OnePlus 8T Review: The T upgrade that makes sense
The OnePlus 8T is here, bringing over a refresh to one of OnePlus’s more popular smartphones in recent years. This year, there is no Pro to be found, so the entire task of upholding the mid-cycle refresh rests on the shoulders of the OnePlus 8T.
Read along as we attempt to find the answers. This is our OnePlus 8T review.
About this review: OnePlus sent us an Aquamarine Green OnePlus 8T for review. This review is after a week of use. OnePlus did not have any inputs in this review.
OnePlus 8T Specifications
|Dimensions & Weight|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 CPU|
Adreno 650 GPU
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Front Camera(s)||16MP Sony IMX471, f/2.4, 1.0µm pixels, fixed focus, EIS, [email protected]|
|Port(s) & Buttons|
|Software||OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11|
Band Information for different regions
- North America:
- GSM: B2, 3, 5, 8
- WCDMA: B1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 19
- CDMA: BC0, 1, 10
- LTE-FDD: B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 66, 71
- LTE-TDD: B34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 48
- 5G NSA: N2, 5, 25, 41, 66, 71
- 5G SA: N1, 3, 41, 71, 2, 25, 66
- LTE: B2, 4, 25, 66, 41, 48
- NR: N1, 2, 3, 66, 41, 25
- GSM: B2, 3, 5, 8
- WCDMA: B1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 19
- LTE-FDD: B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26
- LTE-TDD: B34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46
- 5G NSA: N78
- 5G SA: N1, 3, 78
- LTE: B1, 3, 40, 41
- NR: N1, 3, 78
- GSM: B2, 3, 5, 8
- WCDMA: B1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 19
- LTE-FDD: B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 32, 66
- LTE-TDD: B34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
- 5G NSA: N1, 3, 7, 28, 41, 78
- 5G SA: N1, 3, 41, 78
- LTE: B1, 3, 7, 38, 41
- NR: N1, 3, 7, 78
- GSM: B2, 3, 5, 8
- WCDMA: B1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 19
- CDMA: BC0
- LTE-FDD: B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26
- LTE-TDD: B34, 38, 39, 40, 41
- 5G NSA: N41, 78, 79
- 5G SA: N41, 78, 79
- LTE: B1, 3, 41
- NR: N41, 78, 79
Design – A treat of a phone
In terms of hardware design, the OnePlus 8T presents one of the more radical departures from traditional OnePlus aesthetics that we’ve seen in a while. These changes on the outside look of the phone coincide with both a software redesign of OxygenOS as well as the company embracing a revamped identity through a new, more modern logo. What’s different here, why is it significant? And, more importantly, are the changes for the better?
The OnePlus 8T comes in Aquamarine Green and Lunar Silver. Our review unit sports the supposedly “green” coat, though you’d be forgiven for calling it a sort of cyan-blue. It really depends on the lighting, though, as very strong direct sunlight can reveal a greener hue as shown in the pictures below. Indeed, the back of our OnePlus 8T review variant features a strikingly colorful glass back. Unlike flashier OnePlus back designs featured in previous iterations, the OnePlus 8T comes off as more reserved, with a matte-frosted finish that’s almost totally smudge-resistant. This is a wild detour from the Interstellar Glow OnePlus 8, which took flashy glass backs to a new level. Even then, though, the OnePlus 8T is by no means discreet: It’s a sweet-looking phone, as in, sometimes its back reminds me of colorful glossy candy. It gleams and scatters light very cleanly, with rather subdued color changes at extreme angles and a near total tonal and textural shift when struck by strong and direct light. It’s a very exquisite color, but while I’m quite fond of it, in the end, it does feel like another pretty blue(-ish) phone in a sea of pretty blue phones.
This is the same phone, but under different lighting condition.
