OnePlus 8 Pro first impressions: OnePlus bites the apple, finally builds an all out flagship

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Updated: Jun 15, 2020 9:49 AM

OnePlus 8 Pro, ladies and gentlemen, is no flagship killer, but the flagship to beat in 2020. We take a closer look.

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro starts at Rs 54,999 (8GB/128GB) and goes all the way to Rs 59,999 (12GB/256GB). (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

OnePlus resisted it for a long time, but finally with the OnePlus 8 Pro, it has given in to the temptation of making an all out flagship. The OnePlus 8 Pro, ladies and gentlemen, is no flagship killer, but the flagship to beat in 2020. There is a vanilla OnePlus 8 for those who still fancy a relatively more toned-down (and lower priced) OnePlus phone, and there’s also an even leaner OnePlus Z (or whatever OnePlus decides to call it) that’s coming soon possibly sometime in July, but the OnePlus 8 Pro, well, that’s the real deal.

OnePlus phones have always offered terrific value for money. Like clockwork, these phones have served as viable alternatives to the high-end Samsung Galaxys and even the Apple iPhones, year on year since their inception. Their secret sauce being the knack for high-end specs and premium design, comparable to the legacy phones I just mentioned, but at a more mass-market pricing.

But over the years, OnePlus phones got boring. Which is probably why OnePlus started launching more phones in the first place (standard, pro, T, T Pro), and also tied up with McLaren for the kicks (interestingly, the two brands have decided to go their separate ways only recently). Another reason perhaps, was profit. OnePlus also had to start making money at some point of time.

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro is IP68-certified. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The problem with the “Pro” OnePlus phones was the lack of direction. While the vanilla OnePlus phone was clearly the flagship killer, the Pro variant was trying too hard to be a flagship maybe. But it was never really there. Every review, every customer feedback, talked about the same pros and cons — it’s fast and smooth, it’s got good battery life, it has a fantastic screen, but you know what, there’s no IP rating, there’s no wireless charging and those cameras, well, they’re holding it back.

The OnePlus 8 Pro changes all that. This is the first time OnePlus has taken a big bite out of the forbidden apple it resisted for so long and given us a proper no holds barred flagship while keeping intact everything else we’ve grown to love about these phones. But more importantly, the OnePlus 8 Pro is a OnePlus phone with a direction. It’s a phone that should make Samsung (and even Apple) nervous.

I won’t go much into the design of the OnePlus 8 Pro in this hands-on piece because it’s largely the same as the OnePlus 7T Pro/OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s two pieces of glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5) held together by a metal frame, though OnePlus has improved the overall fit and finish ever so slightly this year. The vertically aligned camera setup on the back (which is a hallmark OnePlus thing now) has also grown a bit in height and heft (more on that later).

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro has a punch hole display instead of a motorized pop-up selfie camera. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

There are new colour choices, of course, and the glacial green version with its frosted matte finish (that extends all the way to the sides as well) which I have for review, looks stunning. There’s another matte option in ultramarine blue that’s also quite one-of-a-kind, and the usual suspect, aka onyx black which is glossy and reflective for those who like that kind of stuff.

The OnePlus 8 Pro is a big phone but it is well balanced and is also a little boxy so it doesn’t feel very bulky. It’s still a big phone though, bigger than any other OnePlus phone in the past, and I wish it would have come in two sizes (like the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+), but again that’s just me.

The OnePlus 8 Pro has a punch hole display instead of a motorized pop-up selfie camera setup seen in the OnePlus 7T Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s subjective but I prefer this setup since the lack of moving parts adds to all-round durability plus it allows OnePlus to add an official IP68-rating to the OnePlus 8 Pro making it resistant to accidental splashes of water (and dust) — a first for any OnePlus phone.

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro has a 120Hz display. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The punch hole is only the start, there are two other big changes. The OnePlus 8 Pro has a large 6.78-inch display and it has a high refresh rate of 120Hz. This is a step-up from the OnePlus 7T Pro’s 6.67-inch 90Hz display. The OnePlus 8 Pro has a Samsung-sourced Super AMOLED display with a 3168×1440 pixel resolution. Unlike Samsung and its Galaxy S20 phones, OnePlus lets you crank up the refresh rate and resolution all the way to a maximum (120Hz/QHD+). The OnePlus 8 Pro screen supports HDR10+ playback plus there’s a fast and reliable optical in-screen fingerprint scanner for biometrics.

