PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

OnePlus has been teasing its latest smartphones for the last couple of weeks, promising phones with insane wireless charging speeds, an improved camera, and zippy performance that go all in on 5G. And Tuesday, the company unveiled the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.

Both phones are available on April 29 from OnePlus and Amazon, with the OnePlus 8 starting at $699 and the 8 Pro starting at $899.

We’ve been testing both phones for a couple of weeks, and have to say that they live up to the OnePlus promise of never settling. They’re well designed, powerful and have outstanding displays. Let’s take a closer look.

Premium and ultra-premium

This is the first time that OnePlus has released what it’s calling a premium phone (the OnePlus 8) alongside an ultra-premium phone (OnePlus 8 Pro). There are several differences between the phones, beyond the price.

Both phones share the same overall design, with the most notable difference being screen size. The OnePlus 8’s display measures 6.55 inches with an FHD+ resolution of 1080x2400. The 8 Pro’s screen is 6.78 inches and has a QHD+ resolution of 3168x1440. Beyond size and resolution, there’s another difference between the screens: refresh rate.

In short: The 8 Pro’s screen can refresh at a faster rate, giving tasks like scrolling and gaming a smoother look and feel. The 90Hz display in the OnePlus 8 shouldn’t be discounted, but we have to admit, after using 120Hz displays in the Galaxy S20 lineup and now the OnePlus 8 Pro — it’s hard to go back to a lower refresh rate.

The OnePlus 8 is $699 for 128GB of storage and 8GB of memory. The OnePlus 8 Pro is $899 for the same configuration. OnePlus adds $100 to the price to bump the memory to 12GB and double the storage to 256GB.

Outside of the price difference, the OnePlus 8 lacks wireless charging and uses a similar camera setup to the OnePlus 7T. To justify the OnePlus 8 Pro’s price, you’ll get 30-watt wireless charging, a 120Hz QHD+ screen, an improved camera experience, and an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. There are more nuanced differences in areas like memory and storage speed, but the gist of the comparison comes down to display, wireless charging, and cameras.

Design and software

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

The OnePlus 8 Pro is available in three colors. We’ve been using the Ultramarine Blue version, but there’s also Onyx Black and Glacial Green. The blue is almost neon blue and not as subdued as photos can make it look.

On the right side of the housing is the tried-and-true OnePlus slider that can silence the phone with a quick flip. Unlike the iPhone’s similar toggle, there are three positions for the slider: silence, vibrate or sound. Just below the slider is a sleep/wake button that also triggers Google Assistant with a long press. On the left side of the phone are the volume up and down keys.

Because the sleep/wake button now triggers Google Assistant with a long press, you have to hold the sleep/wake and the volume up key at the same time to power off the phone. It’s a minor change, but one that’s likely to confuse new owners at first.

On the bottom of the 8 Pro is a USB Type-C port for charging via the included Warp Charge 30T power brick. As previously mentioned, the 8 Pro is the first OnePlus device to support wireless charging at up to 30 watts. OnePlus estimates that its wireless charging tech can charge the 8 Pro from zero to 50% in 30 minutes (more on this below). You’ll need the OnePlus Warp Charge 30 Wireless Charger in order to take advantage of the increased charging speed.

On the back of the 8 Pro is a four-camera setup: a 48-megapixel main camera, 3x 8-megapixel telephoto camera, 48-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 5-megapixel color filter camera. The OnePlus 8 has three cameras: a 48-megapixel main camera, a 2-megapixel macro camera and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera.

The 8 and 8 Pro’s front-facing camera is 16 megapixels and is found in the hole punch cutout in the top left corner of the screen. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is under the display and has been faster and more reliable than the OnePlus 7T’s sensor.

Both phones run Android 10 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS customized layer. OnePlus does a good job of adding useful features and customizations to Android without getting in the way of the overall experience. For example, you can install and use icon packs from the Play Store to change app icons without having to set up an entirely different Android launcher. Another example is being able to run multiple instances of an app, like Instagram or Twitter, in order to manage multiple accounts.

If an Android device maker insists on adding more to Android’s core features, OxygenOS is a good example of how to do it right.

Performance

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

Powering both OnePlus 8 models is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor, X55 5G modem, and either 8GB or 12GB or memory, and 128GB or 256GB of storage. The OnePlus 8 has a 4,300 mAh battery, while the 8 Pro’s battery is 4,510 mAh.

