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The OnePlus 8 Pro has some big shoes to fill, following-up on the success of last year's 7 Pro. At $230 more, though, it's hard to call it a successor — the days of flagship "killing" are done now that OnePlus phones can cost over $900. This is a new era for the company, and with all the crazy prices we've seen on 5G phones so far, a new world for smartphones in general. It's "just" a flagship, but the OnePlus 8 Pro is the phone to buy right now.
|Display||6.78" 3168x1440 120Hz AMOLED, 1,300 nits max brightness|
|Storage||128/256GB (UFS 3.0+)|
|Rear cameras||48 MP f/1.7 primary (IMX 689, OIS & EIS), 8MP f/2.44 telephoto (OIS), 48MP f/2.4 ultra-wide (IMX 586), vestigal 5MP "color filter camera"|
|Front camera||16MP f/2.45 (IMX 471)|
|Power||4510mAh battery, 30W Warp Charge 30T wired charging, 30W Warp Charge 30 Wireless charging|
|Software||Oxygen OS based on Android 10|
|Connectivity||5G bands n2, n5, n66, n71, n41 in the US, LTE, Wi-Fi 6 (2x2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.1|
|Colors||Onyx Black, Glacial Green, Ultramarine Blue|
|Dimensions||165.3mm x 74.35mm x 8.5mm, 199g|
|Misc.||IP 68 rating, in-screen optical fingerprint sensor, Comfort Tone ambient light screen color adaptation, dual-SIM|
|Price||$899 for 8GB/128GB, $999 for 12GB/256GB|
|Screen||Super smooth, bright, and high resolution.|
|Performance||This phone screams.|
|Camera||Detail improvements, can take great photos sometimes.|
|Software||OxygenOS remains one of the best Android skins.|
|Speakers||Actually sound quite good (for phone speakers).|
|Fast wireless charging||Almost as quick as wired fast charging.|
|Battery||At 120Hz and max resolution, it lasted two days for me.|
|IP 68 rating||FINALLY.|
|Colors||OnePlus went wild, we dig it.|
|Price||It may seem high compared to previous OnePlus phones, but gven the current smartphone market and specs, $900 is a steal.|
|Curved edges||"Waterfall" curved screens bother some people. They make it easier to hold, but accidental touches are a problem, and there is off-angle color shift and glare.|
|Size||A curved screen helps, but this is a bigger phone, and you can't just choose based on size — the smaller model is missing several features.|
|Camera||Still inconsistent, photos often look like they have a filter pre-applied.|
|Screen||Won't bother everyone, but consistently crushes blacks, some uniformity concerns.|
|Price, again||$900 is still a large increase over the 7 Pro and 7T.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
OnePlus has returned to its 7 Pro-style design language, tossing away the awkward "Oreo" camera hump the 7T had. Also gone is the 7 Pro/7T Pro's pop-out camera, which I loved. OnePlus says the new hole-punch design saves space and weight, allowing for a larger battery, but it also means that all-screen dream is gone. I'm not generally a fan of hole-punch cameras, since they make the status bar even chunkier, wasting even more usable screen space, but I got used to it.
Goodbye pop-up, see you later notch.
The OnePlus 8 Pro also bumps up the display's refresh rate to 120Hz, much like Samsung's Galaxy S20 series of phones. The difference between 90Hz and 120Hz feels smaller in practice than the move from 60Hz to 90Hz, but it's unarguably smooth. Other specs are also improved; the company tells us this is the first time it's had a 10-bit display (8-bit with FRC) in any of its phones, and it hits a maximum of 1,300 nits of brightness. It also has a real-time HDR conversion mode and a TV-like motion interpolation setting called "motion graphics smoothing" that gives some video streaming apps, including YouTube and Netflix, that godawful soap opera effect. (Thankfully, it's off by default.)
All this means it offers a pretty good picture, and it gets bright enough outside to use it even in bright, sunny direct light. OnePlus also improved the reliability and performance of the automatic brightness setting. I found that to be a problem on the company's last few phones, and it seems to be fixed here. Paired with the new True Tone/Ambient EQ-like "comfort tone" feature, which matches display temperature to ambient light, the display was easy on the eyes. But especially picky people might still spot a few other issues with the screen.
