The OnePlus 8 Pro Review

The OnePlus 8 Pro Review
May 30, 2020 No Comments Phones manshic

OnePlus 8 Pro Review

The OnePlus 8 Pro Review.
The OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus phones have traditionally had four clear advantages over other smartphones: its UI zipped around faster and smoother; it had more RAM—sometimes double—than other phones; its software experience is the best in Android; and it’s usually priced significantly cheaper than the big names.

Those four advantages have either been lessened or wiped away altogether with this year’s OnePlus 8 Pro. Don’t get me wrong: the phone is as fast and zippy as ever, but not noticeably so over the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra or Oppo Find X2 Pro. The 8 Pro’s either 8GB or 12GB of RAM is also now industry standard in Android. And while OxygenOS is still as great as before, there is another Android software out there that may be just as good (more on this later).

Then finally, there’s the price: priced at $900 or its equivalent in most regions for the base model, the OnePlus 8 Pro is veering close to the Apple/Samsung/Huawei tier of pricing.Most Popular In: Asia

The OnePlus 8 Pro has a matte glass back.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a matte glass back. BEN SIN

This development is less a knock on OnePlus than a testament to how much Android phones keep improving and evolving over short periods of time due to intense competition. All the tricks OnePlus used to ensure a speedy experience—copious amount of RAM, optimized software animations, higher refresh rate display—have been adopted by Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, and others.

Much like how rivals have caught up (or narrowed the gap) to Samsung and Huawei in display brilliance and low light camera prowess, respectively, others have caught up to OnePlus in sheer speed and fluidity.

As for the increased price? Part of the blame should fall on chipmaker Qualcomm and its insistence on forcing 5G modems into every Snapdragon 865 processor, which drove up component pricing.

So with its speed and value factor mostly gone, what’s the appeal of the OnePlus 8 Pro? Well, it’s a frontrunner for the most polished and well-rounded smartphone right now.

Design: a proven design that’s a bit too tried and true

OnePlus is the rare Chinese brand that doesn’t make wholesale design changes every generation. Instead, it’s stuck to a uniform design language similar to Apple’s approach. I didn’t mind this too much before, but perhaps it’s because we’re seven years in (OnePlus skipped the fourth model due to Chinese superstition of the number four), but the OnePlus 8 Pro’s overall look lacks originality. It doesn’t help that smartphone design language have matured and there’s a consensus on what consumers want. The front of the OnePlus 8 Pro is a beautiful curved OLED panel with minimal bezels, but it is nearly indistinguishable from the Oppo Find X2 Pro’s front; and even Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro’s face looks very similar.

The glass back of the 8 Pro also looks very similar to last year’s 7 Pro. Personally, I like the 7T’s circular camera modules—I wonder why OnePlus scrapped it after just one generation.

The OnePlus 8 Pro's back looks very similar to the 7 Pro.
The OnePlus 8 Pro’s back looks very similar to the 7 Pro. BEN SIN

Everything is well constructed, and the components used are top notch, but part of me do miss the days when smartphone brands would test wild designs and ideas. This year so far, virtually every Android phone has the same design philosophy.

Also like every other Android phone of 2020, there is a sizable camera bump housing a quad camera system. This array is headlined by a pair of 48-megapixel sensors (a main lens and an ultrawide-angle shooter), along with an 8-megapixel telephoto zoom and a color sensor. The telephoto zoom is solid, achieving 3X near lossless zoom, credible 10X zoom and blotchy but useable 30X. But the color sensor is mostly pointless.

The camera protrusion on the 8 Pro means the phone is at a slight incline when on a desk. It’s the price to pay for highly capable mobile cameras in 2020.

The OnePlus 8 Pro Review.: OnePlus 8 Pro camera bump.
The 8 Pro lies in a slight incline due to a camera bump. BEN SIN
The OnePlus 8 Pro Review: The bottom houses a SIM tray, USB-C slot and a speaker grill.
The bottom houses a SIM tray, USB-C slot and a speaker grill. 

Still, this is a tested and proven design. Curved screens are very visually appealing and make for a more comfortable grip. The glass finish is cool to the touch and has a nice dense feel. The longer/taller aspect ratio of Android phones is also much welcomed. Personally speaking, I find iPhones to feel a bit blocky, unnecessarily wide and hard to use with one hand.

Power and speed

The 8 Pro runs on a Snapdragon 865 with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM (I tested the 12GB model). That, paired with OnePlus’ usual software optimization and 120Hz panel means everything zips around instantaneously. But as I said, other flagships like the Oppo’s Find X2 Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra are also arguably as fast now (they also have 120Hz panel and a boat-load of RAM).

So even though the 8 Pro is the first OnePlus phone whose UI fluidity didn’t immediately blow me away out of the box because I’ve seen it a couple of times already in 2020, that doesn’t make the experience any less enjoyable. Everything, from launching or switching apps to moving files or processing video edits, is so fast it shames most other user interfaces.

Long awaited features finally make its way here

For the first time in a OnePlus phone, there is wireless charging and IP68 water resistance. These are two features that have been staples in Samsung flagships for years, but OnePlus had resisted it due to various reasons, the biggest of which is likely to keep prices lower. So it’s good to see that this year, since OnePlus’ price is inching closer to Samsung levels, it’s finally giving us every feature possible.

