Estimated read time: 15 minutes
OnePlus has always been known for its reputation of making budget phones with premium features. This remains the same for the OnePlus 8, especially as OnePlus hits the market with its high-end smartphone, its fully featured and higher priced OnePlus 8 Pro.
Though not as flashy as some of the OnePlus smartphones, the OnePlus 8 is still one of the best Android phones in the market. It sports a top-of-the-line processor, big battery, and decent display.
Are the tradeoffs you have to make for the OnePlus 8’s comparatively lower price worth it? Our OnePlus 8 review finds that they are, though fans of superior mobile photography may be put off by some of this phone’s compromises.
Configurations and Prices
The OnePlus 8 comes in two configurations, the model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage which cost $699. The second model is the one with 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage and cost an extra $100. The phone goes on sale at Amazon and on OnePlus’ website on April 29.
The $699 price for the OnePlus 8 is noteworthy, considering the $899 OnePlus is charging for the OnePlus 8 Pro. By scaling back some of the features in this new round of flagship phones, OnePlus can still offer a device that costs the same as the iPhone 11 and a full $300 less than the Galaxy S20.[wptb id="1443" not found ]
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OnePlus 8 Review: Design
The OnePlus 8 is a more iterative take on its predecessor, the OnePlus 7T, but it includes enough improvements to make it a serious affordable flagship handset – and in some ways, the new OnePlus phone has less competition given that the Samsung Galaxy S20 line doesn’t have its own lower-priced equivalent.
But the OnePlus 8 has also been elevated closer to Galaxy S-range level with the kind of je ne sais quoi touches that put Samsung’s flagships in a different league to the OnePlus 7T.
These include the waterfall-style curved display edges, which used to be the provenance of the OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T Pro, leaving the cheaper models with flat screens. And, as previously mentioned, the circular camera bump in the OnePlus 7T has been swapped for a vertical strip. It protrudes a bit more than the camera housings on other phones, so a phone case that is flush with the lenses would be a sensible purchase.
In terms of selfie style, the OnePlus 8 lacks the panache that last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro/7T Pro exhibited with their pop-up front-facing cameras. It is a bit of a shame, but we were always just a little nervous that the safety feature incorporated into those phones – the popped-up lens would retract if the phone detected that it was falling – would not kick in for some reason and were extra careful when using them with the camera deployed. The OnePlus 8 is a bit more robust for not having those moving parts.
The OnePlus 8 has a volume rocker on the left side and a lock button on the right; both stick out farther than on last year’s OnePlus phones, and offer a more satisfying ‘click’ sensation to boot. The brand’s signature silence slider, found above the lock button on the right side, likewise has a more tactile feel when switching between ring, vibrate, and silent modes.
As phones get ever heavier, the OnePlus 8’s 180g feels well-balanced – the only 2020 flagship that is noticeably lighter is the 163g Samsung Galaxy S20, which is also smaller. Most others are heftier by degrees, like the 186g Galaxy S20 Plus and 196g Galaxy Note 10 Plus, all the way up to the 226g iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The OnePlus 8 comes in three colors and two finishes: Onyx Black and Interstellar Glow colors come with glossy glass on the rear, while Glacial Green has a matte texture.
OnePlus 8 Review: Display
If you pay up for the $899 OnePlus 8 Pro, you can enjoy a screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. OnePlus 8 users, however, must make do with a 90Hz refresh rate — which also happens to be noticeably faster than the 60Hz rate found on most phones these days.
I honestly do not think that this is much of a tradeoff between the two versions of the OnePlus 8. Yes, the Pro model features smoother scrolling, and it has an MEMC mode to upscale Netflix and YouTube videos to 120 frames per second. But whatever improved scrolling you get from 120Hz vs. 90Hz escaped my eye when I used a Galaxy S20 Plus (with its 120Hz refresh rate turned on) alongside the OnePlus 8’s 90Hz screen. In other words, the OnePlus 8 lets you enjoy the benefits of faster scrolling at a lower overall price. And you do not have to downscale the resolution on your OnePlus 8 to enjoy this feature the way you do on Samsung’s S20 phones.
