November 28, 2020
OnePlus 8T review: This phone brand can't compete with itself

OnePlus 8T review: 5G, 120Hz display and excellent camera, but the price isn’t right


The OnePlus 8T is a $749 5G phone that fits right in between the $699 OnePlus 8 ($1,299 at Amazon) and $799 OnePlus 8 Pro ($999 at OnePlus), which were released in April. (The OnePlus 8T’s UK price of £549 converts to about AU$1,000.) The OnePlus 8T has a similar design to the 8, but carries over some of the better specs of the 8 Pro.

This premium hardware includes a silky 120Hz display and four cameras on the back. It also comes with a beefy 65-watt charger that juices up the phone quickly. The OnePlus 8T has a few software updates, too, including an always-on display and a refreshed interface, which will roll out to other OnePlus phones.

Like

  • 120Hz display is super smooth
  • Main camera is excellent
  • Long battery life so far
  • Charges quickly

Don’t Like

  • Macro camera is middling
  • No wireless charging

In and of itself, the OnePlus 8T is an excellent device and it’ll surely satisfy anyone looking for a high-powered, reliable Android. The brilliant display is my favorite thing about the phone, but there’s a more enticing and cheaper competitor available from OnePlus itself — the OnePlus 8. 

At time of writing, OnePlus has lowered the prices of the 8 and 8 Pro by $100. Going by the same memory configuration across all three phones (12GB of RAM and 256GB storage), the OnePlus 8 costs $700 and is $50 cheaper than the OnePlus 8T. Maybe if you’re already paying $700, that extra $50 won’t matter all that much to you. In that case, feel free to nab the 8T. But if you want to save as much as you can, get the OnePlus 8. Sure, you won’t get that 120Hz refresh rate, but it’s still a superb phone with a great battery life and a smooth 90Hz display. Though April may feel like a long time ago, the notion that the OnePlus 8 is an “old” phone just hasn’t settled in yet. And with its new lowered price, it’s the more compelling pick.

OnePlus 8T’s 120Hz screen is a winner

The best part of the OnePlus 8T’s design is its 120Hz display. Most phones have screens that refresh 60 frames per second. A few phones, like the OnePlus 8, have screens that refresh 90 times a second, and even fewer refresh as often as 120 frames. The effect of the 120Hz display means the phone feels buttery smooth and fast. Scrolling through social media feeds, thumbing through home screen pages and playing games like PUB-G feel super quick and responsive.

Besides from the boosted refresh rate, the OnePlus 8T looks similar to the OnePlus 8. The screen’s size and resolution is the same, so it’s just as vibrant and sharp. The jewel-like aquamarine green variant I received is flashy and eye-catching too, but its back is dominated by a large rectangular camera bump similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra.  

The phone is also missing a few features that the more premium OnePlus 8 Pro has. The OnePlus 8T doesn’t have wireless charging or reverse wireless charging for other accessories, and the unlocked version doesn’t have an IP rating for water resistance (the T-Mobile variant, however, is rated IP68). If you’re getting the device unlocked though, it’s not completely vulnerable. OnePlus did say it’s still protected against accidental spills and when I submerged the OnePlus 7 Pro (which isn’t IP certified either) last year, it survived without issues.

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The 8T’s 120Hz display makes scrolling through apps and webpages feel liquid smooth. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus 8T’s refreshed interface and Android 11

Though the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro can update to Google‘s latest mobile OS, Android 11, the OnePlus 8T already has it out of the box. OnePlus also refreshed the interface for the better; menus and notifications look more streamlined, modern and clean. 

New to the 8T is an always-on display, which lets you check for the time, notifications and alerts without the need to unlock your phone and fully wake up the home screen. There are several options to choose from for your display, including one that shows notches of different widths along a single line. It helps visualize how many times in a day you unlock your phone, with the idea being that it’ll discourage you from spending time with your device. When I used this feature, it made me more conscious about how often I came back to the handset whenever I was bored or idle. Two other always-on options are coming later in November through an update. One will let you add your own Bitmoji character and another displays a stylized sketch of a personal photo.

Other software features include built-in editing tools for taking pictures of documents (think things like straightening out angles and detecting edges, which third-party scanning apps can also do) and voice transcription with the native Note app. This feature is fine and is responsive enough, but Google’s Recorder app also transcribes memos and can upload the text directly to Drive. OnePlus’ digital wellbeing app, ZenMode, still limits phone functionality when you want to focus. But now you can invite your friends to join in a group session of ZenMode — which is something I can’t imagine anyone ever doing.

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The 8T’s new interface is more streamlined and clean.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus 8T camera: Can we trade 2 for 1?

The OnePlus 8T has four rear cameras, three of which are also on the OnePlus 8 (a standard, ultra-wide and macro camera) and a “monochrome” camera. This fourth camera doesn’t take photos itself, but helps out with lighting when you take black-and-white photos — something I hardly ever do.

If anything, it would have been great to swap the OnePlus 8T’s macro and monochrome for one superb telephoto lens, but alas, that didn’t happen. Instead, the camera has a 10x digital zoom that works okay, but I don’t recommend using it for getting clear shots. The OnePlus 8T’s 5-megapixel macro camera also works better than the 2-megapixel setup on the OnePlus 8. Colors aren’t as washed out and details are a bit sharper. I still prefer shooting closeup shots with the regular standard camera, but using the macro lens does indeed allow you to get closer to objects and more focused.