Maximum brightness in direct sunlight outside.
Most folks won't be bothered by this, but like the OnePlus 7T (and unlike the 7 Pro), I noticed some irregularity in the screen at low brightness, visible as an uneven color in dark theme backgrounds at night. Blacks are also consistently crushed at almost all brightness levels (outside a strange bump at around 30%), with more clipping than you'd expect or want to see. (Here are tests at 50% and 1% brightness.) A very vocal minority, including myself, are bothered by both of these things, but the vast majority won't notice or care. Interested parties will likely hear more when my friend Dylan Raga at XDA Developers publishes his display analysis.
The "waterfall" edges of the screen have a smaller radius, but a more extreme curve than the 7 Pro.
The screen has a strong "waterfall" curve on its edges that makes it a bit easier to heft, given its size. But, that also means accidental touches are a problem. OnePlus doesn't seem to offer any touch rejection, so expect text input boxes to randomly close, and buttons in apps placed too close to the edges will get tapped, though a case helps.
Combination notification slider and fidget toy.
Like previous OnePlus phones, the trademark Alert Slider is still present and awesome to have, letting you switch easily between an audible ringer, vibration mode, and silent mode. The headphone jack, sadly, is still gone, and it has an optical in-display fingerprint reader, which seems to be a bit bigger and anecdotally performs a little bit better — though we think even OnePlus' older optical readers beat the ones Samsung keeps using. (Some folks, including us, ran into issues with the fingerprint sensor when restoring from a device backup during the setup process, but a factory reset and from-scratch setup fixed things, and pre-release software could be to blame.) The company also tells us it has further improved haptics, and while they still don't compare to the Pixel 4 or iPhone, they're pretty good — if a little weak, at times.
It's also IP 68 rated (finally). Even if the warranty still won't cover water damage, now you can be a bit less freaked out if you have to answer a call in the rain — and less frantic when it slips from your grip and lands in a puddle.
Stereo sound is provided via the earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker, as is usual for OnePlus phones. It gets louder than you would expect, and the sound is surprisingly good. (Keep in mind, it's still a phone: there's little bass, and it does distort at high volumes.) Like most glass-backed devices, you'll feel a strange buzzing sensation against your fingers at higher volumes, mitigated slightly with a case.
In addition to the universal warranty cards/manual, the 8 Pro comes with a Warp Charge 30T (30W) fast-charger/cable, SIM ejector tool, some stickers, and an uncharacteristically mediocre complimentary case. It's a bit too loose and covered in big, unattractive "Never Settle" branding. You'll want to replace it. No headphones or 3.5mm headphone jack adapter are included.
Given their quality, I highly recommend OnePlus' first-party cases. We got a chance to use the new Sandstone bumper case in Cyan, which has a rough and gritty texture in a hybrid-style design, and I like it a lot — expect to hear more on that later.
Software, performance, and battery
Although reports indicate some older devices might be suffering stability problems on OxygenOS recently, the version on the 8 Pro was generally rock-solid in our testing. (Ryan experienced a handful of launcher and system UI crashes on the pre-release software, but I personally didn't.)
As always, OxygenOS takes a stock-like approach that should be immediately familiar and comfortable for anyone coming from something like a Pixel, Nokia, Motorola, Essential Phone, or any other lightly modified version of Android. Most of the few additions are genuinely useful, like Dark Mode 2.0, which forces a dark theme for some unsupported apps, and Parallel Apps, which allows simultaneous installations of messaging applications like WhatsApp and Twitter. In short, it's among the most pleasant versions of Android to use.
VoLTE/VoWiFi icons aren't stupidly big anymore.
We still don't have an always-on display (yet), but OnePlus has replaced the useless Shelf, which lived to the left of the home screen on previous phones, with Google Discover. If you don't customize your status bar, you'll also notice much smaller, less obtrusive VoLTE and VoWiFi icons. And if you like using the (less secure) camera-based face unlock, it's a little bit faster on the 8 Pro than it was on the 7 Pro, though that's probably because there's no added delay from a pop-up camera mechanism.
