OnePlus 7 Pro Review – This is the Best Smartphone so far in 2019

OnePlus 7 Pro Review – This is the Best Smartphone so far in 2019

Performance

OnePlus prides itself on the performance of its smartphones. “The Speed You Need” and “Unlock The Speed” are their mottos for the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T respectively, after all. While we can argue endlessly about where OnePlus compromised on their smartphones, the performance is one area we can all agree they’ve “Never Settled” on. That holds true once again for the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Let me briefly summarize the relevant specifications to show you what I mean:

  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform
    • CPU: 1 x 2.84GHz Kryo 485 + 3 x 2.42GHz Kryo 485 + 4 x 1.8GHz Kryo 385
    • GPU: Adreno 640
  • RAM: Up to 12GB LPDDR4X memory
  • Storage: Up to 256GB UFS 3.0 storage

Although not strictly related to performance, OnePlus has still made improvements in the following areas compared to the OnePlus 6T:

  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Charging: 30W fast charging (Warp Charge 30 – 5V 6A)
  • Ports: USB 3.1 Type-C

So, when compared to the OnePlus 6T, the OnePlus 7 Pro offers a better CPU, better GPU, more RAM, faster storage, higher battery capacity, faster charging, and faster file transfers. The OnePlus 6T was already a performance beast, but the OnePlus 7 Pro is a monster…at least on paper.

Earlier on, I talked about how smooth the OnePlus 7 Pro is in general use. It’s true that I had no issues with scrolling fluidity, app launches, memory management, or gameplay performance. The combination of the 90Hz refresh rate, fast UFS 3.0 storage, 12GB RAM, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 is what allows the OnePlus 7 Pro to offer best-in-class real-world performance across the board.

However, I decided to run the gamut of performance benchmarks anyway to show what the OnePlus 7 Pro is theoretically capable of and how it compares to your existing smartphone. In a separate review, Adam Conway will be posting his thoughts on the real-world gaming performance by testing the top Android games on Google Play and the most performance-intensive console emulators.

The following benchmarks were performed with “Fnatic mode” enabled. Fnatic mode is the OnePlus 7 Pro’s new gaming mode which shifts CPU, GPU, memory, and network resources to favor the current app. We’ve previously covered benchmark cheating in OnePlus devices, but the company has stepped up their game and now offers performance-enhancing tools packaged as general gaming tools. Since OnePlus expects gamers to play with Fnatic enabled, we also chose to benchmark the OnePlus 7 Pro with it on.

Overall Performance

Let’s start off with AnTuTu. This is one of the most popular benchmarks for Android devices, and for good reason. It’s a holistic benchmark that tests the CPU, GPU, and memory performance using both abstract tests and user experience simulations. The final score is weighted according to the company’s considerations. Given how extensive their database is, it’s a good idea to test AnTuTu to compare performance across devices.

I did 4 tests in AnTuTu to make sure the results are consistent. The average score, 371661, is noticeably higher than the average result we got from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 reference design (352,407). Much of the improvement here can be attributed to the fact that the OnePlus 7 Pro has UFS 3.0 storage. We’ll talk more about storage performance in another section, though.

GPU Performance: 90Hz + QHD vs. 60Hz + FHD

In display settings, OxygenOS warns that changing the display resolution to QHD+ or will reduce battery life, but what about performance? To test the potential performance impact, we performed two sets of tests in GFXbench: one set with the OnePlus 7 Pro at QHD+ resolution and another set with the device at FHD+ resolution. GFXbench is a handy benchmark that simulates real-world video game graphics rendering using newer APIs like Vulkan, though some tests still use OpenGL ES 3.1. GFXbench renders a lot of high-quality textures and effects during its simulations, so it’s a good way to consistently test the GPU performance.

Above: GFXbench performance at 90Hz + QHD. Below: GFXbench performance at 60Hz + FHD.

