OnePlus 8T First Impressions

Posted on October 27, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 29 Comments

I was hoping and expecting to write this article one week ago, but a FedEx employee stole my review unit at the warehouse.

Because of that little felony, I ended up writing Thinking About the OnePlus 8T (Premium) instead, in which, among other things, I aired my worries about OnePlus apparently not improving on the camera system in the OnePlus 8 Pro from earlier this year. That smartphone, incidentally—the OnePlus 8 Pro, that is—was nearly perfect, but suffered in two key areas: The camera system, which is good but not flagship-class, and its curved display edges, which are prone to mis-taps.

The OnePlus 8T, alas, is not a mid-season replacement for the OnePlus 8 Pro.

Instead, it is an upgrade to the OnePlus 8, and as such it does feature a subtly improved camera system (when compared to the normal OnePlus 8), and it has the flat display edges that I prefer. Those two changes, plus the steady drumbeat of OnePlus software innovations—which, hope springs eternal, could include some computational photography improvements—have me hopeful for a great experience. OnePlus, after all, makes some of the very best smartphones in the market.

And … boy, is the OnePlus 8T a handsome device. There are two available colors, a matte Lunar Silver that I’m so happy to be reviewing and a shimmery Aquamarine Green. That latter choice doesn’t seem quite as out there as the Interstellar Glow option on the original OnePlus 8 but it’s still pretty bright and splashy-looking. That said, the OnePlus 8T is a glass and aluminum sandwich, like most of today’s smartphone flagships, so you’ll want to cover it with a case.

After the color and basic design, the next thing you’ll notice is the quad-camera array on the back. Unlike with previous OnePlus handsets, most notably the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, the camera module on the OnePlus 8T is a column of lenses not in the center top of the back of the device but is instead an array in the upper left. And it somewhat resembles the camera systems found on Samsung handsets. I assume that was the point, anyway, and while I was originally unsure of this design, it’s growing on me.

When you finally turn on the OnePlus 8T, you’ll get your first peek at what is perhaps its marquee external feature, a gorgeous 6.55-inch Full HD+ (2400 x 1080) Fluid AMOLED display with a smooth 120 Hz refresh rate, a tall and thin 20:9 aspect ratio, and HDR 10+ capabilities. Everything about this display is amazing, from its flat, form-fitting design with its reasonably small bezels to the elegant hole-punch in its upper-left for the selfie camera.

These things are, of course, subjective, but if you read my recent post Rethinking Display Size (Premium), you know that I’ve been trying to figure out the “perfect” display size—which is really size, diagonally, plus aspect ratio/tallness/thinness—and the OnePlus 8T is pretty much where it’s at for me at the moment. It’s tall, but also thin, and it’s flat with no curved edges, and so it should be much easier to use with a single hand.

Internally, the OnePlus 8T delivers on the modern components one expects from a flagship, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor and Adreno 650 graphics, a Qualcomm X55 modem for worldwide 5G compatibility, Wi-Fi 6, 8 or 12 GB of RAM, and 128 GB or 256 GB of UFS 3.1 two-lane storage. It is perhaps odd that OnePlus didn’t go with the newer but only slightly faster Snapdragon 865+, but the storage is a significant upgrade over the UFS 3.0 storage in the 8T’s predecessors and probably helps just as much.

The battery is an ample 4500 mAh unit—actually, it’s two 2250 mAh batteries, as it turns out—so all-day battery life is assured, but the new fast-charging system is even more impressive. It’s called Warp Charge 65, and as the name suggests, that means it provides a whopping 65-watts of charging power, good to charge from 0 to 100 percent in just under 40 minutes. In the bad news department, however, the OnePlus 8T inexplicably doesn’t have any wireless charging capabilities. Even the OnePlus 8 provided up to 30-watts of wireless charging.

We should briefly discuss the camera system.

