After spending a bit more time with the OnePlus 7 Pro, I can report back some early findings, including its camera performance.
As you may recall, OnePlus announced the OnePlus 7 Pro about 10 days ago in New York City. On paper, the handset is a monster, a sort of gaming PC among less capable smartphones. And my first impressions confirmed that assessment: This is a true flagship, good enough to rival the best that Samsung and Apple have to offer. And as usual, OnePlus delivers this power at prices that are much lower than the competition.
My intention was to switch to the OnePlus 7 Pro full-time as soon as I finished my review of the Google Pixel 3a XL, a mid-range handset that is so good it surprised me. But I forgot to bring my Google Fi SIM with me to Miami, so that will have to wait until I get home this coming Sunday. In the meantime, I’ve spent time configuring the OnePlus 7 Pro for this coming usage, assessing its performance in various areas, and testing the new camera system.
So, here are a few quick notes about my experiences so far.
When I first configured the Pixel 3a XL, I did something I don’t normally do: I used Google’s setup wizard to copy over the apps and settings from my Pixel 3 XL to the new handset. (I usually just do a clean install and then manually install apps and configure the phone.) This process worked so well that I decided to do similarly with the OnePlus 7 Pro, albeit after I had already performed the initial setup.
You do so via the OnePlus Switch app, which is included on the handset but must be downloaded to the phone from which you are migrating. I had expected this app to work like the Google solution, via a USB cable. But instead, it establishes its own Wi-Fi connection between the two handsets and transfers everything wirelessly. You can choose what you want to copy over, so I went with apps only, and the process only took a few minutes.
The only issue I had was that it didn’t recreate my home screens configuration, but that might have been because I didn’t select the right options. Anyway, getting those two screens set up was quick and easy enough.
Form factor and display
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up the OnePlus 7 Pro is how big and heavy it is. And it is a beast, weighing in at 7.27 ounces, compared to 6.49 ounces for the Pixel 3 XL and 5.9 ounces for the Pixel 3a XL. I assume that considerable difference is due to two primary factors: The OnePlus 7 Pro’s bigger 6.67-inch display and its huge 4000 wAh battery; the Pixel 3 XL’s battery is just 3430 mAh, where the Pixel 3a XL’s is 3700 wAh. Whatever, this phone is not for the faint of heart or body.
That said, the larger size will be appealing to many, especially those who prefer to use a phone for tablet activities like reading and videos. I could see using this device as my sole mobile companion on trips, and leaving the iPad at home. Helping matters, the display is killer, and I found myself actually watching a good chunk of the first Matrix movie when I loaded it up in Google Play Movies & TV as a test.
In-display fingerprint reader
In moving to the Pixel 3a XL from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the quality of the former handset’s rear-facing fingerprint reader was one of the many advantages I noted. But the in-display fingerprint reader on the OnePlus 7 Pro, unlike that on the Huawei, is excellent. Whether it’s better—faster, and with a larger “hit” area—than its predecessor in the excellent OnePlus 6T is unclear so far. It generally works very well, in that it is very fast and accurate. But I have had a few misfires already. I’ll need more time with it.
OnePlus claims that its new 30-watt Warp Charge 30—which requires a bigger power plug—can charge the OnePlus 7 Pro to 50 percent in just 20 minutes. I’ve only observed one charging cycle so far, when the battery was at 55 percent: It moved the needle by about 30 percent after 20 minutes and hit 37 percent after half an hour. Granted, this was through a hotel charging stand that may or may not represent ideal conditions. So I will test this again, and with a lower charge.
Given OnePlus’ claims for the three-lens camera system in the OnePlus 7 Pro, I am naturally very curious to see if the firm has finally joined the elite handset makers when it comes to camera quality. And it’s a great question, since this has been the one Achilles Heel for OnePlus to date: its phones are always excellent, but camera quality has never really risen about good/very good levels.
The problem for OnePlus, as I see it, is two-fold. First, the competition is not standing still, and recent handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S10 family and the Huawei P30 Pro have really raised the bar on what is possible in smartphone cameras. (The Huawei is particularly innovative, with its mirror-powered 5X optical zoom capabilities.) Worse, OnePlus doesn’t really have an software/AI-based expertise to fall back on. So while the hardware may be very good or even excellent, it’s not clear that the firm’s software can perform the same tricks we see from, say, Google with its amazing Pixel-based Night Sight capabilities.
My initial testing has been inconclusive, and I don’t want to rush to judgment here. But casual snapshots in normal outdoor conditions are generally not as good as the same shots taken on the Pixel 3a XL, though there are some exceptions. The device’s 3X optical zoom is a nice feature, but I’ve seen a lot of blur when it’s used at night, such as at last night’s Flo Rida concert. (Yes, I will test this during the day more soon.) And the low-light capabilities? Actually, that’s been pretty interesting.
Google has dominated in low-light photography since the release of the Nexus 6P and 5X in 2015. But the side-by-side Night Sight (Pixel) and Nightscape (OnePlus 7 Pro) shots I made last night were basically a toss-up, with one camera providing better shots in some cases and the second one doing so in others. Generally speaking, the OnePlus 7 Pro Nightscape shots are brighter, and more closely resemble the results one would get with a flash. And that is probably what many people would prefer.
They’re also crisper than Pixel 3a XL-based Night Sights shots in some cases, especially for objects, like buildings, that are far away. But the Pixel shots tend to be more contrasty, with darker darks, and I happen to prefer that style.
I will keep testing. But my first impressions on the camera is that OnePlus made some meaningful improvements over the OnePlus 6 and 6T. How it compares to a market leader like the Pixel will vary by shot, but that says a lot about the gains that OnePlus has made too. In many cases, the shots from each are nearly identical. In some, the OnePlus 7 Pro shots seem a bit more washed out. Overall, this isn’t a terrible showing, at least so far.