The OnePlus 8, along with its bigger brother the OnePlus 8 Pro, was launched at a series of Online pop-up events today. Fancy launch events are on hold for all smartphone manufacturers at the moment, as the live stream keynote becomes the saving grace. I was able to go hands-on with the OnePlus 8 ahead of the launch.
OnePlus 8 release date and price
The OnePlus 8 will go on sale in Europe on April 21, 2020. OnePlus has been sneaking its prices up for some time now, and the days of the flagship killer seem like a long time ago. The OnePlus 8 starts at £599€699/$699 for the variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The 12/256GB costs £699/€799/$799.
Long-time OnePlus fans may complain about the price increases the brand has undergone, but for 5G smartphone in 2020, the new OnePlus 8 is competitive. This will go head to head with phones such as the Nokia 8.3 5G, which is priced in the same ballpark.
The OnePlus 8 is available in Onyx Black, Interstellar Glow, and Glacial Green. In the box you'll get a silicone case, a pre-installed screen protector, a 30W faster charger and the iconic red USB-C charging cable the brand is known for.
A slim body that houses a 5G modem
At the beginning of last year, the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro were quite different in terms of design. When the 7T and 7T Pro came out in the autumn, this 7T inherited a lot of the tech from the 7 Pro, but the two OnePlus devices remained clearly distinguishable thanks largely to the camera module and the curved edges of the display. For 2020, the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro move closer together design-wise. On the outside, only the extra Color Filter Camera sets them apart. On the inside, however, the differences are massive.
One misconception around the theme of 5G smartphones is that they have to be big and bulky to make space for the modem. The OnePlus 8 debunks that myth. At 8mm, this is really thin for a 5G smartphone. The camera bump is also relatively slim, thanks largely to the fact that there is no telephoto lens or any periscope technology in here, but I'll come onto the cameras later.
The trademark notification slider from OnePlus also lives on . This somewhat old-school feature is something I forget about when I am testing phones from other manufacturers but is always a pleasant reminder when I pop my SIM card into a OnePlus again. Whilst the Onyx Black and Interstellar Glow versions feature a glossy finish, the Glacial Green review sample I tested is a matte finish. It's matte to the eye, but not so much to the touch.
Last year's AMOLED display
The display of the OnePlus 8 will be familiar to those who own a OnePlus 7T. The 6.55-inch AMOLED display is seemingly unchanged from last year's non-Pro model. The resolution still comes in at 1080 x 2400 and the refresh rate is still 90Hz, unlike the 120Hz we have seen from Samsung and Oppo this year, as well as the OnePlus 8 Pro. The brand calls this combination its Fluid Display, and it's an appropriate name. Everything looks bright, sharp and silky smooth when in motion.
One thing that is new this year is OnePlus' Eye Care Plan. An internal luminescent material now displays content clearly in direct sunlight. It's not like a software trick that you can see working when you pull your phone out of your pocket, but I had no problems using the phone outdoors on a bright, sunny day in Berlin.
The other difference to the OnePlus 8 display from the 7T is the top. The dewdrop-shaped notch has been replaced with a hole-punch in the top left corner of the display. This selfie camera placement is the same on both the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro this year, and the company seems to have given up on its pop-up camera. For me, it's a shame, as I am a huge fan of full, uninterrupted displays.
The subtle curves of the 7T are also gone, and the OnePlus 8 now falls away at the sides at a much more aggressive angle. Curved displays have their fans and their haters, and I fall somewhere in the middle. The OnePlus 8 feels lovely in your hand as a result of the curved edges, but the back gesture just doesn't feel right to me on any curved-display smartphone. OnePlus is now as curved at the edges as Samsung used to be before the Galaxy S20 series reined it in a bit.
Textbook OnePlus 'snappiness'
The OnePlus packs a Snapdragon 865 SoC from Qualcomm combined with either 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM. The GPU is an Adreno 650. As this is a 5G smartphone, a Qualcomm X55 modem is also packed into the hardware. You get 128GB of UFS 3.0 storage in the base model, which is a little on the light side for a smartphone in 2020.
In terms of performance, you can expect typical OnePlus happiness here. The test sample I was given was the 12/256GB version, and I was able to run some benchmark tests on it ahead of the launch. As you can see in the direct comparison with the OnePlus 8 Pro below, there is little between the two phones in terms of raw performance. Both will be able to handle almost anything you can throw at them, from multi-tasking to gaming.