As you may recall, the original OnePlus 8 shipped with a triple-lens camera system with a 48 MP main (wide) lens with an f/1.8 aperture and Phase Detection Auto-Focus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS) capabilities, a 16 MP ultra-wide lens with an f/2.2 aperture and a 116-degree field-of-view, and a 2 MP macro lens with an f/2.4 aperture.

The OnePlus 8T has a few improvements and now offers a quad-camera setup. The main lens is identical to that on the OnePlus 8, but the ultra-wide offers a wider 123-degree field of view, albeit with the same resolution and aperture as before. The macro lens has been bumped up to 5 MP, with the same aperture as before. And there’s a new 2 MP monochrome lens with an f/2.4 aperture that could help with depth perception in portrait mode and other conditions.

The issue I have with this is that I expect a telephoto lens with optical zoom with a quad-camera configuration, and while OnePlus’ previous telephoto efforts, such as with the OnePlus 8 Pro, were lackluster at best, such a lens would still be preferable to the macro and monochrome lenses that the OnePlus 8T does include.

I’m not writing off the OnePlus 8T camera system, however. OnePlus says that it has enhanced its computational photography capabilities, and that the 8T should deliver improved low-light shots, more vivid colors, and more detailed images. There are also improvements to the handset’s video capabilities, like feature focus tracking to prevent unintentional panning, portrait bokeh with blurred backgrounds, gimbal-like smoothness, and low-light enhancements.

Other hardware features to examine include the in-display fingerprint reader, which has been excellent on previous OnePlus handsets, and the stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support. And let’s not forget that unique OnePlus alert slider. There’s no headphone jack.

The OnePlus software experience is always a highlight. Unlike other smartphone makers, which often bulk up Android with unnecessary duplicative apps and services, OnePlus OxygenOS is in many ways more optimized and efficient than stock Android. And the OnePlus 8T is the first OnePlus handset to ship with OxygenOS 11, which includes an improved design with dark mode and one-handed use enhancements, a cool new Always-On Display (AOD) feature with multiple themes, and numerous other additions. There’s a lot to examine here.

Take that, Apple: OnePlus puts stickers in the box

The OnePlus 8T costs $749 here in the United States for the 12 GB/256 GB configuration. That seems like a great price, and while the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is $40 less, OnePlus has the better components overall, aside, perhaps, from the cameras. It also seems to line up nicely against the new iPhone 12, which starts at $799, especially if you prefer the larger display.

More soon.

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “OnePlus 8T First Impressions”

  1. rm

    After having phones where the USB ports go bad (not just lint in the port), I will never go back to a phone that doesn't have wireless charging. The wireless charging reduces by a large margin the number of times the port is used so it will be there and working for when you do. I don't get why a flagship phone exists today without wireless charging.

  2. retcable

    OnePlus phones are great, and definite kudos to them for their record on software updates which is better than any other Android device maker other than Google's Pixel line, but they have dropped off into the mid-range level of devices in recent years. I do agree that OnePlus has held off on wireless charging long enough and needs to get it onto all their phones going forward. I realize that fast-charging with their Warp chargers is one of their main trademark features, but being able to plop your phone onto a charging pad anywhere you might happen to be is just too handy a function to ignore any longer.

  3. rbwatson0

    Paul,

    The OnePlus 8 did not have wireless charging. Only the OnePlus 8 Pro has had wireless charging so far...

  4. Chris_Kez

    I have to agree with criticisms about the 21:9 (and even 18:9) aspect ratios. What content or activity is enhanced by having an extra tall (or in landscape, extra wide) screen? Maybe the occasional movie in anamorphic widescreen? Maybe you scroll a little bit less when using social media or reading? I'd rather shave a bit off the height and weight while also making it easier to hit the top of the screen and any related pull-down gestures.

  5. obarthelemy

    I understand the fascination for higher-end stuff, and this site's target of techies. But I'd really like more reviews of realistic phones, or at least a cogent case for why we need to spend more.

