OnePlus 8T Review: One of the best phones you shouldn’t buy
“The OnePlus 8T is a great smartphone — great software, speedy, and a decent camera. Except at $749, the competition around it is too strong for it to be a hearty recommendation.”
- Superfast charging
- One day’s use after 15 minutes charge
- Clean, fast, and up-to-date software
- Attractive photos from the camera
- No wireless charging
- No IP water-resistance rating
The unassuming OnePlus 8 has been replaced by the OnePlus 8T. Wait, you don’t remember the OnePlus 8? That’s not surprising, as the phone was a safe, sensible choice that had absolutely no standout features, making it entirely forgettable. The OnePlus 8T also makes you forget, but this time it makes you forget about charging, because its big new feature completely removes any worry about making sure you have a fully charged phone each morning.
Think that’s the whole story? It’s not, because the smartphone world around the OnePlus 8 has changed a lot since April, and has made the 8T’s life considerably harder than ever before.
It’s all about change for the OnePlus 8T. Instead of the unusual central camera module on the back of the OnePlus 8, this time it’s an offset module that makes the phone look more like the Galaxy S20. I really like the look of the OnePlus 8T, and am impressed with the total lack of fingerprints left on the body, which keeps it looking clean and new.
Like the OnePlus 8, the 8T has a flat screen on the front, with a slight curve around the edges. The aluminum chassis is very well designed, with a pronounced curve that leads from the flat screen into the cool, matte-finish Gorilla Glass rear panel. This neatly helps prevent any fatigue from holding the phone over a long period of time, as does the relatively low 188-gram weight and 8.4mm-thick body. It doesn’t dig into your palm, and is devoid of sharp edges.
OnePlus isn’t trying too hard with the 8T’s design. It’s clean and simple, mature and attractive. While I appreciate visually unusual designs like the Oppo Reno4 Pro and the Vivo X50 Pro, they try a little too hard. The OnePlus 8T’s cool, unpretentious look will appeal to more people, and stay fresh for longer. The phone comes in two colors, the Lunar Silver seen here and a pretty Aquamarine Green.
Screen and audio
You get a 6.55-inch, 120Hz refresh rate Fluid AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 8T, with a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio. It’s hard to want anything else. Watch 60fps videos on YouTube and it’s glorious, so smooth and easy on your eyes, and with some stunning colors, too. The psychedelic colors in Iz*One’s Beware music video are hyper-real, and on the flip side, as demonstrated in Woyshnis Media’s Audi RS7 video, blacks, grays, and midtones look excellent as well.
There are dual stereo speakers that have masses of volume but not much bass or finesse, and it’s better to keep the volume at sensible levels to avoid too much harshness. Listen to WJSN Chocome’s bouncy, high-note-heavy Hmph! and it sounds much better at half volume than it does at three-quarter volume. The phone also supports Dolby Atmos.
Oddly, although the screen apparently has a 1,100-nit maximum brightness, I never felt the phone’s screen was that bright. It’s not dim at this level, but it was rare that the auto-brightness was less than about 80%, and during the day I still had it maxed out to watch video.
The OnePlus 8T introduces Warp Charge 65T, a proprietary superfast charging technology that will stop you worrying about putting the phone on charge overnight. How? By taking the battery to around 60% charge in just 15 minutes. OnePlus says this is enough juice for a day’s use, so is it? Yes, although it will depend on your definition of a day’s worth of time.
First, the fast charge time is accurate. Fifteen minutes is all it took for my OnePlus 8T’s battery to go from 3% to 60%. This means if you often forget to charge your phone, or if you’d rather minimize the amount of time it’s left plugged in and charging, the OnePlus 8T will happily fit into your lifestyle. To fully charge the battery from flat takes about 40 minutes.
However, while it’s fast to charge, it’s also pretty fast to discharge. With a 60% charge, it ran from midday to 11:30 p.m. This was with about 20 minutes of video, 15 minutes of Asphalt 9 Legends, about 45 minutes of a WhatsApp video call, and then general use. If you classify a day’s worth of power as about 12 hours, then you should get that from the OnePlus 8T, provided you go easy on it. Power-intensive tasks suck plenty of energy, video and gaming especially. An hour of video will generally reduce the battery by 12% to 15%, which would quickly affect the phone’s ability to last should you start the day with only 60%.
Warp Charge 65T uses a special charging block and USB Type C cable to charge the dual-cell 4,500mAh battery inside the phone, so you do have to have it on hand. Cleverly, it charges each of the cells at 30W, which helps minimize wear and keep heat at a sensible level. The OnePlus 8T only gets a little warm during its fast charging. The phone does not support wireless charging.
OnePlus’ fast-charging technology isn’t the first of its kind. We’ve seen it already on several phones from Oppo, and even on the budget Realme 7 Pro, but the OnePlus 8T is the first phone widely available in the U.S. to feature such fast-charging technology. That does make it special, and absolutely no one said that about the OnePlus 8.
At first glance, the OnePlus 8T’s camera is rather mundane. An all-too-familiar IMX586 camera with 48-megapixels tops the list, followed by a 16MP ultrawide, and a 5MP macro camera. It’s the fourth lens that is different enough to make me sit up and take notice — that one is a dedicated monochrome lens that can be used on its own.
Used primarily to enhance color photos, the OnePlus 8T’s stand-alone monochrome camera also takes genuine black-and-white photos without using a filter to get the desired effect. This was something I loved on Huawei’s cameras until it was removed, which upset me enough to write it an obituary. Sadly, it’s not a replacement for Huawei’s monochrome camera mode, as it only has 2MP, but I do like the atmospheric shots it takes.
