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2020 has been a very, very good year for smartphones. We've seen some wild and crazy stuff land, from folding to flipping devices, and the average phone is better than it's ever been. That puts the OnePlus 8T in a tough spot: It's a good phone that adheres to OnePlus' usual formula, but the competition is better than it's ever been, and "good" isn't enough to beat them.
|Display||6.55" 2400 x 1080 20:9 120Hz AMOLED|
|Storage||256GB UFS 3.1|
|Cameras||Primary: 48MP f.1.7 (quad Bayer) w/OIS & EIS
Ultra-wide: 16MP f/2.2 (123° FoV)
Front: 16MP f/2.4
|Software||Oxygen OS 11 (Android 11)|
|Power||4,500mAh battery, Warp Charge 65 (65W) charging (no wireless charging)|
|Connectivity||5G SA/NSA, 2x2 MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC|
|Misc.||Dual SIM, Alert Slider, stereo Dolby Atmos speakers|
|Dimensions||160.7 x 74.1 x 8.4mm, 188g|
|Colors||Aquamarine Green, Lunar Silver|
|Screen||Exquisitely smooth and even. I'm really, really picky about displays, and this is perfect.|
|Battery life||Good-to-great, though it varies a little more than I expected.|
|Performance||The 8T is the usual OnePlus speed demon, even without the "plus" version of the chipset.|
|Overall build quality||OnePlus makes solid, great-feeling phones.|
|Alert slider||It's super convenient, I wish more phones had it.|
|Fast charging||It won't be useful every day, but Warp Charge 65's super-fast charging is the fastest you can get in the US right now, and it will be handy in emergencies.|
|No official IP rating||The T-Mobile version is IP rated, but the unlocked version doesn't claim to be. Odds are it's the same, but without certification we can't say, even though cheaper phones like the S20 FE have an explicit IP rating.|
|Software||Oxygen OS 11 feels like a One UI knockoff and I don't like it — though you might. The company is also falling behind and having issues when it comes to updates on older devices, a fate this phone may eventually suffer.|
|Cameras||Stop putting these terrible macro cameras on phones, OnePlus. Processing at night is still a little muddy, especially with faces.|
|No wireless charging||For $750 that should be included here.|
Design, hardware, what's in the box
I'm a pretty big fan of OnePlus' industrial design, and this is a very attractive phone overall. Though I wish the company didn't change its mind about the camera bump's shape and location every six months, it has an otherwise mostly consistent and recognizable look. The 8T has a flat Gorilla Glass 5 front, polished aluminum frame, and Gorilla Glass back — matte, in the case of our Lunar Silver review unit, but it also comes in a glossy Aquamarine Green.
The phone is hefty in a way that feels premium. It's technically slightly thicker than the prior OnePlus 8, but you'd never notice it in hand — especially once you've got a case on it — and that extra space comes with a larger 4,500mAh battery. Sadly, the unlocked version of the phone is not IP rated. That remains a "Pro" series and T-Mobile exclusive, for some reason. (We have to assume both devices share a similar design, so it's probably pretty dang water resistant, but without an actual rating we can't say.)
I've been pretty critical of the screens used in OnePlus phones for the last couple of generations, mainly because they are very uneven at low brightnesses and I enjoy using dark themes at night (the two can be a bad combination). I'm happy to report that the screen in the OnePlus 8T is exquisite and almost perfectly even, with no "green tint" or uneven splotching on gray backgrounds at night. It's the best screen the company has used in a phone since the OnePlus 7 Pro. In fact, this is the very first 120Hz OLED display I've used period that didn't have issues with uniformity, including several Galaxy S20 models. Unless reviewers got binned units selected to be free of those sorts of defects (which is possible), folks should be pretty pleased.
Beyond those pedantic details, it's also a generally good screen. Resolution is "just" 2400x1080, so it isn't the sharpest out there, but it's big at 6.55", gets plenty bright and dim — up to 1,100 nits peak and as low as 1.28 nits, according to OnePlus — and offers twice as many individual brightness levels compared to prior OnePlus phones: over 8,000, we're told. That means smoother transitions and more precise control at low brightness levels, and you actually can tell the difference.
