The OnePlus 8 Pro improves on its predecessor in most ways and still undercuts the competition on price
- 120Hz display is so smooth
- An IP68 rating at last
- Very good battery life
- HDR playback behaves weirdly
- Nothing else
The OnePlus 8 Pro is another step along the road to the mainstream for a firm that started out in life as an upstart. It seems impossibly long ago that OnePlus burst onto the scene with its innovative, invite-only, approach to marketing that generated a passionate and vociferous community that’s still going today.
Over the last few years, however, the company has been slowly transforming itself into a regular smartphone company, leaving behind the impossibly good value handsets of the past, which were often a little rough around the edges, and moving into the rarefied air of the polished, premium smartphone. The OnePlus 8 Pro represents the pinnacle of OnePlus’ achievements so far and it’s good enough to rub shoulders with the very best in the industry.
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OnePlus 8 Pro review: What you need to know
The OnePlus 8 Pro is the firm’s flagship smartphone and, as befitting a modern premium handset, it’s rammed with the latest mobile technology. It has a large 6.78in AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor inside coupled with 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage, depending on which colour you choose.
It runs Android 10, naturally, and introduces a number of new features over the previous OnePlus 7T model, including 5G connectivity, an official IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating and a new type of camera to go alongside the now-usual selection of ultrawide, wide, zoom and selfie cameras.
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Price and competition
The OnePlus 8 Pro, as usual, is priced competitively at £799 for the base model (8GB RAM, 128GB storage). At that price, it undercuts most of its main competitors, namely the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and the iPhone 11 Pro (£1,049) and 11 Pro Max (£1,149).
It’s a little more expensive than the iPhone 11 but that’s both smaller and lacks the telephoto camera and high refresh OLED display of the OnePlus, and has less storage for the same price, so in hardware terms, it’s hardly on the same level.
In short, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a bargain of a mid-price smartphone. It’s top-level when it comes to the hardware specifications and costs less than its main rivals.
Here’s a quick list of those rivals and where to buy them:
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro – £1,049 – John Lewis
- Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max – £1,149 – John Lewis
- Samsung Galaxy S20 – £769 – Amazon
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Key specifications, price and release date
- 6.78in 3,168 x 1,440 AMOLED display
- 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
- 8/12GB RAM
- 128/256GB of UFS 3.0 storage
- IP68 dust- and water-resistance
- Rear cameras: main – 48mp, f/1.78, OIS; ultrawide – 48mp, f/2.2; telephoto – 8mp, f/2.4, OIS; colour filter – 5mp, f/2.4; front – 16mp, f/2.4
- In-screen fingerprint reader, face unlock
- Price: £799 (Black: 8GB/128GB); £899 (Glacial Green: 12GB/256GB) from OnePlus.com
- Release date: 21 April
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Key features and design
Probably the most visible change to the OnePlus 8 Pro is that there is no longer a pop-up selfie camera. Instead, it has a small, single hole-punch unit hiding away in the top-left corner of its edge-to-edge screen. That’s not a major change from a usability perspective but it does mean that OnePlus has been able to improve water resistance this time around.
In fact, the OnePlus 8 Pro is the company’s very first phone to have an officially sanctioned IP68 dust- and water-resistance rating. Previous models, OnePlus says, were designed to be resistant to the elements but didn’t have the IP rating.
Otherwise, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks very much like most other high-end modern smartphones. It has a 6.78in screen that fills most of the front of the chassis which curves gently over on the long edges. It’s quite a big phone as a result but no bigger than it has to be. It’s quite slender at 8.5mm, weighs 199g and looks lovely, especially in the matte-finish “Glacial Green” colour that was sent to me for this review. It feels lovely and smooth under the finger and doesn’t pick up fingerprints too badly at all.
The only other colour available is the Onyx Black, which I haven’t seen in person so can’t comment on extensively. I do know, however, that it has a polished finish rather than a matte one so is likely to pick up fingerprints more readily.
