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Andrew Hayward / Lifewire
Incredibly fast charging
Beautiful 120Hz screen
Basic 5G support
Hefty 256GB storage
No water resistance rating
Back glass smudges
No mmWave 5G
There’s so much to love about the OnePlus 8T, but to quote the company’s tagline, mobile photography enthusiasts should “Never Settle” for iffy flagship cameras like these.
OnePlus provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test, which he sent back after his thorough evaluation. Read on for his full take.
OnePlus was founded on the idea that it could deliver flagship-quality smartphones at decidedly lower prices, and its early phones were a sensation in Asia and Europe for doing just that. Over time and across rapid iterations, we have seen the company inch closer to full flagship status and away from the clear value end of the equation.
The OnePlus 8T is the clearest example of that, with a price tag of $749 in the United States—the highest price yet for a non-Pro phone from the company. It’s a perk-packed offering with some nice-to-have features that you don’t see in many other phones or at least those in the sub-$1,000 range, and it impresses with a dazzling screen, lots of power, and smooth software. But this flagship concoction is let down by inconsistent cameras, which you shouldn’t compromise on with a phone this pricey.
The OnePlus 8T certainly looks the part of a premium phone, with glass backing and a glossy aluminum frame that reminds me of Samsung’s own recent design philosophy. OnePlus opted for a frosted, matte finish on the back that’s similar to that of Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro models, but it’s not quite as effective in execution: my Lunar Silver review unit constantly picked up noticeable smudges even when my hands were clean. It’s not a good look. I’m curious if the alluring Aquamarine Green version shows smudges quite the same.
With a large 6.55-inch screen onboard, the OnePlus 8T is sizable, but doesn’t feel too large in my hands. At 6.33 inches tall and 2.92 inches wide, it is thankfully more manageable in the hand than Samsung’s enormous Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, for example. OnePlus opted to put its cameras into a rounded rectangle in the upper left, scrapping the center-mounted pill-like module we’ve seen in recent OnePlus models. Luckily, the company’s trademark Alert Slider—a physical switch that goes between sound-on, silent, and vibration modes—is still here on the right side. It’s handy, and most other Android phones have nothing like it.
I’ve used a lot of great phone screens lately, including on phones that cost a fair bit more than the OnePlus 8T, but this is one of the best around.”
Strangely, OnePlus has not obtained an IP rating for water resistance on the unlocked edition of the OnePlus 8T and makes no promises on its water and dust resistance capabilities. That’s very uncommon for phones in this price range. However, T-Mobile’s carrier-locked version of the OnePlus 8T does have an IP68 rating, so maybe it’s equipped the same and OnePlus didn’t want to pay for IP certification without a carrier subsidy. In any case, they’re not saying, and the lack of any sort of water resistance assurance on a $749 phone is unnerving.
OnePlus offers a generous 256GB of internal storage with the US edition of the OnePlus 8T, which should be more than enough for most users. However, there’s no option to boost up to a higher capacity, nor can you insert a microSD card later to add more. The phone also doesn’t have a headphone port, nor does it come with USB-C headphones in the box. At least you get the power brick here, unlike with Apple’s new iPhones.
I’ve used a lot of great phone screens lately, including on phones that cost a fair bit more than the OnePlus 8T, but this is one of the best around. It’s a large 6.55-inch OLED display that gets brighter than the Galaxy S20 FE 5G and delivers punchy contrast and excellent black levels. On top of being bright and vibrant, it also feels super responsive thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, which means the screen refreshes twice as often as the standard 60Hz rate seen on most screens. That makes this fast phone feel even smoother. Everything looks great on this beauty.
The OnePlus 8T is very easy to set up, much like other modern Android phones. Start by pressing in the power button on the right and then follow the step-by-step instructions on the screen. Along the way, you’ll do things like sign into or create a Google account, read and accept the terms and conditions, and decide whether to install from a backup or copy data from another device. It’s all very straightforward.
