OnePlus started out as the flagship killer, with the OnePlus One in early 2014. The OnePlus One was priced at $299, which was pretty impressive for the time. Where most smartphones were $650-$800 (though we were all still buying phones on contract).
Now, fast forward to 2020, OnePlus has become the flagship that it was once trying to “kill”. The OnePlus 8 Pro starts at $899, and while that is now still cheaper than the Galaxy S20 lineup that Samsung launched in February. That’s still a lot to ask for, from a OnePlus phone. In fact, that’s a $230 price increase from the OnePlus 7 Pro last year.
So can the OnePlus 8 Pro live up to that price increase? Well, on the surface yes. But let’s find out in our review of the OnePlus 8 Pro.
The best display money can buy…right now
OnePlus has become known for putting some really incredible displays on its smartphones, and it was one of the first to jump on the high-refresh rate bandwagon last year. Of course, gaming phones were first to go to 120Hz, but as far as everyday smartphones go, the OnePlus 7 Pro was first and it did 90Hz.
This year, OnePlus jumped even higher, to 120Hz on the 8 Pro.
Not only does the OnePlus 8 Pro have an incredible looking AMOLED display at QHD+ resolution, but it also has a refresh rate of 120Hz. On top of that, it made the display brighter this year. And we’re happy to report that the OnePlus 8 Pro is visible outside. In fact, it is very visible outside, to the point where we could take a photo of the display outside, even with a dark wallpaper. That is fairly meta, but normally you don’t see pictures of phone screens outside in our reviews, because the displays don’t get bright enough to really make it possible.
So that right there shows you how bright the OnePlus 8 Pro display can get. And it’s easily our favorite part of this new model.
Otherwise, this display really pops. If you watch any content on your phone, you are really going to notice the difference here. Especially since the OnePlus 8 Pro does support HDR10 out of the box. Which really makes a big difference, especially on content that was shot in HDR.
Stunning design, that looks familiar
At this point, it’s no secret that OnePlus is a sister-company of OPPO and vivo, which are all owned by BBK Electronics. And it’s also no secret that OnePlus and OPPO sometimes share hardware.
The OnePlus 8 series looks a whole lot like the OPPO Find X2 which OPPO released back in February. Even down to the same AMOLED 120Hz display, and hole-punch camera. But that’s not a bad thing. The OPPO Find X2 was a stunning device, and so is the OnePlus 8 Pro. But perhaps in a different way.
My favorite aspect of the OnePlus 8 Pro design is actually the matte glass on the back. This isn’t the first time that OnePlus has done this, it did matte glass on the OnePlus 7 Pro last year. But it gives the OnePlus 8 Pro a rather unique look, and also does a good job to keep fingerprints off of the device. Which is definitely a good thing here.
Now our model is the Glacial Green color, and it is just stunning. If we weren’t stuck in quarantine, this would likely be a device that got a lot of people stopping me on the street asking what phone this is. But since everyone’s stuck at home right now, that didn’t happen.
The backside is curved and the curved front melt into the metal frame on the OnePlus 8 Pro, resulting in a comfortable to hold smartphone. In fact, it was so comfortable to hold, that I just could not put the OnePlus 8 Pro down while I was working on this review.
There is a hole-punch for the front-facing camera. Now, while I do like the bezel-less look of the OnePlus 7 Pro better, I prefer this to the pop up camera that the company used last year. As there are no mechanical parts here that could end up breaking. The hole-punch is still somewhat large, and much bigger than the Galaxy S20 hole-punch. OnePlus also put it in the corner instead of centering it. Now centering the camera would have been better for two reasons. It’s out of the way of notification and status bar icons. And it is also centered for taking selfies. Which, let’s face it, that’s the biggest reason why front-facing cameras still exist.
All in all, I’m really in love with the design of the OnePlus 8 Pro. OnePlus took the design from the 7 and 7T series and perfected it this time around. Making it a really great design. Not just stunning to look at, but also very comfortable to hold.
Battery life exceeded our expectations
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a 4510mAh capacity battery, which is about the size of the Galaxy S20+ battery. And given the fact that you can use 120Hz at QHD+ resolution, we weren’t expecting to get through a full day of somewhat heavy usage without having to charge the phone. But we were able to, many times.
Typically, we were able to get through a full day, anywhere from 15 to 23 hours on a charge. With five hours on screen time, consistently. Now yes, that is not amazing, but if you drop the resolution to FHD+, the battery life is going to improve drastically. And where you won’t see a big difference between FHD+ and QHD+, that is a worthy trade-off for heavy users.
Now when the battery does need to be charged, you won’t need to wait long for it to charge up. The Warp Charge 30T charger does still come in the box, and it’s still pretty insane how quickly this thing can charge with that charger. We were able to go from 10% to full in a little over an hour.
