OnePlus 8 Pro full review

OnePlus made a name for itself making flagship killers: phones that undercut the likes of Samsung and Apple on price while matching them on performance and premium feel. That approach has been on the way out for a while now though, and the 8 Pro confirms it. OnePlus has given up on killing flagships, now it just makes them itself.

The OnePlus 8 Pro could go toe to toe with any of the Samsung Galaxy S20 line across most of its core specs, and for the first time also offers premium niceties the brand has omitted in the past such as an IP68 waterproof rating and wireless charging. The downside is you’ve suddenly got to pay for all that too.

So after chasing their tails for years, is OnePlus finally ready to play with the big boys on their own terms?

Design & build - Big but beautiful

More than any other element of a phone, design is a matter of taste. So I know I’m only reflecting mine when I say that OnePlus makes the best looking - and feeling - phones in the world right now.

The attention to detail is impeccable, as the phone curves to a comfortable taper at the edges, and the frosted glass finish just feels… right, somehow. It’s grippy, and almost soft to the touch, and yet unmistakably glass. Phone feel is something OnePlus almost perfected in last year’s 7 Pro, and the 8 Pro somehow finds the space to improve things further.

That said, in broad strokes little has changed here. This is slightly taller and thinner than the 7 Pro and 7T Pro, and a few grams lighter, but for the most part looks about the same. The camera module protrudes a bit further from the back - and the extra lens to the side leaves the design a little busier than before but other than the new all-caps logo that’s about the extent of it.

The biggest change lurks on the phone’s front, where a small corner punch-hole camera replaces the controversial pop-up found in last year’s Pro phones. I’ll miss the total full-screen display that the pop-up camera enabled, but the tradeoff here is one long-requested by fans: an official, genuine IP68 waterproof and dust-resistance rating, for whatever peace of mind that brings you.

Then there’s the colour. The 8 Pro comes in a glossy Onyx Black, frosted Glacial Green (pictured) and a vibrant Ultramarine Blue - though that last colour isn’t coming to the UK market. Here at least the colours are also matched to SKUs: so if you want black you’ll have to live with less RAM and storage, and if you want the green you’ll have to plump up for more.

The only problem? This is a big phone. Not bigger than last year’s, but big, and with the regular OnePlus 8 a similar size there just isn’t a friendly, compact OnePlus phone to buy any more. What I wouldn’t give to get this design in a body the size of the standard Samsung Galaxy S20, but for now small phone aficionados are out of luck.

Display - Hertz so good

If the 8 Pro is going to excel in any one area, this will be it. The brand is pushing hard on the idea that this is the best display you’ll get in a phone right now - which sounds familiar, because it’s the exact same messaging we’ve seen from Samsung and Oppo already within the last two months.

Much like the S20 and Find X2 Pro, the OnePlus 8 Pro backs this claim up with a 120Hz refresh rate display. A faster refresh rate allows for smoother, more fluid scrolling, animations, and gaming, and the difference really is palpable.

The leap from a regular phone’s 60Hz up to the 90Hz seen on last year’s 7 Pro and the new OnePlus 8 is transformative, but the jump from there up to 120 is harder to appreciate. It’s an improvement, sure. But it’s not much of one, and most users simply won’t notice the difference at this point - if you’re already on a 90Hz phone I wouldn’t stress too much about the upgrade.

Fortunately OnePlus didn’t solely focus on refresh rate. Colour accuracy and brightness have both been improved markedly in the 8 Pro, meaning that no matter what you’re doing this display is simply a joy to look at.

Truth be told, I don’t know if this is the best display in a phone right now. But that’s only because at this point we’re splitting hairs to pull the best phones apart - so if it’s not the best, it’s close enough to count.

Camera - The good, the great, and the WTF

The OnePlus 8 Pro’s rear camera setup is a tale of four lenses.

The first is great. The 48Mp main shooter uses the same Sony IMX689 sensor seen recently in the Oppo Find X2 Pro. This is the largest 48Mp sensor around, capturing more light and thus more detail, especially in low-light photography.