OnePlus 8 benchmark results comparison
|OnePlus 8||OnePlus 8 Pro||OnePlus 7T|
|3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme ES 3.1||7079||7122||6020|
|3D Mark Sling Shot Volcano||6899||6613||5245|
|3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0||8998||8864||6649|
|Geekbench 5 (Single / Multi)||910 / 3341||887 / 3313||786 / 2825|
We may not be attending any major tech events any time soon, but one thing you will notice when you go to these things is that OnePlus is still a very popular brand for tech journalists. I'm reminded of why this is every time I spend time with a new OnePlus smartphone. The combination of software optimization and hardware is still the best in the industry for fluid performance in my opinion. There is just a certain snappiness to this recipe that you don't get elsewhere to the same degree. Before using the OnePlus 8 as my daily driver, I had my SIM in the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, and even that $1,400 phone doesn't feel as quick as non-Pro OnePlus 8 does.
I will be conducting more intensive performance tests of the OnePlus 8 for the final review, so stay tuned for that. I will also be digging deeper into the software in the near future. OnePlus typically released software patches around the launch of a new phone, so I refrained from critiquing the software side for now.
Minor camera upgrades for the non-Pro OnePlus 8
The OnePlus 8 comes with a triple camera that is will be familiar to those who bought the OnePlus 7T Pro. The main camera is still the Sony IMX586 we saw on last year's flagship. The 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor is almost unchanged from last year too. Interestingly, the 3x Telephoto Zoom camera from the 7T Pro has been replaced with a 2-megapixel macro lens. In a market where zoom is big business, the only thing you get on the OnePlus 8 is a 2x in-sensor zoom. The details are as follows:
- Sony IMX586
- Megapixels: 48
- Pixel size: 0.8 μm
- Lens pieces: 6P
- OIS: Yes
- EIS: Yes
- Aperture: f/1.75
- Megapixels: 16
- Aperture: f/2.2
- Field of View: 116°
- Megapixels: 2
- Pixel size: 1.75 μm
- OIS: No
- Aperture: f/2.4
- Sony IMX471
- Megapixels: 16
- Pixel size: 1.0 μm
- EIS: Yes
- Autofocus: Fixed focus
- Aperture: f/2.0
In terms of video, the OnePlus 8 supports 4K video at 30/60 fps, 1080p video at 30/60 fps, and Super Slow Motion video in 720p at 480 fps, or 1080p at 240 fps. The multi autofocus supports PDAF and CAF, but not LAF as on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
We'll be digging into the camera hardware and software for the full review, but during the handful of test shots I have been able to take so far, the OnePlus 8 camera performs well, if not spectacular. The weakness here lies in the number of creative options you have, which many rival manufacturers are now offering in this price range.
Warp Charge via cable only
The battery in the OnePlus 8 Pro is a 4,300 mAh cell. Fans of OnePlus smartphones, and those of Oppo and Realme, will be familiar with the parent company's impressive fast-charging technology. Warp Charge 30T, as OnePlus brands it, is supported here. However, there's no wireless Warp Charge as there is on the Pro variant. Still, you get the Warp Charge 30T power adapter in the box, and it's still super fast. In well under an hour, the OnePlus 8 is fully charged.
I've been using the OnePlus for about a week and can easily get a day's worth of juice out of it. However, it needs to be said that we are living under lockdown conditions and I am not using my phone under what you would call 'normal usage' conditions such as when I am out and about. I will be putting the OnePlus 8 through the battery benchmarks and real-life tests - as best I can - for the full review.
OnePlus 8 technical specifications
With the 7 and 7 Pro, OnePlus made the choice for consumers very simple. The Pro packed so much more of a punch whilst the 7 felt like a year-old smartphone in a fancy new dress. With the 7T and 7T Pro, the gap was reduced significantly, almost to the point where many consumers opted for the cheaper 7T over the 7T Pro, and that was the smart choice. With the 8-series, OnePlus has widened the gap once again.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a higher refresh rate display (120Hz), better resolution (QHD+), Wireless Warp Charge, and extra Color Filter Camera, a telephoto lens, and faster RAM (LPDDR5). Unlike with the 7T lineup, 'Pro' really does mean pro once again for OnePlus in 2020. And yet, despite that, I still think the regular OnePlus 8 is the thinking man's 5G phone to buy right now. With snappy performance and a cost-cutting in the right areas, the phone almost marks a return to OnePlus' roots. The goalposts have moved on price, that's all.