OnePlus 8 full review
OnePlus is not the kind of company to hide what its upcoming smartphones are going to be called or what they will feature. Plenty of OnePlus 8 information was drip-fed leading up to the launch event but we now have the final details and I’ve been using the regular model for a week now.
As you would expect, the OnePlus 8 misses out on various things that the Pro has but it remains an excellent choice for those looking for a stylish and powerful Android flagship smartphone.
Screen - Refresh my memory
OnePlus announced its 120Hz Fluid Display back in January but I must have got the wrong end of the stick because it seemed like all phones this year would get this speedy display.
That’s not the case with only the OnePlus 8 Pro reaching this higher refresh rate while the regular 8 is still on 90Hz like the 7T range.
OnePlus users are likely to want the latest and greatest tech but we generally agree across the Tech Advisor team that the difference between 90- and 120Hz is minimal, so the experience is still dreamily smooth here and will be kinder on battery life anyway.
Another thing the regular misses out on is a Quad HD+ resolution, instead maxing out at Full HD+. But again, I’m not too bothered about this since the screen still looks perfectly crisp and this lower resolution is better for gaming frame rates and battery life.
Whether or not you’re tempted by the Pro, this is an excellent display with top quality contrast, colour accuracy and support for HDR10+.
In-line with many rivals, the display is huge at 6.55in and uses a 20:9 aspect ratio (the Pro is even bigger at 6.7in). This is too big and tall for me personally but it’s pretty standard for a 2020 flagship. I’ll have to wait in hope that the 8 Lite is smaller.
A couple of things to round off this section are that there’s still a fingerprint scanner in the screen, which works very well and OnePlus has switched to a punch-hole camera at the front.
See more details about the camera itself below but I personally liked the pop-up camera on the 7T Pro which caused no screen interruption but was still there when you wanted it. At least OnePlus has kept this in-screen camera very small.
Cameras - Triple trouble
Smartphone cameras have become a bit silly recently with 100+Mp sensors, ‘100x zoom’ and the like. OnePlus has kept things relatively simple for the 8 and I’m glad of the lack of gimmicks.
Here’s a rundown of the OnePlus 8 camera specs:
- 48Mp main, f/1.75, OIS
- 16Mp ultrawide, f/2.2, 116 degrees
- 2Mp macro, f/2.4
- 16Mp selfie, f/2.0
As with other high-megapixel cameras, the OnePlus 8 doesn’t actually shoot in 48Mp by default, although you can go full-res if you really want. Instead, you get a resulting 12Mp image which offers high-quality results on the whole.
There’s plenty of detail, contrast is good and so is the dynamic range. Colours are over saturated most of the time (check the dog toy and red cushion in our gallery which don't look that vibrant in real life).
Of course, there are various modes to play with (including Pro) but most people will take advantage of portrait and Nightscape. I found these gave mixed results, as you can see in the gallery, so you might need to take multiple to get the shot you’re after.
The ultrawide angle camera is of a similar level and comes in really handy when you want to fit a lot more into the frame. One of the main differences between the two is that here colour saturation is a little lower, often for the better in my personal opinion. It has lens correction on by default to avoid distortion.
Note that the camera app offers a 2x zoom but this isn’t a separate lens, it merely crops the main sensor.
Onto the macro camera, which is an increasingly popular option that smartphone makers are offering; I struggled to get good results from it on the whole. Like others, you’ll need to hold it at a specific distance from the subject and I prefer the results from simply using the main camera and cropping in if needed (see the can label example in the gallery).
An odd thing is that the macro feature isn’t part of the horizontal roll of features like portrait and nightscape. Instead, it’s found at the top of the camera app with settings like the flash and timer.
The selfie camera produces excellent results whether you use it in regular or portrait modes. It also doesn't suffer from being positioned at the far left of the screen in terms of the angle. It serves no major purpose but a white ring lights up around the camera when it's in use which looks quite nice.
