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OnePlus 7T Pro review: Still a flagship killer in 2020?

If you’re a regular follower of SoyaCincau, I’m pretty sure that you’ve come across our coverage of the upcoming OnePlus 8 series. Leaks have certainly been plentiful, and we already have a rough idea of what the next “flagship killer” from the company is going to look like. Of course, I’m using the term rather generously—prices for most of OnePlus’ flagship devices have certainly soared from the early days of the iconic OnePlus One.

But even as we await the launch of the new series, it’s easy to forget that the OnePlus 7T and 7T Pro were only launched in Malaysia in October of last year, a short 6 months or so ago. In fact, I’ve been using a OnePlus 7T Pro for a good few months now, and it still feels like a really, really current phone—even in 2020.

One of the headlining features of the OnePlus 7T Pro, of course, is the 90Hz refresh rate screen that was first introduced on the OnePlus 7 Pro. At the time it was launched, most flagship smartphones still had 60Hz displays, and this has been a feather in the company’s hat for some time now. But as we approach the middle of 2020, the landscape has certainly changed.

“High” refresh rate displays (90Hz and above) have become altogether more common. Not only are we seeing them in high-end mainstream flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, but we’re also seeing them in sub-RM1,000 smartphones like the Realme 6.

So if you take all of that into account, the question is this: should you still buy the OnePlus 7T Pro in 2020?

One of the best displays in the market, still

Let’s get straight to one of the most attractive things about the OnePlus 7T Pro: its display. It has a 6.67” AMOLED that pushes a QHD+ resolution of 3120×1440 pixels, and you’re also looking at a pixel density of 516 ppi (pixels per inch); in short, a great display. The 90Hz refresh rate is immediately noticeable when you’re using the phone, even if it’s for simple tasks like browsing or texting.

For those of you who aren’t yet clear on how a higher refresh rate helps, this basically means that the content on a 90Hz display will refresh more times within a certain time frame than say, a 60Hz display. This translates to a “smoother” experience in use for high refresh rate displays—once you’ve used one, a standard 60Hz display pales in comparison, to be honest.

This, however, can negatively impact the battery life you get out of your device. Personally, I think it’s a trade-off that is totally worth it, but users still have the option of switching down the 90Hz refresh rate of the OnePlus 7T Pro to a more battery-friendly 60Hz refresh rate. If you want to double-down on that? You can also change the resolution of the display down to Full HD+ to conserve even more battery when in use.

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But if you’re not in desperate need to stretch a single charge on the phone over multiple days, the 7T Pro is still certainly a full-day device—or more, depending on your usage patterns. For me, I’ve been getting around 18 hours out of the phone’s 4,085mAh battery on average, with my resolution and refresh rate set at max settings. Meanwhile, screen-on time was around six hours. My usage patterns are pretty standard I’d say: most of my time is spent on WhatsApp, while I’m also a semi-heavy user of video apps like Instagram and YouTube. That said, I don’t do that much mobile gaming, so heavy gamers might encounter poorer results.

When scaling the resolution and refresh rate down to Full HD+ and 60Hz respectively, I roughly got an extra two and a half hours of screen-on time. Alternatively, you can also leave the setting on “auto”, which means that the phone will decide when to switch to-and-from the higher resolution. In an ideal situation, this would land you the best of both worlds, although the drop in resolution is fairly noticeable.

But why would you want to do that? The display is genuinely one of the sharpest, most vibrant displays I’ve seen on a smartphone—even in 2020—and you can always fast charge your device with OnePlus’ super fast 30W proprietary charging standard: Warp 30T. OnePlus says that you can charge the 7T Pro up to 68% in half an hour, which I found to be more or less accurate; I managed to charge the phone from 10% to 100% within 1 hour and 14 minutes.

Plus, I think that lowering resolution and refresh rate settings dilutes one of the greatest strengths of the OnePlus 7T Pro. After all, I still think that it is incredibly disappointing that you can’t use the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 120Hz display in its highest QHD+ resolution.

But isn’t it more sensible to get a 2020 flagship smartphone?

Well, it depends. If you’re looking for a flagship smartphone with a high refresh rate, your options are still somewhat limited. Off the top of my head, you’ve got the Huawei P40 Pro and P40 Pro+, the Oppo Find X2 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S20 series, and of course, the upcoming OnePlus 8 Pro.