And opting for a blue(-ish) glass back isn’t the only thing that makes the OnePlus 8T’s design feel more derivative than ever before. The body of the device has seen important changes in its layout, curvature, and dimensions which make it the biggest departure from the mainline that the “T” revisions have offered. The phone feels a bit “boxier”, in part because it has opted for a corner-mounted rectangular camera array, unlike the centered cameras that OnePlus has featured in every other iteration. In terms of dimensions, the 8T is a bit taller and wider than its predecessor, while maintaining the same thickness despite increasing battery capacity. In the hand, the phone remains very comfortable with smooth edges and a gentle curve near the sides of the back plate. I’ve had no issues handling this phone without a case, and while a glass phone is always a bit slippery, the lack of smudges and fingerprints on the back almost force you to keep the phone naked so as to show off its bright color.
If you do opt for a case, OnePlus does offer a variety of excellent cases as always. With the reviewers guide, we found the traditional sandstone case in cyan, as well as a transparent “quantum” case that’s fairly cringey in my opinion.
The rest of the phone’s design follows what you’d expect. You’ve got the alert slider on the metal rail surrounding the phone, both of which feature a nice and shiny chamfer. You’ve got dual speakers (front-facing and bottom-firing), and OnePlus claims that the chin’s size has been reduced by adopting a “chip-on-panel” solution. Finally, the screen no longer features curved edges, something which I’ll describe further in the display section.
Ultimately, the OnePlus 8T is a really beautiful phone that’s comfortable to hold — nothing you wouldn’t expect from the latest OnePlus release. At the same time, the boxier design, corner-mounted camera and even this new matte glass back all make this new OnePlus phone feel more derivative than ever before. I praised the OnePlus 8 for its distinctly-OnePlus back design, but the OnePlus 8T breaks with many of the company’s aesthetic traditions. This is bound to displease some fans, but also attract a new set of customer eyes that, in my opinion, will find quite the treat to look at.
Software – Meet the New OxygenOS
Since the company’s conception, starting with the One’s CyanogenMod S ROM, OnePlus phones have always packed software that’s fairly close to “Stock”. There have been many updates over the years that have in fact altered the look of OxygenOS, with updated iconography, different accent colors, and layout changes — but even then, it remained “Stock-ish” enough to warrant consistent praise from reviewers and users alike. Unlike many competing phones (particularly from China), OnePlus devices aimed to keep the user experience simple, lean, fast, and smooth with only very few and thoughtful features sprinkled in. This has of course changed over the years, and OnePlus devices have felt a lot more bloated in recent memory. The newest Android 11 OxygenOS update is probably the most divisive one yet, as it dramatically alters both the look and feel of the entire operating system.
We’ve written extensively about this new OxygenOS design, which is designed to simplify one-handed operation at a time when phone screens are on average larger than ever. Similarly (very much so, in fact) to Samsung’s OneUI, this new look attempts to tackle the difficulties in one-handed operation by dramatically shifting and reorganizing every layout in such a way that most interactive content remains close to the thumb, while informative content remains close to the top. The new OnePlus Gallery app is perhaps a perfect example of this, as the lower half of the screen is where all the folders and previews are found when first launching the app. This new design philosophy prioritizes scrolling and swiping from side to side along the middle of the screen, getting rid of as many buttons near the top of the display as possible.
Accessing various submenus will bring up more traditional layouts at which point the user has to engage with both hands again, but most surface-level app activities are well-tuned to one-handed operation. OnePlus apps and key areas of the phone UX like the settings menu all feature this new design, while the system apps remain fairly consistent. One common criticism of this approach is that the top portion of the display tends to be fairly barren, and this is indeed the case in OnePlus default and system apps like the Gallery and the Settings — all you get near the top of the display is a few very large words, in turn making some of the screen real estate feel wasted (at least until one begins scrolling around).
There’s no getting around it — this latest OnePlus UI is very far from stock Android now in almost every way. That said, I personally got used to the new look and flow rather quickly. I don’t particularly love it, but I also found that a lot of my preconceptions and worries when first seeing the new layouts were totally unwarranted. I’ve had more issues with the core Android 11 update than the new OxygenOS changes, for example, which ended up surprising me. All the great OnePlus features remain as well, so in the end, the user experience manages to feel familiar even with such a radically different user interface. I’ve written extensively about the OxygenOS features in my OnePlus 8 review, so in the next few paragraphs, I’ll cover only what’s new in the 8T. Surprisingly, there’s a bit more to cover than what’s usually seen on “T” releases — but you might have to wait for all of the features to arrive.
