(Pocket-lint) - OnePlus continued its bi-annual upgrade cycle for its flagship phones 2019. Some years it seems a needless upgrade, others a welcome one. For the current generation we have both cases: for the regular 7T the upgrades over the OnePlus 7 were very welcome. Enough in fact that it's made its way near the top of our list of the best smartphones around. With the 7T Pro, as we're reviewing here, it's a bit of a side-step over the regular 7T.
Rather than be a more powerful version of the 7T, the OnePlus 7T Pro is - in fact - almost identical to the OnePlus 7 Pro in design. That means it's a great device, but perhaps not really a necessary one.
So what exactly are the 7T Pro's main differences to the 7T and is the best-of-best choice in a now rather busy line-up?
- OnePlus 7T Pro vs OnePlus 7T: What's the difference?
- OnePlus 7T Pro vs OnePlus 7 Pro: What's the difference?
7T Pro vs 7 Pro: Do they look different?
- Colour: Haze Blue
- Frosted glass back, metal frame
- Dimensions: 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8mm / Weight: 206g
It's not unusual to see upgraded devices launch 12 months after the previous model and barely look any different. So it's no surprise to see the that the 7T Pro is virtually identical to its 7 Pro predecessor - especially since barely five months passed between the launch of 7 Pro and the 7T Pro.
The most noticeable difference is the colour of the blue model. The Nebula Blue of the 7 Pro is a relatively deep, pure blue, while the Haze Blue of the 7T Pro has a more vivid appearance, with a subtle sea green kind of vibe to it. Like its predecessor though, it gradients from light to dark from bottom to top.
It has a very similar camera housing on the back too. It's got the traditional pill-shaped OnePlus protrusion, but again with a subtle difference: the laser-guided autofocus sensors moved from just beneath the two primary cameras within the protrusion to outside, into the glass panel itself. That means that while they were hidden and almost invisible before, but are an obvious black pill-shaped cutout within the blue glass on the 7T Pro.
Apart from those subtle changes, everything else on the 7T Pro is largely the same as the 7 Pro. That means you get those lovely curves in the glass, both front and back, which help a relatively hefty phone feel a little slimmer and more comfortable to hold than it otherwise would be.
Saying that, it still feels a bit big and heavy. It's also quite slippery, so we'd definitely recommend getting hold of the new slim carbon fibre effect cases. It adds some much needed grip without adding a lot of extra bulk. That means you're less likely to drop it, and it won't slide off your furniture as easily.
While the 7T Pro is definitely on the large side, OnePlus has made good use of all that extra real estate on the front surface. It's dominated by that huge display which is easily one of the best screens on the market. We love how the minimal bezel on the front lets you get fully immersed in our favourite content.
OnePlus has also avoided using a notch or hole-punch cutout in the screen for the front-facing camera. Instead, the selfie cam is built into a small pop-up mechanism in the top edge of the phone. It rises automatically whenever you need it, whether that be for scanning your face to unlock the phone, or just taking a selfie.
It's relatively quick, and just as convenient as using the in-display fingerprint sensor, if not more so at times. Obviously it's not as secure, since it only uses a camera and no depth sensing technology to recognise facial features.
Ooof that display
- 6.67-inch AMOLED display, curved edges
- QHD+ resolution (1440 x 3120)
- 90Hz refresh rate
The OnePlus 7 Pro's display was one of best screens on any smartphone when it launched in 2019. It had the right mix of sharpness, brightness, colour reproduction and saturation. Combined with a fluid 90Hz refresh rate for smooth and snappy animations, those elements truly made for a wonderful experience. And the same is true of the OnePlus 7T Pro's screen: it's got all the same good stuff.
With a pixel density over 500 pixels per inch, it's really sharp. Fine text and curves looks smooth and crisp. Colours look great too. You don't get the over saturated reds and oranges you find on previous-generation AMOLED screens, and whites aren't overly warm either. At least not in the vivid mode.
That's one of the joys of OnePlus' phones: the display settings menu lets you customise the overall tone and balance of the screen. You get a couple of basic calibration options, offering the choice between vivid and natural, or you can open up the advanced options and choose from AMOLED Wide Gamut, sRGB and Display P3, with a slider to adjust the temperature.
It's not perfect for everything though. As we've found with many displays with curved edges, it does tarnish the experience of watching movies and shows slightly. The curves slightly distort the top and bottom edges of the picture, and catch reflections so sometimes you can miss a little of the action.
What's more, the screen itself isn't tremendously great for viewing in bright daylight, especially not when watching Netflix content. It seems dark watching shows on there, while the general phone's user interface is vivid and easy to see most of the time. We suspect this is down to HDR content on Netflix. For instance, and animated show like Disenchantment looks clear and easily visible all the time, but one such as Our Planet with more depth in shadows, colour and light isn't as constantly bright and vivid.
This is fairly typical for any smartphone however, and certainly not limited to the OnePlus 7T Pro. The fact that this phone is compatible with HDR10+ content in and of itself is a big feat, and one not seen in many other phones.
As for software, the 7T Pro identical to what's on offer with the OnePlus 7T. It's built on Android 10, but speedy and customisable with a few useful additions thanks to OnePlus ColorOS.
OnePlus' reading mode offers both a colour and monochrome version, so if you don't want it fully black and white then that's possible. It also gets the revamped Zen Mode for helping you take time away from your phone; Gaming mode for boosting gaming performance, and the ability to change the style, shape and colours for many of the elements in the user interface.
