I’ll be honest. When OnePlus first announced the 8 and 8 Pro, it felt like last year’s 7 Series. The OnePlus 8 Pro received a higher resolution, higher refresh-rate display, better cameras, and two more demanding features – wireless charging and IP-rated waterproofing. The OnePlus 8 was left somewhat in the shadow of the 8 Pro, and this time, it doesn’t even have killer value. Of course, this was an initial response based purely on what I had only seen and read about thanks to the cancellation of the in-game launch.
With the ease of lockdown and a glimpse of normalcy in our lives, I finally managed to get my hands on the OnePlus 8. After my initial doubts, it’s time to see if this phone has enough merit to change my opinion about it. With prices starting above Rs. 40,000, OnePlus 8 is now bordering on the flagship arena, which means it is actually competing directly with older flagships from Samsung and Apple.
So is it really worth it? Should you pay so much money for a phone that is still missing two much-needed flagship features? We’ll get to that answer, but first, let’s take a quick look at what’s new.
What’s new in the OnePlus 8?
OnePlus 8 is the spiritual successor to OnePlus 7 (Review) and will eventually replace OnePlus 7T (Review). Compared to the 7T, the main new features are 5G support and the new-ish design. OnePlus 8 has Snapdragon 865 processor, which promises better performance and efficiency than last year’s model. 5G does not mean much for us in India at the moment, but it does not hurt to be.
OnePlus 8 design
I was not a huge fan of the circular camera bump on the OnePlus 7T and I am glad it has gone away. However, I miss the frosted finish of the glass back. The Onex 8 version of OnePlus 8 has a shiny finish, which picks up fingerprints very easily. It is very slippery, resulting in an accidental fall when I had a phone call on a chair. A case is given in the box, which should help.
The display now has a hole-punch cutout in the top left corner. OnePlus has said goodbye to Notch and I think it is the best. The hole-pooch is not the smallest I’ve seen but it gives the OnePlus 8 a new look.
As I mentioned in my first impressions, the OnePlus 8 is surprisingly comfortable given its display size. It is also thin and not heavy. The black version looks fine, but I was really keen to see the Interstellar Glow Trim first-hand, as I think this is the color to get.
As you expect, the build quality is excellent thanks to the curved-edge front and back glass sandwiching of the metal frame. The button is easy to access, and the alert slider is as easy as ever. The USB Type-C port, SIM tray, and main speaker are lined up at the bottom.
Overall, the new simplified design is welcome, and I like that OnePlus isn’t trying too hard to impress. This phone may seem a bit boring in photos, but it is instantly recognizable as a OnePlus device.
OnePlus 8 Display
The display is one of the most important parts of any smartphone, and the OnePlus 8 is great. It is a 6.55-inch AMOLED panel with a sloping sides, a wide color gamut and a hole-punch cutout in the upper left corner. OnePlus has used 3D Corning Gorilla Glass in addition to the already implemented screen protector. I found that later when my finger was swinging from the edges, I was more angry than anything.
Other features include 2400×1080 (full-HD +) pixels, HDR10 + support, a 90 Hz refresh rate and software modes such as reading mode, night mode and the ability to boost colors while playing video.
The 90 Hz refresh rate is used in normal feel fluid and flare. If you want to save some battery power, you can leave it at 60Hz. HDR content on OnePlus 8. looks great. When playing compatible shows via Netflix, brightness and color saturation are automatically boosted. This is normal once you exit the app.
The OnePlus 8 features an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is super quick in authentication. All it takes is one quick, tenacious tap to unlock it. Face recognition is equally fast and works well in dim light. You can enable double-tap ‘to wake the gesture’, but what I really wanted was a get-up gesture, which is still not an option.
The ‘Ambient Display’ feature provides a glimpse into which applications have sent you alerts when the screen is off, time, battery level, etc., although it is not always turned on and only appears when you are on the screen Tap or pick up the phone It even shows the name of the music track you are playing, but you cannot control playback from here.
