These are times of change for OnePlus. The brand has released a new series of phones and is getting into new segments, partially climbing off its flagship perch (which is another story, which we hope to write soon). What has NOT, however, changed is the T tradition that the brand follows in the latter part of the year of bringing out a slightly upgraded version of the flagship it launched earlier. So, while OnePlus has got into new waters with the Nord series, the OnePlus 8T is pretty much business as usual.
Well, sort of…
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Looks a little more mainstream
That is because while the OnePlus 8T is an upgrade of the OnePlus 8 that was launched earlier in 2020, it is perhaps the first T series device from OnePlus that features the same processor as its predecessor. Whereas T devices in the past always had the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon flagship chip, the OnePlus 8T sticks to the Snapdragon 865 we saw on the OnePlus 8, and does not go for the 865+ that some more recent flagships have used.
No, this time OnePlus has gone for other changes in the T variant. The most striking, of course, is the design, which seems to pick a little from the Samsung/Vivo school of rectangular camera unit design. And just like the Nord dazzled with a blue variant, the 8T too gets its own shade – a rather striking aquamarine green. The design is a little mainstream but the blend of glass and metal gives the phone a very premium feel (hint: you want it to stand out, get the Cyborg Cyan cover from OnePlus with all its circuitry on it). There is no IP rating here, so do not think of taking this anywhere in the vicinity of water. In terms of overall size, the phone is very slightly larger and a few grams heavier than the 8. It is not a compact phone but neither is it a crazy large one.
Same chip, same main sensor…but MUCH faster charging and a whole new breath of Oxygen
There are some hardware upgrades too – while the display remains a flat, 6.55-inch full HD+ fluid AMOLED one with a punch hole notch in the top corner, it now has a 120 Hz refresh rate like its Pro cousin, the battery has been bumped up to 4500 mAh and comes with a fantastically fast 65W charger, and while the main camera sensor at the back remains a 48 megapixel one (the Sony IMX586) with OIS, it now has three supporting cameras (rather than two as on the 8) – a 13-megapixel ultrawide, a 5-megapixel macro and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor. The front-facing camera remains a 16-megapixel one and connectivity options remain broadly similar – 5G, NFC, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth are very much in place. The phone has no 3.5 mm audio jack but has stereo speakers.
There is new software under the hood, though – the OnePlus 8T comes with Oxygen OS11 running on top of Android 11, making it one of the few phones in the country to come with the latest Android out of the box, and the first to come with OnePlus’ reworked Oxygen OS skin on top of it.
The performance remains high end
The big thing, of course, is how does all this work? The answer is very well indeed. In terms of sheer speed, you might not be able to notice too much of a difference from the very good OnePlus 8, but the interface does make a difference. It is not as spartan as the earlier Oxygen OS, but we love the new touches, especially the more accessible touch controls in some of the apps, which allow you to use them more easily without having to stretch across that display. Some might miss the more stock Android feels of earlier versions, but we must confess we like this one more simply because it gives Oxygen OS a more independent and substantial presence rather than as being a Stock Android skin. It remains a clean enough experience, and as of now, it runs very smoothly indeed. Oh and we love the always-on display.
And smooth is how we would sum up the OnePlus 8T experience. The display is a very good one, and one of the best we have this side of a Samsung flagship. When combined with equally good speakers, it delivers a very good multimedia experience, whether you are watching shows or playing games. Incidentally, that processor (even minus a plus) combined with stacks of RAM ensures that pretty much everything works smoothly on the phone. Be it high-end games like the Asphalt series or even a spot of video editing, the OnePlus 8T handles it with elan. Mind you, we wish the Never Settlers would move the fingerprint scanner to the side – the in-display one remains kind of sluggish.
Better cameras…but still work in progress
The cameras have not been the strong point of recent OnePlus smartphones. It is not as if the range has bad cameras, just that they seem to be a little off the flagship pace. The OnePlus 8T tries to change that. Some might criticize the brand for sticking to the now almost ancient Sony IMX586 sensor, but as Google showed us with the Pixel 4a, sensor age is just a number. The OnePlus 8T does not exactly take the OnePlus camera experience to a new level but definitely takes it to a notch above what we saw on the OnePlus 8. Is it better than the 8 Pro? We think it loses out to that flagship in low light and in telephoto terms, but otherwise, the four shooters do a good job.