Predictably, there’s no change in scores for the offscreen tests. After all, there’s nothing being rendered on the screen so all the load is happening on the GPU without taking the display into consideration. On the other hand, there’s a pretty substantial difference in performance for the on-screen tests. The phone has to work much harder to handle the on-screen rendering tests when the benchmark scenes render at QHD+ resolution rather than FHD+ resolution. Specifically, the GPU has to render about 80% more pixels on the screen. This is totally unsurprising, but something you should keep in mind when you’re playing a game. Few games on the Play Store support anything higher than FHD, so you’re unlikely to run into any issues there anyway.

The OnePlus 7 Pro and Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 reference device performed nearly identically in the few GFXbench tests that I managed to run on both devices. I only played around with the Qualcomm reference device for 2 hours back in January, so sadly I couldn’t perform the entire suite of GFXbench tests, nor could I do any tests to examine thermal throttling. OnePlus boasts a “10-layer liquid cooling system” on the OnePlus 7 Pro, so it’s possible it outperforms the reference device in sustained performance but not peak performance.

CPU Performance

Geekbench is one of our favorite benchmarking tools because of how detailed its score breakdown is. The test employs several CPU-heavy computational workloads including compression, rendering, search, HDR/blurring, physics and ray tracing, and more.

In both the single-core and multi-core results, the OnePlus 7 Pro slightly underperforms the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 reference device. Keep in mind that the reference device was running a slightly older version of Geekbench and I don’t have the detailed breakdown of its scores. Regardless, the OnePlus 7 Pro outperforms both the Google Pixel 3 XL with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (expected) and the Honor Magic 2 with the HiSilicon Kirin 980. Expect the OnePlus 7 Pro to outperform other Kirin 980 devices in CPU performance, too.

Storage Performance

Universal Flash Storage (UFS) is a standard designed with the power constraints of mobile devices in mind. UFS 3.0 was standardized in January 2018, and flash storage chips based on the new standard should theoretically have over double the sequential read and write speeds of UFS 2.1 chips. We tested just how fast the new UFS 3.0 storage chip is in the OnePlus 7 Pro by running AndroBench.

AndroBench is a fairly old benchmark with an equally dated design, but it’s still the go-to for storage testing. It tests the speed of sequential read/write, random read/write, and SQLite insert, update, and delete operations. A sequential read/write is an operation that involves reading/writing storage blocks that are contiguous, while a random read/write involves reading/writing randomly scattered storage blocks. SQLite describes a type of database management system; developers dealing with large databases often have to make SQLite calls to retrieve or modify the database.

We can get a good idea of the storage performance of an Android device with AndroBench. By default, the benchmark writes a 64MP file with either 32MB or 4KB buffer sizes for sequential and random read/writes respectively, and an SQLite transaction size of 1. The speed of the former operation is measured in MB/s while the latter in Queries Per Second (QPS).

As expected, the OnePlus 7 Pro blazes past smartphones with UFS 2.1 in AndroBench. When compared to the Samsung Galaxy S10+, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s sequential read is about 460 MB/s faster. That’s a 52.13% increase – nearly half the theoretical increase, but still a very noticeable one. The sequential write, random read, and random write speeds don’t see substantial improvements, but the SQLite database queries nearly double in speed. These numbers on their own don’t mean much, but the important thing to take away is that the OnePlus 7 Pro is theoretically faster than comparable smartphones when it comes to operations like app launch times, game resource fetching, document loading, image saving, etc.

System Performance

In the last of our synthetic benchmark suite that tests the theoretical maximum performance, we turn to PCMark. PCMark is an excellent indicator of system performance because it tests performance in areas like web browsing, photo editing, video editing, and data editing. A higher score in PCMark is a good sign that the real-world performance in common user operations is excellent.

