If a phone’s screen is its window to the world, the OnePlus 8 Pro shows you the world more beautifully than any other device. The $899 flagship has a brighter, more color-accurate, and more responsive display than any other phone on the market, even the $1,200 Samsung Galaxy S20+. But in the US, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a weird limitation—it’s only 5G on T-Mobile’s network, and even then, it lacks high-speed millimeter-wave 5G. Any $900 phone this year should really have some form of 5G in it, so we’re awarding our Editors’ Choice to the more affordable, more widely 5G-compatible OnePlus 8.
Design and Display
Before we get into details, here’s a quick rundown of how the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro compare with the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+ on some key differentiators. Note that we don’t recommend the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra—not only is it $1,500, its camera doesn’t work that well even after being patched.
While the Galaxy S20 line claims to have 45W charging, we didn’t see it make a difference in testing
The OnePlus 8 Pro follows the recent trend toward relatively large phones, at 6.50 by 2.92 by 0.33 inches (HWD) and 7 ounces. It’s noticeably larger than the OnePlus 8, and even slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S20+. It comes in black, blue, or green, each with a matte finish that does a much better job resisting fingerprints than the OnePlus 8’s silver model. The phone has the traditional OnePlus mute slider, but no 3.5mm headphone jack, nor does it come with USB-C headphones. OnePlus sells a good pair, the USB-C Bullets, for $24.95.
The OnePlus 8 Pro’s screen is, simply, the best in the business. A 120Hz, 2K Samsung AMOLED panel tuned by Pixelworks, it’s brighter than any competing screen and, in general, more color-accurate. It’s positively gorgeous. And unlike with the Galaxy S20 series, you can run it at its full glory in 2K-120Hz mode, where the S20 line makes you choose between resolution and frame rate. You can also kick it down to 60Hz or 1080p to save battery, but I didn’t find much battery drain from using 120Hz because there’s a setting to automatically downscale the screen when you aren’t using high-frame-rate-friendly content. I have many more details about screen quality in a story I wrote in cooperation with DisplayMate Labs.
The 8 Pro has a few more screen features I didn’t find on the OnePlus 8. Comfort Tone is like Apple’s TrueTone, changing the screen’s white point under ambient light. Vibrant Color Effect Pro tries to upscale video content to HDR, enhancing contrast and color.
There is very little 120Hz content available for phones, so the 8 Pro brings in a controversial feature from TVs: motion smoothing. Turn it on in Netflix or YouTube, and it upscales content to 120fps. Using my favorite video test track, the music video for Chvrches “Empty Threat” (a heartwarming tale of goths at a water park), smoothing changes the entire feel of the scene. Without smoothing, it’s all a bit jerky in that familiar cinematic way—a little dreamlike, like a memory. With smoothing, things snap into reality like they were recorded on someone’s smartphone. People have very different, and very strong emotional reactions to motion smoothing, but at least you can say it’s a real option here if you want it.
Nope, there’s no headphone jack here
The OnePlus 8 Pro uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset as the OnePlus 8, the Galaxy S20 line, and the LG V60. On the Geekbench processor benchmark and GFXBench’s offscreen graphics benchmark, it performed just like those other phones, as you’d expect. That means about a 20- to 25-percent bump in performance over last year’s flagships.
See How We Test Phones
We also like to use the PCMark benchmark, which tests general application performance, but its results were odd and inconsistent on the OnePlus 8 Pro; the phone scored higher in 2K screen mode than it did in HD screen mode, which shouldn’t happen (lowering screen resolution improves benchmark performance), and in both modes it scored more similarly to last year’s OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren than to the Galaxy S20. I’ll chalk that up to something wrong in the benchmark app, as other benchmarks disagreed.
The default model of the OnePlus 8 Pro has 8GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB of storage; you can boost it to 12GB and 256GB for an extra $100. Storage speed, in general, is a big winner for this phone. The OnePlus 8 Pro rated 24154 on PCMag’s specialized storage benchmark, as opposed to 18000 to 19000 on the Galaxy S20 series. That makes loading apps and saving photos feel snappy.
