(Pocket-lint) - The world of OnePlus has evolved dramatically over the years. Once seen as the flagship-busting affordable phone, that vision has somewhat dissipated: the brand has become a higher-end, diversifying its output across a multitude of devices within a series, with pricing that, while still less than the big boys, has inevitably crept up release by release.
For the OnePlus 8 - the current entry phone of the 2020 series - that takes us to a place where you still get an absolute stack of goodness for your money. But with the inevitability of a OnePlus 8T later down the line, the rumour of a OnePlus 8 Lite, and this handset's launch alongside the larger and better-equipped OnePlus 8 Pro, is this model still the worthy flagship-buster it purports to be?
Although the OnePlus 8 is the entry model to the series, this phone is anything but 'entry'. It's got oodles of processing power, super smooth software (which even scrolls smoother thanks to that 90Hz screen), and 5G connectivity for future-proofing.
The overly contrasty screen at low brightness and a camera setup that can't compete with the absolute best are small putbacks to an otherwise accomplished feature set.
Dressed in its Glacier Green finish the OnePlus 8 looks like one mean, green flagship machine. Because that's the thing: despite costing hundreds less than the full-fat flagships out there, this phone still hits all the necessary features to truly impress, without ripping you off.
- Gorgeous finish - and not a fingerprint magent for once
- Strong battery life easily lasts a day
- Smooth software with useful gaming mode too
- Top-drawer processor means oodles of power
- Cameras aren't leading
- Excessive contrast at low brightness
- 90Hz of questionable benefit
- No wireless charging
- Would like a non-5G version to cut price down
Design & Display
- 6.55-inch AMOLED, Full HD+ (1080 x 2400 resolution), 90Hz refresh rate
- Finishes: Onyx Black (128GB), Glacial Green (256GB)
- Dimensions: 160 x 72.9 x 8mm / Weight: 180g
- Water-resistant (but no IP rating)
- In-screen fingerprint scanner
- Dual SIM, no microSD
We spend a lot of our time jostling between phones. Whether budget long-lasters like the Moto G8 Power, or newcomer flagships such as the Oppo Find X2 Pro (which, in many ways, is the same as the OnePlus 8 Pro - unsurprisingly as the two companies are owned by the same BBK Electronics umbrella). In terms of price, the OnePlus 8 sits in the middle of those two examples, but when we first lifted our turquoise-tinted handset out of the box we were immediately taken to flagship land. In terms of pizzazz, the OnePlus 8 has certainly got it.
That rear green-blue finish - which sheens beautifully in daylight and is rather impressive at resisting fingerprint smears - makes this one mean, green flagship machine.
But it's not just the colour of this review handset that's the only eye-catching feature. There's also the screen, which offers inky blacks from its OLED make-up, plus subtle curved edges that give it heightened craftsmanship.
There's also a very of-the-minute feature: a 90Hz refresh rate. This means the OnePlus 8 has a 50 per cent bump over typical screens, adding additional smoothness to animations and gaming, for example, although it's not the 120Hz panel of its OnePlus 8 Pro big brother.
There's been a lot of talk about higher refresh rates in phones and whether they make a big difference or not. Some people won't see much benefit, really, while others may be more astute to those extra cycles on offer. We can see a marginal bonus to scrolling through text, but that's about it.
Really, though, we'd rather that OnePlus had been a little more gentle in its approach to contrast: while the settings offer various screen settings, whichever one you choose, paired with low brightness, makes this screen excessive in contrasty.
Seeing as this screen is supposed to be very colour accurate, we can only assume that's not across the full brightness curve - because we've only been seeing that in evening times, when it's dark; when the screen is gloriously bright we'd not complain whatsoever.
Sat next to our year-old Huawei P30 Pro, the OnePlus 8 takes a similar approach to scale; its of similar dimensions and thickness, making it sit ideally in one hand without absurd thumb-reaching to activate various settings. The camera unit doesn't protrude too much to the rear, either, which is an increasingly rare yet pleasing design feature.
Depending on whether you're embedded in the world of OnePlus or not, you might find the arrangement of buttons on the phone a little unusual for an Android device: there's a power button on the left (when facing the screen), with a switch above to toggle between silent, vibrate and loud. On the opposite side is where you'll find the volume up/down rocker switch. Having used an Oppo phone for some weeks now, we find this arrangement to make great sense - it's more elegant for combination button-pressing, such as when making a screengrab.
The design also purports to offer some water-resilience this time around, although there's no official IP rating (like there is with the Pro model). Even so, that's still a welcome addition - and it's likely implemented in a similar way to Motorola's phones, which are robust in their proofing, but don't follow the IP protocol (arguably for the sake of cost saving).
Wrap all of that up and, while there are very minor niggles, the OnePlus 8 is a very fetching and accomplished handset. Take into account that it's some hundreds cheaper than its flagship competition and, frankly, if you lined one up side-by-side with various pricier bits of kit we suspect many wouldn't know the difference.
