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(Pocket-lint) - Once upon a time there was a disruptive smartphone maker called OnePlus. Its aim was to build a truly powerful, flagship-specced smartphone at a fraction of the price of its competition. At the beginning, only a select few seemed to know of OnePlus' existence - after all, the first device launched on the now discontinued CyanogenMod open-source software platform - but even back in 2014 we think it did a sterling job.

Come 2020 and OnePlus has grown into one of the best-selling premium smartphone manufacturers in western Europe and beyond. It's gradually increased its device quality and feature set - with the OnePlus 2, 3, 5, 5T, 6 and 6T succeeding one another in the past six years - and, under the Never Settle mantra, it's kept pushing for the best experience possible. That's what the OnePlus 7 Pro is all about - reaching for the flagship stars.

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When the OnePlus 7 Pro launched in 2019 it felt as though the journey was coming to full fruition. Nowadays, it's more about being a true flagship than keeping costs down. It's about no more compromises. It's about squaring up to the big names and not being shy about it. And although the OnePlus 7T Pro has since superseded the phone, the 7 Pro still holds its own very well. 

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Our quick take

Even approaching a year after it launched, the OnePlus 7 Pro feels like the pinnacle for OnePlus. Something it's been working towards for a number of years. Even though the 7T Pro launched, nothing has changed. It's still a brilliant phone. 

With its unrivalled edge-to-edge display and fantastic speedy performance, it's every bit reaching for the flagship stars. Add to that the fact that it's available as a 5G phone too - and you have something special.

In previous years, OnePlus phones were all about speed and performance. The displays were always great for the money, but never quite matched up to absolute best smartphones on the planet. With the 7 Pro it's world-beating stuff on the display front.

However, the competition from Google, Samsung and Huawei's flagships is strong - especially on the camera front, where some slight questions over quality remain - while OnePlus' decision to push to a higher price than ever before puts the brand in a whole new position. It's earned that respect, though, and is ready to spar with the heavyweights.

Overall, the OnePlus 7 Pro offers peak speed and performance, a much better camera system than its predecessors, plus one of the best screens on a smartphone right now. All of that adds up to a grand success.

OnePlus 7 Pro review: Sparring with the heavyweights

OnePlus 7 Pro

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Fantastic display
  • Super speedy and smooth performance
  • Lightweight and customisable software
  • Warp Charge is quick
  • Versatile triple camera system
  • Option for 5G model
Against
  • No wireless charging
  • Camera showed some unusual glitches at times
  • Night mode not as good as competition
  • Pricier than previous OnePlus phones

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Design

  • Mirror Grey/Nebula Blue/Almond
  • Water/dust resistant (no IP rating)
  • 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8mm; 206 grams

Look at the OnePlus 7 Pro and you can see immediately it belongs in the top tier along with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Huawei P30 Pro. Its front and back are both covered in glass that curves towards those premium, polished edges on both sides, creating a shape that's almost seamless.

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Our review unit is the Nebula Blue, which features a similar finish to what we saw on the Thunder Purple and matte black OnePlus 6/6T. Using multiple layers of glass, with one that features microscopic holes in it, the company has managed to achieve a finish that has a soft sheen to it and shows off an s-curve pattern in the right light. Combined with a blue colour that gradients from light to dark, from bottom to top, and the OnePlus 7 Pro has its own unique look.

There are other finishes, though, depending on which colour you choose. The other finishes are more similar to other flagships, in that they're glossy. The Mirror Grey is a dark grey with a very polished finished, while Almond is white with a gold reflective layer.

In typical OnePlus style, the 7 Pro retains the usual buttons, including the Alert Slider, which lets you quickly silence all notifications. This is positioned above the power/sleep key that's been shifted down a little to make up for the fact that the Pro is bigger than its predecessors.

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Arguably the most impressive part of the Pro's design is the front, where that big AMOLED screen dominates. It's got curved edges, very slim bezel and no notch or punch-hole camera anywhere to be seen. In other words: nothing to disturb your content.

To work around the new design - and that almost bezel-free screen - some elements needed shifting around. For instance, the selfie camera now lives inside a small pop-up mechanism in the top edge. It's similar to those we've seen from Oppo and Vivo before. In the OnePlus it feels sturdy, and even has a rubber seal around it to stop water from getting into the phone.

Which brings us neatly on to the subject of water resistance. Like its previous phones, OnePlus has built its latest flagship to withstand water and dust, but hasn't got it certified. That means there's still no neat IP-rating to put on the spec sheet, but the phone should still last if you accidentally drop it in water or get caught in the rain while using it.

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Look along the bezel at the top edge of the phone and you'll notice a long, slim speaker grille. This forms one part of the stereo sound (powered by Dolby Atmos). The other part is delivered by the loudspeaker on the bottom edge. What we like - and which may seem like a small change - is that the bottom edge speaker is now on the right side, so you likely won't cover it up, accidentally muting the audio, when you're gaming.

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The audio itself is fuller, louder and more immersive than what has existed on previous OnePlus phones. Whether you're watching movies or catching up on your favourite YouTube videos, the sound will no longer be mediocre. In fact, you can comfortably use it to play music in a small room.

Display

  • 6.67-inch Fluid AMOLED
  • QHD+ resolution - 3120 x 1440
  • No notch or punch-hole cameras
  • Curved edges
  • HDR10+ compatible

The screens in OnePlus devices have been steadily been getting better. For the past few years of releases, those displays have offered vibrant colours and great contrast, even offering the ability for display nerds to tune it to their preferred profile.

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But there's always been an element that's stopped the display from being true flagship quality though: sharpness. OnePlus' screen choices have never been particularly fuzzy, in fact, at FullHD+, you could argue that the panels were comparable to rivals. They just didn't quite compete with the likes of, say, Samsung or Sony's most premium devices.

That changes with the OnePlus 7 Pro. It's not just OnePlus' best ever display, it's one of the best displays on the market. It starts with the fact that it's now Quad HD+ resolution, making it the company's sharpest yet - and you can really tell. Text is super crisp, with even fine fonts being sharp and well defined.

Then there's the fact that it benefits from the contrast and colours offered by the AMOLED technology used, further enhanced by its HDR10+ compatibility. Watch high dynamic range content on Netflix or YouTube and you'll have a genuinely fantastic viewing experience. The dynamic range is really impressive for a smartphone, reminding us a lot of the Samsung Galaxy S10+. OnePlus is finally working with Netflix to get onboard its HDR and HD resolution certification, so users will no longer have to suffer low-resolution versions of their favourite series.

We watched Star Trek Discovery and The Umbrella Academy, both looking as eye-catching as they should. One could argue that they were quite dark, but with the screen brightness pumped up there's heaps of quality and depth in colour, brightness and shadows.

And that's not all. The OnePlus 7 Pro has a 90Hz screen, which means all the animation looks super smooth. That's a 50 per cent bump in cycles per second compared to usual 60Hz screens - the kind of tech that, until now, has only been available in the designed-like-a-brick Razer Phone gaming phone. So whether you're just flicking between different basic user interface (UI) elements, or playing your favourite game, the smooth frame-rate makes the 7 Pro one of the most responsive and fluid experiences we've ever had on a smartphone.

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