At 120Hz, the screen is super smooth and responsive. I think the difference between 60Hz and 90Hz is bigger than 90Hz and 120Hz, but it's going to be mind-blowing for folks considering upgrading from an older 60Hz phone. While I don't like how big it makes the status bar on phones, the hole-punch camera cutout is otherwise unobtrusive. It's also flat; no curved or "waterfall" edges here.
The only bummer for me when it comes to the screen is the fact that OnePlus didn't trickle down Comfort Tone from the 8 Pro, which is a True Tone or Ambient EQ-like feature that matches display temperature to ambient lighting — cooler in daylight, for example, and warmer if you've cozied up a fire at night. I can't be too critical, the OnePlus 8 didn't have Comfort Tone either, but it's a fantastic feature, and I can't wait for every phone to have something similar.
The optical fingerprint sensor built into the screen remains class-leading, and I find it works far more reliably and quickly than the ultrasonic sensors in most of Samsung's flagship phones. OnePlus' other trademark feature, the satisfyingly clicky alert slider, is still present on the 8T, letting you easily flip between ring, vibrate, and silent modes.
As with basically every phone these days, stereo sound comes courtesy of the bottom-firing speaker in conjunction with the earpiece. Bass is lacking, but it gets loud enough to make the glass back vibrate in your hands. Balance does seem slightly off to me at lower volumes, though, where it favors the bottom speaker just a tiny bit.
The last big hardware feature OnePlus included is the new Warp Charge 65. That's right, this phone sucks down a massive 65W of power at peak, which is kind of crazy (if not outright concerning). But much like prior Warp and Dash Charge specifications, the OnePlus 8T doesn't get hot or exhibit any disturbing behavior as it charges the phone at up to 10V 6.5A. As before, the charging brick itself handles all the thermally-intensive operations on its end, but it's just a tiny bit larger to accommodate all those extra watts. Warp Charge 65 also works with any Type-C cable, unlike prior Warp Charge versions, though most aren't rated for so many amps.
Left: Warp Charge 30. Right: Warp Charge 65.
Though it's only a little larger, the big-ish charging brick is a still a little inconvenient, so the company switched to a Type-C port on the charger's body as well, and made it a fully functioning USB PD charger (supporting up to 45W on that spec) that should work with all your other devices on the go. Surprisingly, that includes PPS support, too, so OnePlus' first-party Warp Charge 65 adapter is surprisingly versatile.
I honestly thought OnePlus was fooling when they said it was PD 3.0 and PPS, but it's legit.
OnePlus claims that, with Warp Charge 65, the OnePlus 8T can charge from dead to full in 39 minutes, and my testing jibes with that, though it took me slightly longer from a dead-to-the-point-it-turned-off battery: The phone won't pull full power until it's charged slowly for a bit.
In the box, you get the Warp Charge 65 wall wart, three-foot Type-C cable,
As usual, OnePlus makes its own cases for its phones, which is handy since third-party support is lacking. The cases are pretty chunky this time around, and I don't like the thickness so much myself, but they are attractive. We got our hands on the pretty snazzy semi-transparent circuit board design, but OnePlus also has the same gritty sandstone bumper case it made for the last generation of phones.
Software, performance, battery life
Easily the most important change to debut with the OnePlus 8T is the company's new Oxygen OS 11 software, based on Android 11. It's significant because it represents the biggest user-facing change in software for the company probably since the switch from CyanogenMod to Oxygen OS all those years ago.