The OnePlus 8 Pro comes with little bloatware
OnePlus’ version of Android 10, which it calls Oxygen OS, continues to be the fastest, smoothest Android skin other than Google’s own. OnePlus keeps the bloatware to an absolute minimum, while offering lots of ways to tweak your system.
You can change fonts or icon packs, adjust the screen color temperature or vividness, mess with the control buttons and alert slider, install multiple copies of social networking apps, or put some apps into an encrypted folder, for instance. All of this generally hides in the settings menu, so advanced settings don’t get pushed on you, but they’re there if you want them.
For unlocking, you have an in-display fingerprint sensor or Google’s standard other options, including face unlock. I found the in-display fingerprint sensor, just like other in-display sensors, not as good as a physical sensor, but not worse than, say, the S20’s in-display sensor.
Battery life on the 4,510mAh cell is good, considering the power of the screen. On the 120Hz 2K screen setting, playing YouTube over Wi-Fi, I got 10 hours, 15 minutes. Kicking it down to 60Hz only got me an extra 30 minutes. That’s a little shorter than the standard OnePlus 8, but the OnePlus 8 has a 1080p screen, which naturally uses less power. The OnePlus 8 Pro works with the company’s proprietary Warp Charge 30T charger, which took it to 48 percent in 20 minutes and to 100 percent in 50 minutes. That’s a faster charge than Samsung offers.
Wireless charging is a new feature
There’s also a new charging option: wireless. The Pro works with standard Qi wireless charging pads such as my Logitech wireless charging cradle, but OnePlus also has a new, proprietary wireless charger that charges as fast as its wired charger does: about 21 percent every 10 minutes, and a whole charge in an hour. It doesn’t even get hot, just a little warm. That’s a radical new step, and the first time I’ve considered wireless charging to be really worth it.
Great on One Network
On T-Mobile, and only T-Mobile, the OnePlus 8 Pro has excellent network performance. OnePlus tells me that the unlocked 8 Pro will work on the New T-Mobile’s 5G networks, but not on AT&T or (probably) Verizon. It’ll be 4G on those carriers.
There are four international models of the OnePlus 8 Pro, with four different sets of 5G frequency bands: US, EU, India, and China. The European model will work in India, but otherwise they aren’t transferable across 5G networks. They all work on global 4G networks.
The Pro has 5G bands n2/n5/n41/n66/n71 with plenty of frills: 4×4 MIMO on n2/n41/n66, DSS, and the ability to do standalone 5G on bands 41 and 71. That’s a lot of numbers. What it means is that the Pro can do T-Mobile’s low- and mid-band LTE at excellent speed, with the ability to shift up to the next level of low-latency network when New T-Mobile launches it later this year. But unlike the Galaxy S20+, the Pro lacks millimeter-wave 5G. While T-Mobile doesn’t have much millimeter-wave coverage right now—it’s only in small parts of seven cities—the carrier has spent $2 billion acquiring millimeter-wave airwaves over the past few years.
The phone has all of the 4G bands used in the US, including the more obscure bands 46 (LAA) and 48 (CBRS), which are used to improve speeds in crowded urban areas.
I tested the OnePlus 8 Pro against the Galaxy S20+ on T-Mobile 5G and the 8 Pro’s performance was superior, probably because my Galaxy S20+ hasn’t yet received a software update planned for April to let it more efficiently combine 4G and 5G. I also tested the 8 Pro against the OnePlus 8 and the Galaxy S20 on AT&T’s 4G network and they performed about the same.
I was pleased to see my unlocked OnePlus 8 Pro has voice-over-LTE calling on AT&T, which isn’t always a given with unlocked phones. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi calling isn’t available on AT&T, although it is on T-Mobile and Verizon. On regular LTE networks, the 8 Pro’s voice quality shines with the EVS (enhanced voice services) codec.
The unlocked OnePlus 8 Pro has physical dual SIM slots. The second slot isn’t active on my review unit, but the phone says it will be activated through a firmware upgrade. For now, the second SIM will be 4G even if the first one is 5G, although that might also change with future software upgrades.
