OnePlus 7T Pro Review – More of the same, but hampered by software

OnePlus 7T Pro Review – More of the same, but hampered by software

Earlier this year, our Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal crowned the OnePlus 7 Pro as his favorite smartphone of 2019 shortly after its launch, a high bar to reach for any smartphone manufacturer. A combination of incredible specs, a fantastic display, and a reasonable price meant that the OnePlus 7 Pro caught the eye of many. An argument can be made that buying a smartphone without a headphone jack, wireless charging, IP rating, notification light or a world-class camera for the starting cost of $669 is the very definition of “settling”, but I disagree. Lacking in some features does not take away from the other features that OnePlus has introduced over its last few smartphone iterations. Now we’re on to the OnePlus 7T Pro – and I hate to break it to you, but it’s pretty much just more of the same.

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The OnePlus 7T Pro was likely never going to be all that much greater than its predecessor. Where can OnePlus even go from there? The advent of the OnePlus 3T saw the introduction of the Snapdragon 821, the OnePlus 5T saw a much bigger screen, and the OnePlus 6T saw a smaller notch and a bigger battery. I guess the OnePlus 7T Pro could have gone on to add a much-requested feature such as wireless charging, but it doesn’t appear that’s happening any time soon. Assuming OnePlus didn’t go for wireless charging, the only obvious spec upgrade they can make is the inclusion of a Snapdragon 855 Plus over the regular 855 – which they did. The OnePlus 7T Pro also has the added benefit of sporting the software improvements that the company made to the OnePlus 7 Pro over the past 6 or so months. How does it stack up?

About this review: I received the Haze Blue OnePlus 7T Pro (8GB RAM + 256GB storage) from OnePlus on September 30th, 2019. I have used the device as my daily driver since receiving it. OnePlus is a sponsor of XDA, but they did not have any input on the content of this review.

OnePlus 7T Pro

OnePlus 7T Pro: Device Specifications

Category Specification Category Specification
Dimensions & Weight
  • 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8 mm
  • 206 g
RAM 8GB/12GB (only in McLaren edition) LPDDR4X
Design & Colors
  • All-Glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5)
  • Haze Blue
Storage 128GB/256GB UFS 3.0 Dual-Lane
Display
  • 6.67-inch AMOLED display
  • 3120×1440 (19.5:9)
  • 90 Hz Refresh Rate
  • Supports sRGB and DCI-P3.
Battery 4,025 mAh (non-removable)
Camera (Image)
  • Front: Sony IMX 471 (16MP, f/2.0, 1.0μm) with EIS
  • Rear (Primary): Sony IMX 586 (48MP, f/1.6, 1.6μm) with OIS and EIS
  • Rear (Telephoto for 3x optical zoom): 8MP, f/2.4, 1.0μm, with OIS
  • Rear (Wide-angle): 16MP, f/2.2, 117°
  • Dual LED Flash
  • PDAF, LAF, CAF
Charging Warp Charge 30T (5V 6A)
Camera (Video) Ports
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • Dual nano-SIM slot
Software Android 10-based OxygenOS 10 Audio
  • Dual stereo speakers
  • Audio tuned by Dolby Atmos
System-on-chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus CPU:

  • 1x 2.84GHz Kryo 485 +
  • 3x 2.42GHz Kryo 485 +
  • 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 385

Adreno 640 GPU

Multimedia Codec Support
  • Audio Playback: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WAV, FLAC, APE, OGG, MID, M4A, IMY, AC3, EAC3, EAC3-JOC, AC4
  • Audio Recording: WAV, AAC, AMR
  • Video Playback: MKV, MOV, MP4, H.265(HEVC), AVI, WMV, TS, 3GP, FLV, WEBM
  • Video Recording: MP4
  • Image Viewing: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
  • Image Output: JPEG, PNG

OnePlus 7T Pro connectivity and LTE band information

Category Specification
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz/5GHz

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0, with Qualcomm aptX, aptX HD support, LDAC and AAC

NFC: Yes

Positioning: GPS(L1+L5 dual-band), GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo(E1+E5a dual-band), SBAS, A-GPS

LTE Features Supports 5xCA & 4x4MIMO.

Supports up to DL CAT18 (1.2Gbps)/UL CAT13 (150Mbps) depending on carrier.

