OnePlus 8 Pro Review – Never Settle on Hardware
We all knew it was coming. After years of trying to keep wallets happier, its friendship with mid-rangers has ended. Now flagships are its best friend. It’s finally happened: OnePlus is now selling premium high-end flagships with the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Starting at $899, there’s no confusing it — the OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the more expensive phones on the market. It’s true that all recent phones have been experiencing a price hike, but that doesn’t make it any easier on our pockets. And with our world realizing a global crisis, there’s no worse time to be spending a stimulus check on a phone, which, in reality, likely doesn’t provide that much more functionality than your current phone. But, if you do got some change lying around, is the OnePlus 8 Pro worth its high-rise price?
OnePlus 8 Pro Specifications
|Specification||OnePlus 8 Pro|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Colors, Materials, Finish|
|Camera (Front)||16MP Sony IMX471, f/2.45, 1.0µm pixels, fixed focus, EIS, [email protected]|
|Software||OxygenOS 10 based on Android 10|
2 years of software updates (Android 11 and Android 12 planned), 3 years of bi-monthly security updates
A/B partitions for Seamless Updates
|System-on-chip||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 CPU|
1x Kryo 585 (ARM Cortex-A77-based) Prime core @ 2.84GHz
Adreno 650 GPU
|Storage||128/256 GB UFS 3.0+ Dual-Lane|
|Wired Charging||30W Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)|
15W USB-C Power Delivery (5V/3A)
|Wireless Charging||Warp Charge 30 Wireless (30W), 10W Qi EPP|
Reverse Wireless Charging (3W)
|Security||Optical under-display fingerprint scanner|
Software-based facial recognition
|Ports & Buttons||USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C with video out (DisplayPort Alternate Mode)|
Dual nano-SIM slot*
*Second SIM will be activated in a post-launch update
|Audio & Vibration||Dual stereo speakers. Audio tuned by Dolby Atmos.|
X-axis linear motor
|Multimedia Codec Support||Audio Playback: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WAV, FLAC, APE, OGG, MIDI, M4A, IMY, AC3, EAC3, EAC3-JOC, AC4|
Audio Recording: WAV, AAC, AMR
Video Playback: MKV, MOV, MP4, H.265(HEVC), AVI, WMV, TS, 3GP, FLV, WEB
Video Recording: MP4
Image Viewing: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF, WEBP, HEIF, HEIC, RAW
Image Output: JPEG, PNG
About this review: I received the OnePlus 8 Pro 12GB RAM/256GB storage model in Ultramarine Blue about 2 weeks ago from OnePlus USA for review.
Design, build & feel
To date, OnePlus hasn’t yet made a bad-looking phone. They typically keep up with the rest of the market in hardware and design. OnePlus presents itself as a company that takes design very seriously, often posting deep dives about its visual changes and material choices. It even unveiled a concept phone that was made purely to showcase their evolving proficiency in colors, material, and finish (CMF). So, it should be expected that the next OnePlus phone continues to look good, and that it builds on its positive design choices.
For materials, OnePlus plays it safe: the sides of the 8 Pro are all aluminum, and the rear is embellished with glimmering soft-touch Gorilla Glass. It’s quite grippy and doesn’t actually feel like glass — it could easily be mistaken for coated aluminum on first impression. Many believed that OnePlus’ transition to a glass back material was an indicator that it was preparing to introduce wireless charging, which works through glass, but not metal. But when wireless charging wasn’t present in OnePlus’s previous glass-backed phones, many users were left disappointed in the new material choice. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus decided that it’s finally ready for wireless charging, implementing its new 30-watt wireless Warp Charge, and finally adding rationality to their decision of using the fragile backing material.
And speaking of materials, the OnePlus 8 Pro uses a lot of it. The phone is enormous. Its footprint is among the largest currently in the smartphone market, up there with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the LG V60. Last year’s model, the OnePlus 7 Pro, was already considerably huge, and larger than what I’d comfortably prefer. Compared to it, the 8 Pro has similar weight and dimensions, but it’s ever-so-slightly narrower and taller. However, the display area is increased compared to the 7 Pro, bumping up from 6.67″ diagonally to 6.78″. This may seem gratuitous, but for my usage, the slight skim in width in the 8 Pro makes a difference in improving its feel and handle compared to the 7 Pro, even with a larger screen.
