The OnePlus 8T is a return to form for OnePlus. Find out why in our OnePlus 8T review.

I own and daily drive a OnePlus 6T. Before that, I owned a OnePlus 3. So it’s safe to say that I am fond of OnePlus devices in general. In fact, my OnePlus 6T just turned 2 years old about a week ago, which means I’d be able to justify an upgrade if I wanted to, and the OnePlus 8T would probably be high on my list by default. This makes this review far more interesting for me personally.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to review the OnePlus 8, 8 Pro, or Nord this year. Yet, I feel like I didn’t miss out on much.

The OnePlus 8 Pro, while very impressive — especially in the camera department — cost way too much for me to consider.

The Nord, while an interesting “budget” proposition, had a large dual-camera cutout on the display which I didn’t like, and also had questionable choices made regarding its camera array. Plus the fact that for S$649, I’d be paying as much for the Nord as I did for the OnePlus 3 back in the day, when the latter was clearly the better phone for its time.

The OnePlus 8 I felt was also overpriced at S$998 for 8/128GB at launch.

In comes the OnePlus 8T. At S$899 for 8/128GB, it costs roughly S$100 less than the OnePlus 8 did, got rid of the curved display, bumped the refresh rate up to 120Hz (from 90Hz), increased the battery capacity (4500 vs 4300 mAh), and added super-fast 65W warp charging (vs 30W).

Now that’s a far more compelling proposition. So let’s see how it stacks up.

OnePlus 8T Specifications

  • 160.7 x 74.1 x 8.4 mm, 188g
  • 6.55″ 1080 x 2400 120Hz HDR10+ display, 20:9 ratio (~402 ppi density), Gorilla Glass 5
  • Qualcomm SM8250 Snapdragon 865, Adreno 650
  • 8 / 128 GB (Lunar Silver, S$899), 12 / 256 GB (Aquamarine Green, S$1,099)
  • Quad camera array
    • 48 MP, f/1.7, 26mm (wide), 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
    • 16 MP, f/2.2, 14mm, 123˚ (ultrawide), 1/3.6″, 1.0µm
    • 5 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
    • 2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)
  • Selfie camera
    • 16 MP, f/2.4, (wide), 1/3.06″, 1.0µm
  • 4500mAh, 65W warp charging
  • Misc: NFC, Bluetooth 5.1, USB-C, stereo speakers, under-display optical fingerprint scanner

Design & build

OnePlus has stuck with the same glass sandwich design it’s been using since 2018’s OnePlus 6. That isn’t necessarily laziness on OnePlus’ part; the industry as a whole seems to have settled on this build for better or worse. The usual strengths and pitfalls applies: it’s got a premium feel and weight, but is hella slippery and at risk of shattering when dropped.

The one thing that OnePlus changes generation to generation is the shape and position of the camera array. This time it’s a large, left-justified rectangle, like on every other smartphone this year. Big difference, I know. The camera bump is large enough that the phone will wobble when used on a table unless you’ve got a case on.

Otherwise, the build is excellent. The buttons and alert slider are nice and tactile. The phone fits comfortably in the hand. The haptics are subtle and vastly improved from my OnePlus 6T, though I am aware that haptics have been good since the 7 Pro.

There is also some level of water resistance, though there isn’t an official IP rating.

OnePlus 8T vs 6T
OnePlus 6T (left) and OnePlus 8T (right)

Colour options are unfortunately rather limited. The 8 / 128 GB variant is only available in Lunar Silver, while the 12 / 256 GB variant is only available in Aquamarine Green. The review unit that I have is the latter.

I think it’s a brilliant colour. Viewed straight on, it appears green/teal, while viewed from an angle it transitions to cyan/light blue. The colour also hides fingerprints extremely well. It’s a bummer that the colours are tied to the storage configuration, as I can imagine people who’d want the more muted Silver with beefier storage and vice versa.

The speakers are a stereo pair, but the earpiece is quieter than the bottom-firing speaker. This felt rather strange to me at first but I soon grew used to it. I do wish that both speakers were equally loud though.

All in all, excellent design and build quality apart from the large left-justified camera bump.

Display

The main upgrade to the display from the OnePlus 8 is the bump in refresh rate from 90Hz to 120Hz. As I mentioned in my Galaxy S20 FE review, 120Hz is a huge bump up from 60Hz, so much so that 60Hz phones feel painfully laggy in comparison. If you’re upgrading from a 60Hz phone, be warned, it’s really hard to go back. If you’re coming from a 90Hz phone, the change is far less noticeable.

