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The OnePlus 7T might still be a better phone than the OnePlus 7T Pro

Would it be fair to say the OnePlus 7T Pro isn't much better than the OnePlus 7T? Yes, but I’d argue it’s worse.

Published onOctober 11, 2019

We’re only three years removed from OnePlus’ first ever T-series phone, but you can almost set your watch to the tick-tock of the company’s annual release schedule — and the OnePlus 7T Pro is the most “tock” phone OnePlus has ever released.

Judging by the early reviews from my colleagues and peers, I’m far from the only one who thinks that the OnePlus 7T Pro is a relatively tepid upgrade over the brand’s first Pro phone launched in May. This is made even more apparent less than a month removed from the OnePlus 7T absolutely decimating its own direct predecessor — the OnePlus 7 — with a stunning design overhaul and a bevy of hardware and software improvements.

Would it be fair to say that the OnePlus 7T Pro isn’t much better than the much cheaper OnePlus 7T? Yes, but I’d argue it’s actually worse.

How Pro can you go?

OnePlus 7T Pro camera close up

Let’s look at all the marquee features and spec upgrades the OnePlus 7T Pro brings compared to the vanilla 7T phone.

The camera setup is near-identical on the two devices, but the 7T Pro’s telephoto lens can reach 3x zoom as opposed to only 2x zoom on the OnePlus 7T. The zoom lens also has OIS and at least in terms of aesthetics the pop-up selfie snapper is fancier than a basic front facing shooter.

OnePlus told me that despite significant improvements to the 7T, the haptics are still superior on the Pro model. You also get double the storage from 128GB to a total of 256GB and the OnePlus 7T Pro leads on battery life thanks to a slightly larger cell.

Read more: OnePlus 7T Pro specs: Nominal upgrades

The biggest differentiator, however, is the display. The QHD+ AMOLED panel on the OnePlus 7T Pro is every bit as stunning as the one which wowed us all on the 7 Pro. Despite being just as crisp at a glance, the resolution for the OnePlus 7T drops down to 1080p.

But are these few advantages worthy of a “Pro” moniker? I’m not convinced.

OnePlus 7T camera detail angle frosted silver

For starters, Warp Charge 30T is so rapid that battery endurance is almost a non-issue. Likewise, while the telephoto upgrades are nice, the phones share the juiciest new feature in the form of Super Macro mode which uses the ultra-wide sensor and an additional motor to capture surprisingly competent close up snaps.

On a basic hardware level, both phones run Qualcomm’s latest flagship processor — the Snapdragon 855 Plus — and are backed by 8GB of RAM. Neither has an advantage for overall performance or gaming on the go.

Does the OnePlus 7T Pro really earn its Pro moniker?

As for all the fresh Android 10-powered OxygenOS tweaks, the expanded Zen Mode, Game Space app, Intelligent Control app optimization, and Ambient Display improvements are all present and correct on the 7T Pro and the 7T.

Even the shimmering Haze Blue finish — a more muted take on the original OnePlus 7 Pro’s Nebula Blue colorway — is available on both phones.

Trimming the fat

OnePlus 7T Pro pop up selfie camera

For all the advantages on the spec sheets, there’s a sense that the OnePlus 7T Pro is a case of excess over functionality, while the OnePlus 7T is the no-nonsense flagship killer the OnePlus 7 should’ve always been.

The OnePlus 7T Pro is the OnePlus 7 Pro with some extra bells and whistles, but the OnePlus 7T is all the 7 Pro’s best bits without all the fat around the edges, especially in terms of aesthetics.

The ever divisive waterfall-style display make its return on the OnePlus 7T Pro. Does it look great at a glance? Absolutely, but in practice it’s an absolute pain.

OnePlus 7T Upright on table in cafe 1

Reduced durability, functionality issues, and excess glare were just a few of the issues highlighted by my colleague Bogdan in a takedown of the design trend. Give me the OnePlus 7T’s flat panel any day. It still flows like, well, water, thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate.

I’m also a growing fan of the 7T’s unique 20:9 aspect ratio. Having previously tested phones with an ultra-tall 21:9 aspect ratio like the Sony Xperia 5 and Motorola One Vision, I’ve found 20:9 to be a far more sound approach to elongated displays, both functionally and ergonomically. Neither too tall to be gangly nor too wide to feel chunky, it’s just right on the Goldilocks scale.

Speaking of strange shapes, I kind of like the 7T’s circular camera as it gives the phone a signature look. There’s also the small matter of the selfie camera housed in a minuscule waterdrop notch. Any display cutout is less than ideal, but it’s far safer than the 7T Pro’s mechanized pop-up and makes face unlock less of a pain. Once again the choice to go with a pop-up for 7T Pro reeks of form over function.

Say no to Pro

With so many similar features and mostly identical core specs, a lot of what will sway buyers towards a certain member of the 7T duo will come down to personal preference. Perhaps you want to show off with a pop-up camera, maybe you adore waterfall displays.

If you’re in the US, the decision has already been made for you as the OnePlus 7T Pro isn’t heading stateside. Bummer. For those in the UK, the rest of Europe, and across Asia, the big question is: does anything the OnePlus 7T Pro have in its arsenal justify the £150 (~$180) price increase?

Those that demand the best specs available are stuck with the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition with its 12GB RAM, but frankly that thing is hideous. For everyone else, the OnePlus 7T Pro is a minor upgrade over the 7 Pro and a more impractical and expensive sibling to the standard 7T.

The 7T Pro doesn't match up with OnePlus' original vision for its T-series phones.

Back at the launch of the OnePlus 5T, OnePlus co-founder and director Carl Pei said of the prospect of future T-series phones: “We’ll make a second T device if there’s enough new technology that’s useful to our users.”

As a brilliant affordable flagship that tops the OnePlus 7 (and to a greater extent the OnePlus 6T which was the last non-Pro phone in the US) in almost every way, the OnePlus 7T embodies this ethos perfectly. The OnePlus 7T Pro does not.

For as much as the OnePlus 7T Pro is still objectively a stellar smartphone overall, in my opinion you should save your money, shun the gimmicky waterfall displays and pop-ups, and get the real “pro” phone.

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