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Does anybody really need a £900 OnePlus phone?

I have in my hand the OnePlus 8 Pro, the ‘glacial green’ 12GB, 256GB OnePlus 8 Pro, specifically. It’s well made, with a new 120Hz display, a small punch hole top left, a fast in-display fingerprint sensor and four cameras on the back: all the trappings of a top-tier 2020 smartphone. It’s also £899.

That’s because, according to the coral and white, matte-paged reviewer’s guide, this is another “ultra-premium device” in OnePlus’s new-ish “Pro tradition”. After all the posturing, and the genuine success it’s had offering something different since the OnePlus One in 2014, it looks like OnePlus really does want to be Samsung or Apple. The problem? They already exist.

Which isn’t to say the 8 Pro isn’t worth considering. For starters, the ‘glacial green’ model isn’t the only one available; you can also get an ‘onyx black’ 8 Pro with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for £100 cheaper at £799. And then there’s the OnePlus 8, which starts at a much more OnePlus-sounding price of £599 – I’ll get to that.

OnePlus can also truthfully lay claim to kickstarting trends such as the push to higher screen refresh rates in recent years: last year’s 7 Pro managed 90Hz before the Pixel 4 did it. Here the 6.78-inch AMOLED display offers a 3,168 x 1,440 resolution, 1,300 nits of brightness and HDR 10 and 10+. It also boasts an improvement in colour accuracy, which we’ll test fully in the in-depth review.

One sign that it’s perhaps straying from its original mission, though, is in the introduction of MEMC motion graphic smoothing, which can be enabled on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime and in the Gallery. OnePlus has long been guided by its loyal fans but there’s no indication that this feature was on any wish lists, though you can of course turn it off.

More sensible is the quad-camera array. A OnePlus rep told us that the 8 Pro doesn’t have a “super space level zoom” like the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Huawei P40 Pro because “our users tell us that’s not what they’re looking for”. Alongside the very respectable 48MP main camera, with a Sony sensor with a larger, light-capturing f/1.78 aperture, the 8MP 3x telephoto lens and the 48MP ultra-wide, though, there’s a 5MP ‘colour filter’ camera that feels like a thrown on bit of hardware.

As on all the other flagships, the camera bump on the rear is considerable and hard to miss. On camera performance, this is the one area OnePlus has lagged behind on regarding the hardware and algorithms of its rivals – and there's nothing here to suggest that's changed, though any gap closing on image quality works in OnePlus's favour when the bar is so high.

Alongside the usual specs – the Snapdragon 865 processor, with 5G X55 modem, 4K video with optical image stabilisation and 16MP front camera – the OnePlus 8 Pro does have a few neat tricks. With the Warp Charge 30 wireless charging dock, it can go from dead to 50 per cent charge in half an hour; down to 23 minutes via USB-C. With a 120Hz, QHD display and 5G support, that might become fairly important to keeping the single 4,510mAh battery topped up.

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It’s also bringing its optimised charging tech to the 8 Pro; announced in January, it’s designed to avoid reduced performance of the lithium-ion battery over time by only charging to 80 per cent overnight, not 100 per cent. We’ve seen Apple addressing the issue with similar capabilities in iOS 13 and it should make a difference over the course of the lifetime of the phone.

After a few days with the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OnePlus 8, it appears that the cheaper 8 is more in keeping with what built the brand. You get the latest version of OxygenOS 10.5 and Android 10, which brings a few upgrades such as built-in Alexa support, but otherwise successfully gets out of your way. The OnePlus 8 is thinner, smaller and lighter at 180g to the 8 Pro’s 199g. It’s a 5G phone that’s just as powerful as the 8 Pro; both are dual SIM too.

It’s ‘only’ a 90Hz 6.55-inch screen here, you don’t get the wireless fast charging – a 4,300mAh battery and wired charging to 50 per cent in 22 minutes will console you – and there’s no telephoto lens, one of the omissions that will probably make you pause. There is a 16MP ultra-wide lens, though, a slightly less impressive Sony sensor and a 2MP macro to round things out.

Like last year, though, whereas the ‘Pro’ model matches or slightly surpasses the best of Apple, Samsung and Google-less Huawei, the OnePlus 8 is bringing specs like a 90Hz display, ultra-wide camera and 5G down to these still premium but more realistic prices. The 8GB 128GB model is £599, the 12GB 256GB is £699, and those will come down over the next six months. Add on the clean UI and the signature commitment to Android updates and it's still a compelling alternative. And that, even with the excellent £729 iPhone 11, is what Apple and Samsung are still failing to do themselves.

The OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro are now available to pre-order from OnePlus direct – they go on sale on 21 April.

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This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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