Why should I buy a OnePlus 8?

OnePlus 8 Pro in the test: Great smartphone, but no longer a flagship killer

It's a term that is associated with OnePlus like no other: "flagship killer". Smartphones that offer performance at an absolutely high-end level, but are significantly cheaper than the competition. OnePlus has been making this promise for years. Or, more precisely: kicked. Because in 2020 everything will suddenly be different: With an official retail price of 899 euros, the OnePlus 8 Pro is significantly more expensive than its predecessor. For comparison: The OnePlus 7T Pro was still around 759 euros, the OnePlus 7 Pro was even 699 euros - and some of the predecessors were still far less.

Higher demands

New price regions, which of course also shift the perspective on the price-performance ratio. In other words: OnePlus also has to improve on the hardware equipment in order to be able to play in the region of high-end devices. Common weak points such as the lack of wireless charging or the often poor camera quality are less easy to forgive at this level. And the good news in advance: OnePlus has actually taken on all of these topics for its new model. Whether with success is to be clarified in the following.

Only one option: large

The first impression is one that is not uncommon with current smartphones: The OnePlus 8 Pro is quite large. Specifically, the key data are given as 165.3 x 74.3 x 8.5 mm, the weight is 199 grams. The problem with this: In contrast to other top smartphones, there is no comparable, smaller version of the device. There is indeed the more compact OnePlus 8, but it also has slimmed-down hardware equipment. For some interested parties, the OnePlus 8 Pro may have already failed at this point.

The design of the OnePlus 8 Pro is very reminiscent of older Samsung smartphones such as the Galaxy S10. And unfortunately that also means that you take over a dubious feature from there, which Samsung has now largely abandoned itself: the strongly rounded screen on the sides. This may seem interesting and futuristic at first glance, but it has practical disadvantages. First of all, the device holds up even worse than it is already the case with the smooth surfaces of the device. In addition, every manufacturer promises that unintentional touches on the bend will be completely filtered out, but reality does not keep this promise with the OnePlus 8 Pro either. This can be easily observed when using the camera, for example, where touches are often detected from the side just by holding the device - and then the release button is blocked.

Solid workmanship

In general, the workmanship of the OnePlus 8 Pro is very good, but the side bends have made the buttons a bit thin and therefore comparatively sharp-edged. Speaking of which: A familiar OnePlus specialty is its own button to switch between "silent", "vibrate" and "ring". A feature that is sometimes extremely appreciated by fans. However, the fact that other manufacturers have not copied this feature in a row also indicates that it is not exactly essential for the general public. More about the camera later, but what is immediately noticeable: The centrally mounted module protrudes relatively far from the housing, which means that the device is poorly positioned. Last but not least, this bothers when you want to type something while the smartphone is next to you at the table.

Very good display

There is also a correspondingly large display to match the external dimensions. The screen diagonal is specified as 6.78 inches, with a resolution of 3,168 x 1,440 pixels. This results in a pixel density of 513 PPI and an aspect ratio of 19.8: 9. The maximum brightness of the Amoled display is also quite impressive at 1,300 nits. This is only achieved for a short time with automatic brightness adjustment in direct sunlight, but especially in such environments it helps immensely to be able to read what is happening on the display.

Also included is a 120 Hz mode, which OnePlus activates automatically, unlike some of its competitors. Its advantages over the classic 60 Hz mode have already been extensively recognized in other tests. So just briefly here: The higher refresh rate means that scrolling movements in particular appear much smoother and that touch inputs are responded to more quickly. How strongly one perceives this difference is a thoroughly subjective matter. But if you notice it, you usually don't want to go back to a 60 Hz display.

The downside

Two more things, first of all: The 120 Hz mode consumes considerably more electricity, so OnePlus offers the option to revert to 60 Hz. In addition, the OnePlus 8 Pro does not use the full resolution by default, instead there are "only" 2,376 x 1,080 pixels (FHD +). In contrast to Samsung, the combination of the highest resolution and 120 Hz mode is also allowed here. The auto white balance, which, like Apple's True Tone and Google's Ambient EQ, adapts the display to the ambient light, is also pleasing.

