Earlier this year we reviewed the OnePlus 8 and found that while it was a good phone it didn’t lack the star power to not just justify its price but also to justify not paying the extra couple of hundred for the premium flagship. Now with their second release of the year OnePlus have improved their mid-range device but is it enough to warrant a recommendation?
With the OnePlus 8 we thought that the $300 saving over the Pro model did not make up for the display difference, the rear camera differences and the lack of wireless charging. This year they decided not to release an updated Pro version (COVID-19 related possibly?) and instead opted for an incremental upgrade to their standard offering, bringing with it a new display, new rear camera setup and improved wired charging. Is it enough?
So what is different to the OnePlus 8?
For the 8T OnePlus have stuck with a 6.55-inch 1080P AMOLED display but this time have upped the refresh rate to a smooth 120Hz. The refresh rate on the 8 was 90Hz and while the refresh rate of 120Hz is nice is some apps, many still do not support that refresh rate and as such not noticeable much of the time. The touch sampling is also improved to 240Hz now (from 180Hz) although this is not noticeable in everyday use.
Charging speeds have been changed too with the 30W Warp Charge 30 finally making way for an improved charging speed. We thought that OnePlus would bring 65W charging to the 8 Pro given that their sister company OPPO brought it to market in the Find X2 Pro a couple of months prior. OnePlus have decided to introduce it in their mid-range 8T which is a strange decision but they risk being left behind not introducing it into a device this year.
The rear camera has also been updated — it gained an extra lens, a 2MP depth camera — but the jury is out on whether it makes that much of a difference. The other lenses are improved, albeit ever so slightly. The main lens features a brighter aperture, the ultrawide lens is wider (123deg vs 116deg) and the macro lens has been upgraded from a 2MP lens in the 8 to a 5MP in the 8T.
Aside from these changes the phone is basically the same as the 8, with the same RAM options, the same Snapdragon 865 chipset, and the same software optimisations that are possibly the best on any manufacturer skin.
Warp Charge 65
As mentioned above the OnePlus 8T is the first OnePlus phone to support 65W charging. Their new 65W charging is on par with the OPPO SuperVOOC 2.0 included in the Find X2 Pro with the speeds just amazing. There is very little, if any, battery anxiety when you know that all you have to do is plug the phone in for just 15 minutes and you’ll have more than 50% battery life. The battery is already 4,500mAh which is on the larger side to start with too before even considering the extremely fast charging.
Of course that all predicates on having a charger with you but doesn’t all smartphone charging? The battery life on the OnePlus 8T was easily enough to last a day and that was with my heavy use with a lot of streaming of YouTube etc. Each night I’d get home and there would still be over 30% battery life left but I always carry my fast charger with my in my laptop bag anyway so if required a quick top up is easily performed with the Warp Charge 65.
One thing missing from the 8T, and there is no surprise given the cost cutting going on in the mid-range, is wireless charging. The 8 did not have wireless charging but the 8 Pro did — 30W wireless charging. Wireless charging has been around for a long time, surely it is time for it to become a standard part of the hardware in every phone released in the mid-range and above? Unfortunately it seems that it is one of the things first to go when manufacturers are cost cutting to try and hit a certain price.
Wireless charging though is not essential with this phone though — the 65W charging more than makes up for its absence.
Android 11 done right
I have made my feelings and thoughts on OnePlus and their Android skin, Oxygen OS, clear many times in the past but I’ll say it one more time: this is without any doubt, the best Android OS available on the market. It is a custom ROM but from a manufacturer so it lacks the bugs and experimental nature of a custom ROM from XDA.
There is one thing missing from Oxygen OS based on Android 11 still though and that is the lift to wake where you can lift the phone straight up have it recognise your face and immediately unlock the phone. OPPO do it and OnePlus users have been asking for it for a long time — just like they were Ambient Display — so you can be sure OnePlus are thinking of ways to implement it but it’s not present yet.
Ambient Display on the OnePlus 8T is, as is the rest of the OS, highly customisable and while it has been a long wait for OnePlus to implement it, I have to say it was worth the wait. You can have it on all the time, have it turn on when you lift or tap the phone, have it only active during certain hours of the day, change what is displayed on the display along with a custom greeting message.
The camera is an upgrade?