Finally, we can’t talk about the phone’s design without addressing that hole. OnePlus has now opted for a punch hole at the top of the screen to house its front optics. This is an interesting deviation from last generation where OnePlus seemed to embrace the motorized pop-out camera; it allowed the OnePlus 7 Pro to have a true fullscreen display, free of intrusions. And on the OnePlus 7 & 7T, it instead has a teardrop cutout in the top-center of the screen — which, in my opinion, is less intrusive than any hole punch. I believe the hole punch is worse than both camera-fitting implementations of last year’s, with the only benefit being the move away from the motorized mechanism, which I’m not completely comfortable with on a phone.
The new curved edges on the OnePlus 8 devices are a downgrade and are completely unnecessary, full stop
On the topic of screen intrusions, there’s also a curvature to the edges of the OnePlus 8 Pro display. The punch hole and the curved edges work in discord, since the curvature necessarily pushes the hole further away from the edges. The curved edges aren’t new for OnePlus; the 7 Pro also had them. However, compared to the 7 Pro, the display curvature on the 8 Pro begins closer to the edges of the screen, but the curvature is also sharper. So, while less of the screen is padded or distorted by the curvature compared to the 7 Pro, the intensity of the annoying visual defects associated with the curved edges (haloing, glare, color shift) are exacerbated on the OnePlus 8 Pro, especially for bright content. And when swiping in from the edges, such as when evoking the “back” gesture, the sensation is also sharper and not as pleasing as on the OnePlus 7 Pro. From my usage with this devices, I’ve been experiencing the most accidental touches that I’ve had on any phone. I really wish that OnePlus, along with every other smartphone maker, would just abstain from the curves altogether.
OnePlus 8 Pro Display
Apart from the hole and the curves, OnePlus is packing everything they got in the 8 Pro display. The OnePlus 8 Pro uses Samsung’s latest-generation display panels, and in this department OnePlus isn’t holding anything back: a high screen density of 513 pixels per inch, an ultra-smooth 120Hz refresh rate (240Hz touch sampling), and 800 nits peak brightness. And the huge 6.67-inch screen covers 93.6% of the front of the phone. It’s big and beautiful, and as bright and inky as Samsung’s own flagships phones.
The OnePlus 8 Pro also has new display features such as motion processing, adaptive display white balance, and SDR-to-HDR up-mapping. OnePlus partnered with a company called Pixelworks for these features, and there is a dedicated display processor in the OnePlus 8 Pro that handles them. You can read more about these features (as well as with a few others) in our separate OnePlus 8 display tech preview.
The default color profile is still vibrant, punchy, and tends to oversaturate colors — though, OnePlus did dial it back a notch this generation. For those that want accurate colors, OnePlus claims their Natural screen mode setting exhibits color accuracy that is indistinguishable from perfect. As an interface designer, a hobby calibrator and colorist, I take display calibration seriously. A claim of color reproduction that is “indistinguishable from perfect” is a bold one, and unlikely true for almost any display. That being said, there would need to be some outrageous issues to make a panel like this look bad. But, there are issues with it, which I won’t cover in detail here, but in an upcoming full display analysis. The worst issues, however, are regressions in black rendering, grayscale consistency and uniformity, which they’ve done so well with in the past. These issues were also somewhat present in the OnePlus 7T, and they may be a complication of OnePlus jumping onto Samsung’s latest-generation panels.
OnePlus 8 Pro Camera
To be frank, I’ve always been rather unimpressed with OnePlus’s cameras. Since the OnePlus 5, it never seemed to have caught up with the premium flagships — the ones that OnePlus were supposed to be the “killers” of. But, their performance was mostly deemed acceptable since they were priced much lower than those flagships. To which OnePlus would insist that they weren’t cutting corners — and I believe them. There was no amount of money that they could have thrown that could promise to fix their subjectively-odd camera processing.
