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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Device-maker takes on the 5G game with another cost-friendly phone that brings a whole bunch to the table
OnePlus is, personally, one of the most underrated smartphone brands (they do their business mostly online; could that be a factor?). And despite that notion, it continues to live up to its familiar mission in these crazy smartphone wars - to be one worthy of the tag 'flagship killer' (and which they started to do so with the OnePlus 2).
In any case, it's 2020 and here's their latest proposition to the seemingly growing number of users who are more than happy not to splurge a lot on a mobile device - the OnePlus 8. Onwards.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Look closely and there are, to the strictest sense, a lot of things that have carried over from the OnePlus 7. Those that changed, however, are good bump-ups.
But the biggest change - literally and figuratively - seem to fall on price. To be fair, there are a lot of phones that claim to be a flagship killer or mid-ranger yet fall into the mid-Dh2,000 range.
Yep, that's it. Don't look for a headset because none is included, so it's either you snap up one with a USB-C connector or that's wireless. That invitation letter, meanwhile, is actually encouraging you to be heard on the built-in Community app. And oh, there are some OnePlus stickers too.
The OnePlus 8 is a sturdily-built phone with a 6.55-inch screen, whose edges are given a sliding effect thanks to the curves on both sides. On the left is the volume rocker while on the right are the power key and OnePlus' signature 'alert slider', which toggles between (from top to down) silent, vibrate and ring. Right below are the USB-C port and SIM tray, and nary a sign of a 3.5mm audio port.
Its rear, meanwhile, will depend on what model you choose: Interstellar Glow and Onyx Black have glossy texture while Glacial Green - the one we have for this review - has a matte finish, which holds up pretty well in the fight against (very obvious) fingerprints and smudges. That matte finish, however, feels and looks more like silk - though it could be mistaken for plastic if you don't look at it carefully (or if you actually don't know). (There's a fourth one, Polar Silver, but is, as we write, still exclusive to Verizon in the US.)
Also here is a triple-lens camera system located at dead centre, which we'll get into later.
An in-screen fingerprint is available - at its most popular spot, about one-fifth of the way from below - plus facial recognition; these biometrics provide quick unlocking but the latter may take a while when the lights are out.
And among devices with similar screen sizes, it's light, clocking in at 180g. For comparison's sake, the Huawei P40 Pro is at 209g, the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is at 186g and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is at 226g.
Right inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chip, meaning this is a 5G-capable phone, so expect it to be future-proof once we have wider availability of the new standard. There are two RAM/storage options to choose from - 8GB/128GB and 12GB/256GB, which makes it a generous package at this price point. It also has a RAM Boost feature that optimises your apps - including predicting which to launch and data to load - allowing the device to run at faster speeds.
It runs on Android 10 in harmony with OnePlus' own OxygenOS (version 10.5.7 as we write). Generally speaking, device makers with their own OS add some layers of customisation to their phones, but if you're a regular, don't-care-about-specifics user, you may not even be able to notice these. (We will leave it up to you which ones you would define as bloatware.)
In any case, OxygenOS promises a more intuitive experience and, as OnePlus puts it, is 'optimised for speed', the latest version of which is configured especially for 5G. (Fun fact: In China, OnePlus' home market, it has a specific version called HydrogenOS.)
One feature included is the option on how to navigate through the device: You can either choose the traditional virtual home, back and recent apps buttons, or gestures - swipe from below to go to the home screen, swipe from left to go back and swipe from below then hold for recent apps - to go through it.
There's no app tray - which is apparently becoming a standard nowadays - so you can just swipe up from anywhere on the screen to reveal your apps. Swiping anywhere going down, meanwhile, reveals the control and notification panels.
Keeping in step with the rest, the OnePlus 8 has three cameras - wide, ultra-wide and macro. So this device will have to rely on the lead 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor to do the heavy lifting.
Yes, it's missing a telephoto lens, which may put the quality of zoomed-in photos in question.
