Nimish SawantJul 06, 2020 11:17:50 IST
OnePlus has pretty much settled in comfortably in the value flagship space, with its phones outselling even Samsung in the premium category. This year, however, it will have some competition from the Xiaomi Mi 10 5G (Review) which has launched with a 108 MP camera. Other brands such as Realme and new entrant iQOO have also pitched their tents in the value flagship segment with some phones this year. It’s safe to say that this space will be seeing a lot of action this year.
The OnePlus 8 series is the seventh generation (if you discount the T-updates and the missing OnePlus 4 from the lineup) and comprises the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro. I am reviewing the OnePlus 8 Pro, which has a slightly larger battery, a larger, 120 Hz display, and an added dedicated telephoto camera when compared with the OnePlus 8. The OnePlus 8 Pro also sports wireless charging and IP68 water and dust protection. On paper, it is everything you would have wanted in a OnePlus flagship.
Formulaic design, but that frosted glass back is love at first sight
Just like the iPhone’s mature design language over multiple generations, OnePlus has locked down a design aesthetic and has consistently delivered good-looking devices over the years. Barring the OnePlus 7T, which sported a circular camera module on the back, the rear design of OnePlus has been fairly consistent since the OnePlus 6 with a centrally placed vertical camera module.
The OnePlus 8 Pro builds up on the OnePlus 7T Pro visually, except for the additional camera module. The phone comes in Glacial Green, Ultramarine Blue, and Onyx Black colours. I got the Glacial Green for review with a gorgeous-looking frosted glass back, which doesn’t show any fingerprint smudges. The Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and the back sandwich the sturdy metal frame, and the transition from metal to glass is seamless. The phone does get quite slippery to hold, but thankfully, OnePlus has bundled a transparent silicone case. The camera module does tend to protrude out quite a bit, and has noticeably sharper edges when compared to the smooth curved transition of the edges everywhere else on the phone.
On the right-hand side, you have the alert slider followed by the power/standby button, whereas the volume rocker button lies on the left-hand side. While the top edge is clean except for the antenna cuts, the base is neatly divided into the SIM card tray, USB Type C port and speaker grille, with the two antenna cuts neatly dividing the three sections.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a 6.78-inch QHD+ Fluid AMOLED display, protected by Gorilla Glass 5. Unlike the 7T Pro, OnePlus has gone for an off-centre punch-hole camera instead of the pop-out camera. The most logical reasoning for that seems to be the IP68 rating that the phone now comes with. This brings about some distraction in the full screen display, but you have the option to change the video viewing resolution such that it hides the front camera. Honestly, it’s not that much of a bother after you start using the device. The OnePlus 8 Pro has a relatively tall profile and will be a challenge to be used one-handed. It also weighs almost 200 grams, but the weight distribution is sorted.
It may look like a formulaic design, but there’s nothing to complain about here. Yes, the camera module does protrude out a bit much, but the in-hand feel of the phone is great. The curved display will take getting a bit used to, as the palm rejection could have been slightly better, especially when taking selfies. It is not an issue with the silicone case on.
Display: 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED display with 1440 x 3168 pixels
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Graphics: Adreno 650 GPU
RAM + Storage in GB: 8/128, 8/256 with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.0 storage
(Device under test: 8/128)
Expandable storage: No
Primary Camera: 48 MP with f/1.8 aperture, 1/1.43-inch sensor with OIS
Secondary cameras: 48 MP Ultrawide with f/2.2 aperture + 8 MP Telephoto with f/2.4 + 5 MP Colour Filter camera with f/2.4 aperture
Selfie Camera: 16 MP with f/2.5 aperture
Battery: 4,510 mAh
Software: Android 10 (1 May 2020 security patch) with OxygenOS 10.5
Colours: Glacial Green (under test), Ultramarine Blue, Onyx Black
120 Hz Fluid AMOLED display is the star of this phone
The OnePlus 8 Pro’s façade is a massive 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate. It has a QHD+ resolution of 1440 x 3168 pixels, which gives it a dense 518 PPI pixel density. The display is noticeably bright, with a peak brightness rating of 1300 nits. While you may not be using it at this brightness level consistently, I am pretty sure the under-display optical fingerprint scanner is set to his brightness ― it’s blinding when you decide to unlock the phone with the fingerprint scanner at night, in dark surroundings. I couldn’t find any way to reduce the scanner’s brightness. Perhaps OnePlus will something about it eventually.