Photos are crisp and detailed, and the larger sensor lets you get some natural bokeh effect in close-up shots along with some really tremendous dynamic range. Colours are often a touch over-saturated, but OnePlus is far from the worst offender at this, and the result is mostly just photos that are extra punchy.

The second lens is great too. Also 48Mp, the ultrawide actually use the same IMX586 sensor that the 7 Pro used as its main shooter, which should give you some idea of what to expect. It's tuned very similarly to the main sensor, so you can get a very similar colour profile between shots from the two lenses, and while there's a slight drop-off in detail and range, shots from this camera still have a lot going for them.

The only area the ultrawide suffers is in low-light, with results that are far less impressive than with the main camera. It also supports Nightscape mode but lags behind the main lens just as much here. In general, Nightscape is solid, but it can't do much at all in pitch black conditions, which gives away that the OnePlus algorithm isn't up there with the best just yet.

OnePlus 8 Pro camera test

Lens number three is good. This hybrid 3x telephoto is, as far as I can tell, the same one found in both of the last two Pro phones. It’s a solid shooter that delivers more than enough zoom for most, but can’t come close to the top telephoto offerings from the likes of Samsung, Oppo, and Huawei already this year. At 3x zoom photos look good, at the 30x zoom cap they don't.

The fourth lens is… well, it’s something. This photochromatic ‘colour filter’ lens is used to take photos with funky colour-changing Instagram filter effects. Why make a whole lens to do this when software does it just fine already? Why devote the cost and power and internal space for a lens no-one will use? Why then bury it deep enough into the camera UI that most people wouldn’t even find it if they wanted to? If OnePlus has a plan here, I don’t know what it is - this lens is plain weird.

The 16Mp selfie lens is a slight downgrade from last year's pop-up in terms of specs, and sadly it does show. Selfies are a little soft - good enough for Instagram, but definitely not among the best out there. It supports portrait mode, which is much better though, with great edge detection and a believable blur.

Finally, the 8 Pro shoots video up to [email protected], though its stabilisation features are only supported up to [email protected] There's no 8K video supported here, even though the Snapdragon 865 can handle it - but given the poor quality of 8K support on Samsung's S20 series and limited 8K display availability, OnePlus might have made the right choice in holding off on 8K for now.

Specs & performance - Super-speed

Things are more clear when it comes to specs. With a Snapdragon 865 processor and your choice of 8GB or 12 GB LPDDR5 RAM, together with either 128GB or 256GB storage, this is a mighty powerful phone no matter how you slice it.

You can see that in the benchmark performance - tested using a 12/256GB model - where the phone comfortably keeps pace with every other flagship this year across the board. It's worth noting that the regular OnePlus 8's high GFXBench scores here are aided by having a lower resolution display.

Unsurprisingly it’s nippy in real-world usage too, without a hint of lag or slow down across a week of testing. That means it’ll keep pace with just about anything you throw at it, and will also be a very competent gaming phone if you want to put that high refresh rate to good use in PUBG Mobile.

Beyond core internals, the 8 Pro includes 5G support as standard, along with Wi-Fi 6 and all the usuals like Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC, so connectivity is top notch. It's even dual-SIM too. As for biometrics, there's a nippy face unlock and a more secure in-display fingerprint sensor, which is faster and more reliable than those seen in last year's 7 and 7T series.

Battery & charging - Cut the cord

OnePlus has finally - finally - made the jump to wireless charging. And in typical OnePlus fashion, it lived up to its promise to wait until it could do so and still deliver fast enough wireless charging to rival wired speeds.

The 8 Pro has 30W wired charging but backs it up with 30W wireless charging as well. To be clear, despite both methods hitting 30W the wired tech is more efficient and thus a bit faster still - OnePlus says it should top the phone up to 50% in 23 minutes, while wireless does the same in half an hour.

In my own testing, half an hour of wired charging took the phone to 63% from empty, one of the better scores we’ve seen in 2020. OnePlus hasn’t yet shipped me a wireless charger so I haven’t been able to test those speeds yet. It will also charge on any other Qi wireless charger thankfully, but will cap out at a slower 10W rate if you’re not using the official charging stand.

