and the system tells you off, but the module itself feels secure and doesn’t wobble about much when prodded. It’s an excellent implementation of the technology needed to ensure a notch-free screen.

On the back is OnePlus’ first triple-lens camera. At the top of the array is a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 117-degree field of view, followed by a seven-element, 48-megapixel lens with optical and electronic image stabilization (OIS and EIS), and finally there’s an 8-megapixel telephoto lens also with OIS for a 3x optical zoom or a 10x digital zoom. There are two tiny sensors nestled between the bottom lenses, providing phase detection and contrast focus.

OnePlus cameras have always been a little hit-or-miss, and the 7 Pro is no exception. During the day, the camera is strong, but it seems to have a few exposure or software issues that make shadows darker than I’d like. For the 7 Pro, OnePlus has introduced Ultrashot, an algorithm that combines with HDR+ technology to take multiple photos for the best final image. However, the implementation is confusing, so I’m not sure when it’s working, but I do know it doesn’t work with the 48-megapixel mode,

That said, interior shots have great balance and contrast, and outside overcast skies are shown in detail without sacrificing colors in the darker areas, but it’s here the camera struggles with shadows. Compare it with the iPhone XS Max outdoors and it can’t compete with the Smart HDR feature. On the whole, images are not oversaturated, but not dull and unrealistic either. Blue skies are bright blue, not electric blue, for example.

oneplus 7 pro review camera samples bokeh
Portrait Mode Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s a wide-angle camera mode, plus a 3x zoom mode too. Wide-angle shots don’t have a fisheye effect, and the exposure is consistent with the standard camera lens, which is a pleasant surprise. The 3x zoom mode is mostly very good, although I did experience some odd problems with focusing, resulting in shots ruined by being massively overexposed. What else is frustrating? The 48-megapixel mode is hidden away in Pro mode and bizarrely found by tapping the JPG button.

Similar problems came around at night. The OnePlus 7 Pro has a mode for taking low light images called Night Scape. It’s version 2.0, so it’s faster, and when it works the images are very good — returning more light, but not an uncanny level so atmosphere is lost — but it sometimes got confused and the shots came out blurry. This (and the 3x zoom issue) is a software problem, as the glitch was noticeable when it happened, and I expect it to be fixed. OnePlus said this mode is meant for nighttime cityscape shots; it definitely prefers more light, but it still improves pictures in almost darkness.

Top row: Normal mode, Bottom row: Night Scape

Portrait mode is effective when it works. It has trouble capturing the subject, even after manually tapping the screen to focus, and continually asks to move between half-a-meter and two-meters away. This is especially noticeable when trying to take portrait photos of objects, rather than people. Portrait shots do provide a natural depth of field effect though, and look good.

The software problems, and confusion over the camera features and how to find them did mar my enjoyment of the OnePlus 7 Pro’s camera. I’m using the phone ahead of its final release, and software is refined up to and beyond that date, so it’s likely it’ll be improved. There’s great potential here, and the versatility offered by the three lenses is very welcome.

Software and performance

The rule is: Buy a OnePlus phone, get flagships specs, no compromise. This hasn’t changed for the 7 Pro. The top model comes with a Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage space. It’s a monster, and one of the fastest phones you can buy. Other models all have the same chip, and varying levels of memory.

It’s super fast, incredibly capable, and you won’t wish for anything more. Here are the benchmarks:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 371,484
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 3,428 single-core; 10,842 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme:4,916 (Vulkan)

These are all among the very highest we’ve tested, matched only by the Xiaomi Mi 9, and beating most of the Galaxy S10 range, and even the iPhone XS. Playing games is a breeze, and there’s a new Fnatic Mode — created with the help of the eponymous esports team — that blocks out notifications and boosts performance.

The phone is running Android 9 Pie with the April 2019 security patch onboard, with version 9.5 of Oxygen OS over the top. OnePlus’ software is strong. It’s similar in style and design to Google’s version of Android on the Pixel, with a slide-up app tray, consistent app icon designs, and a logical settings menu. It’s more customizable, too.

The rule is: Buy a OnePlus phone, get flagships specs, no compromise.

It’s hard to find major faults. It is stripped right down, and doesn’t even come with a music player. There are a few graphical glitches like the Clear All button flickering when you drop the notification shade down slowly or slightly. The slide-in panel on the left of the home screen isn’t especially helpful, and I rarely use it. The Google Feed from the Pixel phones is more helpful.

Google Assistant here is called into action using a short press of the sleep/wake key, as OnePlus has implemented its own gesture navigation system. These gesture controls are decent, but not always very precise, and are quick to misinterpret what you want. Swiping up to exit a mis-launched app often results in scrolling, for example, and the side-screen swipes to go back can be slow to react. Additionally, the included silicone case has a lip that makes gesture controls awkward, exasperating the situation. This may be fixed when the phone gets updated to Android Q, which is standardizing gesture controls across Android phones.

oneplus 7 pro
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s a brand-new haptic engine and software, making the OnePlus 7 Pro the first Android phone to seriously challenge the wonderfully tactile vibrations on the iPhone. They’re subtle yet pointed, and it’s genuinely pleasant to leave them on and feel the clicks throughout the OS, from typing to tapping the camera shutter release. It’s lovely, especially the way it helps launch shortcut menus for copy/paste, for example.

Finally, Zen Mode shuts you out of the phone for 20 minutes, and you can’t cancel it when started. Perfect for those power naps when you want zero distractions.