On the video front, the OnePlus 8 can shoot in 4K resolution up to 60fps, but Super Stable and Time-lapse are limited to 30fps in 1080p or 4K options. The stabilisation is excellent and even at 1080p with 30fps quality is pretty good.
There’s also a 4K Cine 60fps mode which offers a 21:9 aspect ratio but a 30 second clip will be about 500MB in size. As you would expect, there are other modes to play with like Super Slow Motion, which caps at 240fps at 1080p. It’s ok but there are better phones out there if this is a key element for you.
If you’re considering the Pro model, it swaps the 16Mp ultrawide for a 48Mp version (the same sensor found here), has an 8Mp 3x telephoto camera, then instead of a macro camera has a 5Mp colour filter camera. It also uses a better 48Mp sensor (Sony IMX689) for the main camera. It does have the same selfie camera.
Check our OnePlus 8 vs 8 Pro review for a full comparison.
Design - Colour conundrum
After seeing the leaks, I was quite excited to see some OnePlus phones with a splash of colour and a more vibrant design.
I like the look of the Interstellar Glow - in images at least - and also the Ultramarine Blue option. However, neither of these colours are available in the UK.
Instead we just get the Onyx Black with its glossy finish and Glacial Green which has a contrasting matt finish.
We’ve been sent green models for both reviews and I’m personally not a big fan. It’s a little too pale and as much as I love mint choc chip ice cream, it’s not the colour I want for my phone.
I’m perfectly happy with a black phone - although I’d prefer it matt - but there’s a bigger problem here and that is because OnePlus has tied the colours to different hardware SKUs.
This means you have Onyx Black if you want the 8/128GB option and Glacial Green only comes with 12/256GB.
Oddly, in the US the Glacial Green model is the lower specs option and the higher-spec comes in Interstellar Glow.
Colourway issues aside, the OnePlus 8 is another stunning phone from the company. It’s luxurious and feels every bit the premium flagship you’d expect, with curved glass on the front and back.
Be aware that this is a big ol' phone (both tall and heavy) though and even with fairly large hands, I struggled to use it one-handed without a gripping fear of dropping it. That matt finish doesn’t provide much grip at all.
OnePlus does provide a clear silicone case in the box and it’s a bit nicer than most, with ‘Never Settle’ etched onto it.
I have a few quibbles, such as the lack of a headphone jack when there’s plenty of space for one. And there are no USB-C headphones in the box either.
The other issue is that you miss out on waterproofing, so to get an IP68 rating, you’ll have to upgrade to the 8 Pro.
Battery life - Warp speed
At least the OnePlus 8 being pretty chunky means there’s a big battery inside. It’s a whopping 4300mAh cell, with the Pro going a little bit higher.
We couldn’t run our usual battery life test in Geekbench 4 as it failed to install, but in real-world usage (which is more important anyway) I’m very impressed. Over a three hour period, including plenty of social media, and a one hour phone call, the battery didn’t even go down 10%.
A bank holiday weekend day, including plenty of usage, left me with over 60% juice left at bedtime. I can easily get two days out of this thing, even with a decent amount of usage.
A key thing the OnePlus 8 doesn’t have that you do get on the Pro model is wireless charging. This was announced before the launch for the Pro so it was always going to be a red flag for its little brother.
It’s still 30W and the phone supports reverse wireless charging like Samsung does on some phones which is pretty handy when you want to top up a wireless earbuds case or even someone else’s phone.
You’ll be stuck with USB-C charging here (Warp Charge 30T) and it’s also 30W and can get the phone from dead to an impressive 57% in 30 minutes.
A new feature is optimised charging, where the phone adjusts the charging pattern based on your usage to “reduce battery load and extend battery life”. For example, this will avoid the phone hitting 100% until 6am, if that’s when you get up and start using it, if you leave it charging overnight.
It’s hard to say whether this works, considering I’m asleep when it’s doing it, but in theory it’s a good idea.