Read more: OnePlus 8T camera takes on Edinburgh’s fall colors

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The OnePlus 8T’s quad-camera setup.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Photos taken with the standard and telephoto cameras are vibrant and sharp in good, ample lighting. And the phone’s low-light mode, Nightscape, is comparable to the Pixel 5‘s Night Sight feature. Though the Pixel 5 handles bright exposure from light sources better and its white balance is more accurate, the OnePlus 8T can still brighten up a dim environment and produce clean photos full of detail.

For video, I used the camera’s super stable mode while recording video on a bike. I was riding on even cement pavement and the video turned out steady and smooth. I was also impressed that the mic clearly picked up the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar I passed by. The OnePlus 8T has portrait mode for video as well, which blurs the background for a bokeh-like effect. The feature isn’t always perfect; there were a few instances when my flyaway hairs were blurred out unnaturally, or edges were patchy and inconsistently switched from being blurred to being in focus. But the new mode adds a tad more polish and drama to the video, similar to that captured on DSLR.

The OnePlus 8T’s main 48-megapixel camera can capture images in a 12-megapixel resolution for wider dynamic range.


Lynn La/CNET

The phone’s macro camera allowed me to get close to these flower petals.


Lynn La/CNET

The phone’s 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens has a larger field of view to fit more content.


Lynn La/CNET

With the help of the monochrome camera, the phone’s main camera captures black and white images in great detail and variance.


Lynn La/CNET

The phone’s Nightscape mode brightens up dim settings.


Lynn La/CNET

OnePlus 8T performance and battery

The OnePlus 8T has the same processor as the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, and all three phones performed similarly on benchmark tests. The OnePlus 8T was also on par with the Galaxy S20, which shares the Snapdragon 865 chipset too. And for quick reference, compared to the Pixel 5, which has the Snapdragon 765G processor, the OnePlus 8T comfortably outperformed Google’s device in benchmark tests.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

The OnePlus 8T is equipped with a 4,500-mAh battery, which is in between the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro’s battery capacities (4,300 mAh and 4,510 mAh, respectively). Tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode averaged 23 hours, 7 minutes. By comparison, the OnePlus 8 and the 8 Pro lasted a touch shy of 19 hours. I’ll update this piece with final results and ratings when we finish running streaming video tests.

The OnePlus 8T can charge extremely fast with its branded Warp Charge 65 charger. OnePlus says this new charger can juice up the phone to 58% after 15 minutes and 100% in 39 minutes. When I tested it out, the phone charged at a pretty standard rate during my first two trials (think 30% after 15 minutes and  about 1.5 hours for 100%). But on the third try, using a different outlet, the phone charged extremely quickly and matched the numbers OnePlus reported. The charging brick is compatible with devices that support 45W PD fast charge too, meaning it can quickly charge other devices you may have, like laptops. If you already have a OnePlus phone and want the 65W charger, the company will sell it for $40 separately.

OnePlus 8 specs vs. OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro

OnePlus 8T OnePlus 8 OnePlus 8 Pro
Display size, resolution 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels 6.78-inch AMOLED; 3,168×1,440 pixels
Pixel density 402ppi 402ppi 513ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.33×2.92×0.33 im 6.3×2.8×0.31 in 6.51×2.93×0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 160.7×74.1×8.4 mm 160×72.9×8.0 mm 165×74.4×8.5 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.63 oz; 188g 6.35 oz; 180g 7.02 oz; 199g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 48-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide), 5-megapixel (macro), 2-megapixel (monochrome) 48-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide), 2-megapixel (macro) 48-megapixel (standard), 48-megapixel (ultra-wide), 8-megapixel (telephoto), 5-megapixel (‘color filter’)
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel 16-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
Storage 256GB 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB
RAM 12GB 8GB, 12GB 8GB, 12GB
Expandable storage No No No
Battery 4,500 mAh 4,300 mAh 4,510 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No No
Special features 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; T-Mobile version is water resistant (IP68); Warp Charge with 65W charger 5G enabled; fast charging; 90Hz screen refresh rate; T-Mobile and Verizon version is water resistant (IP68); Warp Charge 5G enabled; Warp Charge; reverse wireless charging; water resistant (IP68); 120Hz refresh rate; wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $749 (unlocked) $699 (unlocked, 8GB RAM/128GB); $799 (Verizon, 8GB RAM/128GB); $799 (unlocked 12GB RAM/256GB) $899 (8GB RAM/128GB), $999 (12GB RAM/256GB)
Price (GBP) £549 (8GB RAM/128GB); £649 (12GB RAM/256GB) £599 (8GB RAM/128GB), £699 (12GB RAM/256GB) £799 (8GB RAM/128GB), £899 (12GB RAM/256GB)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$1,000, AU$1,180 UK converts to: AU$1,180 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$1,370 (12GB RAM/256GB) UK converts to: AU$1,570 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$1,770 (12GB RAM/256GB)

*prices are at launch

First published Oct. 14



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