    80% of people around me are in the Xiaomi Redmi Note / Realme market. that's $150-$250. AFAIK, those let you do the same things as higher-end phones (except trogolodyte / print-ready pics and AR/VR) because our uses haven't really evolved in 5yrs, and today low-end is way better then 5yrs ago's high-end. I understand getting loaners for those is harder, and affiliate commissions are lower, but the IT news/blogo-sphere is increasingly like those cars magazines who cater to dreams, not reality. It'd be nice to have sources other than Techtablets on Youtube, and GSMArena.

    So... here's another review of a phone I won't get for myself, and probably will never recommend. It's a nice and mildly fun review, but ultimately, irrelevant.

    • MikeCerm

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      All those phones that you mention are not available in the United States. Until recently, a lot of import-only phones simply would not work on US carriers because they lacked a particular network band, and there are still issues with Verizon in the US. I've imported a few Xiaomi phones and like them quite a bit -- I use a Mi Max 3 every day as small tablet -- but Americans generally buy what's available in carrier stores here in the States. I certainly wouldn't recommend that anyone else go buy an imported phone with no warranty.

      • obarthelemy

        In reply to MikeCerm:

        I also use a Mi Max 3... but as my actual phone ^^ I'm not getting that many looks anymore. I did when I had a Mediapad X, which was not only a tad bigger, but squarer which is so much better. The fashion police wasn't aware of phablets' bright future at the time.


        More seriously, the US does have a few cheaper phones, from Moto and Nokia. And anyway I do think exposing the US public to *all* of the top-5 worldwide OEMs wouid be educational / eye-opening ? As would having press coverage in sync with the market ?

    • Paul Thurrott

      I'm happy to review lower-end phones, but the models you mention aren't readily available in my market.
      • obarthelemy

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I did quote the $150-$250 range, I'm sure even in the US you've got some (probably not as good) stuff in that range, probably from Moto and Nokia.

        And anyway, is it not worth it reviewing stuff that's not widely available ? People from the US are missing out on a lot of great devices, I think mentioning that from time to time would help move things forward. Again, 3 of the top 5 worldwide OEMs are not in the US, and those are the *new* top OEMs, the ones that found the formula to grow from nothing past HTC/Sony/LG/Alcatel/Nokia/Moto... they have to offer something quite strong to overcome their scale+distribution+marketing+brand recog+... disadvantages.

        Note sure if that varies per user, but Amazon.com (US) even has a Redmi Note labelled "Amazon's choice" ! (they ship it, but seller is a third party. Of course there are band issues, but still...


        [edit: I think my post gets blocked when I try to ilnclude a link to Amazon.com's search results for Redmi Note 9... you'll have to DIY, it's available form 3rd party sellers, Amazon logistics)


        I see it as a kind of public service. Trying to suss out the sweet spot, the baseline that sometimes with good reason you can deviate from, but which probably is the best choice for 80% of the people.


        Again, I like and enjoy your reviews. I'd just love them even more if they were about stuff I and people around me actually consider buying.

  6. michaelmdiv

    Paul, it seems like you go too easy on OnePlus for their software experience. They have numerous duplicate apps...granted, I have the T-Mobile variant, but I have calculator, clock, contacts, gallery, messages. They also have a file manager app I can't get rid of and force you to use their phone app vs the google phone app. Certainly not as obnoxious as Samsung, but coming from the android experience on the Nexus, it was disappointing. Maybe it is just me.

    • rmlounsbury

      In reply to MichaelMDiv:

      I think Paul's point is that among the Android OEM's outside of the Pixel phones OnePlus is dramatically better at not crapping up their phone with garbage. It isn't absent of duplicate apps but it is a far cry from Samsung, LG, and other major Android manufacturers. To that end I would agree.

    • oxymarc

      In reply to MichaelMDiv:


      Did you order the 8T through TMo?

      They have cut down on the duplicate apps compared to previous OP phones. Phone and contacts for example are all Google now.


      Plus, they don't have two versions of the calculator, clock, etc. apps installed.