The display was not always one of the strengths of OnePlus devices in the past, but that is different here. The OnePlus 8 Pro's screen is actually very good. However, you can't quite keep up with the displays of Samsung's S20 series. All in all, these appear a tad crisper in the display. There are also small deductions for the fact that the display tends to have problems displaying black and turning green when the brightness is low.

Extremely fast

One of the traditional strengths of OnePlus is the performance of the devices, which is not least due to the fact that nobody outside of Google optimizes their Android smartphones as well. And the OnePlus 8 Pro is not an outlier in this regard either: With its Snapdragon 865 and - depending on the model - 8 or 12 GB RAM (LPDDR5), it is extremely nimble.

In general, however, it should be noted that part of the positive reputation OnePlus enjoys in this regard is due to skillful psychology. The devices appear so fast because the manufacturer has adjusted the timing of the animations - in this case shortened it. That looks more jagged, but of course has the disadvantage that the purpose of such transition animations - to provide a visual indication of what is happening on the screen - is pushed into the background. What you prefer in this regard is of course once again a matter of taste. In addition, such behavior can also be generated on many other Android smartphones by simply adjusting the timing for the animations in the developer settings.

Test run

Nevertheless, it must be made clear: Even beyond such tricks, the OnePlus 8 is pleasantly fast with its OxygenOS, which is relatively slim compared to the Android adaptations from other manufacturers. Of course, this is only shown to a limited extent in benchmarks, as these usually simply test the performance of the CPU. In PCMark Work 2.0, which is designed for real workloads, the device achieves a very good value with 11,340 points.

What is also extremely positive: The OnePlus 8 Pro can handle a maximum load very well. It still delivers the same level of performance after the fifth run of the 3DMark benchmark and only gets moderately warm. For comparison: The Galaxy S20 Ultra was a good 20 percent slower and quite hot in the second run. In general, the OnePlus 8 Pro is also a bit faster in 3DMark (7,132 points) than the S20 Ultra (6,814 points). This is where the Snapdragon 865 shows its strengths compared to Samsung's Exynos 990.

A definite photo upgrade

For many, the camera of a smartphone has become a key decision criterion for a purchase. Of course, OnePlus also knows this and can come up with very strong hardware in this regard. The main sensor used is an IMX689 from Sony, which offers 48 megapixels (f / 1.7, 1.12 µm, OIS and EIS). As is also known from other current smartphones, four pixels are combined by Haus - i.e. 2x2 binning - to create an image, which then results in a 12-megapixel image. This results in an effectively higher light sensitivity compared to classic sensors, and if you want even more details in strong light conditions, you can simply use the full solution as an option. At least that's the theory.

In practice, the OnePlus 8 Pro always delivers very good images, but overall it cannot keep up with the image quality of a current iPhone or the Pixel 4. And that seems to be mainly due to the software. Again and again, completely washed-out details emerge in the background, in some situations the recordings have even been transformed into an artificial something that no longer has much to do with the original image. And while the camera sometimes delivers really great pictures in the evening thanks to its own night mode, it has obvious problems with twilight. As good as some of the photos produced by the OnePlus 8 Pro may be, in the end the impression unfortunately remains that you can't really rely on the device's camera - the results are too inconsistent.

zoom

The second camera is a telephoto with an 8 megapixel sensor (f / 2.44 and OIS). However, their results are rather mediocre. Nobody expected that one could keep up with the periscope structure of a Galaxy S20 Ultra anyway, but Google's Pixel 4 also delivers significantly better images in a direct comparison. Officially, OnePlus promises a hybrid zoom up to factor 3 and digital zoom up to factor 30. The reality is of course different: the images are still good up to three times the magnification, but after that the quality drops rapidly. The factor 30 is about as realistic as the "Space Zoom" from Samsung, which means: a lot of noise about nothing. It is also noticeable negatively that the telephoto camera offers a completely different color mood than the main camera, so these are poorly coordinated. All in all, this point is certainly the biggest weak point in the entire camera structure of the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Wide angle