In this regard, the OnePlus 7 Pro performs outstandingly. The device averages a score in PCMark of 9591, about 700 points higher than the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 reference design. The Qualcomm reference device runs near-stock AOSP (technically AOSP + CAF framework changes), however, so it actually underperformed even the Google Pixel 3 XL with Snapdragon 845 by about 200 points. That’s more a testament to the Pixel 3 XL, though. Even so, the OnePlus 7 Pro outshines them all – even the Honor Magic 2 with its Kirin 980 – in PCMark. The OnePlus 7 Pro is a solid performer in real-world tasks.

Thermal Throttling

Companies love to tout the performance of their devices, but when they do so they’re usually only talking about the peak performance. The sustained performance of a device is incredibly important, too. Rarely do we perform resource-intensive tasks in short bursts, especially for gaming. Thus, I decided to test the OnePlus 7 Pro’s sustained performance.

Let’s start with the sustained CPU performance test. I used a fairly obscure app called “CPU Throttling Test” to test the performance. This app repeats a simple multithreaded test in C for as short as 15 minutes. The app charts the score over time so you can see when the phone starts throttling.

On the left, I ran the throttling test for 15 minutes while the phone was unplugged. On the right, I ran the same test for the same length of time while the phone was charging with the Warp Charge 30 charger. When the phone isn’t charging, there’s hardly any thermal throttling for the first 15 minutes of the test. However, stressing the CPU while the phone is charging can result in pretty substantial thermal throttling as the phone has to balance performance with keeping the battery temperature under control.

I was sadly unable to properly test the sustained GPU performance using GFXbench. The reason is that the new “device temperature warning” in OxygenOS kicks in about halfway through the test, warning me that it’s going to start throttling. That’s not a problem because it’s exactly what I want to measure, however, when the notification shows up it also automatically cancels the GFXbench test because that’s just what GFXbench does. Our review of the OnePlus 7 Pro’s gaming performance will show what the device is capable of under sustained gameplay of graphically intensive games, however.

If the phone overheats, it’ll warn you that it’ll shut down some things to bring the temperature under control.

Memory Management

Although I don’t have any benchmark data to share on the memory management, I can assure you that you’ll have no problems with apps being killed in the background or pictures not being saved. OnePlus has always packed a decent amount of RAM on their smartphones, and the OnePlus 7 Pro is no different. The absurd 12GB RAM is probably overkill for most people, though. I don’t think my experience with the device would significantly change if I switched to the 6GB RAM model, though perhaps I wouldn’t be able to switch between games and Chrome tabs as easily. The fact that almost every app is kept in memory on the 12GB RAM model does help with UI fluidity, as I can seamlessly switch between apps using gestures without waiting on anything to reload.


Camera Impressions

While other brands substantially improved the camera quality in their smartphones with each generation, OnePlus has traditionally lagged behind in upgrading the cameras of their smartphones. Both the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T have a dual rear camera setup consisting of a 16MP, f/1.7, 1.22μm sensor and a 20MP, f/1.7, 1.0μm sensor for depth detection in portrait mode. The OnePlus 5T before that used its 20MP secondary camera to take better pictures in low-light conditions, but that didn’t turn out so well. Then there’s the OnePlus 5, which before the new OnePlus 7 Pro was the last smartphone from OnePlus to have a telephoto lens. Suffice it to say, OnePlus hasn’t been on par with other brands when it comes to photography, especially when we’re talking about the likes of Google and Huawei.

This year, OnePlus has made a huge leap in the camera hardware they’re offering in their devices. The OnePlus 7 Pro has a triple rear camera setup consisting of a primary 48MP, f/1.6, 1.6μm sensor, a secondary 8MP, f/2.4, 1.0μm telephoto sensor for 3x optical zoom, and a tertiary 16MP, f/2.2 117° wide-angle lens. OnePlus has finally brought zoom back to its smartphones, and they’ve also gotten on board with the awesome wide-angle lens trend. There’s nothing really special about this setup – the cheaper Xiaomi Mi 9 also has the same 48MP Sony IMX 586 sensor, a telephoto lens, and a wide-angle lens – but there are plenty of smartphones out there without a telephoto and wide-angle lens. Thus, I’m glad that OnePlus is finally competitive once again with other brands in terms of camera hardware.

