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OnePlus 8 Pro revisited: The good and bad six months later
2020 has been a year of change for OnePlus. The Shenzen company’s product portfolio has expanded to the largest it’s ever been, one of its co-founders left for pastures new, and even its beloved Oxygen OS software received a dramatic overhaul. But all this change kicked off with the OnePlus 8 Pro — the brand’s first true non-compromise flagship phone.
Its predecessor, the OnePlus 7 Pro, signaled a shift towards the premium end of the smartphone market, but the OnePlus 8 Pro launched as the most powerful and feature-packed phone that OnePlus had ever made.
Even with the recent launch of the OnePlus 8T, those things still hold true today. So, just over six months after its release is the Best of Android mid-2020 winner still worth buying, or has the competition caught up? Let’s find out in this OnePlus 8 Pro review revisit.
The OnePlus 8 Pro was a performance beast at launch and it’s just as powerful six months on.
Technically, the phone’s Snapdragon 865 processor has been surpassed by Qualcomm’s gaming-optimized Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset. Where previously the OnePlus 8 Pro smashed benchmarks including our own Speed Test G, the recent wave of 865 Plus-powered gaming phones like the almighty ASUS ROG Phone 3 have gained a small advantage in GPU tests.
However, the OnePlus 8 Pro is still one of the best out there not just for peak performance, but also for sustained performance. Even as the phone heats up it barely misses a beat. This is evident in our own in-depth testing, but it’s also recognizable in day-to-day use. There’s nothing that slows the OnePlus 8 Pro down — even more so if you have the 12GB RAM version with 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage.
The top-tier performance extends to the battery life too. Even after six months of on and off use the OnePlus 8 Pro battery impresses with just over two days on a light load (browsing on Wi-Fi, calls, messaging) and over a day’s juice under heavy stress (gaming, video streaming). It also recharges rapidly thanks to Warp Charge 30T — around 20 minutes to hit 50% from zero. It even charges wirelessly and remains the only OnePlus phone to do so.
Put simply, while there are now phones out there with fractionally more powerful chips, larger batteries, and faster charging speeds, the OnePlus 8 Pro easily hangs with the best.
Another OnePlus staple, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s display is objectively one of the best on any smartphone.
For starters, it gets insanely bright with peak levels of well over 1,000 nits in direct sunlight. Thankfully, it’s not just a numbers game with the display as the color accuracy is also on point. Watching movies or playing games on the whopping 6.78-inch OnePlus 8 Pro is a joy in all its vibrant, Quad HD+ glory.
AMOLED, 120Hz, and QHD+ — that's the good stuff.
This is all boosted further by the 120Hz refresh rate. While now far more common than at launch, OnePlus’ implementation remains one of the few that offers full refresh rate flexibility. Want the smoothest experience at all times with the highest resolution? That’s fine, a quick trip to the Settings and you can enjoy 120Hz in QHD+, but you can also set it to dynamically shift between 60Hz and 120Hz based on the content you are viewing to save battery.
Despite initial software teething issues, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s display is world class… with one other exception. We’ll get to that a bit later.
The OnePlus 8 Pro was and still is the most expensive OnePlus phone to date. That said, it’s still cheaper than a lot of elite flagships, especially following recent discounts.
Right now in the US, the phone is selling for $799 (down $100 from launch) for the 8GB/128GB variant and $899 (also down $100) for the 12GB/256GB model. Meanwhile, in the UK, the 12GB version has dropped to as little as £749 in sales. It’s also aggressively priced in India, starting at just Rs. 49,999.
Read more: How the price of OnePlus phones changed over the years
OnePlus’ stranglehold on the affordable flagship market has loosened in the latter end of 2020, with the OnePlus 8T’s $749 price tag putting it below the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the Pixel 5 in the value stakes. However, as far as true flagships go, the OnePlus 8 Pro with all its feature bells and whistles, powerhouse specs, and premium design heavily undercuts other popular full-fat rivals like the premium Galaxy S20 series and the iPhone 12 Pro, as well as more niche picks like the Sony Xperia 1 II, Motorola Edge Plus, and the OPPO Find X2 Pro.
The not so good
The OnePlus 8 Pro represents the peak of OnePlus’ smartphone imaging. That might sound like faint praise considering photography has always been OnePlus’ Achilles Heel, but the core point-and-shoot camera experience is genuinely pretty great on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
The 48MP Sony IMX689 main sensor — shared with the OPPO Find X2 Pro — is easily comparable with other leading camera phones, with true-to-life colors and white balance, and great dynamic range. The processing has a tendency to wash out faces in low light, but it’s improved a little in this regard since launch.