You won't have any problems when the lighting conditions are smiling on you. But if you look closely at the top and left snaps, you'll notice that the background - the trees in particular - appear distorted. I thought it had something to do with being against the light, but the one on the left disproves that. The pic on the right, meanwhile, is just perfect, and also throws out my theory that being too close to a subject messes with the background.
In any case, it could be an issue with focusing and the lenses detecting the background, which could be fixed by a software update.
The OnePlus 8 can go anywhere from 0.6x to 10x zoom. The next set was taken using 2x, 1x and 0.6x, and the results were all great:
Wanna go further? Here's another set taken using 1x, 5x and 10x:
Understandable that things get mushy as zoom in further, but the device still gives out decent results. But what if the OnePlus 8 actually had a telephoto lens?
Meanwhile, our cute ol' sunflower 'bed' is still smiling here at our offices, and it may know that it's a favourite subject for bokeh shots:
The OnePlus 8 gives a decent result, and you can adjust things up by tapping on the screen.
And for the sake of direct comparison, we decided to go back to those spots you saw earlier for our nighttime shoot-out:
The one on top was shot with a flash, while the next two used normal and night mode, respectively. You can see that the last snap is brighter pound-for-pound.
The next set has normal mode on top and night mode below it:
Moral of this story: In dark places that have good-enough light, you'll generally have no problems. Seems that the camera struggles a bit in darker areas; notice those blurred leaves on the left? All four shots were taken with a bit of wind factored in.
Meanwhile, OnePlus this time made use of a punch-hole front camera that's now on the left (compared to its predecessor's teardrop). To summarise, it's great in good light, with a matter of using the flash or not at night:
And you can also expect grain in dark scenes.
On the power side, the OnePlus 8 has a 4300mAh battery. Though no specific times were pegged, we have an idea how long it'll last.
In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, it lost 11 per cent, which is practically almost double than the top flagships in the market - but still a very good result.
There's an included Warp Charge 30 power adapter in the box and, using it along with the bundled charging cable, it gives you a significant boost in not time. OnePlus says you can get a 50 per cent charge in just 22 minutes; in our test, the device went from zero to 38 per cent in 15 minutes, 66 per cent in half-an-hour, 92 per cent in 45 minutes and barely beat the one-hour mark by hitting full power in 59 minutes.
It's not the fastest in the market, but a sub-one-hour full charge is more than acceptable. For comparison, the Realme X2 Pro in our review hit 100 per cent in just 33 minutes. And both OnePlus and Realma are marketed by BBK Electronics.
You can also get easily through more than a day-and-a-half using the OnePlus 8, so that would mean plugging it in while at work for less than an hour.
However, one common flagship feature not present on this mobile is wireless charging. I don't really rely on this method in general so I can do without it but, of course, there would be times that that would be the only option available in certain situations, so I guess some sort of flagship killer ought to have it as well.
And one last thing - the IP rating. While there is no officially-listed figure for this, there are videos around showing people dunking their OnePlus 8 into water. Until there is an actual rating, we highly recommend that you keep it out of the wetlands. Still, I believe the device is capable enough to be at least splash-resistant.
Yep, it just keeps on punching. The OnePlus 8 still lives up to its monicker, bearing flagship specs at a significantly lower price compared to the space it's aiming for.
That said, the biggest thing that bugs me is the rather big price hike from its predecessor. Sure, there are some really great specs in it, but the lack of a telephoto lens and wireless charging are both question marks - even if you don't actually use and notice using them, respectively. They're good insurance when the need arises, so to speak.
Still, it's a powerful phone even if it's more expensive - you can't take that away from OnePlus.
GOODIES: Good battery life, well-built overall, practically lag-free
GOOFIES: Rather big price hike, lack of telephoto lens could be an issue when zooming, no wireless charging
EDITOR RATING: We're going to put the trend card in play here: As we said earlier, 'flagship killers' at this price range is normal nowadays. And we have to give OnePlus its due especially for the uninitiated. 4.5/5
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