Like the Honor View20 and Xiaomi Mi 9, the main camera on the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t output photos at 48MP resolution by default. Rather, OnePlus has employed 4-in-1 pixel binning to combine 4 pixels into 1, allowing for better details at the 12MP resolution output. (The pro mode in the camera app lets you save 48MP snapshots, however, the images are unprocessed. There’s notably no noise reduction, and the saturation and exposure are off.) Plus, the main camera has an Optical Image Stabilizer, and OnePlus has also added EIS. With an OIS, you have a better shot at taking low-light pictures as the stabilizer compensates for your handshakes during longer exposure times. With EIS, shakiness in videos is reduced, allowing you to capture smoother videos when moving about. The telephoto lens also has an OIS, but the ultra wide-angle does not have a stabilizer.

The OnePlus 7 Pro certainly has some impressive camera hardware, but OnePlus still needs to nail the image processing in order for the device to actually produce impressive-looking photos. The 7 Pro’s new “UltraShot” technology and their 3 auto-focus modes (PDAF, CDAF, and LAF) is how the fruits of this effort. Still, OnePlus realizes they aren’t the very best at image processing or computational photography, so they want us to temper our expectations about the camera quality of the new OnePlus 7 Pro.

That being said, the results are certainly decent. Both myself and Adam have taken a few photos with the device, but we’re leaving the full camera quality review to Idrees Patel as he’s done a great job at reviewing the camera of the OnePlus 5T, OnePlus 6T, Huawei P20 Pro, and Huawei Mate 20 Pro for us. I want to leave you with a gallery and a couple of videos I’ve taken with the OnePlus 7 Pro so you can get a good idea of what it’s like shooting pictures with the phone.

OnePlus 7 Pro Rear Camera Samples

OnePlus 7 Pro Front Camera Samples

Camera Quality

My overall impressions of the camera quality can be summed up as decent, but not excellent – once again. Google and Huawei have risen the bar so high that anything less than utter perfection is seen as mediocre nowadays. Given that most of us view images on tiny screens these days, what matters most is our first impression at a glance. This is how a casual observer will judge the camera quality, which is also why I take this approach.

When viewing the photos from the OnePlus 7 Pro, the first thing that I notice is that the images are color accurate. The images that I see match my recent memory, which may not be appealing to some users as they’re not as vibrant or saturated as photos from Huawei phones. I haven’t extensively tested the camera at night, but color accuracy seems to not be as great in low-light conditions. Nightscape seems to have improved since the OnePlus 6T, though. The next thing that we noticed is the images don’t seem to have as many details as should be present given that OnePlus is using pixel binning; my Huawei Mate 20 X and Google Pixel 3 XL still seem superior in retaining detail.

Regarding the wide-angle, there seems to be an exposure issue as I’m noticing darker, underexposed photos. On the other hand, I don’t have any major qualms with the quality of the output from the telephoto lens. The scene detection is also not that great – I had trouble getting it to detect food on a plate, for example.

For the front-facing 16MP f/2.0, 1.0μm camera, selfies tend to get blown out when there’s any sunlight. The portrait mode blurring doesn’t do a great job at capturing depth now that the dedicated depth detection sensor is missing. The addition of EIS helps stabilize videos when walking around, which is nice.

The video recording modes are unchanged from the OnePlus 6T. You still have access to video recording at up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. Be warned that recording at this quality will result in huge video files. You can also record at 720p resolution at 480fps for a slow motion effect. Note that this is natively supported by the sensor, there’s no funky frame interpolation going on here like on Huawei or Xiaomi devices. Sadly, the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t let you record videos using the wide-angle lens.


