OnePlus 8 Review: The Winning Formula

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The OnePlus 8 is basically what you'd expect from OnePlus. Top-notch hardware, speed, and timely updates.

OnePlus 8
$699
Rating
Pros
  • Great battery life
  • 90Hz refresh rate display
  • Great performance
  • 5G support for multiple carriers
Cons
  • Camera falls behind the Pro
  • No IP rating for waterproofing
  • No wireless charging

OnePlus supplied us with a review unit of the 8. We’ve been using it for about a week now, and it has been updated to Oxygen OS 10.5.3. This review is based on that software, things may get fixed later on, but that won’t be included in our review as we don’t review devices based on future software promises.

When the OnePlus 8 was announced, there were a lot of questions around this device, and we'll try to answer those in this review. Like, why does this exist, and for only $200 less than the OnePlus 8 Pro, and for $200 more than the OnePlus 7T which is very similarly specced.

The OnePlus 8 has essentially the same core specs as the OnePlus 8 Pro and even the OnePlus 7T. With the Snapdragon 865, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The OnePlus 7T trades in that processor for the Snapdragon 855 which is not that much different from the 865.

Now we all know that the jump in price is due to 5G – and you can thank Qualcomm for that. As it is only selling the Snapdragon 865 as a 5G capable chipset, meaning there's no 4G LTE model available. However, one has to wonder why OnePlus did not opt to use the Snapdragon 765 in this model. Seeing as that is what that chipset was made for.

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Nevertheless, this is a really good smartphone on paper, even at its price point. But it looks like OnePlus is competing with itself with the OnePlus 8.

The hardware is unsurprisingly solid

If you've used a OnePlus phone, well ever, this is going to be absolutely no surprise to you. But the hardware is really well built here. It's your typical glass and metal sandwich with a curved front and back. So that the back and front of the device melt into that metal frame, pretty seamlessly.

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OnePlus 8: Hardware

The OnePlus 8 also looks really good. Instead of putting the camera module in a corner, OnePlus opted to keep the strip down the center of the phone. With the triple camera setup in the center in a vertical lineup, with the flash below it. The rest of the back of the phone is pretty clean. With just the OnePlus logo in logo-form and in text form on the back side.

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OnePlus 8: Ports

Now the model that OnePlus supplied AndroidHeadlines with is the Interstellar Glow color. And we have to say, it is absolutely stunning. It looks so good, especially when the light is hitting it at different angles. Now, the color is not the main reason why you should buy a phone, but it is a nice addition. And it makes using a clear case on the OnePlus 8 an even better option.

OnePlus did of course keep the alert slider on the right side of the phone. This is a feature that every smartphone manufacturer needs to steal. And this is something that we say in every single OnePlus smartphone review, since the very beginning. It is just so convenient, especially when you need to quickly put your phone on silent for a meeting or something. You don't even need to pick it up.

The front is essentially all screen, with a hole-punch for the camera on the front. The display is pretty incredible actually, even for a company's "budget" offering.

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The display is sharp, and bright

Much like the OnePlus 8 Pro's display, the OnePlus 8 is very bright. It's one of the few displays that we were able to see completely, outside in direct sunlight. And during this review of the OnePlus 8, we were able to get a number of pictures of the display outside. Normally, we don't use those photos in a review, because it's very difficult to get it on camera. But that's not a problem with the OnePlus 8, even with a dark wallpaper.

Using the OnePlus 8 display in this review has been a real treat. Not only does it look incredibly sharp, even at FHD+, but it is also very fast. With 90Hz refresh. Now, that's a step down from the OnePlus 8 Pro, but it's not as noticeable compared to a jump from 60Hz to 90Hz. So it didn't really bother us that much. And the extra battery life was definitely nice to have.

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OnePlus 8: Display

Unlike the OnePlus 8 Pro, this display is not HDR10+ certified. Meaning that it is not certified for Netflix HDR content, unfortunately. That likely doesn't mean a whole lot to many people, but for some, it could be a make or break feature. Luckily the OnePlus 8 Pro display is HDR10+ certified, and certified for Netflix HDR content.

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Perhaps the best feature of this display is the size. It's a 6.55-inch display, and that makes it a really great size for a lot of people. It's one of the few phones I've used in the past few years that I can actually use one-handed. That is clutch. Many of us have been wanting a smaller phone, and while this one is still somewhat large, it's smaller than most other phones in the market.

Oxygen OS is still the best Android skin

When I know I'm about to review a new OnePlus phone, the part I look forward to most is the skin. Oxygen OS is the best there is, and that is also the case here in our review of the OnePlus 8.

OnePlus has done something pretty minimal with its skin. Eliminating a lot of the slower animations within Android, and also some of the features that we don't need. That makes the software take up less space, and also makes it feel faster. After all, that's their whole schtick. OnePlus then adds in some features that users want. All while keeping the software fast and fluid. Which is why it is a favorite among Android users.

