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News18 » Tech
11-min read

OnePlus 7 Pro Review: Android Flagships Should Not Be Designed With The Make Do Mentality

A very good display, blazing fast performance and good battery life are its strong points. However, the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t have wireless charging, weighs a lot, no IP rating and the camera is inconsistent. The rivals are offering more, and the expectations are high.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:May 15, 2019, 2:56 PM IST
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OnePlus 7 Pro Review: Android Flagships Should Not Be Designed With The Make Do Mentality
A very good display, blazing fast performance and good battery life are its strong points. However, the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t have wireless charging, weighs a lot, no IP rating and the camera is inconsistent. The rivals are offering more, and the expectations are high.

Over the years, there has been a rather noticeable increase in the demographic of friends and family who have bought a OnePlus phone and stayed loyal to the brand. A first tryst with the likes of the OnePlus One and the OnePlus 3 or the OnePlus 3T (we purposefully didn’t mention the OnePlus 2, in case you didn’t notice) many years ago proved to be a memorable affair, and most of those users willed themselves on to upgrade to a OnePlus 5T or a OnePlus 6 or a OnePlus 6T at some point. There is also nothing like the positive word of mouth going around, and as expected, that also spread like wildfire. It is no surprise then that earlier this month, the report from research firm Counterpoint suggested that the OnePlus 6T has the highest market share in the premium smartphone space in India—logging 26 percent in Q1 2019, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S10+ with 16 percent and Samsung Galaxy S10 with 10 percent.

Price: How is this "affordable" or "cheap"?

Over the years, we have loved OnePlus phones for what was a lovable personality, and the fact they cost much lesser than typical Android flagship phones but offered a similar user experience. However, these are different times. The OnePlus 7 Pro is itself a flagship, and that means the dynamics have changed. The affordability dynamic is still retained by the OnePlus 7. At the moment, the OnePlus 7 Pro will be available in three variants, with differing color options. The entry spec version with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage will cost you Rs 48,999 and this can be had in the Mirror Gray colour. The mid-range variant has 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage is priced at Rs 52,999. This is available in Mirror Gray and Nebula Blue. The highest spec variant, with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage and you can choose between the Nebula Blue and Almond colour options.

This absolutely no longer the cheap and cheerful package that previous OnePlus phones brought to the table. Calling this affordable or budget would perhaps be more out of subjectivity, than anything else.

This competes with the Samsung Galaxy S10e, which is priced at Rs 55,900 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage option. And if you are looking at the top spec OnePlus 7 Pro which costs close to Rs 60,000 anyway, then chances are you will also take a look at the Samsung Galaxy S10 which starts at Rs 66,900 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro which now retails for around Rs 64,990. And all those phones pack in more on the spec sheet.

OnePlus 7 Pro-1

Design: Adding weight to the argument

The OnePlus 7 Pro has a completely refreshed design, compared with the previous OnePlus phones. The Nebula Blue colour variant, for instance, is gorgeous to look at. Hard to say if just that is the reason, but the height of this phone is accentuated by the colour. The slightly rounded spines merge well into the curved glass, and all in all, this snuggles well in the hand. However though, it soon wants to escape too, and you’ll need to be careful. While the back looks beautiful, it is quite slippery as well. There is Gorilla Glass 5 all around, so that’s reassuring. In a way.

Some of the conventional design elements that have become standard features of OnePlus phones remain as is—the slider key to switch the sound modes, for instance. For a fairly tall phone, the physical keys still fall well in the range of the fingers—at least my long fingers.

Even though I am a fan of what I like to refer to as a reassuring heft in a phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro just feels a tad heavier than initially imagined, and this takes some getting used to. Well, this tips the scales at 206 grams, which makes this by far the heaviest Android flagship phone you can buy in India right now. Something to chew on.

Remember, this is another OnePlus phone that isn’t water or dust resistant, at least not with a proper IP rating. This also doesn’t have Wireless charging. One could perhaps say that one could perhaps make do, but I would still argue that these are essentials on a flagship phone. Flagship phones aren't designed for the make do mentality. Samsung and Huawei have both offered wireless charging as well reverse wireless charging to even juice up the batteries of other phones that support wireless charging—and OnePlus believes that a flagship phone can make do without the feature. Perplexing, to say the least.

Display: No notches given, none taken

Switch this on, and the 6.67-inch real estate pretty much gets it spot on in terms of the brightness, viewing angles, sharpness and mostly the colour reproduction as well. This screen, as OnePlus called it Fluid AMOLED, comes to life when you tweak the calibration settings as per your preference—from the subdued to the vivid. You can choose between Vivid, Natural and Advanced—the latter has the NTSC, sRGB and Display-P3 options. My favorite is the Display-P3 option, since that comes to the closest to how I like the colours to look on the screen. The sheer real estate that is available with this screen has to be seen to be believed. Great for reading, watching movies and playing games. Basically, you name it, and this does the job effortlessly. The gentle curves on either side of the display add to the premium persona, but if you are to slap on a case on the OnePlus 7 Pro, that experience of the finger gliding smoothly edge to edge just goes out of the window.

This doesn’t have a notch, but then again, we never really rejected a phone for having a notch, and therefore won’t really praise the OnePlus 7 Pro for not having a notch. A lot has been said about the 90Hz display refresh rate. From what my eyes could understand, you feel a very slight difference in the smoothness of certain visuals and elements when the display is at 90Hz, instead of 60Hz. However, if you look closely, you might also see a very slight tearing of text on web pages, for instance. The 90Hz feature would work best when there are enough apps and games that support the higher refresh rate. At the moment, what you are left with is the feel-good factor of a slightly smoother video viewing experience, but not much else.

