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OnePlus 8T Review: A solid phone with small, yet meaningful upgrades over its predecessor

Ameya Dalvi
·19-min read

Overall Rating: 4.3/5

Pros:

Flagship grade hardware

Solid build, premium design

Vibrant and smooth 120 Hz AMOLED display

Good battery life and super-fast charging

Android 11 out of the box

Oxygen OS is still the best Android UI around

Cons:

Feels bulkier than the 8

Average camera performance for the segment, despite improvements

No IP rating, 3.5 mm headphone jack, wireless charging

A new OnePlus phone is here, and that too without their usual over-the-top marketing stunts. Feels weird, but good. The T release generally brings to the table minor enhancements over its predecessor, rather than an overhaul (the 7T being an exception). Staying true to the trend, the OnePlus 8T also brings along a handful of new, useful features at a bit more sensible price point. If you wish to take a quick glance at what's new in the 8T, click here. Time to delve a little deeper into each of its key aspects.

Image: Ameya Dalvi
Image: Ameya Dalvi

OnePlus 8T. Image: Ameya Dalvi

OnePlus 8T vs OnePlus 8 Pro: What's still missing?

Many believed that this new release was meant to bridge the giant gulf between the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, given that the company refrained from launching an 8T Pro. So before we proceed with the review, let's see what it borrows and what's still missing on the OnePlus 8T as compared to the 8 Pro. While it does get a 120 Hz refresh rate screen, it still doesn't have the higher-res 10-bit display that the Pro flaunts, but we can live with that. Wireless charging and IP rating for dust and water resistance have also been excluded on the new device.

The camera department has seen a slight improvement over the OnePlus 8, but neither the telephoto camera (for optical zoom) nor the 48MP ultra-wide camera with PDAF have been ported to the 8T. The battery capacity is almost at par with the Pro now, but what's even better is that it charges a lot faster, courtesy of the bundled 65W Warp charger. It also gets faster UFS 3.1 storage, a first for OnePlus phones. One can safely say that the OnePlus 8T does offer a nice middle ground between the 8 and 8 Pro.

OnePlus 8T Design: It's nice but feels slightly bulky

It's not just a few of my friends who have put on a bit of weight during the lockdown. The OnePlus 8T looks a tad bulked up too; just 1.2 mm more width, 0.4 mm added thickness and 8 grams in weight, over the 8. Strangely, it feels a little bigger and heavier than that, but nowhere as bad as some of the gigantic phones around. It is probably because the curved display has been replaced with a similarly-sized flat one. While that's not a bad thing at all, opinions will be divided on which one looks better. The 8T does have a noticeably better grip though, thanks to the more conspicuous metal frame around the edges with a matte finish. The chin too is marginally smaller now (can't say that about my friends).

Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi
Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

The OnePlus 8T looks a tad bulked up too; just 1.2 mm more width, 0.4 mm added thickness and 8 grams in weight, over the 8. Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

The 'Aquamarine Green' unit that we got for review looks elegant, and the best part is that smudges are barely visible on the back. Great job! The screen still remains a fingerprint magnet though. The display as well as the back of the phone are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, making the OnePlus 8T scratch resistant. The back of the phone has the most noticeable change in terms of appearance. The company has moved away from the typical vertical alignment of cameras at the centre to a 2 x 3 rectangular array at the top left, in tune with current design trends. It includes four cameras and dual flashes. It looks nice.

You get an in-display fingerprint scanner, and just like in the case of the OnePlus 8, it is placed a little higher than usual, making it easier to access. The scanner is highly responsive and worked perfectly. The punch-hole selfie camera near the top-left corner of the screen retains its position in the 8T too, and the notifications start from the right of the camera, a good centimetre away from the left edge. Something I don't wholeheartedly approve of, but still a far better option than the capsule-shaped cutout for dual front cameras on the Nord, and a lot of other phones these days.

The SIM tray is present along the bottom edge of the phone and it can accommodate up to two Nano-SIMs. The OnePlus 8T is 5G ready for whenever the service is available in India. Till then, you can use up to two 4G SIMs. Next to the SIM tray are a USB Type-C port and the phone speaker. The volume rocker is placed along the left edge, and the power button is located on the right edge along with the alert slider. Reaching the volume-up button is quite a stretch, and I wish they had placed it a little lower, just like the power button.