We got very good snaps in terms of colors and detail in normal lighting conditions, and the video was decent as well. We were not over the moon with the macros and could not really understand the role of the monochrome sensor (the monochrome filter images snapped are still with the main sensor – 12-megapixel ones), but by and large, these are good cameras and if you are ready to invest a little time, they will deliver.
[Click here for full resolution images and additional samples]
We honestly, must confess to being a little disappointed with the selfie camera, though, which we thought would have drawn some inspiration from the Nord’s dual set up, but instead sticks to the 16-megapixel selfie snapper that has been an integral part of the “number” series for a while now. It is not as if it takes bad selfies – you get decent detail more often than not, but it has just been stuck in a groove right now. Videos are good again, but not exceptionally so. In short, in the camera department, the OnePlus 8T takes a step forward but needs to do a lot more to get into the S20 and Pixel 4a zone.
The UB in fast charging: making battery life irrelevant
One of the biggest changes in the OnePlus 8T is in terms of battery. And not so much in terms of capacity as in terms of charging speed. Yes, the 8T does have a larger battery (4500 mAh as compared to 4300 mAh) than the 8, but the real difference is in terms of how fast it gets charged. The phone comes with Warp Charge 65, and a 65W fast charger in the box. In simple English, this is a phone that can go from empty to full in a little more than half an hour.
And it is good that it can do so because if you really use that display at 120 Hz refresh rate, and get into heavy-duty gaming or video viewing mode (and the temptation exists with all that hardware), you might find the phone running out of charge within a day. But with that sort of fast charging option available, you have no reason to get too concerned. That charging speed makes battery life largely irrelevant. You do not get too worried about the battery simply because you know that recharging is literally a matter of minutes. The OnePlus 8T is pretty much the boss when it comes to charging speeds in Android flagships. Make that the Ultimate Boss.
Go for it…or (never) settle for something else?
The OnePlus 8T is available for Rs 42,999 for the 8 GB/ 128 GB variant and Rs 45,999 for the 12 GB/ 256 GB one. The starting price might seem a little more than the OnePlus 8, which starts at Rs 41,999 for its 6 GB/ 128 GB variant. But then the 8T does bring much more to the table – a higher refresh rate, an insanely faster-charging battery, and an extra camera, more RAM, all topped off with better software at the time of writing. So choosing the OnePlus 8T over the 8 is a no-brainer. However, its edge over its other competitors is not as clear – the S20 FE is a little more expensive but brings better cameras and elements like wireless charging to the mix, while the Mi 10T Pro (review coming up shortly) boasts a bigger battery and a huge main camera sensor and comes with a lower price tag. Both also match the refresh rate of the 8T’s display – an edge that we really think is getting increasingly frayed.
Of course, the OnePlus 8T does bring its own big guns to the party – that top of the line hardware, frequently updated and clean UI, much-improved cameras, a design that is classy rather than flashy, that blisteringly fast-charging battery, and the OnePlus brand equity when it comes to sheer value for money in the budget flagship segment. But the wide gulf that lay between it and other brands is now a thin stream. The OnePlus 8T continues the T tradition of being a step ahead of its own predecessor, but it does not open a significant gap between itself and its rivals.
The OnePlus 8T is perhaps the best OnePlus to buy right now, maybe even ahead of the 8 Pro, purely for that OS and that battery, but the Never Settler is being challenged like never before. We would recommend the 8T to anyone looking for a great Android flagship below Rs 45,000 even now – it is a smooth operator. But there are viable alternatives. And that was a sentence we would not have written a couple of years ago.
- Smooth performance
- Super fast-charging battery
- Very good display
- New UI on Android 11
- No dust or water resistance
- Cameras remain inconsistent
It might not get a Snapdragon flagship chip with a plus, but there are a lot of pluses to the OnePlus 8T, not least of which is a whole new UI and a crazy fast-charging battery. But the OnePlus 8T will have to deal with something its predecessors did not have to a few years ago - viable competitors.