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

  • Editors' rating
    9.2 Spectacular
  • $699.00

Pros

  • Support for low-band and mid-band 5G
  • 90 Hz display
  • Ample RAM and fast internal storage
  • Stunning color options
  • Responsive Oxygen OS UI

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • No water/dust resistant rating
OnePlus 8: The cheapest 5G phone yet with flagship specs and a gorgeous design
7:41

OnePlus announced two new OnePlus phones in mid-April, the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. At a $699 starting price, the OnePlus 8 is the least expensive 5G phone available today and only gives up a few things seen in the OnePlus 8 Pro.

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Thankfully, I've had the opportunity to try out both the OnePlus 8 Pro, see Sandra Vogel's full review, and the OnePlus 8 side-by-side. While there are a couple tradeoffs made in specifications, the OnePlus 8 is smaller and starts at $200 lower. It's an awesome smartphone and will be available soon.

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

Late last year I purchased the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren device from T-Mobile and at $899 it was one of the least expensive 5G phones available at that time. The OnePlus 8 is available in two RAM/storage configurations; $699 for 8GB/128GB and $799 for 12GB/256GB. I've been testing the 12GB/256GB variant in Interstellar Glow. The 8GB/128GB model is available in matte Glacial Green.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
  • Display: 6.55-inch 2400 x 1080 pixels resolution AMOLED (402 PPI)
  • Operating system: OxygenOS based on Android 10
  • RAM: 8GB/12GB LPDDR4X
  • Storage: 128GB/256 GB internal with UFS 3.0 2-Lane
  • Cameras: 48MP f/1.75 main camera with OIS, 16MP ultra-wide lens with 116-degree field-of-view, and 2MP macro lens. 16MP front-facing camera with f/2.45 aperture.
  • Wireless technology: 5G, LTE Advanced, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/Beidou
  • Battery: 4,300mAh battery with Warp Charge 30T fast charging adapter in the box
  • Dimensions: 160.2 x 72.9 x 8mm and 180g
  • Colors: Glacial Green and Interstellar Glow

The 5G radio, Bluetooth radio, RAM, zippy UFS 3.0 internal storage, high-resolution 90Hz display, and more are all cutting edge technologies in the smartphone world. OnePlus also has one of the fastest, if not the fastest, charging technologies for mobile devices.

Hardware

As ZDNet's Larry Dignan mentioned, the OnePlus brand continues to expand in the US with Verizon and Amazon distribution being added to T-Mobile support. T-Mobile launched official carrier support with the OnePlus 6T and expanding US carrier support is key to success in America.

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The front of the OnePlus 8 is dominated by the lovely 6.55-inch display with minimal bezels on all four edges. The front-facing camera is hidden in the upper left corner, which is better than the hole-punch cameras we saw in the upper right corner as that location is more apt to be hidden from status and notifications Android phone users expect to see on the right side of the notification bar. The top stereo speaker fits within the very narrow top bezel. The display curves down over the sides and at first glance the OnePlus 8 looks like a Samsung Galaxy device.

The fingerprint scanner is an optical version positioned under the display. OnePlus has been using this approach for a couple of generations and it is blazing fast on the OnePlus 8. You can also enable face unlock for a less secure fast way to quickly use your phone.

The volume button is on the upper left side, the power button is on the middle right side, and the standard OnePlus three-way ringer switch is on the upper right. The switch has a tactile design to it so it is easy to manipulate.

The SIM card slot, a microphone, USB-C port, and bottom-firing stereo speaker are all on the bottom. A mic opening is up top.

Flipping over the phone to look at the back reveals a center vertical camera array with three lenses and a flash. The OnePlus log and name are also on the back. I tried the Interstellar Glow color, which looks a bit like the Galaxy Aura Glow color with various colors popping off the back as you angle it in different lighting conditions. While it looks awesome much of the time, it is glossy and a serious fingerprint magnet so you spend a lot of time wiping it down.

