OnePlus 8T review: numbers game

Den W. Den W. 16 October
OnePlus 8T review: numbers game

120 hertz, 65 watts, a Snapdragon 865 processor, 4500 milliamp-hours, OxygenOS 11 and four cameras. Like almost every other phone manufacturer, OnePlus likes to use big numbers to advertise its phones. And its latest device, the OnePlus 8T, is no different. OnePlus 8T review: numbers game

This is the successor to the OnePlus 8 released early this year. It's got an all new design, 120 hertz display and super quick 65 watt fast charging. OnePlus 8T review: numbers gameAnd those are big numbers which is kind of OnePlus' speciality. Each new device brings with it a faster display, more cameras and even quicker fast charging, but numbers never really tell the full story of whether the device actually does the job that you need it to do. So, what's the real story with the $749 OnePlus 8T? OnePlus 8T review: numbers game

$749 gets you 12 gigabytes of RAM with 256 gigabytes of storage, but there is a step down model which I've been using that comes with eight gigabytes of RAM and a 128 gigabytes of storage but it's not being sold in the U.S.

Both versions come with sub six gigahertz 5G, although there's no millimeter wave support here. There's also no official IP rating for unlocked models. The OnePlus has confirmed the T-Mobile carrier version has an IP 68 rating.

Like usual, OnePlus says the phone should survive being used in the rain, even if it's not officially certified. Other than that, those specs put the OnePlus 8T firmly in line with most other flagships released this year, and I haven't encountered any performance hiccups during my time with the phone.

A lot of how speedy the OnePlus 8T feels to use comes down to it's 120 hertz display. And whether you're scrolling through Twitter or flipping between apps, everything feels lovely and smooth. 120 is a whole 30 extra hertz compared to the 90 hertz display we had on the OnePlus 8. I'm not going to sit here and claim that it's not technically a bigger number, I just don't think it makes as substantial a difference as the jump from 60 to 90.

Much more important is that the 1080p screen looks vibrant and crisp, and although its default color settings tends a little warmer than I'd like it's easily fixed in the settings. And it's also, thank the Lord, a flat display, does it make the overall phone look ever so slightly less premium? Sure, maybe. But is it more useful for basically everything you want a phone screen to do? Obviously yes.

But the OnePlus 8T has stereo speakers, one downward facing and one for the phones earpiece, and it's great to see stereo speakers returning after they were missing from the Nord. Their quality is about on par from what you'd see on similar setups elsewhere.

65 is the most eye-catching number on the OnePlus 8T's spec sheet, because it describes its fast charging speed. 65 watts is among the fastest fast charging you'll find in a phone right now, and OnePlus is making big claims about its warp charged 65 technology included with the eight. OnePlus 8T review: numbers gameNot least the fact that you're supposed to get a day's power in 15 minutes.

But I have a confession to make, and that's the I just rarely get too excited about fast charging announcements like these. I mean call me old-fashioned but I just like to charge my phone overnight. But 65 watts does seem very fast though, so it seems like a shame not to put it through its paces.

So, what if instead of charging my phone overnight I plug it into charge first thing in the morning? My morning routine takes me roughly 25 minutes which charges the 8T 4,500 millamp-hour battery to 81% from zero. Obviously the amount of charge you'll get will depend on how much you had going in, but that's a rough idea. And of course, everyone's routine is slightly different but after 37 minutes the phone was completely charged.

And the OnePlus 8T does end up feeling a little bit warm to the touch when you fast charge it but it was nothing unusual. And OnePlus says it has a whole bunch of temperature sensors to catch any heat problems before they crop up.

So yes, 65 watt fast charging definitely means you can, if you want to, stop charging your phone overnight. I was averaging about 50% of battery at the end of the day, which is, I guess, about what you get out of 15 minutes, so a days worth of charge in 15 minutes. But you didn't include wireless charging which really is a shame especially since it was on the OnePlus 8 Pro. And that's a shame because increasingly wireless charging is about not only being able to charge your phone but being able to use your phone to charge other devices like wireless earbuds. And it's just a shame that OnePlus isn't embracing the feature more.