Apart from the refresh rate, everything else about the display is excellent. It can be calibrated to either DP3 or sRGB colour spaces with high colour accuracy. It’s HDR10+ certified so supported content on services like Netflix will look great. The 1080p resolution is plenty sharp in my opinion. And it gets really bright outdoors, though not as dim as I would like in the dark.

There are two minor issues that I noticed with the display in my time with it.

Firstly, despite having the display set to 120Hz, I noticed that the browser which I use, Kiwi, runs at what appears to be a choppy 60Hz. That’s strange because the Galaxy S20 FE which I used prior to this had Kiwi running on 120Hz just fine. (Conversely, the S20 FE didn’t run Pokemon GO at 120Hz most of the time while the OnePlus 8T did.) I’m not too sure what determines the frame rates in apps, but from what I’ve seen it appears to be quite arbitrary. Fortunately, Kiwi was the only app where I noticed the drop in frame rate. Everything else flies.

OnePlus 8T compare front
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (left), OnePlus 8T (middle), OnePlus 6T (right)

Secondly, the behaviour of the brightness slider and auto-brightness on this phone isn’t up to standard. The phone takes quite awhile to notice transitions in lighting conditions, and many times just doesn’t realise that you’ve stepped outdoors and require a brighter screen. That would still be fine if the manual brightness slider worked as expected, but it doesn’t. When moving the slider, it takes literally 2 seconds before the changes take effect. This can be extremely frustrating because you’ll move the slider, wait 2 seconds, realise that the brightness isn’t what you want it to be, move the slider again, wait another 2 seconds, and repeat the whole process until the brightness is finally where you want it to be. It’s ridiculous.

I’d say that OnePlus might address these issues — the brightness one in particular since it’s so unbelievably frustrating — but my OP8T review unit has had two updates since I took it out of the box, with no fixes yet.

Performance

The unit that I had was the 12 / 256 GB variant, and naturally, performance was excellent with the latest Snapdragon 865 chip and 12 GB of RAM. Particularly impressive to me was the number of apps and games that the 8T could hold in memory. Never once did I see the phone relaunch a recent app. Then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise given that 12 GB of RAM is more than what’s in my current desktop computer.

The 8 / 128 GB variant of the phone won’t be able to hold as many apps in memory, but otherwise performance would be the same. If I were getting the OP8T (the jury’s still out), I’d get the 8 / 128 GB one given its more compelling price of S$899 (vs S$1,099).

On to some synthetic benchmarks.

The newly released 3DMark Wild Life Stress Test benchmark is particularly interesting because it focuses testing how the phone would perform under long periods of continuous gaming load by looping the same test 20 times.

As can be seen from the chart, while the Galaxy S20 FE and OP8T have the same chipset, the latter has a much lower spread in its scores. This could be attributed to the software optimisations that OnePlus has employed, or better thermal management.

In any case, it is unlikely that you see a dip in performance in the OP8T even after long sessions of gaming. Kudos to OnePlus.

Cameras

I have written in countless reviews that I absolutely loathe useless cameras in modern smartphones. It is mind-boggling that Chinese companies think a “quad-camera array” is a great marketing point for a smartphone. Because why would anyone care that your phone has 4 cameras if half of them are literally useless? But perhaps I’m wrong and sales are in fact directly proportional to the number of cameras a phone has. They have to be given how every single “budget” phone comes with 4 cameras at a bare minimum.

I expected better from OnePlus. I expected proper, useful cameras — a wide, an ultrawide, and a telephoto — like on the OnePlus 7T. But alas, we’ve got a wide, ultrawide, macro, and depth camera.

Images from the main and ultrawide sensors are good in adequate light, with good sharpness, detail and colour reproduction. Dynamic range was also decent — and similar — between the two cameras. In the images of the palm trees below, the cameras are able to retain details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights in the clouds. Though granted, it was a rather cloudy day.

In a more challenging scenario under a sheltered bus bay, the sky appears to be completely blown out while the camera struggled to bring out details in the shadows.

Dynamic range isn’t perfect

The camera seems to recognise when scenes have low light and automatically switches to a long exposure when you hit the shutter button. The resulting images aren’t the best night photos I’ve seen but are decent with proper white balance, adequate detail and a good balance between sharpness and noise.