Also: OnePlus 7T review: The best smartphone value of 2019

The triple rear camera system performs well and I've captured some great shots over the past week, but also need to spend more time with it. There is no telephoto lens on this phone, but I enjoy shooting super macro mode shots as I find the results more unique and interesting than zooming in on distant subjects. OnePlus improved the cameras over past devices and I'm especially interested in testing out the smart pet capture functionality since I have two cats and two dogs that love to be the star of the show. There is also a tripod long exposure option where you can enable up to 30 seconds of exposure to capture low-light conditions.

After a couple of weeks of heavy usage, I'm easily getting more than a day with this phone whether I'm on 4G or 5G. I think the wide coverage of 5G may be helping with battery life as the phone is not churning away trying to stay connected in a weak area of 4G coverage. The battery has a large capacity and the Warp Charge 30T system, included in the box, charges the phone up quickly, but you won't have to worry about this until the evening when you are done using your phone.

I've been using the OnePlus 8 with a T-Mobile SIM card so I have been able to try out low-band, sub6, 5G. Just like all other OnePlus phones I've tried over the past couple of years, signal strength rivals Samsung phones, and performance has been excellent. I understand the OnePlus 8 will also work on mid-band 5G so when T-Mobile starts supporting Sprint's 5G we should see even better 5G coverage.

OnePlus also sent along nylon bumper and sandstone cases to test out. Although the color is stunning, I couldn't stand the fingerprints and it is very slick so I've been using the nylon case with the phone for the past week.

Software

Oxygen OS is a fairly stock Android experience and the version in the OnePlus 8 is based on Android 10. The March 1, 2020 Android security update is present on this phone.

In the past, I preferred to buy the US carrier model OnePlus devices as the Google Discover panel was an option rather than the OnePlus Shelf I never used. Thankfully, we now see the Google Discover option on the phones. Shelf is no longer an option so sorry if you liked using that on OnePlus phones.

Also: OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren review: $900 flagship excels in nearly every area, including 5G with T-Mobile

OnePlus has Zen Mode that lets you set up times to take a break from using your phone. You can choose break durations ranging from 20 minutes to 60 minutes with daily reminders and Zen mode notifications. Achievement badges can be earned for Zen Mode completion with access to all of your stats, too.

OnePlus offers a few of its own apps on the phone, including Gallery, Messages, File Manager, Files, Notes, and Recorder. Google has most of these apps as options so I don't personally get much utility from these apps.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

As you consider either the OnePlus 8 or OnePlus 8 Pro for $100 to $300 more keep in mind these are the key upgrades for the extra money.

  • Telephoto camera
  • Upgrade from 90Hz display to 120Hz display
  • Wireless charging and reverse wireless charging support

There may also be an official water/dust resistant rating on carrier models, but the entire water/dust resistant certification is a confusing story. No phone is waterproof, but it seems pretty clear the OnePlus 8 models can take a splash or a dip without too much risk. I run with my phones and use them in the rain so as long as they can handle that then I'm satisfied. You should never go swimming without a case as warranties don't cover water damage even if your phone has an IP rating.

OnePlus has been supporting 90Hz refresh rates on its display for a while and once you use it then it is tough to go back to using a 60Hz panel. Scrolling through lists and web pages is a great experience. Thanks to the lean Oxygen OS, ample RAM, and fast storage this phone really flies too.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a very nice phone as well, but it is 5mm taller, 1.4mm wider, 0.5mm thicker, and 19g heavier. These are small numbers, but the OnePlus 8 Pro is a very large phone so the OnePlus 8 may appeal to more people with a slightly smaller size.

Looking across the landscape of smartphones as 5G continues to be activated across the country, $699 for a stunningly beautiful 5G phone that is extremely capable, a joy to use, and gets you through a full day is a solid deal.

Where To Buy

Price
$699.00

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Where To Buy

OnePlus 8 (8GB)

Part Number: 5011100988
Price
$699.00