If using OnePlus’ own first party wireless charger, it can top up at 30W speeds wirelessly (it tops up at a peak speed of nearly 2% per minute), which is significantly faster than what an iPhone or Samsung phone is capable of.

Of course, wired cable charging on the OnePlus 8 Pro is even faster, thanks to the company’s Warp Charge tech, which is really based on Oppo’s VOOC charge. If you’re interested in learning how Warp Charge/VOOC charge can top up a phone from 0 to 100 in 50 to 60 minutes, I interviewed the man who invented the tech two years ago.

Camera performance: the wide-angle shines

OnePlus drastically improved its camera performance with last year’s 7 Pro, and the momentum carries forward here. In general, the 8 Pro’s camera is capable in every situation, but I’m particularly impressed with the 48-megapixel ultrawide-angle camera. Much like Huawei and Oppo’s recent offerings, OnePlus is giving the ultrawide-angle camera the same pixel count as the main lens, which means ultrawide images somewhat keep up with the main camera in terms of image quality. Ultimately, the main lens is still more capable due to a larger image sensor, but the gap is closer than in many other phones. See the below set for an example. Normally, the ultrawide image would suffer from barrel distortion and soft focus around the edges—not so here.

A standard image captured by the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main camera.
A standard image captured by the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main camera. BEN SIN
Ultrawide image by the 8 Pro.
An ultrawide image captured by the 8 Pro. BEN SIN

There is also an 8-megapixel telephoto zoom lens and a color filter. The 8-megapixel zoom is the only area of the OnePlus 8 Pro that doesn’t keep up with the top dogs, as Huawei, Samsung, and Oppo have all made the switch to the superior “Periscope” zoom lens. Still, the 8 Pro’s tele lens can do excellent 3X zoom and respectable 10X zoom. Anything beyond that, and image quality suffers.

I didn’t see much use for the color filter other than a cool trick that allows it to “see through” some thin plastics like an X-ray camera.

The system overall is responsive, with fast shutter speeds, smooth zooms, and the ability to capture great macro shots and smooth videos. If I must pick a best camera system right now, the OnePlus 8 Pro wouldn’t win top spot, but it isn’t too far behind either.

OnePlus 8 Pro night image.
A night image captured by the 8 Pro. BEN SIN
OnePlus 8 Pro camera samples.
Two images captured by the main camera. BEN SIN

OxygenOS: it just needs a one-hand mode

I have raved and gushed about OnePlus’ software—OxygenOS — in over a half dozen articles spanning the past few years. And it was all deserved: OxygenOS is the best Android experience around. I like it even better than Google’s own stock vanilla Android because it is much more customizable.

But Oppo’s ColorOS has improved by leaps and bounds in the past couple of years to almost catch up with OxygenOS. It probably helps that Oppo and OnePlus share a parent company, but all the best things I have said about OxygenOS—all the shortcut gestures and zippiness—is also on ColorOS.

In fact, ColorOS beats OxygenOS in one area: it has a one-hand mode, which has been bafflingly absent from OxygenOS since day one.

Does Oppo’s catching up to OnePlus in software matter to OnePlus customers? Probably not, especially since Oppo isn’t even sold in some of OnePlus’ key markets. But as a reviewer, I have to point out that OxygenOS is no longer the undisputed king of phone software. There’s stiff competition now.

Miscellaneous bits

The 8 Pro has a good, but not great, stereo speaker system. Audio from the LG V60 or Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro sound better, but the 8 Pro definitely sound better than the Huawei P40 Pro’s mono speaker setup.

Battery life is surprisingly good, considering the large, vibrant, bright, 120Hz screen. I am a heavy user and I’d still finish most days with at least 25% to 30% battery left.

Conclusion: the slab phone may have reached its apex

As I mentioned at the top, several of the previous advantages that I could point to and recommend a OnePlus handset without hesitation (value and speed) are mostly gone. There are phones out there just as fast, and at around the same price.

In my opinion, the OnePlus 8 Pro is in contention for best Android right now, but it’s so close I can’t quite give it the title definitively. I also am very impressed by Xiaomi’s Mi 10 Pro and Oppo’s Find X2 Pro. I really cannot say one is better than the other between these three. Heck, Huawei’s P40 Pro would be in the running too were it not for the Google issue.

The OnePlus 8 Pro.
The OnePlus 8 Pro. BEN SIN

Ultimately, the purchase decision this year for someone looking for a new Android may come down to personal preference, brand loyalty, and whatever good deal just happens to be available right now. No one phone is heads and shoulders better than the other.

I think the current smartphone as we know it—the rectangular slab—has reached its apex; the final form. Every phone is so fast it’s almost instantaneous. Screens are almost as bezel-less as possible. And other than improving low light and zoom performances, where else can phone cameras go? Every flagship can already capture superb photos during the day.

This is why foldable phones (or phones with weird form factors like LG’s dual screen phones) are the next logical step. There’s not much room left for improvement for regular old slab phones.

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