But let's get to the more pleasant and with it the ultra-wide-angle camera. With a 48 megapixel sensor (IMX586), f / 2.4 and an image angle of 119.7 degrees, this delivers results that are among the better in the smartphone environment. Here, too, Samsung is better with the S20 Ultra, both in terms of color design and sharpness. The wide-angle camera of the OnePlus 8 Pro tends to have visible color shifts and blurred details, especially in the edge areas.

The camera software from OnePlus, which shines among other things with a Pro mode, in which the user can set many values ​​manually, is very popular. The macro mode also stands out particularly positively, as it enables details to be captured much closer and better than is the case with most other smartphones.

Color filter with a surprise

And then there is another specialty of the OnePlus 8 Pro: namely its own color filter camera. What this was used for remains largely a mystery, as it is actually only responsible for such filters. At least it owes a lot of controversy to her. As it turned out, one of the filters can "see" thanks to the detection of light from the infrared spectrum through thin plastic or textile. In principle, this is not a surprise either, this effect has been known for a long time, and at the same time it only works in a few cases. In the meantime, OnePlus has announced that it will limit this function with an upcoming update so that it cannot be misused.

No more pop-up cameras

What remains is the front camera, which now breaks through the display in the upper left corner with a punchhole cutout. OnePlus has said goodbye to the pop-up camera concept. In view of the mechanical complexity of such a solution, this is quite understandable. However, this change is unpleasant for those who never use the front camera anyway - and now have to live with a punchhole again. Oh yes: the quality of the recordings from the front camera (16 megapixels, f / 2.45) is good, but nothing more.

The battery life: it's complicated

We come to a completely different topic: the battery. This is specified with 4,510 mAh, so it is pleasantly large. It gets a bit more complicated when assessing the resulting battery life: Depending on the settings, it varies between mediocre and very good. This is mainly due to the 120 Hz mode. To illustrate this in numbers: At 120 Hz and full screen resolution, the OnePlus 8 Pro only lasted 10:25 hours in the PCMark battery test, which is even less than the Pixel 4 XL from Google, which is often criticized in this regard (at 90 Hz) . On the other hand, if you reduce the resolution of FHD + and limit yourself to 60 Hz, the OnePlus 8 Pro suddenly delivers an excellent 15:40 hours. In this respect, users have a good deal of control over how long the battery will last.

Wireless charging

With the OnePlus 8 Pro, the manufacturer has eliminated a long-criticized deficit in its own devices: Finally, wireless charging is also finding its way here, and at an impressive speed. Thanks to 30 watt wireless charging, the smartphone was already 21 percent charged after ten minutes, and even 56 percent after half an hour.

However, if you want this speed, you also have to buy the official charger from OnePlus. It is rather doubtful whether that is 70 euros well invested. Even if you ignore the fact that this is impressively ugly, the absurdity remains that it is equipped with a fan to get the high heat generated during fast charging under control. And when it is otherwise quiet, the fan can of course be heard clearly. So the whole thing is rather nothing for the bedside table.

Many problems

Thankfully, OnePlus has integrated a function with which the charging speed can be reduced at certain times. But then again the question arises whether it is not just better for such areas of application to buy a slower charging station that works without a fan. After all, you are usually not in a hurry to charge at night, and it is also better for the longevity of the battery. With other Qi-compatible chargers, the charging power is then a maximum of 10 watts.

Another problem with the Wireless Charger from OnePlus is that it comes with a permanently attached charging cable that is also quite short. There is also no special integration of the smartphone with the charging station - such as that offered by Google with its Pixel Stand. Hopefully OnePlus will make significant improvements to its wireless charger for the next generation. Being very fast is nice, but not the only relevant factor for such a device.

alternative

Of course, the OnePlus 8 Pro can also be recharged quickly "normally" - via a USB-C cable. Here, too, 30 watts of power are given, and this claim is true in the test. Cable charging was only marginally faster than wireless charging. That shouldn't sound negative now, after all, the battery had already reached 88 percent after 45 minutes and was finally full after a little more than an hour. No matter how you twist and turn it: these are excellent values.

