OnePlus 8 vs OnePlus 8 Pro review: which one’s right for you?

Two great phones, but only one winner

OnePlus 8 Pro review
Bottom Line

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a superb phone all around, if you can afford its premium flagship price tag.

Pros
Attractive design
Gorgeous display
Versatile quad camera
Blazing performance
Stock Android
Fast wireless charging
Cons
Premium flagship pricetag
No headphone jack
It's big
4.9

2019 was a good year for OnePlus. Hot on the heels of launching its first handset without a headphone jack (the OnePlus 6T) and cementing its first US carrier partnership (with T-Mobile), the company split its lineup in two. It went upmarket with the spectacular OnePlus 7 Pro ($669) and kept things affordable with the OnePlus 7 ($499), which didn’t officially come to the US. This was followed by the outstanding OnePlus 7T ($599) and fancier OnePlus 7T Pro ($699), which eventually made its way to T-Mobile as the 5G McLaren Edition ($899)

While these were all fantastic phones, OnePlus was slowly but surely blowing past the $500 affordable flagship mark and nearing $1000 premium flagship territory. And this brings us to today’s OnePlus 8 ($699) and OnePlus 8 Pro ($899), which each cost about $100-200 more than their 2019 predecessors. Sure, both models now feature standard 5G support, plus everything else we love about the company’s past handsets, but these prices are getting more difficult to swallow, especially in these difficult times.

So, what’s the deal with these shiny new phones? Are they worth the extra money? And more importantly, which one’s right for you? Let’s find out in my review.

Hardware and design

OnePlus 8 in Interstellar Glow

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro both look very similar to last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro and 7T Pro. It’s the same design language, the same attractive glass and aluminum sandwich with curved left and right edges. Both feel good in hand, but the OnePlus 8 Pro is a big phone (165.3 x 74.35 x 8.5mm) — about the same size as Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra. The OnePlus 8 scales things down to a slightly more manageable Galaxy S20+ format (160.2 x 72.9 x 8.0mm). Build quality is up to OnePlus’ usual high standards.

Beyond size, another major difference is color selection. Both unlocked handsets are available in a striking frosted shade called Glacial Green, plus a more traditional glossy finish named Onyx Black. My OnePlus 8 review unit came in this fabulously reflective grey-pink gradient called Interstellar Glow, which is a fingerprint magnet. As for my OnePlus 8 Pro review unit, it’s rocking this incredibly vibrant satin hue called Ultramarine Blue. Other than Onyx Black, these colors are definitely head turners — you’ve been warned!

Both phones have a vertical camera pod housing a trio of shooters (48/48/8MP and 48/16/2MP, respectively) that’s centered in the top section of the back glass. On the OnePlus 8 Pro, this pod sticks out more, and is flanked on the right by a fourth 5MP camera (more on this later), laser AF module, and multi-LED flash. The OnePlus 8’s LED flash is mounted below the pod, inline with the shooters. Neither handset offers a headphone jack, and while that’s still vexing, it’s pretty much par for the course at this point.

OnePlus 8 Pro in Ultramarine Blue

The layout along the edges of both phones is identical, with the dual-SIM tray, USB Type-C connector, speaker, and primary mic on the bottom, plus a secondary mic on top. On the right side, you’ll find OnePlus’ signature mute/vibrate/ring slider and the power/lock key, while the volume rocker lives on the left. Unlike last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro and 7T Pro, there’s no pop-up selfie camera here. Instead, both handsets place the 16MP shooter in a punch hole near the top left corner of the display.

Speaking of which, both phones feature gorgeous Fluid AMOLED screens (6.78in/1440p/120Hz and 6.55in/1080p/90Hz, respectively) with minimal bezels and curved “waterfall” edges. The earpiece is located in a tiny slit above each display. Under the hood, the batteries are rated at 4510 and 4300mAh, respectively, which is a significant increase over previous OnePlus models. Both handsets support 30W wired charging, but the OnePlus 8 Pro also includes Qi-compatible, 30W wireless charging — finally!

While the OnePlus 8 Pro is IP68 rated, the OnePlus 8 is not. Both phones do have a gasket around the edge of the SIM tray which implies similar levels of water resistance.

Winner: Tie — get the OnePlus 8 Pro for the wireless charging; get the OnePlus 8 for the Interstellar Glow hotness.

Display

OnePlus 8 vs OnePlus 8 Pro review: which one’s right for you? 3

Both handsets boast high-refresh rate Fluid AMOLED displays with curved sides. I’m not a huge fan of this “waterfall” design — which is more pronounced on the OnePlus 8 Pro — but I’ll allow it. As you’d expect, these are beautiful 20:9 aspect ratio edge-to-edge screens, interrupted only by that punch hole selfie camera in the top left corner. There’s a minor chin along the bottom edge, but bezels are otherwise small, if slightly more obvious on the OnePlus 8. Colors are rich but accurate and viewing angles are excellent, with only minor off-axis color shift.