However, the OnePlus 8 Pro is concretely priced as a high-end premium handset. It absolutely does need to compete with the best. And I’m happy to say that it does, but perhaps still not in the ways that I’d like it to.
The OnePlus 8 Pro does take generally pleasing-looking photos. But, in typical OnePlus fashion, it still seems to retain some unfavorable camera processing that I mentioned earlier. However, this time around OnePlus makes up for its processing through its excellent main wide sensor. Similar to what I said about the display hardware, there would need to be underlying software issues to create issues with a sensor that captures this much light.
You can expect images from the OnePlus 8 Pro main sensor to capture much more light than most previous flagships. The binned 12MP photos come out with very sharp edges, and the image processing favors aggressively high contrast and saturation. The white balance it chooses is not necessarily the most accurate, and it tends to pick one that can bring out the colors in the scene. All red color tones — browns, pinks, magentas — are also disproportionately oversaturated compared to other colors, and often exhibit clipping. And even with such a large sensor, OnePlus is still deciding to cap the minimum ISO at 100.
I compared the OnePlus 8 Pro against the two-year-old Pixel 3, which was then acclaimed for its capture detail. I believe this to be a fair baseline device to assess capture detail against, but we should expect the OnePlus 8 Pro to blow it away in dynamic range. However, I found that the OnePlus 8 Pro’s scene tone mapping to be very similar to the high contrast of the Pixel 3, just with significantly less noise in the shadows.
Here, while I do overall prefer the OnePlus 8 Pro images, it falls slightly behind the Pixel 3 in capturing some of the earthy gradations and the chipping bark in my tree. And despite the excellent lighting, the full-size 48MP crop from the OnePlus 8 Pro does not resolve any more real texture than its binned 12MP shot. However, the 48MP image is the most clear image without the obvious sharpening applied in its binned counterpart. This sharpening can also be noticed in the out-of-focus wood fence, and it becomes a notable characteristic of the OnePlus 8 Pro’s binned camera.
Low-light shots are where the OnePlus 8 Pro’s sensor truly shines. The sheer size of the sensor lets it absorb significantly more light, and the Pixel 3 cannot compete. A normal capture with the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main sensor is comparable to the Pixel using Night Sight, which takes a few seconds to work.
Assuming the quarantine position, the front-facing camera has fared me well. In good lighting, it maintains decent facial detail and does not smoothen them out as much as other phone cameras. Front-facing portrait cut-outs are still very hit-and-miss, as artifacts are clearly visible along the left side of my shirt.
The front-facing camera of the OnePlus 8 Pro can be aggressive at exposing for a visible face in difficult lighting conditions. However, this comes at the cost of sacrificing facial detail; the OnePlus 8 Pro completely smoothes out my face in the indoor setting. However, while the Pixel 3 exposure is more accurate with more detail, the noise that comes with it is very unpleasant, and most people would likely prefer the brighter selfie.
One of the most difficult scenarios to capture is a sun-backlit shot of a person. The OnePlus 8 Pro completely failed to expose for the face, while the Pixel 3 manages albeit with a lot of noise. Attempting the same kind of shot with different subjects resulted in the same hit-or-miss behavior.
For portrait mode the OnePlus 8 Pro is much more conservative with the bokeh. Its multi-lens setup results in a better cut-out than the single lens on the Pixel 3. While neither bokeh look very convincing to me, I expected the OnePlus 8 Pro to do much better here, especially when its main sensor can create a comparable depth of field. It also employs the telephoto lens for the longer focal length, which tends to be more flattering for human portraits. However, our subject’s skin on the OnePlus 8 Pro is oversmoothed, and there’s a noticeable nude cast, almost as if a filter was applied.
Since the ultra-wide and telephoto sensors are not nearly as large as the main sensor, they are much more reliant on OnePlus’ image processing. It’s in these other camera modes that really show the difference in image quality due to sensor.