Overall, the contrast is really good, and when watching movies, you can easily hide the punch hole camera section. There is little to complain about with the display. It’s gorgeous, the punch-hole camera placement notwithstanding. You can keep the resolution at QHD+ or FHD+ and pick a refresh rate of 120 Hz or 60 Hz. If you keep it at 120 Hz, the display will adjust the refresh rate dynamically from 60 to 120 Hz, depending on what you are doing on screen. Do note that using the phone at QHD+ resolution with 120 Hz refresh rate will come at the cost of battery life.
The ‘Display’ settings menu has a host of options for you to play around with. There’s a ‘Video Enhancement Engine’ which offers you two options – the ‘Vibrant colour effect Pro’ (which sharpens videos you shoot and makes them appear more vivid) and ‘Motion graphics smoothening’ mode (which when turned on makes videos appear unnaturally smooth). The Motion graphics mode is quite popular in TVs, where the display engine increases the video frame rate, thereby reducing the blurriness one generally notices in cinematic shots. I don’t prefer it personally, but your mileage may vary.
Under the ‘Advanced’ options, you have ‘Screen calibration’, ‘Resolution’, ‘Refresh Rate’, ‘Front-camera display area’, and ‘Apps to display in fullscreen’. ‘Adaptive display’ ensures that the colour temperatures adjust according to ambient light levels. If you want the Samsung-style super-vibrant display, select ‘Display > Advanced > Screen Calibration > Advanced > AMOLED Wide Gamut’. For the purpose of testing, I stuck to the ‘Natural’ mode, which paired with ‘Comfort Tone’ gives the display a slightly warm tone. With the resolutions, you have the option of keeping the auto resolution switch on, which brings down the resolution from QHD+ to FHD+ to save power when needed.
The OnePlus 8 Pro supports HDR10+ content on supported video services. I re-watched some episodes of the time-travel mind-bender Dark, which has a lot of challenging scenes. While the details in the shadow regions were displayed well, the display does tend to become a bit too reflective in such scenes, if you have ambient light around. Playing PUBG Mobile as well as Alto’s Odyssey was an equally immersive experience.
Watching videos and playing games on this display is a great experience. You will need to invest in wireless earphones, as OnePlus does not provide any USB Type C to 3.5 mm jack adapter in the box. The large display paired with great contrast and various adjustable options, gives you an immersive experience when engrossed in a movie.
Blazing performance for everything; OxygenOS is still the best Android skin
Performance is a given, as the Snapdragon 865 SoC with Adreno 650 GPU, 8 GB RAM paired with an optimised OxygenOS ensure that things run smooth. Do check out the benchmark charts to see how it compares with competition. Throw any app or game at the OnePlus 8 Pro, and it sings. The 120 Hz display makes scrolling and generally interacting with the display a lot more fun, with its seamless transitions. The only issue I faced in terms of speed was the under-display fingerprint scanner. It has some beautiful animations, but in terms of speed, it’s still noticeably slower than capacitive fingerprint scanners. Moist fingers will not register the fingerprint.
Call quality is great and the earpiece speaker is loud enough. The phone supports 5G thanks to the Snapdragon 865 SoC, but it’s pointless for now. The OnePlus 8 Pro has impressive audio performance on board, and the speakers can get loud enough to forgo the need for earphones if you are in your room and watching a video. It supports Dolby Atmos enhancements, which honestly aren’t that easily observable with onboard speakers. Do note that OnePlus does not bundle any adapter for those of you still stuck to your 3.5 mm audio jacks.