LTE Bands – CN/IN/EN

FDD LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/ 26/28/29/32/66

TDD-LTE: B34/38/39/40/41

TDS: B34/39

UMTS: B1/2/4/5/8/9/19

CDMA: BC0/BC1

GSM: B2/3/5/8


Hardware and build quality

I’m absolutely in love with the Haze Blue OnePlus 7T Pro. It uses the same frosted color glass as the OnePlus 7T, with a very light blue at the bottom which darkens as it climbs up the multi-layered glass. It’s not too much of a fingerprint magnet either, so don’t worry about going caseless for that reason. It’s quite slippery though, so I’d use a case to help with gripping it. On the back is a triple camera setup along with an autofocus system to the left.

The frame on the sides of the device is made up of aluminum, with a SIM tray, speaker grille and USB Type-C port at the bottom and a microphone and a pop-up camera at the top – more on that later. There’s no headphone jack either, and there’s no sign of it coming back. On the right side of the device are both the power button and the alert slider, while on the left side are the volume keys.

As we’ve already mentioned, the OnePlus 7T Pro is basically the same as the OnePlus 7 Pro, and on the hardware and the build quality side that still holds true. This device is such a carbon copy of the last one that I can actually use the cases from my OnePlus 7 Pro on it and they fit perfectly, though I don’t recommend doing that. If you do, you’ll be covering up the aforementioned autofocus module that helps to aid the back camera in applying depth effects.

Left: OnePlus 7 Pro // Right: OnePlus 7T Pro

The front of the device is made up of a 6.67-inch curved QHD+ 90Hz display, which is absolutely beautiful to look at. As far as I can tell, both this and the OnePlus 7 Pro’s screen are exactly the same in size and shape. I’m not a huge fan of the curved edges, mainly because of the glare when using the device in direct sunlight, but I can live with it. I’m not as vehemently against it as some others may be. Other than that, the display is my favorite part about the OnePlus 7 Pro, and they’ve nailed it again here. There are pretty much no bezels on each side, with a small chin at the bottom which actually helps make it easier to use and prevents accidental touches. The curves on each side are easy to accidentally touch, though.

The phone itself is both thin and tall, so it’s hard to use in one hand. I recommend using an app like Reachability Cursor if you intend to use it in one hand a lot. Otherwise, it’s fine. In terms of weight, the phone is definitely above average coming in at 206 grams. Worth noting, yet again there’s no headphone jack, and yet again, there’s no bundled adapter either.

Presentation-wise, OnePlus has entirely changed it up. Gone are the small, white boxes of the OnePlus 6T and before. Now they’re all red with black writing on the front. They’re also extremely tall. I’m personally not a fan, but it’s a box and you don’t need to keep looking at it as much as the phone.

90Hz QHD+ returns

As I’ve already mentioned, the display on the OnePlus 7T Pro is, just like its predecessor, a bezel-less, 1440p 90Hz panel. It’s an absolute joy to use and to play games or watch movies on. Sadly not every game supports the higher refresh rate of the OnePlus 7T Pro, but as higher refresh rate displays become more commonplace, games will be updated to support them. On PC, higher refresh rate monitors can give an advantage to players typically in first-person shooters like Counter-Strike or Overwatch. Such an inherent advantage isn’t really present on mobile, and instead, it’s more fluid and nicer to use every day. 90Hz refresh rates are here to stay, as even the OnePlus 7T now has a high refresh rate panel.

Sadly, the experience that a high refresh rate display brings isn’t easy to show to people who don’t actually have a high refresh rate display device – but if you have one, you don’t really need to be shown why it’s better. Menus are smoother, scrolling is more fluid, and it’s just an all-around better experience. The top bezel houses a front-facing speaker (and the earpiece) though it’s noticeably poorer quality than the bottom-firing speaker.

You can clearly see that the display on the right is the 90Hz one, as the display updates more frequently than the one on the left.

However, the curved display detracts from the overall experience. While the curved display helps to create that immersion and a feel of a truly bezel-less experience, it is also annoying to use. When used in direct sunlight, a glare appears along both of the curved edges as the light hits them, which makes content harder to see on the edges. It’s a small thing, but I would personally prefer a flat display to one with curved edges.

Finally, if you’re interested, you can customize both the display resolution and the refresh rate. You can drop the display down to 1080p if you’d like, and you can also drop the refresh rate down to 60Hz. The stock 90Hz mode drops down to 60Hz in unsupported apps, though you can force it to always be 90Hz with a simple ADB command.

