October 30, 2020

OnePlus 8 review: Watered down yet still worthy (Update: On sale!)

Does the smaller, less-feature-rich OnePlus 8 deserve your cash, or should you stick to the true flagship?

Update: April 29, 2020: The OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro are now on sale! That means you no longer need to pre-order the devices from OnePlus.com. You can also grab one from the company’s two US carrier partners: T-Mobile and Verizon. See below for the purchase links, and check out our pricing and availability hub for more deals.


$999
.00
OnePlus 8 Pro


Buy it Now


OnePlus 8 Pro

Buy it Now



$999
.00


$799
.00
OnePlus 8


Buy it Now


OnePlus 8

Buy it Now



$799
.00


Many phone makers have adopted the small/large phone lineup. Apple, Google, Samsung, and others sell two versions of their flagships with size often standing as the primary differentiator. OnePlus, looking to leap wholly into the flagship fray, is doing the same. The OnePlus 8 is 80% of the larger, more feature-rich OnePlus 8 Pro. OnePlus dialed back the size and the specs of the 8 to make it more appealing to certain buyers — while also dropping the price of entry. The result is a device that is more watered down than it should be, and yet still rises to the challenge in some respects.

Did OnePlus make the right choices here? Find out in Android Authority‘s OnePlus 8 review.

About this OnePlus 8 review: I wrote this OnePlus 8 review after spending a week with the phone. OnePlus supplied the device to Android Authority, which was running Android 10 with OxygenOS 10.5.3 and the March 2020 security patch.

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OnePlus 8 review: Who is this phone for?

OnePlus 8 standing up screen

The OnePlus 8 is for two different groups of people. The first group pines after today’s top-tier flagships, but simply doesn’t want to (or can’t) spend the $1,000 needed to get one. It’s also for people who want a solid device, but not necessarily the biggest whopper on the store shelf. And let’s face it, there are a lot of them. Samsung, LG, and others have kicked out some seriously big phones lately. Bigger isn’t always better, and some people like to keep size in check for usability or other reasons.

The OnePlus 8 covers this ground, though it’s not by itself. It matches up well in terms of size and/or cost against the now-discounted Samsung Galaxy S20 and the Google Pixel 4 XL, both of which are available for much less than their original launch prices. The OnePlus 8 may also stand as one of the cheapest points-of-entry for those looking to adopt 5G.

Here’s how these factors add up.

Design: Setting a new bar

OnePlus 8 back on chair

  • 3D curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 160.2 x 72.9 x 8.0mm
  • 180g
  • USB-C

OnePlus has long employed an efficiency of design that is modern and simple. Look back at phones such as the OnePlus 5 and 6 series, and you see the OnePlus taking simplicity almost to the point of blandness. The company started shaking things up with the OnePlus 7 series, which introduced bigger sizes and bolder colors. The OnePlus 8 takes the next, natural step along this evolutionary path.

The colors are probably the biggest giveaway. Sure, OnePlus offered some attractive blues on its older phones, but the 8 steps up the color selection to Onyx Black, Glacial Green, and Interstellar Glow. Bummer that the Onyx Black and Glacial Green only come with 8GB of storage. You have to upgrade to the $799 Interstellar Glow model if you want the best RAM/storage combo. OnePlus lent us the last of these three and it’s a stunner. Much like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 family, the OnePlus 8 has a mirror-like finish that changes hue depending on the angle from which you view it. It looks like a sunset off the West Coast. Even though you’re likely to slap a case on the phone (and in fact I recommend that you check out these options), this is one of the most striking phones from OnePlus. It’s worth looking at and showing off. I wish it weren’t so good at collecting nasty fingerprints.

OnePlus 8 back OnePlus logo

Beyond the fancy color, the design is what you expect from a 2020 flagship. Curved glass wraps around the front and rear surfaces, separated only by a thin sliver of aluminum supporting the chassis. OnePlus did a great job marrying the metal and glass; the seam between the two is almost imperceptible. The frame is chrome-like in its reflectivity.

The OnePlus 8 is scant millimeters lesser in its dimensions when compared to the larger 8 Pro.

About the size. The 8 is naught but scant millimeters lesser in its dimensions when compared to the larger 8 Pro. Specifically, it’s 5mm shorter, 1.45mm narrower, and 0.5mm thinner (or just 13% tinier in terms of volume). More significantly, the smaller phone is less weighty at 180g compared to the 8 Pro’s 199g. There’s no question the 8 is an easier phone to hold and use, but I’d never call it small. It has nearly identical dimensions to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, Google Pixel 4 XL, and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro.