Otherwise, the OnePlus 8T continues on from the improvements we saw in the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro’s camera. The main and wide-angle cameras take pretty, colorful, and bright photos with good dynamic range, both outside and indoors. The variety of cameras gives it versatility, and I had fun taking photos, especially since I was confident in the results looking good.
There isn’t an optical zoom option, although the app gives you a 2x mode, but the results are noisy and lack detail when you look closely. The Nightscape mode now works in video too, and it continues to be a subtle but effective night mode. It joins a video bokeh mode to blur the background when shooting video, which isn’t so good and won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s a real bokeh effect. The portrait effect in stills from the selfie camera and the rear camera is much better.
Software and more
The OnePlus 8T uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and comes with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM. This is the same as the OnePlus 8. It also has 5G connectivity, but because 5G is not available in my local area, this feature could not be tested. Calls made with the OnePlus 8T sound clear, and the speaker works well for hands-free calls too.
OnePlus has become one of the first manufacturers to release a smartphone with software based on Android 11. There are some great features too. A press of the power button activates a shortcut screen with controls for your smart home, plus there’s Google Pay and a screenshot key too, as well as Google’s new screen recorder feature. OnePlus has improved its Dark Mode, and built OxygenOS 11 with one-handed use in mind.
This translates into more open space at the top of the screen, and options being skewed lower down the screen, making them easier to locate. It’s most obvious browsing the top level of the Settings menu, and in OnePlus’ own Weather app. But it’s not everywhere, including OnePlus’ File Manager app, some of the deeper settings screens, or anything that’s basic Android, like the apps drawer.
OxygenOS finally sees the introduction of an always-on screen. It seems odd that one of the very best manufacturer versions of Android hasn’t had this simple feature until now, but here we are, and astonishingly it’s still not quite ready. The feature that will make it different, called Canvas, is still to come in a software update. This will put an outline of your wallpaper onto the lock screen for a pleasingly seamless look when locking and unlocking. It’ll be joined with a Snapchat Bitmoji always-on screen too, and the update will arrive in November.
For now, it’s very similar to most other always-on screens. It shows the time, battery percentage, and notification icons. There is another option, called Insight, that works alongside Digital Wellbeing to tell you how many times you’ve unlocked the phone and how long you’ve spent on it. It’s an option confusingly hidden under Clock Style rather than the ambient display setting, and is also confusing to look at. This aside, I’m very pleased to see an always-on screen option in OxygenOS.
I played Asphalt 9 Legends and Hill Climb Racer without issue. There’s an improved game mode that’s less visually intrusive (it slides in from a top corner of the screen and takes up almost no space), with a handy split-screen option to quickly reply to messages. Using the OnePlus 8T with OxygenOS on a daily basis has been free from annoyances, with bulletproof reliability, plus a decent turn of speed. It’s also worth pointing out the pleasing haptic feedback.
Price and availability
The OnePlus 8T will be available starting October 23, with pre-orders beginning on October 14 from OnePlus’s own online store. Amazon will also sell the OnePlus 8T beginning October 23. The phone will cost $749 for the 12GB/256GB model, and it does not appear the 8GB/128GB model will be sold in the U.S.. For reference, the 12GB/256GB OnePlus 8 cost $800.
In the U.K., the Lunar Silver OnePlus 8T will be the 8GB/128GB phone and cost 549 British pounds, and the 12GB/256GB model will be available in Aquamarine Green for 649 British pounds.
If you’re looking for a OnePlus 8T Pro, then don’t. The OnePlus 8 Pro will remain the company’s top smartphone for now, and the OnePlus 8T will only supersede the OnePlus 8, which was released in April.
The superfast charging delivered by Warp Charge 65T gives the OnePlus 8T the standout feature that was lacking from the OnePlus 8, making it a better purchasing decision than its predecessor, but in the time since that phone went on sale, the midrange smartphone market has moved on significantly. At $749, the OnePlus 8T is too expensive, and now it’s much harder to justify paying the higher price for a top processor, when cheaper phones with a high-mid processor are just as capable for everyday use.
Is there a better alternative?
If you live in the U.S., yes. The smartphone world has changed considerably since April when the OnePlus 8 stood not unchallenged, but certainly at the top of the pile. Now, we have the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the Google Pixel 5, both of which are $50 cheaper than the OnePlus 8T and are arguably more compelling purchases.
There are some outliers to consider as well, including the LG Velvet, the Motorola Edge, and the Nokia 8.3. All are good smartphones that may not have the OnePlus 8T’s very fast charging, but still have other tempting features ranging from design to stunning screens. If you want to save some money, the Google Pixel 4a 5G is $499, and comes with great software and. we expect, a good camera too.
Then we come to OnePlus itself. In the U.K. the OnePlus Nord is cheaper and really just as good, and the more expensive OnePlus 8 Pro has additional desirable features — water resistance and wireless charging — that make it a better long-term proposition. However, the 8GB/128GB OnePlus 8T is better value at 549 British pounds than the 12GB/256GB version, and is a worthy alternative to the phones mentioned above. It doesn’t look like the cheaper phone will be sold in the U.S., which is unfortunate.
How long will it last?
The OnePlus 8T does not have an IP rating for water resistance, but is stated to be splash-proof for use in the rain. It’s not a tough phone as it’s made from glass, but you do get a transparent silicone case in the box. It has the latest version of Android installed now, and OnePlus will deliver major updates over the next two years, and security updates for the next three years. This, along with some careful care, should mean the phone will happily last for two years.
Should you buy one?
No. Not because it’s a bad phone — it’s not, it’s very good. But you can pay less for equally capable smartphones from other big-name manufacturers.