OxygenOS now features a proper always-on display feature, instead of its traditional ambient display. This is by far one of my favorite features, and this device offers a robust set of features to complement it. You get to choose from several clock options, including a slick “Insight AOD” option that shows you how many times you’ve unlocked your phone as well as your usage throughout the day in a simple design. As usual, you also get to check your notifications and remaining battery or charging status. In the upcoming November update, OnePlus 8T users will also receive Canvas AOD, which first surfaced in the betas; this lets you set your AOD to a stylized contour of one of your favorite portrait shot images. The update will also bring a “Bitmoji AOD” option that’ll have your Bitmoji avatar reflect your current activity as well as “what’s happening around you”.
Another two significant features that are coming with the November update are Straighten Doc and Voice Note. The former will be accessible from the camera and the gallery apps, and it will automatically improve the readability of text in photos by straightening the angles, detecting the document edges and getting rid of unwanted shades on the paper, and sharpening the text. This isn’t a revolutionary feature, as many third party apps offer this functionality, but it’d be nice to see such a useful feature baked into the camera app. Voice Note isn’t revolutionary either — similar to what Google’s been doing with its own Notes, it allows your Notes app to convert and transcribe your voice memos into text.
Finally, the company has updated its “Zen Mode” wellbeing app. On top of offering Android’s typical Digital Wellbeing features, the OnePlus 8T’s Zen Mode lets you voluntarily lock yourself out of your phone, and focus on other things, for 20, 30, 40 and 60-minute sessions. I personally have no need for Zen Mode, though those who do enjoy the feature can also keep track of their total time in this mode, how many notifications were muted, and how many days it’s been used. You can also save these stats as screenshots or share them directly from the app to let everyone know how much you are not using your new phone. With the Zen Mode 2.0 update, users can now invite their friends to a “group Zen Mode” session, such that they can all stay focused on a conversation or task together.
Display and Performance – Faster is Better
I’ll tackle these together, given that the biggest change to both of these aspects of the phone emanate from the same upgrade. The OnePlus 8T features a “Fluid” 6.55-inch AMOLED display with a decent (but unimpressive) resolution of 1080p, with a faster refresh rate of 120Hz putting it in-line with the OnePlus 8 Pro as well as other high refresh rate flagships. This is more than a welcome change, as at XDA we’ve always said that high refresh rate panels are some of the best upgrades that Android flagships have received in recent memory. The difference between 90Hz and 120Hz isn’t nearly as crucial as the jump from 60Hz to 90Hz, but it’s nonetheless noticeable.
The other specifications – chipset, storage – remain the same; since we’ve written plenty about the performance of these components in other phones (including OnePlus devices), we’ll mainly focus on the faster display and overall performance. There is no Snapdragon 865 Plus here, which some fans might find a bit of a bummer given that “T” revisions have frequently brought the best silicon available. In practice, this doesn’t make a gigantic difference in day-to-day performance, and if you were looking for the best of the best in terms of a gaming phone, you would be inclined to look elsewhere for other reasons anyway. That said, while not a gigantic compromise, it would have been a nice upgrade.
If you still haven’t experienced a high refresh rate panel, and you are due for an upgrade, do not consider a flagship without one. It makes such a significant difference that you don’t want to miss, and in this regard, the OnePlus 8T performs in line with other high refresh rate phones, and in some ways better. This is in part due to the performance pedigree that OnePlus has been known for: Every year we review their phones and find that they are (and have remained) some of the fastest that Android has to offer, if not the fastest.