OnePlus 8 Pro vs OnePlus 8 screens

The slippery glass glides into your pockets with no resistance. It also glides off hard, flat surfaces like desks and tables if you’re not careful. It might even slip from your grip. Put a case on it.

True to OnePlus form, the camera array is a vertical line of lenses. There are three in all, with the flash set below the raised camera module. Given the monstrous modules on competing devices, I’m quite pleased with the restrained camera design of the OnePlus 8.

OnePlus 8 saturated back angle

The famed triple-action ringer switch is present and accounted for.

Other aspects of the design differ little from other OnePlus devices. The famed triple-action ringer switch is present and accounted for. This is one of the best hardware features. It is perched high on the right edge. The screen lock button is just below it and the volume toggle is on the left edge. You’ll see the USB-C port, SIM card tray, and speaker slits on the bottom edge. A small pinhole mic is the only element on the top edge.

Last, international and unlocked versions of the phone won’t carry an official IP rating, though they are protected from dirt and liquid to some degree. The US carrier-branded OnePlus 8 models, however, will be rated IP68. Nearly every recent flagship — including the OnePlus 8 Pro — carries such a rating.

The OnePlus 8 is an excellent piece of hardware that matches its peers in fit, finish, and function — for the most part.

Display: Status quo

OnePlus 8 screen 1

  • 6.55-inch AMOLED
  • Full HD+ 2,400 x 1,080 (20:9)
  • 90Hz refresh rate, 402ppi
  • In-display fingerprint sensor

The OnePlus 8 Pro has one of the best displays we’ve ever tested, particularly with respect to color accuracy. The smaller screen of the 8 plays in a different ballpark, though it’s still really, really good.

OnePlus was one of the earlier adopters of high refresh-rate displays. We saw a 90Hz panel on the OnePlus 7T last year. The OnePlus 8 Pro jumped to a Quad HD Plus screen at 120Hz. The 8, however, has a Full HD+ screen at 90Hz. That means it’s less pixel dense and not as quick to refresh, though it matches the rate of screens from Google, Huawei, and Xiaomi. Factory settings for the majority of phones that support these high resolutions and refresh rates (including the 8 Pro, S20, etc.) is Full HD+ and 60Hz. In other words, you have to go out of your way to find the better experience.

Despite the lesser specs, I can’t fault the screen. It impresses the eye, particularly when set to 90Hz. Motion is smooth, colors are vibrant, and the resolution is more than sufficient for the needs of the average smartphone owner.

OnePlus 8 hole punch selfie camera

Unlike older OnePlus panels, this one has a punch hole for the selfie camera. (No more pop-up cam!) The hole is located in the top-left corner, where it is practically out of sight. I like that OnePlus allows you to hide the camera cutout to a degree by controlling the color of the status bar. Personally, I think it looks better when visible.

Last, the fingerprint scanner is located under the glass near the bottom edge. Now that we’re several generations into under-display scanner tech, I can tell you this is one of the most acceptable renditions thereof. It took a sec to train it, but it was fast and consistent. I’d go so far as to call it as fast as using a pattern, and even faster than using a four or six-digit PIN. The OnePlus reader is superior to those of the Pixel 4 XL, V60, and S20. A camera-based face unlock is present if that’s what you prefer.

OnePlus 8 Pro in display fingerprint reader

It may not be as pixel-rich as competing screens, but the OnePlus 8 display is absolutely all anyone needs to be happy with their smartphone experience.

Performance: Plucky you

OnePlus 8 benchmark 3DMark
OnePlus 8 GFXBench
OnePlus 8 Benchmark Geekbench 5

Breathing fire

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
  • Adreno 650 GPU
  • 8GB / 12GB LPDDR4X
  • 128GB / 256GB UFS 3.0 2-LANE

Whether you run the OnePlus 8 with the screen set to 60Hz or 90Hz, you’re going to get world-class performance. The phone fared well on benchmarks, besting 99% of other devices in the databases of 3DMark, Geekbench, and GFXBench. It delivered comparable results to other 865-based phones, and clearly destroyed phones based on the Snapdragon 855/855 Plus. Impressively, the phone ran our Speed Test G metric, which blends CPU/GPU performance, in a record 1:27:54. That’s the quickest test yet, and bests even the recent crown-winner, the S20 Ultra, by 1.3 seconds.

