The trouble with reviewing a new phone today is that it is an exercised race against time to the point of near futility. Allow me to explain. There is a distinct lag between the time one acquires a new device and one can operate it intuitively without needing to look at it, like say when half-asleep. This adaptive time period can vary from anything between a few days to weeks. Trouble is that by the time one gets used to the new gadget, chances are, said device has already been overtaken by a plethora of other even newer rival models or the brand themselves have gone and announced an upgrade.
That rant out of the way, the OnePlus 7 Pro isn’t getting written off anytime soon. I have had the device since the day it launched and it has been one smooth transition. For sake of decency, I won’t be bringing up comparisons in the course of the review unless entirely necessary.
What greets you out of the box is this bold slick slim 200-gram brick, with a metallic finish on one side and a blacker than black screen on the other. The metal finish has a gradient colourway applied to it and on the Nebula Blue version I have, it starts at a sombre blue at the base and grades up to a midnight blue at the top. A massive AMOLED screen lights up when you bring it to life and runs you through the basic Android 9 setup à la OnePlus Oxygen.
For the technical specifications, the ones that will matter are these:
- 90Hz screen: This high rate of refresh means smoother graphics. Gamers will like that. For the rest of us, we may not really notice unless we are pushed back onto a 60Hz device which is pretty much industry standard.
- Triple Camera Setup: This allows for a 3X non-digital zoom (but at a reduced megapixel rate) and there has been much debate around the device’s portrait vs. zoom feature as to which one results in better photos. More on that later.
- Hidden Selfie Camera: It allows for a massive bezel-free screen as the selfie camera is hidden, tucked into the frame with a motorised release when invoked. It’s smooth, quick and has no more lag than a regular selfie camera. The only issue, if you use the Facelock feature it will pop in and out every time you pick up your phone.
- Battery: A device that pins itself on gaming, a massive bright screen and a motorised selfie camera, the battery better have the beans to take it all in and still be standing. With 4000mAH, this phone proudly can handle the day’s drain easily.
- Vibrate/Silent physical slider: This particular feature I really like. I know it’s easy to turn a phone silent from the on-screen options but to simply have a slider which can be toggled physically feels that much more convenient and assuring. It harkens back to the early naughties when phones had such features but only the iPhone had retained it insofar. Here, the slider adds the extra ‘silent’ feature to the commoner ‘sound’ and ‘vibrate’ options.
Now, to cut straight to the meaty bits, nearly a fortnight on, these are the features of the phone that I think is truly fabulous:
- Gestures: Intuitive, efficient, and allow you to access a host of apps right from the standby screen without even needing to unlock the device. Drawing an ‘O’ fires up the camera, ‘V’ for torch and so on. Of course, you can customise them endlessly.
- Bezel-less Screen: The most imposing thing every time I pick this phone up is its magnificent (practically) bezel-free screen. It’s almost edgeless and the curved edges only enhance that feeling of infinity. I knew a time would come when we ridicule ourselves for even having nurtured the notions of notches and keyholes but I never knew it would come so soon.
- Music equaliser/Dolby/Intuitive earphone modes: When it comes to sound, this baby rocks. With in-built Dolby Atmos, noise cancellation support and customisations in the form of a (very functional) equaliser, the sound truly comes to life, especially when streaming over Bluetooth speakers or headphones. Only thing I didn’t enjoy about the no-board dual stereo speakers is their orientation, which seems to be at 90 degrees to each other (one in phone speaker, one at base) which makes the sound seem oddly distant on one side when you the phone placed in front of you.
- Fnatic gaming mode: Again, rather gamer-specific but if PUBG popularity (or notoriety) is anything to go by, this could be quite a deal-clincher. Basically, it turns off all notifications as also the second SIM and focuses all its processing power to fuel the (gaming) app at hand. This is in addition to the gaming mode which has been carried forth from previous phones (but with further enhancements).
- Bluetooth 5.0: If there was an award for least patchy Bluetooth connectivity with minimal or no drops or quality loss, I’d give it to this device. I know it is the same proprietary tech across brands and yet it performs better here than at least two of my other devices from different brands of the same generation.
- Camera filters and retouches: The post-production unit has clearly put in the hours here, coming up with some rather unique filters and effects which were quirky, even somewhat gimmicky but entirely enjoyable.
- Screen brightness: Definitely among the brightest AMOLED screens out there. Netflix and the rest should thank them for it.
- Nighttime/Reading mode: Not the most novel of features but good to have and their ease of access makes them more utile.
So what keeps the OnePlus 7 Pro from being awarded the ‘Most Obvious Choice’ for anyone looking to buy a phone at the moment? In one word, the camera. The camera just doesn’t feel intuitive enough and the pictures seem somewhat drained of colour. The Portrait mode manages to define the subject but doesn’t create the most ideal Bokeh effect. The Nightscape, at best, can be described as ‘functional, minus the fun bit’. This was the most lacklustre part of device, somewhat paling (pun intended) in front of the competition.
Then the on-screen fingerprint reader definitely needs work; it has a high enough failure rate at recognising my thumb to warrant a thumbs down. The face lock is much better by far.
And then is the issue of the weight. For all its features, and in spite of the slim frame, it is a big bulky device. I don’t mind toting it around all day but definitely not the one I will vouch for when heading out for a run and need my device on me.
Finally, to sum it up, is it all worth it? Absolutely. This device is by far one serious top contender in the value for money category. For all it packs in and how it delivers, the OnePlus 7 Pro has premium written all over it. And even though it is the brand’s priciest phone yet, it still sits well below some much pricier options. You won’t feel like a compromise getting this, no matter what device you come from, consider it an upgrade.
To conclude, and going back somewhat on what I stated earlier, I think a comparative roundup would be necessary here now. Well think of it this way, the way Pixel series user interface (UI) shattered the iPhone market back when it released, with its tactile ease of use and by generally unveiling new vistas with their open-door policy, the OnePlus 7 Pro pretty much deals the same measured blow to the Pixel 3 UI. If…no, once, they upgrade that camera (a simple software upgrade should do the trick), this will be definitely the phone to blindly swear by. Till, of course, they announce the OnePlus 8.
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