With a maximum brightness of 1,100 nits, the OnePlus 8’s AMOLED screen is plenty bright enough to see in bright sunlight. When I went out to shoot photos with the phone, I never had to max out the brightness (and drain the battery faster) to see the OnePlus 8’s on-screen controls.
Watching trailers for both No Time to Die and Cats on both the OnePlus 8 and Galaxy S20 Plus, I thought the OnePlus 8 matched up well against Samsung’s more expensive phone in the color department. Colors looked a little more vibrant on the S20 Plus, but they also had a bluish cast, particularly when James Bond or assorted Jellicle cats were skulking around in darker scenes of their respective movies.
Our test numbers bear that out. The OnePlus 8 registers 155.7% of the sRGB color spectrum, which isn’t as much as the S20 Plus’s 222.4% result (though it does beat the iPhone 11’s 113% tally). But colors are more accurate on the OnePlus 8, which has a Delta-E rating of 0.25, compared to 0.36 for the Galaxy S20 Plus. A score of zero is perfect on this test. You’re getting an excellent display with the OnePlus 8 that captures color well.
OnePlus 8 Review: Cameras
A bigger tradeoff that OnePlus 8 owners must make, at least compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro, concerns the cameras. While the Pro model features four lenses, the OnePlus 8 sports only three — and one of those isn’t a telephoto lens. Instead, the 48-megapixel main shooter with its f/175 aperture and 16MP ultra-wide camera are joined by a 2MP macro lens. That’s great, in theory, for taking detailed objects, but if you want to zoom in, you’re at the mercy of a digital zoom that can add noise to your shots.
If you shoot a lot of photos where you can get up close and personal with your subject, the macro lens may come in handy, but I’d rather have a good zoom lens on my phone. If a phone does come equipped with a macro lens, I wish it performed more consistently than the one on the OnePlus 8.
While this close-up shot of a tulip arrangement captures the folds and patterns of the purple tulip’s leaf, too many of the macro shots I took with the OnePlus 8 had too much of a blur that I didn’t notice until I was able to look at my photos on a larger screen than the phone’s viewfinder. There’s probably an art to taking macro shots, but the OnePlus 8 certainly doesn’t help you discover it.
As for the lack of a telephoto lens, you see the disadvantage OnePlus 8 is working at when you stack it up against a phone capable of an optical zoom like the Galaxy S20 Plus. (The lower cost S20 would be a better comparison to the OnePlus 8, but the S20 Plus is what I have on hand during this time of sheltering in place.)
This shot of the Oakland skyline from across the San Leandro Channel shot at a 2x zoom looks generally the same on the OnePlus 8, as it does on the S20. But focus in on the buildings in the background, and you can see that they stand out more sharply in the Samsung phone’s rendering. The S20 Plus also captures more gradients of blue in the spring sky.
The more you zoom in, though, the greater the disparity becomes. The OnePlus 8 maxes out at a 10x digital zoom, and by that point, the photo looks like nothing you’d care to share — everything’s fuzzy and out of focus and the colors are decidedly muted. The S20 Plus can use lossless zoom to still deliver a focused photo where Oakland’s Tribune Tower pops out against the sky and you can clearly read the Wells Fargo sign on the building next to it. If you count on your camera phone to zoom in for more details, you’ll want to look beyond the OnePlus 8.
The OnePlus 8 makes a better show of it when you’re turning to its other lenses for photos. OnePlus’ phone did a decent job with this jar of multicolored jellybeans on my porch, though it struggles with figuring out where the glass jar ends, and the mass of jellybeans begins. The Galaxy S20 Plus does a better job distinguishing between those two objects, even if it has a warmer color cast than I think is accurate.
Note that the OnePlus 8 uses pixel-binning with its main lens to present 12MP photos with better dynamic range. You have the option to switch to 48MP photos, though that feature works best in brightly lit scenes. In the case of the jellybean jar, you get a photo that’s closer to what the S20 Plus shoots by default, with less glare from the glass jar.
The OnePlus 8 seems to have trouble focusing with some photos as I found out when photographing a bowl of pork belly that whipped up for dinner. The glaze on the pork glistens in the OnePlus 8 shot, though you can’t really make out the individual grains of rice that the S20 Plus had a better time capturing. More significantly, the kale salad in the background of the OnePlus 8 shot is clearly out of focus, and not in an artistic way. It’s just a mass of green, while the S20 Plus can keep both the main dish and the salad in sharp contrast.