If the argument really is about the magic of 90Hz being hidden and you’ll miss it when you use some other phone, I did not find that to be true, at all. Switched between the OnePlus 7 Pro, the iPhone XS Max and the Huawei P30 Pro, and didn’t really feel the other two being inferior in any way. At least OnePlus gives you the option to switch to the 60Hz refresh rate and save a bit of battery in the process—though the difference is very minimal, which in a way is a testament to how well OnePlus have optimized the 90Hz feature.

Performance: Insanely fast, no arguments

There is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and the Adreno 640 graphics purring away effortlessly under the hood. Performance is top notch, safe to say, you will be able to buy the OnePlus 7 Pro in multiple states of tune. And by that, we mean different amounts of RAM and storage. What we are testing here is the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant, which sits at the top of the ladder. This runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. One of the reasons for the super-fast performance is also the UFS 3.0 storage type, which offers extremely fast data read and write speeds—and that means apps open much quicker than on most other phones and the general performance is snappy.

The biggest upgrade over previous generation OnePlus phones is perhaps how cool the OnePlus 7 Pro is. Not relatively, but literally. The new processor as well as the liquid cooling system combine to keep the temperature well in check even when you may be stressing the phone out with extreme multitasking or while gaming. A lot of OnePlus phone owners over the years had complained that their phones tend to become lukewarm or even more uncomfortable when they are playing a game, using it for navigation or basically use a lot of apps simultaneously. That has now changed, for the better.

There is also a new RAM boost mode, which depends on artificial intelligence (AI) to learn your usage habits over time, and then allocates some amount of the RAM to those apps so that the launch times are minimal when you actually want to use them. This is something that you’ll probably notice a bit more after using the phone for a fairly extensive period of time.

We cannot take the credit away from the software either. OnePlus has done a lot of work on the OxygenOS as well. There are improvements behind the scenes, and everything feels snappier to use. Not much has changed in terms of the familiarity, and that would be great news for anyone who wants to upgrade from an existing OnePlus phone. One rather neat new addition is the Zen Mode. If you are someone who likes to be pushed to put the phone down for a while (and perhaps interact with real human beings), the OnePlus 7 Pro brings that option to the table. When you enable the Zen Mode, everything apart from the basic functionality (voice calls and camera, for instance) becomes unavailable for 20 minutes. Take a deep breath, go for a stroll or simply check up on how many bills remain unpaid.

Battery: Just goes on and on and on

With all this power also comes the need of a good battery, and the OnePlus 7 Pro ticks off that box too. This has a 4,000mAh battery, with what OnePlus calls the Warp Charge feature too. OnePlus claims this is 38 percent faster than the fast charge standard in the OnePlus 6T for instance, also a requirement because of the larger battery in place. In our experience, the battery life of the OnePlus 7 Pro is nothing short of stellar, lasting about two days on a single charge with generous screen usage time being logged.

OnePlus 7 Pro-2

Camera: Can we have some software updates please?

For the first time ever, a OnePlus phone with three cameras at the back. The combination of a 48-megapixel, 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras just seem to be ticking off the spec sheet. A lot of expectations then. However, the photography performance isn’t always as expected. While you can wring out some very good photos from this camera, by and large, it is hard to ignore certain issues. The frames are a tad too soft, there isn’t enough sharpness in some photos, the exposure isn’t always right and low light photos tend to exhibit some amount of noise when you zoom in. The low light photos bit is particularly disappointing, because it takes away the ability to edit these photos too, since there isn’t enough data to work with. And this is at a time when flagship Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the Huawei P30 Pro, and we cannot forget the Google Pixel 3a XL either, have really taken the camera game a couple of notches up.

It is also a bit perplexing that the camera app interface is surprisingly basic. For instance, there are no detailed options for changing the resolution of still photos (except for the iffy 4:3, the widescreen and 1:1 aspect ratio option. But what do these mean for the consumer? Same for videos—no detailed options apart from the standard resolution settings. Compared with the plethora of options that Samsung and Huawei offer with their flagship phones, this is just a bit perplexing.

The pop-up front camera is quite in vogue these days. There is just something about having a mechanical camera pop out, with that whirring sound. The novelty aside, this 16-megapixel camera will do a good job with your selfies. There is no unnecessary artificial intelligence ruining the fine contours of your face, and that in itself is an achievement in these complicated times.

Verdict: It is certainly not black and white

It is a fact that we have always ignored the eccentricities and slight inconsistencies of OnePlus phones all this while. Simple because, the price. It was a flagship killer, priced much lesser than an actual Android flagship phone, and a couple of little niggles here and there were par for the course. Now however, the OnePlus 7 Pro is itself a flagship. That is serious stuff, more so because it has a serious price tag. And that amplifies any missing features. The lack of an IP rating for water resistance stands out, irrespective of the justifications. The lack of wireless charging, irrespective of how many times one may use it or not, is another. The camera at the moment is less than perfect, but we hope that can be sorted out with software updates. The 90Hz refresh rate display and the pop-up front facing camera are two features that will probably not make or break your buying decision. All things considered, there are some really strong points of the OnePlus 7 Pro, such as the insanely fast performance, great battery, an immersive display and some nifty software features. Equally, the inconsistent camera cannot be forgiven, you’ll find this a tad heavier than you expected and the missing features we have already mentioned do really stand out too. This is, in many ways, a first-generation flagship from OnePlus. Things can only get better from here. But as things stand, you will have to sit and wonder whether you buy a traditional flagship smartphone instead or hedge your bets on this one.

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