OnePlus 8T Key specifications

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC: 1 x 2.84 GHz Kryo 585 core + 3 x 2.42 GHz Kryo 585 cores + 4 x 1.8 GHz Kryo 585 cores

  • Adreno 650 GPU

  • 8 GB or 12 GB RAM options

  • 128 GB or 256 GB UFS 3.1 internal storage

  • 6.55-inch Full HD+ (2400 x 1080) Fluid AMOLED display with 120 Hz refresh rate and Corning Gorilla Glass

  • Cameras: 48MP with PDAF and OIS (main) + 16MP (ultra-wide) + 5MP (macro) + 2 MP (Monochrome); 16MP (wide) selfie camera

  • 4500 mAh battery with bundled 65W fast charger

  • Android 11 with OxygenOS 11

  • 5G compliant; Bluetooth 5.1; Dual band WiFi a/b/g/n/ac/ax

OnePlus 8T Price in India

Rs 42,999 for 8 GB Ram with 128 GB internal storage

Rs 45,999 for 12 GB Ram with 256 GB internal storage

OnePlus 8T Display: A vibrant and smooth screen

The OnePlus 8T has a 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels, and a 120 Hz refresh rate. It can get as high as 1100 nits bright (in theory). The display was one of the standout features of the OnePlus 8, and the company has taken it a notch higher in the 8T. But unlike the curved edges of the display on the 8, we have a flat display here. While the former may be more aesthetically appealing, the latter is more practical and better to use, and feels slightly larger too. The display is extremely vibrant and super-smooth when scrolling in compatible apps.

Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi
Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

The OnePlus 8T has a 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels, and a 120 Hz refresh rate. Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

You have the option to switch the refresh rate from 120 Hz to 60 Hz to save battery, but don't bother. Just leave it at 120 Hz, and it switches to 60 Hz automatically in apps that don't support it. Games cannot make use of the 120 Hz feature on this phone yet. The screen supports HDR10 and HDR10+, and compatible HDR content from most OTT platforms looks noticeably better on this screen. However, HDR doesn't work on Netflix yet. When asked, I was informed that it will be enabled in the near future through a software update.

The black levels and contrast are excellent, given that it's an AMOLED screen, and colours pop in 'Vivid' mode. They do, however, feel a bit too saturated. It's better to switch to 'Natural' mode where the colours may look dull compared to 'Vivid' mode, but are more accurate. The phone also offers some manual calibration options in case you are interested.

This time, OnePlus has added an always-on display that provides you with more than just basic information such as time, date, battery status and notifications. There is a lot to explore and more that will be coming up, courtesy of the collaboration with Snapchat. One of the interesting things that you can try is the 'Insight' mode that shows you how frequently you unlock and use the phone, and the duration of usage throughout the day. Next time someone calls you a smartphone addict, you will have the data to prove them right or wrong.

OnePlus 8T Performance: As powerful as they come

The OnePlus 8T is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 SoC, and our test unit had 12 GB RAM and 256 GB of UFS 3.1 internal storage to go with it. Interestingly, OnePlus hasn't jumped on to the Snapdragon 865+ as was expected. Despite that, the performance of this device is top-notch. There was absolutely no lag in day-to-day operations, or in any of the usual apps, or when switching between multiple apps.

Benchmark scores (1)
Benchmark scores (1)

Gaming was stutter-free and enjoyable at the highest settings. The phone didn't heat up much after 30 minutes of gaming. The dual stereo speakers (earpiece and the speakers at the bottom) manage to produce surprisingly good quality output with a decent stereo effect. The phone supports AptX, AptX HD and LDAC for better throughput over Bluetooth 5.1 on earphones that support those codecs. The call quality is fine with nothing to complain about.

In performance benchmarks, it surprised us by scoring a tad lower than the OnePlus 8 consistently, despite having the same processing hardware. But let's not forget that these are synthetic benchmarks, and they are meant to be a broad frame of reference, rather than the word of God. Another likely reason is that these benchmarks were run on Android 11, while those of the OnePlus 8 were run on Android 10. Having said that, it posted some incredibly high scores, that were expected of the Snapdragon 865 chip. You can check the screenshots below.

In Geekbench 5, it recorded a single-core score of 893 (OnePlus 8: 919; iQOO 3: 920), which was on par with Xiaomi's Mi 10 (893 points) -- all with Snapdragon 865 chips. The multi-core score stood at 3169, again similar to the Mi 10 but close to 200 points lower than the OnePlus 8 (3356 points). In PC Mark Work 2.0, it topped the charts with a score of 10929, while the other three phones scored 10847 (OnePlus 8), 10497 (iQOO 3) and 10838 (Mi 10).

