OnePlus 8 review: Meaningful innovations elevate experience, justify price

OnePlus 8
Smartphone makers now bring at least two models of each of their premium smartphones – one that maxes out on everything to show the maker’s innovation competence, and second that does not compromise on flagship specifications and features but cuts corners on some lesser features to keep the price low and reach the masses. The OnePlus 8 belongs to the latter category of premium smartphones.

A successor to the OnePlus 7T, the OnePlus 8 brings seasonal upgrades like Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip, big-capacity battery, new design and a screen with a punch hole for front camera. However, the company has downgraded the rear camera set-up of the OnePlus 7T by taking away the 2x optical zoom telephoto sensor.

So, where does the OnePlus 8 in 2020 with all its upgrades, and a downgrade? Let’s find out:

Design

The OnePlus 8 has a minimalistic design and premium build. It retains the glass-metal sandwich design of its predecessor but brings new colour options like the ‘Interstellar Glow’ and ‘Onyx Black’, adding some flavour to an otherwise bland design. An issue with the glass body is that it attracts fingerprints. The OnePlus 8’s body does not behave any differently – it is susceptible to smudges and gets fingerprints. Thankfully, the phone comes with a redesigned TPU cover, which protects the phone’s body from accidental scratches and unwanted smudges. A caveat, it adds to the weight and dimensions of the phone.

On the back, the phone has a vertically aligned elongated pill-shaped camera module. It protrudes from the body and makes phone wobble when kept on flat surfaces like tabletops. But it is no eyesore, unlike the big circular rear camera module of the OnePlus 7T. The phone feels comfortable in hand while holding and operating, thanks to its lightweight build (180 g) and balanced weight distribution.

Display

The OnePlus 8 has a 6.55-inch fluid Amoled screen of a 90Hz refresh rate and a fullHD+ resolution. The screen is stretched in a 20:9 aspect ratio and has a punch-hole on the top-left corner housing the phone’s front camera. The screen is slightly bent on the sides, and the curves are subtle. The screen looks almost flat from the front. The subtle side curves improve the accessibility of the screen by making it less prone to accidental touches. Moreover, it almost entirely removes the bezels from at least two sides; and there are negligible ones at the top and bottom.

The OnePlus 8’s display, rated among the best by display benchmark company DisplayMate, does not disappoint in any way. It is bright, vibrant and responsive. Moreover, an enhanced refresh rate elevates user experience by smoothly rendering user interface transitions. The screen is set to render vivid colours by default, but it can be tuned from settings to use natural colours. Additionally, there is an advanced display-calibration setting, which also allows the screen to be set to Amoled wide-colour gamut, RGB and Display P3 – based on your preference.

Camera

The OnePlus 8 has a triple-camera set-up on the back, featuring a 48-megapixel primary sensor, 16MP ultra-wide sensor and a 2MP depth sensor. Except for the absence of telephoto lens, the rear camera array on the OnePlus 8 is the same as that of the OnePlus 7T. Yet, the performance gains are huge and prominent. The primary camera on the OnePlus 8 takes detailed shots with an excellent dynamic range, decent highlights and shadow details, and minimal noise. It is tuned to capture saturated colours, which pop out on a dazzling Amoled screen. A caveat: Those fond of natural colours might find the saturated output heavily processed.

OnePlus 8 camera sample: Close-up
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Macro lens
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Close-up
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Macro lens
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Auto scene detection
The ultra-wide sensor is good and it takes great wide-angle shots without any distortion on frame edges. It is this lens that also enables going down to up to 0.6x for close-up shots, which mostly turn out well. The depth sensor improves edge detection in the portrait mode and the output looks decent with a good amount of background blur.

OnePlus 8 camera sample: 12MP
OnePlus 8 camera sample: 48MP
OnePlus 8 camera sample: HDR
OnePlus 8 camera sample: 2x zoom
OnePlus 8 camera sample: 2x zoom in low light
In ideal conditions, with good natural light, the phone’s triple-camera module impresses with detailed shots, a good dynamic range and negligible noise. However, in lowlight conditions, the output is underwhelming and inconsistent.

OnePlus 8 camera sample: Ultrawide low light
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Primary low light
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Primary low light
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Low light
OnePlus 8 camera sample: PRO mode
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Nightscape
On the front, the phone has a 16MP selfie camera. Due to its unconventional placement on the top-left corner, the selfie camera is assisted by a glowing circular lighting effect that attracts attention and makes it easy to get proper selfies. In terms of performance, it is decent for single-person portrait shots and selfies. Unfortunately, it does not support the nightscape mode for lowlight selfies, which turn out noisy and dark.

OnePlus 8 camera sample: HDR
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Close up
OnePlus 8 camera sample: Bokeh
Performance

This is one area where OnePlus never cuts corners and delivers exceptional overall performance. The OnePlus 8 is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip, paired with up to 12GB RAM (LPDDR4x) and 256GB internal storage (UFS 3.0). It ships with Android 10-based OxygenOS 10 operating system, which deserves accolades for keeping the user interface close to stock Android while also integrating value-added features (customised colour tones, dark mode, night mode, hidden space area, etc) that elevate user experience that no other custom Android skin could match. Besides, the phone’s gesture-based navigation feels natural – swipe up to open app drawer, swipe up and hold for app manager, swipe horizontally from either side of the screen to go back, etc.

From graphic-intensive games to multimedia editing, there is nothing that the phone could not handle. Moreover, there is a game space with the Fnatic mode built in to improve the phone’s overall gaming performance. The OnePlus 8 is one of the non-gaming smartphones that can easily compete with full-fledged gaming ones and might even perform better than some.

The OnePlus 8 supports 5G networks, both standalone and non-standalone, and WiFi 6. Though both could not be tested at present, these make for a future-ready smartphone that you might not have to upgrade to experience upcoming connectivity benefits. Besides, it has Bluetooth 5.1 and supports aptX & aptX HD, LDAC and AAC codecs. It also has stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support.

Battery

The OnePlus 8 is powered by a 4,300 mAh battery, which is good for a day of normal usage but falls short under medium and heavy use. Thankfully, the phone comes with a Warp Charger 30T, which replenishes the phone’s completely drained-out battery in around an hour and a half.

Verdict

Starting at Rs 41,999, the OnePlus 8 is one of the expensive smartphones with Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC. But it lives up to the price tag, thanks to the user experience it delivers with its hardware-software synergy. Imaging has always been a weak area for OnePlus smartphones. The OnePlus 8 plugs some of the holes, though not all. The cameras are not bad, but there are other smartphones in the same segment that do better in imaging.

The OnePlus 8 can be an obvious choice if you are out in the market for an Android smartphone under Rs 50,000. If you have a higher budget, you might like to check out the OnePlus 8 Pro (review will be out soon).



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