5G

By now the word has got around: If you want the Snapdragon 865, you also have to use the right 5G modem. So the OnePlus 8 Pro now offers 5G support - but without the particularly brisk mmWave support. The antennas required for this have been omitted for reasons of cost. The grief over this can be kept within narrow limits, after all, neither in Austria nor in Germany have the auctions for the corresponding frequency ranges taken place at all. In this respect, one falls over here by a highly theoretical part of a mobile radio technology that is otherwise rather theoretical for most in view of the hardly existing network coverage. A loss that was bearable.

Other key data include WLAN6 support (2x2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.1 is also supported. There is also dual SIM support. It is very gratifying that the OnePlus 8 Pro is finally protected against water and dust according to IP68 - an often criticized weak point of the manufacturer's previous smartphones. The local storage space of the devices is 128 or 256 GB, depending on the model.

An optical fingerprint sensor is also included in the display. This works very quickly and reliably, but the security it offers is - let's say - "manageable". Such optical sensors can be tricked much more easily than is the case with the classic capacitive sensors or the ultrasonic solution from Samsung.

software

As usual, OxygenOS is used as the software, i.e. the Android version of OnePlus - here based on Android 10. And there is no other way to say it: OxygenOS is definitely one of the best Android flavors. OnePlus takes the Google template, extends it in some places with useful extras, but saves itself fundamental modifications or endless gimmicks, as can be found with many other providers.Last but not least, it is this approach that makes OxygenOS appear much slimmer than the software on current smartphones from Huawei or Samsung, for example.

What does cause some concern, however, is the direction in which the manufacturer's app selection is developing. Facebook and Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Netflix are preinstalled on the OnePlus 8 Pro. Elsewhere there are unpleasant duplications of apps. While some of this can still be explained by the Google regulations for manufacturers, some things are simply incomprehensible - for example, that in addition to its own file manager, the Google Files app is also included.

The good news: some of the apps that were set up by default can be completely removed. Others, however, do not. Once again, Facebook is particularly negative; some hidden services are also installed and run in the background. You can at least deactivate them by displaying the installed system apps in the settings.

Flaw

The apps designed by OnePlus themselves are consistently kept rather simple, which is not necessarily a disadvantage. In a few places, however, you could have been more talkative. The recorder asks for telephony authorization the first time it is started - without ever explaining why it is needed. And one more point of criticism: Compared to other current smartphones, the OnePlus 8 Pro still lacks an always-on display that continuously shows central information such as time, alarm or notifications even when inactive.

Updates: Half good, half not so good

OnePlus has recently received a lot of praise for being one of the fastest manufacturers when it comes to delivering new Android generations. And that is also true, but unfortunately only half part of the truth. Because with regard to security updates, a different, much less positive picture emerges. In general, OnePlus does not guarantee a monthly update, but only commits to an update every two months. The fact that the test device only received an update to the security patch from April at the end of May fits into this picture. Not only Google, but also third-party manufacturers like Samsung do a much better job in this regard.

Conclusion

What remains is a pretty strong smartphone: The OnePlus 8 Pro is not only extremely fast, it also has a very good display, and the manufacturer has eliminated some long-term deficits, keywords: wireless charging and IP68 certification. And with a price of 899 euros you are still a bit cheaper than many a competitor in the high-end field.

But that doesn't change the fact that you have now reached a price segment that is simply too high for many long-time fans of the brand. That should also slowly dawn on the manufacturer itself, so it was recently confirmed that a cheaper OnePlus smartphone is currently being developed again. In this respect, waiting for autumn could well pay off for some fans of the brand. (Andreas Proschofsky, 4.6.2020)