Performance & Battery
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 12GB RAM (LPDDR4)
- Oxygen OS 10.5 UI (over Google Android 10 OS)
- 4,300mAh battery capacity, Warp Charge 30T
- No wireless charging
- 5G connectivity
Internally there's zero corner cutting either - which is a very OnePlus approach. This company has long been bringing the top-drawer processors into its range, minus the typical price association. In the OnePlus 8 that means the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, paired with 12GB RAM.
In short: very close to the most powerful you could buy at the time of writing (sure, there's more advanced RAM, as per the Pro model, while various cooling systems that other devices - such as gaming phones - can also aid with performance).
This translates really well in performance terms too. Whether it's jumping between apps, or settling into a proper gaming session, you can throw anything at this phone without giving it the hiccups.
Our PUBG Mobile and South Park Phone Destroyer sessions have been going just swimmingly - even more so because there's a Gaming Mode, including Fnatic mode, which can be customised to permit only certain interruptions. There's a lot of detail here, from what can bypass Do Not Disturb (DND), to brightness level fixing and so forth.
That's indicative of the software at work here: OnePlus has Oxygen OS, which is its system built over the top of Google's Android 10 operating system. Although OnePlus life didn't start out like this, it's evolved elegantly and is just a really smooth and well arranged software offering. There's no bloat or bother like you'll find in many other makers' solutions, even Google Assistant is integrated without the need for a separate app.
There's also 5G connectivity, although in lockdown and away from a suitable network, and without a registered 5G SIM, this isn't something we were able to test for this review.
So we've got powerful processing, good software, useful modes - surely something's got to give? Well, apparently not. Even the battery life is pretty stellar. We've been churning through 16 hours from wake-up to bedtime and the phone has consistently made it with 30 per cent battery remaining, or thereabouts (tested over six consecutive days). That's been with hours of screen time, including gaming, plus some tethering, work apps, and so forth.
Should you need to rapidly top-up then the inclusion of Warp Charge 30T means it's pretty quick too. You could add 50 per cent to an empty battery in just 23 minutes. However, there's no wireless charging, unlike the 8 Pro - but we don't think that's a big deal really, given the way most people use their phones.
- Triple rear camera system
- Main: 48-megapixels, Sony IMX586 sensor, f/1.75 aperture, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Wide: 16MP, 116-degree angle of view
- Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
- 16MP front-facing camera (punch-hole)
One area where previous OnePlus phones haven't blown us away is in the camera department. While the OnePlus 8 certainly improves some elements, it's still not quite got the all-conquering approach sewn up.
First thing's first: unlike the Pro, the standard OnePlus model doesn't have an optical zoom. It provides a 2x digital zoom within the software, but that's it.
The OnePlus 8 does comprise three cameras to the rear though: its main sensor, at 48-megapixels; its ultra-wide (0.6x), at 16MP; and a low-resolution macro for close-up shooting.
The main sensor, which utilises a Sony IMX586, is accomplished in terms of delivery and sharpness. We've taken a bunch of photos using the main lens, followed by the ultra-wide for comparison, and the clarity you get from the higher-res main sensor is significantly better.
Do note that it outputs at 12MP by default, using a four-in-one technique called oversampling, which aids in creating an even more detailed output than the full-size 48MP shot would offer - although this ultra-high resolution option can be switched on, if you so wish.
The camera app works pretty fluidly, too, with simple touchscreen controls and various modes to choose from.
The macro mode doesn't auto-engage, though, you'll need to pick that from the top row to get it to kick in. When it does you can shoot very close-up to subjects, which is fun, but like all macro cameras the quality has limits - and the physical size of the output is also small, which is fine for a phone, but not for prints or much wider use.
As so many phone cameras offer these days there's also a night mode, called Nightscape. This takes a long exposure, stacking up a bunch of shots taken handheld, and merging them into one better exposed final shot. It's a bit like bringing out details that a standard snap wouldn't otherwise reveal in the dark. Thanks to image stabilisation the results are fairly sharp using the main lens - not so with the ultra-wide, though - and we like that OnePlus is stepping up in its abilities here. It's still no Google Night Sight, but it's an improvement from where the company has been in the past.
As we say, the ultra-wide is great for squeezing more into the frame, but it's really lacking in ability to render detail. A shot of an open park, for example, just doesn't have any definition. There are purple shadows towards subject edges, too, while the edges of the frame blur to softness more than we'd like. All this is quite typical of a wide-angle lens, but there are better ones out there - including the Pro model.
Overall the OnePlus 8 has cameras that are perfectly suited to shooting in a variety of conditions. We suspect you'll be pleased with the results you get on the phone itself, or for sharing on social media, just don't expect to get epic prints from a camera of this calibre. It's capable enough, but it's not as versatile or top-end as some of the pricier flagships out there - perhaps unsurprising, as camera components are now a significant part of a smartphone's make-up and, therefore, price.
Sure, it's pricier than its predecessors, but this handset continues to deliver a flagship experience that costs hundreds less than an equivalent from most others. That's OnePlus' big selling point, delivered time and again. If you want more from the cameras and a better-yet screen, look to the Pro model, otherwise this one is just super as it stands.