More importantly, the phone is a joy to use. Everything about the OnePlus 8 is fast and furious. I checked out Destiny 2 in Google Stadia and found that it ran perfectly. I didn’t see any dropped frames and the phone kept up with the game no sweat. Regular apps loaded in a blink, Play Store updates installed in two blinks, and even heavy-duty apps such as the camera launched in an instant.

In terms of the competitive field, the OnePlus 8 may not be a “Pro� or a “Plus� model, but it’s still got it where it counts. It’s a stealthy smartphone that surpasses the class.


Lethal lithium

  • 4,300mAh
  • Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)

Along with a smaller chassis and screen size, yes, you’ve got to expect a smaller battery. The OnePlus 8’s power cell drops from the 8 Pro’s 4,510 to 4,300mAh. That’s a drop of just 4.6% in terms of capacity, though it’s much larger than the 3,800mAh pack in the OnePlus 7T. Competing devices, such as the S20 Plus, are in the same ballpark with 4,500mAh.

How does it hold up? Superbly. The phone consistently pushed through a day and a half of normal use, and sometimes extended close to one and three-quarters days. That means I’d unplug the phone at 8am and the battery wouldn’t die until after dinner the following day. That’s better than most phones in the market. In terms of screen-on time, I routinely saw in excess of seven hours. Most competing flagships are posting numbers in the six-hour range, so the OnePlus 8 is, again, a rare performer. My use includes listening to Spotify with Bluetooth headphones, a lot of Twitter and Slack, plenty of email, and browsing.

Our objective battery tests saw the phone push through 11.5 hours of browsing time, 16.5 hours of video playback, and 9.5 hours of mixed use (browsing and video.)

OnePlus made sure the OnePlus 8 charges as rapidly as possible when plugged in.

One of the major upgrades to the OnePlus 8 Pro is the company’s too-long-in-coming adoption of wireless charging tech. The big Pro enjoys speedy wired and wireless charging. Alas, the standard 8 model lacks wireless charging. This is a shame, as most competing flagships these days in fact do offer wireless charging, even smaller flagship fare such as the Galaxy S20 and Pixel 4. To offset this, OnePlus made sure the OnePlus 8 charges as rapidly as possible when plugged in. The included 30W charger pushes current into the lithium-ion battery at astounding speed. Just thirty minutes nets a 66% charge, which is more than enough when topping up between work and a night out. A full charge took just 63 minutes.

Bottom line, the OnePlus 8 is a battery champ and puts its unique features (relatively smaller, lower-res, slower display) to good use where it counts the most. The only current flagship I can think of that beats it is the LG V60.

Camera

OnePlus 8 camera closeup

  • Rear:
    • 48MP, f/1.78, 0.8µm, OIS, EIS
    • 2MP macro, f/2.4, 1.75µm
    • 16MP ultrawide, f/2.2, 116-deg. FoV
  • Front:
    • Selfie: 16MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm, EIS, fixed focus
  • Video:
    • 8K @ 30fps, 4K @60fps, 1080p @60fps, 720p @ 120fps

OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 camera app main
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 pro mode
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 video mode
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 camera app settings

Apart from the display, the cameras represent the biggest divergence between the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OnePlus 8. The Pro has a newer main sensor and a telephoto, while the vanilla model recycles an older sensor for the main camera and trades the telephoto for a macro. I simply don’t get it. I could understand the macro if OnePlus had kept the same main sensor. Maybe.

The main camera is the venerable 48MP Sony IMX586, which bins down to 12MP. Nearly every 2019 flagship relied on this sensor. There is no optical zoom on this phone, so zooming is done digitally. At least OnePlus was smart enough to include an ultra wide-angle.

The OnePlus 8 skips the eccentric color sensor of the OnePlus 8 Pro. We found it to be a little more than a gimmick.

Photo quality ranges from very good to poor, depending on what type of photo you’re taking. Most shots captured via the main camera were strong. They showed sharp focus, good color, and mostly accurate exposure. Shots from the wide-angle camera were sharp and clean, but slightly distorted and somewhat washed out. The macro did a surprisingly good job (see close-up of flowers below.)

OnePlus 8 photo sample flowers 1x
OnePlus 8 photo sample 1x garage
OnePlus 8 photo sample hydrant
OnePlus 8 photo sample bridge 1x
OnePlus 8 photo sample 1x
OnePlus 8 photo sample 1x color
OnePlus 8 photo sample 1x color 2
OnePlus 8 photo sample rock wall 1x

One issue I noticed across the board was inconsistent HDR performance. The phone did a great job pulling detail out of the shadows in some shots, while losing it entirely in others. The lighting didn’t seem to matter much.