Pop-up camera

Just like on the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 16MP selfie camera is housed within the pop-up, enabling a totally bezel-less experience. It doesn’t appear to have undergone any changes at all and is just as quick as before. The motor still makes a noise when it’s being extended – that might be a problem for some if you use your selfie camera a lot in quiet environments. It’s great for face unlock as well, and its speed isn’t an issue. As far as I’m aware, it’s one of the fastest pop-up cameras out there. It’s faster than the Huawei P Smart Z, the OPPO Reno 10x Zoom, and the Redmi K20/Mi 9T for sure. You can check out a video of it in action below. There are no fancy colors on the camera itself like on the Redmi K20/Mi 9T, though there’s a small lighting animation temporarily shown underneath the camera when its deployed. This animation is shown in every app that accesses the front camera.

As for durability, last time around Mishaal tested the pop-up camera on the OnePlus 7 Pro to open and close for 10,000 times without any problems at all. OnePlus published several videos showing the pop-up camera being used in extreme conditions, including a video of it deploying and retracting for 12 hours straight. I’m not too worried about it breaking as a result. You also get a system warning if you try to deploy and retract it too many times in a row. OnePlus rates their pop-up cameras for 300,000 cycles – or just over 200 times a day for 2 years. Dropping the phone will also activate the drop-protection if the camera is extended, and the device will quickly retract it.

Accessories – Cases and OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2

The OnePlus 7T Pro that we received for review came with 4 cases – one see-through gel case which comes in the box, along with three cases that you can order separately on the OnePlus’ store. The first is the Karbon Bumper case, the second is the Karbon Protective case, and the third is the Sandstone Bumper case. All of the cases available for purchase on OnePlus’ store are hard shells and don’t feel like they offer the most protection. They’re sturdy and make it easier to hold your phone without slipping. If protection is your prerogative, though, you’d be better off buying an aftermarket case from the likes of Spigen or Rhinoshield instead. Note that both of the Karbon cases are basically the same, and the difference is that the Bumper case has the top and bottom exposed, while the Protective case offers full coverage.

OnePlus also launched the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 in Olive Green, which is the exact same as the black ones which launched earlier this year. They sound just as good, connect via aptX HD just the same and charge just as quick. They’re both the same price at $99 so you can choose which ones you prefer at no extra cost.


OxygenOS 10 for the OnePlus 7T Pro – Based on Android 10

OxygenOS 10 is based on Android 10, which just recently made its way to the OnePlus 7 series launched earlier this year. OxygenOS 10 not only brings in all of the Android 10 goodies you expect, like revamped permissions, but it also has several OxygenOS-specific changes as well. OnePlus normally does a great job on software, but they’ve dropped the ball on this one. Before I get into all of my problems with this iteration of OxygenOS, I want to make it known that I did factory reset my device only to have the same problems recur.

You can see the OxygenOS 10 changelog below for an idea of what to expect.

  • System
    • Upgraded to Android 10
    • Brand new UI design
    • Enhanced location permissions for privacy
    • New customization feature in Settings allowing you to choose icon shapes to be displayed in the Quick Settings
  • Full-Screen Gestures
    • Added inward swipes from the left or right edge of the screen to go back
    • Added a bottom navigation bar to allow switching left or right for recent apps
  • Game Space
    • New Game Space feature now joins all your favorite games in one place for easier access and better gaming experience
  • Smart display
    • Intelligent info based on specific times, locations and events for Ambient Display (Settings – Display – Ambient Display – Smart Display)
  • Message
    • Now possible to block spam by keywords for Message (Messages – Spam – Settings – Blocking settings)

Security – face unlock and fingerprint sensor

OnePlus has a range of features for securing and unlocking your device – all under the one blanket term uninspiringly named “Screen Unlock.” Screen Unlock consists of the in-display fingerprint sensor and face unlock using the pop-up camera. We talked about the pop-up camera earlier and its speed is absolutely not an issue for unlocking your device. It can actually be more convenient than the in-display fingerprint sensor, as the device is so large it can be difficult to position your thumb correctly and quickly. Using face unlock on the OnePlus 7T Pro does compromise on security, but for most people, the convenience is worth it. How the current technology works involves comparing the camera viewfinder to a photograph that the phone took of your face, so it’s technically possible to trick it with a photograph of yourself, rather than your actual face. This is because there is no dedicated facial recognition hardware built into the device like other smartphones from the likes of Xiaomi and Huawei.