In the tree set, the ultra-wide does a good job matching the main wide sensor in white balance and detail, but we can see some pronounced haloing around the tree leaves touching the sky. The sensor advantage is dramatically demonstrated in the second low-light pair, and the ultra-wide is in complete disparity with the main sensor’s result. The ultra-wide image shows no detail on any surface. While the smaller sensor on the Pixel 3 doesn’t fare nearly as well either, I much prefer its processing to overly-smooth shot produced by the OnePlus 8 Pro ultra-wide camera.
However, when it’s pushed to its limits, the main sensor can still succumb to OnePlus’s image processing. The image captured above on the main wide sensor exhibits terrible haloing between the trees and the sky. And the accompanying ultra-wide capture was delivered to us by our old friend, Vinvcent Van Gogh.
The zoom capabilities on the OnePlus 8 Pro is the weakest link in the camera array. The telephoto lens only supports 3x optical zoom at 8MP, and the images coming from it don’t seem very pleasing. They have noticeably different image characteristics than the wide and ultra-wide, and zooming in past 3x is pretty much worthless. Cropping in reveals the same amount of detail, which the telephoto sensor itself does not capture that much of in the first place.
Since I had to capture almost all my photos locally and nearby, I unfortunately cannot share any video samples due to some privacy concerns. However, the videos on the OnePlus 8 Pro have great color and contrast thanks to the huge sensor. However, the maximum bitrate for 4K30 seems to be capped at 50Mbps, and there is also no option to save in HEVC.
It’s also possible to switch to the ultra-wide and into the telephoto during recording, but the transition is a bit jittery and noticeable. From my testing, the playback of 4K30 video recordings is also quite jittery, which has been a recurring problem for OnePlus phones.
Super macro mode from the OnePlus 7T also makes a return, and it’s now compatible with all three cameras. Super macro mode allows you to capture subjects as close as 3 centimeters away, which is helpful when trying to take a photo of tiny subjects. It provides one more layer of versatility to the OnePlus camera array, one that most other devices don’t have.
OnePlus also added Smart Pet Capture, which detects when a dog or a cat is in the frame, and primes the camera focus shutter speed to help clearly capture our furry friends. From my testing, it works really well, as long as the camera detects your pet. The camera in general also captures excellent detail in the black fur of my cat.
There’s also a fourth camera — a color filter camera — which is primarily used for infrared photography. It’s suggested that it’s used for the camera filters that can be applied to the final shot, but they can already be done without the color filter camera. Only the Photochrom mode actually requires the color filter camera.
The only filter that I think is worth using is the “Matte” filter, which dials back the oversaturation in reds and brings out shadow details a little better. In many conditions that I’ve tested it in, it does seem to sometimes reproduce the scene more accurately.
Battery & Warp Charge 30/Wireless
With bigger devices, we should expect bigger batteries. But even though the OnePlus 8 Pro isn’t much larger in volume than the 7 Pro, OnePlus managed to fit about an extra 500 mAh into the battery this year. While this is no 5,000 mAh like on the similar-sized S20 Ultra, the battery on the OnePlus 8 Pro has allowed me to endure without charging for more than a day at a time during our stay-at-home order. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 I have been unable to push the phone in normal-world-day circumstances, like dealing with spotty data connections, higher display brightness, or terrible GPS lock-on.
As soon as I got my OnePlus 8 Pro, I set it the resolution to static QHD+ and kept the refresh rate at 120Hz. My days on this phone have typically been comprised of watching YouTube videos, attending Zoom classes and conferences, taking photos and videos, and the rest on Reddit. And with such a lavish schedule, the OnePlus 8 Pro consistently yields me about 6 hours of screen-on-time per day, ranging from 5 hours 30 minutes, up to 7 hours. However, this has been mostly on Wi-Fi.
I spent one typical day on 60Hz just to see the impact that 120Hz may have had on the battery. It was painful, but I ended the day with just under 7 hours of screen time. Granted this was only one day, but I did expect a larger hit, and I’m glad to see there wasn’t.
On 120Hz, the OS will dynamically change to 60Hz during video playback, when using the camera, or when in a call. We’re also told that the display ramps down to 60Hz when content is static and after scrolling, however we did not find this to be the case, at least by the method that we used to check it with.