As I previously mentioned, there are size, resolution, and refresh rate differences between these two displays. The OnePlus 8 Pro packs a 6.78-inch, Quad HD+ (3168 x 1440 pixels, 513ppi, HDR 10+), 120Hz panel while the OnePlus 8 comes with a 6.55-inch, FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels, 402ppi, HDR 10+), 90Hz screen. Both displays are bright and clear, but the OnePlus 8 Pro handles direct sunlight better, and lets you enable Quad HD+ and 120Hz -at the same time — unlike Samsung’s Galaxy S20 models.

Besides the great software (read on), those high-refresh rate screens go a long way in making these phones so utterly smooth and responsive. Once you experience 90Hz (and beyond), there’s no going back.

Winner: Tie — while the OnePlus 8 Pro screen technically wins on specs, both handsets have lovely displays.

Camera

OnePlus 8 photo samples

There’s a lot to cover here, so hang tight. While both phones have similar triple camera pods, there are significant differences between them. The OnePlus 8 basically inherits the OnePlus 7T’s 48MP 0.8-micron f/1.75 main and 16MP f/2.2 1-micron 117-degree ultrawide shooters, but swaps the 2x telephoto for a dedicated 2MP 1.75-micron f/2.4 macro camera. On paper this is fine — Sony’s IMX 586 48MP main sensor is perfectly capable of 2x-3x digital zoom without messing up image quality — thanks to OIS and computational photography.

First, I’m not convinced that removing the telephoto was a smart decision. LG follows the same recipe on its V60 ThinQ 5G’s 64MP main shooter, and Samsung cheats on its Galaxy S20 and S20+ by cropping a 64MP sensor behind a meager 1.1x “telephoto” lens — both with mixed results. Second, while the OnePlus 7T takes advantage of the ultrawide camera’s AF lens and higher resolution sensor for its Super Macro mode, the OnePlus 8 uses a separate, low resolution macro shooter instead, which unfortunately lacks autofocus.

Yes, you read this right — the OnePlus 8’s dedicated macro setup is worse than the OnePlus 7T’s ultrawide camera-based Super Macro mode. It appears to exist primarily to fill the hole left behind by the missing telephoto shooter, and that’s a real bummer. Remember that the OnePlus 7T’s camera performance, while competitive, didn’t really stand out — and that was six months ago, with a separate telephoto shooter and decent Super Macro mode in tow. As such, switching to a separate macro just doesn’t make sense.

OnePlus 8 Pro photo samples

Which brings me to the OnePlus 8 Pro’s triple camera pod, which is augmented by a fourth 5MP f/2.4 color filter lens on the side. As far as I can tell, this sensor lacks an IR filter, which makes for some interesting, surreal pictures. It would have been a fun substitute for the OnePlus 8’s missing telephoto, instead of that half-baked macro implementation. The remaining OnePlus 8 Pro cameras include a 48MP 1.12-micron f/1.75 main shooter with OIS, a 48MP 0.8-micron 120-degree ultrawide with AF, and an 8MP 1-micron f/2.4 3x telephoto with OIS.

Most importantly, the OnePlus 8 Pro main camera features Sony’s new, larger (1/1.43in) IMX 689 48MP sensor, which is also found on Oppo’s Find X2 Pro. It typically outputs 12MP images with an effective pixel size of 2.24 microns by combining (ie. “binning”) 4 pixels into one for better low-light performance, and it pays off. The OnePlus 8 Pro’s improved ultrawide shooter (with Super Macro mode) is built around Sony’s popular IMX 586 48MP sensor, which is also used on the OnePlus 8’s main camera and last year’s entire OnePlus 7-series.

As for the telephoto, it appears to carry over from the OnePlus 7 Pro and 7T Pro — a 13MP sensor with a 2.2x OIS lens cropped to 8MP to achieve that 3x “hybrid” zoom. I’d have liked a 12MP shooter with proper 3x optics for higher quality stills, but I’m not really complaining. On the selfie front, both handsets have the exact same 16MP f/2.45 1-micron camera (without AF), which only handles video recording up to 1080p 30fps stabilized. This shooter is OK, I guess, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what the Pixel or iPhone have to offer, especially for portraits.

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OnePlus 8 Pro Color Filter photo sample

Obviously, both phones can also take full-resolution 48MP photos and support video recording up to 4k 60fps stabilized (no 8k here). But this comes with a whole bunch of fine print, though. Super Stable mode and time lapse are limited to 30fps (1080p or 4k). Also, Super Stable mode and slow motion are only possible using the main camera. HDR video capture is specific to the OnePlus 8 Pro, but only up to 4k 30fps, and only with the main shooter. For slow motion you have two options: 720p 480fps or 1080p 240fps. Are you confused yet?