The OnePlus 8T feels plenty speedy throughout usage, particularly with the silky-smooth 120Hz screen refresh rate in effect.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor—the same chip seen in most of this year’s big Android flagships—provides plenty of power to work with, especially with a huge 12GB RAM alongside. It’s not the most powerful Android chip right now, as there is a Snapdragon 865+ revision with a smidge more power, plus Apple’s A14 Bionic is well ahead of everything Android in terms of benchmark scores. But the Snapdragon 865 is still a very, very capable processor.
The OnePlus 8T feels plenty speedy throughout usage, particularly with the silky-smooth 120Hz screen refresh rate in effect. It handled all of my needs without slowdown, and the clean OxygenOS take on Android 11 is very responsive too. More on those points later.
Curiously, our usual PCMark benchmark test showed a lower-than-expected score of 10,476, a noticeable dip from the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, which has the same processor but half the RAM. But when I ran the Geekbench 5 benchmark test instead, the OnePlus 8T’s scores of 891 single-core and 3,133 multi-core were close enough to the S20 FE’s scores (881/3,247) to seem on-point. It’s not clear why the phone put up lower numbers on PCMark across multiple testing attempts, but with no other red flags and close Geekbench 5 numbers, I don’t think it’s an issue.
Game performance is also strong on the OnePlus 8T, with the Adreno 650 GPU putting up pretty good numbers: 46 frames per second on the graphically intensive Car Chase benchmark and 60fps on the simpler T-Rex benchmark. Both are in line with other top-tier Android phones. Meanwhile, high-performance games like Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact looked great and ran without issues on the OnePlus 8T.
The OnePlus 8T supports the more common flavor of 5G technology right now known as sub-6Ghz, which is gradually becoming more widely available. However, it does not support the much faster but extremely sparse mmWave 5G that phones like the Apple iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, and Google Pixel 5 all accommodate.
Still, even sub-6Ghz 5G can be significantly faster than 4G LTE. I tested the OnePlus 8T on both T-Mobile and Verizon’s 5G networks. On T-Mobile, I saw a maximum download speed of 323Mbps within Chicago, which is several times faster than I’ve ever seen on T-Mobile using LTE. I also used Verizon’s Nationwide 5G service outside of Chicago and saw speeds in the 90-110Mbps range, which is close to what I’ve seen with other 5G phones on Verizon in this testing area. No matter the network, 5G connectivity is new and inconsistently deployed for now, but at least the OnePlus 8T will benefit as coverage grows and strengthens in time.
I have no complaints here: between the bottom-firing speaker and earpiece atop the screen, you get balanced audio playback for music, podcasts, video, and more, as well as clear-sounding speakerphone usage. It gets pretty loud, too, although the sound gets a bit muddled at the top end of the range.
Camera quality has typically been one of the weaker points of the OnePlus value equation—a compromise made to keep the price low compared to other flagships. But with the OnePlus 8T landing in the same price range as top phones with excellent cameras, there’s no justification for cameras that struggle outside of excellent lighting conditions.
OnePlus has crammed in four cameras here on the back, but only two seem essential: the 48-megapixel main sensor and 12-megapixel ultra-wide sensor for landscape shots. There’s also a 5-megapixel macro lens and a 2-megapixel monochrome lens, but many other phones take great macro shots without a dedicated sensor, and I’m not sure why any phone needs a separate camera for black-and-white shots. The latter two seem like gimmick additions to make the module seem stacked when really a zooming telephoto lens would’ve been more handy.
In the daylight and in strong lighting conditions, the OnePlus 8T produces crisp, detailed images that don’t look significantly different from that of the iPhone 12 or Google Pixel 5, two of the current heavyweights in mobile photography. In lesser conditions, even when indoors with moderate lighting, the OnePlus 8T turns out much softer results with less detail than the iPhone 12, as seen in comparison shooting, and can struggle with autofocus. I also noticed harsh coloring with indoors photography at times, and the images lose subtlety.