There is quite a prominent central camera bump on the rear, housing three camera lenses, which I’m not too keen on, but at least it doesn’t look as ugly as the rectangular carbuncle on the Samsung Galaxy S20 range of phones. Even the fact there’s an extra lens off to the left doesn’t look awkward since it’s neatly lined up with the flash and another sensor slot below it.
Otherwise, it’s pretty standard stuff for OnePlus. Buttons consist of a power and three-position do-not-disturb switch on the right edge and a volume rocker on the left, while beneath the screen at the front is an optical, in-screen fingerprint reader.
The bottom edge plays host to the USB-C port, speaker grille and the phone’s dual-SIM card tray. You can pop 5G cards in either one, although, while you can pop two 5G SIM cards in at one time, you can’t use them on your 5G network simultaneously. You have to pick one or the other to enable as a 5G card.
Finally, the OnePlus 8 Pro also comes with wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. With the former – and OnePlus’ optional 30W wireless charger – OnePlus says the 8 Pro can be charged wirelessly 50% in around 30 minutes.
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Display
OnePlus is making a big thing of the screen with this model and have gone so far as to ship an early model to the experts at DisplayMate for testing. That resulted in an A+ rating, which is about as good as it gets, and it performed just as well in our tests.
First, the vital statistics: this is an AMOLED display measuring 6.78in across the diagonal with a resolution of 3,168 x 1,440, a refresh rate of 120Hz, and support for 10-bit colour and HDR10+. It’s set by default to a lower resolution of 2,376 x 1,080, which is as sharp as it needs to be and helps conserve battery life.
To the eye, it looks phenomenal and it plays HDR10 well. As a quick test, I sat it next to the iPhone 11 Pro Max and played a series of HDR clips from Netflix on both phones simultaneously and, while it can’t quite match the presence of that phone in dark scenes, it isn’t far off.
It might match the iPhone or even beat it if it processed HDR correctly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t or at least it didn’t in my tests: instead of boosting specular highlights more when smaller amounts of bright content appear on the screen, it dims the display, instead lifting brightness when there’s loads of bright content on screen. I assume this will be improved in a firmware update because OnePlus is claiming peak brightness levels of 1,300cd/m².
It more than makes up for this elsewhere, however. Select the sRGB mode under Advanced in the display settings and you’re getting a mode that delivers 94.7% of the sRGB colour gamut at an incredible level of colour accuracy: the average Delta E is 0.69, which is pretty much as close to a perfect score of 0 as you can get currently. Pick “Display P3”, which is what you want for watching HDR10 material, and the measurements are even better, with coverage of 96.9% and an average Delta E colour accuracy measurement of 0.8.
As for brightness, that’s exceptional, too. In normal use without automatic brightness enabled the display peaks at 472cd/m². With auto-brightness enabled, brightness can rise temporarily to 740cd/m², which is bright enough to make the screen readable in most conditions.
In all, it’s a wonderful display technically, notwithstanding the weird HDR behaviour, and it’s really worth having that 120Hz refresh rate, too. You might be sceptical but switching back to 60Hz from 120Hz on this phone is a hard thing to do once you become used to the extra smoothness the higher refresh rate adds to everything that happens visually on the phone.
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Performance and battery life
One thing that has been a constant with OnePlus phones throughout their existence is that they always use the fastest mobile silicon available at the time. The OnePlus 8 Pro is no exception.
Inside, it uses the latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 chip, accompanied by either 8GB or 12GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3 flash storage. Strangely, the amount of RAM and storage you get depends on the colour: black gets you less; green gets you more.
