OnePlus 8T Review: Predictably Great

OnePlus has, for the last few years, released a mid-cycle refresh to the phones they released earlier in the year. These T series phones offer a bit of an upgrade to the non-T phone but isn’t a full and amazing upgrade. This year, with the OnePlus 8T, things feel a bit different.

OnePlus 8T
+ FOR
  • Flat, 120Hz OLED goodness
  • Snapdragon 865 still screams
  • Multi-day battery life
  • 65W charging is insane
- AGAINST
  • Wasteful ancillary Cameras
  • OxygenOS 11 might not be your style
  • Value proposition not there anymore
  • Samsung and Apple competition

Buy on Amazon UK – £549

Disclaimer

OnePlus PR provided this OnePlus 8T unit to us for the purposes of review. No money has changed hands between either entity, and OnePlus is not seeing this review before it publishes.  By the time this review goes live the phone will be back with OnePlus PR. It was used for 10 days on the Three UK network in the southeast of the UK.

OnePlus 8T review

Specifications

  • 6.55” SuperAMOLED Screen
    • 2400×1080
    • 120Hz
    • 240Hz touch sampling
    • 1100 nits peak brightness
    • HDR10+
    • 0.3 JNCD
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
    • 1x Kryo 585 Gold (Cortex A77) Prime core @ 2.84Ghz
    • 3x Kryo 585 Gold (Cortex A77) cores @ 2.42Ghz
    • 4x Kryo 585 Si9lver (Cortex A55) Cores @ 1.8Ghz
    • Adreno 650 GPU @ 600Mhz
    • TSMC N7P (7nm)
  • 8GB/12GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 internal storage
  • 4500mAh Battery
    • 65w Warp Charge
      • 0-100% in 39 minutes
  • Rear Cameras
    • 48MP Main
      • F1.7
      • 26mm
      • 1 /2.0” sensor size
    • 16MP Ultrawide
      • F2.2
      • 14mm (123-degree field of view)
      • 1 /3.6” sensor size
    • 5MP Macro
      • F2.4
    • 2MP Monochrome sensor
  • Selfie camera
    • 16MP
    • F2.4
    • Fixed Focus
    • Sony IMX471
  • Android 11 w/ OxygenOS 11
  • Aquamarine Green, Lunar Silver

Hardware

This is my first OnePlus phone in almost 5 years with the OnePlus X, and I’m happy to say that they’ve only gone up in terms of build quality since then. The OnePlus 8T is not a small phone even compared to the other beasts we’ve been getting lately like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The 8T is the same height and 4mm narrower than the 12 Pro Max, thankfully it is much lighter. Whereas the 12 Pro Max tips the scales at 228g the 8T is just 188g. I have the Lunar Silver variant here, which is the model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but otherwise, the only difference is the colour, and I really wish I would have gotten the Aquamarine version, not for the specs, but I think it is a cooler colour than the Silver.

OnePlus 8T review

Doing a hardware tour, upfront of the phone is this absolutely gorgeous 6.55” AMOLED Display. It’s 6.55” diagonally, and it’s “only” 2400x1080p but don’t let that both you. The 120Hz refresh rate is silky smooth but even better than that, are the colour accuracy and the stellar lamination job they’ve done with this panel, it’s iPhone level, seriously. In the top left of the screen is the hole punch cut-out for the front-facing selfie camera, and thankfully, at least on my unit the camera is centred in the hole.in the very slim top bezel is the earpiece speaker grille which is very well hidden.

OnePlus 8T review

On the left-hand side of the phone, we have the volume rocker, and on the right-hand side we have the Power button and the famous OnePlus alert slider, this is something I wish was available on every phone, it should just be everywhere. On the top of the phone is a secondary microphone used in voice calls and video recording for noise cancellation, lastly, we look at the bottom of the phone with the USB-C port in the middle, which supports 5gbps USB 3.2 Gen1 speeds as well as that insane 65w Warp charge. Next to it is the main microphone, and on the left of that is the NanoSIM tray, and on the right is the main loudspeaker, which when used with the amplified earpiece can be used as stereo.

OnePlus 8T review

The rear panel is where we see the biggest divergence from OnePlus, the camera array is no longer in the centre and is instead off to the left-hand side in a raised camera bump with 4 modules, looks very Huawei and Oppo ish, that’s not to say it doesn’t look nice, but I personally think the previous design was better. When we asked OnePlus why they moved it all around like this they said it was due to them redesigning the mainboard with all the new sensors for 65w charging and also the monster vapour chamber they put in here to keep it all cool, it’s 285% larger than the vapour chamber in the OnePlus 8, and I’m not going to go Full JerryRigEverything to go find it, so I’ll just have to take OnePlus at their word.