OnePlus is getting on the Android 11 train early. And is actually claiming that the OnePlus 8T, it's going to be one of the first phones to ship with Android 11 pre-installed. And that means you get access to all the Android 11 features like it's redesigned conversation notification settings, media controls, power button menu, all that good stuff. OnePlus 8T review: numbers gameAnd from OnePlus' perspective, it's made a couple of tweaks of its own with OxygenOS 11, like a redesigned settings menu. But these are pretty minor overall. I continue to like what OnePlus does with Android though. Everything's feels clean and out of the way.

There are four cameras on the back of the OnePlus 8T and they're contained within this kind of generic looking rectangular camera bump. OnePlus 8T review: numbers gameThat's one more rear camera than the OnePlus 8 but you hardly getting 25% more camera performance here. First three are similar to the OnePlus 8 a 48 megapixel main camera, a 16 megapixel ultra-wide and a kind of useless five megapixel macro but the extra sensor is a new two mega pixel monochrome sensor. It's for black and white photography. It's super weird, I can't quite work it out. Personally I would have loved a new telephoto sensor like we saw in the OnePlus 8 Pro.

For starters, the setting to actually take black and white photographs is buried right at the end of the camera apps list of filters. And even then it's only a two megapixel sensor so the photo is actually being taken by the main camera with the monochrome sensor kind of gathering some extra data. If you put your finger over the monochrome sensor it complains and refuses to take the photo in black and white, but the framing stays the same. And the black and white photos do look nice but it's hardly the most useful addition especially since OnePlus tells me the phone doesn't use this extra sensor for anything other than black and white photography.

And beyond the monochrome sensor, the OnePlus 8T's cameras provide similar performance to what we saw on the OnePlus 8.OnePlus 8T review: numbers game In daylight, you get nice neutral colors with plenty of detail. But things can get a little softer looking when you switch to the ultra-wide.OnePlus 8T review: numbers game The camera does handle skin tones well and there doesn't seem to be any significant smoothing or loss of detail here. But in low light things can end up looking a little warm and yellow. Even when the phones night mode enables automatically. And this mode does a nice job at boosting details. As long as you don't have any fast moving subjects.

Finally, there's a low resolution macro sensor on the phone but the macro shots I got were just underwhelming. OnePlus 8T review: numbers gameOver on the video side of things, there are a couple of new features to play with. Now one of them is video portrait mode, which you're seeing right now.

There's also a super steady mode which tries to smooth out movement while you're filming and a video nightscape mode for filming at night. All three are okay, but they have their compromises. None work for the phone selfie camera and all top out at 1080p rather than 4k.

So ultimately the OnePlus 8T's cameras probably shouldn't be the deciding factor for whether you buy this phone or not. They're not bad enough to warn you off a purchase, but they're not good enough for you to pick it up specifically for them. And sure there were four cameras but I'd wager that most people will probably only end up using two of them.

OnePlus has a lot of impressive specs up its sleeve for the OnePlus 8T. 65 watt fast charging, 120 hertz refresh rate, four cameras but take these specs off a piece of paper and put them in the real world and the reality is sometimes a little different. It's 65 watt fast charging is genuinely very impressive but a 120 hertz display compared to the OnePlus 8's 90 hertz screen just doesn't feel like as big of an improvement as the numbers suggest. And two of the 8T's four cameras feel a little bit gimmicky. Macro shots look pretty soft and the monochrome camera just feels unnecessary.

So in the end, the OnePlus 8T ends up feeling like an incremental upgrade compared to the 8 which itself was an incremental upgrade compared to the 7T. It's just a shame that we haven't seen the OnePlus 8 Pro's more premium features like a telephoto camera and wireless charging trickle down to this level.

If you're using a OnePlus 7 or earlier then you're likely to really feel these improvements. But if you're using a more modern device, you're probably safe on holding off upgrading for another year or so. OnePlus has played a numbers game with the OnePlus 8T. It just all adds up to a device that occasionally feels a little bit familiar. 

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