Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
For years, OnePlus has been nipping at the heels of smartphone giants like Samsung and Huawei with stripped down phones boasting big specs, solid designs, and not much else. And for a lot of people that was totally fine, as it allowed OnePlus to offer up top-notch performance for hundreds less than its competition.
But on the OnePlus 7 Pro, we’re looking at a whole new equilibrium. Starting at $670, not only is the OnePlus 7 Pro easily the most expensive OnePlus phone yet, but it’s also the most luxurious. Between new features like a pop-up selfie cam, a stunning display without any notches or cutouts, triple rear cameras, and that higher price tag, the whole David vs. Goliath narrative of OnePlus trying to take down other flagships doesn’t really hold up anymore. So is the price hike worth it, after OnePlus worked so hard to carve out its place in the mid-range?
In short, yes. Absolutely. While OnePlus has moved up in price, the rise of baby flagships like the Galaxy S10e, iPhone XR, Honor View 20, and others have emerged to create a new $700 battleground to fight over. This is a war to win over people who remember the days of when high-end phones cost closer to $600 or $650 rather than $1,000, but also for people who simply don’t want to drop that much dough on a phone. And out of all of its similarly priced competitors, the OnePlus 7 Pro is the handset I’d throw my money down on.
From the moment you see it, the OnePlus 7 Pro dazzles. In front, it has a huge 6.7-inch 3120 x 1440 display supplied by Samsung, that in addition to blasting out rich, vibrant colors, has also been tweaked to support a 90Hz refresh rate. This makes the OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen one of the smoothest looking displays on the market. Now, just doing mundane things like scrolling through menus or flipping between apps are small joys, as you watch things flick past your eyes in pure, fluid motion.
But then, as your eyes get accustomed to all that, you realize the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t have any notches, punch holes, or other distractions to take away from that lovely display. This feeling is almost enough to transport you into the future to a time when no phones have cutouts anymore, and it makes you wonder why anyone ever put up with anything less. OP 7 pro’s screen even has a stronger blue light filter to really cut down on sleep-preventing rays messing with your head at night. All told, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen is so good, it alone nearly justifies the $100 bump in price compared to the OnePlus 6T. But of course, OnePlus didn’t stop there.
Wedged just above the display is a thin sliver of an earpiece, which works in tandem with the phone’s bottom-mounted speaker to deliver true stereo sound, something no OnePlus phone has ever had before. OnePlus also upped its already-speedy 22.5-watt Dash Charge power adapter to 30-watts, and then changed its name to Warp Charge to drive home the point. We’re talking about the ability to bring the phone from dead to 50 percent in just 15 to 20 minutes. And with a big 4,000 mAh power pack and battery life that lasted 13 hours and 36 minutes in our rundown test (15 minutes longer than the Galaxy S10e’s time of 13:20), it feels like you’re never more than a heartbeat away from having enough juice to last the rest of the day.
That said, I find OnePlus’ refusal to add wireless charging to the OnePlus 7 Pro downright infuriating. On previous phones, the extra cost needed to add wireless charging made that decision somewhat understandable. Meanwhile, OnePlus says the even the speeds of today’s fastest wireless chargers still fall short of its wired Warp Charge brick, and they are right. But wireless charging has never really been about speed, it’s about convenience, and on a phone priced around $700 with the word “Pro” in its name, wireless charging is something I still think the OnePlus 7 Pro should have. If it did, this phone would be damn near untouchable in this price range.
I’m less bothered by the OnePlus 7 Pro not having an official IP rating for water and dust-resistance. OnePlus claims the OP7 Pro should be more than fine if it gets hit with some rain or even a splash or two. I just wish they would do a better job of explaining how good its water-resistance really is, and maybe even backing that up in its warranty.
I also have to give a shout out to the blue version of the OnePlus 7 Pro (which the company calls Nebula Blue). Its glass back uses multiple layers that absorb light in different ways, giving the phone a frosted appearance that sucks you in like an icy black hole. So even though Huawei still has the best selection of colorways in the smartphone world, the OnePlus 7 Pro in blue is the singular most enchanting color option so far this year.
OnePlus didn’t skimp on the little things and addresses complaints about its previous phones by equipping the OP7 Pro with a beefier vibration motor. The phone adds a handy built-in screen recorder so you can natively save videos of whatever you’re doing on your phone, a feature Google still hasn’t added to stock Android. OnePlus increased the size and speed of the phone’s in-screen optical fingerprint reader, so there’s practically no difference between it and the captive touch sensors found on last-gen phones
In back, the OnePlus 7 Pro now sports triple cameras with its primary sensor boasting a whopping 48-MP resolution in addition to a 16-MP ultra-wide angle camera and an 8-MP telephoto cam with a 3x zoom. This setup adds a whole new dimension to the OP7 Pro’s photo toolkit, which is great for all those times you don’t want to drag a big camera around. However, compared to big dogs like the Pixel 3, Galaxy S10 and S10e (which has the same cameras as the S10 minus the third telephoto cam), OnePlus still can’t deliver the same kind of image quality you get from the big smartphone giants.
