The biggest problem with being OnePlus is that every new phone that you release is always compared – price-wise – to the one before it. If your most outstanding USP is offering a flagship-class phone for mid-tier money, then you have to build an obsessive brand loyalty coupled with killer features to be able to keep up if the price is no longer a competitive aspect. And that’s the challenge that the OnePlus 8T faces.
If you take its history out of the equation, there’s plenty to like. For $899, you get a Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 120Hz AMOLED display screen. Add $200 to bump the RAM to 12GB and your storage to 256GB, and you have quite a monster of a phone at a price that’s some way below the starting specs of other brands–oh wait, that’s no longer the narrative. The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is almost a like-for-like competitor, offering mostly the same kind of phone but with a slightly different feature set. It comes close, starting at $1,099. But more on that later.
The OnePlus 8T has a simple design but the Aquamarine Green version looks good.
The OnePlus 8T measures up at 6.55-inches across. It is very comfortable to hold – I’m assuming that you are generally OK with bigger smartphones – thanks to its rounded edges. However, the glass back makes it a little slippery. Not to worry, they’ve included a clear case that improves grip without adding much girth. While Apple has removed power adapters from their iPhone packages, OnePlus seems to have headed the other way. The included charger is a 65W behemoth that offers Warp Charge.
Warp Charge is perhaps its standout feature in a rather crowded smartphone market. It’s not a head-turning feature but to be fair, OnePlus isn’t that kind of a smartphone. The fast charge feature is somewhat in keeping with the uber-pragmatic values of the brand. The phone battery charges from near zero to 90 per cent in just half an hour and the phone never gets alarmingly warm at any point in time. I’m rather fussy about the battery getting too warm, so this is a big plus and removes one battery killer factor from the equation.
The fast charge capability does change the way I use the phone. The battery lasts about a day, but I am quite liberal in the way I use it, so I find myself charging the battery now and then for a couple of minutes. And it seems as though you will never be able to run out of juice. I understand that not everyone would use a phone that way, but it’s great to know that a few minutes here and there go a long way. Perhaps it’s an issue of convenience?
The Alert Slider is a physical switch to convenient swith in and out of silent modes.
Unfortunately, the 8T doesn’t support wireless charging. But that’s not an attractive feature for me as the phones often get too warm for my liking. Plus, Warp Charge is so quick that it negates any upsides of wireless charging. Also missing is IP certification. Hence, you have to be more mindful, because this brings warranty coverage into play since it does not cover water damage. But since water resistance is more of a last resort safety feature rather than a daily requirement, it doesn’t change the way I handle the phone anyway. What it does have, thankfully, are NFC as well as the latest Bluetooth spec, which I think are the kind of features you shouldn’t skimp. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 and 5G, the latter of which is nice to have but not essential yet.
And while it’s not always essential to have the latest Android version, it’s nice if the brand does its utmost to give you that. OnePlus delivers that here, albeit with the OxygenOS 11, which is sparse (in the positive sense). It’s generally snappy, which I think is a defining characteristic of this phone. The snappiness extends to the display, which is a 2,400 x 1,080 AMOLED screen that supports 120Hz and 240Hz polling. The screen is a killer feature – it supports sRGB and P3 profiles, the colours are great, and the display is bright, making it great for shows with a lot of dark scenes. It’s great to know you can get a screen this good for under a thousand.
The screen is very responsive and coupled with high-end hardware, it’s a pretty low-key gaming monster. OnePlus’ collaborations with YouTubers might be approaching Raid: Shadow Legends levels of meta jokes, but I have to admit that the experience of using an 8T in this context does feel good. However, the software isn’t as polished as say, the Asus Armoury Crate, and the fact that it is too easy to trigger pull-down menus and the is off-putting at first until you get used to it. Thankfully, it’s not a deal-breaker. What could potentially be one, is the fact you can’t control the refresh rate, which is probably something that might be updated later because OnePlus served the gaming community quite well with the OnePlus 8. It didn’t bother me as much because the responsiveness of the controls made up for it – it’s slicker than the average phone.
The responsiveness and vibrant display makes OnePlus 8T a decent gaming device
Cameras are essentially the marketing team of the smartphone world. A great one makes your smartphone a fantastic proposition. But when the company doesn’t have the budget for them, they’ll be the first out of the door. While it’s not exactly the case here, you can see the downgrade when placed next to a flagship-class phone. On its own, however, I think it does a fair enough job. You can tell when you start to lose some detail in pictures taken in poorly-lit places. The 8T offers four lenses, two of which – monochrome and macro – are highly specific, so essentially this is a phone with a second ultra-wide lens in practice. What’s good here is there you can bump up the resolution on the camera to 48 megapixels – this shoots 12 megapixels by default – but this is only if you want to use a zoomed crop or if you have a post-processing regimen. The ageing IMX586 sensor can still give decent results with the right software and the right lighting (to begin). But I think that smartphone photography should not be that tedious. As far as I’m concerned, the camera is OK but keep to using it in well-lit places without tricky lighting for best results. When it’s good, it’s pretty good, when it’s not, it’s underwhelming.
There seems to a growing sentiment that OnePlus doesn’t give you as much value as it used to be, which is objectively true. But smartphone prices aren’t what they used to be as well. This is not one of those ’two wrongs don’t make a right’ things, but the point is that the phone still stays within the relative price bracket after taking inflation into account. The 8T is a fair attempt at trying to balance the books while offering some key aspects of the flagship experience. The 8T feels more like a phone that’s best suited for watching videos and gaming, with some capacity to take photos. But if the camera is a must, a $200 upgrade is in order and I think the iPhone 12 Mini and the Samsung S20 FE are similarly specced phones that will fit the bill.
As far I’m concerned, I think the 8T is best as a gaming device with some quality of life amenities – the fast charging is sweet for long sessions – and the HDR display sells graphically demanding games well. Taking a break? Flip over to YouTube or Netflix for some mindless entertainment; rinse and repeat. Ain’t got time to take pictures, yo.
Features – 8/10
Value Proposition – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Design & Build Quality – 8/10
The OnePlus 8T might not be a flagship killer but it is pretty much a hot hatchback that still delivers some thrills for a relatively modest outlay.