When high-end smartphones used to cost $650, OnePlus arrived to offer an equally-powerful alternative at less than half the price. That quickly became the company’s schtick. It made phones that were as powerful as the best you can buy, but at a far cheaper price. These days, premium phones cost $1,000. What’s OnePlus’ answer? The … $900 OnePlus 8 Pro.
Thankfully, there is a standard OnePlus 8, too. And it’s modestly cheaper. The OnePlus 8 strips away a few new features in the Pro, like wireless charging and an IP68 water resistance rating, for a cool $700. That’s still expensive by OnePlus standards, especially when the company’s previous phone launched for $100 less in late 2019. For years, OnePlus called itself the “flagship killer.” Now it’s merely another flagship phone.
The two new OnePlus phones are very good—the company’s best. The screen remains fantastic, the software a pleasure to use, and there’s a surprisingly good triple-camera system. But at a time when 17+ million people in the US have filed for unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard not to reminisce about the days when OnePlus phones felt like they really were a spectacular value and something special.
How They’re Different
OnePlus 8 ($700): It’s difficult to argue you should spend $700 on the OnePlus 8 when it barely adds anything new over its late-2019 predecessor, the OnePlus 7T (originally $600, and now $500). Outside of a slightly larger battery and the removal of the 3x zoom camera in favor of a macro lens (some of you may wish you had 3x zoom), the biggest improvements come from the upgrade to Qualcomm’s brand new Snapdragon 865 processor and 5G support.
OnePlus 7T ($500, Recommended): The 8 may be more powerful, but the 7T is still a very fast phone. And most people still can’t access 5G because the networks are still being built. Not to mention you’ll need to upgrade your data plan. It’s just not worth fussing about for another couple years. If you’re looking to save some cash, buy the OnePlus 7T—OnePlus says it will carry it for a little while longer. Check out our Best Cheap Phones guide for other options, too.
OnePlus 8 Pro ($900): The 8 Pro has the same Snapdragon 865 processor, and scored about even with the 8 in processing power benchmark tests we performed. But it does have a beefier battery, a larger higher-resolution screen with a higher refresh rate (120 Hz), but you also get a camera system with a larger image sensor at its core, wireless charging, and water resistance. Waterproofing and wireless charging are debut features for a OnePlus phone, and make the 8 Pro the best phone OnePlus has offered. The OnePlus 7 Pro had a mechanical slide-out camera. This is gone. Both the 8 and 8 Pro have a hole-punch 16-megapixel selfie camera that sits atop the screen, like Samsung’s Galaxy phones. The company claims the sliding out camera design was too heavy and thick to include.
One Smooth Screen
The screen on the 8 Pro is impressive. It’s wonderfully sharp, punchy with its colors (make sure you choose the AMOLED Wide Gamut display calibration!), with dark, inky blacks. The HDR10+ certification helps HDR titles like Netflix’s The Witcher look cinema-level vivid, as well.
The 120 Hz screen refresh rate is the crowning achievement. The screen is refreshing twice as much in a second as a traditional phone, showing off 120 frames per second as opposed to 60. Those extra frames mean that almost everything, from scrolling Instagram and playing certain videogames to moving throughout the operating system, feels incredibly smooth and makes every swipe just a little more pleasant. The OnePlus 8 (and 7T) have this feature as well, but you’re relegated to 90 Hz or 90 frames per second, which is similarly great—and better for battery life.
Charging is also speedy, refilling the 8 from zero to 50 percent in a mere 23 minutes if you use the company’s included charging cable and adapter. And if you buy the company’s new wireless charger ($70), the 8 Pro can wirelessly recharge from 0 to 50 percent in just 30 minutes. That’s only possible if you get OnePlus’ wireless charger though, a separate accessory. The Pro supports standard Qi wireless charging, as well; it just won’t be as speedy.
Some of the biggest differences between the OnePlus 8 Pro and 8 are with the camera systems. Both phones have a 48-megapixel main camera, but the 8 Pro has a larger image sensor, which allows it to snap brighter photos when there’s less light. The 8 Pro keeps the telephoto camera that offers around 3x optical zoom along with a 48-megapixel ultrawide camera. There’s also a color filter camera for some nifty-looking filters, too. The standard OnePlus 8’s main camera is joined by a macro lens, used to snap super close-up shots, and a 16-megapixel ultrawide camera.
Historically, cameras are not OnePlus’s best feature. That’s changing. Neither of these phones beat the Google Pixel 4, but I’m increasingly happy with the results coming out of the 8 Pro. The main camera merges pixels to absorb more light and produce brighter 12-megapixel photos, and the results are often detailed. If you want more crispy goodness, switch to the dedicated 48-megapixel mode (though the photo file sizes eat up your storage). The zoom camera snaps some nice shots in good lighting, and the ultrawide fares really well, even in high contrast scenes, like a sunset.
Colors do seem to be a little too saturated. And at night, OnePlus’ night mode doesn’t hold a candle to the Pixel’s Night Sight. Gear reviews editor Jeffrey Van Camp has been using the OnePlus 8 and he specifically pointed out how portrait mode washes out some of the details of subjects, while sometimes messing up the blur outline, which isn’t as precise as competitors like the Pixel 4. I haven’t noticed this too much on the Pro, but I also think it has a decidedly better camera system than the regular OnePlus 8.
A Few Problems
Neither of these phones have crippling flaws, but they aren’t perfect. Battery life is just OK. If you use your phone a lot, chances are you’ll have to recharge before the day is over. I made it through a days where I mostly browsed the web and took a few pictures, but I always get nervous as the battery gets low by evening. I recommend you switch your screen’s resolution to FHD+ (keep 120 Hz on!) to maximize battery life on the 8 Pro.
OnePlus phones also usually come with a case, but the lower-priced OnePlus 8 does not have one this time around. Please invest in a case since this is still an all-glass phone (It does do a good job of repelling fingerprints, though.)
I’ve noticed two bugs in my time using the OnePlus 8 Pro: the battery drains fast when the phone’s on standby and using the highest resolution, and the in-display fingerprint sensor is hit or miss when you try to unlock the phone before waking the screen. On the latter, OnePlus says a fix is coming on April 15 as an update, and for the former, the company is looking into it.
A New Era for OnePlus
The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro arrive on April 29 and will be available through OnePlus.com and Amazon, and for the first time, Verizon is only carrying the OnePlus 8 (it supports sub-6 5G and millimeter wave). You can also get them from T-Mobile.
These are OnePlus’ best phones yet and they’re both still a good value. But if you’re looking for the old OnePlus—a phone that leaves you scratching your head as to how the price is so low—you’ll have to move on.
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