Wireless charging has been a feature many have been asking OnePlus to add to their phones, and it’s finally here in the OnePlus 8 Pro. It supports standard Qi wireless charging up to 10 watts, and with the OnePlus Warp Charge 30 Wireless charger (which will run you another $69.95) it can charge at up to 30 watts. OnePlus claims that their charger fills 50% battery in just 30 minutes, which we tested and verified. From there, it takes another 48 minutes to charge to 100%.
The name may lead you to believe that it charges just as fast as Warp Charge 30. It doesn’t; it charges closer to an 18W brick power delivery charger, which is still damn fast for a wireless charger.
However, one of the drawbacks of wireless charging is that it produces more heat in the battery than wired charging. From my testing, the wireless charger heats up the phone to a peak of 42°C, while the wired Warp Charge 30T typically only heats up to 38°C. The OnePlus Warp Charge 30 Wireless has fans built in to help cool the phone down while charging, and from my usage they are only really audible as a low “whirr” in pitch silence. OnePlus also has a feature to turn off the fan at bedtime so that it makes no noise at all when you’re trying to sleep.
Speakers & Haptics
The speakers on the OnePlus 8 Pro are set up in the typical modern dual-direction fashion. There’s one at the top that doubles as the earpiece, and one that is bottom-firing. They’re enhanced by Dolby Atmos, which also works with connected headphones. However, my impressions are that the dual-speakers sound just okay. And for the price point, I expect more.
They get loud, sure, but they sound tinny to me, especially at lower volumes. Compared to the latest Galaxies, iPhones or even Pixels, they don’t quite compare. They lack any sort of impactful bass, and the soundstage feels somewhat closed. While the two speakers are fairly balanced, the overall sound still tends to lean on the more sibilant signature of the earpiece speaker. Tacking on Dolby Atmos isn’t a fix for uninspiring sonics.
It’s also not just the speakers — the audio of the device’s haptics disappoint as well. This year, OnePlus says that the vibration motor in the OnePlus 8 Pro is 11% stronger, which I haven’t really noticed from typical usage, but now there’s also an audible plonk sound whenever it happens. It’s as if you can hear the motor knocking back on the glass. This is as monstrous as leaving keyboard sounds enabled.
It’s a niche subject, but I mention it since I’ve been spoiled from great haptics on iPhones. Many users prefer to disable their vibrations, but I find them pleasant to interact with on a quality motor. What irks me is that last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro had excellent haptics. They were strong, controlled, and they didn’t make much of an audible sound at all. And I would happily take the “weaker” motor if it meant a silent one.
Software & Performance
OxygenOS has typically been commended for its speed, its blend of features, and its lack of any real “bloat”. This is still very much the case in the OnePlus 8 Pro. Like many other OEM skins, OxygenOS provides many features that are not present in stock Android.
The newest OxygenOS additions to the OnePlus 8 series are mostly for the display, however there is also now Dark Mode 2.0. This is essentially “Force Dark Mode” on a per-app basis, and it’s a bit underwhelming for the attention that OnePlus gives it. Interface colors often clash when they switch over to dark mode, and it doesn’t seem to support that many apps yet. OnePlus also added new wallpapers that change colors depending on the weather outside.
So far that’s all we’ve found as the extent of changes in OnePlus 8’s OxygenOS. That’s a bit unfortunate however since there have been some previous issues that I would have liked to have seen fixed.
Over the two weeks, I’ve used the OnePlus 8 Pro I’ve had to tweak the brightness slider, constantly and every single day. This is the first time I’ve had to do this on a device in a while, since other devices properly learn my auto-brightness preference. The OnePlus 8 Pro, with its over 4000 brightness levels, still does not. And OnePlus has ways been terrible with this. For me, it always seems too dim in most conditions, and too bright by bedtime. And I have to change it every single time.
Another thing that bothers me during the night is OnePlus’ implementation of Night Light. It fades in from normal every single time you unlock your device, so if you want to check your phone during the night, the display exposes you to a flash of blue light. The display’s Comfort tone does the same thing.
