OnePlus 7 Pro Review: Dear Premium Flagships, Here’s a Headache
Ever since it emerged in 2014, OnePlus has been a right royal pain for Android flagships all over the world, with its combination of very good hardware, clean software, and surprisingly low prices. Yes, its price had always shown a penchant to rise with every new edition and it had its share of rivals, but by and large, OnePlus was always considered to be the flag bearer of a whole new Android device segment called “budget flagship.” Over the years, it had pretty much become the preferred option for those who wanted a flagship but did not want to get into the REALLY expensive part of the premium segment – the space occupied by the likes of the Galaxy S, the Note, the Pixels and of course, them iPhones.
Well, the OnePlus 7 Pro changes that.
For, with the addition of the Pro moniker comes not just a significant increase in price but also aspiration. Previous editions of the OnePlus (special editions aside) had been content to be well (rather than exceptionally) designed, excellently specced devices which might not have been able to totally match their premium counterparts in all departments – most notably design, display, sound and cameras – but ran them close enough in a few and never made you feel too bad about what they missed out on because hey, they came at much lesser price tags. The 7 Pro now is a very different kettle of fish. It tries to match the premium flagships in just about every department.
Edge to edge display with curves lapping over the sides?
Glass front and back with a classy gradient finish?
Triple camera arrangement on the back?
Wait, and one of those triple cameras is a 48 megapixel one?
What about a pop-up camera?
In display fingerprint scanner?
Already there in the 6T. Still there!
Lots of RAM and storage?
Always had that!
Yes, it has an undoubtedly Samsung-y vibe about it, thanks to that spill-over-to-the-sides display. But scratch it any way you wish, there is no doubting that what you will see is a definitely premium segment player rather than someone looking to fight purely on a spec-price equation. We had gone over the design and specs of the OnePlus 7 Pro in our first cut and had concluded that the brand that prided itself on Never Settling had now turned its sights on the upper price bands of the smartphone market. To quote from our first cut:
“Be it design, specs or software, OnePlus has thrown the kitchen sink at it when it comes to the OnePlus 7 Pro.”
The big question is: does it succeed in making the premium segment quake?
The answer to that is an unequivocal YES.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: notwithstanding the shrill applause of the fanboys, the OnePlus 7 Pro is not perfect. Far from it, in fact. From the moment we have had the phone, we have had to deal with a number of niggles ranging from the display’s penchant for switching on by itself when in our pockets to the rather odd side lighting feature that seems to turn on and off at will to the famous “ghost touch” bug (where items sometimes get selected by themselves) to a rather inconsistent auto-brightness feature that sometimes made that magnificent display so difficult to read. And then there are the well-documented inconsistencies of those very well specced cameras (read our camera review here).
In spite of all those flaws, however, the OnePlus 7 Pro still delivers what can be considered an outstanding performance, especially when you consider its price point. Yes, Rs 48,999 is high by OnePlus standards (unless you consider the McLaren edition of the 6T), but even then as we pointed out in an earlier piece, the OnePlus 7 Pro is very much in a zone of its own when compared to the likes of the Galaxy S series, the Pixel, the Note and of course, the iPhones.
Yes, a few challengers to the crown have emerged in the days following its release, most notably the gaming-oriented Black Shark 2 and the equally premium designed Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, both of which cost Rs 39,999 and come with comparable hardware (the Reno even matches the design majesty of the 7 Pro – see our comparison here, but thanks to its clever pricing, the 7 Pro is actually perceived as being closer to the premium segment, while the other worthies are still seen as “budget flagships” contending with the OnePlus 7 Pro’s lesser sibling, the OnePlus 7.
All of which leaves the Pro to deal with the bigger premium guns. And it does generally give a very good account of itself in that regard. We had the 8 GB / 256 GB variant, and well, be it PUBG, Asphalt, multiple Chrome tabs or dozens of apps open at the same time, the phone was generally flying through tasks without ever even threatening to break into a sweat. Yes, there is a dedicated gaming mode and even what OnePlus calls a Fnatic Mode (which focuses the processor mainly towards gaming), but even if you do not get into that zone, you are still assured a very very good performance in gaming terms. Without too much heating either.
It is also while gaming that one realizes that two areas where the OnePlus 7 Pro has really come to the premium party: display and sound. Although OnePlus devices always had good displays and decent enough sound, they never really were challenging the best in the business. That changes with the OnePlus 7 Pro. The device boasts a quad HD AMOLED display with a refresh rate of 90 Hz. On paper that should give it a clear edge over others, especially in gaming and graphics-intensive activities. Does it? Well, let us put it this way – it looks fantastic, although the difference does not quite jump out at you, it does put the display right up there alongside the best in terms of sheer potential.
When it comes to sound, the 7 Pro is the first OnePlus to boast stereo speakers, and the overall sound quality is the best we have seen in a device from the brand. That edge to edge display and those speakers are great for watching videos and playing games. The battery life is a bit of a letdown, though. If you are going to use that display at 90 Hz, you are unlikely to get through a day on that 4000 mAh battery, although Warp Charge does ensure that you get it from zero to hundred in about an hour and twenty minutes. Use it at 60 Hz, however, and you can get through a day easily.
All this with an interface that remains one of the least cluttered ones can find this side of stock Android. And also one of the most frequently updated – the OnePlus 7 Pro runs on Android Pie is expected to get Android Q reasonably soon. Some users might find the constant rain of updates a bit of a pain, but we feel it reflects the commitment and concern of the company and is any day preferable to a relatively passive UI that gets updated once in a blue moon (which remains the case with a shocking number of devices!).
Does all this place the OnePlus 7 Pro right alongside the likes of the iPhones and Galaxy S/Notes of the world? To be brutally honest, not quite. As we pointed out earlier, the 7 Pro does not quite match those worthies in terms of overall performance, being let down mainly by what seems to be a slightly buggy UI. And even in areas like display where it boasts comparable or indeed better hardware, we saw many neutrals preferring the dazzling displays of the Galaxy S10+ and the Note 9.
But this is the important bit: while it might be a little bit off the pace of those worthies (and it is not too far off), the OnePlus 7 Pro is also priced well below them. It definitely has scored on the design front, where it is one of the best-looking Android flagships of the year, with that amazingly classy back and that edge to edge display. Yes, there is the odd wobble in performance from time to time, but to the brand’s immense credit, it has been trying to fix matters with one software update after another.
So where does that leave the OnePlus 7 Pro?
Premium flagship killer? Only time will tell.
Premium flagship headache? You bet!
It is not perfect, not by any means, but for a while, whenever someone considers purchasing a premium smartphone above Rs 50,000, be it a Samsung, Google or Apple flagship, we wager a question will be heard:
“Why don’t you just go for a OnePlus 7 Pro?”
If that does not tell you the story, nothing will.
- Terrific display
- Eye catching design
- Very good sound
- Warp charge
- Buggy software
- Inconsistent cameras
- Expected more from battery
- Some might find it expensive
After having generally been seen as the front runner in the “budget flagship” segment, OnePlus has moved a notch up and targeted the premium smartphone segment with the OnePlus 7 Pro. But does the Pro Never Settler do enough to not just threaten the established premium flagship order but also justify a higher than usual price tag?