OnePlus 8 Pro Review: A Phone With It All and a Decent Price

OnePlus 8 Pro Review

DROID LIFE Editor's ChoiceThe year 2020 will without a doubt be a year we’ll never forget. With all that is happening, reviewing smartphones during this time is going to feel like an odd exercise, though I hope it at least gives everyone something to take their mind off of the daily news cycle. Thanks to OnePlus, the company has introduced us to two phones to focus on for a bit, two phones that I think smartphone buyers are going to get excited about.

In this review, I’ll dive into the OnePlus 8 Pro, the higher-end of the two new phones. I’ve been using the device for a couple of weeks now, so I’ve stared at its 120Hz display, used its new camera setup, dabbled in its software, and yes, wirelessly charged it.

There is no denying that this phone is the best piece of technology that OnePlus has built. It is here to compete directly with Samsung and Google rather than being the guy who is close, but cut a couple of corners to stay at hundreds of dollars less. Instead, this phone matches in most areas, bests in others, and still manages to remain at a price below Samsung’s Galaxy S20.

Shall we talk about it? This is our OnePlus 8 Pro review.

OnePlus 8 Pro Review

The Good


Display

Guys, this display is really good.

For the OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus tossed in a 6.78″ Quad HD Fluid AMOLED display with a top refresh rate of 120Hz. This is the top spec for a display in 2020. If you are making a high-end phone this year, it better match this or you will be thought of (rightfully) as a step below.

This particular display has excellent viewing angles, where even steep off-axis viewing provides crystal clear colors. It might be better than Samsung in this area, which is huge for those of you who look at your phone as it lies on a desk all day. With colors, you get to customize that experience with Vivid, Natural, or Advanced options. Advanced lets you go wild with Wide Gamut, sRGB, or Display P3 modes, should that be a thing of interest. I left my review device on Vivid and love the punch and sharpness.

You also have choices between QHD and FHD, as well as 120Hz and 60Hz. I ran my device at 120Hz and FHD for the most part. With those settings, I actually feel like responsiveness and performance was better than at QHD and 120Hz, though I don’t necessarily have a way to reproduce that for you. It wasn’t massively noticeable, just a thing I thought I picked up.

Is 120Hz as cool as you hoped? Yes, it is. Coming from a Pixel 4 XL with 90Hz and a Galaxy S20 with 120Hz, I’m so enjoying this world with high refresh rates. I can’t ever see myself going back to 60Hz for an extended period of time. The world on your smartphone looks better when everything is this smooth at all times.

Additionally, OnePlus once again included a number of display options that I feel should be standard on all phones in 2020. It has adaptive brightness, but you’ll find a “Comfort tone” setting that adapts screen color based on your environment, video color enhancing and smoothing modes, and Night and Reading modes.

I do have two complaints. First, brightness is adequate on the high-end, but on the dim side, this phone doesn’t go low enough. Samsung is the master of this range where their phones can be seen easily in the sun and also drop to super-dark and eye-pleasing in darker settings. OnePlus doesn’t quite match Samsung there and I wish they would have allowed this display to tick down another notch, but they could be worried about how that low of a brightness setting would affect the 120Hz display.

The other thing I don’t like here is the curved display. You guys know how much I despise these things, but here it wasn’t so much about the look or feel as it was the palm touches it constantly reacts to. I found that I had to be extra careful where I placed fingers or thumbs or how I held the device or it would easily start scrolling in Twitter or pressing a button in Gmail I wasn’t ready for. I’ll talk more about this in the “Design” section, but it is the single most frustrating thing about this phone.

Performance

I don’t have a ton of info to relay back to you here, but the OnePlus 8 Pro is like any OnePlus phone I’ve used in recent years and that’s a good thing. This phone is fast. This phone is smooth. With the UFS 3.0 storage and LPDDR5 RAM alongside the 120Hz display and Snapdragon 865, this phone won’t stutter. It’ll open apps quickly, it’ll hold them in memory, it’ll run any game you throw at it, it won’t require daily reboots, and it should just get things done for you.

Good job again, OnePlus, you continue to show the industry how to make fast and smooth.