Performance - Peak power
I’ve left this section until late on in the review because there’s not a whole lot to say. The OnePlus 8 has the same set of internal components as the Pro, so is powered by Qualcomm’s latest flagship Snapdragon 865 processor, which supports 5G.
It’s very impressive and the phone comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB as standard, which will be enough for many users - just bear in mind that, as mentioned earlier, this means having the phone in Onyx Black.
Those wanting the 12/256GB model will have to settle (despite never settling?) for Glacial Green. Choose wisely as OnePlus doesn’t offer a microSD card slot.
Ok, I lied a little when I said they have the same internals, as this phone has DDR4 memory while the Pro has faster DDR5 with RAM boost. Compare the benchmarks below to see some of the more important differences between these two. Storage is UFS 3.0 either way.
We couldn’t install Geekbench 4 but as you can see, the OnePlus 8 excels in other benchmarks, outpacing the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, Huawei P40 Pro and Oppo Find X2 in Geekbench 5.
Note: We're not sure why the phone wouldn't go above 60fps in GFX despite running it at 90Hz. OnePlus told us benchmark apps should be locked down until public launch. Well we could get them to run, just not above 60fps in these tests.
Software - Breathe the oxygen
There’s not a whole lot to say about software this year. You get Oxygen OS based on Android 10, as you would expect.
OnePlus’ user interface continues to be one of the best Android skins out there, staying true to stock Android while balancing its own style and additional features. These include new system icons, dynamic wallpapers and Dark Theme 2.0.
There’s a lot to like and explore here, with customisation options such as the choice between navigation buttons or gestures. You also get things like Zen Mode if you need to take a break from the digital life.
Whether you’re new to OnePlus or a long-time user, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Price - Value proposition
There were some rumours to say the OnePlus 8 range would be rather expensive, perhaps even hitting the £1,000 mark for the highest spec Pro model. The good news is that’s not the case.
The OnePlus 8 starts at just £599/US$699, which is amazing value when you consider that the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite has an RRP of £579. It's only £50 more than the older OnePlus 7T and still one of the cheapest flagship phones you can buy.
That very affordable starting price will get you the 8/128GB model and an extra £100/$100 will upgrade you to 12/256GB.
If you’re thinking of getting the 8 Pro, it comes in at £799/$899 or £899/$999 for those same capacities.
There are some minor quibbles I have about the OnePlus 8 but they are just that, minor, and things like the size and colour are my personal preference.
What you’re getting once again is an exceptionally good value for money flagship smartphone with a lot to offer. The combination of design, build, features and performance is the high standard we’ve come to expect from OnePlus.
The display and internal specs are fantastic, especially at a price significantly lower than key rivals, and although the cameras didn’t blow me away they are pretty good on the whole. It’s mainly the macro lens which I find a let down.
To be very fussy, wired charging could be faster than 30W in 2020, but it can still charge the phone very quickly indeed.
It’s super easy to recommend the OnePlus 8 compared to many many rivals, so the question is perhaps more whether you’re tempted by the 120Hz QHD display of the Pro model which also has better cameras, waterproofing and wireless charging.
That is a decent enough list for £200 extra (or dollars) but I’d say don’t do it for the refresh rate as 90Hz is perfectly good.
OnePlus 8: Specs
- Android 10 with Oxygen OS 10.5
- 6.55in Full HD+ (1080x2400) Fluid AMOLED Plus, 20:9, 90Hz, HDR10+
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 octa-core processor
- 8/12GB RAM (DDR4)
- 128/256GB internal storage (UFS 3.0)
- 48Mp main, PDAF, OIS
- 16Mp ultrawide
- 2Mp macro
- 16Mp selfie camera
- Fingerprint scanner (in-screen)
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.1
- Dual-nano SIM
- 4300mAh non-removable battery
- Warp Charge 30T (30W)
- 160x 72.9 x 8.mm
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