Battery, security, and audio

When you hear a phone has a 4,000mAh battery, you automatically expect strong performance. Sadly, despite the large cell capacity, the 7 Pro doesn’t deliver here. It’s not terrible, but on at least one day of heavy use it has needed recharging in the early evening. A day’s worth of use is achievable, but only just and with moderate use.

Don’t expect it to match the Huawei P30 Pro’s astonishing battery life. I ran a 1,080p YouTube video at full brightness on the phone, and the battery lasted 11 hours 50 minutes, falling way short of the 16 hours from the P30 Pro. It did beat many other phones, though, even the Pixel 3a XL and the Galaxy S10.

Warp Charge, the name given to OnePlus’s mega-fast charging system, offers some consolation. It’s made to go from zero to 50% in 20 minutes, and in our tests it took 20 minutes to go to 53% from 15%, then 40 minutes to go to 83 percent. In total, it took an hour and 10 minutes to get to 100% from 15%. A quick charging squirt does soften the blow when the 7 Pro is about to run out earlier than expected, but you only get that speed when you use the included charger and USB Type-C cable.

There’s no wireless charging. Again. I could excuse this when the phone cost around $550, but it’s much harder when you have to pay $670 at the minimum, let alone $750. Wireless charging, while not as fast as cable charging, is very convenient, and the vast majority of flagship phones have it. The OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t, and this time it’s a bigger black mark against it than it was when the phone was much cheaper.

There’s good news for in-display fingerprint sensor haters, as the one in the OnePlus 7 Pro is solidly reliable. The sensor is the same as we’ve seen before, but the lens is new and so is the software. The difference is considerable over many others, including the one on the OnePlus 6T. The face unlock feature is a great addition, and is quickly usable despite the camera needing to pop up first.

Audio is a highpoint. There are stereo speakers — one on the bottom, and an oversized speaker at the top of the device facing forward — and they’re loud enough to make the phone’s body vibrate at maximum volume, yet still sound good. There’s no headphone jack, but Bluetooth has AptX HD for the best possible quality when playing compatible content. There’s Dolby Atmos onboard too.

Price, availability, and warranty

The OnePlus 7 Pro starts at $670 for the mirror gray version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage space, or $700 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The nebula blue or almond version also comes in 8GB/256GB at $700, and the top-of-the-range 12GB/256GB OnePlus 7 Pro is $750 and only comes in nebula blue.

The phone is available starting May 21. There are some chances to see it before then. T-Mobile will hold a pop-up event in New York on May 14, and in London, a pop-up will take place at the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in London on May 17. Other pop-ups will happen in 21 cities across Europe from May 16.

You can buy the OnePlus 7 Pro from OnePlus’ website, and in the U.S. through T-Mobile stores and online from May 17. It’s available online from T-Mobile’s pop-up store on May 14. In the U.K. the Three network will sell the OnePlus 7 Pro, and I expect O2, EE, and Vodafone to do the same as they all sold the OnePlus 6T.

The warranty period is one year in the U.S., and two years in the U.K., and it covers problems related to the hardware but not when related to misuse or water damage.

Our Take

The OnePlus 7 Pro is not the absolute bargain I’ve come to expect from OnePlus, but for what you get the price is extremely reasonable. The screen alone is worth the price, matched with the performance and camera — this is yet another highly-recommended OnePlus phone. Try not to be too tempted by the 12GB/256GB model though, as the 8GB/256GB model will be just as capable and save you a little money.

Is there a better alternative?

The OnePlus 7 Pro is still cheaper than almost all other flagship phones available today, but it is more expensive than the OnePlus 6T, and is the most expensive OnePlus phone ever. This is reflected in the design, the screen, the battery, and all of the other technology inside. But because you can potentially spend $750 on a OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s a relatively short jump to the very best phones on sale at the moment. The $900 Galaxy S10 is excellent, as is the $1,000 iPhone XS, and the $800 Google Pixel 3.

If you want to save some money, the Google Pixel 3a should be your top consideration. At just $400, you get a promise of speedy software updates for three years, the one of the best cameras on a phone, solid battery life, and helpful artificial intelligence features.

How long will it last?

This is a phone packed with the very latest tech, inside and out, and will last for several years. There’s no reason not to expect two to three years from the OnePlus 7 Pro, and the only reason to upgrade before this will be for a personal need to own the latest models. Software updates aren’t as regular as on a Pixel phone, but they’re still more regular than many other manufacturers. Additionally, OnePlus is a part of the Android Q beta program, making a quick update to the next version of Android on the 7 Pro highly likely.

Once again, the OnePlus 7 Pro does not have an IP rating. The company said gaining this rating costs money, and claims the phone still has all the rubber ports and silicone rings to protect the device in the real world. But it does not say the phone is water resistant, and the warranty does not cover water damage in any way. It’s a confusing message, and one that would be more easily translated to people by simply getting an IP rating. We are paying more for the phone at the moment, after all, so any “savings” from not having one aren’t instantly visible.

Should you buy it?

Yes, absolutely. The downsides are mostly related to software, and I expect OnePlus to fix them soon. The biggest disappointment is battery life, which I wish stretched out into a couple of working days, and the fact the phone is quite heavy. Other than that, OnePlus astonishingly continues its streak of creating superb phones that give us practically everything we could want, at a price that’s still more affordable than the competition.

Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cell-phone-reviews/oneplus-7-pro-review/

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