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Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff
Color Filter Camera
If you want a premium Android 10 experience, OnePlus 8 Pro will not disappoint. It’s a big, beautiful phone that doesn't feel too big, rarely disappoints, and can, in some small ways, outshine even the Samsungs and iPhones of the world.
I’m smitten. OnePlus’ latest premium-level Android smartphone, the 6.78-inch OnePlus 8 Pro, is sleek, stylish, powerful, and fun to use. It keeps what was good about the 7 Pro, fills in critical gaps, and smartly leaves the gimmicks behind.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is not a wholesale redesign of the 7 Pro I reviewed last year. It has the same attractive sloping curved Gorilla Glass 5 edges and metal spine. The exquisite-feeling brushed glass back is almost unchanged, as well. (Every manufacturer that uses glass bodies should consider at least offering a brushed option.)
There’s still a power / sleep / Google Assistant button (you can more easily use your voice: “Hey Google”) and ring silencer slider on one side and the volume rocker on the other. There’s a microphone at the bottom of a tiny and attractively-carved channel along the top edge. On the bottom edge is the USB-C data / charge port, a speaker, another microphone hole, and the dual nano SIM card slot. There’s no micro SD slot for upgrading storage, which is a shame (the phone maxes out at 256 GB for $999).
There is, however, one significant structural change that I applaud: There’s no more pop-up 16 MP selfie camera. Look, it was a really cool piece of engineering and I was impressed with how the device could detect a fall and retract the little square that popped up out of the top of the phone before the device hit the ground. But it was a hack, and all done so OnePlus could say they had an unblemished edge-to-edge fluid AMOLED display.
Now that gorgeous display (slightly larger than the 7 Pro) has a tiny drill hole in the upper left corner to accommodate the 16 MP F 2.45 front-facing camera. OnePlus told me that removing that pop-up hardware left more room for components and made the device thinner and lighter. So, while the 7 Pro was 206 grams, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a svelte 199 grams. That makes it lighter than the 6.5-inch iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is 226 grams. Interestingly, Apple's flagship is, at 8.1 mm, still thinner than the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Normally I’d wait to talk about charging and protection from the elements, but it always bothered me that OnePlus’s so-called premium devices still lacked wireless charging and dust and water protection.
The OnePlus 8 Pro rights that wrong with wireless charging and IP68 water and dust rating. OnePlus even built a consumer Qi wireless charging base ($69.95) that, thankfully, holds the phone upright so you can have it on your nightstand and tap the screen when you want to see the time. I would, though, prefer that the device had an always-on black and white screen option (like on the Google Pixel 4) so I could just roll over and check out the time. The base can charge the OnePlus 8 Pro to 50% in 30 minutes and the included Warp Charge 30 brick can charge the phone to 50% in 23 minutes. I drained the phone until it was dead and charged it to 49% in 23 minutes. Good enough for me.
As for the water resistance, the IP68 rating means it can be dropped in 1.5M of water for 30 minutes with no ill effects. I ran water 8 Pro under water, and it was fine. Wireless charging, by the way, comes in especially handy when you can’t plug the phone into a charger until you’re 100% certain the USB-C port is dry.
As I noted earlier, this is a slightly larger device than the 7 Pro, with more vertical pixels in its 3168 x 1440 pixels resolution and a 19.8:19 aspect ratio. Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max’s screen is, by contrast, a 2688 x 1242, 19.5:9 screen.
Numbers aside, this is a beautiful vibrant screen. Like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series, which has a 3,200 by 1,440 screen, the OnePlus 8 pro now has a 120 hz refresh rate. On a phone-sized screen, even one as large as this, it can be hard to see the difference between the smooth motion of this display and, say, the 60hz refresh of the iPhone 11 Pro, that is, until you run a frame rate test on TestUFO.
In side-by-side comparisons, I could see the consistently smooth scroll as compared to the iPhone’s ever-so-slight stutter. In real-world tests, the OnePlus 8 Pro scrolls through a Twitter stream like the feed’s on ball bearings. On the iPhone, the screen always screeches to a halt. This could be by design, but I do think the 120Hz refresh rate plays a role.
Naturally, movies and games look fantastic on the screen. A higher refresh rate eats more battery life, but OnePlus told me that the system automatically drops to 60Hz when nothing is moving on screen.
As with the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 8 Pro includes a very effective under-the-screen fingerprint reader. Registering my thumb was easy and unlocking with the registered finger is flawless. Samsung could learn a thing or two from OnePlus on this front.
Now that the pop-up cameras been replaced with an in-screen one, we get facial recognition. It took seconds to register may face—I didn’t even have to move it—and unlocking with my mug worked every time.
At a glance, it doesn’t look like OnePlus did much to advance the cameras from the 7 Pro, but the camera module has grown considerably. The reshaped LED flash has moved next to the lens array, and above it is a fourth small lens.. More importantly, these are all new lenses backed by a new 1.4-inch image sensor.
First there’s the 48 MP, f1.7 main camera. The ultra-wide camera is also 48 MP and now has a 120-degree field of view (it was 117-degrees). It still includes the optional software-based curve correction to straighten objects that usually curve at the outer edges of your ultra-wide frame. Both lenses can shoot in 12 MP mode (4 pixels in 1) for better low-light and color performance or full-frame 48 MP for more croppable detail.
There’s still the 8MP 3X optical zoom, which is that smaller lens sitting next to the triple-lens array, which now offers 30X hybrid zoom. I’m generally not a fan of these artificial zoom technologies that combine software and optical information to create what might best be called a zoom simulation. 3X lossless optical, though, is quite good.