OnePlus 8 photo sample HDR
OnePlus 8 photo sample flowers macro

Zoom is rough. Anything past about 2x begins to lose detail and clarity. Zooming to the full 10x is a full-on disaster. A number of recent phones (S20, P40) have touted long-range zoom lenses with periscoped optics. Without the optics to support it, I’m not sure why OnePlus is bothering with digital zoom all the way out to 10x. While exposure is okay, the detail has been obliterated. I mean there’s just no point. The OIS/EIS don’t do anything to help.

OnePlus 8 photo sample flowers 2x
OnePlus 8 photo sample 2x garage
OnePlus 8 photo sample 2x color 2
OnePlus 8 photo sample 2x color

The 16MP selfie camera is a respectable shooter. It handled regular and portrait selfies just fine. Color, exposure, focus, all good (enough.)

OnePlus 8 photo sample selfie picture
OnePlus 8 photo sample selfie portrait
OnePlus 8 photo sample selfie
OnePlus 8 photo sample portrait selfie tracks

On the video front, the phone can shoot up to 4K at 60fps. This isn’t as impressive a spec as the 8K powers of the S20 and V60, but it’s totally fine for a phone in this price range. Most people still don’t have 4K TVs, let alone 8K TVs. The 4K footage I shot was fine, though it showed some of the same problems (i.e., HDR) as the main camera. Focus and clarity were excellent. There’s a 4K CINE mode, which stretches the aspect ratio to 21:9. This is were movie content is headed, so you can be ahead of the curve if you want. One bonus? Smaller video files than the full resolution 4K. Super slow-motion is available, though only to 480fps at 720p resolution.

OnePlus never nails the camera, and that’s the case again with the OnePlus 8.

OnePlus never nails the camera, and that’s the case again here with the OnePlus 8. Not only does the OnePlus 8 offer a confusing mix of lenses (seriously, no one is asking for macro), it only turns in middling quality shots.

Full-resolution samples of the photos can be viewed here.

Software: Oxygen is life, breathe deeply

OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 home screen
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 Quick Settings
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 app drawer
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 settings menu

  • Android 10
  • OxygenOS 10.5.3

OnePlus has long shipped one of the best launchers of any Android phone, called OxygenOS. The company didn’t mess with success too much, which is a good thing.

This year, the big changes come to Dark Mode and the Shelf. First, Dark Mode 2.o plays a stricter role enforcing the system dark mode onto apps that may not have yet adopted it. In other words, it forces bright white apps to turn black. It only works for the apps that OnePlus specifically supports though. One surprise move, OnePlus dropped its Shelf, a custom home screen panel that focused on notes, calendar appointments, and other widget-y content. In its place you’ll find the Google Feed, which makes me happy and is standard across most phones now except for Samsung.

The rest of the UI continues to be great. It is clean, modern, and is chock full of useful, tasteful features that actually help you use the phone day in and day out. For example, Zen Mode can force you ignore your phone for a while (and thus chill out), or block messages when you’re deep in a gaming session and don’t want to be disturbed.

OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 customization
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 home screen controls
OnePlus 8 OxygenOS 10 refresh rate

OnePlus is one of the better phone makers in the business when it comes to software updates. If its steady release schedule isn’t quite enough for you, OnePlus makes it easy to sign up for its beta testing community, which ensures you get stuff on the regular.

We have a fill rundown on OxygenOS available here.

Extras

OnePlus 8 cameras macro 2

5G: Like many new flagships, the OnePlus 8 family adopts 5G, though not uniformly. Essentially, there’s a 5G version for the US. It is compatible with the 5G networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. (Verizon’s variant, which is the only to support mmWave, has a truly terrible name: OnePlus 8 5G UW.) We weren’t able to test the 5G model, as OnePlus seeded only the unlocked models. But hey, if you live in the US., you can score a 5G phone for just $699.

Audio: Wireless audio support is top notch. The phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, but it ships with Bluetooth 5.1, aptX, aptHD, LDAC, and AAC. This is good news for people who’ve jumped on the truly wireless headphone train. Your ride is going to sound outstanding. The stereo speakers are derived from a combination of the bottom-firing speakerphone and the earpiece. Music sounds best when you hold the phone vertically, but landscape video content also sounds decent when you’re watching Netflix or YouTube.