Scrolling and swiping in your apps is super smooth, and the touch latency is minimized thanks to the higher touch screen polling rate. The OnePlus 8 already featured really great performance, but the OnePlus 8T manages to surpass it even if only by virtue of the slightly-faster display. As we’ve seen before, the OnePlus 8T dynamically switches between refresh rates depending on the content — for example, it can lower the refresh rate when watching videos or static content. However, the refresh rate can only switch between a few panel modes and is not as variable and adaptive as the solutions found on the Note 20 Ultra and Fold 2. The company also introduced a new feature they call “smooth chain optimization”, which they claim helps ensure smoother frame rates and lower latency, though we didn’t get the full breakdown in time for this review.
In-game performance is thus extremely impressive, with the OnePlus 8T sustaining near-perfect frame-rates in PUBG and Genshin Impact. The former allows OnePlus users to take advantage of their high refresh rate panels (though only on the lowest settings), while the latter is such a graphically-demanding game that maintaining even 60 frames per second is a tough task for all flagships. The OnePlus 8T also features a “multi-layer game-grade cooling system”, a string of marketing terms to describe the vapor chamber, graphite, thermally conductive grease that are all too common inside phones with gaming chops today. In my experience, the OnePlus 8T only got warm while playing PUBG (at the highest settings), at no point hitting uncomfortable temperatures even during long gaming sessions, or any sort of real-world usage for that matter. Genshin Impact managed to push the thermal envelope a lot further, though, causing the phone to become slightly uncomfortable after the end of a 20-minute session. The sample shown above features several dips that mostly correspond to combat scenes (explosions setting grass and enemies on fire) as well as small stutters when transitioning in and out of cutscenes.
Is there anything else that’s different on the display side? Luckily, yes, several small upgrades and changes managed to address two of my bigger problems with recent OnePlus devices. First, the 2.5D “flowscape” display features nearly flat edges like the 7T and unlike the OnePlus 8. While I don’t have a strict preference, I know many among you disliked the switch to curved panels in some recent OnePlus devices.
The OnePlus 8T also features a high peak brightness of up to 1,100 nits, as well as 8,000 brightness adjustment levels with 2 environmental light sensors, and the Pixelworks i3 visual processor which we’ve detailed in a previous article. If you’ve read any of my OnePlus device reviews, you might recall that I constantly criticized the auto-brightness which I always found to be too inaccurate and slow to adapt. Luckily, the OnePlus 8T seems to finally get auto-brightness right, and while I still found myself cranking up the brightness every now and then, I never had to outright turn the feature off like on other OnePlus devices.
Finally, the OnePlus 8T’s calibration seems to be better than that of the OnePlus 8. In my OnePlus 8 review and Dylan’s OnePlus 8 Pro review, we both criticized OnePlus’s then-latest displays for regressing on a few aspects, mainly for black crush. This made consuming darker content much worse, ensuring that tons of videos (and basically the entire Horror movie genre) lost a lot of detail. Side-by-side comparisons show the OnePlus 8T doing better in this regard, though. OnePlus claims a JNCD ratio of under 0.55 (we will have to verify this), and the display features full DCI-P3 color gamut and HDR10+ support, all of which makes it great for media on paper. In practice, I overall found the display to be pleasantly calibrated for content consumption. As expected from an AMOLED display, colors are bright and punchy, and the screen is sharp enough at 1080p resolution.
The display is thinner, too, and coupled with its newfound flatness, it feels even “closer” to the surface than other panels, slightly reinforcing that “sticker” or look common to modern AMOLED displays. There is no Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation (MEMC) like on the OnePlus 8 Pro, however, which is a bit of a bummer given how we found it to be a very welcome addition in that device. Another feature that didn’t make the cut is Comfort Tone, but the OnePlus 8T features “Vision Comfort” to manually or automatically adjust the color temperature and lightness of the display.
Camera Performance – Better Results, Same Old Problems
The camera has typically been where OnePlus stumbles the hardest — that is, until the OnePlus 8 Pro managed to surprise us earlier this year. But while the Pro variant did so well thanks to its excellent sensor, the regular OnePlus 8 was arguably a step back in both software and hardware. It packed the same Sony IMX586 sensor as the 7T, but I found the new software to produce more saturated, faker results. Moreover, the OnePlus 8 featured the exact same color indecisiveness issues as the 7T and many other past OnePlus devices, something I’ll expand upon in a minute. Its 2MP macro camera also produced results with very poor detail and a lot of noise even in the most favorable lighting conditions.
