OnePlus 7 Pro Review: This Display Really is as Good as They Said it Would Be

By Tom Pritchard on at

Today is the day the OnePlus 7 Pro got announced. For real anyway, because thanks to all the leaks and the trickle of announcements OnePlus made ahead of time we basically knew all there was to know about the phone already. This is also the first time OnePlus has released two phones at the same time, despite bragging about that this time last year, because apparently it has the resources to support a dual-device launch now.

Sadly the OnePlus 7 won't be arriving until a few weeks after the 7 Pro. There's no explanation as to why, but it's probably so OnePlus can try and push the more expensive 7 Pro onto people. After all, the 7 doesn't have all the fancy features, so it's going to cost less. But should you wait for that, or pick up a 7 Pro? It depends on whether you want all the fancy screen features the 7 Pro has to offer, because this is without a doubt the nicest phone screen I've used.

OnePlus 7 Pro Specs

  • 6.67-inch QHD+ AMOLED display with 90hz refresh rate
  • Snapdragon 855 chipset
  • Triple lens camera rear camera system:
    • 48MP main lens (f/1.7) with OIS
    • 16MP Ultra Wide Angle lens (f/2.2)
    • 8MP Telephoto lens (f/2.4) with OIS and 3x optical zoom
  • 16MP pop-up front camera (f/2.0)
  • 6/8/12GB RAM
  • 128/256GB storage space
  • 4,000 mAh battery
  • Warp Charge 30 fast charging
  • In-display fingerprint sensor
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Stereo Speakers
  • Dolby Atmos support
  • OxygenOS based on Android Pie
  • USB-C port for charging and wired headphones. No headphone jack, in other words.
  • UFS 3.0 Storage
  • Prices start at £649 for the 6/128GB model, and go as high as £799 if you want 12/256GB
  • Available 21st May, or 17th May if you queue up at the London pop-up.

Display

The first thing you might notice about the OnePlus 7 Pro's display, aside from the brightness, is that it is smooth with a capital smoo. Even if you deliberately downgrade the resolution to Full HD you'll still be able to tell that the 90Hz refresh rate is doing its magic, though for me I didn't really appreciate how good it was until I loaded up Pokémon Go. Frankly, I've never seen the game run so well, and while the Snapdragon 855 and 12GB of RAM are playing a huge part in there, it does look incredible. Here's a video of the game in motion on the 7 Pro (in Full HD too):

See what I mean? Granted, the 7 Pro's display is taking advantage of the display optimisation in the new and improved gaming mode, but still! It's much, much nicer overall. I did have a recording of Pokémon Go running on the OnePlus 6, but the recording came out terrible. It wouldn't be a fair comparison, so if you can't see the difference then you'll have to take my word for it.

Even if you're not playing games, the whole thing is noticeably smooth. To the point where, even after several days of use, there are points where I'm still amazed by it.

You can, of course, downgrade the refresh rate and resolution if you're willing to sacrifice the higher quality in exchange for more battery life. The screen is the most power-hungry part of any device, and the fancier the screen, the more juice it needs to keep running.

My one real complaint about the screen is the fact that it has the same curved design as Samsung's Edge display. And by the same I mean the same, because according to OnePlus the screens in the OnePlus 7 Pro were developed by Samsung. It's the perfect example of a frivolous feature that OnePlus has tended to avoid, because a curved display doesn't actually add any worthwhile features. OnePlus seemed to agree on that in their own way as well, because when I asked them about it I was told that it was mainly an aesthetic choice. Apparently the curved display helps hide the bezels on the side of the phone, and offers a more immersive experience.

I don't really buy it. For one you can still clearly tell there's a bezel at the edge of each display. It's small and thin, sure, but it would also be small and thin is the screen was flat. I'm not sure I've ever noticed it on my OnePlus 6, and I've been using that for a year now. Plus the curve makes it slightly more annoying to get stuff at the side of the phone, be they menu buttons, icons, or even if I just want to throw a curveball in Pokémon Go. If OnePlus believe getting their phones IP certified isn't worth the extra cost, I don't see why a curved display would be either. It looks nice, but I've honestly never had issues with cheap flat displays. I suppose that's what the regular OnePlus 7 is there for.

