OnePlus 8 Pro review: A top-quality 2020 flagship phone

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  • Editors' rating
    9.0 Outstanding

Pros

  • High-quality industrial design
  • Top-end Snapdragon 865 chipset
  • 120Hz screen refresh rate
  • Fast wired and wireless charging
  • IP68 dust/water resistance
  • Alert slider on right edge
  • In-screen front camera rather than pop-up

Cons

  • Odd colour filter camera
  • Wireless charging in portrait mode only
OnePlus 8: The cheapest 5G phone yet with flagship specs and a gorgeous design
7:41

New OnePlus phones tend to create a stir, and the anticipation for the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro has been significant. Now they've arrived, and although these two handsets are clearly upgrades of the 7 series, they bring new features and a new attitude to uniformity of design across the standard and Pro models. Here I'm looking at the flagship 6.78-inch OnePlus 8 Pro; my colleague Matthew Miller will be covering the smaller 6.55-inch OnePlus 8.

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The OnePlus 8 Pro is a large 6.78-inch handset weighing 199g. Note the 'hole-punch' from camera in the top left corner of the screen.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet
oneplus-8-pro-back.jpg

The lozenge housing the rear cameras protrudes from the matte Glacial Green glass back. Note the Alert Slider above the power button on the right side.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet  

The OnePlus 8 Pro comes in two versions. For £799/$899 you get 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and the handset has an Onyx Black backplate. Pay £899/$999 and you get 12GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a new Glacial Green glass backplate. This is the version I was sent for review, and the colour is stunningly different and entirely pleasing to the eye -- well, to my eye anyway.

Photographs don't really do the Glacial Green backplate justice. The greeny/blue finish is matte, catches the light at certain angles, and is fingerprint resistant. After a solid week of use I didn't have to wipe fingermarks off it once.

The back doesn't have the non-slip feel that I experienced on the Huawei P40 Pro, and it is a bit wriggly in the hands -- although marginally less so than the OnePlus 7T Pro I have been using as my main handset for a while now.

The camera lozenge on the back of the OnePlus 8 Pro protrudes rather severely, as is pretty much the norm these days, and some elements of the camera setup sit outside the lozenge, making for a slightly asymmetric appearance. The lozenge's protrusion is severe enough to cause the handset to bobble about on the desk when you prod at the screen. This a bit irritating, but not unique to OnePlus handsets, and is a necessary trade-off between the desire for a slim (8.5mm) handset and serious camera functionality.

One feature I'm delighted to see OnePlus retain is the alert slider. Sitting on the right side of the handset, this switches between silent, vibrate and ring modes. It's slightly dimpled and easy to find by touch alone: such a simple thing, yet so very useful.

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Beneath the alert slider is the power button, with an added feature: a single press locks the handset, and a long press calls up the Google Assistant. To power the phone down, you long press this button and the up end of the volume rocker on the left edge. Google Assistant fans will like this feature, but it might take a while to get used to that volume rocker combination.

On the bottom edge there is a USB-C slot, speaker grille and SIM caddy. This is a 5G-ready device thanks to its Snapdragon 865/X55 chipset, and the caddy supports two SIMs, one of which can be 5G. It's great to see Wi-Fi 6 on board, adding to the handset's state-of-the-art comms capability. The handset is also the first from OnePlus to get an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. 

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a large phone -- slightly bigger than the OnePlus 7T Pro, with a slightly larger screen. I find the 7T Pro's screen is great for everyday use, but the handset is a bit tricky to pocket. That trade-off will be marginally increased for OnePlus 8 Pro owners. If you want something more manageable, consider the OnePlus 8. Here's the size comparison:

OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus 8

OnePlus 7T Pro

Height

165.3mm

160.2mm

162.6mm

Width

74.3mm

72.9mm

75.9mm

Thickness

8.5mm

8.0mm

8.8mm

Weight

199g

180g

206g

Screen size

6.78 inches

6.55 inches

6.67 inches

The OnePlus 8 Pro runs on Android 10 with a light-touch OxygenOS overlay that allows for a range of settings tweaks such as those mentioned below in relation to the display. OnePlus doesn't add a great deal of app clutter, although it's worth noting that Netflix is preinstalled and can't be removed, along with Instagram, which can be removed. 

As noted, the chipset is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865, which with a healthy 12GB of RAM delivered average Geekbench 5 scores of 3375 (multi core) and 907 (single core). That puts it at the very top of the current Geekbench rankings for Android phones.

The 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED screen has a resolution of 3,168 by 1,440 pixels (513ppi, 19.8:9 aspect ratio). OnePlus has abandoned the pop-up front camera that it used on the 7T Pro, opting this time for a small cut-out in the top left of the screen. By default the screen is set to make the upper bar black, so that the camera disappears into it. Changing this to match the rest of the screen reveals the 'hole-punch' camera, but it is still unobtrusive in everyday use. I find it preferable to the pop-up arrangement: face login is easier, and it worked faultlessly for me here, as did the in-screen fingerprint sensor. 