As for the resulting pictures, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main camera really shines, especially in low light, and the ultrawide shooter is a slightly better than last year’s. Telephoto shots are a bit soft, but look nice up to about 10x, and the “color filter” lens, while gimmicky, is pretty cool. Photos taken with the OnePlus 8’s main camera are good, and remain clear up to about 5x zoom, which is impressive. The ultrawide shooter is decent, but the macro is difficult to use without AF, lacks detail, and exhibits white balance issues.

Overall, I think the OnePlus 8 Pro rear camera system is competitive and flagship worthy, but the OnePlus 8 shooters don’t offer much more than the six-month-old OnePlus 7T, and in some areas (specs, macro) even a bit less. That being said — and selfies aside — most folks will be happy shooting photos and videos with both handsets.

Winner: OnePlus 8 Pro — solid cameras in back, plus a unique “color filter” fourth lens. The OnePlus 8 shooters, while OK, are technically worse than last year’s OnePlus 7T.

Reception and sound quality

OnePlus 8 pro speed tests
OnePlus 8 Pro speed tests

I used the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro (both unlocked) in Portland (OR) on AT&T’s 4G LTE network and on T-Mobile’s low-band 5G network (600MHz, n71). I didn’t experience any problem — calls were loud and clear, and data speeds were on par with other 4G and 5G phones on these networks. Portland does have low-band 5G (850MHz, n5) on AT&T in some areas, but my SIM is only provisioned for LTE. Also, since I’m staying at home during the Coronavirus pandemic, I didn’t have a chance to test these phones in as many places as usual.

Both handsets have stereo speakers (earpiece and bottom edge drivers) which sound surprisingly nice. Alas, there’s no headphone jack here — and no 3.5mm adapter in the box — but these phones support both analog and digital USB Type-C audio devices. I tested the built-in DAC and amp with an analog dongle and sound quality was pretty decent, but volume-challenged with large headphones. Dolby Atmos is available for both speakers and headphones, and there’s aptX HD support for high-quality Bluetooth audio.

Winner: Tie — 5G support and excellent sound.

Performance and battery life

OnePlus handsets are always incredibly quick, and these new phones are no exception. They both feature Qualcomm’s latest flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 865, mated to the company’s X55 5G modem. My review units pack 12GB RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage, but there are also 8GB/128GB versions available. Regardless of which model, there’s no memory card support. On a related note, the OnePlus 8 Pro is potentially even faster than the OnePlus 8 thanks to LPDDR5 RAM (vs. LPDDR4X), but that’s just splitting hairs.

Here what really matters. The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro won’t keep you waiting, no matter what you throw at them. Want to run two dozen apps at the same time? No problem! And while these new handsets don’t really feel quicker day-to-day than last year’s OnePlus 7T (the fastest phone I used in 2019), they deliver the smoothest and most delightful Android user experience possible today. OnePlus is known for balancing speedy hardware with optimized software in a way that’s unrivaled by other companies, and it shows.

Battery life’s been solid so far. I was able to use both handsets for two days on a single charge multiple times (turning them off at night). This included setting them up, taking most of the pictures in this review, listening to music, running speed tests, and checking emails and social media. Note that I hardly spent any time watching videos or gaming, and both phones were connected to 4G LTE on AT&T most of that time — not 5G. Still, I have little doubt that most people will be able to use these handsets for an entire busy day without needing to charge.

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro batteries have marginally different capacities (4300 vs. 4510 mAh), and both phones feature 30W wired fast charging (Warp Charge 30T). But what’s really exciting is that the OnePlus 8 Pro now also supports Qi-compatible 30W wireless fast charging (Warp Charge 30 Wireless), including reverse wireless charging — yay! Of course, OnePlus now sells a Qi-compatible charging dock, which you’ll need for 30W wireless fast charging. It’s got a fan, which is pretty quiet, but the cord isn’t removable from the base, which is weird.

Both handsets boast great haptics thanks to high quality linear vibration motors. Their optical in-display fingerprint sensors are reasonably quick, although I’ve noticed that all this additional hand washing is drying out my fingers, making fingerprint sensors less reliable on every device I use. Both phones support 4G LTE (CAT 18, 4×4 MIMO) on T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and their respective MVNOs, plus mid- and low-band 5G on T-Mobile (and possibly AT&T — testing needed). The OnePlus 8 (non Pro) is also coming to Verizon with mmWave 5G (UWB) support.

When it comes to other specs, these handsets are twinsies. There’s also WiFI 6 (802.11ax, 2×2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.1 (with LE), NFC, A-GPS/ GLONASS / Beidou / Galileo positioning, and the usual complement of sensors.

Winner: Tie — these are probably the fastest Android handsets money can buy.