All of OnePlus' first-party apps have been redesigned for one-handed use. (Sound familiar?) That means most apps have gigantic headers with empty padded space in the first 1/3 or so. The biggest problem — other than apps looking like left-justified versions of Samsung apps — is that this new look doesn't quite mesh across the system. The OnePlus 8T uses Google's Messages and Phone apps by default, which is great and objectively the right choice, but it’s visually jarring to go back and forth. Even within OnePlus' own apps, I noticed inconsistencies with things like tabbed navigation in my earlier hands on, and that's the general feel I get using Oxygen OS 11: Apps have an unpredictable look and feel, and the older visual style fit in better.
Always-on ambient display.
Among the better changes in this release is the long-awaited support for always-on ambient displays. To help reduce the impact on battery life, you can even set it to only appear at specific times of day, which is handy. There are 12 different styles at launch, and we're told more are coming. That includes a Canvas AOD that will use AI to "sketch" images from your gallery, smoothly transitioning them into the images themselves when you unlock the phone (which sounds pretty cool). My personal favorite is the "Insight" face that shows how many times you unlock the phone each day both numerically and as part of a timeline, with varying thicknesses to indicate how long you used it. It's great to encourage you to disconnect, but sadly it only shows 24-hour time regardless of the system setting.
OnePlus has tweaked the Dark Mode colors a bit with lighter gray colors as backgrounds. These lighter shades have the added benefit of better hiding display uniformity problems like we’ve seen in the last few hardware generations, so that's nice.
Google Photos much?
The built-in gallery app has a new "memories" feature that makes a "weekly story" of photos you take each week — sort of like the identically named feature in Google Photos, but with a fixed perspective of one week back. That similarity makes sense when you remember they're positioning it as a Google Photos clone in markets like India, right down to cloud backups.
It's a tiny thing, but there's also a feature in the camera app now that lets you quickly share the last photo taken by long-pressing the gallery shortcut preview in the corner. It's super handy and every company should copy this.
OnePlus also changed the display scaling quite a lot in Oxygen OS 11, making things huge, and I'm not a fan. The smallest scaling setting is also bigger than it used to be, so anyone who liked cranking that setting down to maximize space will be unhappy. Even with the Google Dialer app, visual voicemail still doesn't work for me on T-Mobile, though it does in the same app on other phones like Pixels.
Some folks may disagree, and there are differences, but many of the changes in Oxygen OS 11 give me strong One UI vibes. Honestly, I thought OnePlus had made it far enough as a company that it didn't need to resort to copycat behavior, and it already had a strong software identity, but here we are. For years we and others have praised the company for its "light touch" changes to an otherwise great stock-like experience, and while it remains to be seen how deep these new modifications go, it's already a substantial visual departure. But appearance isn't the only potential problem.
One need only look at our Android update tracker to see that while OnePlus keeps up with its latest devices, it often ignores its bi-monthly update commitment for older phones. On top of that, the updates it does deliver can be a mess. I'm frankly worried that this heavier approach will only result in slower updates with even more problems going forward, as the company already seems stretched too thin for the hardware it has right now. Mix in the two new anticipated Nord phones and I honestly think this is a recipe for disaster.
Whether you like the software changes or not, performance is excellent. I had a few stutters on an earlier pre-release version, but the software the phone should ship with is more stable. (The few persistent problems I've suffered I can't pinpoint blame on OnePlus — Android Auto is known as much for its issues as its features, and I had some difficulty using "phone screen" mode on the 8T.) This may not have the "Plus" version of the Snapdragon 865, but I promise you won't notice a difference; it's over-the-top fast. The US version of the phone comes with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, and that's more of both than you'll realistically need — the phone will probably proactively kill apps before you run out of memory, though I didn't personally experience issues with delayed notifications in the week or so I used the phone.
I did have one issue, though: In certain areas of already spotty coverage where other phones would struggle to maintain a reliable connection, the 8T was more likely to entirely lose it. While I had no issues in the city, at my rural New England cabin, it would regularly lose connection in areas where other phones wouldn't have a problem. Update: OnePlus has improved cellular performance with later updates, and while it's not the best phone I've tested in areas of poor signal, it's a whole lot better than it was, and no longer worth pointing out as a serious concern.
