Moving from ‘flagship killer’ status to actual flagship meant that OnePlus has had to consistently make revisions to its one-phone-a-year strategy and set the pace for the best specs in the industry.

The OnePlus 8 is part of the duo that the brand announced recently and few things set them apart from each other, making this slightly lower-priced variant great value for most. But, things are just about heating up in the segment with the launch of the Mi10, iPhone SE and the Oppo Find X2 that’s knocking on our doors already. So does the seemingly accomplished OnePlus 8 still have enough firepower to attract more than the loyalists?

All you need to know

Not deviating too radically from the design language it has set for itself for the last couple of years, the OP8 is a sleek slab of curved 3D glass front to rear, only separated by a seamless aluminium frame. The hand feel is certainly premium but at a generous 6.55in, it does tend to slip away. Like always, though, OnePlus bundles a transparent case in the box and this time it’s also smartly etched with a big, bold ‘Never Settle’ lettering along the edge. Very avant garde, even though a bit indiscreet for some. The screen is vibrant and amongst the options, we found the Display P3 with the slider leaning slightly towards the cooler side to be best suited for everyday use that delivers pop with accuracy. Of course, the 90Hz refresh rate is really what catches your eye the moment the live wallpaper comes to life upon unlock. It is a game changer if you haven’t already experienced it and does make it difficult indeed to go back to a device that runs on 60Hz. The 8 Pro, on the other hand, bumps this refresh rate up to 120Hz and I can’t wait to experience that next week! Fluidity is the theme here, regardless of the screen or the transitions from one app to another. Speaking of which, both the face unlock and the in-display fingerprint sensor seem speedier than the 7T McLaren Edition.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC is mated to the Adreno 650 GPU and a massive 12GB of RAM, ensuring that no app or game feels lethargic. The OxygenOS has been one of the best UI’s over stock Android and its implementation over Android 10 absolutely nails it. Specific OnePlus touches like the Reading Mode that offers you a choice of reduced colour or monochromatic is great for a Kindle-esque experience, especially on a screen this size. In Landscape mode, the OP8 also offers a floating keyboard for quick replies to your messages and you get an Apple AirDrop like File Dash that seems to work with other OnePlus phones flawlessly. It even has support for iOS devices via a QR code, although we couldn’t get that to work with an iPhone nearby. Live caption is quick and painless to add subtitles to any media you create or consume and is the kind of feature that makes you wonder how did you live without this earlier!

One of the headlining features is 5G, and even though we in Indian won’t be able to harness it for another year, it’s part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 spec sheet. Along with 5G, it also comes with a performance bump across the board of up to 30% and when partnered with 12GB of RAM, the immediacy of tasks is tangible.

Camera

One of the bigger differences between the OP8 and the OP8 Pro is the display and the camera. Here, we have a triple cam set-up arranged in the centre vertically that looks very 2019 for some reason. OnePlus could’ve done better to visually differentiate itself from the competition by giving the camera module a signature look, which, honestly, is the only way to tell one brand apart from the other these days. The generic looking module holds a 48MP main sensor, 16MP ultra-wide angle and a 2MP macro lens, which sounds fine, but the 48MP sensor included here isn’t the latest one but last year’s iteration from Sony. Does it make a significant difference to the resulting images? That’s where things start getting a bit tricky, actually. Historically, OnePlus has never had class-leading photography skills even if the overall phone was a winner and that tradition is kept alive with the OP8 too, unfortunately.

While the default setting is 12MP for the main camera, you can manually switch that to 48MP and the file size for the same picture will increase 3x, with or without corresponding increase in detail. Depending on the light conditions, the quality can range from sharp and detailed to just something with odd colours and actually lower detail. OnePlus has done well to significantly upgrade the Portrait mode and it now works on everything (not just humans). With improved edge detection and a convincing bokeh, it’s fun to get creative when the light is right. The photograph does appear to be perfectly fine on the phone display itself, without zooming in. But transfer the pictures to a larger display/laptop and a lot of issues come to fore. Focus seems to veer between elements in the foreground and background while there is a weird colour shift that appears at the corners of bright scenes.

NightScape is good, extracting enough detail and colour from low-lit conditions to make a moody and artful composition, but nothing about it really stands out. Which isn’t to say it’s poor performance… it just means that a lot of other phones are doing it as well, if not better. The biggest problem I found with the images was the colour balance that consistently shifted to warm rather than neutral, and while this can be corrected easily using the Pro mode, most people won’t be bothering with switching modes for a casual pic – and this results in images with a yellowish tinge to every lighting condition. Also, upon closer inspection, daylight images tends to degrade much more rapidly than a similar picture taken on the iPhone SE, which allows you to zoom in further into the image while still retaining some definition.

