OnePlus has the sort of obsessively faithful following normally reserved for Apple zealots. This may explain the Twitter backlash and “RIP” comments that met its latest £900 flagship. It wasn’t the specced-up, budget-conscious handset fans were expecting or indeed wanting. This new OnePlus 8, however, is. On paper it’s OnePlus to the core. But is it any good? Here’s our review.
Who’s it for?
It’s easier to say who the OnePlus 8 isn’t for. It’s not for anyone who thinks the camera is the be-all and end-all of their smartphone. And it’s also not for anyone who is looking for lots of tricks and new features to experiment with. For literally everyone else, though, this is a great buy with no real complaints. So go ahead and save £300.
With a small punch hole in the top left of the screen – goodbye pop-up camera – and a curved display, this looks and feels more like a Samsung Galaxy than ever and we mean that in a good way. At 180g, the OnePlus is not as light as the S20, but being a very tall, narrow 20:9 phone, it’s surprisingly easy to hold. Because there’s no telephoto lens here, the camera bump on the back isn’t as raised and unsightly as the 8 Pro.
We tested the glacial green model and the matte glass finish is lovely, in fact we prefer it to Huawei’s considerable efforts in phone aesthetics in recent years. It is an absolute fingerprint magnet, though. That curved display could be a bone of contention for some who are either concerned about false touch impressions – it does happen, as with Samsung – or else very fussy on picture quality. But it looks classy and won’t bother most people.
Living with it
Using the OnePlus 8 as my main phone, it is hard to find fault. The in-display fingerprint sensor is reliable and fast enough that you don’t think about it. Call quality is good. The big, sharp 6.55in 90Hz display, while not the 120Hz of the 8 Pro, is pleasing and makes it hard to go back to bog-standard 60Hz afterwards. And because OxygenOS is such a light touch, there are no UI niggles so often found on even very premium Android phones.
OnePlus cameras get better every year, but this is now essentially where you’re saving those hundreds of pounds. That’s not to say this isn’t a solid camera setup, though. Sure, the macro lens and portrait mode aren’t anything special and there’s no telephoto zoom lens here, but between the main 48MP and the 16MP ultra-wide lens, which is great outdoors (remember outdoors?), you’re set for a lot of scenarios.
Using the main camera, the OnePlus 8 defaults to 12MP photos, which we’d suggest sticking to unless you think you need the resolution or you want to ‘crop zoom’ your pics. If we’re being picky, side by side with even a Samsung, you can still see some minor white balance issues and less defined surface textures. A mid-range Pixel might be a better bet at this price if the camera is your priority.
It’s a tie between OxygenOS 10.5 and the excellent battery life. We like OxygenOS, not for any particular upgrades for 2020 (as there are hardly any) but because it is a joy to use day-to-day. Re the battery, the big 4,300mAh unit – bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S20’s 4,000mAh – tends to last a good day to a day and a half, even with that high refresh rate (we haven’t tested with 5G use yet). Plus the bundled WarpCharge 30T fast charger got our 8 to 50 per cent in under half an hour. There’s no fast wireless charging, as with the 8 Pro, but you can live without that.
Fix this next time
The OnePlus 8 doesn’t have the IP68 water and dust resistance rating of the 8 Pro. The official line is that it has some water resistance, so we treated it carefully. Essentially, it can likely go for a quick dunk but nothing longer – our unit got splashed in the kitchen and survived.
It might not be a dealbreaker, but when Pete Lau estimated a couple of years ago that it costs about $30 (£24) per phone for the testing, it’s probably time to bite the bullet and add this onto the basic models next year.
Why, oh why…
Sure, we’ve all had time to prepare, and, sure, we use wireless earbuds most days now, but the lack of headphone jack still hurts a little. It’s just good to know it’s there. Google backpedalled on the mid-range Pixel 3a, so there’s still hope.
There is actually no 4G version of this phone; it’s 5G or nothing. But the fact that it’s not expensive, heavy or a battery liability is a mark in OnePlus’s favour compared to some of the phones we saw last year. Well done to all involved.
The dual stereo speakers are pretty damn good, too, proving that the phone maker is fixing its minor weaknesses across its devices. And OnePlus says its face recognition now works with cats and dogs: we weren’t able to test this out but please do tweet us if you have.
So, should I buy it?
Yes, probably. It’s a fine £600 Android phone and more of a sensible choice for a lot of people than most flagships. Unless, that is, the new £419 iPhone SE sparks your interest. It’s smaller, with no 5G and missing out on some screen and camera specs, but it falls into roughly the same category as the OnePlus 8: fuss-free but fancy.
Specs & Price
Models: Black, green | Capacity: 128GB/256GB | Weight: 180g Display: 6.55in AMOLED 402ppi, 90Hz | Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 | RAM: 8GB/12GB | Camera: 48MP main, 16MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro | Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, Wi-Fi 6 Battery: 4,300 mAh
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