The OnePlus 8T luckily improves upon the hardware with a quad-camera system that offers a wider 16MP ultra wide-angle camera with an impressive 123-degree field of view, as well as a 5MP macro camera and 2MP monochrome sensor to assist the rest of the array. Even though the primary rear shooter uses the same Sony IMX586 sensor as the OnePlus 8 and 7T, I immediately noticed a difference in the way that the OnePlus 8T processes images compared to the 7T, even in the viewfinder.
I took the OnePlus 8T on a road trip to Teal Lake in Wisconsin, which was a great opportunity to see what this camera was capable of. I was able to click some great pictures that feature really appealing (if a bit saturated) colors, as well as good contrast and dynamic range. The portrait shots above, for example, were surprisingly good considering they were taken on a moving boat with the very strong sun (making for very dark face shadows). OnePlus also features a fairly robust Nightscape mode.
You can also find some comparisons with the OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 8, and Pixel 3 XL — it’s interesting to see how the same sensor can produce such different results with different software from the same brand. OnePlus claims that they didn’t just “grab the same code and optimizations” from the OnePlus 8 and instead tried to drive enhancements across the board, and that the addition of a 2MP monochrome sensor helps drive more light information. This time (and unlike the jump from the OnePlus 7T to OnePlus 8) I would say that the changes result in an overall improvement (if small), but even with the new camera array and revamped software, the same issue I’ve had with OnePlus phones for years remains: inconsistency and overly fake colors.
This clip above how the OnePlus 8T struggles to make up its mind about whether the image should be very warm or very cold. The actual scene in real life lived somewhere in the middle, but the OnePlus camera software struggles to figure out what exaggerated view of the world it should capture. Sometimes, the way in which OnePlus processes images is comically fake, like the picture above that features a neon-blue sky, an issue that I also found in the OnePlus 8. I’ve had many, many consecutive pictures show totally disparate color profiles, and in many cases, I’m able to find the exact “decision boundary” that has the software pivot between two completely different schools of color science. To say that this is frustrating is an understatement — it’s borderline unacceptable in such an expensive phone. The OnePlus 8T can absolutely capture some beautiful shots, but its inconsistency is so absurd that you are forced to take multiple shots and play around in the viewfinder to make sure that the software will properly capture the scene.
Regular video performance has been very good, and I’ve found the audio recording in the clips to be much better than that of the OnePlus 8. However, I’ve had several slow-motion clips feature tremendous flickering that wasn’t present on competing phones recording the same overall scene from the same angle.
Overall, I think that the camera remains a weak point of this device, even if it can take some really good photos every now and then. I’ve pointed the aforementioned inconsistency to OnePlus multiple times – sometimes in private feedback, sometimes in person, and many times in reviews – and I can still find these problems in every phone of theirs I test. Some people will appreciate the way that OnePlus processes their images as of late, and I will concede that it makes for some very “shareable” shots a lot of the time, but I personally have grown tired of the inconsistent post-processing and the occasionally oversaturated results.
Battery life and Charging – Great Results!
Since the OnePlus 3, the company has offered Warp Charge (then called Dash Charge), one of the best fast-charging solutions in the market. Even with very minor upgrades throughout the years, Warp Charge remained one of the fastest charging methods, but the OnePlus 8T brings a ridiculously massive upgrade in Warp Charge 65. In order to arrive at faster charging speeds, OnePlus packed two batteries on the 8T, both of which can be charged in parallel. This 65W (10V/6.5A) charging method is enabled by the special Warp Charge 65 brick included in the box, which can also be used at up to 45W with other compatible devices, and it allows one to fully charge the battery in just under 40 minutes. Our tests do indeed confirm this result, and just like Dash Charge did a few years ago, this brought an immediate change to my charging patterns.