To see how the OnePlus’s ultra-wide angle lens fares, I went to a nearby shoreline to take a photo of a statue in front of some houseboats. I like the OnePlus 8’s effort here, as it produced a bright, well-composed shot that matches up well against the Galaxy S20 Plus’s output. The S20 Plus darkens the scene a little too dramatically for my tastes, while the OnePlus accurately reflects what a sunny day it was when I took these photos.
Switching to the wide angle, though, the OnePlus 8 falters. The formerly bright colors are now dull. Compare the yellow trim on the houseboat — it pops in the S20’s photo, while it looks muted in the OnePlus 8 shot. The angle on the S20 Plus is also wider, capturing more background detail.
There are few instances where the OnePlus 8 outperformed the Galaxy S20. The OnePlus 8’s Nightscape mode, for example, does a superlative job in low-light. A mural on a local shop is still heavily detailed in the OnePlus 8’s photo, even if the flowers in the upper right color got a little washed out. (The S20 Plus struggled with those flowers as well.) The S20 Plus, while showing more coloration in the night sky, also imposes too warm of a cast, while the cool look of the OnePlus 8’s shot feels like a better representation of the scene.
Neither phone really stood out with their attempts to take a portrait of my daughter, though I think the OnePlus 8 has the better overall shot. It struggles separating her hair from the background blur, catching more than a few strands in the bokeh effect. But the colors are more accurate and vibrant, even if the OnePlus 8 has a little bit of trouble with shadows on this bright, sunny day. The S20 Plus removed all the color from my daughter’s face, as both phones got over-aggressive with smoothing out her skin.
That same aggression with removing any blemish or freckle appears again when we switch over to the 16MP selfie cam on the front of the OnePlus 8. Like the Galaxy S20 Plus, OnePlus’ camera software wants to make my skin look as smooth as possible, accuracy be damned. I think the OnePlus 8 shot better reflects my skin tone than the S20 Plus, which makes it look like I’m wearing bronzer. The background blur in the S20’s photo is more stylish, though.
My testing of the OnePlus 8’s video capture capabilities hasn’t been as extensive, but so far I like what I’ve seen. By default, you shoot video at 1080p/30fps resolution, though if you dig into settings, you can upgrade to 4K video at 60fps. (Be prepared to eat up a lot of storage space if you do that.) Video I shot of my daughter running back and forth appeared steady, which I’ll credit to the OnePlus 8’s hybrid stabilization that taps into both OIS and EIS technologies.
OnePlus 8 Review: Performance
The OnePlus 8 packs a Snapdragon 865 chipset paired with a Snapdragon X55 modem for 5G connectivity. You can opt for either 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
The OnePlus 8 is as fast as you need it to be, switching between apps and games without delay.
OnePlus’s OxygenOS skin for Android hasn’t changed much from its predecessors – it’s still a minimal overlay with a sleek look, although the app tray now has a slight transparency to let the dynamic Android 10 backgrounds show through.
OnePlus 8 Review: Battery life and charging
The OnePlus 8 comes with a 4,300-mAh battery — bigger than the 3,800-mAh power pack in the OnePlus 7T though not as large as the 4,510 mAh battery you’ll get by paying up for the OnePlus 8 Pro. That shouldn’t matter too much, as the OnePlus 8 delivers superlative battery life, though that result comes with a warning.
When we put the OnePlus 8 through the Tom’s Guide battery test — that’s continuous web-surfing over T-Mobile’s LTE network with the display set to 150 nits of brightness — the new OnePlus phone lasted an average of 11 hours and 4 minutes. The best phone battery life for the devices we’ve tested tops 11 hours, so the phone finds itself in rare company, even if recent flagships like the Galaxy S20 Ultra and LG V60 ThinQ outlast it.
That 11 hour-plus time comes with the OnePlus 8’s refresh rate set to 60Hz. Opt for the faster refresh speed, and battery life takes a hit. When we ran our battery test after setting the OnePlus 8’s display to a 90Hz refresh rate, the average result dropped to 9 hours and 55 minutes, which is more in line with the average smartphone’s performance. Losing an hour of battery life to enjoy one of the OnePlus 8’s marquee features isn’t ideal, but it’s a tradeoff some users won’t mind. It’s also not as steep as the 3-hour difference we saw when testing the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s battery with a 120Hz refresh rate turned on.