    • peterc

      In reply to MichaelMDiv:

      Hi Michael. The apps you mention are baked into the Oxygen OS rom. The developer community is very strong with oneplus and you can quite literally change just about anything imaginable with a oneplus handset. I often install different roms, app stores, de-brand network operator rooms, or delete unwanted stuff via root access etc. But the beauty is you can just return to oxygen os when you want. Admittedly tinkering with your phone is not for everyone, but there’s plenty of great forums out there with instructions to follow and a world of possibilities too. Some people load the Gcam mod onto their oneplus phones... ?

      • michaelmdiv

        In reply to peterc:

        Thanks for pointing this out. I have tinkered with the Nexus 6 in the past, but I haven't with this one because it is locked by TMO and I am waiting for that to expire. Good to know there is a great community behind OnePlus. I would like to try some mods on this one.

    • Paul Thurrott

      There's apps and then there's crap. OnePlus is no Samsung, and it's not trying to sell you on its services and ecosystem. OnePlus is about optimizing the phone for the best efficiency and performance. They're night and day. And there aren't two calculator, clock, contact, or messages apps. There's just one of each. Also, with OxygenOS 11, OnePlus is actually using more stock Google apps than before, including Phone, Messages, and Contacts. They're doing it right.
  7. obarthelemy

    Are we going to have The Talk about screen form factors at some point ? Smartphone screens have evolved from square-ish to 16:9 to 18:9 to 20:9. That format a) would be hated and ridiculed on any other device (TV, desktop, laptop, even tablet) b) makes no sense for any type of content (reading/web, maps, office, games... maybe chats though mostly because chatting works w/ any format) c) is probably just a bad artefact of everyone using screen diagonal as a proxy for screen size (it isn't, pythagoras people !) + "more is better" mentality.

    I'm looking for a phone with a wider screen than my... 2014 (?) 5.5" 16:9 Galaxy Note v1. There aren't many. Can we talk about this ?

    • basic sandbox

      In reply to obarthelemy:
      I don't need the extra vertical inch at the bottom and it only adds more weight to my phone.
      Adding width helps with reading. Unneeded length brings little advantages.


    • Paul Thurrott

      Actually, tall and thin aspect ratios are preferrable on phones since it helps enable larger displays that can be used with a single hand in many/most scenarios. Wider screens demand two hands. That was the issue I had with the Note 20 Ultra. Well, that and the mis-taps from the curved display edges.
      • MikeCerm

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Preferable in some circumstances, but unusable in others. For example, I use Remote Desktop a lot for my job, and the app only works in landscape. When you take a tall skinny phone and switch it to landscape and then open the keyboard, it covers the whole screen. In this particular instance. 16:9 is ideal, 18:9 is doable, but 20:9 is really not very usable.


        Consider this: most smartphones natively take 4:3 pictures. If you're viewing a 4:3 picture, a it will appear the exact same size on an ultra-tall 6.7" as is does on a 5.5" 16:9 phone from 5 years ago, because it's constrained by the smallest dimension. You have this much larger screen, sure, but the phone is big and heavy, and if you're looking at pictures, scrolling through Instagram, whatever, all that extra screen real estate is just dead space. If you're looking at your email inbox, you can fit an extra 2 messages on the taller screen, but who really needs that? I'd rather just have a bigger screen that's better proportioned, because even the smallest phones are two-handers for 90% of people these days.


        There's a reason why the 16:9 tablets never took off. You can't use them in portrait mode, because they're just too tall, and they're not comfortable to hold in landscape either. There's a reason why the iPad was 4:3 (or 12:9), and Surface 3:2 (or 13.5:9). It's just a better aspect ratio for just about anything. 16:9 is good for a phone where the bottom of the screen is going to be covered by a keyboard a lot of the time. Anything beyond 18:9 is just way too narrow.

