Taken at face value, the OnePlus 8T is an impressive new Android handset that offers a fast, smooth and gimmick-free smartphone experience.
Boasting a fluid display, crazy-fast charging and glass materials that give it a premium feel there’s an obvious appeal to the device. It’s the latest release from a brand that has more than proven its products as worthy competitors to similarly priced smartphones from technology giants such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Google.
The 8T, which became available to buy in the U.S. market today (October 23), is priced at a fairly competitive $749 and comes with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. The model has two color options, known as Aquamarine Green and Lunar Silver.
On paper, it seems like an extremely easy sell: a snappy 5G-enabled Snapdragon 865 processor, Android 11, 120 Hz refresh rate, quad camera setup, 4500mAh battery and warp charging that powers the phone from dead to full in about 40 minutes.
In reality, the 8T release is a little more complicated as it’s not only competing with rivals like the Pixel 5 ($699) and iPhone 12 ($799), but also its own siblings, sandwiched between the cheaper OnePlus 8 ($599) and the top tier OnePlus 8 Pro ($799).
If you discount the competition and look at the OnePlus 8T in a vacuum, however, you are unlikely to be disappointed. It lacks a feature as quirky as the Pixel’s motion sense gesture control (but who uses that, really?), and its camera system may not beat some of its peers, but new 8T phone offers a sublime user experience overall.
Across multiple days of testing (review device provided to Newsweek by OnePlus), the 8T impressed as a daily driver after switching over from a Google Pixel 4 XL. If you are only interested in the top-line specifications, here are some standout 8T features:
The 8T screen is big and bright, but not so wide it can only be operated with two hands. The 6.55-inch diagonal display is nice and vivid, with small bezels and a whopping 120Hz refresh rate, which is the number of times the display refreshes every one second.
Broadly, the higher the refresh rate the smoother the viewing experience—and while it is easy to dismiss as marketing mumbo jumbo the screen was indeed very smooth when browsing social media and gaming. High refresh rates have become a bit of a OnePlus USP in recent years, and it certainly helps the 8T to stand out from the crowd.
For comparison, the Pixel 5 offers 90Hz and the iPhone 12 has 60 Hz. Could I personally tell the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz? No, but I’m still glad it exists.
Aesthetically, the 8T is a good-looking handset. I liked the Aquamarine Green color the company sent out for review, and it was nice to have a flat-edged display instead of the curved screens that have become so common on premium devices of late.
The Gorilla Glass back did not appear to retain fingerprints and the rear camera module, while popping out a little, wasn’t too obtrusive. Same goes for the pinhole selfie camera at the front, which I personally liked as it gave more room for the display.
The screen provides nice haptic feedback upon pressing, and a neat button on the right side of the device lets you quickly toggle between silent, vibrate or sounds. The finger scanning security tech—under the display—also worked without a hitch.
Aside from the screen tech, the second biggest selling point is how fast that 4500mAh 8T battery can be charged using its USB Type-C 65W charging pack. In well under an hour, the phone can go from nothing to full. It’s hard to go back to anything else. The battery easily lasted a full day during testing, although wouldn’t last two.
Inside the 8T sits a Snapdragon 856 chip, which allows you 5G connectivity if you are in an area that provides it. For now, it’s not a huge consumer selling point, as we are still a good bit away from the next generation technology rolling out properly. The 8T doesn’t use the latest 856 Plus processor, but was more than capable during testing and never stuttered in use. Performance overall was snappy, fast and responsive.
The customized version of Android 11 running the 8T, Oxygen OS, was also pleasingly clean. Apps open extremely quickly, as do tabs on the browser, and it has some neat features built in, including a dark mode and always-on display. There are a lot of settings to play with, too, including ambient display, adaptive brightness and some simple quick gestures, including a way to take screenshots with a three-finger swipe.
Android’s permissions manager is also still great, letting you see which apps are given access to your location, microphone, files, contacts, camera and logs etc. All in, the Oxygen OS is bloatware-free and gimmick free, with a calm and refined vibe.
Even coming from the Pixel’s camera, I ultimately found little to complain about with the 8Ts quad array of lenses. It’s not amazing, but it’s good enough. The 48 megapixel main camera did well in good light and having the 16MP ultrawide is always welcome.
The 8T has a “nightscape” mode that can take pictures in low-light scenarios alongside time-lapse, panorama and slow motion capabilities. Unfortunately it lacks a telephoto lens as found in the 8 Pro, instead offering a 10x zoom that frankly is pretty bad, leaving images a pixelated mess. If you are buying a smartphone to take a lot of pictures, you may be better off with the Pixel 5, but I would say that for general users taking photos of their family, food or pets, the cameras would more than suffice. And, like its prior phone models, OnePlus is likely to improve the system with future software updates.
There are some additional downsides, but nothing that I would consider a deal-breaker. The 8T doesn’t do wireless charging, doesn’t allow external storage and doesn’t have an IP68 water and dust resistance rating. Oh, it has no headphone jack.
Is the OnePlus 8T a good phone? Yes. But is it a great phone? Sure. Is it a phone you should buy? It depends. At $749, the competition in 2020 is high.
For anyone concerned with budget, the Pixel 5 offers a really solid Android experience with better photo-taking specs from $699. The iPhone 12 hit the market today priced at $799, while the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is also $699. There’s probably not enough in the 8T to justify upgrading from the six-month-old 8, while the high-end 8 Pro is only $50 more. Reports suggest the cheaper OnePlus Nord (currently costing the equivalent of $480 in the U.K.) will soon be available in the U.S., confusing matters further.
The U.K. has the option of a wallet-friendly 8GB of RAM/128GB storage variant, and it would have been nice to have seen a more affordable version for the U.S. market.
The OnePlus 8T is not revolutionary and not the cheapest, but succeeds in three areas: screen, fast charging, operating system. If those are your priorities, its a thumbs up.
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World news – CA – OnePlus 8T smartphone review: A supercharged, gimmick-free, Android experience