The super macro mode allows you to get real close to subjects (4cm) but images aren’t free of noise and overexposure. It would’ve served OnePlus well to include a telephoto lens instead with optical zoom, something that is missing sorely from the OP8. In comparison to a great 12MP regular cam, the 2MP macro lens of the OP8 clearly doesn’t add any value as the main 12MP cam of a good phone has enough resolution to keep the lens farther away from the subject, yet zoom in while preserving more detail and better EV.

Video now gets a 4K Cine mode which captures footage in cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio for up to 5 mins. Video stabilisation is much improved over previous generations of OnePlus phones and even the thermals are well managed, but the resolution keeps you wanting for more definition. Some bits, even in medium amounts of light just lack detail and appear noisy, blotches of colour. Like still photography, it’s evident that the optics here perform best in well-lit or daylight conditions.

Sample Images

iPhone SE portrait (left)  OnePlus 8 portrait (right)

iPhone SE window portrait (left)  OnePlus 8 window portrait (right)

iPhone SE macro close-up (left)  OnePlus 8 macro close-up (right)

iPhone 11 Pro macro detail (left)  OnePlus 8 macro detail (right)

iPhone SE sky (left)  OnePlus 8 sky - ultrawide (right)

iPhone SE (left)  OnePlus 8 - 48MP (right)

iPhone SE (left)  OnePlus 8 (right)

OnePlus 8 - 12MP (left)  OnePlus 8 - 48MP (right)

iPhone SE (left)  OnePlus 8 (right)

OnePlus 8 - 12MP (left)  OnePlus 8 - 48MP (right)

iPhone SE (left)  OnePlus 8 (right)

OnePlus 8 - 12MP (left)  OnePlus 8 - 48MP (right)

And...

Where the OP8 absolutely shines is speeding up everyday tasks and games, without sacrificing battery life significantly. The massive amounts of RAM (8GB or 12GB) and the power of Snapdragon 865 make light work of multiple apps, zoom calls, and playing CSR in between. The stereo speakers too are a huge step-up from previous OnePlus audio outings. The haptics are well judged and in Fnatic mode, the gameplay experience is immersive and the massive screen with the smooth 90Hz refresh rate definitely gives it the edge here. The iPhone SE may be more handy, better resolved at photography and better optimised for its ecosystem, but if you’re into gaming or video consumption, there’s no doubt the OnePlus 8 will trump it. The 4300mAh battery with Warp 30T fast charge makes it undeniably quick and stress free to use all day long without ever having battery anxiety again. It misses out on wireless charging (only on the 8 Pro) but OnePlus bundles the fast charger in the box, and besides the car environment, makes more sense in every other situation anyway. If you wish to head out on a work day without worrying about lunch break top-up, this is the phone for you. OnePlus has honed the OxygenOS to extract the maximum juice from its new-generation devices and it remains my favourite Android iteration, adding real value without any of the bloatware.

Verdict

Starting at ₹44,999, the OnePlus 8 comes at a time when Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung and Oppo are getting aggressive with their pricing even on phones with some headlining specs. The OnePlus 8 tries hard to stand out with its no-nonsense OxygenOS and superior build and attention to detail and in many ways it succeeds. But with the competition heating up and the average camera performance, besides the display, UI and battery life, there isn’t any other area where the OP8 feels like a major step up from what’s already out there. By no means is this an average performer, it’s just that it feels “normal” in this age of overachievers!

Tech Specs 
Display
6.55in (402 ppi)
Memory
8GB/12GB RAM and 128GB/256GB storage
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 w/Adreno 650 GPU
OS
Android 10 with OxygenOS
Camera
48MP main/16MP ultra-wide/2MP macro/16MP front
Battery
4300mAh
Dimensions (HWD)
160.2 x 72.9 x 8mm
Weight
180g
Stuff says... 

OnePlus 8 review

A solid everyday performer that scores big on battery and display, but if you’re looking for Nat Geo level photography, look elsewhere
from
₹44999
Good Stuff 
Generous display with great resolution
Blazing performance on apps and games
Amazing battery life
Bad Stuff 
Ordinary camera performance
Looks generic
No wireless charging