As for actual battery performance, it’s pretty solid but not awe-inspiring. I found the phone hitting around 30% by the end of the day - meaning it should reliably make it to bedtime, but you probably will to charge it once a day, or overnight.

It does feature a neat software trick that avoids charging the phone to full while it thinks you’re sleeping though, instead topping it most of the way up and finishing the job just before you wake, which should serve to protect battery health in the long term.

Software - Breathe easy

For my money, OnePlus remains second only to Google itself - and not by much - when it comes to Android software. OxygenOS remains an intelligently designed, clean version of Android that doesn’t change much from stock, and is smart about the changes it does make.

The 8 Pro ships with Android 10 and OxygenOS 10.5, which doesn’t change much. Dark mode gets a few tweaks (but still isn’t schedulable, or easy to turn on and off without diving deep into settings menus) and dynamic wallpapers finally arrive, but otherwise there’s little new here. Expect bigger changes later in the year, but for now this is more of the same - which is no bad thing.

Price & availability - Full-on flagship

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a flagship from top to bottom. Sadly, that means the price too, and this is the most expensive phone the company has released yet.

It starts at £799/$899, which’ll get you a model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage, while £899/$999 bumps that up to 12/256GB. It’s worth noting that different markets get different colours tied to specific specs though - in the UK the black model is only available at the lower spec, while green is the higher spec, but different countries will have different availability.

For the first time that puts this right in the same price range as the likes of the Galaxy S20 phones - which start from £799/$999 - and more than the £729/$699 iPhone 11. To be fair to OnePlus, there’s enough here that the phone still competes at that price and represents better value than most other top-tier phones, but gone are the days where it undercut the competition.

Still, that perhaps makes sense for a Pro line product, and if you’d rather spend a little less there is always the option of the regular OnePlus 8, which starts from £599/$699 and offers mostly similar specs - the big changes are a display that caps at 90Hz, lower camera specs, and the fact that it doesn’t include either wireless charging or that new IP68 rating.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is on sale now, and you can grab it from OnePlus or Amazon, and also from John Lewis or Three in the UK.

Verdict

OnePlus’s first attempt at a fully featured flagship presses all the right buttons, and there really isn’t anything missing here. The lack of a fancy telephoto camera might disappoint some - though I suspect few - and 30W wired charging is no longer as impressive as it used to be, but there’s really little else here that could be improved.

The company’s design language remains almost peerless, and while I do wish the phone was a touch smaller I know this will be the perfect size for many other than me. Fast wireless charging and proper waterproofing finally make sure there’s nothing missing here in terms of hardware, and while the software tweaks are few and far between that really just means OnePlus is giving its rivals the chance to catch up.

The OnePlus 8 Pro may not quite be perfect, but there’s something here for everyone, and little that’s lacking. You’ll have to look elsewhere if you like your phones compact, but otherwise right now this is the best phone you can buy at this price - and still better than several that cost more.

Specs

OnePlus 8 Pro: Specs

  • Android 10 with Oxygen OS 10.5
  • 6.78in Quad HD+ (1440x3168) Fluid AMOLED Plus, 20:9, 120Hz, HDR10+
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 octa-core processor
  • 8/12GB RAM (DDR5)
  • 128/256GB internal storage (UFS 3.0)
  • 48Mp main, f/1.78, PDAF, OIS
  • 48Mp ultrawide, f/2.2
  • 8Mp telephoto, f/2.44, OIS, 3x hybrid zoom
  • 5Mp colour filter lens, f/2.4
  • 16Mp selfie camera, f/2.45
  • Fingerprint scanner (in-screen)
  • 11ax dual-band Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • 5G
  • Dual-nano SIM
  • USB-C
  • 4510mAh non-removable battery
  • Warp Charge 30T (30W)
  • Warp Charge 30 wireless charging (10W with Qi)
  • IP68
  • 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5mm
  • 199g

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