OnePlus 8 specs

  OnePlus 8 Pro OnePlus 8
Display 6.78-inch AMOLED
3,168 x 1,440 (19.8:9)
120Hz refresh rate
In-display fingerprint sensor
3D Corning Gorilla Glass
6.55-inch AMOLED
2,400 x 1,080 (20:9)
90Hz refresh rate
In-display fingerprint sensor
3D Corning Gorilla Glass
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM 8GB / 12GB LPDDR5 8GB / 12GB LPDDR4X
Storage 128GB / 256GB UFS 3.0 128GB / 256GB UFS 3.0 2-LANE
Cameras Rear:
48MP, f/1.78, 1.12µm, OIS, EIS
8MP 3x telephoto, f/2.44, 1.0µm, OIS
48MP ultrawide, f/2.2, 119.7°
5MP color filter, f/2.4

Front:
16MP, f/2.45, 1.0µm, EIS, fixed focus

Rear:
48MP, f/1.78, 0.8µm, OIS, EIS
2MP macro, f/2.4, 1.75µm
16MP ultrawide, f/2.2, 116°

Front:
16MP, f/2.0, 1.0µm, EIS, fixed focus

Battery 4,510mAh
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
Warp Charge 30 Wireless
4,300mAh
Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
IP Rating IP68 None
Software Oxygen OS
Android 10
Oxygen OS
Android 10
Dimensions and weight 165.3 x 74.35 x 8.5mm
199g
160.2 x 72.9 x 8.0mm
180g

Value for money

OnePlus 8 selfie macro

  • OnePlus 8, Black Onyx, Glacial Green: 8GB RAM, 128GB storage — $699
  • OnePlus 8, Interstellar Glow: 12GB RAM, 256GB storage — $799

OnePlus has done a pretty solid job of keeping the cost of its phones under $600 over the years. The OnePlus 8 family represents a jump in cost, likely due in part to the pricey Snapdragon 865. You could make the argument that the phone should have the Snapdragon 765G instead, and thereby cost perhaps as much as $50 less. That would have solidified the phone’s hero status without impacting performance overmuch. It was not meant to be. Considering what you get here, however, I’m going to say the OnePlus 8 offers reasonably good value for money.

For less than $700, you get a Snapdragon 865 phone with a great display, shocking battery life, a passable camera, and good looks to boot. The official starting price of phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Pixel 4 XL is $899-$999, though they’ve been semi-permanently discounted to $799 and $699, respectively. Both the OnePlus 8 Pro and the LG V60 hover around $899, but they are larger. Some consumers may be put off by the OnePlus 8’s lack of wireless charging, but at least there’s semi-official support for dirt and water protection. The one place competing devices truly win is the camera. OnePlus’ camera isn’t good enough. Again.

Any way you cut it, you’re going to have to give up a little something to get that lower $699 price point. Even so, it’s hard to argue with the overall value represented by the OnePlus 8.

OnePlus 8 review: Should you buy it?

OnePlus 8 Pro vs OnePlus 8 backs

The OnePlus 8 isn’t perfect, and may come across as disappointing to some who consider it too “lite� when compared to the powerful, formidable OnePlus 8 Pro. Think of it this way, it’s the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 of OnePlus phones — meaning it’s the one most people should buy. It may not have the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink appeal of the 8 Pro, but it’s got the features that count most.

The price jump, compared to last year’s $559 OnePlus 7, may be a bit much for some. Those seeking the “affordable flagship� now find they have to, in fact, pay near-flagship price for the OnePlus 8. In India, Asia, and some European markets, phones from Xiaomi, Realme, and Redmi may represent the better overall value.

At $699, the OnePlus 8 is cheaper than the majority of competing flagships and it still gives you the display, battery, and speed you want. Is the OnePlus 8 watered down? Sure, but water is necessary to grow the best things.

OnePlus 8
Snapdragon 865 on the cheap
The OnePlus 8 sticks to the formula that has made OnePlus so successful. It gets you the latest processing package, a versatile camera, and a beautiful display, running the smooth Oxygen OS. You miss out on wireless charging and the official IP rating, but for what it offers the OnePlus 8 is an attractive deal.

OnePlus 8 Pro
Killer flagship
OnePlus is all grown up. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, you get an unabashed flagship, with all the bells and whistles. Powerful specs, an amazing display, fast wireless charging, and water resistance make the OnePlus 8 Pro a great alternative to the Galaxy S20 Plus, and it’s up to $300 cheaper.


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