That said, OnePlus promised that the curved display would make up for the lack of a notification light. It was noticeably absent from the OnePlus 6T, which was kind of annoying since it was very useful for telling you if you were fast charging (blue light) or regular charging. According to OnePlus the curved edges will light up to correspond to the right notifications, though the pre-release software makes no mention of this. Notifications only pop up as notifications, and I can't find a setting to turn that on. Whether it'll be there at launch isn't clear, but at the time of writing it must still be in the 'coming soon' phase.

If I had to be really nitpicky, though, I would complain about the status bar. Mainly because the icons are white, and they don't show up very well (if at all) on my wallpaper of choice. Notched OnePlus devices used to let people fill in the surrounding space to hide the design, which meant the status icons had a consistent background for improved visibility. The 7 Pro has a full screen, so that option has been removed, and it means I have to choose between the adorable picture of my dog or being able to see when someone emailed me some nonsense I'll end up ignoring anyway. There also seems to be a glitch with the automatic brightness too, since it keeps switching off at random intervals.

Fingerprint scanner

As with the 6T, the 7 Pro comes with an in-display fingerprint scanner, which uses the same optical system and animations from its predecessor. OnePlus says that the scanning itself has improved, and is noticeably quicker than before. According to OnePlus it takes 0.24 seconds to unlock, and while that's slower than the 6's physical scanner (0.2 seconds) it is also faster than the 6T (0.34 seconds).

The improved speed is very noticeable, and has made a huge amount of difference because the phone unlocks almost instantly. There are still some problems, and at first I still struggled to get the phone to recognise my thumb print, but it seems to have the same self-improvement features as the 6T because after about a day that stopped being a problem. The sensor itself is also 36 per cent bigger than the one on the 6T (7x7mm), which will account for some of the improved recognition.

It's still not as convenient as the physical fingerprint scanner from the OnePlus 6, though. That is still faster and doesn't require the screen to be on before you can get into your phone. The 7 Pro's ambient display is much better at making sure you can get into your phone quickly, but it's still not as simple as placing your finger in a specific place and having the phone unlock for you. The inconveniences are likely a software issue anyway, so there's always plenty of room for OnePlus to improve even after you've gone out and bought one.

Camera

One of the big things about the 7 Pro is that is has a full display with no notches - a featured afforded by the pop-up front camera hiding on top of the phone. The fact the camera just pops out is the kind of thing that's only a novelty for about five seconds, if that. Sure you can take advantage of the full screen all the time, but the camera itself is rather... meh. These cameras aren't exactly new, and while these sorts of mechanisms are generally kept for less-popular Chinese brands there isn't much that makes the camera itself a huge selling point.

Everything is run on a mechanical system you can hear whirring when the camera is opening and closing, popping the lens up and down in less than a second. Some people may have concerns about longevity and how long that mechanism will last, but OnePlus claims to have tested it 300,000 times (which adds up to 150 times a day for five and a half years) without noticing any degradation in the mechanism. In other words, the company is confident that the raising and lowering mechanism will last. Of course the camera itself may not, and there are measures in place to keep it that way. Like a turtle hiding from danger, the front camera will retract if it feels something's going on. If it feels like someone is trying to force the camera closed, it'll retract automatically. If the phone is falling, it'll similarly hide away. Even really short drops, like two inches over my carpet, will force the phone to rescue the camera from potential harm.

There's also supposed to be a pocket mode that retracts the camera if you put your phone away while it's still out. I can't find any mention of this in the settings, and putting the phone away with the camera out led to it warning me not to put too much pressure on it unless I want it to break. Similarly covering up the screen didn't force a retraction either. I'm guessing this will be a case of the pre-release software missing another feature, which will arrive before release day. But we'll have to see what the next few weeks brings.

Where daytime photography is concerned, the quality on the 7 Pro is noticeably better than a year ago, which you'd hope. The picture quality is sharper, and the extra resolution and zoom features are really helping to not fuzz everything up when you're snapping pictures over longer distances. Even the 7 Pro's 10x zoom is noticeably better than the 6's 8x zoom, so that's saying something. The only exception was in bright light. Zooming in when the sun was right in front of me meant that, shock horror, the 6's zoomed images actually looked better. Not because of any discernible improvement in quality, but because the direct sunlight seemed to make everything on the 7 Pro look even more washed out. Bear that in mind when you're snapping pictures.

This was also true of the close-up photography, with the standard and 3x zoom looking noticeably clearer than the 6's 1x and 2x zoom. Obviously I can't compare the wide angle lens to an older device, since it's a new feature, but using that by itself (as a '0.6x' zoom) doesn't look nearly as good as those taken with the main camera lens.

