OnePlus 8 Review: This Is The Android Phone For Most People

OnePlus 8 Review: This Is The Android Phone For Most People
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

When OnePlus first started selling phones back in 2014, it positioned its devices as flagship killers, offering similar specs and performance as high-end phones from Samsung, Google, and others, but for half the price. Later, as OnePlus grew and matured, even though its phones may not have offered quite the same level of savings, OnePlus began challenging the big brands with things like faster updates, cleaner, more streamlined builds of Android, and high refresh rate displays. Now skip ahead to today, where thanks to the decline and disappearance of longtime industry mainstays like LG and HTC”often at the hands of OnePlus”and the arrival of the new OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, it feels like the once plucky contender with a chip on its shoulder is finally ready to take its place on the main stage. OnePlus, welcome to primetime.

That said, there is an important downside to all this, because after graduating from being a small volume phone maker that catered to nerds and enthusiasts, the $US900 ($1,407) OnePlus 8 Pro is tied with the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren as the most expensive OnePlus phone ever. And while the standard OnePlus 8 Pro offers a bit of relief with a starting price of $US700 ($1,095), that’s still a noticeable jump up from last year’s $US600 ($938) OnePlus 7T, which was one of the best all-around smartphone values of 2019.

Editor’s Note: The OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro devices do not currently have confirmed Australian pricing or availability.

Specs and Design – Like a Budget S20

OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro

WHAT ARE THEY?

OnePlus' new mainstream phones

PRICE

Starts at $US700 ($1,095) for the OnePlus 8; $US900 ($1,407) for the OnePlus 8 Pro

LIKE

Refined design with gorgeous colour options, strong value, impactful software and hardware optimizations, 120Hz screen and very wireless charging on the OP8 Pro

DON'T LIKE

Phones don't have universal support for 5G, no wireless charging or telephoto lens on the standard OP8, macro and colour filter cams aren't very useful

Still, what you get for the money feels like a great deal, especially compared to the Galaxy S20 where the cheapest model starts at $1,199, and goes all the way up to $1,999 for the S20 Ultra. Both the OP8 and OP8 Pro feature the same base guts including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage, plus an in-screen optical fingerprint sensor. And for an extra $US100 ($156), you can bump up the specs on either phone to 12GB of memory and 256GB of on-board storage.

Both phones also sport very similar glass sandwich designs with rounded corners, metal bands around the sides, and sloped, curvy screens, which are actually a bit curvier than what you get on a Galaxy S20. OnePlus has also shifted away from the motorised pop-up selfie cams it used last year in favour of a 16-MP punch-hole selfie camera in the top left corner.

And then there’s the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro’s new colours, which are easily the company’s best selection of colorways yet. The standard OP8 is available in Glacial Green and Interstellar Glow, which features an iridescent finish that shifts from orange to purple, while the OP8 Pro comes in black, green, and an enchanting Ultramarine Blue, which might be my favourite of the bunch.

From there, things start to diverge, with the OnePlus 8 featuring a 6.55-inch 2400 x 1080 display with a 90Hz refresh rate, a 4,300 mAh battery, and three rear cameras: a 48-MP main cam, a 16-MP ultra-wide cam, and a 2-MP macro cam. Meanwhile, the OP8 Pro has gotten a number of important upgrades including a 6.78-inch 3168 x 1440 with an even faster 120Hz refresh rate (just like the Galaxy S20 line), larger 4,510 mAh battery, and four rear cameras: a 48-MP main cam (with a new Sony IMX 680 sensor), an 8-MP telephoto camera with a 3x lossless zoom, a 48-MP ultra-wide cam, and what OnePlus is calling a colour filter camera (more on that later).

Wireless Charging on the OP8 Pro ” It’s Real Now

But one of the most surprising changes is that after years of dinging OnePlus for only offering wired charging on its phones, the OnePlus 8 Pro now supports Qi wireless charging that has been tuned specifically for use with the company’s new Warp Charge 30 wireless charger. That means not only can you drop the OP8 Pro on any normal wireless charging pad in a pinch, but when combined with OnePlus’ stand, you get some of the fastest wireless charging speeds on the market.

OnePlus

OnePlus says that by using a low voltage combined with multiple charging pumps, it can achieve a charging efficiency of around 97 perfect, which is significantly better than the 75 to 85 per cent efficiency you’d get from a regular Qi charging pad. All told, this results in some damn fast wireless charging that added 46 per cent extra battery (from 10 to 56 per cent) after 30 minutes. However, when it comes to pure recharging speeds, wired still reigns supreme because with the same 30 minute charging window, OnePlus’s included Warp Charge 30 power brick added 66 per cent charge (from 10 to 76 per cent). Regardless, even though OnePlus took a little longer to jump on the wireless charging trend than some other phone makers, I’m quite satisfied with how things have turned on the OP8 Pro.

Performance ” The Right Stuff

The speed and fluidity of OnePlus phones has been one of the company’s biggest strengths, which is something the OP8 and OP8 Pro showcase in full force. Between a number of OS optimizations and either 90Hz or 120HZ screens (which are a real delight btw), both phones are a joy to use. Everything feels incredibly snappy, and combined with OnePlus being one of the faster phones makers when it comes to pushing out new software updates, OnePlus phones deliver the best Android experience of any phone not made by Google.

The OP8 Pro’s 120Hz display, in particular, is a real treat. It looks just as good as what you get on the S20+ (which has a similar-sized 6.7-inch screen, but for $US100 ($156) more). It’s bright, smooth, and when combined with the sped up animations in Oxygen OS and an upgraded 240Hz touch sampling rate, it’s hard not to love the OP8 Pro’s 120Hz screen.