The OnePlus 8 Pro also supports MEMC technology, which is seen in high-end TVs for seemingly smoother video playback. Its use has been controversial on TVs, but on a smartphone form factor, it’s not as bad, though your mileage may vary from app to app and video to video.

Coming to the actual basics, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s display is easily among the best there is on any phone in the market today. It’s as good as the class-leading Galaxy S20+, if not better, especially when it comes to brightness and colour accuracy, though colours may be slightly cooler by default.

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro is the first OnePlus phone to support wireless charging. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Under the hood, the OnePlus 8 Pro has Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 865 processor paired with up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB UFS 3.0 storage (non-expandable). Software inside the phone is Android 10-based OxygenOS. The combination of high-end hardware and clean, minimalist software entails a phone that literally flies no matter what you throw at it (it does get hot sometimes but it is also quick to cool down). In the limited time that I have spent with it, I haven’t encountered any bugs, something that has been common in recent OnePlus phones straight out of the box. So, that’s nice. OnePlus phones generally tend to get quick updates and something similar will be expected from the OnePlus 8 Pro as well.

Though not as feature rich and even as good looking as Samsung’s One UI, OxygenOS has its own dedicated fan following that vouches for its big focus on functionality (over form) and ease of use, plus host of customizations, and that remains the case with the software inside the OnePlus 8 Pro as well. I will have more to say about the OnePlus 8 Pro’s detailed performance and software quirks in my full review that’s coming soon, so stay tuned for that.

Moving on, the OnePlus 8 Pro packs a 4,510mAh battery with 30W fast wired charging and in a first for any OnePlus phone, there’s support for wireless charging as well. More specifically, we’re looking at 30W fast wireless charging here. OnePlus has separately also launched a dedicated Warp Charge 30 Wireless charger that’s required to fully realize the potential of its new high speed wireless charging technology. The company claims its Warp Charge 30 Wireless charger can charge the OnePlus 8 Pro from 1% to 50% in only half an hour. Having said that, it is also possible to wirelessly charge the OnePlus 8 Pro using a third-party Qi wireless  charger, but you’ll have to make do with slower charging — 5W or 10W (EPP standard).

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro has four cameras on the back. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The last (but possibly the best) big update comes in the camera department. The OnePlus 8 Pro comes with a 48MP main (Sony IMX689), 48MP (IMX586) ultra-wide with 120-degree field-of-view, 8MP telephoto for 3X optical zoom (30X hybrid zoom) camera (which is same as the one on the OnePlus 7T Pro), and another 5MP colour filter to add interesting lighting effects and filters to your photos. That last bit is mostly a gimmick. On the front, the OnePlus 8 Pro comes with a 16MP camera, which is the same as the one on the OnePlus 7T Pro and even the OnePlus 7 Pro.

While I reserve my verdict for my full review, here’s what I can tell you about the OnePlus 8 Pro’s cameras basis of two days’ usage. The OnePlus 8 Pro is a big leap for OnePlus when it comes to cameras —yes, finally!— and there’s lots of potential here. The 48MP main sensor is nice and large, churning out one of the best low light/night mode photos we’ve seen in any OnePlus phone to date, while in good lighting, it can capture a good amount of detail with a level of contrast that’s punchy without going overboard with saturation.

OnePlus 8 ProOnePlus 8 Pro has it all including 5G support. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The real star of the show is the ultra wide angle camera. That high-resolution sensor helps take one of the most detailed and good-looking wide angle shots, plus some fantastic macros, we’ve seen on any phone to date. The telephoto is a “value” addition too, but it’s not as exciting as the two 48MP cameras. All in all, the OnePlus 8 Pro can finally stand toe to toe with the Samsung Galaxys and the Apple iPhones in this regard and that’s something you don’t see everyday from a new OnePlus phone.

Clearly, the OnePlus 8 Pro has it all (including 5G support), making it the first OnePlus phone that I can recommend to any buyer looking for a no compromise flagship phone (of course, it still doesn’t cost as much as a new Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone which remains its biggest USP) right now. At least that’s what I feel after spending two days with the device. There’s always the T upgrade to look forward to later in the year, but this may be the first time that potential buyers can be rest assured they won’t be missing out on anything substantial (even if the OnePlus 8T Pro takes a different approach to things and offers more visible upgrades) should they make an investment in the OnePlus 8 Pro. The OnePlus 8 Pro starts at Rs 54,999 (8GB/128GB) and goes all the way to Rs 59,999 (12GB/256GB). It is available for buying in India starting from today (June 15, 2020). Watch this space for my full review of the OnePlus 8 Pro in the days to come.

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