The OnePlus 8 is the iPhone 11 of the Android world: maximum power and almost everything you want for a lower price tag
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- The $700 OnePlus 8 is the $700 iPhone 11 of the Android world — it's missing a few features, but comes with the same power as the top models.
- To bring its price tag down to $700 when most high end phones cost around $1,000, the
OnePlus 8technically concedes on screen resolution and smoothness, memory (RAM) standards, wireless charging, and camera quality.
- Except for the lack of wireless charging, I never perceived or felt any of these concessions during normal use and testing.
OnePlus8 is the best option for Android users who want the most power that 2020 specs have to offer, but don't want to spend around $1,000.
The OnePlus 8 caters the same needs as the iPhone 11 — a smartphone that might be missing a couple features, but it does everything well, comes with the latest and most powerful chip, and costs a little less than the top flagship models.
As a concept, that's great for us smartphone users. It means we can get a nearly-flagship smartphone with all the important parts for hundreds less than the top flagships.
With that in mind, special attention needs to be placed on what these nearly-flagships get right and what they get wrong.
Here's what you get with the Android version of the iPhone 11:
OnePlus 8 specs
- Display: 6.55-inch 1080p (2,400 x 1,080) 90Hz AMOLED
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
- Memory & storage: 8GB LPDDR4x RAM & 128GB UFS 3.0 storage; 12GB LPDDR4x RAM & 256GB UFS 3.0 storage
- Rear cameras: 48-megapixel wide, 16-megapixel ultra-wide, 2-megapixel macro lens
- Selfie camera: 16-megapixel
- Battery: 4,300mAh
Design and display
Even though the standard (non-pro) OnePlus 8 is positioned as the less expensive alternative to the OnePlus 8 Pro, there's no perceivable difference in quality and finish between the two. That's to say that the OnePlus 8 looks and feels every bit as premium as the
The screen, however, is where some might perceive some compromises. It "only" has a 1080p resolution, and its refresh rate "only" goes up to 90Hz when the OnePlus 8 Pro has a technically sharper 1440p screen and a smoother 120Hz refresh rate. Turns out it doesn't matter — I barely noticed any difference at all between the two screens during actual day-to-day usage. The OnePlus 8's 1080p AMOLED screen looks every bit as sharp, even with its larger 6.55-inch display. And, 90Hz is still very smooth and nothing to complain about.
Performance and battery life
The OnePlus 8 runs as well as the OnePlus 8 Pro and the
One spec where the OnePlus 8 differs from other top Android phones is its LPDDR4x RAM versus the faster and more power-efficient LPDDR5 standard in more expensive phones. Again, despite technically lesser RAM, the OnePlus 8 wasn't any slower in running apps and the Android operating system.
Want numerical proof? The OnePlus 8 scored a 907 in single-core performance and 3,254 multi-core score in a standard Geekbench 5 benchmark. The OnePlus 8 Pro scored a 894 for a single-core score, and 3,322 for a multi-core score.
The OnePlus 8 is a large phone, so it comes with a large battery, and it has great battery life. That's to be expected, especially when good battery life is the norm across the board in high-end Android flagships at the moment. That's to say other top Android phones in 2020 will give you similar battery life, too.
To charge its large 4,300mAh battery, the OnePlus 8 comes with the incredibly fast Warp Charge 30T charger. At 30W, it makes quick work of charging the phone, taking just about an hour from 15% to 100%, which is quicker than the included chargers on other phones.
Unfortunately, the OnePlus 8 doesn't support wireless charging, like the more expensive OnePlus 8 Pro and every other high-end smartphone.
Here's another hidden spec that's buried in a OnePlus 8 tech sheet. The OnePlus 8 has technically "lesser" array of Sony camera sensors that the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Specifically, the OnePlus 8 has a Sony IMX586 camera sensor, and the OnePlus 8 Pro has a higher-end Sony IMX689. The differences between the two are unclear, but the OnePlus 8 still takes great photos that the grand majority of us will be happy with, regardless.
The OnePlus 8 has the same the same camera drawbacks as the OnePlus 8 Pro. Some photos have an overly-processed look, where the phone tries too hard to make the photo look good by over-saturating colors and boosting contrast and brightness.
If you want the best cameras, Google's Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11 are still the top players.
Here's a photo from the standard wide lens:
Here's a photo with the ultra-wide lens:
And here's a photo taken with the macro lens:
I've got to say, it's odd that the OnePlus 8 has a macro-lens designed to take up-close photos of subjects rather than a telephoto zoomed lens. Macro lenses aren't better or worse to have— just different. It can act like a zoomed lens, but at only 2 megapixels. It's a baffling feature.
Other things the OnePlus 8 gets right
Like the OnePlus 8 Pro, the standard OnePlus 8 gets the fingerprint sensor and facial recognition completely right. They're fast, accurate, and makes unlocking the phone significantly faster than it is on the Galaxy S20 phones, which have comparatively poor fingerprint sensors.
It's also a 5G phone that isn't outrageously expensive. Indeed, 5G technology has driven smartphone prices sky high in 2020, and the OnePlus 8 defies that trend. With that said, there's a pretty big drawback with the OnePlus 8's 5G connectivity, which we'll get to below.
There are some clear drawbacks with the OnePlus 8 — it has technically lesser RAM, technically lesser camera sensors, an odd 2-megapixel macro camera, and no wireless charging. But none of these drawbacks made me feel like the OnePlus 8 was inferior compared to the the OnePlus 8 Pro or Galaxy S20 Plus, especially not for its lower price.
The real drawback with the OnePlus 8 is its marquis feature: 5G. It's a frankly awful and confusing patchwork that will only alienate smartphone users away from 5G: Only Verizon users who buy the OnePlus 8 from Verizon will have access to a full-scale 5G network on Verizon. The OnePlus 8 doesn't support T-Mobile's full 5G network, only the slower ones. And, the OnePlus 8 doesn't support AT&T's 5G network at all.
More to the point, unless you live in your carrier's super fast mmWave 5G coverage area, you're unlikely to run into mmWave 5G networks very often. 5G coverage is set to expand over time, but how much time is uncertain — it could be later in 2020, could be 2021, could be later than that, before 5G becomes widely available. That's why buying a top Android phone in 2020, when 5G and its high cost is basically being forced upon you despite its lacking coverage.
Basically, 5G should play no part in your decision when buying a smartphone, whether it's the OnePlus 8 or otherwise.
The bottom line
If you're deciding between the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro, you should ask yourself whether you want wireless charging or not. That's the main feature you're really going to notice by spending $200 extra on the Pro, not the technically sharper or smoother screen, the newer RAM, or the technically better cameras. Also consider that the OnePlus wireless charger is a $70 separate accessory.
- Should you buy it? If you're looking for the most affordable Android smartphone that runs on the latest Snapdragon 865 mobile chip, the OnePlus 8 should be at the top of your short list. The OnePlus 8 is the cheapest smartphone you can buy (in the US, at least) that runs on the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 mobile chip.
- What are your alternatives? The next cheapest phone that runs the high-end Snapdragon 865 costs $900, and it's the OnePlus 8 Pro. Beyond that, you're going into Samsung Galaxy S20 territory, where the Galaxy S20 Plus with a similarly sized screen costs $,1200. Otherwise, you could save yourself some money by going for the $500 OnePlus 7T. It's a 2019 smartphone, but then again, so is Google's Pixel 4 and Apple's iPhone 11 — two of the top phones you can buy right now. The OnePlus 7T is still a fantastic smartphone that I'd seriously consider before buying any 5G phone in 2020.
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