The OnePlus 8 Pro also has Warp Charge 30 Wireless. And with our review unit of the OnePlus 8 Pro, the company also sent the new wireless charging stand. Allowing us to really check out how great this 30W wireless charging is, and wow it is amazing. It charges a bit slower than the wired charging, but you won’t really notice a difference, actually.
Because the wireless charger generates so much heat, there is actually a fan built-in, and yes you can hear it pretty clearly. The stand is also mostly plastic, and just doesn’t look as high-end as the $70 price tag would lead you to believe it is. On top of that, the cable is affixed to the charger as well as the wall adapter. And the cable is pretty short, about three feet. This was likely done for safety reasons, but at least give users a six foot long cable. So that it can be on your bedside table for charging at night. Even if your table is far from the wall outlet.
Now there are two downsides to these charging products from OnePlus. For the wall charger, we really wish they would go with USB-C PD for charging, instead of USB-A. For one, it’s safer. But it also allows for faster charging speeds. Not to mention the fact that it is universal. With the wireless charging, they are using Qi, but if you want the full 30W, you have to use their wireless charger, which starts at $70. You can use an Anker wireless charger from Amazon, but it’ll charge at only 5W. And at that speed, what’s the point.
The fast charging is cool and all, but making it universal and safer would be better.
Oxygen OS somehow got even better
When OnePlus first started, it was not a software company. It worked with Cyanogen (the makers of the popular CyanogenMod ROM) for software. But that partnership didn’t last long. About a year later it started developing its own software skin, which is named Oxygen OS. It’s Hydrogen OS in China, which is basically the same software, but without the Google bits and pieces, since Google is banned in China.
Oxygen OS is now based on Android 10 and OnePlus continues to make this skin even better. Keeping it a crowd favorite of everyone out there.
One of the big changes for Oxygen OS is the removal of the shelf, that was to the left of the home screen. And it is replaced with Google’s Discover. Giving you a more Pixel-like experience. This can also be turned off, like the shelf could be. In the launcher settings. But it’s a nice change, since the shelf wasn’t all that useful, and many prefer to have Discover at the left of the home screen.
Other than that, OnePlus has continued to optimize Oxygen OS. It is still super smooth and fast, which is what OnePlus is going for, both in software and hardware. And they definitely achieved that.
Still one of my favorite features of Oxygen OS, is the ability to almost completely customize the look of the software, without having to root or download other apps. You can change the tone, the accent color, even use third-party icon packs with the OnePlus launcher. These small things is what keeps hardcore Android users wanting a OnePlus smartphone. That is OnePlus’ niche audience, so definitely a good thing to play to that aspect.
As mentioned, we did receive two updates for the OnePlus 8 Pro in the week that we had the device. One was a day-one update, and the other was a bug fixer sent out a few days after the launch. Don’t expect to see updates coming this quickly when you buy your OnePlus device. OnePlus will send out frequent updates, just not that frequent. OnePlus has stated that it is planning to send out bi-monthly security updates too. So it won’t be every single month with the OnePlus 8 Pro.
The camera finally isn’t trash at launch
If you’ve followed OnePlus for a few years, then you likely know what we mean. OnePlus launches this new phone, really hypes up the cameras, then reviewers and early-adopters get it in their hands, and it’s just not good. The OnePlus 7 Pro was a good example last year. The telephoto lens just could not focus at all. Neither autofocus or tap to focus worked at all on that phone at launch.
But OnePlus will push out a few updates afterwards, that makes the cameras a whole lot better. And that makes reviews, like ours, look bad. As we mentioned how bad the camera was, only for OnePlus to make it drastically different just a few months later.
Now, this did somewhat play out with the OnePlus 8 Pro this year. However, since we did not get the phone early, and are doing our review now. We were able to review it on the camera update. And let’s just say, there’s a big difference.
The only real complaint that I have with the OnePlus 8 Pro camera is that the shutter is still a bit on the slow side. And that it doesn’t do portrait mode all that well. Other than that, this is a really great camera.
The shutter is slower, but it’s not the slowest. If you have pets or kids that you take pictures of, you’ll know how important a fast shutter is. And really the only phone that is fast enough to get a non-blurry photo of my puppy is the Pixel. Now, you can add the OnePlus 8 Pro to that list. Which you can see in the camera shots in this Flickr album. These are all unedited photos, taken straight from the camera on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
With portrait mode, however, you need to be two to seven feet away from the object for the depth effect to work. That’s just bad. It’s not the case on the front-facing camera, so selfie portraits still look pretty good. But on the rear camera, that means that you’re pretty far from the subject. However, the somewhat workaround for this is using the macro mode. If you want to take a photo of a flower, the macro mode is going to do wonders for you. As you’re going to be able to get super close.