The 119-degree field-of-view ultra-wide angle camera is also fantastic. It’s up there with the best on the market, especially when you factor in the amazing macro mode that takes advantage of the ultra-wide camera for detailed close-up shots (see the figurine in the first three examples).
However, to be a top camera phone in 2020 you need to offer the full package, and the OnePlus 8 Pro falls a little short.
Things start to go downhill with the OnePlus 8 Pro’s zoom capabilities. The phone has a dedicated telephoto camera that’s actually a 12MP sensor which crops down to 8MP to achieve “lossless” zoom rather than a true optical zoom. Already that drops the level of detail it can capture, but the quirks don’t stop there.
If you manually adjust the zoom for anywhere between 1.1x to 2.9x the phone instead crops the main sensor and ignores the telephoto camera entirely leaving images looking aggressively soft. This main-telephoto switcheroo also occurs in low light conditions… sometimes. It’s very inconsistent.
Throw in the mediocre Night Sight mode and plus the bizarre, gimmick-tastic color filter and you’ve got a camera suite that’s good, but just a few stops short of greatness.
It’s probably a surprise to see software in the negatives column for a OnePlus phone. After all, OnePlus offers great support for its phone through updates and community feedback. Plus, Oxygen OS is and always has been a fan favorite Android skin. Or maybe that should be was.
Recently, OnePlus updated its custom skin to Oxygen OS 11, bringing with it some feature tweaks including — after years of asking — always-on display support. However, it also introduced an entirely new UI design language that jettisoned the traditionally stock-like aesthetic of Oxygen OS for something far more stylized.
Read more: The evolution of OnePlus software — From Cyanogen to Oxygen, and beyond
The new look debuted with the OnePlus 8T but has since made its way to the OnePlus 8 Pro via an OTA rollout in October. Or at least it was meant to — I had to push the update to my unlocked unit using the Oxygen Updater app after a month of waiting.
Putting the myriad bugs that come with any version zero aside (and there are a few), this refreshed Oxygen OS feels like a half-step towards a more commercialized software UX that keeps the other foot in the past. The result is a skin that lacks identity and one that’s extremely easy to compare to Samsung’s One UI, especially the core menus in OnePlus apps and the Settings with their huge headers and masses of empty space. I also really don’t like OnePlus’ new Sans font, but your mileage may vary.
Oxygen OS is still one of the better skins out there and I’ve no doubt it’ll evolve into something great. Right now though, it’s in an awkward transitional phase.
Okay, so the OnePlus 8 Pro’s design is by no means terrible. Generic, though? A little bit.
It’s a premium glass sandwich that looks and feels like a flagship phone. The more unique colorways — Glacial Green and Ultramarine Blue — have a nice soft-touch shine that keeps fingerprints away. It’s also got OnePlus’ signature alert slider and it even has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance — a first for OnePlus.
The OnePlus 8 Pro looks a little bit generic, but the worst part of the design is the curved display.
With all that said, there are some niggling issues with the overall design. That soft-touch glass may keep finger smears at bay, but it also makes the phone incredibly slippery. You need a case. No question. That case will also help even out the chunky rear camera bump which causes the phone to rock on a table with even a light tap.
Then there’s the waterfall-style display. Ever a divisive topic, the curves on the OnePlus 8 Pro are quite extreme if you’re coming from a flat phone. Streaming video and playing games on this otherwise stellar display should be a joy, but any details or UI elements at the edges of the screen are warped by the aggressive curvature.
Sadly, the curved design also results in a lot of ghost touches when scrolling, navigating menus, using the camera, and more. OnePlus really needs to sort out its palm rejection tech.
OnePlus 8 Pro review revisited: The verdict
It’s testament to the OnePlus 8 Pro’s overall quality that the three negatives above are instances of the phone lacking a little polish. That’s because six months after launch, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a prime example of iteration done right. If the OnePlus 7 Pro was the company’s noble first attempt at a true premium flagship, the OnePlus 8 Pro is the impressive refinement of that initial blueprint.
Six months later: Do you think the OnePlus 8 Pro is still a good buy?
While it might be tempting to save a little more cash and opt for the OnePlus 8T, the OnePlus 8 Pro has the flagship extras and a far superior camera suite. There’s still room for improvement with the upcoming OnePlus 9 series, but until then, the OnePlus 8 Pro can easily trade blows with any 2020 flagship despite falling a little below the dreaded $1,000 mark.