Software

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro run Oxygen OS 10.5, the company’s latest take on Android 10. It’s almost stock, super fast, and generally just wonderful. Yes, I’m gushing. But what I’m most excited about is that this silly OnePlus launcher feature called Shelf is finally gone, replaced instead with Google’s Discover page, as god intended. Hurray! All the other customizations remain — like Reading Mode — but there are new system icons, dynamic wallpapers, and Dark Theme 2.0, which is compatible with even more apps

I can’t speak to how much crud (pre-installed carrier and partner apps) you’ll find on T-Mobile and Verizon’s versions of these handsets (likely a ton) but my unlocked review units are pretty clean out the box — save the usual OnePlus apps, Google apps, and strangely Netflix. Also, why can’t Google Duo, Netflix, and YouTube Music be uninstalled? That’s annoying. My only complaint is that there’s still no always-on screen. Ambient display, as OnePlus calls it, still requires you to lift up the phone or tap the screen to see the time and notifications.

Note that the OnePlus 8 Pro gets a couple additional display settings — comfort tone, which adjusts the screen’s color temperature based on ambient lighting, and motion graphics smoothing, which upscales the frame rate when playing back video.

Winner: Tie — great software all around.

Price and competition

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Both handsets will be available unlocked on April 29 from OnePlus and Amazon. The OnePlus 8 costs $699 (8GB / 128GB) and $799 (12GB / 256GB) and comes in Glacial Green and Interstellar Glow, while the OnePlus 8 Pro costs $899 (8GB / 128GB) and $999 (12GB / 256GB) and comes in Glacial Green, Onyx Black, and Ultramarine Blue. The OnePlus 8 (8GB / 128GB) is also landing on T-Mobile (price TBD) and Verizon ($799 or $33 per month) on April 29 in Onyx Black, Interstellar Glow (T-Mobile only), and Polar Silver (a Verizon exclusive).

There isn’t much competition here in the US. Samsung’s Galaxy S20 5G and S20+ 5G are now $200 less — $800 and $1000 respectively — and while they both feature 12GB of RAM and wireless charging, they have smaller displays. Another option is LG’s V60 ThinQ 5G, which starts at $800 and offers a larger (albeit 60Hz only) screen, wireless charging, and a headphone jack. If you can live without 5G, though, I think last year’s OnePlus 7T (currently $499) is more balanced than the OnePlus 8 overall, and a better deal.

If you live outside the US, also consider Oppo’s Find X2, Xiaomi’s Mi 10 5G and Mi 10 Pro 5G, and Redmi’s K30 Pro and K30 Pro Zoom. You won’t be getting OnePlus’ amazingly polished user experience, but you’ll be getting nice hardware with decent software.

Winner: OnePlus 8 — it’s the 5G value champ of the flagship world. Yes, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a better phone but you’re spending $200 more for an updated camera and larger display.

Myriam’s bottom line

Here’s how I see it. There’s absolutely no doubt that the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are excellent handsets, but they’ve now moved past the realm of affordable flagships and into premium flagship territory, and that’s a bit unfortunate given the current economy. Still, with its improved shooters, 30W fast wireless charging, and 5G radio, the OnePlus 8 Pro is almost perfect — and absolutely worth the $899 price tag. Other than a weak selfie game and lack of always-on display, it’s a phenomenal phone all around. Buy it if you can.

I’m not nearly as enamored with the OnePlus 8. The only thing it brings to the table over last year’s outstanding OnePlus 7T — besides Qualcomm’s latest chip — is 5G and larger battery to match. And do you really need 5G? Does anyone really need 5G? Not today, and probably not anytime soon. And once you consider the downgraded camera specs and the $699 entry price, it no longer makes sense when the OnePlus 7T sells for $499. There are rumors of a OnePlus 8 Lite (or OnePlus Z) with 5G, and frankly I’m more excited about that.

Winner: OnePlus 8 Pro — it’s a superb phone all around, if you can afford its premium flagship pricetag. Otherwise, buy last year’s OnePlus 7T.

Helena’s bottom line

While I do echo Myriam in most of her thoughts and opinions, for me, the winner is actually the OnePlus 8. There is no question that the OnePlus 8 Pro is an absolutely stellar smartphone, but its price tag deviates too much from what has made the OnePlus brand so successful. And while I am also disappointed by the OnePlus 8’s so-so camera — I certainly think OnePlus could have done better at its $699/$799 price point — it’s still a spectacular phone that most users will absolutely love. In many ways, this is akin to the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. The Pro is better spec’d, but the iPhone 11 is the better value for most consumers. Likewise, I believe that the OnePlus 8 is the phone that most folks should choose over the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Winner: The OnePlus 8 might not have all the bells and whistles of the OnePlus 8, but it’s lower pricepoint makes it the better value of the two. Ultimately, it’s a spectacular smartphone that the vast majority of users will love.
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