Software is also about updates, and OnePlus has a pretty good track record there, with a bi-monthly security patch promise. It's also among the first to get new major Android releases. But more recently, the company has had some difficulties delivering those updates in a timely way. The OnePlus 6T's Android 10 rollout was quite a snafu, and several have complained about being stuck on older security patches over recent months. Though the pandemic is at least partly to blame, it does seem like the company is running into some update-related growing pains, and you can't expect Pixel or Samsung consistency with monthly updates (though you'll probably get Android 11/R before the S20).
OnePlus is ahead of the curve in other ways, though. While Samsung's current OneUI 2.0 and 2.1 are based on old versions of Android 10 that can't even let third-party launchers use gesture navigation, OxygenOS has no such problems. You can expect to get features like those faster and more consistently with OnePlus.
OxygenOS also flies on this hardware. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 is crazy (superfluously?) fast, and you'll rarely see even a dropped frame. Some apps, like Spotify, load so quickly that you'd be convinced they were already running in the background. Not all games play nice with higher frame rates, but those that do work great. It even feels faster than the S20 series, not that the differences really matter when things are this fast.
That said, OnePlus' aggressive background app management/optimization is still a thing. Even with all that RAM and processing power to spare, it likes to kill apps in the background sometimes, which can mean delayed notifications. It wasn't excessively bothersome, but it was noticeable at times.
I also tested Bluetooth audio performance for stutters, disconnections, and excessive latency in environments that some devices (like recent Samsung phones) usually struggle with, and I didn't have any problems.
There's no telling how these numbers will look when things are back to "normal."
It's tough to talk about battery life objectively with our lifestyles disrupted. We don't go out as much as we used to during the global pandemic, and sitting at home on Wi-Fi isn't going to be indicative of how things will be when (if?) they go back to normal. Still, I can tell you what I got, and it was solid. At the maximum resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, using dark theme in system and most apps, I consistently hit almost seven hours of screen-on time over two days. I consider that solidly two-day battery life and pretty good compared to my experience on other devices, but I'm not sure yet how that might scale with more time spent out and about.
When you do need to charge it, Warp Charge 30 Wireless is magical. I thought the company's claims of "97% efficiency" had to be marketing lies or exaggeration, but so far as I can measure with apps like Ampere when compared to the 30W rating, it's legit. The phone pulls almost all of that 30W of power at peak, and anecdotally it didn't seem to get very hot while it's doing it. That begged a closer analysis.
The company claims it can charge to about 50% in half an hour, hitting (but not sustaining) peak wattage during that time. Since many were concerned about heat, I decided to measure the temperature while charging (inside the company's Sandstone case, for additional insulation) at 15-minute intervals to get a sense of how hot it made the phone, and to generally verify the charging speed claims.
- At 15 minutes: 38.3°C (101°F) external (hottest spot), 40.7°C (105°F) internal reported by battery temperature sensor.
- At 30 minutes: 39°C (102°F) external (hottest spot), 41.4°C (107°F) internal reported by battery temperature sensor.
- Reported charge after 30 minutes: 48%
Those internal battery temperatures seem a little high to me, but I also measured the phone reaching the same battery temperatures using wired Warp Charge 30T, and that's apparently fine, so I'm not too concerned. Between the active cooling solution and the efficiency they've reached, you don't need to be worried about heat when it comes to OnePlus' Warp Charge 30 Wireless.
OnePlus takes a different approach to photography — it doesn't seem to care what things actually look like in reality. Everything is tuned to make a photo you'll think is "pretty," rather than one that is objective or accurate to what you see. That's not an intrinsically good or bad approach, but definitely a polarizing one.
I still find OnePlus' results unpredictable. I like a camera that gives me what I see — or, at least, something closer to it — so I can tweak things as I want from there. But OnePlus' processing on the 8 Pro usually pushes the world through a fantasy filter, with stronger contrast, excessive HDR, saturated colors (especially reds), overly-brightened scenes, and sometimes odd color balance. Frequently, it crushes shadows to black, killing the details it might have been able to preserve in favor of a higher contrast "punchier" look.