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The screen curves gently into the long edges, so that it appears almost bezel-free. The bottom bezel is about 3mm, the top one around 2.3mm, and we calculated the screen-to-body ratio at 90.9%.

Users can switch manually between 3,168 by 1,440 (QHD+) and 2,376 by 1,080 (FHD+). I settled at the higher resolution, which made text and images appear sharper. Indeed, the AMOLED screen is a real pleasure to use. Colours are poppy, the size makes reading and viewing web pages a great experience, and video looks great too.

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Reading Mode and MEMC motion graphics smoothing are both configurable in settings.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet  

I remain a huge fan of Reading Mode, which I'm pleased to see is retained in the OnePlus 8 Pro. Users can either turn the handset into monochrome mode or dial the colours down into what OnePlus calls 'Chromatic effect'. Both are great for late-night sessions either reading ebooks or browsing websites, and you can set apps to automatically switch to reading mode when they start, which is a real advantage. 

OnePlus supports an optional 120Hz refresh rate, which certainly makes for very smooth video where 120fps is available. Where it's not, the handset uses MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation) technology to boost the frame rate. This can be turned on and off as needed. 

The refresh rate and MEMC settings are a couple of layers down in the settings area, making it a bit of a hassle to switch them on and off. Testing them both with some video content, I didn't notice an awful lot of difference. Just as handsets don't really need to keep pushing higher and higher screen resolutions, maybe there's an optimum point for video enhancement and pushing beyond that is a solution looking for a problem.

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Wireless charging is welcome, but only works with the phone in portrait orientation.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet    

This is the first OnePlus handset to support wireless charging, with the optional Warp Charge 30 Wireless charger capable of boosting the 4,510mAh battery from 1% to 50% in 30 minutes, according to OnePlus. A slightly quicker boost (50% in 23 minutes) is available with the wired Warp Charge 30T charger that's provided with the handset. I used both charging methods and found the fast charging to be as described. For example, I randomly used the wireless charger when the handset was at 68%; after ten minutes of charging it was up to 84%. It's disappointing, though, that the wireless charger can only be used in portrait mode.

The OnePlus 8 Pro also supports reverse wireless charging -- as usual at a much more sedate speed.

For some reason the OnePlus 8 Pro did not like the PC Mark battery rundown test, so I have had to rely on anecdotal testing rather than a benchmark run (I'll update this review if I get PC Mark to play ball). In use, the 4,510mAh battery did a great job of keeping the handset alive during some quite gruelling workloads. Even watching a couple of half-hour TV shows on top of a day's general use that included a further hour of radio streaming did not see the battery drop below 35%.

Another battery charging feature is the handset's ability to learn when you start using the handset after periods of rest -- when you start using it in the mornings, for example. If you put the handset on charge overnight, it won't actually start charging until the appropriate time before it thinks you get up, so as not to overcharge the battery. This sounds like a good idea for those with regular sleep patterns, although it could catch some people out. You can configure this 'optimised charging' regime in the battery settings. 

OnePlus has been a little more conservative than some handset vendors when it comes to the camera setup on the OnePlus 8 Pro. There's no 50x digital zoom here, as we found on the Huawei P40 Pro, for example. Instead the four-camera array at the back comprise a 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor and a wide-angle (f/1.78) lens with OIS and EIS, a 48MP ultra-wide-angle (f/2.2, 119.7°FoV) camera, an 8MP telephoto (f/2.44) camera with 3x optical zoom, up to 30x hybrid zoom and OIS, and a 5MP f/2.4 colour filter camera, which fiddles with the colour palette. The colour filter camera is hidden away in the filters area of the camera software rather than being proudly on display, and I'm not sure why OnePlus bothered with it.

The three main rear cameras deliver decent photos, with good colour reproduction and detail. There's nothing spectacular on offer here, but they do a solid job.

The 16MP front camera uses a Sony IMX471 sensor and a fixed-focus f/2.45 lens with EIS. It can record FHD (1080p) video at 30 frames per second.

Conclusions 

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OnePlus 8 Pro (flat) and OnePlus 8 (upright).

Image: OnePlus

OnePlus has brought a number of key enhancements to the 8 Pro. The lovely design of the top-end 12GB/256GB model with its matte-green back, the 120Hz screen, IP68 rating, fast wired and wireless charging, in-screen front camera, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G all signify a serious 2020 flagship phone.

I'm not so sure the colour filter camera adds anything apart from allowing OnePlus to say there are four cameras at the back, while the wireless charger is large and clunky, and only supports charging in portrait mode. But for the most part, OnePlus has added high-end features while retaining signature points that help its handsets stand out -- the alert slider and reading mode being my personal favourites.

OnePlus has delivered an excellent flagship phone in the OnePlus 8 Pro, albeit at more of a flagship price than some of its previous efforts. If £799/$899 - £899/$999 is beyond your budget, stand by for our upcoming review of the smaller and more affordable OnePlus 8.

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