OnePlus 8T hands-on: Is there a place for a T series in the OnePlus lineup?

OnePlus rolled out its annual T-series phone, and while it has a lot in common with the two OnePlus 8 phones, there are a few modifications that make it a compelling smartphone.

oneplus-8t.jpg

Image: OnePlus

Last week an unexpected package arrived in the form of a Lunar Silver OnePlus 8T reviewer's kit, and I installed my Google Fi SIM card to test it out. Given that the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro were released six months ago with high-end specifications, I didn't think there was room to squeeze in a T release in 2020.

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It turns out, there are a couple of tweaks made to the OnePlus 8T that actually make it a pretty compelling 5G smartphone at its $749 starting price. Improvements that make the OnePlus 8T better for me than the OnePlus 8 include the bump up in display refresh rate, from the OnePlus 8, to 120Hz, the incorporation of a flat display rather than a curved edge display, a slight bump in battery capacity with a major increase in charging capability with the Warp Charge 65, an improved 5MP macro camera, and the addition of a dedicated monochrome camera.

Also: OnePlus 8T review: Fast screen, fast charging

Before we look at these modifications in more detail, let's see how the OnePlus 8T stacks up to the other two 2020 OnePlus phones. All three phones use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and support 5G networks. Android 11 is also now available for all three phones.

The OnePlus Nord mid-range phone was not released in the US, so I have no experience with it and am not including it here with these high-end phones.

Feature OnePlus 8T OnePlus 8 OnePlus 8 Pro
Display 6.55-inch, 2400x1080, 120Hz 6.55-inch, 2400x1080, 90Hz 6.78-inch, 3168x1440, 120Hz
RAM type LPDDR4X LPDDR4X LPDDR5
Internal storage type UFS 3.1 UFS 3.0 UFS 3.0
Battery capacity 4500 mAh 4300 mAh 4510 mAh
Rear camera (main) 48MP, ƒ/1.7, 0.8µm 48MP, ƒ/1.78, 0.8µm 48MP, ƒ/1.78, 1.12µm
Rear camera (ultrawide) 16MP 123 degrees 16MP 116 degrees 48MP 119.7 degrees
Rear camera (macro) 5MP 2MP None, 5MP color filter
Rear camera (fourth) 2MP monochrome None 8MP 3x telephoto
Wireless charging No No Yes
Current price (12GB/256GB) $749 $699 $899

The OnePlus 8 Pro is clearly the best of these three phones and while it is $150 to $200 more with the same 12GB of RAM and 256GB on internal storage, you can also find one color variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage at just $799. However, if you don't want a curved display then the 8T is a better option.

Also: OnePlus 8 review: Least expensive 5G phone with flagship specs, minimal compromises

Flat display

Samsung is known for using curved displays where there are no side bezels while Apple, Google, and LG typically have flat panels. While the curved glass displays look great and work has been done to reduce accidental screen presses, I am perfectly happy using flat panels where there are no activations, glare, or higher chance of breakage when dropped.

The OnePlus 8T provides OnePlus fans with a flat panel that has the same size as the OnePlus 8. The AMOLED panel looks fantastic and another benefit of a flat display is that screen protectors are easier to find and install.

Sometimes I hold my phone in one hand and use it with that same hand. This is much easier with a flat panel where my thumb can be stretched further across the display without accidental activation.

Battery capacity and charging

The OnePlus 8T has a bit more capacity than the OnePlus 8 and about the same as the OnePlus 8 Pro. With 120Hz enabled, you will see higher battery consumption so the capacity is fair for this phone.

OnePlus states that Warp Charge 65 isn't just an iteration of its fast charging technology. It leverages its twin-battery configuration and can reportedly top off the 4500mAh battery in 39 minutes, achieving 58% capacity in just 15 minutes.

When a charger can provide this level of available capacity in just minutes, then the ability to wirelessly charge or even last a full day untethered becomes a bit less of a concern. That said, I've been able to get through a full day with the OnePlus 8T with fairly heavy 5G usage throughout the day.

You can also use the Warp Charge 65 power adapter, included in the box with the OnePlus 8T (how about that Apple?), to charge up other USB-C devices. This includes other phones, tablets, headsets, laptops, and more.

Macro and monochrome camera

Macro photography is a great way to get creative and also explore the fine details of the world around us. I enjoy the macro lenses found on some phones today so was pleased to see OnePlus bump up the resolution of the macro lens on the 8T. I plan to spend more time capturing flowers, bugs, and other subjects with this phone over the coming weeks.

One of the things I used to love about Huawei phones was the dedicated monochrome camera. While you can apply mono filters to most all smartphone cameras today, elements seem to pop more with a dedicated mono camera. Andy Boxall, from Digital Trends, posted an excellent article on his monochrome experiences and I look forward to using this lens more on the OnePlus 8T.

Accessing the monochrome camera is a bit of an adventure on the OnePlus 8T and I would love to see a software update that brings a single tap shortcut to the camera interface. To use the monochrome lens, launch the camera, make sure Photo mode is active, tap on the filter icon, swipe all the way to the right, and at the end, you will find a filter called Mono.

Other experiences

OnePlus makes some of the loveliest phones I have ever seen and most of their brilliant colored phones have matte finish glass on the back so you don't experience fingerprints. The Lunar Silver one I tested is subtle, yet very professional.

OnePlus also moved the camera module over to the side of the phone, after its designs had central cameras for years. I like the placement of the cameras as I hold the phone in landscape orientation to capture still and video content. It's also a bit more typical of camera placement we see from Samsung, Apple, Google, and others.

While I'm testing 5G on the new Apple iPhone 12, I had a T-Mobile SIM card in the OnePlus 8T. Once again, OnePlus continues to perform extremely well with its cellular reception strength while also demonstrating solid 5G performance.

The OnePlus 8T is a gorgeous, rock-solid phone and at $749 is one of the best flagship 5G phones available today. With such excellent performance in key areas, it is really getting tough to pay $1,000 or more for a smartphone today and if I wasn't writing about phones here on ZDNet then an OnePlus phone would seriously be at the top of my list as a primary daily driver.

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