Over the years, if there is one area where no other Chinese smartphone maker has been able to rival OnePlus, it is in the software user interface. OxygenOS is considered to be the gold standard among skinned Android OSes, and with the OnePlus 8 Pro that trend continues. Barring useful apps such as OnePlus Switch, Community, File Manager, Weather and Game Space, there isn’t much bloat with the OnePlus. OnePlus has also got rid of the ‘widgets’ homepage on the left-most screen, which now just shows a Google news feed.
OxygenOS 10.5 is quite responsive, and there were barely any glitches observed. You still get a lot of gestures for various things such as three-finger swipe for screenshot, flip to mute, screen-off gestures where you draw an alphabet to trigger an action and so on. In some respects, OxygenOS offers a lot more value than pure stock Android. The only issue was that at times, with the navigation gestures on, I would end up scrolling when I wanted to go to the Home Page (despite swiping all the way from the base) and vice-versa. Maybe a future software update can prevent that from happening.
Primary camera shows massive improvement; Selfie camera is average in comparison
As the world moves to 64 MP and 108 MP cameras ― which are great marketing terms but don’t really bring much to the table apart from big numbers – the OnePlus 8 Pro decided to stay with the conservative 48 MP primary camera sporting the Sony IMX689 sensor. The camera comes with an f/1.8 aperture and has optical image stabilisation. This is paired with a 48 MP ultrawide camera with an f/2.2 aperture, an 8 MP hybrid zoom camera (3x optical, 30x digital) with an f/2.4 aperture and a 5 MP colour filter camera with f/2.4 aperture. One the front, you have an ordinary 16 MP selfie camera with f/2.5 aperture.
While the ultrawide and telephoto cameras are self-explanatory, the colour filter camera offers a hardware-specific filter which makes your images look a certain way. For instance, if you have a thin plastic covering a certain object, you can see through it. It is currently deactivated, as there were news items about how the camera could see through clothing material, and OnePlus is fixing the issue. To activate it, you need to tap on the colour filters in the camera menu and slide to Photochrom filter. The sample images I have seen don’t really get me too excited about this feature. For the purpose of this testing, the camera wasn’t available.
If there has been one issue with OnePlus devices, it’s that its cameras were always left wanting. The OnePlus 8 Pro significantly improves on that front. While the daylight photos aren’t an issue, the low light photographs have seen quite the improvement expected from a flagship phone. Unless you select the 48 MP mode, all photos are pixel binned at 12 MP, a standard practice with high MP count cameras.
The centre and edge details are quite sharp in daylight photographs. Photos coming out of the ultrawide camera have good centre-focus but it drops around the edges. While the photos coming out of the primary camera were packed with details and textures, the ultrawide camera shows some weird shift in colour temperatures. Notice the two images below ― there is a noticeable colour shift in the photo shot with the ultrawide camera. This is a matter of concern, and I hope OnePlus fixes it in a future update. The distortion around the edges is also a bit aggressive at times. So please do not bother taking group photos with the ultrawide angle lens, unless you have all your friends in the centre of the frame. Purple fringing was observed when zoomed in on areas where objects had harsh backlight.
Low light photos turn out as one would expect from a flagship camera. However, things aren’t at the Google Pixel level yet. Still, I was quite pleased with what the OnePlus 8 Pro had to offer when the light levels dropped. Noise is observed quickly with the 3x optical zoomed photos and ultrawide angle photos, but with the primary camera, the noise control is quite good. The ‘Nightscape’ mode further assists with extracting more detail from a scene. It does tend to turn the sky a bit brighter than is necessary.
The ‘Pro’ mode lets you adjust ISO, white balance, shutter speed, focus mode and exposure. You also have a ‘tripod’ mode, which keeps the shutter open for 30 secs, if you have the phone mounted on a tripod.
The 16 MP front camera was strictly average. Daylight selfies and portraits came out well, but for non-portrait mode photos, I noticed that the textures in the background were noticeably soft.