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All of the above, excluding the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+, feature 120Hz displays. Then again, they also carry some pretty hefty price tags. The Galaxy S20 series, for example, starts at RM3,599 for the base model, and tops out at RM4,999 for the S20 Ultra—-plus, you can only enjoy the 120Hz refresh rate at Full HD. Thanks, but no thanks. Meanwhile, the P40 Pro and Pro+ only have 90Hz refresh rate displays, and still retail for a starting price of RM3,899.

But deciding between the OnePlus 7T Pro and a 2020 flagship isn’t such a straightforward process. Do you need processing power in your smartphone? How often do you use your smartphone for photography? Or do you simply need (no judgement here) to have the best, most advanced technology available?

Other than the last point, I’d argue that the OnePlus 7T Pro ticks all the boxes for most users, more or less. The Snapdragon 855+ is still one of the best SoCs in the market out there—although 2020 flagships like the OnePlus 8 Pro will probably feature the class leading Snapdragon 865.

Plus, the experience of using OnePlus’ OxygenOS is one of the best things about the 7T Pro. Maybe I’m getting caught up in the moment right now, but I’ll say that OxygenOS on the OnePlus is one of the best UIs I’ve ever used; it offers an experience that is stock-like in nature, and it genuinely feels really, really fast to use. This is, to be fair, a matter of personal preference—I’ve always been a fan of the stock Android interface, after all.

As for more affordable options like the Realme X2 Pro and the Realme 6, it’s worth remembering that your experience with a smartphone isn’t just dependent on its screen refresh rate. For example, I’m not a fan of ColorOS on the Realme X2 Pro, and the experience on the Realme 6 will probably be similar, if not identical.

And even for hardware, the X2 Pro doesn’t even come close to the OnePlus 7T Pro in terms of its display, with a meagre Full HD+ resolution (in comparison, of course). The Realme 6, meanwhile, has a Mediatek G90T processor, in line with its affordable pricing within the sub-RM1,000 range.

So what about the OnePlus 8 Pro? Well, if rumours are true, we’re going to see a Snapdragon 865-powered device, along with a 120Hz refresh rate and 5G connectivity. But we’re also expecting to see a pretty premium price: my guess is somewhere around the RM3,500 mark.

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So, should you still buy the OnePlus 7T Pro now?

On OnePlus’ official Lazada store, the OnePlus 7T Pro (8GB RAM + 256GB storage) is now being sold at RM2,899, and that figure could drop even more once the OnePlus 8 series is available in Malaysia. That could happen sometime in the next few months, with the OnePlus 8 Pro being launched globally on the 14th of April.

To me, anything less than RM3,000 is still a really good deal for what you’re getting with the OnePlus 7T Pro. As I’ve already said, you’re getting a superb display, above average battery life, and a great experience with OxygenOS. But there are a few drawbacks to the OnePlus 7T Pro. First of which is its camera, which I think still sits below most flagship handsets. Hardware-wise, it’s a triple-camera setup, with a 48MP main camera, a 16MP ultra-wide, and an 8MP telephoto—solid, but not spectacular.

Resulting images are decent, but not amazing. At an original RRP of RM3,399, I’d say that the 7T Pro’s camera performance is a little underwhelming, but at RM2,899? It’s perfectly acceptable.

There’s also the issue of the pop-up selfie camera, with many concerned about the durability of such mechanisms. I can’t vouch for every smartphone out there, but I haven’t had any issues with the mechanism on any of the smartphones I’ve used—and the silver lining is that the notchless display looks absolutely stunning on the OnePlus 7T Pro. The one drawback to this, for me, is that facial biometric recognition is simply impractical to use as an unlocking method. Still, the in-display fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus 7T Pro is a pretty reliable performer.

I think the decision has to come down to two things. One, do you enjoy the OnePlus experience? It’s something of a stripped down UI, and things are designed to be clean, rather than full of features. But there are useful, subtle features that I really appreciate, including the Alert Slider on the edge of the phone that lets you set your device to silent, vibrate, or ring modes. There’s also quick gestures (which I loved on my old OnePlus 2), where you can access various functions by drawing on screen when the phone is “asleep”.

And two, what do you really want? If it’s a great display, almost top-of-its-class specs, and you can live with a camera that’s decent but isn’t quite flagship-class, the OnePlus 7T Pro is still a great device to buy at its price, even in 2020.