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OnePlus 7 Pro first impressions: More than a phone, it’s a statement

XianFeng Technologies is the exclusive official distributor of OnePlus in Malaysia starting from the OnePlus 7 Series.

I think for the most part, we remember OnePlus as the plucky brand that came out of nowhere with the intention of being the flagship smartphone usurper. But, they’ve come a long way since then, and with each device, the company has slowly but surely edged its way into the mainstream.

However, it looks like they’re not content with just sitting at the mainstream table, oh no. You see, while their latest phone, the OnePlus 7 Pro, certainly looks like a solid device, I think that it’s also a little more than just a new OnePlus flagship.

I think it’s a statement — one that says that OnePlus wants a seat at the big boy table now.

For my money, OnePlus has always made excellent flagship smartphones. But, when I saw the OnePlus 7 Pro, I got a slightly different vibe from it. In the past I always felt that the improvements OnePlus made to their flagships always came from a practical standpoint. Better screen, better build, better camera, et cetera.

On the OnePlus 7 Pro, things are a little different

Don’t get me wrong, the OnePlus 7 Pro is still every bit as “upgraded” as previous OnePlus flagship updates have been, so don’t think they’ve skimped on the specs. At its core, it is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and you can now configure it to feature up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.0 internal storage. It’s also packing a 4,000 mAh battery with the company’s super fast Warp Charge 30 fast-charging technology.

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OnePlus also gave the OnePlus 7 Pro a brand new triple camera setup. You’ve got a main 48MP wide camera, an 8MP telephoto camera, as well as a 16MP ultra-wide camera.

Needless to say, I’m a big fan of this approach. I love me some ultra wide and I have to say that having a telephoto can be useful at times too. However, I wasn’t able to retrieve the sample photos from the phone in time, because I only had like an hour to really use the phone, so I can’t really speak about its image quality just yet.

I will say that I like OnePlus’ camera app a lot. You get access to your various camera modes with an easy swipe from your shutter button, and the zooming between focal lengths is way more user-friendly than something like a Mi 9.

However, in my brief time with the camera, I noticed a significant choppiness with the way it operated. In fact, the first time I launched the camera app, the entire thing crashed and refused to launch until I forced it to close in the background. Maybe that’s because the device is still new, so take this criticism with a grain of salt.

The “flamboyant” upgrades

No matter how you look at it, the OnePlus 7 Pro is still a spec beast. But look beyond those internals, and you’ll start to see the other, almost flamboyant, upgrades the company has added to the phone.

The most noticeable thing, has to be that new display. It’s now a 6.67” Fluid AMOLED display that boasts a staggering screen-to-body ratio of 93%. That puts it right up there with the likes of the Mi MIX 3 and the Oppo Find X. But, OnePlus wasn’t done because this display also boasts a fast refresh rate of 90Hz.

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Now, it’s hard to show on video how this alters the way you use the smartphone, but it definitely does. This is something we only saw on the new crop of “gaming” smartphones like the Razer Phone and ROG Phone, so to see it on a more conventional phone like the OnePlus 7 Pro is a treat.

Plus, it also pushes a higher Quad HD resolution than the ROG Phone, and the screen also curves and bleeds over the edge like a high-end Samsung Galaxy S. It’s incredible to look at and absolutely a treat to use.

Besides that, as you may have noticed by now, the phone doesn’t have any notch for its selfie camera because it’s now a 16MP motorised pop up unit. Now, this isn’t very surprising because OPPO has been doing this for a while now, and OnePlus’ devices have always borrowed tech from their sister company.

So, this motor is also rated to last up to 300,000 cycles over the lifetime of this phone, and it has neat built in features like free-fall detection to automatically retract the camera when it senses that the phone is falling.

As someone who’s used a couple of phones with motorised cameras, I’m indifferent about this change. I like that it clears the notch and punch hole from the display, but also having stuff get caught in the small gaps between the moving mechanism isn’t something I’m a big fan of.

Besides that, though, everything else about the OnePlus 7 Pro looks great so far. You also get a lot of the kind of features you’d expect on a high-end flagship, like a fantastic build, pretty curved glass on the back and the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. It does, however, make up for the lack of good ‘ol jack with a pair of stereo speakers!

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So, like I said, it’s a great update that we’ve already come to expect from a company like OnePlus. Except, it’s also more than that.

Let me explain

Remember those “flamboyant” updates OnePlus added to the OnePlus 7 Pro? Those aren’t really changes that a company makes to their smartphone if all they wanted to produce was the best functional phone at the best possible price point. Those are the changes you make when you want to show-up other top of the line flagships.

In the same way that Samsung invested in producing unique bonus features like their Infinity O display and Huawei with their reverse wireless charging, OnePlus has also invested in their own set of unique bonus features like the OnePlus 7’s 90Hz display and motorised selfie camera.

They could have easily just stuck with a notch, give it a better camera, a higher resolution screen, and called it a day. But they didn’t. They went the extra mile to give you features that even the best in the business can’t give you.

And, if that isn’t them shouting into a megaphone that they’re here to challenge the big boys — I don’t know what is.

Photography by Zachary Yoong with the Sony A7 III.