In a side-by-side food shot comparison, I found that the OnePlus 7 Pro fell a bit short on sharpness, contrast, and color saturation to both the Pixel 3 and Galaxy S10. It’s not something to be mad about considering the latter two phones’ higher price tags, but the difference is there, even if you might not be able to see it when people upload their pics to Instagram.
The more significant issue for the OnePlus 7 is when it comes to low light. Without its Nightscape mode turned on, photos taken in darker environments come out looking soft and grainy compared to its flagship competition. This is one of those situations where Samsung’s and Google’s expertise with HDR and AI photo tuning comes into play.
That said, thanks to OnePlus’ Nightscape mode, the OP7 Pro can catch up a bit in certain scenarios, and it nearly matched what I got from a Pixel 3 when I shot a tough nighttime cityscape. Sometimes, it even seemed like OnePlus’ Nightscape mode was a tiny bit too good at increasing the brightness of low-light photos, as evidenced by a pic of some local graffiti that borders on being blown out despite being shot at night.
I also really like the OP7 Pro’s 3x telephoto lens, as it gives you more reach than anything aside from the Huawei P30 Pro. Its 3x optical magnification feels like a nice sweet spot for smartphone zooms, and with a bit less resolution to work with, photos still came out looking quite crisp.
However, when it comes to selfies, longtime OnePlus fans may take issue with the OP7 Pro’s pop-up cam, not because it shoots a bad picture (it doesn’t), but because it feels like the biggest departure from OnePlus’ previous “essentials only” philosophy. But that camera is part of making the phone’s all-screen display work, and if you’re someone like me who typically refrains from shooting too many selfies, I think it’s a smart compromise.
And if you prefer using face recognition instead of your finger to unlock your phone, that still works too, and when it’s enabled, you get the treat of seeing and hearing that small motorized camera pop its head up every time you want to get into your phone. The whole process is a bit slower than something like Apple’s Face ID but not annoyingly so. OnePlus even installed a tricky feature that automatically retracts the pop-up camera anytime the phone detects that it’s falling. (You can see this in action by extending the pop-up camera and then throwing the phone in the air, but don’t cry to me if you drop it.) At the same time, OnePlus claims that selfie camera should survive at least 300,000 cycles, which translates to about 150 uses a day for five years. For a lot of people, this pop-up cam might be a dealbreaker, but for how it improves the screen by eliminating the need for a notch, I think it’s worth it.
Finally, as you’d come to expect on a OnePlus phone, the OP7 Pro delivers excellent performance thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and support for snappy UFS 3.0 storage, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of base storage. And if that’s not enough, there are more well-equipped configs with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for $700, and one with a 12GB of RAM for $750. OnePlus even added a liquid cooling system to keep performance as consistent as possible, along with a new RAM Boost mode for all the gamers out there. I’m just a bit bummed that the only way to get the blue model is to upgrade to the 8GB/256GB model.
Dollar for dollar, the OnePlus 7 Pro is easily one of the best smartphone values available right now, which is downright impressive considering this phone has a richer list of features and specs than anything OnePlus has ever made before. The only other phone that even comes close is the new Pixel 3a, which manages to deliver the same fantastic camera experience as the regular Pixel 3, but with a price that starts at just $400.
But when I think about the OnePlus 7 Pro’s beautiful all-screen display, its triple rear cams, and stylish new design, there are a lot of things that keep pulling me back in. For the OnePlus 7 Pro, instead of trying to be a flagship killer, OnePlus took a different tack, aimed right at the new segment of baby flagships, and beat the big boys at their own game.
- At $700, the OnePlus 7 Pro is OnePlus’ most expensive phone yet, but it’s worth it.
- There is a non-pro version of the OnePlus 7 that lacks the pop-up camera and has one less rear cam, but it’s not available in the U.S.
- The move to triple rear cams is great, but even with its Nightscape mode, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s low-light photos still aren’t quite as good as those from its biggest flagship competitors.
- While the OnePlus is only available direct from OnePlus or T-Mobile stores, it should work with every carrier besides Sprint (and Sprint MVNOs like Boost).
- If you’re mad about the OnePlus 7 Pro’s price, starting today, the OnePlus 6T’s price has been reduced by $30 down to $550.