Of the several phones OnePlus announced in 2020, which includes the OnePlus 8 Pro in April, the OnePlus 8T in October and the OnePlus Nord N10 5G in November, the OnePlus 8 remains our favorite and has received CNET’s Editors’ Choice.

Not only does it boast premium specs, but it also features a relatively affordable price. At launch it went for $699 (£599) for 128GB of storage and $799 (£699) for 256GB, but it’s currently discounted at OnePlus for $200 less. The OnePlus 8 is available in the US at T-Mobile and, for the first time ever, Verizon; and it will work on other carriers (OnePlus and Amazon will sell it unlocked, as well). Note that Verizon is selling it at a higher price of $799 (128GB).

On specs alone, the OnePlus 8 Pro is objectively the better phone. It has more features, like a 120Hz display and a telephoto camera (you can see the list of other main differences below). But the cheaper OnePlus 8 still maintains enough other specs like 5G, a 90Hz display, an enduring battery life and a top-of-the-line processor to deliver a premium Android experience.

While it’s true that the OnePlus phones aren’t cheap as they used to be – the iPhone 11 costs $699 too – the OnePlus 8’s premium experience comes at a lower price than its other high-end Android competitors like the Galaxy S20 and the Pixel 5. If you’re watching your budget closely but don’t want to sacrifice a lot in terms of hardware, the OnePlus 8 should be your top contender.

OnePlus 8 vs. OnePlus 8 Pro: Key differences

  • OnePlus 8 has a 90Hz display, the OnePlus 8 Pro has a 120Hz display
  • Only OnePlus Pro has wireless and reverse wireless charging
  • OnePlus 8 is a tad smaller, thinner and lighter than the 8 Pro (see spec chart at the end for exact measurements)
  • OnePlus 8 has three cameras; the OnePlus 8 has four, including a color filter
  • The unlocked version of the OnePlus 8 is not IP68 water resistant. The OnePlus 8 Pro is.
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OnePlus 8’s 90Hz screen still delivers

Like last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 8 has a 90Hz display. Compared to a phone with a more common refresh rate of 60 frames per second, the OnePlus 8 feels faster and smoother – scrolling through my social media news feed or paging through home screen pages felt zippier. This trend of higher refresh rates is likely going to be adopted by more phone makers. (Before we usually saw these in gaming phones, but the mainstream Galaxy S20 phones have 120Hz displays too.)

Surprisingly, because I could readily see the difference between a 60Hz display display and a 90Hz display, I assumed the OnePlus 8 Pro’s 120Hz would look even better. But when I navigated both of them side-by-side, the 8 Pro didn’t feel miles ahead of the OnePlus 8. So, if you’re leaning towards the OnePlus 8 between the two, don’t worry about “missing out” on a superior display.

I reviewed the iridescent variant of the OnePlus 8 called interstellar glow. It’s a flashy, delightful color(s?) that is, for lack of a better word, cute. But the glossy material attracts an incredible amount of fingerprints. If you don’t mind wiping down your phone every few minutes (or you just can ignore the prints), it’s definitely a fun-looking phone to carry around.

A quick note about the phone’s water resistance. T-Mobile and Verizon’s OnePlus 8 phones will be rated IP68 for water resistance. But the unlocked version of the OnePlus 8 is not rated (as in, the ones sold through OnePlus and Amazon). That doesn’t mean it’s completely vulnerable, though. OnePlus says the OnePlus 8 is as protected against water as past models. Last year, I submerged the OnePlus 7 Pro, which isn’t IP certified either, in a fish tank for 30 minutes and it survived without issues.

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The OnePlus 8’s fun iridescent color.

Angela Lang/CNET

Some minor software differences

For the most part, the software features and OS on the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are identical – you can read more details about them in my OnePlus 8 Pro review. But the 8 Pro does have a few goodies all its own. They include the 8 Pro’s “Comfort Tone,” which automatically changes the tint of the screen depending on the ambient light environment. Don’t worry, though, you can still adjust the OnePlus 8’s screen tone (and thus make it more comfortable for your eyes in the dark), through Night Mode in Settings.

The 8 Pro also has a “motion graphics smoothing” option, which is supposed to smooth out motion blur when watching videos. But when I turned on these options and watched videos, I barely noticed any improvement.

OnePlus 8’s triple rear cameras

Like the OnePlus 8 Pro, the OnePlus 8 has a standard 48-megapixel camera and wide-angle camera that take excellent photos. Nightscape, OnePlus’ low-light camera mode, also brightened up photos well, but I noticed the mode worked a tad better on the 8 Pro. When I took a photo of a large plant in the dark, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s image had more detail.

I like how the camera handles the color contrasting between the blue building and yellow lemons.

Lynn La/CNET

A photo of a playground taken with the wide-angle camera.

Lynn La/CNET

This picture was taken in a dark yard with Nightscape mode on.

Lynn La/CNET

The OnePlus 8’s camera has a 2x lossless zoom, which is good for closing in on faraway objects. It can also digitally zoom up to 10x, but objects looked a lot blurrier at this level.

A lakeside photo with no zoom.

Lynn La/CNET

Zooming in on buildings at 2x.

Lynn La/CNET

The Oakland courthouse at 10x zoom.

Lynn La/CNET

Instead of sharing a telephoto camera or a color filter camera with the OnePlus 8 Pro, the OnePlus 8 has a macro camera. I was excited at this prospect, as I find a macro camera to be more useful than the color filter camera. But when I went up close with a rose, the image was muddy and the colors looked flat. Instead, zooming in with the regular camera produced photos that, while perhaps not as sharp, were more aesthetically pleasing and colorful. Keep in mind that the phone can still take portrait photos without a telephoto camera, as well as good portrait photos with the selfie camera.

This closeup shot of rose pedals using the macro feature is sharper than the one below, but colors are flatter.

Lynn La/CNET

This image was taken without macro. Though it’s blurrier, it’s more vibrant and pleasing.

Lynn La/CNET

The OnePlus 8 can still take portrait photos without a telephoto lens.

Lynn La/CNET

The camera also has OIS and shoots 4K video that’s sharp and steady. There’s an extra “super stabilization” mode to further smooth down motion blur from hand shaking, but when I looked at both videos side-by-side, the effect or improvements seemed minimal.

OnePlus 8 performance and battery

The OnePlus 8 has the same processor as the OnePlus 8 Pro, so for more details on performance, head to the 8 Pro review. For the most part, both phones performed similarly on benchmark tests and the OnePlus 8 remains competitive among other Android phones that also share the same Snapdragon 865 chipset, like the Galaxy S20 and the LG V60.

Note that while I included the Pixel 4 for comparison, Google’s phone is equipped with last year’s Snapdragon 855 processor.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

I conducted battery tests on continuous video playback on Airplane mode. The 4,300-mAh battery inside the OnePlus 8 ran for an average of 18 hours, 48 minutes on both its 90Hz and 60Hz screen setting (because the video I played was shot in 30fps, it makes sense that the times were close). By comparison, the 8 Pro’s 4,510-mAh battery clocked in 18 hours, 52 minutes. I’ll update this piece with final results and ratings when we finish running streaming video tests.

As with past generations of OnePlus devices, the OnePlus 8 has super-fast Warp Charging. From a 0% battery level, 15 minutes of charging powered up the phone up to 35%, at 30 minutes it was at 65% and after an hour the battery was nearly completely replenished at 98%.

OnePlus 8 spec comparison

Note: Pixel 4 prices as of April 14, 2020.

First published on April 14.