Specs

The list of specs in the OnePlus 8 Pro really does compare with the very best in the business. While that may have brought the price up on this phone to un-OnePlus levels, I’m finding it hard to fully complain because of what we’re getting that is still a couple of hundred dollars less than what Samsung is selling in the Galaxy S20.

You’ve got the massive 6.78″ Quad HD AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate. You’ve got the Snapdragon 865 and 8GB or 12GB LPDDR5 RAM. You’ve got 128GB or 256GB UFS 3.0 storage (no SD slot). The 4510mAh battery is a good size, plus it has 30W wired and 30W wireless charging. There is Bluetooth 5.1 and WiFi 6 and dual stereo speakers and an alert slider and an in-display fingerprint sensor and 5G and an IP68 rating for the first time.

To keep going, you get a quad-camera setup with two 48MP shooters (wide and ultra-wide), an 8MP telephoto, and this weirdly included 5MP color filter lens. The OnePlus 8 Pro even shoots in a macro mode that few if any other phones have.

What’s missing? A headphone jack, which is missing from all flagship phones these days. You also don’t get a microSD slot, which I’m not sure is that big of a deal with 128GB and 256GB options.

This phone has so much going for it just on paper, but thankfully, it delivers in a real world setting too.

Software

The software experience that OnePlus has rolled out on the OnePlus 8 Pro is another improvement on their already-great software from past phones. It’s Android 10 and OxygenOS 10.5.2, for those keeping track.

Once again, it’s clean and fast and smooth. It looks less like Google’s version of Android, but that’s OK as long as OnePlus doesn’t go full-Samsung and stays on this path. For example, they are allowing the new Android 10 gestures and have themed everything mostly like Google’s Android. They are even allowing you to ditch their weird Shelf home screen and just put the Google Discovery page.

As I mentioned in the display area, I love the numerous customizable options they give you there, I like the various sound controls (Dolby Atmos, Live Caption, vibration intensity for both ringtones and notifications, etc.), the handful of gestures (3-finger screenshot, double tap to wake, etc.), and some of the Utilities, like scheduled reboots. We also have a dark theme, screen recorder, Zen Mode, Face Unlock, and more and more and more.

OnePlus has gotten pretty good at updates recently too. They were one of the first to push an Android 10 update and have maintained a decent record with security patches. If anything, through beta programs and constant bug fixes, you’ll almost always be just around the corner from seeing improvements on your OnePlus phones. I can’t imagine that will change with the 8 Pro.

I do have a couple of complaints. OnePlus has suggested that they will one day bring an always-on display feature to their phones, but it’s not here yet on the 8 Pro. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but since every other modern high-end smartphone has it, I don’t understand what OnePlus is waiting for. I’d much rather be able to glance at my phone to see the time or pending notifications than have to worry about touching it to bring up that info.

The other thing that frustrates me is their implementation of a dark theme. Instead of making it a system toggle like Google and Samsung have done, OnePlus instead buried it within a customizations area that requires multiple steps before you can enable it. You can’t schedule it or one-touch toggle it within the quick settings area.

Overall, you’ll be able to live with those two complaints with the rest of the experience being as good as it is.

OnePlus 8 Pro Camera Review

Camera

Every time I review a OnePlus phone, we get to the camera section and I tend to be torn on whether or not the included setup is any good. I talk about improvements and what OnePlus has done to try and catch-up to competitors. It has been a never-ending talking point. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, I think that narrative might finally end. The OnePlus 8 Pro has a better camera than the Galaxy S20.

The setup here is a 48MP main shooter at f/1.7, 48MP ultra-wide angle at f/2.2, 8MP telephoto at f/2.4, and a 5MP color filter lens. I still have no idea what the color filter lens is doing after two weeks of testing, but I can tell you that the main and wide angle cameras are excellent.

I do want to continue to test further, but for now with the samples I’ve shot, I’m quite impressed. This camera is a master of creating depth through that f/1.7 lens, it’s pixel binning process from 48MP to 12MP retains crisp imagery and realistic colors, the high-resolution ultra-wide doesn’t fall short like so many other wide angle cameras, and its night mode is pretty damn legit. Actually, its night mode, because it basically takes night portraits, is one of the features I can’t wait to continue using over time.