Perhaps worst of all is the light emitted from the in-display fingerprint scanner. If you have it set up and try to unlock your phone during the night and don’t completely cover the sensor with your thumb, the bright white light that is emitted will absolutely sear your eyes. Understandably the light is necessary to illuminate your thumbprint, but perhaps the display could only illuminate the region that your thumb places pressure on.
Another note with the fingerprint display is that it changes the color profile on the lockscreen. I use the Natural screen mode, and the fingerprint lockscreen display is set to the native gamut of the display. This permanently oversaturates and discolors my lockscreen wallpaper and notifications, which I dislike.
There are also issues with the gesture system in OxygenOS, which are just Google’s gestures. When in landscape, side-swiping to change apps does not work at all, and there is no animation when swiping up to go home in this orientation. Peeking the edges to invoke hamburger menus by holding the sides also does not seem to really work. Also, if you hold the gesture bar for a beat too long, then performing the gesture won’t work at all, even though the gesture bar moves.
However, on the performance side of things, OxygenOS continues to remain very speedy. Although I’m not a fan of the system animations and easing, they run consistently without hiccups. Scrolling and interactions on the OnePlus 8 Pro are the smoothest and most responsive that I’ve felt on any device.
Checking in with our standard comprehensive CPU testing suites, the OnePlus 8 Pro unsurprisingly delivers some of the fastest performance scores for their respective tests. They perform as expected for Snapdragon 865 devices, and both tests maintained a device temperature of under 35°C.
To roughly evaluate the OnePlus 8 Pro’s 120Hz scrolling performance, we logged its rendering frame time while automating scrolls through Gmail and the Google Play Store.
We find that the OnePlus 8 Pro performs exceptionally smoothly in the Play Store, with nearly zero jank in its scrolling performance. The Play Store used to be the hallmark for scrolling lagfests, and with improvements to — well, everything — we’re now capable of scrolling through it at 120 FPS with hardly any dropped frames.
In Gmail, we see the app scroll just as smoothly. However, the app drops frames while it’s populating in emails. This is quite standard for the app, and it’s more indicative of the app’s performance than system performance.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is undoubtedly OnePlus’ most flagship-feeling phone — I know this because this is the most careful I’ve been carrying a OnePlus phone around. The components are absolutely top-tier; there aren’t any glaring singularities that you can blame them for cheaping out on. The main camera can easily take phenomenal-looking shots, and it pardons itself from some of its egregious image processing just from the sensor alone. The huge, nearly bezel-less display panel is virtually identical to what Samsung would put on their own flagships. However, upcoming flagships are also projected to possess similar-quality components, so OnePlus’ tech lead may be short-lived unless it upkeeps its software to stand out.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is the first OnePlus device where I actually believe that they didn’t settle
Although its software still requires additional tuning, the OnePlus 8 Pro is the first OnePlus device where I actually believe that they didn’t settle. Wireless charging? It’s there, and faster than most others’ basic wired charging. An actual Ingress Protection rating? OnePlus finally got it certified just to say that it has it. The aspects that aren’t a hit seem like things they just need to continue on with company R&D, and not simple things that they could just pour money into to fix. However, this tell-tale effort is absolutely reflected in the price. They spent what it took to get to that flagship status, and they want to make a return on it.
We say this every year: OnePlus continues to deviate further from its original company roots, and from the customers that brought rise to the company. It was the phone to get for the price. When price isn’t a factor, no one really regards OnePlus as the best possible smartphone you can get. Now, OnePlus is pushing the OnePlus 8 Pro in an attempt to be that best possible phone.
The problem is that the OnePlus 8 Pro is priced so close to the Galaxy S20, which already delivers a reliable and complete package in combined hardware and software. And from a pragmatic, frugal view, the OnePlus 7T does provide a very comparable experience for nearly half the price: you still get a really bright, flat display, and a decent-sized main sensor. However, if you specifically want a really big phone — like S20 Ultra big — without spending $500 more, and you want that big main sensor, then the OnePlus 8 Pro is the flagship for you.