One thing to note is that since the hole-punch cutout is not too close to the top edge, any app will need to make a thick black stripe to black out this area. This is most noticeable in some games and video apps, when you need to place the phone horizontally. You can also black out that area permanently but it only looks odd.
OnePlus 8 Performance
With its top-end hardware, it is hardly surprising that the performance from the OnePlus 8 is impressive. However, what really attracts our attention is that not so much happens in the process. For example, for the Mi 10 5G (review), we cannot say the same. Also through the OnePlus 8 aces benchmark. At AnTuTu, we got 5,78,289 points, while GFXbench’s car chase graphics test returned 46fps, one of the toughest scenes in the suite. The bottom of the camera, above the back and some spots are hot after non-stop benchmarking, but never warm. This says a lot about the thermal management design of the phone.
We reviewed the top-end variant of OnePlus 8, which has 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, priced at Rs. 49,999. 8GB RAM and 128GB storage with Rs. 44,999, and Amazon-exclusive version with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage at Rs. 41,999.
Gaming performance is on top. Fortnite can run at 90fps and the experience is good, but you have to manually change it in the settings. Other equally in-demand games such as PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile also fared well. We tried to pick up a bunch of racing games including Asphalt 9: Legends and Metal Madness, which both ran at their highest graphics settings and were quite fun to play. The top metal part of the phone was warmed up like Fortnite in some games, but this was not the case with most people. Game space is a neat utility that allows you to temporarily lock brightness levels, disable incoming notifications, and reduce distractions during gaming.
Performance is very good for Snapdragon 865 SoC
Games and movies are particularly enjoyable thanks to the very good stereo speakers on the OnePlus 8. The earpiece and bottom-firing speaker together produce very good, balanced stereo sound. The Dolby Atmos enhancement also helps boost low and mid-range frequencies, providing depth and clarity to the sound.
In addition to the 5G, the OnePlus 8 also features Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, multiple navigation satellite systems and all common sensors. You can use two nano-SIM cards in OnePlus 8, but there is no option to expand storage.
OnePlus 8 software: clean and functional
OxygenOS is one reason why fans keep coming back to OnePlus smartphones. We received some updates after unboxing OnePlus 8, and at the time of this review, it was running v10.5.8. It is based on Android 10 with the May security patch. The interface is clean and free of bloatware. You will not find advertisements or annoying alerts for stock apps that shade your notifications.
At the same time, it is well equipped with lots of shortcuts and gestures that are being discovered. The new launcher now provides a more seamless multitasking experience, with onePlus account, built-in screen recorder, and 5GB of free cloud storage for backup upon signing in with dynamic wallpaper.
OnePlus 8 Camera
Cameras have always been a touching subject for OnePlus. While the 8 Pro has some notable improvements in terms of sensors, the 8 has to do with hand-me-downs from the 7T and a very notable drawback. The 7T captured high-quality photos, but given the large bump in price, I expected better.
The cameras on the OnePlus 8 are good, but not particularly impressive
The OnePlus 8 features a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor with optical stabilization similar to the 7T. However, it has a slightly narrower aperture of f / 1.75 compared to the 7T’s wider (read: better) f / 1.6 aperture. The wide-angle camera has the same 16-megapixel resolution, but again, with a moderately narrow field of view of 116 degrees (117 at 7T).
However, in my opinion the biggest change, or rather downgrade, is the introduction of a Palatry 2-megapixel macro camera in place of the 7T’s telephoto camera. The outgoing model shot macros using its wide-angle camera, which meant that a dedicated sensor was not really necessary. This is, in my opinion, a pointless opportunity, and the OnePlus should have stuck with the telephoto camera. We have seen 2-megapixel macro cameras in many budget phones, and to be honest, I did not wind up using all this.
In daylight, the OnePlus 8’s primary camera captures detailed images with vivid colors and balanced HDR. I wondered how the wide-angle camera primarily matched the colors and overall tone, as we’ve often seen mismatch with other phones. Close-ups with details and saturated colors also looked good. Portrait mode works well, although you haven’t adjusted the level of blur before or after taking a shot. OnePlus also claims that it recognizes faces for portrait work on cats and dogs.