OnePlus finally added wireless charging support to the OnePlus 8 Pro. But the standard OnePlus 8 model stays stuck in the past with only wired charging capabilities. At least that charging is ridiculously speedy, thanks to OnePlus’ Warp Charge 30T technology. Using the included 30-watt charger, I routinely saw this device go from a drained battery to a 68% charge after 30 minutes. The Galaxy S20 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro both hit 55% after 30 minutes of charging.
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OnePlus 8 Review: Software and special features
The OnePlus 8 runs OxygenOS, an in-house version of Android 10 that adds a couple of new features. Features like a dark mode that’s compatible with more apps and optimized for better battery life. OnePlus has also introduced new dynamic wallpapers that shift tones based on ambient lighting.
I think the highlight of the special features for this device, though, is the phone’s in-display fingerprint sensor, a returning feature from past OnePlus flagships. The sensor’s spot on the display is clearly shown with the outline of a fingerprint, and I find it more responsive and forgiving than similar features on the Galaxy S20 lineup.
The OnePlus 8 also benefits from a facial recognition feature that’s a lot quicker than the iPhone’s Face ID, which scans your face to unlock your device but still requires you to swipe up to move past the lock screen. Glance at the OnePlus 8 and it will launch immediately. Of course, OnePlus’ face unlocking feature isn’t as secure as what Apple does with Face ID, which uses a 3D scan of your face to verify your identity. That might explain why I was able to unlock the OnePlus 8 while wearing a pandemic-inspired mask over my nose and mouth. That same mask was blocked by Face ID.
OnePlus 8 Review: Specifications
|Release date||14th April 2020|
|Launched in India||Yes|
|Dimensions (mm)||160.20 x 72.90 x 8.00|
|Battery capacity (mAh)||4300|
|Colours||Glacial Green, interstellar Glow, Onyx Black|
|Screen size (inches)||6.55|
|Protection type||Gorilla Glass|
|Pixels per inch (PPI)||402|
|Processor make||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
|Rear camera||48-megapixel (f/1.75, 0.8-micron) + 16-megapixel (f/2.2) + 2-megapixel (f/2.4, 1.75-micron)|
|Rear flash||Dual LED|
|Front camera||16-megapixel (f/2.45, 1.0-micron)|
|Operating system||Android 10|
|Wi-Fi standards supported||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/Yes|
|Bluetooth||Yes, v 5.10|
|Number of SIMs||2|
|Supports 4G in India (Band 40)||Yes|
|Supports 4G in India (Band 40)||Yes|
|In-Display Fingerprint Sensor||Yes|
|Ambient light sensor||Yes|
Should I buy the OnePlus 8?
Buy it if you:
- Need a high specs and 5G at a lower cost.
- Want a cheap flagship.
- Need a lighter phone.
- Want a flagship phone without the fluff.
- Are not interested in having a powerful zoom camera on your phone.
- Don’t need all the flagship goodies, like wireless charging.
The Final Verdict
Normally, I’m a big advocate of opting for the less expensive of the multiple models that phone makers put out. Plus, Pro and Ultra models have flashy features that appeal to power users, but rarely justify the added cost for most smartphone owners. And while the excellent display on the OnePlus 8 won’t have users feeling short-changed. The better performing cameras on the OnePlus 8 Pro just might.
As for how the OnePlus 8 measures up to devices beyond those made by OnePlus itself, there’s a compelling case to be made for this flagship phone. The phone performs as well as any leading Android device and even makes the iPhone 11 sweat a little. You’ll get exceptionally good battery life — at least when the phone’s faster refresh rate isn’t taxing the battery — and the color schemes on this device help this phone stand out from a selection of increasingly indistinguishable black smartphones.
The big question in any OnePlus 8 review comes down to the camera. If you want an Android phone that produces the best possible shots, you’ll want to pay up for Samsung’s Galaxy S20 models. But if you don’t really make use of optical zooms and don’t mind photos that don’t measure up to what the best camera phones produce, this phone can save you anywhere from $100 to $300 on your next phone.