OnePlus 8T review

With Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back with a very nice aluminium frame, the OnePlus 8T does feel absolutely lovely in the hand, even though the aluminium is slightly slippery I don’t mind all that much, however, the glass on the rear of the 8T is an absolute smudge magnet, the matte glass is nasty to look at with all those finger oils on it, and being matte it is harder to clean, it’s very strange. However, OnePlus provide a clear TPU case in the box which is nice, but they also sent me the Cyan Sandstone and Cyan Cyborg cases to check out. Whilst the Cyborg looks cooler, I couldn’t hold on to it for love nor money, the Cyan Sandstone, on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind keeping it on if I were using this full time.

OnePlus 8T review

Software

This is a contentious section here, whilst I need to applaud OnePlus for Launching the 8T with Android 11, the big change here is with OxygenOS which has changed from a mostly hands-off Android + a few little tweaks to a much more visually cohesive but different UI, and not everyone has reacted well to it.

OnePlus 8T review

I actually don’t mind it, it is still less visually bloated than RealmeUI/ColorOS and Huawei’s EMUI, and especially less so than MIUI, but the visual similarity to Samsung’s OneUI cannot go unnoticed from the settings the to notification shade to the camera app the inspiration is clear. Once again, I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s different, and we all know how well people react to change

OnePlus 8T review

There is a lot of good new stuff with OxygenOS 11 on the OnePlus 8T though, such as the battery limiter, which will not charge the phone to 100%, instead of stopping it at about 90% until you’re about to wake up then it’ll charge the other 10% this is to preserve the life of the battery, something that is needed considering that even though the 65w charging is optimised to be as efficient as possible, shoving 10v at 6.5a into a pair of cells isn’t healthy to a battery, and if you don’t need to rapid charge, having the phone slow it is charging down seems like a smart move.

OnePlus 8T review

Next is the new Always-On Display features. There are 13 Always-on display modes on offer here, the standard one shows the day and time in large character up top with a smaller date, battery percentage and icons for notifications, this is the one I used for most of my review but one of the cooler ones is called Insight.

Insight is a vertical line down the centre of the screen starting at the top at the beginning of the day and the bottom at the end, the time gradually goes further down the line, what is interesting though is that every time you unlock the phone a horizontal line appears in that vertical one causing a little break, and there is a counter up top telling you how many times you’ve unlocked your phone that day, this is a visual insight (get it) into how you use your phone and how much time you spend on it. My favourite AOD mode is the simple text clock, which is mostly the same as the default one, except it, spells out the time, I think it is visually more appealing, so instead of 3:17, the AOD will show “It’s Three Seventeen”, pretty clean if you ask me.

Another cool thing about OxygenOS is the ability to change lots of little things, you don’t like the fingerprint unlock animation? Change it, don’t like the fact the fingerprint icon is there? Turn it off, don’t like the accent colour of the OS? Change it, this has been in OxygenOS for a while and although they’ve updated the user-facing experience, they haven’t stripped out any of the core OxygenOS stuff. Also for those that care (it should be all of you), the OnePlus 8T supports both Treble and Seamless updates. Treble was Google’s project to break up parts of the android experience from the Core OS so you can update one without the other. Seamless updates are when the phone has 2 boot partitions, basically, you can use the phone, and if there is an update, you download it and install it on that second partition use the phone as normal, and then when you reboot, you’re switched over to the new one, no more waiting 5-10 minutes waiting for an update to install and maybe you miss a call, nope a simple reboot.

Cameras

There are 4 cameras on the rear of the OnePlus 8T, but I’d argue 50% of them are practically useless. The main 48MP camera and 16MP Ultrawide are pretty great, but the 5MP Macro and 2MP Monochrome sensor have much less utility.

OnePlus 8T review

I’m going to talk about the boring two first because this is where It gets annoying. OnePlus was originally about getting the best phone for the lowest cost and not settling for less, but here we have 2 cameras that do not increase the usability of the phone, they take up space, they cost money and that rise is being pawned off to you in higher prices. These cameras are here because OnePlus wants Quad-camera branding. After all, in many countries, more cameras make phones sell better, even if they’re useless. So anyway, here are a few terrible macro photos and some okay but kind of pointless monochrome ones.

With that out of my system, the main camera, a 48MP Sony IMX586 might be 2 years old at this point, but it isn’t past it. With 2 years of firmware updates and tweaks from being in flagships, the IMX586 can produce some cracking shots, and because it is 2 years old, is a bit cheaper to boot. It’s a native 48MP sensor but uses hardware Bayer filters to output an optimised 12MP image, you can shoot in 48MP mode if you want, but there isn’t really much point to it, Pixel binning, or combining multiple pixels to create one larger pixel has taken the phone world by storm and for good reason, it works really well. Making camera sensors with larger individual pixels is quite hard, harder than releasing a sensor with smaller pixels, so what you do is you make the second but you organise them in a way that 4 or more can be grouped to make one bigger pixel with the benefits that afford you.