The OnePlus 7 Pro brings marginal improvements in image quality over the OnePlus 6T, but the added flexibility of the telephoto and ultra wide-angle lens is greatly appreciated. If you’re looking for a more detailed camera review, stay tuned for Idrees’ review. He’ll go into far more detail than I can.

Camera App

With the new camera app, OnePlus has solved one of my biggest pet peeves: the fact that you couldn’t swipe between camera modes. Otherwise, the look and feel of the camera app is unchanged from OxygenOS on the OnePlus 6T. The zoom slider is accessed by tapping and dragging on the 1x icon or the trees that are next to it, additional camera modes can be accessed by swiping up from the name of the current mode, and the automatic white balance and focus can be locked by tapping the lock icon after focusing on any particular area.


OxygenOS 9.5 for the OnePlus 7 Pro

Gestures

The full-screen gesture navigation in OxygenOS is one of its best features. Now with the 90Hz refresh rate on the OnePlus 7 Pro, you can really enjoy the fluid animations when navigation home or switching between apps. For those who haven’t used OxygenOS before, here’s a quick summary of how the gestures work:

  • Swipe up from the bottom: Go home
  • Swipe up from the bottom left or right: Go back
  • Swipe up from the bottom and hold: Show recent apps list
  • Swipe up from the bottom, move up, and to the right: Quickly switch to the previous app
  • Press and hold the power button: Launch the Assistant

The following screen recording demonstrates these gestures, but do note that the experience feels a lot smoother than what you’re seeing here. YouTube can’t show you what the OxygenOS gestures look like at 90Hz.

These gestures are great, but not perfect. You still can’t use screen pinning when gestures are enabled. I still frequently swipe to go back when I meant to go home, or vice versa. I still frequently miss the very bottom because the phone is tall, the bottom bezel is small, and the AMOLED dark themes in many of my apps makes it hard to see where to start the gesture.

Screen Recorder

Stock Android has an API for apps to record the screen, but they can’t record the internal audio at the same time. (At least, not until Android Q.) Like Huawei and Samsung, OnePlus now offers a screen recorder that can record the internal audio from other apps. You access this screen recorder from its Quick Settings tile. Once launched, you’ll see a floating overlay with a start/stop and settings button that you can tap and drag around the screen. (This overlay doesn’t show up in screenshots, which is why I don’t have any to share.) In the settings, you can change the screen recording resolution, the bit rate, the audio source, whether to lock the orientation, whether to show touch inputs, and whether to automatically pause the recording when the screen is turned off.

Screen recorder on the OnePlus 7 Pro

Here’s a short gameplay video of Fortnite Mobile on the OnePlus 7 Pro, recorded using the new screen recorder.

Digital Wellbeing

New to OxygenOS is the integration of Digital Wellbeing into settings. Digital Wellbeing is Google’s initiative to reduce smartphone addiction by letting users monitor their smartphone usage and control how long they can use certain apps. Digital Wellbeing has a dashboard showing how long you’ve used your phone today and how long each app has contributed to the screen usage. It also shows you how often you receive notifications from certain apps as well as how often you open each app. Lastly, you can set a “wind down” timer which can automatically enable Do Not Disturb and grayscale mode so you’ll put down your phone before turning to bed.

Digital Wellbeing was initially a Pixel-exclusive feature when it debuted on Android Pie, but it eventually made its way over to Android One smartphones. Then at MWC this year, Google announced the feature will be coming to additional smartphones. We’ve already seen phones like the Razer Phone 2 and Motorola Moto G7 get the feature, but now the OnePlus 7 Pro joins the party. We don’t know if other OnePlus phones will get Digital Wellbeing in a future OxygenOS update, though.

Fnatic/Gaming Mode

OnePlus is no stranger to gaming partnerships. The company already sponsors Michael Grzesiek, better known as Shroud on Twitch. Now, they’re slapping the Fnatic brand onto their new gaming mode. Fnatic may not be a household name in the U.S., but anyone following Counter-Strike will have heard of the team.