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OnePlus 8: Oxygen OS

There are a handful of new features available on Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 8. This includes Dark Mode 2.0. Now, visually, you won't really notice anything different. Essentially what Dark Mode 2.0 does is it forces more apps to go dark. Making for a more streamlined and system-wide dark mode approach.

Another feature is Live Captions. A feature that Google debuted on the Pixel 4 last fall. It then launched with the Galaxy S20 earlier this year and now the OnePlus 8 series. With Live Caption, it is able to give you live captions on whatever you are watching. This is supposed to work better than the captions YouTube does. And it does use machine learning. Of course, that also means that it's going to use up more battery, since it is captioning in real-time.

OnePlus did also remove the Shelf. Which was to the left of the home screen. For most people, this is likely not a big deal. Since most didn't use it, hence why OnePlus removed it. And it has been replaced with Google's Discover. Giving you a more Pixel-like experience on the home screen.

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Oxygen OS is still just as fast and smooth as always. But one other thing we need to mention here is that OnePlus is planning to do the security updates bi-monthly. So you won't be getting an update every single month, instead it'll be every other month.

Battery life is pretty stellar

So you know that battery saver mode on most phones? Yeah, you won't need it on the OnePlus 8.

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OnePlus 8: Battery

The OnePlus 8 gets some pretty impressive battery life, to be honest. Now the OnePlus 8 Pro was already good, but the OnePlus 8 takes it up a notch. Likely due to the smaller display that's at a lower resolution and lower refresh rate. We tested the OnePlus 8 with the settings at FHD+ and 90Hz. Which is the highest that the phone can handle – as it is not a QHD+ display. And we were quite impressed, to be honest.

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We were able to get seven hours of screen on-time with the OnePlus 8. That is about two hours more than the OnePlus 8 Pro. So if you were deciding between these two, and wanted the one with the better battery life, well it's the OnePlus 8.

Now, even if that battery life is not good enough for you, it does still support Warp Charge 30T. That's going to charge your phone at 30W. And in our review phase, it took the OnePlus 8 from 5% to 100% in about 62 minutes. That is pretty impressive to say the least. Who needs wireless charging, eh?

Camera is going to need a few software updates

The difference in the camera on the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro is pretty incredible, to be honest. Now other reviewers I've talked with on Twitter state something different. But the OnePlus 8 camera is much different compared to the 8 Pro. Basically, the OnePlus 8 is serviceable, while the OnePlus 8 Pro is great. It's worth also mentioning that both of our review units got the camera update last week, at the same time. So yes, every update that has been made available, is included in this review, so far.

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OnePlus 8: Camera

The main thing that I'm noticing with the camera here is that it's not as sharp as it should be. Even when you're not using the telephoto lens. Typically the telephoto lens isn't that sharp, since the aperture is lower. Now, you can really notice this when using the macro mode. In fact, I had trouble getting any macro shots to be anywhere near sharp enough. They also added a lot of noise to the background. Which is rather unfortunate.

Now this sort of thing happens quite often with OnePlus smartphones. They release a new phone, reviewers get it in hand and review it. Show that the camera is not good. Then OnePlus pushes out a handful of updates, after which, the camera becomes pretty impressive. That is likely what will happen here, and hopefully that is what happens.

As of right now, we can't recommend the OnePlus 8 for the camera. Every other box is ticked, essentially on the OnePlus 8 though. So if you're okay with this camera, then it's a good phone to grab.

You can check out some camera samples of the OnePlus 8 cameras by clicking here. These are all unedited, and come straight from the camera to Flickr at their full resolution.

OnePlus 8 Camera Samples - Flickr

5G support for multiple carriers

Well kind of.

You see, T-Mobile and Verizon are going to be selling the OnePlus 8 5G. But, the unlocked model will work on T-Mobile's 5G network. Whereas the unlocked model will not work on Verizon's, due to it being mmWave. But, OnePlus is launching a OnePlus 8 5G UW for Verizon which will work on its network.

So there are more options with the OnePlus 8, for 5G networks, but it's still not perfect, unfortunately. Since Sprint customers are screwed, at least until T-Mobile moves its network in with Sprint's. And AT&T still only has one band supported, and it has yet to certify either the OnePlus 8 or the 8 Pro.

Should I buy the OnePlus 8?

That's the million dollar question. The OnePlus 8 is in a very strange spot this year. Between the OnePlus 7T (which is still selling for $499) and the OnePlus 8 Pro (which is the better phone, and $200 more).

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OnePlus 8: Should I Buy?

The only way I would really recommend the OnePlus 8 over the OnePlus 7T is if you really want 5G access. Since it does have 5G, and that's the main difference over the 7T. And at $200 more, it might be worth it for some people. Or if you can get it on sale, or cheaper with a trade-in. At $699 it's hard to recommend with the OnePlus 7T still being sold at $499. And at this point, it has a better camera.