It’s hard to tell the Galaxy S20+ shot (left) from the OnePlus image (right)
A Good-Looking Camera
The OnePlus 8 Pro has a 48-megapixel main camera, a 48-megapixel wide-angle camera, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera, all based on a new Sony IMX689 sensor that has 1.12-micrometer pixels, larger than the 0.8-micrometer pixels you get with the OnePlus 7 Pro or OnePlus 8.
You can definitely see the difference. Photos taken with the OnePlus 8 Pro are sharper, with better dynamic range and background detail than on the OnePlus 8. Sometimes they’re even better than the Galaxy S20+, at 1x at least. Samsung notoriously tends to oversharpen photos, and in some of my shots you can seen where the OnePlus 8 Pro’s pictures look more natural.
Here’s another comparison between the Galaxy S20+ (left) and the OnePlus 8 Pro (right)
Go to 3x, and the Galaxy S20+ pulls ahead, largely by virtue of its taking 12-megapixel images rather than 8-megapixel images. The OnePlus 8 Pro also clearly isn’t optimized for greater than 3x zoom, and anything above that level looks highly digitally processed and washed out, worse than on the Galaxy S20 series (which still looks digitally processed).
The OnePlus 8’s 48-megapixel mode (left) is a little softer than the Galaxy S20+ (center) or the OnePlus 8 Pro (right)
The OnePlus 8 Pro’s 48-megapixel mode compares favorably with the Galaxy S20’s 64-megapixel mode. Shrunk down to compete with the phone’s own 12-megapixel images, daylight photos aren’t blown out at all and are sharper. Indoor photos are a bit dimmer, but I only really noticed in very low light.
The OnePlus 8 Pro (center) takes better low-light shots than the OnePlus 8 (left) and pretty much measures up to the Galaxy S20 (right)
Low light is where the OnePlus 8 Pro’s camera advantages really show up over the OnePlus 8. In my indoor, low-light shots, the 8 Pro’s photos are brighter and have more detail than those captured by the OnePlus 8. But the Galaxy S20’s far more flexible night mode crushes either OnePlus’ Nightscape mode performance. The S20’s night mode results in brighter images, and you can still zoom with the S20 at night, something you can’t do on either of the OnePlus phones.
Video recording is 4K, not 8K, up to 60fps 4K or 240fps 1080p slow-mo. That’s significantly below what the Galaxy S20 offers, which is 8K video and 960fps slow-mo. But we’re a few years away from people widely wanting to use 8K video—that resolution takes 500MB/minute, so it’s mostly for people who later use editing software to pan and zoom around their videos. 4K is enough for mainstream users right now, and OnePlus delivers a nice, stabilized experience there.
Left to right: OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus 8
I really like a lot of what OnePlus is doing with the OnePlus 8 Pro. Display performance matters a lot to smartphone buyers, and it doesn’t get any better than this. The OnePlus 8 Pro is also a fast, smooth phone with terrific software and a smart selection of cameras. If you’re in a place where you think you won’t get 5G anytime soon, or you’re on T-Mobile and don’t feel you need the S20 line’s somewhat more advanced camera features (such as 8K recording), this is a better value than the Samsung Galaxy S20+ or the LG V60.
But this is a weird time. 5G is expanding, the economy is cratering, and it doesn’t feel responsible to recommend expensive flagships that don’t support 5G. So as much as I like the OnePlus 8 Pro, I feel more comfortable naming the more affordable OnePlus 8 our Editors’ Choice. No, it doesn’t have the Pro’s 2K screen, true 3x zoom camera, or wireless charging. But it offers greater 5G connectivity starting at $699, which is a better value than you’ll find anywhere else.
OnePlus 8 Pro Specs
|Operating System||Android 10|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 865|
|Processor Speed||2.84 GHz|
|Dimensions||6.5 by 2.92 by .33 inches|
|Screen Size||6.78 inches|
|Screen Resolution||3,168 by 1,440 pixels|
|Camera Resolution (Rear; Front-Facing)||48MP, 16MP, 8MP; 16MP|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||10 hours, 15 minutes|