Battery life varied, but I always broke at least 5 hours SoT.
Battery life varied a little more than I expected it to, and I'm not sure if that's due to some irregularity in how it was being measured by the phone or something else. One particular day, I got over 7.5 hours of screen-on time, but on another I had trouble breaking 5. Either way that's decent-to-good, but the variation was confusing — my use across those days didn't seem substantially different to me.
I had some problems charging the phone from some normal USB or PD-based power sources like my car's charger and external batteries/portable generators (long story, power was out at my cabin during testing). It would charge for a few seconds, as indicated by the phone and third-party apps, and then suddenly switch over to a "not charging" mode and ever so slowly die rather than top up. In fact, it killed itself this way while plugged in for me twice. Other phones I've used have had no issue with the same power sources. We've reached out to OnePlus about this, and they're looking into it.
On the other hand, as we mentioned in the other section above, Warp Charge 65 works great and charges the phone ridiculously fast. Some devices out there beat it in maximum wattage, but so far as I know, this is the fastest you can get in the US without buying an import.
Although OnePlus has switched a few things up, in general, the camera performance you can expect here matches the OnePlus 8, though the wide-angle lens is ever so slightly wider than prior phones, capturing just a little bit more of scenes. Personally, I like OnePlus' camera processing most of the time. It's a contentious opinion among Android Police staff, but I even think OnePlus beats Samsung when it comes to photo processing, though it's still behind Pixels or Huawei.
My biggest complaint about the camera in the 8T comes down to white balance. Sometimes it does a really really bad job picking the right one (see the wineglass photo above), but it isn't a consistent problem. Most photos also look like they've been run through a filter. It's an effect that, I'll admit, has grown on me, but I ultimately prefer the hyper-reality and predictability of Pixels. (They're also way better in low-light.)
OnePlus could stand to work on consistency, but I like the contrasty effect the 8T seems to aim for, even if it doesn't always hit the mark. It also manages good results in challenging lighting, though sometimes it cranks exposure and you need to keep a steady hand. Once in a while, it will also overexpose a scene in a way that doesn't look too great — photos taken in the strong diffused lighting of the autumn New England woods were prone to this. Though I don't take a ton of photos of people, AP's Artem Russakovskii found night-time portraiture lacking, with some especially muddy processing on faces, particularly. Low-light performance in general can be a bit oil paint-y, especially compared to the super-clean results of a Pixel.
Non-primary cameras are often pretty mediocre outside flagship phones, and that's partly the case here. While the wide-angle does good work (though it can be a little hazy), and the extra FoV it offers is noticeable and appreciated, I can't say the same for the rest of the quad-camera setup.
Better than the OnePlus 8 macro, but not as good as the repurposed wide-angle on the 8 Pro.
Ostensibly, a new monochrome sensor enhances dynamic range, but given the struggles the phone had with some scenes, I'm not sure it makes a big difference. It's probably as superfluous as the dedicated macro camera, which struggles even in overcast lighting. Frankly, I think both additions are simply there to boost the overall number of cameras for marketing and comparison shopping among folks that don't know better. I'd rather see the usual primary, ultra-wide, and telephoto trifecta than these two vestigial additions — maybe augmented with the genuinely great dual-purpose wide-angle/macro used in other OnePlus phones.
Though we don't cover video performance in much detail at AP (there's just so much that goes into a proper discussion of it, and YouTube makes a much better venue), OnePlus also debuted a snazzy portrait video mode with the 8T that bears mentioning. It works as advertised, recognizing subjects and blurring out the rest of the frame, but it does get pretty confused by things like hair in my testing.
Should you buy it?
Yes, but the Oneplus 8T isn't without drawbacks, and they're worth considering before you plunk down the cash. For one, the Galaxy S20 FE came out of nowhere and blew our minds, wrecking our concept of flagship value much like the original OnePlus One did. On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE has similar specs, costs less, has extras like wireless charging, an explicit IP rating, and a proper telephoto camera, plus Samsung's better commitment to updates and better third-party accessory support. It also costs $50 less at full price, and $150-200 less on sale. It's hard to recommend the 8T over it, and, frankly, I don't. But the 8T does come with double the storage, faster wired charging, and better materials, so it's not entirely beaten. Depending on your priorities, the 8T could be the better buy.