Selfies taken in low light turned out to be just about usable. Images turn out noisy and the skin colours also look off in low light. The front camera lens isn’t that bright either. It supports 1080p videos, which come out fine with good audio recording, but the video tends to crop in a way that your face covers a majority of the frame.
Daylight video footage:
The phone supports a 4K 60 FPS video shooting mode as well as 4K CINE at 30 and 60 FPS modes, which let you shoot videos in 21:9 aspect ratio. The ‘SuperStable’ mode supports 1080p and 4K at 30 FPS. Video quality with the SuperStable mode was quite impressive, but you need to be careful with panning ― especially when shooting in 4K ― as there is a noticeable jitter when you review the footage on a 4K resolution display. The phone was able to lock on to moving subjects quite well, and footage shot while walking also turned out quite steady. Just don’t pan the camera too quickly. As the light levels fall, noise starts to creep in, making your videos look rather soft. There was also noticeable focus-hunting when I was shooting in low light while walking, as seen in the video below. In the daytime, I didn’t notice much focus hunting while walking and shooting.
Low light focus hunting footage:
Decent battery life and a quick charger
The OnePlus 8 Pro comes with an impressive 4,510 mAh battery, which easily lasts you a little over a day of regular usage with QHD+ and 120 Hz on. By regular usage, I mean a couple of email accounts on sync, constantly buzzing Telegram, around 30-40 photos and videos a day, surfing the web throughout the day, gaming for around 30 mins, YouTube and streaming for an hour and an hour of listening to podcasts. In extreme use cases, the phone would last around a day. I got an average screen-on time of around 4.5 hours. The PC Mark for Android test produced a score of 11 hr 6 min in its Work 2.0 battery life test.
Thanks to the Warp Charge 30 bundled charger, juicing up the phone from 0 to 100 percent happens in 66 mins. Even 15 mins of charging will get the phone up to 30 percent, which is good enough to last you around 3-4 hours. The only issue is, you have to carry around that large brick of a power adapter. It also supports fast wireless charging on the OnePlus Warp Charge 30 Wireless charger. I didn’t have one at hand, so I can’t comment on how fast it can charge. One thing I observed while charging the phone was that it tends to get warm to the touch.
Verdict and Price in India
The OnePlus 8 Pro starts at Rs 54,999, and if the last couple of years have been any indication, it’s that people are willing to shell out this kind of money for a OnePlus device. With wireless charging, IP68 certification and a much-improved primary camera, OnePlus has smoothened the rough edges of its flagship devices. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, I have very few complaints. If you are spending over Rs 50k on a smartphone this year, the OnePlus 8 Pro makes a strong case for itself, despite the competition.
With the camera ― barring the colour temperature shifting I saw with ultrawide angle cameras (something that can be fixed with a software update), and focus hunting in darkness ― there isn’t much to complain about. Selfie-lovers beware ― the selfie camera is underwhelming in comparison. Wireless charging which supports reverse wireless charging, and an IP rating complete the picture. The display on the OnePlus 8 Pro is easily one of the best.
Xiaomi has released the Mi 10 5G this year, which goes up against OnePlus flagships. Unless you are really taken in by the 108 MP camera and Pro video recording features matter to you, there is no reason to go for it over the OnePlus 8 Pro. One major win that OnePlus has in its kitty is OxygenOS. It offers a much better user experience than Xiaomi’s MIUI.
If you don’t want to spend over 50K on a new flagship device, but want a OnePlus phone, I’d suggest waiting for the OnePlus Nord launch next week, which is expected to be priced under $500 ― or the sub-Rs 40,000 price point. Or else, opt for the OnePlus 7T series, which are still very capable smartphones.
If you want to spend your money on a non-Chinese smartphone ― what with the ongoing #BoycottChina sentiment, and all the “loving” comments we got on the Xiaomi Mi 10 5G review ― the Samsung Galaxy S20 is the only other alternative. But that starts at Rs 70,000. If you are fine with going back a generation, then the Samsung Galaxy S10+ still makes for a good buy.
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