The rear camera is upgraded on every single lens from the OnePlus 8. As you can see in the table below each lens has received an update including the main lens. There is of course also a new 2MP depth camera to help with the depth of field effect.
OnePlus started out a long way behind many of the other manufacturers when it comes to their smartphone photography capabilities due to their size and most likely also their financial backing. As the years have progressed OnePlus have improved their camera chops and the results can be seen in this mid-range offerings. Sure it’s still not Pixel-good but it’s certainly above average for a mid-range camera.
I was able to get great images outside in decent light (but then every phone in 2020 should be able to do that), some decent images in low light along with decent wide angle and zoomed images. The low light images did lose some detail but most phones do. You can see the results below.
If you are after a top notch camera then it is possible you would look elsewhere but this is a mid-range device and the camera is certainly up there with the best mid-range smartphones available.
So all is perfect with this phone then?
That would be nice wouldn’t it but in my opinion there is no such thing as a perfect phone — yet (who knows what the future holds).
There is the lack of wireless charging — while not a deal breaker it is disappointing, but if they had included it it would have made the delineation between the 8 Pro and the 8T even more blurry. 65W wired charging more than makes up for it.
Glass backing. Sure it looks premium but no matter what coatings companies put on them they are still extremely fragile. I found this out the hard way. I accidentally knocked over my bedside table while setting up a pedestal fan. the OnePlus 8T fell off the top and must have been hit by the falling lamp because it did not hit the carpeted floor. I’m sure you have seen the results above but here it is in all its glory — we have to thank DroidLife for sharing their review photos of the same model phone for this review.
Glass looks great but I think manufacturers need to rethink that choice and find a different premium-looking option.
The display is just a 1080P display but does include a 120Hz refresh rate and full DCI-P3 colour gamut support. It still would have been nice to have a 2K display but in the mid-range something has to give.
Have I ever mentioned that the only way to get a OnePlus phone is through a mail forwarder or use a grey market importer such as Kogan? We are all crossing our fingers for that to change and every year we say maybe next year — unfortunately after the contraction of everyone’s economy in 2020 there is little doubt in my mind that it will not be next year. Maybe 2022?
The OnePlus Oxygen OS is difficult to explain to someone who has never used a OnePlus phone. I see it everywhere I read about OnePlus devices. You often hear about it with Google’s “Pixel Experience” but it is something that is difficult to quantify but its value can certainly not be over estimated.
The speed of the UI is second to none and although the transitions are not Pixel-smooth they are still good. The sheer number of options for the user to customise their experience is amazing, especially considering that others manufacturers’ Android skins slow down their experience the more options they have.
When OnePlus broke away from Cyanogen Inc. They hired folks from Paranoid Android custom ROM to head up their Oxygen OS team. The results speak for themselves — if only more manufacturers followed their lead.
The OnePlus 8T offers the same great user experience that the other OnePlus devices this year offer. You cannot go wrong with the user experience on the OnePlus 8T.
So should you buy it?
Earlier in the year we found it difficult to recommend the OnePlus 8 over the OnePlus 8 Pro due to the massive difference in rear camera capabilities, the display quality, and the charging options. The OnePlus 8T though is a whole different beast.
It’s improved display, camera and charging capabilities nullify, or at least close the gap, on many of the advantages the OnePlus 8 Pro had over the OnePlus 8.
Depending on the version you opt for you can pick up the OnePlus 8T for around the $900 mark, making it amazing value. I’d probably stop short of saying its the best mid-range smartphone on the market but I can say it is damn close. Depending on the value you place on user experience it may be your best mid-ranger.
When compared to other mid-range smartphones it has one of the best displays, the fastest charging, one of the better cameras and in my opinion the best UX all them all. The only down side is that it is STILL not sold here in Australia — there are quite a few grey market importers who will sell it to you with the most notable being Kogan — but you need to be careful which version you get as while all versions will work on our LTE networks, not all support our 5G bands.
So do I recommend the OnePlus 8T? I sure do. It is my favourite mid-ranger for the year and punches well above its weight. Available in Aquamarine Green or Lunar Silver (plus there is now a limited edition Cyberpunk 2077 Edition) you can pick one up for less than $900 from Kogan and other suppliers with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The 12GB/256GB version will of course cost you more.
OnePlus has allowed Ausdroid to retain the 8T to monitor future updates