Shooting on the 8 Pro is both easy and advanced (if you want it to be). OnePlus included all of the auto modes, like portrait and nightscape, plus there are full manual or “pro” controls. It shoots photos using OnePlus’ UltraShot HDR, offers long exposure shooting, includes a histogram, can correct wide angle shots, and lets you choose video recording up to 4K and 60fps. It doesn’t do 8K video, but honestly, who the hell needs that?

Alright, here are some samples.

Again, I want to show you more shots over the coming weeks, it’s just difficult to get out during this quarantine time. However, I did suggest this camera is better than the Galaxy S20’s, so below are some comparison shots.

What I looked at here was color reproduction and clarity in somewhat difficult shooting situations. The OnePlus 8 Pro tends to process cooler vs. the warmer tones that the Galaxy S20 revealed. The overall processing is much harsher at the edges on the S20 too, possibly because they are over-sharpening.

Outside of the wide angle shot of the sky and trees here, I’m not sure the S20 is even close to producing as quality of shots under these circumstances as the OnePlus 8 Pro.

ONEPLUS 8 PRO (left), GALAXY S20 (right)

Oh, and here is that nightscape portrait action I was talking about. How cool is this?

Battery Life

With this large QHD display at 120Hz and a 4510mAh battery, I wasn’t sure I would get to this review being satisfied with battery life. As it turns out, I’m OK with it.

As you’ll see from the screenshots here, when I hit my normal use days (3-4 hours screen on time), I had 30% or more battery remaining when I went to bed. On lighter use days (2-3 hours screen on time), I was going to bed with 50% battery.

OnePlus 8 Pro Battery Life

Now, there are a couple of things to note here. I mostly left the phone at 120Hz and FHD instead of QHD. I don’t really know why, but I think it’s because I did the same with my Galaxy S20, thought that experience was good enough, and wanted to be able to do a straight across comparison for battery there. I did test the last day or two at QHD and haven’t seen anything alarming. For example, today, I’m 8 hours off the charger with almost 2 hours of screen on time and at 66% battery. That’s pretty good!

So I don’t have battery concerns. I don’t think the OnePlus 8 Pro is quite as crazy in battery life as older OnePlus phones, but it should power you through a solid day without worry. If it doesn’t, well, you have crazy fast charging options that will top you right up in no time.

Wireless Charging

Speaking of charging options, I feel the need to single out the Warp Charge 30 Wireless that OnePlus included because it’s so nuts.

To recap, this is OnePlus’ first phone with wireless charging and they went all-out. It features 30W wireless charging if you use their wireless charger and it delivers. I ran a couple of charges on it and saw my phone charge from 15% to 72% in 45 minutes. It then reached almost 100% capacity by the hour mark. There are wired chargers that don’t charge that fast.

Do keep in mind that you will need to buy OnePlus’ $70 Warp Charge 30 Wireless Charger to get those speeds. You’ll also have to deal with the charge constantly blowing a fan to do its best to keep the phone cool as it charges. If you can handle those things, prepare to be blown away.

Somewhere-in-the-Middle


Design

This is a tough one for me because the OnePlus 8 Pro is one of the sexiest devices I’ve ever set my eyes upon. This Ultramarine Blue color is absolutely stunning to look at depending on the angle of the light hitting it. It also has this gorgeous display with hole punch cutout, a matte finish that magically resists fingerprints, tastefully accented blue buttons and sides, and a general in-hand feel of luxury. This phone is a stunner.

With that said, I’ve got some problems with it. For one, this phone is most definitely too big for me (both tall and wide) and I’d imagine it could be for a lot of people. It’s basically the size of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, a behemoth of a phone. Not only that, but it weighs 199g, almost 40g more than the Galaxy S20 I’ve been using. You will notice how heavy the OnePlus 8 Pro is as you hold it or put it in a pocket.

That weight and size mean this phone is difficult to use with one hand in any circumstance. It’s scary to do a one-handed shift on this device unless you are laying on or sitting near a soft surface that you know will keep the phone safe should you drop it. You really need two hands free at all times to secure the OnePlus 8 Pro.

My other issue, which I touched on above, is the curved display upfront. I’ve just had way too many palm touches that activate the display. I hope OnePlus can find a way to improve that with a software update very soon. I’m not sure I’ve experienced this level of mistaken palm touches before and I don’t like it at all.