Either way, performance is exceptional and, as you can see from the graphs below, it’s about on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S20 range and a little behind the Apple iPhone 11 series of phones:
As for graphics performance, that’s a little bemusing. While the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus in the graph above exceeded the 60Hz limit to reach 105fps in the test, the OnePlus 8 Pro didn’t. That’s presumably because the benchmark software doesn’t recognise that the phone is running at 120Hz rather than anything OnePlus isn’t doing. Looking at the Samsung’s results versus the OnePlus 8 Pro’s, it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that if the benchmark had supported 120Hz fully it would have achieved a largely similar result.
As for battery life, that’s just as impressive. Inside the 8 Pro is the largest battery the company has ever fitted to one of its handsets and it shows with a best result of 20hrs 36mins in our video rundown test with the screen set to the lower FHD+ setting at 60Hz. That’s roughly on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus and, importantly, bumping up the screen refresh to 120Hz has negligible impact, at least in this test.
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Cameras
As is the norm these days, the OnePlus 8 Pro comes with a smorgasbord of cameras – a total of five if you count the selfie camera on the front.
The rear selection comprises the main camera, plus an ultrawide, telephoto and “colour filter” camera (I’ll get to this in a minute). The main camera – a Sony IMX689 module – captures 48-megapixel images and has a weirdly specific aperture of f/1.78. The ultrawide has a 120-degree field of view, also shoots at 48 megapixels and has an aperture of f/2.2. The 8-megapixel f/2.44 telephoto camera has an optical zoom of 3x and offers a 30x digital hybrid zoom.
The “colour filter” camera is an odd thing. It shoots low-resolution 5-megapixel images and, according to OnePlus’ marketing materials, “allows you to express your unique style with artistic lighting effects and filters”. Okay. Except, there’s only one style of image you can shoot with this camera: and that’s an infrared filtered image. There’s an introduction to infrared photography here; this is a sample I captured of my garden.
It’s fun to play around with but, ultimately, a niche inclusion especially as you get no control over white balance, which if you want to get really creative is what you need. I’d also like it to be more obvious and easy to access. As it is, it isn’t flagged as a separate camera in the camera app; instead, you have to select filters then choose “Photochrom” to find it. Confusingly it isn’t even called the “Colour Filter” camera in OnePlus’ own software.
There isn’t much in it at all. The iPhone produces a more natural shot overall but detail levels are pretty much on a par in good light. If anything in this shot the OnePlus produces slightly sharper images.
A clear win for the iPhone, with the OnePlus 8 Pro producing a rather soft and over-smoothed image.
The iPhone’s image is, again, more natural but this time sharper with the OnePlus’ shot suffering quite badly from chromatic aberration. Look closely at the right-hand sloping edge of the bird feeder – there’s quite a bit of reddish fringing going on. And once you start getting busy with the 30x hybrid zoom this gets quite bad, quite fast. Here’s the same scene shot at 30x on the OnePlus Pro 8:
When it comes to video you can shoot at up to 4K resolution at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps in slow motion. As usual, though, you can’t shoot HDR, stabilised or Super Stabilised video at 4K 60fps; you have to drop down to 30fps for that. This is where the iPhone stretches out a significant lead. It can shoot stabilised HDR video right the way up to 4K 60fps and it looks a lot nicer than the video on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Last but not least, to the selfie camera, which is a 16-megapixel f/2.4 number. It produces nicely exposed, sharp self-portraits; the fake bokeh portrait mode works fine too, although the effect isn’t particularly strong in the selfie camera.
OnePlus 8 Pro review: Verdict
I’m a bit of a fan of the OnePlus 8 Pro. Not only does it address one of the main concerns we’ve had with previous OnePlus handsets, namely that there was previously no officially rated water resistance, but it also adds a load of extra features, including that intriguing colour filter camera.
Combined with great performance, impressive battery life and a mighty fine display, the OnePlus 8 Pro can hold its own against most other flagships costing many hundreds of pounds more. If you can’t stretch your bank balance to an iPhone 11 Pro, a Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus or S20 Ultra, the OnePlus 8 Pro makes a very good value alternative. It’s a great phone by any measure.