The 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme - Vulkan benchmark result was a strange case. The Adreno 650 GPU had scored a record-breaking 6719 on the OnePlus 8. However, the same GPU managed to garner only 4667 points on the 8T. One important thing to note is that the graphics score in the benchmark is actually marginally higher than that of the 8 (8372 vs 8333). It's just one of the physics tests that drags the score down; something that might be fixed in the next update. But in real world gaming, I observed no drop in performance, so no worries.

OnePlus 8T Battery performance: Good battery life, insanely fast charging

OnePlus has bumped up the battery capacity from 4300 mAh to 4500 mAh on the 8T. However, the battery life hasn't changed much as compared to the 8. The additional 200 mAh likely just keeps up with the additional power requirement of a 120 Hz display. It manages to power the phone for anything between 30 hours to 36 hours of normal usage, that includes a generous use of messaging and social media apps, browsing, a decent amount of calling and clicking a few photos, an hour of watching videos and a half hour of gaming.

These are pretty good figures, and all the more impressive, given the powerful Snapdragon 865 chip and 120 Hz display (which I didn't drop to 60 Hz at any stage). Having said that, the real story here isn't the battery life, but the charging time. OnePlus has been at the forefront of fast charging, but they have taken it to a different level in the 8T. The company bundles a 65W Warp charger that can do 10V/6.5A. It charges the phone from 0 to 50 percent in 16 minutes flat, and fully in just 39 minutes, exactly what the company advertises!

Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi
Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

OnePlus has bumped up the battery capacity from 4300 mAh to 4500 mAh on the 8T. Image: Tech2/ Ameya Dalvi

These are mighty impressive figures. Hell, these are the best I have ever seen. What's even better is that neither the charger nor the phone heated up after a full charge. The charger can be used to briskly charge older OnePlus phones too, along with laptops and other devices with a USB type-C charging port. It is safe to use, but understandably, they don't juice up as fast. Older phones might charge faster after the OxygenOS 11 update, but don't expect them to go from 0 to 100 in 39 minutes.

OnePlus 8T Camera performance: Notably better than OnePlus 8, but needs to improve further

Not only has OnePlus changed the rear camera layout, but also the camera configuration on the 8T. For the first time, a regular OnePlus phone (non-Pro/ non-Nord) gets a fourth camera module at the back. While I was hoping that the company would bring back the telephoto camera, they haven't, and I will tell you the reason why shortly. What we get here is a 48 MP primary camera based on a Sony IMX586 sensor with PDAF and optical image stabilization. Giving it company is a 16 MP ultra-wide camera with a Sony IMX481 sensor and 123 degrees FOV, even broader than the one on the OnePlus 8. There's also a 2 MP monochrome depth sensor, and the macro camera has been bumped up from 2 MP to 5 MP.

The camera app gives you a quick toggle to switch between regular, ultra-wide and zoom modes.The primary camera captures some crisp shots in bright to average lighting, with good dynamic range, especially with auto HDR on. But as is the case with OnePlus phones, colours feel saturated, and the red tones, even more so. Captured images look sharp with a good amount of detail, and not many would complain about the extra vibrance in colours. The ultrawide camera here provides you with an additional 7 degrees field of view to fit more stuff in the frame. The output is pretty good in well-lit conditions, but the images feel a little softer in comparison to those captured using the main camera. The colours are equally punchy, though.

Click here to see the camera samples:

OnePlus 8T review
OnePlus 8T review

The 'Portrait' mode works very well here, and you also have a 2 MP depth sensor on the OnePlus 8T to assist in better background separation. The images come out pretty good, be it human subjects or other objects. You now get a little more respectable 5 MP fixed focus macro camera that does a slightly better job than before, but it works best only when the object is within the 3 to 4 cm range from the camera. You also need to have steady hands if you do not want blur in the images. The output is decent, but a bit soft for my taste, and colours look washed-out. For better results, simply capture the image from a little further away using the main camera and then crop it.

Speaking of cropping, the company has put that idea to great use here. Remember, there's no telephoto camera on the 8T. But you get some really sharp 2X zoom shots that are way better than typical digitally-zoomed captures. And the reason for that is (I am guessing), when using 2X zoom, the camera app first captures in 48MP mode, and then crops the specific section of the image and resizes it, thus resulting in a far superior output. That is a great way to compensate for the lack of a telephoto camera. I believe Samsung does this too in some of their phones, and that's the way to go.