Low-light photos are decent, and the app automatically brightens images when shooting with the main camera, without switching to nightscape mode. In fact, I found very little difference between a regular photo and a shot with Nightscape. This however does not apply to wide-angle cameras, which capture terrible low-light shots in auto mode, but give better results with napscape enabled.
The 16-megapixel front camera does not deteriorate until you light it enough. During the day, the selfie had good detail and HDR was handled well when shooting against Prakash. Low-light selfies look heavily processed, and the results vary widely, depending on the location of the light source. Portrait mode often also failed to correctly detect our outline.
One neat detail I liked is that when shooting a selfie, there is a small ring light around the front camera so that you know where to look. I found it very helpful at night when this camera can be difficult to see, especially for others in the photo.
OnePlus 8 can record 4K resolution video at 60fps, which is not as attractive as 8K 30fps on the Mi 10, but I don’t make many complaints about this. The quality at 4K is very good, the footage is well stabilized, and the color tone remains intact even when you switch to the wide-angle camera. In low light, noise is suppressed very well, but there is a serious attention hunting issue every time the frame changes slightly.
You can switch between wide-angle and main camera when shooting, but only up to 4K 30fps. This is not possible at 60fps. OnePlus 8 also tells of something called INE 4K CINE ‘at 30fps or 60fps. At first I thought it was a Cinema 4K mode, which should record at 4096×2160 resolution, but all it does is crop the footage in the ratio of 21: 9, resulting in a resolution of 3840×1644.
The most annoying thing about the video mode on the OnePlus 8, is there is no easy way to change the resolution or framerate from within the viewfinder. You have to tap on the Settings menu, which requires you to hold the phone vertically, make your selections, and then switch back to horizontal to continue shooting. The resolution toggle, still shown on older OnePlus phones, has been replaced by a filter button. I found this a big annoyance and I hope OnePlus will take advantage of this change.
In addition, the camera app is very functional. The latest update added the option of recording videos using the HEVC codec for smaller file sizes. I also found Autofocus to be quick and responsive, which was particularly helpful when switching between subjects in a video.
OnePlus 8 Battery
OnePlus 8 has a decently large battery of 4,300mAh, which was half a day for me and on average. My usage was not particularly camera-heavy, but I played a lot of games and watched a lot of Netflix, and still spent a whole day easily. When usage was mild, the OnePlus 8 also managed to last until the end of the second day. Considering the performance was consistently at 90 Hz, I would call it very good. Our battery loop test lasting about 22 hours echoed this.
Charging the phone is very quick, thanks to the War Charge 30T charger. It took more than an hour to lift the completely damaged battery, but in 30 minutes you can charge the battery up to 61 percent.
Should you buy OnePlus 8?
The short answer would be – yes, absolutely. At the outset, I felt that the OnePlus 8 was a bit too much for what it offers and that sentiment remains, even after reviewing it. This is not an upgrade over the 7T, like I expected, but perhaps OnePlus is saving some major upgrades for the 8T, which should happen sometime later this year.
If you currently own OnePlus 7T, there is no need to jump to 8. However, if you are still hanging on to something older than your 6T or more, then OnePlus 8 would be worth switching. Many people are finding it difficult to pay more than Rs. 40,000 for this, but when you look at other flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 or even the iPhone 11 Pro, the OnePlus 8 is still priced low.
I think OnePlus should have brought IP-rated waterproofing and wireless charging to 8, to make it a full value package. I would have also taken a lower IP67 rating and regular 10W wireless charging, rather than nothing. I think OnePlus will fix this with the 8T, but there is still a long wait.
I don’t think the 12GB model is around Rs. 50,000, I would be tempted to pay a bit more and get the OnePlus 8 Pro. Storage is probably the only reason one would consider it. Sadly, the Interstellar Glow color option is only available on the top-end variants. If you are fine with 128GB of storage, then the 6GB and 8GB RAM variants definitely provide better pricing.