If you don’t shoot much indoors or aren’t a stickler for detailed and nuanced indoor and low-light shots, then you might do just fine with the OnePlus 8T. But as someone who takes a lot of photos of my pets and child, and particularly with so much of our lives being indoor right now, the OnePlus 8T’s cameras aren’t up to the task. In the $700-800 price range, the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini, Pixel 5, and Galaxy S20 FE 5G all are much better. Even the $499 Google Pixel 4a 5G has more consistent cameras that deliver in nearly all conditions.
The OnePlus 8T packs a large, long-lasting battery, but even more impressive than the battery life itself is just how amazingly fast it charges thanks to the included Warp Charger.
The phone packs a pair of batteries that collectively provide 4,500mAh capacity, which is on the higher end for smartphones today and is the same capacity as the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G and Galaxy S20 FE 5G. That’s plenty for a heavy day of usage, including playing games, streaming media, and using lots of 5G connectivity. On an average day, without pushing too hard, I’d usually end a day with around 50 percent of the charge remaining—so it’s resilient.
If you do run out of juice and need a quick top-up, the OnePlus 8T charges faster than any other phone I’ve ever used thanks to the included 65W Warp Charger. That’s 2-3 times faster than most other phone fast-chargers, and the proof was in the results: the phone charged from 0 percent to full in just 35 minutes. And the first 40 percent charged in just 10 minutes, making it easy to get a long-lasting top-up before you rush out the door in the morning. The OnePlus 8T lacks wireless charging, but to be honest, why bother when wired charging is so incredibly efficient here? That’s a fair trade-off in my view.
The OnePlus 8T is one of the first phones on the market outside of Google’s own Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G to ship with Android 11, and on top of that, the company’s OxygenOS skin has long been one of the best ways to experience the mobile operating system.
That’s true again here: OxygenOS is such a clean-looking and smooth-running OS, amplified further by the gorgeous 120Hz screen here. OnePlus has changed up the look and feel of Oxygen a bit from previous versions, but not in any negative ways: the new font is crisp and readable, and the interface seems to push more things down the screen for easier one-handed usage. There’s even new ambient (always-on) display customization available, which is neat.
As someone who takes a lot of photos of my pets and child, and particularly with so much of our lives being indoor right now, the OnePlus 8T’s cameras aren’t up to the task.
I wouldn’t say that the OnePlus 8T is overpriced, because you get a powerful phone with a premium design, a great screen, and more RAM and storage than you usually see for a base model smartphone. But the flagship-level price tag does color the experience in a way that makes the weaker elements and omissions tougher to swallow.
The camera is the most obvious issue, as other phones in this price range deliver more consistent results, and the lack of an IP rating and stated water and dust resistance is also a head-scratcher. It feels like OnePlus prioritized some of the wrong elements in its equation, diminishing the value a bit.
While the OnePlus 8T has a more premium edge with a glass back compared to the Galaxy S20 FE 5G’s plastic rear, Samsung’s phone has a more appealing mix of quality features for price. Both phones have the same processor and level of 5G support, and both have great, large, 120Hz screens, although the OnePlus 8T gets brighter.
More pressingly, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G has great cameras, including a telephoto zoom sensor, and it has the IP68 dust and water resistance rating missing from the OnePlus 8T. It also packs the convenience of wireless charging, although as mentioned above, the 8T’s incredible wired Warp Charge speeds make it a reasonable omission. On top of all of that, the Galaxy S20 FE 5G sells for $50 less at list price and is already available at a discount. Even at full price, it’s the best large-screened phone around $700 right now, although the very powerful iPhone 12 should certainly be tempting for a little more cash at $799.
Comes up frustratingly short despite some great features.
The OnePlus 8T packs some big perks, including a beautiful 120Hz screen, incredibly fast charging, speedy performance, and some 5G network support. However, the cameras let down this flagship-priced handset, and the lack of water resistance certification on the unlocked models is also a strange omission for a $749 smartphone. There’s a lot to like here if you’re not a big mobile snapper, but there are better-rounded phones in this price range, including the Galaxy S20 FE 5G and the iPhone 12.
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