Ever since 2014's OnePlus One, you've always been able to count on OnePlus to provide a top tier gaming experience at a fraction of the price of an actual flagship phone.

Times have changed, however. This year's OnePlus 8 Pro might be the best all-round phone for Android gamers, but it's a flagship in price as well as performance.

The OnePlus 8 is primed to carry the classic OnePlus flame for budget-conscious mobile gamers. But it's hardly what you'd call cheap at £600, which is a £50 price bump over the OnePlus 7T and a whopping £180 more than the iPhone SE.

Even so, you'll struggle to get a more capable or refined Android phone for the price.

Design

The main thing that £50 price hike gets you over the 7T - alongside improved performance and 5G - is a classier design.

In fact, the OnePlus 8 is quite tricky to discern from the OnePlus 8 Pro without further investigation. It's got the same screen-heavy front with more modern hole-punch camera, and the same curvy glass back, The same slim aluminium frame binds those surfaces together, with the same ports (USB-C, no headphone jack) and buttons (including a handy iPhone-like alert switch).

There are a couple of differences, however. The OnePlus 8's screen edges don't curve quite as drastically as the OnePlus 8 Pro, though they still melt off the edge. And the Pro's centrally mounted camera module is more expansive, with a chunkier housing and additional sensors that spill out to the side.

When it comes down to it, I actually prefer the feel of the OnePlus 8. It's slightly smaller and about 20g lighter, making it easier to use one-handed.

Screen & Sound

The OnePlus 8 lacks the Pro's headline-grabbing screen features, so there's no beguiling combination of QHD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate.

But what's there is still pretty great. You get a 6.55-inch 1080p AMOLED display that's plenty bright and sharp enough, and very good in terms of accurate colours and high contrast.

You also still get some form of elevated refresh rate, this time 90Hz, which is 50% higher than any iPhone. This leads to noticeably smoother motion when scrolling, and it also benefits certain games that support higher frame rates.

While not the ultimate performer that its big brother is, the OnePlus 8 screen is excellent for gaming. Even the hole punch camera doesn't spoil the party too much, as it tends to fall under the joint of your left thumb during landscape gaming.

It's accompanied by stereo speakers, which are clear enough, if not especially meaty. One of them is stashed on the bottom of the phone, too, so it can be covered in the middle of a game. But that's true of a lot of other, more expensive phones, including the Pro.

Gaming & Performance

The OnePlus 8 has all the tools to make games look and feel great, with the very same Snapdragon 865 CPU that powers the Pro. It's as fast as you can get in an Android phone right now.

While you don't get the same super-speedy LPDDR5 RAM as the Pro, there is plenty of it. You get a choice of 8GB or 12GB of RAM, which is more than enough to handle the most demanding games.

Most importantly, the OnePlus 8 is able to take advantage of that 90Hz display. Grimvalor feels even slicker here with an enhanced frame rate, as does Shadowgun War Games.

As with the OnePlus 8 Pro, Fnatic Mode will optimise the phone's resources for gaming and block all notifications. It lives within the Game Space app, which enables you to micromanage how the OnePlus 8 behaves when gaming - letting you answer calls on speakerphone while gaming, for example.

The OnePlus 8 isn't the only phone that can perform like this for less than £600, of course. The Nubia Red Magic 5G technically outstrips the OnePlus 8 with its 144Hz display and LPDDR5 RAM.

But as someone who doesn't want their phone to look quite so 'enthusiast', and who'd rather it didn't sport a whirring cooling fan or chunky vents, I'd choose the elegant OnePlus 8 every time.

Camera, battery & other stuff

So what else do we get from the OnePlus 8? Unlike the OnePlus 8 Pro, you don't get a really good camera.

Yes, there are three of the suckers, with a 48-megapixel lead sensor. But neither the 16MP ultrawide nor the 2MP macro are any great shakes, and there's no optical zoom facility.

Shots are perfectly OK in good lighting, but they're simply not up to the standard of the Pro (or its flagship rivals) when it comes to detail and colour balance, and Nightscape mode isn't as effective at capturing low light shots either.

One advantage of the OnePlus 8 having a less bright, sharp, and high-refresh rate display than the Pro is that you're less likely to be caught short on battery life.

I was able to get through a whole day of fairly intensive usage, including a good helping of gaming, without running out of juice. When it comes time to recharge, the included 30W USB-C charger will get you back up to full strength in no time. There's no wireless charging, though.

OxygenOS continues to be one of our favourite custom Android UIs. It's fast, attractive, and generally free of the bloatware that clogs up rival mid-rangers. Oh, and you also get 5G, which is far from common at this price point, even if it isn't particularly useful right now.

Wrapping up

The OnePlus 8 isn't as flashy as its Pro brother, and it's not as much of a bargain as its immediate predecessors. But it's still one of the best phones you can get for less than £600.

With its Snapdragon 865 CPU and large 90Hz display, it's great for gaming. Its battery life and software are nigh-on bullet proof, and it's generally a classy piece of kit.

There are other compelling gaming phone options at this price or even cheaper, including a certain iPhone SE. But the OnePlus 8 remains a serious contender in its class, even if it's not a clear front runner like its more expensive brother.