        • obarthelemy

          In reply to MikeCerm:

          Frankly, I have the same issues for almost all apps:

          • when using Maps - I can either see side details, or far enough ahead, but not both
          • gaming - most games really work better on a squarer screen,
          • directly doing Office - it's always a chore on a phone, but on my 16:10 it was orders of magnitude less painful than on my current, about same size, 18:9,
          • reading - I've wondered If I should buy a smaller phone and use it sideways to read, but then it's too small for anything else - the delights of late middle-age eyes ^^


          What makes it obvious is the dual questions : "what would I lose/gain if the screen was shorter", and "what would I lose/gain if the screen was wider". I probably wouldn't even notice a shorter screen, but fall in love with a wider one.

          I'm hanging on to my 3yo Mi Max 3, and hating Xiaomi for cancelling the 4, because I can't find anything similarly wide in the same price range.

        • obarthelemy

          In reply to MikeCerm:

          Just because I love punishment, I went ahead and compared the Mediapad X (7" 19:10) and the Redmi Note 9 Pro (6.7" 20:9) for screen width : 3.71" to 2.74". A whole 35% wider, for a screen that's barely bigger if you're misguided into thinking that diagonal is a good proxy for screen size.


          Also, area-wise, the Mediapad's screen is about 30% bigger. Not 5% as the diagonal would have us believe.

      • RobertJasiek

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        There are users with different needs for smartphones. You belong to the one-hand faction. I belong to the "wider is better" faction because I would want to read PDFs etc. a lot. I will never buy any smartphone narrower than 16:9 but actually want 5:4 to 4:3. I would even prefer 1:1, which I can use for a square board game, to 16:9.

        • Paul Thurrott

          I'm not part of a faction, I'm just stating a fact.
          • RobertJasiek

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            "tall and thin aspect ratios are preferrable" is not a fact but is your opinion. "Some people prefer..." would be an observation.

          • obarthelemy

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Except you aren't, you're presenting your personal opinion as a god-given truth.


            1- wider phones aren't harder to hold. I've got normal hands for my 1m80 frame, and never dropped one. You just don't grip them like a hammer, but rest them on your fingertips. I'm sure smaller and smaller-handed people like smaller/narrower phones, but what about us ? I'm average, not a giant !


            2- even if you find them harder to hold, there are things (rings and ... bumpers ?) you can stick to the back to lock a finger in. I never found I needed one of those, even with my 7", 16:10 Mediapad X. I do get grippy cases. Never dropped a phone even jostled on a crowded bus.


            3- you're not addressing the "height, huh, what is it good for ?" question. You're actually going with the "more = better" simplification... so I guess a 15" long, 1" wide screen would be even better ? I know, this is ridiculous, but to me we've passed the ridiculous point, since that extra inch up top is only making me struggle to reach the top, especially since the narrowness of the phone makes it harder to hold it "the right way".


            4- given the responses, I'd say the answer to my question is not as consensual as you think it is. What's surprising is this one flew by us with no debate at all, while journos were agonizing over... notch shapes ?

            • Paul Thurrott

              It is a fact, not an opinion, that wider phones are harder to hold than thinner phones and that they put more portions of the display out of reach when used one-handed than do wider phones. Why make me debate this? Because of this fact, it is my preference for thinner phones, yes. But the impact of wideness is not an opinion.
              • MikeCerm

                In reply to paul-thurrott:

                Just as there is a natural limit to how wide a phone should be, there's also limits to how tall one should be. Look at the recent Sony phone with a 21:9 screen if you don't believe me. It's ridiculous! If you want a narrow phone, there are lots of options. The debate isn't about whether wideness makes a phone harder to use with one hand, which it obviously does. The issue is that making a phone excessively tall introduces a bunch of usablilty problems too. Some apps force you into landscape and the keyboard is very difficult to use and covers the whole screen. If your thumb can't reach across a phone that's not not even 3" wide, then you certainly can't reach the top a of phone that's more than 6" tall without juggling it around every time you need to pull down the notification tray. (One smart thing that Palm did was put notifications on the bottom in WebOS, even though the screen was only 3". Not sure why Google never copied that, since they copied basically everything else.)