As expected, dynamic range suffered when switching to the ultrawide at night. The image is also noisier with less detail, though still perfectly usable.

Low light image from main camera
Low light image from ultrawide camera

The main issue that I had with shooting in low light is that the camera would straight up refuse to focus on closeup subjects. This is a serious issue that I hope OnePlus will fix in a future update.

The 5MP macro camera works… fine. In bright lighting you can get some interesting perspectives in your shots. But the moment the scene starts to get a little dim the images become a noisy mess. The 2MP depth camera is… there.

All in all, it’s a decent camera system. But I don’t see it as a huge improvement from my current OnePlus 6T, and you can certainly get much better cameras for around the same price, like in the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G.

Software & battery life

Software has always been a bright spot on OnePlus phones. Oxygen OS is clean with plenty of useful additions. With the OnePlus 8T, OnePlus is launching the revamped Oxygen OS 11 based on Android 11. This includes several new features like quick access to a dark mode toggle and an always on display.

The UX visual redesign to appear more Samsung-esque has been a controversial one, with many people preferring the stock-ish look of old. But I personally don’t mind the change.

In terms of software updates, the OnePlus 8T should get 2 years of Android updates and 3 years of security updates. OnePlus has been good in keeping with its software promises in the past, beginning with the OnePlus 3 (which got updated from Android 6 to Android 9!). Do expect the software updates to come in a less timely manner as the years go by as OnePlus prioritises its newer models. With the increasing roster of annual model launches, I’d expect software updates to slow. My OnePlus 6T has yet to receive Android 11 for instance.

Battery life is excellent. I am consistently getting 5-6 hours of screen on time with lots of web browsing and video and music streaming. Warp Charge 65 is equally as impressive. OnePlus actually has two separate batteries in the phone and fills them up simultaneously in order to achieve these ludicrous charging speeds. In my testing, 20 minutes was all it took to get the battery up to 71% from 13%. In a separate test, 15 minutes got the battery up to 63% from 23%, and a further 15 minutes got the battery up to 96%.

Perhaps the best part of this is that the 65W USB-C warp charger that you get in the box is also a 45W USB PD fast charger. That means you can use it to rapidly charge all of your devices, not just OnePlus devices!

Pricing & conclusion

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Super smooth and colour accurate 120Hz HDR10+ OLED display
  • Fantastic battery life, super fast 65W charging, with great USB PD fast charger included in the box
  • Top-notch performance with great memory management (for the 12GB RAM model)
  • Excellent software with good software support; guaranteed 2 years of Android updates and 3 years of security updates

Cons

  • Unnecessary cameras in quad-camera array, no true telephoto camera
  • Image quality can be better, low-light focusing is off
  • Earpiece is quieter than bottom firing speaker in stereo pair
  • Some software issues especially in brightness adjustment
  • No wireless charging or official IP rating

This is a tough one. Starting at S$899, the OnePlus 8T is a far more justifiable purchase than the OnePlus 8 which was more expensive at launch. The ultra smooth 120Hz display and crazy fast 65W charging are key selling points. But the camera is a notch below flagship standards, and there are still strange software quirks like in the brightness adjustment.

Compared to last year’s OnePlus 7T however, the 8T is a tougher sell. The 7T was cheaper at launch, had a proper wide-ultrawide-telephoto camera array, and had fast-for-the-time 30W charging and a 90Hz display.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G goes for a couple hundred dollars more but brings wireless (and reverse wireless) charging to the table, along with an official IP68 rating and better cameras. However, it’s got an inferior plastic build.

The newly launched Mi 10T (S$649) and Mi 10T Pro (S$749) are significantly cheaper than the OnePlus 8T and offer the same performance, but you get 144Hz LCD displays rather than 120Hz OLED, and get slower 33W charging. Oxygen OS alone may still convince some to stick to OnePlus over Xiaomi’s MIUI though.

Ultimately, does the OnePlus 8T adequately balance price and features? I think yes. If you don’t care much about having the best smartphone camera around, the OnePlus 8T should be high on your list of flagship considerations.

For me personally, I think I’m going to stick with my OnePlus 6T for now. The 120Hz display and super fast charging are nice upgrades, but aren’t must-haves. Maybe next year.


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