OnePlus 8 Pro: Impressions from afar

OnePlus has officially announced the OnePlus 8 series, and because of the current pandemic, the company did so over a live stream. There was no big event in New York which is a little disappointing (it’s one I look forward to every year), but we still have new gadgets to look at, and who doesn’t love new gadgets?

In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the new OnePlus 8 Pro from afar and typing out some of my impressions. I don’t have one in-house, unfortunately, but I’ll work on getting one in the future.

Here’s a rundown of the features and specs of the OnePlus 8 Pro blended with my thoughts. Enjoy!

Design: modern, familiar, safer

There’s no way around it: the OnePlus 8 Pro looks very similar to the OnePlus 7 Pro from last year, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a familiar design, sure, but it’s still blatently modern. Subtle curves, ultra-slim bezels, and the new color finishes give this phone the proper appearance for a device in 2020, despite looking also like one from 2019.

The whole phone isn’t a carbon copy of the 7 Pro, though. OnePlus actually played things a bit safer this year with the removal of the motor-powered selfie camera. Last year’s 7 Pro would bring forth the selfie shooter via a motorized slider that came out of the top of the phone. That way, you’d get slim bezels and no notch on the display. However, for the OnePlus 8 Pro, the company got rid of the motors and simply placed the selfie camera in a hole-punch cutout. It’s a safer move and one that likely won’t worry consumers as to whether it’s durable enough to last a few years on end.

Speaking of durability, this is the first OnePlus phone to earn a IP rating after the company wined about why they weren’t important. The 8 Pro earned an IP68 certification good for dust resistance and water resistance up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.

Besides these key differences, everything else on the OnePlus 8 Pro is extremely familiar. You get stereo speakers thanks to an earpiece and bottom-firing grille, an alert slider, and power/volume buttons. There’s also a USB-C port which takes us into one of the most exciting parts of the OnePlus 8 Pro: charging.

(Fast) Wireless charging is finally here

The OnePlus 8 Pro supports charging over its USB-C port up to 50W thanks to OnePlus’ Warp Charge technology. But that’s not even the best part. After years of not including the technology (despite nearly every other manufacturer implementing it somehow), OnePlus has finally bit the bullet and included wireless charging with the 8 Pro. What’s more, the phone supports fast wireless charging at 30W. The company had to redesign how typical wireless charging is handled in order to support all 30W of power. They went into detail about it in this forums post.

With 30W fast wireless charging, you can go from 1% to 50% in as little as 30 minutes. That’s seriously impressive.

There’s also a pretty big caveat: if you want 30W wireless charging, you have to buy OnePlus’ proprietary wireless charger that literally comes with a fan on its back. I don’t have a price yet, but it’ll probably cost a fair amount.

Display and specs: typical OnePlus

As is the case with almost every phone OnePlus puts out, the 8 Pro goes absolutely crazy in the spec department.

On the front of the device, there’s a 6.78-inch 3120×1440 Fluid AMOLED display covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 6. The big pitch here? A 120Hz refresh rate that will make everything look buttery smooth. I don’t care what anyone says: faster refresh rates are always better. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say they’re a must-have in smartphones nowadays, and if the phone you’re putting out doesn’t have one, that’s absolutely absurd.

The display also comes with a 240Hz touch sample rate which improves the latency between you tapping something on the screen and the screen actually showing what you just did. In addition, the 8 Pro can reach a peak of 1,300 nits of brightness which is… bright.

Underneath the display lie the specs, and they’re pretty crazy. You get the Snapdragon 865 processor which enables 5G right out of the box, the Adreno 650 GPU, either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage, 8GB or 12GB of RAM, Wi-Fi 6, and a big 4,510mAh battery. OnePlus is known for including every high-end spec they can which, more often than not, makes for a pretty killer experience. I’m anxious to see just how well this thing can perform.

Software: OxygenOS gets a bit better

OnePlus is also enhancing the software experience on the 8 Pro. It comes with OxygenOS based on Android 10, and for faster performance, the software packs over 280 new optimizations. In terms of features, new dynamic wallpapers, Live Caption, a new dark theme, Alexa compatibility, and more are all on board. It seems like a solid package, although there probably isn’t much else to talk about given they only mentioned software for around 30 seconds during today’s live stream. In a nutshell? It’ll be clean and fast, without a doubt.

Cameras: another year, another round of improvements

One of the biggest downsides to owning a OnePlus phone is suffering with camera quality that isn’t up to par with the big dogs. And with the company’s phones slowly creeping up in price year after year, it’s about time OnePlus steps up to the plate.

I can’t say this will be the year where we get a OnePlus phone with Samsung or Apple-level photography capabilities, but I do know that the company is heading in the right direction, despite potentially not reaching the point they need to in order to compete.

On the back of the 8 Pro, OnePlus includes four different camera sensors. There’s a main 48MP f/1.8 lens with all the fixings (PDAF, laser AF, OIS, etc.), a telephoto 8MP f/2.4 lens, an ultra-wide 120-degree 40MP f/2.2 lens, and a color filter sensor. All three standard lenses are getting OnePlus’ updated camera processing that will hopefully improve the balance between lighting, saturation, and sharpness.

In terms of features, the 8 Pro includes 3x optical zoom thanks to the telephoto lens along with 30x hybrid zoom which uses a combination of the physical optics and software optimization. OnePlus has also included a new night mode that lets you take portrait photos in the dark. You also get improved OIS, 4K 60fps video capture with 3-HDR technology (weaving three different exposures to fill and balance light), stereo audio capture, audio wind screening, and “cinematic” effects.

The selfie camera weighs in at 16MP.

OnePlus says this is their biggest camera upgrade yet, and it should make the most difference in terms of quality year over year. It seems that every year the company says this, though, so I’m not sure how well these cameras are gonna perform. Given OnePlus’ track record, they might still fall flat compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max and Pixel 4.

Security: fingerprints and faces

Just like last year, OnePlus is sticking to its fingerprints-and-faces approach to security with the 8 Pro. You get both an in-display fingerprint reader that’s now faster and more reliable along with face unlock which, while isn’t as secure, will more than likely be lightning fast.

Wrapping up

I like what I see with the OnePlus 8 Pro. It looks like it’s gonna be a really complete package that checks a lot of boxes. And given the fact OnePlus has historically charged far less for its devices when compared to competitors, it might be yet another no-brainer smartphone.

It’s also the phone that will destroy the LG V60. Why do I say that? Because almost everything about this phone is better than what the V60 includes, minus the extensive camera controls and quad DAC/headphone jack. People have been praising the V60 lately as being a great “budget” flagship phone, but I’ve been holding off from calling it that because I knew the 8 Pro was around the corner, and there’s just no way this phone doesn’t eat the V60’s lunch.

If I get an 8 Pro in-house, I’ll do a comparison.

Pricing and availability

The OnePlus 8 Pro starts at $899 for the 128GB storage/8GB RAM model which, to be honest, is a bit unexpected from OnePlus. It gets even more unexpected when you look at the price tag for the 256GB storage/12GB RAM model: $999. That’s right – the OnePlus 8 Pro will be the company’s first thousand-dollar flagship. It’ll be interesting to see how well it can perform on the market at such a high price.

The phone will launch on April 29th. Interestingly, it’ll only be sold online. The standard OnePlus 8 will be sold at retail stores, including Verizon.

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