Furthermore, with 8GB or 12GB of RAM to work with and a Snapdragon 865 chip, both phones offer an abundance of pep, regardless of if you’re gaming or simply switching between social media or all the video calls you might be dropping in on.

OnePlus axed the pop-up selfie camera from last year in favour punch-hole camera in the top left corner. (Photo: Sam Rutherford, Google)

I’m also a big fan of OnePlus’ new adaptive wallpapers, which automatically adjust to suit your environment and lighting conditions, and even works with the phone’s night mode to help prevent unnecessary blue light from messing with your sleep patterns.

The one new software feature that for this go around that OnePlus didn’t really nail is its new motion smoothing video option, which seeks to upgrade 24 or 30 fps videos into footage that can better take advantage of the phones’ high refresh rate screens. But in my experience on both YouTube and Amazon Prime Video, I found the effect largely hit or miss. And because there’s not a great way to quickly toggle motion smooth on or off without diving into the phones’ settings menus, I ended up just turning it off and leaving it that way.

Camera Quality – Getting Closer to Parity

Previously, one of the biggest things holding OnePlus back from truly contending with other top-tier Android phones makers was its camera quality. Camera performance was never bad enough to be a deal-breaker, but it wasn’t exactly a selling point either. And with its two latest phones, OnePlus has taken a big step closer to matching its competition, while also throwing some weird superfluous extras in there too.

In daytime conditions, both phones performed well, capturing sharp pics with bright colours and only small differences in things like white balance and colour saturation, despite the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro featuring two different 48-MP main sensors. But as with most high-end phones today, the real test comes in low-light, where both the Galaxy S20+ and especially the Pixel 4 still have a noticeable advantage.

In one weird head-to-head shot of a church, the standard OnePlus 8 flubbed its white balance badly, resulting in an extremely yellow shot that would get rejected by almost anyone. Though in the OP8’s defence, that was the only time I noticed it messed up that bad.

When I tried shooting an empty street late at night, things were much closer, with the OP8 Pro edging out the vanilla OP8 picture thanks to a slightly brighter exposure that revealed more details in the shadows. However, if you compare both of the OnePlus 8’s shots to a Galaxy S20+, it’s clear there’s still room for improvement.

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Slideshow Image
Slideshow Image
Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

With their night modes turned on, both versions of the OP8 were able to brighten up the scene quite a but, but neither really nailed it.

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

And in really low-light situations, the Pixel 4 XL’s Night Sight still reigns supreme after capturing a night time shot of a flower with significantly more detail, even if its longer exposure meant there was some added blurriness near the centre of the frame.

Sadly, the bonus cameras on both phones”the macro on the OP8 and the colour filter camera on the OP8 Pro”ended up feeling really gimmicky. The macro camera on the OP8 is hard to focus and depending on your subject, if you try to get really close, the size of the phone blocks a lot of your light. Meanwhile, because the colour filter camera on the OP8 Pro only has four filters to choose from, it doesn’t add much to your overall toolkit, so until OnePlus adds some more, the feature is pretty forgettable.

Battery Life ” Plenty to Spare

One of the big upsides of OnePlus’ many tweaks and optimizations is that the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro really sip power when doing things like watching videos” something that allowed both phones to turn in some of the longest battery lives we’ve ever seen on our battery rundown test. The standard OnePlus 8 posted a time of 16 hours and 9 minutes, while the OnePlus 8 Pro fared even better at 16 hours and 45 minutes. Both times are way better than the 12:36 we got from the Pixel 4 XL, and even topped the 15:56 we saw from the Galaxy S20+.

Sadly, no versions of the OP8 have a headphone jack. (Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo)

However, in real life if you’re connected to 5G or you have 90Hz or 120Hz mode turned on, you’re looking at at least two to three hours less of real-world runtime, especially if you enable 120Hz mode at the OnePlus 8 Pro’s max QHD+ resolution.

So Which Phone Should You Get?

While the two phones are separated in price by $US200 ($313), both have definitely earned their place as some of the best phones on the market. At $US700 ($1,095), the standard OnePlus is a worthy followup to the OP7T and fills a gap in the market left after Samsung failed to make a Galaxy S20e. It’s a great blend of performance and specs, offering a large and vivid 90Hz OLED display in addition to flagship specs and a sleeker, more curvy design. For everyone who has been scared off by Samsung’s $US1,000+ ($1,564) ($1,564)+ Galaxy S20s, this is the Android phone to get.

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

As for the OnePlus 8 Pro, it feels like a budget S20+ in the best way possible. For $US300 ($469) less, you get the same processor, a gorgeous 6.78-inch 120Hz display (that unlike the S20, can do 120Hz at its max resolution), super-fast wireless charging, and some pretty solid rear cameras. The main things you don’t get are full 5G support and the confidence of an official IP68 rating for dust and water resistance (although onstage at today’s keynote OnePlus said the 8 Pro would have an IP68 rating which is deeply confusing so we’ve reached out for confirmation). So while OnePlus 8 offers the best value of the two, the extra 3x telephoto cam on the OnePlus 8 Pro and wireless charging support would have me wanting to upgrade.

But more importantly, for a company that seems like it’s finally ready to compete on the same playing field as Samsung and Google, while it’s not an all-out win, these two new phones prove that OnePlus can hang.

README

  • The carrier versions of the OnePlus 8 have a few differences including official IP68 water resistance and support for mmWave 5G.

  • On the more premium OP8 Pro, OnePlus has finally added Qi wireless charging, which is really fast when paired with OnePlus’ 30-watt wireless charger.

  • The OnePlus 8 Pro feels a lot like a cheaper version of the Galaxy S20+, in a good way.

  • While they sound neat, the OP8’s macro cam and the OP8 Pro’s colour filter camera aren’t really all that useful.