What is the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G?
It doesn’t take great smarts to work out the purpose of the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. It’s the OnePlus 7 Pro with added 5G.
You can’t yet buy it direct from OnePlus; it’s available only as part of a 5G contract deal – which makes good sense.
Currently, there’s too great a chance of someone buying the phone and expecting to access 5G with their current contract. That’s not how it works; you need a 5G plan.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G – Hardware differences
There’s very little difference between the standard OnePlus 7 Pro and the 5G version of the handset. They sport the same design, and feature the same screen. The thickness of the handsets, too, is the same, they share camera hardware and have as near to identical software as you could ask for.
Related: 5G in the UK
This doesn’t mean the OnePlus 7 Pro has a 5G modem that’s “switched off”. The first 5G phones use the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 modem; the non-5G version has a Snapdragon X24.
These modems receive a mobile internet signal and are packaged with the SoC. That’s the cluster of chips often referred to as the CPU, even though there’s far more packed into something like the Snapdragon 855, which is the SoC used in the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G.
The Snapdragon X50 is a separate chip, and it (to some at least) justifies the price hike seen with 5G phones.
Is there a weight different as a result? No – both devices weigh 206g.
Battery life is another area that might theoretically be impacted by the change in hardware. I played a YouTube video on both devices, streaming over mobile internet.
The video was played at an identical brightness level and the batteries on both phones were fully recharged to avoid too much of a difference in battery reporting. After 30 minutes both devices had lost 4% of their charge. However, following an hour the 5G model was down by 9%; the normal OnePlus 7 Pro by 8%.
Both phones were actually streaming over 4G rather than 5G, as our usual test area hasn’t been granted 5G coverage yet. What does this mean? It suggests the Snapdragon X50 modem may be slightly less power-efficient than the Snapdragon X24 usually paired with the Snapdragon 855 processor
There isn’t much in it, though; plus I didn’t notice an obvious difference in real-world contextualised use.
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G – 5G performance
I had the opportunity to try out the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G with an EE 5G SIM and unlimited data for a few weeks. This is a little like letting you roam around a theme park without the crowds. I was able to experience the speeds that the current 5G infrastructure is capable of, without being slowed down by any congestion.
This theme park is still under construction, though. EE currently only supplies 5G to six cities across the UK. These are London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh.
EE plans to expand this to an extra 10 cities later this year. Here’s the list of upcoming add-ons:
You should check out the current state of your provider’s 5G coverage before buying, unless you’re happy to wait for 5G. It could take some time to reach your town, and you’ll end up paying extra for a service even if you can’t use it.
I’ve checked out EE’s 5G coverage in London over the past couple of weeks. And, like most who aren’t rich or lucky enough to live in the centre of town, it doesn’t extend to my flat in South East London just yet.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t make it here until 2020 or 2021, since the current focus appears to be to add cities rather than spreading out to more suburban areas.
You can take a look at EE’s current coverage maps online. But judging by my experience, they’re somewhat optimistic. They suggest there’s at least some 5G coverage between Brixton and Victoria. All I saw was HSPA mobile internet when travelling between the two – and often speeds were below 1Mbps.
There are areas where the opposite is true, however. A short walk from the bustle of Victoria station itself, inside which it actually shows weak 5G or 4G, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G managed speeds upwards of 330Mbps, equivalent to 41MB per second in actual download speeds. Some have reported seeing speeds above 400Mbps in parts of central London.
This is super-quick – although these ultra-fast hotspot zones appear to be limited in breadth. You might take a few steps and lose a third, or even two thirds of your 5G speed.
A lot of the time the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G reported 5G speeds much closer to those of very fast 4G. There was a 150Mbps reading by London Bridge; 110Mbps by Kings Cross.
These speeds appear more common. And there’s a question over whether 5G adoption will outpace 5G back-end development. If it doesn’t, congestion will affect the 5G roll-out just like it did 4G. And you may have heard one role of 5G is to “fix” congestion.
5G isn’t one technology, but a cluster. Not all of the components are in place yet, and only a relatively small amount of spectrum bandwidth has been unlocked. This is the wireless car boot space over which mobile internet is transmitted.
You won’t see anything like the 10Gbps speed of which 5G is theoretically capable. Or the 5Gbps the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G’s Snapdragon X50 modem can handle. US buyers may get closer; AT&T uses a 5G technology that isn’t yet seen in the UK: transmission over millimetre wavelength signals. This is where much higher frequency parts of the spectrum are used, resulting in shorter range but dramatically increased speed.
Should you buy the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G?
None of the shortcomings of 5G are the fault of OnePlus: this is a solid 5G handset, even if it costs as much as the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G at EE.
However, unless you live slap-bang in the middle of one of the early 5G zones, you shouldn’t really be in any rush to upgrade. You pay more for only a morsel’s worth of real-world improvement. After all, what good is super-quick 5G without consistency – unless, of course, said fast spot just so happens to land on that sunny spot where you eat your sandwich at lunch?
If you have the option to buy a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G at slightly more than the normal version, without the burden of a 5G contract, then you might as well. The problem? You can’t. It isn’t the hardware that should put you off, it’s the expensive 5G contract you might not get all that much benefit from unless you spend a lot of time in some of the biggest city centres.
A well-executed 5G launch phone, but at this point in time you need to think long and hard about the cost versus the real-world rewards.