There is a noticeable improvement in low-light photography on the OnePlus 8T, but on the main camera only. It tends to gain well and makes images brighter even when not using the 'Nightscape' mode. Noise is kept in check and there is a good amount of detail in captured shots; colours feel a bit muted though. 'Nightscape' mode improves things further if the light is really low, but it takes slightly longer than usual to process the images. 2X zoom works reasonably well in low light too. Avoid using the ultra-wide camera in low light, as the captured images are quite low on detail. There's another bug that needs to be fixed: the main camera suffers a few focusing issues when capturing nearby objects in low light. A lot of shots end up looking blurred and out of focus, something for the software team to work on.

The 16 MP front camera with a Sony IMX471 sensor is quite competent in well-lit conditions. The captured selfies are sharp, and the skin tone looks natural. It supports portrait shots too, but they can be hit-or-miss. The white glow around the selfie camera when switched on is replaced with a speck of light that goes around it and settles into a dot next to it. That makes it easier to spot the camera within the dark borders of the camera app.

The rear cameras on the OnePlus 8T can record video in 1080p and 4K resolution at 30 and 60 fps, and slow-motion 1080p and 720p videos at 240 and 480 fps respectively. It also lets you record time-lapse videos at 30 fps in Full HD or 4K resolution. Captured 4K footage looks crisp and stabilised, courtesy of EIS (electronic image stabilisation). 1080p videos shot on the main camera look sharp too, with good colour. This time around, the company provides you with a 'Portrait Video' mode too that blurs the background in videos. It is a fun option to have but can use a bit of improvement going ahead.

OS and user interface: Android 11 out of the box, with the best UI around

OnePlus 8T is the first OnePlus device to get Android 11. You get Android 11 out of the box along with OxygenOS 11. Yes, its predecessors will get the update shortly, given the company's track record, but you can enjoy it here from day one. The new OxygenOS is buttery-smooth with quite a few enhancements. Despite the tweaks, if you have used a OnePlus phone before, you won't have to undergo a new learning curve. I will touch upon a few new additions here and leave the rest for a separate article.

OxygenOS 11 remains the best Android UI around, and if anything, it just got even better. It is clean, stutter-free, free of ads and with very little bloatware. It adds a handful of useful features without deviating too far from stock Android UI. What I liked best about OxygenOS 11 is the attempt to facilitate single-handed operation. Right from the settings menu to compatible apps, the content starts from the middle of the screen, where it's a lot easier to reach with the thumb. Once you start scrolling, it utilises the rest of the screen. You don't have to bother stretching your thumb to the top of the screen to tap on anything, you can simply drag it down within your reach. This simple change makes life so convenient. I hope all apps can speak this design language shortly.

Other interesting enhancements include a proper 'Dark' mode that can also be scheduled, a game optimisation tool called 'Game Space' that also lets you block notifications during gaming, and a new 'Zen' mode to disconnect from your smartphone addiction at a fixed time during the day for a duration of your choice. Strangely, just like in case of the Nord, OnePlus has opted for Google dialer, contacts and messaging (SMS) apps instead of their own. I am not sure why, but I would personally prefer OnePlus' counterparts over these. The rest of the stuff is pretty cool, with mostly pleasant surprises sprinkled here and there.

Final words: Small yet meaningful upgrades and better pricing makes it a much better buy over the OnePlus 8

The OnePlus 8T sells in India at Rs 42,999 for the 8 GB RAM/128GB storage variant and Rs 45,999 for its 12 GB RAM variant with 256 GB storage. Has the company done enough to justify the existence of the 8T? Yes, I think so. Unlike the OnePlus 8, which didn't seem much of an upgrade over the 7T, the OnePlus 8T is easier to recommend. Though the changes are not massive, the sum of all the enhancements feels substantial, and helps it rise above its predecessors.

If you noticed, the pricing is better too; the two variants of 8T are a good 2K and 4K cheaper than the OnePlus 8 with similar RAM and storage numbers (before cashbacks and discounts dropped the 8 to more attractive prices). Add to that a better display, improved cameras and superfast charging, and you have a solid flagship device on your hands. It still isn't perfect, but the pros comfortably outweigh the cons. If you own a OnePlus 8 or a 7T or any of the Pro models, you might as well hold on to it a little longer, and maybe wait for the OnePlus 9. For those looking for a good, feature-packed phone in the 40K to 50K band, the OnePlus 8T is easily one of the best options around.

Also See: OnePlus 8T with 120 Hz refresh rate display to launch in India at 7.30 pm IST today: How to watch it live

OnePlus 8T Launch highlights: OnePlus 8T 5G launched in India at a starting price of Rs 42,999

OnePlus 8T 5G with 48 MP quad camera setup launched at a starting price of Rs 42,999

Read more on News & Analysis by Firstpost.