The bottom lens in that array is a dedicated 5MP color filter camera (on the OnePlus 8, that spot is reserved for a dedicated macro lens, there is no zoom). It’s like having an old-school set of glass filters for your SLR camera lenses to create visually pleasing effects. There’s Matte, Vivid, B&W, and Photochrom. That’s it. OnePlus drilled a hole in the body and added a 5MP camera for these four filter effects. I don’t get it and have to assume that OnePlus is planning a software update that will make much better and more exciting use of the Color Filter camera. For now, I’m not impressed.
The Color Filter Camera aside, I think the remaining lenses do an excellent job across a wide array of photography styles. Color and clarity on the main and ultra-wide camera are very good. Portrait mode on the front and rear cameras is generally solid, though you cannot adjust the bokeh effect either during or after you take the photo. In addition, when faced with a challenging background, the main camera made a mess of my bald head. OnePlus can probably fix that in software.
NightScape photography is much, much better than it was on 7 Pro. It still lags behind Night mode on the Samsung Galaxy S20, but now there’s a lot more clarity and detail in the photos. Even when I zoomed in, the OnePlus 8 Pro NightScape photos no longer looked like impressionist paintings.
My current favorite photography mode, though, is Super Macro. This is where you get ultra-close to your subject for insane detail. Unlike the OnePlus 8, there’s no dedicated macro lens on the OnePlus 8 Pro, but the main camera expertly manages the focus and exposure for some of the most arresting closeups I’ve ever taken with a smartphone camera. At full resolution, I can see some graininess, which I’d attribute to a higher ISO to capture more light and also pushing the sensor resolution to its pixel limit (the closer you get the more pixels you’ll see).
The OnePlus 8 Pro lets me shoot in 4K, up to 4K CINE 60 fps. This eats up a lot of storage (500 MB per 30 seconds) but did look gorgeous on my 4K TV. There are now three microphones on the phone (one is on the back of the phone right next to the lens array) to help focus audio in on zoomed shots.
You can shoot video with any of the three cameras (main, ultra-wide or zoom) unless you use Super Stable, which basically crops the video on the fly to keep a steadier image in the frame. I think it’s a good trade-off for smooth video when you need it.
Like most modern smartphones, the OnePlus 8 Pro features a very robust camera system, with tons of controls (including manual) and shooting options, far more, in fact, than I can cover in full here. There are a few other noteworthy highlights. It can, for instance, shoot slow motion up top 480 frames per second at 720p (you can edit the video in the built-in editor to choose where and for how long your slo-mo effect appears). For pet-lovers, the portrait mode facial recognition now works with pets (your author has no pets, just adult children). The phone can also shoot time-lapse videos at up to 4K 30 frames per second, with the nice extra of being able to pause your time lapse video and restart it for one continuous time lapse shoot.
Inside the OnePlus 8 Pro is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 CPU backed by 8 GB of LPDDR5 RAM, and 256 GB of storage (my phone had 12 GB and 256 GB). Geekbench numbers are mostly in line with 865 scores from the Samsung Galaxy S20, at least on the CPU side. The graphics scores lag a tiny bit behind those of the S20. Overall, the benchmarks, CPU, and graphics still lag behind those of Apple’s A13 CPU, especially in graphics performance.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is an excellent mobile gaming system. It has a Game Mode that prioritizes system performance for games and, if you dive into settings, you’ll see the systems “Fanatic mode,” which enhances do not disturb and adjusts processor and network performance for even more gaming fun.
My experience with the device across a variety of games and activities was fast, smooth performance. Games look spectacular on the 120hz display with zero stutters, smears or lag. Video looks great and is supported by a rich and loud stereo system with Dolby Atmos support.
This is a 5G phone, but Verizon doesn’t have any 5G support in my neighborhood. Since I tested this during the COVID-19 pandemic, I really couldn’t leave my area to find coverage. The LTE coverage, though, was solid and calls came through loud and clear (on both sides). The phone supports 2x2 MIMO, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/n/g/ac and the new Wi-Fi 6. Connectivity on my 5 GHz Wi-Fi network was always strong.
The removal of the pop-up camera allowed OnePlus to increase the battery size from 4000 on the 7 Pro to 4510 on the OnePlus 8 Pro. Left to its own devices, the phone sips energy and will easily get you through a day and a half or more. The Warp 30 charger can charge it quickly, as can the new wireless Qi charger, which bring sit back to 50% in about 30 minutes. Your mileage may vary, especially when you start using the phone on a power-hungry 5G network.
Unlike the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20, you won't find Animojis or Memojis in the OnePlus Messages app, but OnePlus devices do support Google's ARCore for a convincing augmented reality experience. I installed and used Monster Park AR to place Jurassic-age dinosaurs in my office. While not entirely lifelike (that's really the app's issue), the creatures and landscape did integrate quite seamlessly with my office decor.
No longer an upstart, OnePlus is now one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in the world. As such, it’s not selling budget phones. This as a premier product at a premier price. The model I tested costs $999. If you’re willing to forgo wireless charging, IP68 rating, swap 120hz screen refresh for 90 Hz, and want a smaller device, you might want to look at the OnePlus 8, which starts at $699 for 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
If you want a premium Android 10 experience, OnePlus 8 Pro will not disappoint, It’s a big, beautiful phone that doesn't feel too big, and, with a few exceptions (dopey color filter camera, inconsistent portrait mode performance), rarely disappoints. It can even, in some small ways, outshine even the Samsungs and iPhones of the world.
Check out my video review here!