The OnePlus 8T is a winner, with super-fast charging, incredible battery life, lightning speed refresh rates and a beautiful display. Still, is it enough to stand out in the highly-competitive smartphone market that we have today? 

C hinese phone maker OnePlus has always solidly, and somewhat quietly, reigned in the budget phone category. Founded by former Oppo vice president Pete Lau in 2013, OnePlus launched the highly-anticipated OnePlus One back in 2014. The OnePlus One was sold at a mere US$349 (64GB) at the time, and it was heralded as a “flagship killer”, going toe-to-toe with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

While the big players battled it out in the high-end flagship device realm, OnePlus just got on with making good, affordable phones. Since then, OnePlus has steadily gained a reputation for making phones which are priced far more competitively than other flagships.

With the recent release of its OnePlus 8T, the company has once again achieved this: the 8T is a brilliant phone at a competitive price of $899 for the model with 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage space. After all, why fix what isn’t broken… right? Before we answer that question, let’s break down what’s great about this phone — and there is a lot that’s good. For starters, there’s the screen: a 6.55- inch 1,080 x 2,400 AMOLED panel with a really fast refresh rate of 120Hz.

The refresh rate (you can drop it to 60Hz to conserve battery) means your viewing experience will be significantly smoother and faster, and this really shows its mettle when watching HD videos or playing graphics-heavy mobile games. Inside, the 8T has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, which is more than zippy enough to run its OxygenOS 11 (Android 11), and supports multi-gigabit 5G connectivity.

I like that the OxygenOS is very close to stock Android, meaning a transition from my Pixel phone is easy and seamless. There is minimal bloatware, too, unlike many other phone makers, and it feels intuitive. With up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 flash storage, the OnePlus 8T delivers what it promises: faster and more stable performance.

The hardware also enables smoother 4K video capture and playback with reduced battery drain, allowing users to take advantage of 5G network speeds to stream HD videos or play performance-demanding games while on the move. Haptic feedback is really nice; short and punchy but doesn’t feel like a jackhammer going off each time it vibrates.

A tiny slider that allows you to toggle between “silent”, “vibrate” and “ring” is incredibly useful, and also feels a bit retro, since it’s a rare thing to find in flagships these days.

As for the camera, we have a 48MP main camera with optical, a 16MP lens, and dedicated macro and monochrome lenses. It takes competent pictures, even in challenging lighting conditions, as we can see by the night-time shot (pictured below) of the Marina Bay Sands, taken from Customs House. It doesn’t perform as well as the Google Pixel’s “Night Sight” function, but it’s more than sufficient for casual users to share their photos on social media.

Where I am truly impressed is the battery life and its lightning fast charging.

Using its Warp Charge 65, you can rapidly replenish the large total capacity of 4,500 mAh in just 39 minutes. I tested this — indeed, this held true. Even with the 120Hz refresh rate and moderate usage (watching a few hours of YouTube and Netflix, emails, texts and social media) one full charge lasted me close to 36 hours.

I then popped it to charge for a mere 20 minutes, and it was ready to go again. Now to the downsides, which are minor, admittedly. However, for some, these could be deal-breakers.

For starters, while it is a beautiful device — I love the bright Aquamarine Green colour — it is also somewhat uninspired.

There is also no wireless charging; a fact which for many would be disappointing, considering most flagship devices now come with wireless fast charging as almost a default.

Another deal-breaker for me: the 8T lacks an IP rating for dust and water resistance. For someone so prone to clumsiness such as myself, this is a disappointment.

Also, at the $899 price point ($1,099 for the Lunar White model with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage), it is pricier than most other OnePlus phones, and doesn’t offer much of an upgrade to the OnePlus 8, which is cheaper, but also doesn’t have an IP rating.

Despite the downsides, however, the 8T is perhaps one of my favourite review phones so far.

As an average consumer, the finer details of technical specifications and benchmarking are perhaps a bit lost on me.

After all, my criteria for phones are simple: I need the UI to be snappy and intuitive, with no lag and minimal bloatware, a gorgeous screen on which to watch my favourite Netflix shows, Herculean battery life, and a decent camera. And does the 8T do all that? Yes, for sure, and that’s good enough for me.