Photos taken on the OnePlus 8 Pro often feel like they've been run through a filter tuned by tech influencer Twitter poll. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you were going to do that sort of tweaking to your photos anyway, and some of the photos it's snagged in my testing are very, very pretty.
OnePlus has clearly made great strides. On a crop, the processing is even less muddy than OnePlus cameras used to be, preserving details even better. Low-light performance is also generally good. But I still think consistency is a problem, and the heavily processed look won't please everyone.
Left: Primary camera. Right: Telephoto.
The OnePlus 8 Pro's telephoto camera can take sharper photos than the 7 Pro's, but sometimes they are disappointingly hazy. I didn't remember that being a problem with the 7 Pro and 7T when I used them previously, but re-testing the two phones more recently, they exhibit similar behavior. Whether it's a change in processing since last year or not, I hope it's something that can be mitigated with future updates.
The wide-angle does some good work.
I'd also like to note, the wide-angle camera still serves double-duty as the macro camera on the 8 Pro. Although the smaller OnePlus 8 picked up a dedicated macro camera, the 8 Pro's wide-angle delivers much, much, much better macro results — and its normal wide-angle photos can be pretty killer.
The "color filter camera" may have gotten primary billing with its positioning in the camera hump —beating out the telephoto, which is relegated to the side where it's harder to wipe clean — but it's entirely unnecessary. OnePlus tells us it's only used by a single "Photochrom" filtered mode, making it pointless. I wish the telephoto had been placed there instead.
Overall, I think the OnePlus 8 Pro has a camera that a lot of people will like, especially if they want photos that are immediately Instagrammable and "pretty." But those that prefer a realistic style or more predicable output may be disappointed. Although I still find Google's processing to be the cream of the crop, I've grown to like OnePlus' heavy-handed camera in its own way. Frankly, I think it does a better job than the Galaxy S20 most of the time. (But if a camera is your biggest priority, the Pixel 4 is probably your best OnePlus alternative.)
Should you buy it?
Yes. OnePlus told us that it saw an incredible 199% growth in the US in the last year, and it's easy to see why. It may not yet be a household name, but it's impossible to talk about the best Android phones without mentioning OnePlus. The company consistently pushed the boundaries of flagship pricing, offering not just low prices, but some truly great phones. And then the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro happened.
While $900 is competitive in the current market for a 5G Snapdragon 865-powered phone, It's still a huge increase in cost over the $670 OnePlus 7 Pro and $600 7T. Given the crazy prices we are now seeing across the board this generation, I have a feeling that increase may have more to do with Qualcomm than OnePlus, but it doesn't really matter whose fault it is. When you get down to it, this is a really expensive phone — but it's worth every penny.
The OnePlus 8 Pro merges great hardware with some of the best software you can get. As always, there are nits to pick when it comes to the camera (and, if you're really picky, the screen), but even on a more pessimistic device comparison, there's not a lot that's bad about the 8 Pro. Making a list of the things wrong with something rather than what's right is actually one of my favorite ways to compare devices, precisely because when things are good, you don't notice, it's just the things that bother you that stick in your mind, and the 8 Pro has very little working against it. And that's why we're giving it our Most Wanted accolade.
As you likely noticed throughout the review, the OnePlus 8 Pro begs comparison with Samsung's Galaxy S20 series — the S20+ in particular, but even the smaller S20 and larger S20 Ultra, to some degree. OnePlus also tells us 44% of its customers in the last year switched from Samsung phones, so it's a comparison plenty of shoppers are probably making, too. Spec for spec it punches every bit as hard, and all for $300 less than MSRP for Samsung's middleweight. Frankly, I think the OnePlus 8 Pro is a better phone, though that does come down to your tastes in software and cameras. But unless you have your heart set on mmWave 5G support, which barely works anywhere in the US right now, I just can't see a reason to buy an S20+ (or S20 Ultra) knowing the OnePlus 8 Pro exists.