In any case, the name doesn’t matter – it’s just branding for the new advanced gaming mode in OxygenOS. All it does is block more distractions and prioritize the CPU, GPU, memory, and network usage for the currently running app or game. You can also control the behavior of notifications, brightness, and incoming calls to reduce annoyances during gameplay. Lastly, you can enable “enhancements” to the “gaming display” and haptic feedback, which improves what you can see and what you can feel in certain games.

Fnatic mode on the OnePlus 7 Pro

Is it a gimmick? It sure sounds like one. The options to control notifications, brightness adjustment, and incoming calls will surely be useful, but I’m skeptical about how helpful “gaming display enhancement” and “Fnatic mode” really are. We’ll dig a little deeper for our gaming reviews.

Zen Mode

Ever want to go cold turkey for a few minutes? Zen Mode is here for you. It almost completely shuts you out of your phone for 20 minutes so you can go enjoy life or study in peace. By default, Zen Mode also notifies you when you’ve used your phone for more than 2 hours. When Zen Mode is activated, you can still make and receive phone calls.

Quick reply in landscape

If you receive a message from either Instagram and WhatsApp while using the OnePlus 7 Pro in landscape, you have the option to launch the app in split-screen mode automatically by tapping “reply.” This also conveniently launches Gboard in its floating mode. I’m quite surprised by how useful this feature is, but I wish it worked with apps like Telegram, Hangouts, or Discord.

Other Features

I’m planning on writing up a full review of OxygenOS 9, but to round out the software portion of my OnePlus 7 Pro review I’m going to summarize some of the other interesting features.

First, I noticed that Gboard is slightly raised from the bottom of the display. There’s a black bar that separates the navigation bar (or bottom bezel if gestures are enabled) and the bottom row in Gboard. This makes it easier to reach the keyboard because the phone is pretty tall.

A black bar separates the navigation bar/bottom bezel from the keyboard. This helps with reaching the keyboard keys.

Next, OxygenOS 9 has various permission warnings when apps are using the camera or GPS. This is a platform feature in the upcoming Android Q release, but OxygenOS users can already enjoy the feature months before the Pixels.

Permission warnings

Like every OnePlus phone since the OnePlus 2, the OnePlus 7 Pro has an alert slider. The top position silences the phone, the middle position sets it to vibrate, and the bottom position enables the ringer. Limited customization exists for the alert slider. In the alert position, you can toggle whether media volume is also muted. Lastly, in the ringer position, you can toggle whether calls will also vibrate the phone. We still wish OnePlus would allow us to customize the alert slider. The company addressed feedback on the alert slider once before when they changed the middle position from “Do Not Disturb” to “vibrate,” but alert slider customization has never appeared in an OxygenOS stable or beta release.

Alert slider settings

The ability to control background data usage is limited in stock Android, but OxygenOS lets you set whether an app can use Wi-Fi, data, or nothing at all on a per-app basis.

Data usage control

Lastly, there are loads of navigation and gesture customization options. OnePlus offers the most customization of the navigation bar apart from Samsung. While I don’t personally use any of the off-screen gestures, I recognize the feature’s popularity among custom kernels on XDA so I’m sure many people will find them useful.

Navigation and gesture customization

As you may have noticed from all my screenshots, OxygenOS has a built-in dark theme. That’s no longer as exciting as it used to be since it’s now a platform feature in Android Q. However, OxygenOS also lets you customize the accent color throughout the system. You can thus change the look of OxygenOS to your liking.

OxygenOS is definitely one of my favorite versions of Android. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Samsung’s One UI or Huawei’s EMUI, but it’s far less cluttered and complicated. It’s visually appealing and has most of the features to satisfy the average power user. My one gripe is the unfixed bug that causes notifications from some apps like Discord and Slack to be delayed. I’ve spoken with OnePlus about this and they’ve confirmed they’re looking into it.

Continue to Page 3 – Battery Life & Charging, Audio & Vibration, Connectivity, and Conclusion

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