As for the in-display fingerprint sensor, it’s as fast as ever. Interestingly, the optical fingerprint sensor now lights up white, not green, when you go to scan your finger to unlock your phone. I don’t know if this means that OnePlus has changed the sensor, but it’s just something interesting that I noticed. There’s still a limit of 5 fingers, and as far as I can tell, OnePlus’ AI for updating and recognizing your finger faster over time does work. When I first registered my thumb, it failed to register it the first few tries. After that, it recognized it straight away consistently without fail.

One thing I noticed on the security front as well is that screen overlay apps aren’t shown anywhere in the settings application, which means malicious apps can’t take over inputs and change your system settings for you. It’s annoying when using Facebook Messenger chat heads, but you probably don’t spend enough time messing with your phone’s settings for this to be a problem.

Gestures

This is one of the most disappointing parts of OxygenOS 10, and I can only hope that we see the return of OnePlus’ gestures in the future. Google’s gestures involve swiping from the left or right edge to go back and swiping up from the bottom edge right corner or bottom edge left corner to access the Google Assistant. You can no longer swipe up from the left or right corners on the bottom edge to go back. You can still enable holding down the power button for 0.5 seconds to bring up the Assistant, if you’d like. You can also just enable the navigation bar at the bottom if you’d prefer, though I imagine that most people (myself included) would prefer to have a full-screen display and get used to the new gestures instead.

There are so many reasons as to why I don’t like Google’s gestures, but my biggest peeve is how they change the way I interact with my phone. I can no longer swipe to access side menus quickly. Instead, I need to swipe from the top of the screen or hold the side for a second and then pull the drawer out, both of which are not very comfortable on a large phone. I have also found them to be quite buggy at times, especially when navigating the system settings. I’m not a fan of them at all, but to enjoy the full-screen experience and to avoid AMOLED burn-in, I have the navigation bar (and bottom bar for gestures) switched off. I’m pretty disappointed, as according to Google’s Compatibility Definition Document, it’s not a requirement to have only Google’s gestures available for use. This appears to be purely a decision made by OnePlus, and one that affects the OnePlus 7T as well. Hopefully, OnePlus can be convinced to reintroduce their new gestures in a future update.

Here’s a full list of gestures on the OnePlus 7T Pro.

  • Swipe up from the bottom: Go home
  • Swipe up from the bottom and hold: Go to recents
  • Swipe up from the left or right: Google assistant
  • Swipe from the left or right side of the screen: Go back
  • Swipe up and left: Go to last used app

OnePlus Launcher

The OnePlus Launcher remains largely unchanged from previous iterations, and it’s a nice stock package to get you started if you’d rather not dive into custom launchers right away, or even at all. It supports icon packs, custom row, and column lengths, and has a decent replacement for the Google Feed called the “OnePlus Shelf”. The shelf can be accessed by swiping left on the home screen and can hold memos to yourself, widgets, and commonly used applications. Feel free to use another launcher if you want, though be mindful that at the moment, the system doesn’t play too nicely with third-party launchers. I found that third-party launchers would get killed in the background, and swiping to go home added a second or two of delay so that the launcher could actually startup. This was not a satisfying experience and pushed me back to using OnePlus Launcher for now.

But those issues don’t really reflect on the OnePlus Launcher itself, which as I’ve mentioned, is a nice enough launcher to use. It’s definitely my favorite stock launcher I’ve used on an Android smartphone, largely in thanks to the myriad of customization options given to users that you never really come across anywhere else. The OnePlus Shelf is also a nice replacement for the Google Feed, though I’d still prefer that if there was an option. Not only are there lots of options for the launcher, but the Shelf has so many features and customization options too. You can add activities from apps that you can easily access, along with memos and system information like data usage, memory usage, or storage usage. You can even enable a Zen Mode card, which we’ll be talking more about later on in this review.

Horizon Light

The OnePlus Horizon Light is effectively a replacement for the notification light, though it doesn’t really work in the same way at all. It’s designed so that when a notification comes in, a short, colored pulse is seen on both of the device’s curved edges. Samsung had a similar implementation on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, so it’s nothing new. OnePlus originally launched this feature on the OnePlus 7 Pro, and you couldn’t customize it at all. Now you can choose between 4 colors – Blue, Pink, White, and Purple. I only wish that you could have it pulse periodically to make it obvious that you missed a notification. Only then would it be a real alternative to a notification LED. For now, you will miss the notification LED for a lack of a true replacement.