OnePlus 8T review

 

Colour reproduction is quite good as is natural bokeh with the F1.7 aperture, however that small sensor size (not pixel size) means that the natural bokeh is quite limited, you won’t get the crazy blurred backgrounds that the Note 20 Ultra can do that’s for sure. Focus speeds are quite good as well, no doubt helped by the Snapdragon 865’s ISP (image signal processor). The fact that this is a 2-year-old image sensor and is still able to produce these results is pretty great, and I’m glad OnePlus went with this over the newer but not as optimized IMX682.

OnePlus 8T review

The Ultrawide, as usual, is a bit weak, but thankfully this is not as weak as some of the other devices I’ve been testing lately. The 16MP snapper is a bit less detailed than the main and the colour reproduction is a bit off, but not as big of a delta as we’ve seen from companies using Samsung sensors for the main and a Sony sensor for the wide or zoom, but the viewport inside the viewfinder when switching between the two is a very noticeable jump sadly, I can’t think of a company other than Apple that has been able to pair all three sensors view windows to be the same.

OnePlus has a few new features this time around, Nightscape is back, hooray! But it is also now available whilst you’re recording video as you can see below. I think for a first try, this is pretty damn good. Visibility in that scene IRL was pretty poor, nothing like what you see in the video, and some might not like that, many don’t like night mode photos on phones that brighten the image so much you can see details you didn’t before, but I think for video when you’re trying to show some stuff, this type of low light mode is really quite beneficial.

Talking about videos, the OnePlus 8T supports 4K60, 4K30, 1080p30, and 1080p60, but also they have “cine” modes, which crop in a bit on the sensor to make a 21:9 recording, this is really cool and something I know Sony does, but I’m not sure I’ve seen it anywhere else. Actually recording video though is a bit of a mixed bag as you can see in the shots below.

Now there are 2 other video modes I want to show you, one is super steady video, which, as the name implies is a mode to keep the video very stable, to show how much of a crop it is and how hard it is on the system, this is only available in 1080p30 and looks like this, Sadly it’s not all that great, maybe I was just moving around a bit too much for it to cancel out, maybe I’m just a bit too shaky, I’m not sure, but this seems to me like a feature that could spend a few more months in development.

Lastly is Video portrait mode which, if you like the fake bokeh of portrait mode photos and wanted to see that in the video, now is your chance I guess, this one is also pretty computationally heavy and is limited to 1080p30.

So what about selfies? Well actually these were better than I expected and I was able to use the 8T for Instagram stories with the “handsfree” mode without the video and audio desynchronization which sadly is something that I’ve gotten used to on other phones but on the 8T it worked with no issues. Video recording on the front is limited to 1080p30 and I could not find a way to change it to 720p or anything else, the front is 1080p30 and that’s it, sadly the field of view is quite narrow, I couldn’t get an answer from OnePlus just yet on how narrow exactly, but I’d say in the low 80s

OnePlus 8T Review

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the camera on the 8T but is that enough? I’m not so sure. Siz months ago it’d be fine, but with the iPhone 12 mini coming at the same price with a likely better camera, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE with a better camera. I’m not sure this is enough anymore.

Performance

Something OnePlus doesn’t need to worry about though is performance. OxygenOS has always been relatively lightweight and pairing that with the top of the line chips from Qualcomm, fast storage, and plentiful amounts of RAM, OnePlus devices have rarely suffered from “bit-rot” like most phones and the same can be said here. Although the 8T is using the Snapdragon 865 and not the marginally faster Snapdragon 865+, OnePlus can’t claim to be using the top tier chip anymore, but it doesn’t matter.

With 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM, the 8T is as fluid as its screen name suggests, no stutter or apps falling out of the RAM, nice. This is paired with UFS 3.1 storage in dual lane config, you don’t need to know what that is other than it is the fastest type of storage you can get without going into a full SSD and controller, so good on OnePlus. As always, I will provide benchmark results, but they don’t show the full picture.

Battery and Charging

Being one of the headline features for the 8T, the charging is going to be spoken about first. The 65W Warp Charge is insane, absolutely insane. I’ve been using a variant of it on the Realme X50 Pro 5G for about 7 months now, and it still blows my mind that 0-100% in under 40 minutes is possible. But that’s not really the point of it, this allows you to use your phone differently. Instead of charging it overnight, you just charge when you need to, this is a fundamentally different way of using your phone and takes a little while to get used to for sure but I don’t think it is a bad way.