              • RobertJasiek

                In reply to paul-thurrott:

                This discussion clarifies that facts require precise statements separating objective from subjective aspects involved, and that there can be several reasons for something to be preferred by some. Ease of holding is one reason but does not imply everybody's preference for a large display ratio. Etc.

                • Paul Thurrott

                  Of course. We all prefer what we prefer. I try to be obvious when I discuss my preferences vs. what I think makes the most sense generally because I don't always align with the norm either.
                • RobertJasiek

                  In reply to paul-thurrott:

                  We both try to use the right tool for whatever task we have. Despite some variety of devices, there is, however, too much focus by the manufacturers on a period's current mainstream. Currently, we have too many tall smartphones, too many glare displays, too many mainboards and cases for at most one fast, thick graphics card etc. Manufacturers of computers and their components should serve a greater variety of demands at all times, like manufacturers can for food or clothes.

              • obarthelemy

                In reply to paul-thurrott:

                It is also a fact, not an opinion, that

                0) no, it depends on degree of wideness and of tallness

                a) most, almost all, content/apps work much better on a squarer screen and

                b) once you renounce gripping your phone like a hammer and instead carry it like a plate, wider phones are not so much of an issue

                c) making phones taller is a net negative past a certain point, which we have probably more than reached, and the top gets more unreachable than the "bad" corner of a wide phone.

                d) I'm slightly afraid of side-tracking the conversation, but I'm not even sure occasionally requiring 2-handed use is that much of an issue anyway. Also, all my large phones have had a "scrunch down display area" gesture (which I used less than once a week).

                Which of those issues is more important to you certainly is an opinion. I'd argue is taste, as with laptop screens: some want small some want large, some want 4:3 some are happy with 16:9...


                It's OK to want to grip one's phone as if it were a lifeline. It's also OK to want it wide enough for apps and content to actually be enjoyable ?


                Edit I'm sorry, I'm venting at you because I'm becoming very unhappy with the state of smartphone's screens. I can't find a phone I want; to me a phone is mostly a screen as long as it has CPU enough to move pixels on it and battery enough to keep them moving I'm happy. I can't find a screen I like. Not your fault, though because OEMs *are* sensitive to press I'd have loved someone, anyone in the press corps to tackle the issue.

                • Paul Thurrott

                  I'll just say this, whether by coincidence or market evaluation, smartphone makers are at least offering good handsets at a range of price points and screen sizes, and the relentless push to bigger, bigger, bigger has sort of subsided in the sense that there are good small phones and there are good big phones that are less awkward to use because they're thinner. We all have whatever preferences. But, in general, the move to thinner phones is "better" than just using the same aspect ratios but bigger, just as the move to 16:10 and even 3:2 displays on laptops/2-in-1s is "better" generally than 16:9. But there will always be those who prefer whatever they prefer that's maybe different than the norm. It's all good.
  8. doc_simple

    I woulld like to reply to a few comments.


    1. Why is the dimension conversation so acrid? I agree, thinner is easier to hold. I agree, wider is better for many tasks. My question is, who cares? Buy the appropriate device. Need more width? Folding phone maybe?


    2. The camera on the 8 pro, while not being industry leading, is certainly not "lackluster". The hardware is there, the algorithm is not. That can be updated with software, although I doubt it will be even though the 8 Pro remains the OP flagship. I get really good if not great pictures. YMMV.


    3. Wireless charging. Cool feature, but nowhere near as fast as the wall charger. I use fairly heavily and can make it a day without a charge most days. I know many live this but it seems so inefficient to me.


    I have had the OP 7 pro, got my daughter an 8 and have an 8 pro now. I agree that the lower end segment of our market is currently trash. Would love a solid performing sub-$500 phone but just nothing that satisfies. $900 hurt but it's still under the $1k mark. Maybe someday these will begin to drop in price as the tech begins to plateau like PC has.

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