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OnePlus 7 Pro Review: Buttery Smooth

The OnePlus 7 Pro. Photo: Ben Sin

TL;DR Version

  • What’s good? The best damn screen on the market. Buttery smooth and super fast UI.
  • What’s bad? No one hand mode for a large phone; the cameras are very good, but Oppo Reno and Huawei P30 Pro can pull off more impressive tricks

The Fast and Furious franchise is known for many things — wild car races; bald dudes punching each other; Coronas, and cheesy-ass lines delivered by bad actors. And of the latter, the one that I remember most is Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto muttering, “this time, it’s not just about being fast …”

I’d like to imagine that’s what the bosses at OnePlus said when developing the company’s recent release, the 7 Pro. Because OnePlus phones have always been fast — the fastest, in fact — but there’s only so much you can go with that before it becomes overkill. So with the OnePlus 7 Pro, the company made the phone not just fast, but smooth as well.

And OnePlus has done it; the 7 Pro’s screen is buttery smooth, thanks to its 90Hz refreshes rate with custom-tuned animations developed in-house at OnePlus. I hate to be that dude, but the 7 Pro’s screen is one of those things you have to see it to understand it, and once you do — damn, you can’t unsee it.

And that’s why I’m using the OnePlus 7 Pro as my daily driver right now. I have all the new phones on me, but I am choosing the 7 Pro, even though I am slightly disappointed by the cameras and think the phone’s a bit too tall to use easily. I still choose the 7 Pro as my main phone anyway because that screen has spoiled me for other phones.

The glass back of the OnePlus 7 Pro.

By now you’ve heard that the OnePlus 7 Pro uses a elevating mechanism to house its 16-megapixel selfie camera behind the screen. This is to avoid the notch, and yes it works. The camera pops up when needed and retracts when it’s done shooting, and the action is fast — under half a second. Durability shouldn’t be an issue because pop-up cameras have been around in Oppo and Vivo phones for over a year and I haven’t heard of any widespread mechanical failure yet.

Yeah yeah, it has a pop-up camera.

Lets go back to that screen: it’s a 6.6-inch OLED panel. OnePlus calls it “Fluid OLED”, which is marketing speak for a really damn smooth OLED screen that refreshes at 1.5X the rate of other displays. Like I said, you can see the extra fluidity in animations whether it’s scrolling up and down a webpage or opening and closing apps.

The screen is more than just fluid, however. It’s also bright enough for outdoor use, and colors accuracy and viewing angles are excellent. If you’d like to punch up the contrast or make colors more muted — you can do so too in settings. The screen is even HDR 10+ certified, just like the Samsung Galaxy S10’s display, this means select content that supports the platform will look even more lush and vivid. This is, simply put, the best screen out there on any mobile device. Heck, it’s probably a better screen than what you have at the office or at home.

There is curvature in the display on both left and right side, a la Samsung, and I think it looks great. OnePlus has done a fine job with palm rejection too as I was able to use the phone without a case and still not encounter too many accidental palm presses. At 6.6-inches, the screen is on the large side; for the most part, this is no issue, but sometimes typing one-handed can be tough. For some reason, the OnePlus 7 Pro does not offer a one-hand mode.

The back glass also curves and meets the screen in the middle (again, ala Samsung). This gives the phone a symmetrical feel both front and back; a premium feeling that OnePlus handsets did not have in the past. The back design is solid, though I think the Oppo Reno looks cleaner.

The screen curves.

Inside the phone is a Snapdragon 855 with RAM varying between 6 to 12GB. I tested both the 6GB and 12GB model and truth be told both phones are equally fast. More RAM is always nice, but I don’t think there’s much use case for 12GB RAM on a phone yet.

The Android skin here is OxygenOS and it is a joy to use. Running on top of Android 9, it doesn’t get in the way of what Android is about while offering much more customization options.

Cameras

There’s a triple camera array here including a 48-megapixel Sony IMAX sensor, a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens. All three cameras are fine for the most part. The 48-megapixel lens is used to capture binned 12-megapixel shots, and the results are usually superb during the day and respectable at night. OnePlus’s software bokeh algorithm is also on point, as it consistently is able to identify people and objects and apply the depth-of-field blur convincingly. I’m also a fan of the wide-angle camera, which does a good job of erasing barrel distortion post-photo.

Two wide-angle images captured with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Photo: Ben Sin
The bokeh image correctly blurred the areas around the plant.

At night, the f/1.6 aperture and relatively large sensor pull in enough light, but if you need an extra boost, “Nightscape” is OnePlus’ night mode which can bring extra balance.

I’m also a fan of the easy-to-use camera app, in which all buttons can be reached with one hand, including zooming. This has long been a frustration point for me on Huawei devices, whose zoom button is located weirdly on the side and halfway up the screen, making it awkward for one-hand use. The telephoto lens offers 3X zoom that’s near lossless, and yes while it is not as impressive as what the Oppo Reno 10X can do, it’s fine for most usage scenarios.

Wide-angle.
1X.
3X zoom.

The 3X telephoto lens can also double as a macro lens, pulling off some solid close-ups. Elsewhere, video performance is great too; 4K/30fps video turn out stabilized and smooth, and the phone can shoot at 4K/60 too but you’ll take a hit in stabilization. Check the 9:00 mark of the video below to see video samples.

The 3X zoom lens doubles as a capable macro lens.

That screen and speed alone is worth it

The OnePlus 7 Pro starts at $660 in the US and roughly that same amount in many parts of the world. In China, it’s cheaper, starting at 3999 yuan ($578). Expectedly, there’s been a divide in reception to OnePlus’ pricing. In the states, in which the market is increasingly becoming a duopoly of Apple and Samsung, the 7 Pro’s $660 price is considered a great value. In Southeast Asia, particularly India, however, there has been a bit of backlash at OnePlus over the cost of the handset.

I think the latter camp isn’t entirely being fair. Sure, the OnePlus 7 Pro is indeed the most expensive OnePlus handset ever, but the phone is also the first true flagship hardware from the company. That 90Hz screen alone is something no other phone is offering right now, and it’s tech that OnePlus had to invest time and money into producing. It’s not like they can just buy a 90Hz panel from a vendor and call it a day. OnePlus engineers had to fine tune OxygenOS to match. The fact that it doesn’t really drain battery life too much — from my testing the OnePlus 7 Pro is just about barely to last me all day, which is not great battery life but far from bad — really gives the phone a major selling point.

Of course, if you simply don’t care about the 90Hz screen, then there are many other cheaper options, the best of which is the Realme X, which has the same 48-megapixel Sony sensor as OnePlus, the same all-screen design, and same in-display scanner, and that phone starts at $270. And on the other end is the Oppo Reno 10X, which is a bit more expensive than the 7 Pro but has a significantly superior telephoto lens that can capture stunning zoom shots.

But still, the 7 Pro has a significant advantage in software experience and software fluidity. And for me personally, I’ve been spoiled, that 90Hz screen makes it hard for me to use anything else.