As for the front-facing camera, the main difference is the fact that the 7 Pro is brighter and manages to pick up colour better. Take a look above, and you can see the main difference with the shiny bits of my hair. The OnePlus 6 makes it look almost purple, like I dyed my hair like some sort of Thanos fanboy, whereas the 7 Pro actually manages to show my hair is brown - and the sunlight makes it slightly shinier brown. You can also tell this by the fact you can see the picture preview reflected in my sunglasses, whereas the 6 just shows a dark blur.

The background is clearer on the 7 Pro too, so if you take selfies to show off the things around you then the 7 Pro will be the camera of choice. Out of these two anyway, because I don't have any other recent devices to test them both against.

The fact the depth effect wouldn't activate until I was this far away didn't exactly help either

I don't know what OnePlus did with portrait mode this time around, but it was a fucking nightmare to do properly. I couldn't get the camera to focus on the right object, because it wanted to focus on the flowers beyond the Pikachu - regardless of what I did. Even the final image isn't quite right, because it's focusing on the ground beneath the amiibo rather than the figure itself. I had to take multiple photos and try to focus the camera several times to try and get the depth effect right, and it still didn't come out properly. The OnePlus 6, on the other hand, did it perfectly the first time round. And I'm not the type to go messing with the settings in general, let alone in Portrait Mode - a mode I've only ever used for reviews.

Low light is the area OnePlus hasn't been the best at in the past, though the introduction of Nightscape mode on the 6 and 6T helped things out quite a lot. The difference between the 6 and 7 Pro isn't that huge, though the 6 is noticeably brighter. But the colours aren't nearly as good as the 7 Pro, and it's not like you can't see what's going on, so it more than balances out. Nightscape didn't make a huge amount of difference when there was ambient light around, though the shadowy areas of the photos are noticeably less shadowy. Maybe Mufasa should have taken advantage of this to expand the scope of his kingdom.

That said, as you can see it did make an enormous amount of difference when there was next to no light around. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to see Pikachu hanging out on the wall in front of my house, like at all. Unfortunately the Nightscape picture isn't particularly good in either case, but the 7 Pro's is noticeably better than the 6's. OnePlus 6 Pikachu barely changed between regular mode and Nightscape mode.

Overall then, pretty great work from the OnePlus 7 Pro. Nightscape mode hasn't made huge leaps ahead, but the extra resolution and zoom makes everything noticeably clearer in bright light. It probably isn't the best camera out there, but it's far from the worst.

Battery

One of the things to remember about the 7 Pro is that it comes with the new Warp Charge 30, which debuted last year with the McLaren edition OnePlus 6T. Unlike the McLaren edition, which could regain 50 per cent of its power after 20 minutes of charging, the 7 Pro takes 30 minutes to get there. Why? Because of the bigger battery, which has a 4,000 mAh capacity – 300 mAh more than the McLaren. The fact the 7 Pro is a bit of a power-hungry monster probably doesn't help the recharge speed, either.

The extra screen features don't seem to do much in the way of relative battery drain, though. I tested the capability of the battery by making sure QHD and the 90hz refresh rate were activated, then put the battery to the test by streaming the 1h57m Ant-Man from Netflix. That was over Wi-Fi with brightness on maximum, and by the end of the film the OnePlus 7 Pro came out with 86 per cent of its total battery left. For reference the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T came out with a respective 83 and 85 per cent after streaming a 1h59m film under the similar conditions.

Of course, those two extra minutes will have caused a small amount of extra power consumption, but considering they were both limited to a FHD resolution and 60Hz refresh rate it's a big win for the 7 Pro. Essentially the battery should last roughly the same amount of time, which OnePlus says is over one day of regular use.

Don't expect this same level of performance for the 5G model, though. OnePlus co-founder Pete Lau has already said he's refusing to add bigger batteries to account for 5G's extra power drain. Because, according to him, people prefer lower battery life to "thick and ugly" phones. I'm not sure I agree, because only the most superficial of people would notice such a change. For the record that was also apparently his excuse for removing the headphone jack in favour of the in-display fingerprint scanner.