So overall, while I think the OnePlus 8 Pro is absolutely gorgeous, I’m still hesitating on wanting to use it daily because of size, weight, and that damn curved display.

Connectivity

For connectivity, OnePlus has mostly knocked this out of the park. You have LTE and 5G connectivity where you will need it. I know that it doesn’t have 5G mmW support, but 5G mmW is stupid and a waste of worry. This phone connects to mid-band and low-band 5G, which is all you will ever really need to care about for the next several years.

The OnePlus 8 Pro also has Bluetooth 5.1 and WiFi 6 (802.11ax), so it’s as ready for the future of connectivity as any device on the market.

I have had an issue, though, and that’s why you are seeing this section where it is. OnePlus pushed an update to our review units a week or so ago and that seems to have caused my device to experience WiFi drops that it wasn’t previously having. Whenever I move across my house, this OnePlus 8 Pro disconnects from my TP-Link WiFi 6 router. It struggles to reconnect, hold a steady connection, or produce the speeds I’m used to on all other phones. I’m at the point where if I go upstairs, I just turn off WiFi and use 5G. Keep in mind that I don’t have this same issue on any other phone, including a Galaxy S20 (WiFi 6) or Pixel 4 XL, the two phones I’ve used the most prior to this OnePlus 8 Pro.

I’ve talked to OnePlus about the whole situation and am waiting to hear back on if this is a known bug with the latest update or if I just have something wrong with my unit. Again, I wasn’t noticing the drops prior to this update, so my guess is it’s something there. Either way, I’ll update this section in the future if possible.

Availability

Availability of the OnePlus 8 Pro is a bit of a mixed bag to start. You’ll be able to buy the 8 Pro at OnePlus’ store and also at Amazon for the first time, but no carriers are selling it yet. Verizon and T-Mobile are both selling the regular OnePlus 8, but no one has committed yet to the 8 Pro. That’s weird.

Because there are no carriers involved, you do get connectivity in almost all places you want it, just don’t expect to connect to Verizon’s 5G mmW should you buy one and use it on their network. It’ll connect to mid-band and low-band 5G from carriers who have it across the globe, the mmW portion just isn’t there.

Look, having Amazon as a partner is a huge deal for OnePlus and I can’t wait to see promos through there. Amazon makes the phone immediately more accessible to a lot of people. With that said, the US is still a big carrier-first country when it comes to phone buying habits, so a number of you won’t be able to get this phone by going your typical carrier contract route.

Pricing

Do I think either the OnePlus 8 or OnePlus 8 Pro are overpriced? Oh hell no. In fact, I think that you are getting one of the best deals in tech if you buy a OnePlus 8 Pro at $899, which is the starting price for the 128GB-8GB model. Even at $999 for the 256GB-12GB model, I feel like you are getting a hell of a phone on a not-bad price.

You have to remember that the base Galaxy S20 costs $1,000, while the top tier OnePlus 8 Pro costs that much. And at that price, you get double the storage over the S20, faster wired and wireless charging, a bigger battery, what might be a better display, better software, and cameras that have certainly caught up.

But here’s the thing – this isn’t what we love about OnePlus. We loved their phones that were hundreds of dollars less than competitors (sometimes half the damn price), yet have all of the specs to match. Technically, we are in that realm if you compare the top 8 Pro to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. It still stings, though. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s going to take me a while to think of OnePlus as a company that sells phones this expensive.

Video


Unboxing and Tour

The Verdict


The OnePlus 8 Pro is a f*cking great phone. You will pay a price for it that you might not be used to for OnePlus phones, but the company is now producing phones without any of the catches of old. The camera has caught up. The wireless charging is faster than everyone else’s. The design is so dialed in. The performance and software are still excellent. It doesn’t really have flaws.

This is as good if not better than Samsung’s best phone. It’s better than Google’s current Pixel phones, without a doubt. It’s the best Android phone on the market right now, and I can say that without hesitating. Yet still, as the best option today, you are paying a starting price of $899. That’s crazy value. That’s $100 cheaper than the lowest Galaxy S20 and $500 cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Once the OnePlus 8 Pro drops on April 29, assuming you are in the market for a phone, this should probably be the one you turn to.

Buy OnePlus 8 Pro

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