Buy it if
- You want Galaxy S20-type hardware at a more reasonable price.
- Performance and software are very important to you.
- You want one of the best overall smartphone experiences you can buy.
Don't buy it if
- You are picky about screens and things like crushed blacks, "green tint" issues, or uniformity problems.
- You want the very best smartphone camera — it's not Pixel 4 good.
- You're on a budget. Last year's OnePlus 7T is still for sale at $500, and it may be the best smartphone value you can buy right now.
Where to buy
You can buy the OnePlus 8 Pro starting today at OnePlus' own storefront, though it's listed as "sold out" at the time of writing. You can snag $10 off accessories bought with the phone using our referral code.
You can also order one at Amazon, though the lead time is pretty bad right now.
Two weeks later
Since our review went up, the OnePlus 8 Pro has seen some updates land, and we've had a bit more time to settle into the phone. That's allowed us to spot a few more issues with it, and keep track of our complaints as they're fixed, all of which should factor into your purchasing decision as general sales open today.
To start, one of those issues with the screen we noted above has already been fixed — at least, partly. OnePlus rolled out an update that delivered, among other things, "green-tint" improvements, reducing the colored tint that the screen sometimes gets at very low brightness levels, like with dark themes at night. The original issue was a minor problem that only nitpicky folks like me would have noticed to begin with (though you can't un-see it, trust me), and while this isn't the fix us picky people hoped for, it's a start. We're also told that a future update will address the crushed/clipped blacks issue.
Edge touch rejection was also drastically improved with that update, which makes the gigantic phone substantially easier to use — you won't see as many seemingly random collapsing keyboards and accidental taps if you happen to touch the curved sides of the screen.
Before and after (forgive the flare/haze).
Also, while that update claimed to have relatively minor camera tweaks — "improved accuracy of white balance and focus in a dark environment" — I actually observed some slight improvements in general low-light performance, with just a tiny bit more detail in especially dark/shadowed parts of the scene, and seemingly slightly less clipping in the shadows — though the difference is small enough that it could be peculiarities in lighting on the nights I snagged my photos.
We've also spotted a few new issues with the phone, though. In addition to some general cellular signal strength issues at least one of us has run into, there's sometimes a problem with Wi-Fi on the 8 Pro — though the issue could affect multiple OnePlus phones. While I've had no problems with connectivity myself, AP's David Ruddock ran into issues staying connected to his mesh-based Wi-Fi system. We've also spotted reports that the 7 Pro could be affected by a similar problem, so it may end up being fixed later.
David would also like me to point out that you can't change it so low-priority notifications get status bar icons on the OnePlus 8 Pro, and a setting to tweak that behavior seems to be missing. I don't think it's a big deal, but if you have a finely tuned, micromanaged notification system, it can be a downer.
Verizon compatibility also isn't what we expected on day-one, though that will allegedly be fixed later. For now, if you're picking one up for use on Verizon, either buy from the carrier itself or wait.
Benefits and drawbacks regarding OnePlus' super-fast wireless charger have also reared their head. For one, I can't believe I missed talking about how it can be configured to charge more slowly/quietly at night, in case you use it on your bedstand, which is pretty useful. However, the short fixed cable with its chunky power brick is a problem we didn't originally foresee, and which has already been an issue in certain use cases for us — you can't easily toss it through a hole in a desk or finagle it through any opening smaller than the chonky brick itself. OnePlus really should have made the cable both longer and detachable, and the fact that they did neither might be enough of a deal-breaker to keep many of our readers from picking one up.
Not that the last couple weeks have given us nothing but new criticisms, there are things about the phone we appreciate more with time. Outside the issues we noted above, the screen remains excellent, as does OnePlus' fingerprint sensor — which most AP editors agree is the best you can get in pretty much any phone, it's so fast and reliable. We still love the phone's haptics and generally good battery life. Performance is also still incredible, faster than even the S20, though it uses the same chip.
It may not be for everyone given its size, and it comes at a much steeper price than last year's phones did, but the 8 Pro is still a darling among the AP editors.