We were unable to test 5G connectivity with either phone due to a lack of coverage, but the Verizon Wireless OnePlus 8 is the only version that has mmWave and Sub6 connectivity, which is the 5G standard that provides faster speeds and lower latency. The unlocked and T-Mobile versions of the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro models will only have Sub6 connectivity.

As with every Underscored review, we conducted benchmark testing to set a standard to compare quantitative testing of multiple devices alongside our daily use, testing and perceptions. We used GeekBench 5 for testing the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro. This benchmarking app tests the devices by running intense processes that mimic real-life use cases.

The OnePlus 8 scored 916 on the single-core test and 3,376 on multi-core, surpassing Samsung’s Galaxy S20 and S20+. The OnePlus 8 Pro scored 899 and 3,270, respectively. The lower score for the 8 Pro is a surprise, but the scores are close enough that you’re not likely to notice much of a difference in daily use. All of the devices we’ve benchmarked have had nearly identical scores, but that should come as no surprise since they’re all powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor.

Using the 8 Pro was a pleasure. Just like with the OnePlus 7T, we had to get used to the length of the device, especially when it came to one-handed use, but apps were quick to open, scrolling was smooth and without stutter, and gaming was lag-free.

Battery life

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

We’re in the process of transitioning to a new battery benchmark, so our performance comparisons are limited. But with a video file playing on loop with the display’s brightness set to 50% and airplane mode turned on, the OnePlus 8’s battery lasted 20 hours, 28 minutes. The OnePlus 8 Pro lasted 16 hours, 48 minutes. We believe the difference in battery life is due to the 8 Pro’s higher display resolution and refresh rate.

Both devices, however, lasted longer than the 15 hours, 3 minutes from the LG V60 ThinQ and its 5,000 mAh battery.

We tested OnePlus’ claim of wireless charging the 8 Pro to 50% battery in 30 minutes, and found it actually charged to 60% it that amount of time. It’s an impressive feat.

We had no issues getting through a full day of use, ranging from email and messaging to obsessive Twitter and Facebook browsing, and the occasional YouTube video.

Camera

The camera setup on the OnePlus 8 Pro provides a lot of options. You can quickly switch between 12 and 48 megapixels when shooting with the main camera. Both shoot great photos, but the 48 MP setting gives you a crisper image in well-lit environments. As a reminder, the 8 Pro has a 48-megapixel main camera, a 3x 8-megapixel telephoto camera, a 48-megapixel ultrawide camera, and a 5-megapixel color filter camera.

The macro camera opens a new world of photography that challenges you to think outside your normal approach when it comes to taking a picture. Instead of looking at the baseball, for example, you can get a closeup of the stitches on the baseball — and the results are impressive. It’s the opposite of how to shoot with an ultrawide: instead of just looking at one building, you can shoot a skyline, which is pretty handy to have in a smartphone. Here are sample photos taken on the 8 Pro:

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN
PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

We didn’t experience the same aggressive distortion along the sides of photos captured with the ultrawide camera as we have on previous OnePlus phones. To be clear, it’s still there, but it’s not nearly as prominent and noticeable.

The OnePlus 8’s camera is on par with the OnePlus 7T, although it uses a different sensor for the main camera. The 8 has a 48-megapixel main camera, a 2-megapixel macro camera, and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera. Here are some sample photos:

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN
PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN
PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

Either phone’s camera is capable of capturing shots you’d be proud to share on Facebook or Twitter, with the 8 Pro being our preferred camera between the two. When it comes to comparing the 8 Pro’s camera setup to Samsung’s Galaxy S20, we’d be inclined to pick the S20+. The hybrid optical zoom combined with ever-so-clean photos taken on the S20+ tilt the scale in its favor.

Bottom line

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNN

The OnePlus 8 is a fine phone on its own, but if it were the only phone OnePlus had launched this week, it would have been a letdown. It just doesn’t compete with the Galaxy S20s and iPhone 11s of the smartphone world, and that’s something we’ve come to expect from OnePlus.

The 8 Pro, however, is the phone OnePlus fans have come to expect, save maybe for the price. It’s the most expensive, but also the most capable phone we’ve seen from OnePlus, and even though some will complain that the company has lost its way with an $899 starting price, we’d argue the opposite. The company is releasing flagship caliber phones at a substantially lower price than the competition.

Smartphone prices as a whole have gone up, matching the improved functionality and capabilities. The OnePlus 8 Pro is the best bang for your smartphone buck in 2020, and it’s hard to imagine that changing any time soon.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.