Updated reading mode

OxygenOS 10 features an updated reading mode, which some may enjoy using with lots of text-based content like Reddit or even ebooks. You can turn your phone monochrome like before, but there’s a new Chromatic Reading feature that desaturates the screen to the point that reading is easier, though without removing color entirely. It’s an entirely personal preference which you prefer.

Updated Zen Mode

OnePlus’ Zen Mode is a feature that is designed to make you put down your phone and do some work – aimed solely at the phone addicts among us, really. I tested out the feature on the OnePlus 7 Pro around the time of my exams earlier this year, and it was pretty cool. I couldn’t find a way to get around it and break it, and newer versions are even more improved with challenges and more time options. Zen Mode has a 21-day challenge that you can undertake to help you sleep as well. If you elect to take the challenge, you set a time period that you’d normally sleep around that you must turn Zen Mode on within. If you do that consistently for 21 days, you’ll get a virtual medal.

Customization

OxygenOS 10 has even more customization options, something that users have been begging for for years. Not only can you enable dark mode and a custom ambient display, but you can also have a system-wide icon pack applied, custom icon shapes and custom accent colors. Some of those features have been around for a while now, but they are now easily accessible in one section called “Customisation”.

Bugs, bugs, and lots of bugs

To preface, I have never had these many problems with an OxygenOS release. As far as I know, these are all software problems and could well affect other OnePlus 7T Pro units as well once they’re shipped out. OnePlus is currently investigating, but I’ve not heard anything substantial back. I have to operate under the assumption that these are issues that can affect everyone, and aren’t just the result of early-production software or hardware.

First and foremost, remember the ghost touching problems of the OnePlus 7 Pro back when that launched? They’re back, and honestly, worse than ever. They’re no longer exasperated by NFC, instead, they just happen randomly, with nearly no pattern. Restarting doesn’t fix the issue. If I’m scrolling on Reddit along the left curve of the display, the screen will often go haywire and start tapping all over the place.

This happened when I tried to scroll along the left curve. I wasn’t touching the center of the display at all.

These ghost touches make the phone frustrating to use. Not only that, but some inputs will just straight up not register. Trying to type at times is an absolute nightmare too. Even attempting to scroll downwards normally will result in the screen doing funky things. Take a look at what happened when I was just scrolling YouTube comments one evening.

How does that even happen?  

However, ghost touches are only scraping the surface of issues that I have faced with the OnePlus 7T Pro. It overheated the other day, and I lightly burnt my thumb on the alert slider. Battery temperature was apparently “only” 50C, but DevCheck said that some sensors in my phone had gotten as hot as 82C. Keep in mind these are CPU temperatures, but the SoC is towards the top of the phone, so heat dissipation will be most concentrated around there. This is likely why the alert slider was so hot.

Another tangentially related complaint is battery life. I’ll get more into that in the battery life section, but battery life has been absolutely terrible for me. Despite packing a 4,080 mAh battery, the OnePlus 7T Pro has a tendency to drain the battery at levels I have personally not experienced for years. The OPPO Reno 10x Zoom that I’ve been using will last all day easily on a single charge, which includes my commute to Dublin on a train, working for the day, and then heading home on a train again. With the OnePlus 7T Pro, I find myself charging it the second I get into college. Half an hour of usage on the train (as in, it was at 100% when I got on the train) saw the battery drain to 74%. On the OPPO, similar usage would find it drain to around 85%. It’s completely abysmal.

And now, finally, an issue which has plagued OnePlus devices for years – memory management. Memory management is still as bad as ever, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Remember I mentioned I can’t even use a third-party launcher? It’s worse than that. Oftentimes I don’t even get email notifications, which is something that you’d think OnePlus would have figured out by now. Other affected apps include Snapchat, Discord, and Facebook Messenger too. A few times a day, if I have a Messenger chat head open, I’ll turn off my screen and come back a few minutes later with the chat head gone. I then open Messenger and find that I have messages that I never got notified about. It’s so incredibly frustrating and makes the phone near unusable at times because this issue has been around for a long period of time by now.