Hands on: OnePlus 7 Pro review

We got our hands (and ears) on the new OnePlus 7 Pro flagship smartphone at its official London launch event...

What is a hands on review?
Hands on: OnePlus 7 Pro review

Early Verdict

Flagship specs at a friendly price, the OnePlus 7 Pro flagship phone appears very promising

For

  • Impressive triple camera
  • All-screen display
  • Effective fingerprint scanner

Against

  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Pop-up front lens won't please all

Mid-year updates are as much a ‘thing’ in the smartphone industry as they are in financial reports. Here we have OnePlus’s new flagship handset, the OnePlus 7 Pro, just eight months after the launch of its previous top-tier 6T (and five months after the 6T McLaren edition).

The OnePlus 7 Pro, which has abandoned the Chinese brand’s usual ‘T’ naming, has been launched today alongside the smaller, lower-spec’d OnePlus 7. 

Previously, OnePlus handsets have very much rallied behind the ‘flagship-killer’ label, occupying price tags considerably lower than the top-of-the-line phones from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony and LG. And - sigh of relief - that hasn’t changed. Priced from £649, it’s a welcome break from the four-figure price tags we’ve seen regularly of late...

Camera: 48MP and a pop-up selfie

Like its Chinese rival, Huawei, OnePlus has narrowed much of its focus on the camera performance of its new flagship. And the upshot is certainly headline grabbing. The OnePlus 7 Pro boasts a triple camera with a 48MP main snapper accompanied by a 16MP Ultra Wide Angle lens and 8MP Telephoto lens, with 3x optical zoom, 17mm - 78mm focal lengths and an UltraShot engine bringing two modes (HDR+ and Super Resolution) to shout about.

We didn’t quite have the landscapes that OnePlus’ on-stage guest, a National Geographic photographer, had at her disposal, but photos taken at the event were very impressive - sharp, clear and popping but with natural colours. And with a 111 DxOMark rating - only narrowly beaten by Huawei’s P30 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (112) - it certainly seems as though it’s punching above its price tag.

In order for the OnePlus 7 Pro to feature an all-screen display, OnePlus has moved the front camera to a pop-up 16MP camera module, which elevates - and protrudes - from the top. 

The butterfingers-friendly module automatically retracts in a ‘fraction of a second’ when it detects being in free-fall, which OnePlus was keen to demonstrate on stage. 

We had a go ourselves, dropping one at head height onto a sofa, and indeed the module was nowhere to be seen by the time it landed. OnePlus claims to have tested the contraption 300,000 times, so we're inclined to believe the company's promise.

Screen: The largest OnePlus display

So, that 93 per cent screen-to-body ratio allows for a 6.67in QHD+ Fluid AMOLED display, the largest ever screen in a OnePlus handset, up from the 6T’s 6.41in, with a near-4K resolution of 3120 x 1440.

OnePlus has worked to improve its flagship phone's screen responsiveness and smoothness by upping the frame rate to 90Hz, and both HDR10 and HDR10+ content are supported.

Night Mode 2.0, meanwhile, gets the lowest-brightness screen setting, down to just 0.27 nits - that’s low! - in order to protect your eyes even in complete darkness. A screen recording mode is another nifty addition brought by the 7 Pro, too.

One of the headline features of the 6T was the introduction of its in-screen fingerprint unlock, and here it’s been allegedly improved in terms of speed and accuracy thanks to a three-element plastic lens and larger sensor. OnePlus claims its scanner is now the “world’s fastest”. Initial set-up requires the usual repeated placement of several angles of your selected digit, and once in action the scanner works very well: quick, reliable and not hugely fussy with positioning.

Sound: Dolby Atmos

Stereo speakers are a first for a OnePlus handset here and the brand has gone all out with Dolby Atmos support. A launch event is never an appropriate (or quiet enough) time to blast out your favourite playlist, but we did get more of a hint of its audio quality through headphones.

The OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t seem to have the spaciousness and subtlety of the iPhone 8 Plus we have with us for comparison – it’s therefore second-best to the superior-sounding iPhone X, too – but it surfaces enough texture and detail to communicate Aldous Harling’s breathy, layered vocal as we play Blend from Tidal. 

Its neutral balance and clarity is to its credit, the guitar picking clear and tangible underneath. We look forward to going twelve rounds with the 7 Pro’s audio performance with both Bluetooth and USB-C headphones in our full review, but we’re confident the OnePlus puts in a competitive performance next to its similarly priced rivals. 

Features and design

Thanks to the inclusion of the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 processor - the same found in the Samsung’s S10 and the latest handsets by Sony and LG - the 7 Pro also looks to rub shoulders with the best in terms of operational speed and multi-tasking.

We look forward to piling on the pressure of the daily grind with multiple app downloads and gaming, but a relatively sparse demo handset allowed us to at least appreciate the rapid opening of apps and the switching between multiple windows. 6T owners looking for an early upgrade should anticipate a faster phone all round as OnePlus says the 7 Pro is 45 per cent faster and consumes 20 per cent less power.

Talking of the daily grind... a 4000mAh battery (up from the 6T’s 3700mAh), which sits between the Samsung S10 (3400mAh) and S10+ (4100mAh), is also a standout on the spec sheet, especially considering its coupling with OnePlus’ Warp Charge 3.0, which allegedly increases charge speed by 38 per cent and can get a user from zero to 50 per cent charge in just 20 minutes.

What can be appreciated immediately from our hands-on session is the OnePlus 7 Pro’s quality build, the glass body’s all-new curved-edge design and stunning ‘Nebula Blue’ finish (pictured) has everything a flagship should.

Pricing and early verdict

The sigh of relief at the end of every OnePlus launch: the price reveal. The most affordable handset is the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage option in Mirror Gray (£649), with the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage version attracting a £50 premium in either Mirror Gray, Nebula Blue or Almond finishes.

Meanwhile, the very top-tier 12GB and 256GB variant in Nebula Blue is £799, which still undercuts the price of new flagships by rival smartphone brands. We look forward to seeing whether it can undercut their performance-per-pound ratio, too...

Until then, consider us suitably impressed. OnePlus has focused on a competitive corner of the smartphone market - camera performance - and appears to have come up trumps while sparing apt attention for sound and screen quality, battery and its neat fingerprint scanner. We look forward to delivering our full OnePlus 7 Pro review very soon.

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What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.