OnePlus 8T review

So onto the technical bits. The Charger itself, the 65W power brick, is a chunky beast with a single USB-C port on it.  When plugged into a OnePlus 8T with the supplied cable it will deliver 65w of power (I was also able to get 65w working on a standard USB-C to USB-C cable that was certified for USB-PD). When not plugged into a OnePlus phone the WarpCharge 65 brick outputs 45w of USB-PD power and it also now supports PPS mode (Programmable Power Supply) which means instead set voltage modes (5v,9v,12v,20v) it can now seamlessly switch between 5v and 20v.

OnePlus 8T review

So that’s the charger end, what goes into the phone end to enable 65w? Well first off about 12 temperature sensors at a varying point in the phone, secondly is that massive vapour chamber and lastly, but most importantly, there isn’t one battery in this phone, there are actually 2 battery cells that equal 4500mAh, so instead of shoving 65w into one 4500mAh battery, we are shoving 32.5w into two 2250mAh batteries, that’s a lot more manageable and a lot less stressful on the batteries, but to you, the user, this is just seamless as if it was one battery.

So the charging is out of the way, how is the battery life? In a single word, Excellent. In these current semi-lockdown times, I’m able to get nearly 3 days of light use from the 8T before I hit 15%. The only time I killed it in a single day was when I used it to take a 7-hour time-lapse, but due to WarpCharge 65, it wasn’t an issue.

As I mentioned in the software section, OnePlus also has a mode that allows you to optimize your charging. If you do only charge at night, if you plug it in at 9 pm, by 11 pm even on a slow charger, the phone will be charged, so what this mode does is stop the phone at around 90% and will keep it at that artificial limit, until you’re about to wake up, then it’ll charge to the full battery instead of just keeping it there all night, damaging the battery.

Miscellaneous

The Miscellaneous sections of my review are for things that need speaking about but I didn’t really have enough to say to make an entire section for them. On the 8T those are the optical fingerprint scanner and the radio performance. Starting with the optical fingerprint scanner, I’ve gone on record and said that I love these. Since the Huawei P30 Pro generation of scanners these have gotten better and faster and more resilient to false negatives, and whilst they’re not quite as fast as a capacitive scanner on the rear or side, I’m okay with the fractionally slower unlock time when I get these cool animations. In my 10 days with the 8T I had but 2 failures to unlock, one was when I had a slice on my thumb, the other was when my thumb was wet. Whether you like front or rear scanners depends on how you use the phone and how you let it idle, if it goes back into your pocket, you’re more likely to prefer the rear scanner as it can be unlocked by the time you’re looking at it, but if you leave it on the desk or in a stand, having to rear around to unlock it is less ideal than just tapping the screen to unlock it.

OnePlus 8T review

Next is network performance. The OnePlus 8T is a 5G phone, it uses the Qualcomm X55 5G modem in tandem with the SD865, however where I live, no carrier has rolled out 5G, and I’m not driving to Brighton to get 5G for a test, sorry. But on LTE-A, which is plentiful where I live, with Carrier aggregation, I was getting some pretty great speeds on the 8T, maybe not quite as good on the mobile data as my Huawei P30 Pro (my carrier has a lot of Huawei network equipment) on WiFi it is pretty good, I don’t have a WiFi 6 capable router yet but even on WiFi 5 the 8T was holding on to signal in parts of my house that are usually dead zones, I was very impressed.

The only thing I was disappointed with was Bluetooth, which I’m hoping is just a bug, but the Bluetooth just randomly turns itself off. I’m always wearing my smartwatch which is Bluetooth linked to the phone, my phone is either on my desk or in my pocket, so a 30cm radius, yet maybe twice an hour I’ll get a notification on my watch telling me to enable Bluetooth on my phone. At first, I thought this might be an issue with my watch, but the UK’s Test and Trace app that has Bluetooth beacons also started sending me messages to enable Bluetooth for more accurate tracking. Very weird, hopefully, this is a software bug.

Conclusion

So, what do I think of the OnePlus 8T? I think it’s great. It’s got a gorgeous 120Hz OLED screen that looks like it is a printed magazine, it is got amazing touch response, it absolutely flies when using it, it lasts for days and charges up 50% in the time it takes me to make a coffee in the morning, the problem is that OnePlus is not alone in this field anymore. There is the Samsung Galaxy S20 F.E, the current iPhone 11 and in a few weeks iPhone 12, and even competition from BBK’s other phone brand Realme with the X50 Pro 5G.

OnePlus 8T review

I’m going to be very sad to see the OnePlus 8T go back to OnePlus as it is a great phone, but it is yet to be seen if OnePlus can win when Samsung and Apple come down to play in its price bracket.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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