I'm also not personally a fan of OnePlus' new software direction. Tastes vary, plenty of folks will disagree, but I think it's unattractive and feels cheap. While that's subjective, I am concerned with how OnePlus is handling updates generally. It needs to stick to its every-two-month commitment better going forward, and deliver better quality updates to older devices; the OnePlus 6T Android 10 snafu was pretty terrible.
The OnePlus 8T is a great phone with the highest-quality 120Hz display I've ever seen, excellent performance, and super-fast charging. It's also a much better phone than the OnePlus 8 it replaces in name, and probably the ideal upgrade route for those retiring a OnePlus 3-, 5-, or 6-series phone hoping to stay in-brand. But it lacks too much compared to the competition to get a blanket recommendation or our Most Wanted award. If it were a bit cheaper or had extras like an IP rating or wireless charging, it might be a different story. Hopefully OnePlus is taking notes for next year's OnePlus 9.
Buy it if:
- You are picky about screens: This is a great one.
- You don't want a Galaxy S20 FE for some reason.
Don't buy it if:
- You want wireless charging or an IP rating.
- OnePlus' software changes turn you off.
Where to buy:
The OnePlus 8T will be available on October 23rd in the US (15th for EU and 16th for India) with pre-order availability varying at the following retailers:
Two months later
Now that OnePlus has had a chance to update some of the 8T's shortcomings, my feelings about the phone have improved (a little). I still think it's a tough sell at the current $750 US price, especially compared to the Galaxy S20 FE, which undercuts it — by up to $200 in recent sales. But the signal issues I ran into at cell-edge areas have diminished, and there are plenty of little things I really enjoy in everyday use, like the alert slider, extra storage capacity, crazy-fast charging, and better build quality.
That new, even faster charging is especially useful, and I really can't stress that enough. You can top the phone up in just minutes, and that's a convenience you won't really appreciate to is fullest until an emergency. I also think the screen on the OnePlus 8T beats the original 8 Pro by miles in terms of uniformity and black saturation/crushed blacks. That alone makes me prefer the 8T over the OnePlus 8 Pro, but not everyone is so picky about displays. It's also cheaper, though not by too much since OnePlus appears to have dropped the price on the 8 Pro, getting you the same 12GB/256GB configuration in the bigger phone for just $50 more. That gets you a better camera, bigger/higher-resolution display, IP rating, and wireless charging, too, so I hesitate to say the 8T is the phone to buy over the OnePlus 8 Pro unless size is a sticking point.
65W fast charging is crazy and maybe a little scary, but also incredibly handy.
OnePlus' new software design may not be my favorite, but I am slowly starting to come around to it — or, at least, accept it — though there are a few smaller bugs the company still needs to work out, like the keyboard not working in apps if the phone resumes directly to a screen with a text input field, and some trouble with the phone waking up at times. I've also noticed a tangible improvement in battery life, and camera photo quality has improved a little. The sheer number of updates the OnePlus 8T has received since its launch show commitment, and that's something OnePlus is usually good at early in a phone's release cycle. But, as mentioned in our original review above, I think the company needs to do more long-term to court customers and build trust.
It's a capable camera, even if it isn't Pixel good.
Ignoring how the OnePlus 8T's software future might pan out, in the here-and-now, it's still a very good phone, and a fresh welcome for me back to Android from our recent iPhone review. Although I'm glad to see OnePlus fixing some of the issues we brought up in our original review, 2020 was a great year for smartphones, and the company isn't as competitive as it used to be. Don't get me wrong, the OnePlus 8T is still a fine choice, and you probably won't regret picking one up — at least, not until OnePlus forgets about it when it comes to updates in a year or so.