Since the bulk of the charging rate benefits happen at the early percentages, Warp Charge 65 allows one to get “a full day of charge” in just 15 minutes according to OnePlus, and in my experience, this is about right. This stems from both the fast charging and the very good battery life I’ve gotten out of the OnePlus 8T. In the screenshots below, you can find several examples of the kind of battery life I got out of the OnePlus 8T. My usage includes a lot of social media (Reddit, Facebook, Instagram), at least one long video call per day (on Instagram, Messenger or Hangouts), camera usage, some Chrome, and a lot of YouTube — several hours with both the screen on and off, which isn’t reflected on the screen on time. In short, I managed to squeeze out around or over 4 hours of screen-on time every day, with a peak of 7 hours of screen-on time, across 24 hour periods, even during the days I was on the road with little access to Wi-Fi. I never felt like I was struggling to get to the end of the day, even during days where I’d use the phone for over four hours; and if for some reason I did need to charge, I knew that even just a few minutes would do the trick.
This really does change the way one charges their phone. For instance, I can quickly top up the OnePlus 8T while getting ready to leave, which is perfect since I’m always in a rush. Near the end of my weekend road trip, for example, I realized that we were about to depart and I had nearly no battery left. Just ten minutes later, I was at 50%, which I was confident would be enough to last the whole ride. A few more minutes of charging would take me to 80%, making that a near certainty. I also never have to worry about overnight charging, which to be fair is less common across all flagships today, but on the plus side, it also means that one doesn’t have to worry about “trickle charging” when juicing up overnight, further impacting battery longevity even if indirectly.
There is no option to lower the charging speed for those that feel a bit worried about battery longevity, but OnePlus does offer an optimized charging feature to make overnight charging safe by only charging from 80% to 100% some minutes before you are set to unplug the phone according to your alarms or calendar. On this note, Oneplus claims that internal testing shows 800 charging cycles still leave the battery at over 80% of its original capacity.
Sadly, there is no wireless charging like what’s found on the OnePlus 8 Pro. This is a shame given how fast their wireless charging solution is, and it’s not impossible to have both 65W charging and 30W wireless charging, but the company claims that adding the wireless charging coils would have made the phone thicker.
Conclusion – The OnePlus 8T is a Good Buy
The OnePlus 8T is, on the whole, a much better phone than the OnePlus 8. This might not be so much a compliment to the 8T as much as it is a critique of the OnePlus 8, as we found that phone to not offer enough to beat the value proposition of its predecessors. The OnePlus 8T, on the other hand, brings some key additions and surprises that overall raise the bang per buck and make it a more competitive device.
The updated design is a bit derivative, but it’s undeniably pretty. The colorful gleamy back is a treat that you can comfortably hold and show off without fear of smudges ruining the look. Not including the Snapdragon 865 Plus feels a bit like a compromise given the company’s track record of packing in the fastest hardware, but at a time where some flagships don’t offer the expensive Snapdragon 865 at all, this isn’t that big an issue. What is disappointing not to see, though, are some of the features introduced by the OnePlus 8 Pro such as MEMC for the display and wireless charging. Warp Charge 65 is definitely an amazing upgrade, but at least some users will prefer more charging options than a single excellent charging method, especially when battery life on the OnePlus 8T seems to be very good. And finally, it would have been really nice to see some of my long-standing issues with the company’s camera software finally addressed.
In the end, the OnePlus 8T brings as many welcome upgrades as omissions, given that for a phone that promises to offer few to no compromises, it manages to not deliver many of the niceties that OnePlus prided itself just half a year ago. The resulting package is still an outstanding phone, with great battery life, a competent (yet often frustrating) camera, a nice screen and excellent performance. In my opinion, this is an overall better buy than the OnePlus 8. But starting at $749, it still has to contend with very strong options from competitors like Samsung (with its Samsung S20 FE) and Google (with its Pixel 5) among many others in a similar price range. Unlike the OnePlus 8, I can recommend the OnePlus 8T, though given that there’s no shortage of great options at the moment, I would urge those interested to look at all available options very carefully.