As for Warp Charge 30, OnePlus promised that it would recharge 50 per cent of the 7 Pro's battery life within 20 minutes. I found that after 30 minutes it was up to 61 per cent, which is more than I found with the OnePlus 6T, and up to 92 per cent after an hour. In other words if you're charging from zero to 100, it shouldn't take you more than 90 minutes. Provided you use the right charger and cable combo. The charger is the most important bit, though, because it doesn't matter what cable you use as long as it's a OnePlus fast charging cable. So the cable from your OnePlus 6 will work just fine (I checked).

Audio

Your crappy YouTube rips never sounded so good... not on a OnePlus device anyway

For the first time ever, OnePlus has released a phone with stereo speakers. Finally this is now a thing, and the difference is incredible. Not only is the audio louder as a result, it actually sounds better because stereo is much more pleasing on the ears than mono. Don't ask me to elaborate any further because I don't have the audiophile vocabulary, but if you're at home you can now enjoy great sounding media without having to wear headphones.

If you're out in public, wear some goddamn headphones or keep the phone silent, you cretin.

But while there are two speakers, those speakers are not made equally. The brunt of the work is still done by the main speaker on the base of the phone (but on a different side, to stop people accidentally covering it with their hands), while the top speaker is noticeably weaker. Not that it matters, it's still better sound overall and we can all be grateful.

The 7 Pro also has Dolby Atmos, but obviously you're going to need a pair of compatible headphone to take advantage of that. The new Bullets Wireless 2 does not, as far as I can tell.

Hardware

There isn't much to say on the hardware front, other than the fact OnePlus has done the usual job of incrementally upgrading bits. There's the new Snapdragon 855 chipset inside, which apparently offers a 45 per cent boost in performance while reducing battery consumption by 20 per cent. Similarly the RAM has had a boost, with the top model offering 12GB of RAM alongside 256GB of storage. That'll be the most expensive model, obviously, but there will be variants with 8GB and 6GB of RAM – each packing 128GB of storage.

There's no microSD expansion, as usual, and it's also water resistant – even with the camera mechanism. There's no IP rating for reasons OnePlus has reemphasised recently. In short, it is water resistant, but it's not designed to handle prolonged exposure to water. Also IP ratings are expensive, and the cost would have to be added to the phone itself. Considering all the extra expensive features the 7 Pro has, I'm not sure you'd want to have to pay extra anyway.

There's still no headphone jack this time around, and annoyingly OnePlus has decided you don't need a 3.5mm adaptor and you won't find one in the box. Which is pretty annoying, though the random adaptor I had lying around worked with no problems. It just means you can't charge and use wired headphones without some sort of dongle in the mix. Don't even think of a wireless charging work around, because that's not included either. Apparently it's still not fast enough for OnePlus to consider worthy of inclusion.

We also have UFS 3.0 flash storage, the first phone to do so if I'm not mistaken, which offers twice the bandwidth of UFS 2.1. In other words, it means you have a faster read/write and loading speeds. There's also a ten layer water cooling system that offers maximum performance without overheating. This was mainly related to gaming, but if you do other performance-intensive stuff on your phone you might be interested in this.

Colour-wise, there will be two colours available in Europe at launch: Mirror Grey, which is like Mirror Black but Grey, and Nebula Blue. That's the gradient blue colour we've seen in leaks, though there's no sign of the yellow and purple. OnePlus didn't give s any information about them ahead of time, so if they are available they likely won't be available in Europe at launch. There will also be a limited edition 'Almond' colour coming shortly after launch, much like how OnePlus delayed the release of the Silk White OnePlus 6. The style of the Almond 7 Pro is similar to the Silk White, though it's slightly murkier. Like someone added a bit of brown colouring to the Silk White design.

Sadly if you want the top specs (12/256GB model) you'll have to get the Nebula Blue. No idea why, but it's not like you'll notice, because only an idiot doesn't put their expensive phone in a protective case.

Oh, and there's an improved haptic feedback engine, which, while noticeable, doesn't really offer anything of note. OnePlus says it's for more immersive gaming, so if that's your thing give it a try.

Software

On the software side we still have a phone running OxygenOS, with this build based on Android Pie. With that in mind, the software experience isn't that much different from older devices. Not compared to the OnePlus 6 I've been carrying around for a year at any rate. There are improvements to Gaming mode, however. You've got the same text-only approach to notifications enjoyed by 6T owners, alongside a display enhancement that improves the overall look of your gaming experience. But there's also a brand new extreme version of gaming mode that's been developed in conjunction with esports team Fnatic. Called 'Fnatic mode', it takes things even further to optimise all your phone's hardware to offer the best possible gaming performance. It also blocks all notifications while it's active, with no option to switch them back on.