Macro photography is so much fun on the OnePlus 8 Pro
Let’s talk about that macro camera. It was perhaps my favorite mode on the OnePlus 7T last year, and I was legit shocked at how well it worked without a dedicated macro lens. I was able to get some really close up shots of the OnePlus logo on the OnePlus 8, using the OnePlus 8 Pro (yes, I know, very meta). It was so close that it was basically touching the logo to get the shot.
That is really impressive. However, you do need a good amount of light for this to work, or it may come out somewhat blurry. Now, I’m not talking about needing a photography setup for these macro shots. But natural light will work. You just can’t use it at night without much light.
The new ultra-wide sensor adds a ton of detail
The biggest change that OnePlus did with the 8 Pro, was add in the same 48-megapixel sensor as an ultra-wide. This means that instead of getting some crappy 12-megapixel or 16-megapixel sensor for ultra-wide shots, you’re getting 48-megapixels here.
And as you might expect, that gives you a ton of detail. It has renewed my love for shooting in ultra-wide, when out exploring on walks and such. Getting scenery in ultra-wide still looks so good. And with all the extra detail that this lens gets you, it’s definitely really cool.
Now the main sensor is a 48-megapixel sensor too. But it does default to 12-megapixels. Basically using pixel binning and taking four megapixels and combining it into one. Giving you a better image with a smaller file size. That’s the right move by OnePlus.
The addition of this new 48-megapixel lens really made the review of the OnePlus 8 Pro a lot more fun to work on.
Nightscape can still use some work
It’s not entirely bad, but compared to the competition, OnePlus needs to do some work on Nightscape – it’s Night Mode feature. Google, Samsung and Huawei all do a much better job at capturing shots at night and in low-light. OnePlus isn’t the worst, but it does tend to add a bit more yellow than there should be.
And if you are taking a photo of someone at night, don’t even think about getting a good image. That is because OnePlus will attempt to do a lot of face smoothing, to where it just looks really bad. Worse than the usual beauty mode actually.
It’s 5G capable, maybe
So, we knew this was coming. But the OnePlus 8 Pro is not 5G capable on all carriers. Or even multiple carriers.
We already knew it wouldn’t work on Verizon’s network, since OnePlus is making a model of the 8 specifically for Verizon. But we did expect it to work on AT&T. And unfortunately, it does not. Basically, the OnePlus 8 Pro works on one band of AT&T’s 5G network. And on top of that AT&T has not certified the OnePlus 8 Pro yet, so it won’t work on its network anyways.
Sprint is out of the question of course, since it doesn’t support it on any of its phones.
So that means we are left with T-Mobile only. Which is unfortunate, but that’s what we expect in the early days of 5G. It supports T-Mobile’s Sub-6 network, which is not going to be fast. But it is available in much of the US.
I tested the 5G network of T-Mobile around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan and found that the speeds were usually slower than T-Mobile’s 5G LTE network. Never really exceeding 50Mbps download. Uploads were pretty much all over the place too. Ranging from 0.00Mbps up to 36.1Mbps.
It is worth mentioning that 5G just launched in this area on T-Mobile. It’s so new that T-Mobile hasn’t even announced it yet. So that could also be why I am seeing much slower speeds on its network. Others I’ve seen test T-Mobile 5G, are getting over 100Mbps. So do keep that in mind.
A 5G phone that supports all four 5G networks won’t be happening anytime soon. So we’re going to be seeing more of this later this year and in the next couple of years. Which means that if you really want to use 5G on your new smartphone, you likely need to buy it from your carrier.
Should I buy the OnePlus 8 Pro?
That’s actually a question that I was asking myself while I was working on this review of the OnePlus 8 Pro. And I think the answer yes. I’ve been looking for my next smartphone and I think the OnePlus 8 Pro might just be that smartphone.
The past few generations of OnePlus smartphones, I’ve really liked. But the camera and battery life have always fallen short. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, that’s not the case. The battery life is pretty good, and the camera is close to the Pixel, for what I use it for. Not to mention, you’re getting top of the line hardware.
Now if you want to buy this phone for 5G, don’t. It really only works on one carrier, and T-Mobile’s 5G speeds are actually slower than its 4G LTE speeds in most areas.
If you want a solid phone that doesn’t cost four figures, then the OnePlus 8 Pro is definitely the one worth buying. And it’ll be available on April 29 from OnePlus.com and Amazon.
The verdict of this review is that finally the OnePlus 8 Pro is the full package. In the past, it’s missed things like wireless charging, an official water proofing rating, NFC, etc. But with the OnePlus 8 Pro, all of that is available, and that’s what you’re getting for $899.