One of the new features to hit the software in 2020 was actually an update to the Google app, which enables Ambient Mode, essentially turning the phone in to a Google Assistant screen when it's plugged into a charger. It's pretty cool, and can even be used to display a Google Photos album on slideshow like a gallery/digital photo frame.
Snappy and long-lasting
- Snapdragon 855+ processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
- 4,085mAh battery, Warp Charge 30T (30W)
It's no surprise that everyday performance from the latest OnePlus phone is fast and snappy. It's been the company's mantra since the beginning, not to settle for merely fast when you can achieve super speedy. With the combination of the latest processor from Qualcomm, a boatload of RAM, a 90Hz display and the UFS 3.0 solid state storage, this phone is all about speed. In the words of Lightning McQueen it "is speed".
Any interaction on the phone is fluid and fast. Whether you're swiping up and down the app drawer, scrolling through your gallery or multitasking and switching apps, nothing is slow on this phone. Even loading the most graphically intense games is quick, each performing free from lag or stutter.
Because OnePlus has always aimed for this, you won't notice it as starkly if you upgrade from a recent OnePlus phone, but you will if you switch from virtually any other phone.
With all of that said: there's not much difference in daily life when you compare the 7T Pro to the 7 Pro. With so much of its performance being so similar, it almost begs the question as to whether or not the 7T Pro really needs to exist? We get that OnePlus loves to ensure it has the latest technology available to consumers, but the incremental upgrade here is barely perceptible.
Like its predecessor, we did also find that the phone gets a little warm to the touch when gaming or watching videos. Despite its internal cooling system, we could definitely feel it getting warm in our left hand, at the top edge of the phone.
Battery performance is good too. Although it's not impossible to drain it in a day - a few hours of gaming would do the trick - in an average day it will still comfortably reach bed time. We were easily able to get to the end of a day with 30 per cent remaining, having listening to a couple of hours of music, browsed some social media, played games for 30 minutes, and watched a couple of episodes on Netflix.
If you do have a particularly busy day and the battery drains quickly, you can charge it up again in no time. OnePlus' updated 30W Warp Charge technology is fast and efficient. Plugged in for half an hour it can deliver around 65-70 per cent of the battery, giving you enough juice to get through a full day with ease.
- Triple camera system
- 48MP f/1.6 primary camera
- 8MP f/2.4 telephoto camera
- 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide camera
- Super slow-mo video
Look down the camera spec list and it makes for impressive reading. OnePlus' triple camera is capable of many things. It has three distinct focal lengths, so you can get your regular wide, ultra-wide and telephoto zoom shots. It has night mode for low-light situations, Super Macro mode for close-up subjects, 4K video recording, and 960fps super slow-mo. It can do it all.
The overall the image quality is good. In daylight you'll get sharp details and natural, vibrant colours.
But as seems to be a trait with OnePlus there are a few inconsistencies. It seemed to have a little trouble snapping sharp images of people moving, even in daylight, often resulting in blurry images. And just as we've seen with a few triple camera systems, there's a slightly different overall look to the images that come from each of the three cameras.
For the most part, the primary camera delivers the sharper, more accurate and best-looking pictures with decent contrast and dynamic range. The other two can often produce fairly flat images, with overblown highlights and weak shadows.
However, it does depend on the type of image. Switching to Super Macro mode - which uses the ultra-wide camera - the pictures look great. Again, as long as the subject is completely still.
As for low-light shots, there could be improvement here. There's definitely a difference in the amount of light pulled into the image when using the dedicated night mode over auto mode. However, looking closely and details look quite spongey. It's almost as if, to reduce noise/grain, the image processing has over-softened parts of the image and made it look more like an oil painting.
Still, look at the photo from a wide perspective and you might not notice this as clearly. It's clear the night mode isn't quite as impressive as the effects offered by Google's Pixel, or the latest iPhone 11 and 11 Pro.
The OnePlus 7T Pro is a fantastic phone in most departments, just as the OnePlus 7 Pro is. And that's actually its biggest problem: it doesn't offer anything over what the 7 Pro can do, so feels a little like a pointless update. We don't think there's anything wrong with ensuring you always have the fastest available Snapdragon processor in one of your phones. But when it comes to everyday performance, it doesn't offer much more over its predecessor at all. Nothing that makes a major difference anyway.
With all of that said, judging it purely on its own merits: the OnePlus 7T Pro is brilliant. It's got one of the best displays we've seen on a smartphone to date, it's zippy, fast and has lovely, lightweight and customisable Android 10-based software. And while the quality isn't always top notch from the camera, it is an incredibly versatile system capable of taking all manner of photos.
Putting into context: with Huawei no longer able to sell new phones running Google Play services, and with Oppo and Xiaomi offering phones with software that isn't the most appealing, OnePlus is in a strong position. It has the powerful hardware, combined with the clean software experience to create a very compelling experience.
While we actually prefer the slimmer OnePlus 7T with its flat screen and lower price point, if you have to have the biggest, best, most powerful top-specced phone out there, then the OnePlus 7T Pro is the way to go.
Of the two phones recently launched by OnePlus, it's the regular 7T we're most drawn to. It may not have the super impressive QHD+ resolution display of the Pro model, but that's really the only downside. It has the same triple camera performance, the battery lasts just as long and charges quicker, the processing power is the same, and you get it in a slimmer device with a flat screen.
Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro
Xiaomi has launched a phone with incredible specs and performance at a price far more palatable than any of its competitors. It has a really powerful processor, vibrant OLED display and solid battery life, all in a device that costs around half the going rate for a big name flagship. It's only let down is that software that divides opinion.