One new feature you won't have seen before is the pre-loaded screen recording feature. It can be accessed through the quick launch menu, and once active it behaves like any other screen recording app. You'll get a little overlay with controls that can be moved around the screen, letting you start, pause, and stop recording. Once done those recordings will then save straight to your gallery, though a notification pops up that lets you delete it if you know it's terrible.

There's also a 'Zen Mode', because society has dictated that phones are bad now. This mode locks up your phone for 20 minutes, only giving you access to the camera and the emergency call dialler. Zen Mode takes a few steps to activate, to prevent you from doing it by accident, but it's incredibly simplistic. Once it's on, that's it, and there's no way to turn it off if you suddenly need to use your phone. Similarly it's not customisable in any way, so you can't extend or reduce the lockout time. You also can't whitelist certain apps that you might decide you need.

Zen Mode seems like a waste of space, and contrary to that 'no bloatware' claim OnePlus has been slapping on its adverts. I'm not discounting this idea of locking up your phone to stop temptation, but there are plenty of apps out there for you to use instead. Apps that are better than what OnePlus has to offer. I bet they don't automatically start pestering you to use them every two hours either, and decided you can't block notifications through the Android settings. You can block Zen Mode notifications, but you have to head into the app itself to fiddle with the settings. It's in the quick launch menu and nowhere else, in case you're reading this after buying a 7 Pro and can't figure it out.

Overall

The OnePlus 7 Pro is a great phone that offers a lot of improvements on what OnePlus was offering this time last year. Which is good because the OnePlus 6T wasn't actually that different from the 6, aside from the fancy fingerprint scanner. While the internal hardware is fairly incremental in terms of what's on offer, the display alone is reason enough to make it worth looking into. The fact that the battery life doesn't seem to drain faster as a result of the upgrade is great too. It's just a shame they threw in the curved display, raising the cost for no good reason – which seems contrary to everything OnePlus has said about phones the past couple of years.

The fact that the camera has seen a boost is also a welcome addition to the phone, because the OnePlus 6 and 6T weren't that great, despite all the claims to the contrary. Software updates improved matters after the 6T launch, but there was still plenty of room to change. I'm not a fan of the extreme rise in resolution, but at the same time the fact that the picture quality has noticeably improved over the past 12 months shows OnePlus is paying attention to feedback on its shortcomings and actively working to fix them.

OnePlus made it clear that the company has always been about the product, and not the price, so it's obviously just a coincidence that it's been offering flagship-level premium specs at what now passes for a mid-range price. This statement was in response to questions about the 7 Pro's rumoured price (€819 for the 12/256GB model), which the company wouldn't tell us ahead of launch. Of course now we know that the phone will cost between £649 and £799. It could have been worse, but it's certainly not as nice as the £499 starting price for the regular OnePlus 7.

Provided you can handle the fact that OnePlus is now charging the same amount of money as other companies, the OnePlus 7 Pro would be a great upgrade. But it is a phone filled with unnecessary bells and whistles, despite OnePlus's claims to the contrary, and that might be too much for some people. At least there's always the OnePlus 7. It has the same guts, but none of the fancy shit that causes these price hikes.

TL;DR

  • Amazing display, with the 90hz refresh rate really upping the ante and making everything smoother than you might believe
  • Extra screen features have not tarnished the battery life, and under test conditions used the same percentage of power as the OnePlus 6T
  • Pop-up camera novelty wears off almost immediately, but be grateful because the screen is still hella nice.
  • Camera performance (front and back) is a massive improvement from this time last year
  • Portrait mode seems to have got worse, based on my experience
  • Nightscape mode hasn't changed much, but the pictures still come out great.
  • Stereo speakers! Which are long overdue, and sound so much better. Dolby Atmos too
  • The in-display fingerprint scanner is now faster, larger, and performs far better than the OnePlus 6T's did at launch
  • The curved display is completely pointless. So is Zen Mode, which feels like a half-baked afterthought
  • There's no headphone jack again, and no adaptor in the box.
  • OnePlus promised there would be a pocket mode and a replacement for the notification light, but at the time of publication neither were available
  • Nebula Blue and Mirror Grey are available from 21st May, with prices ranging from £649 to £799. Almond arrives in June, in the 8/256GB configuration, for £699