OnePlus 10 Pro review: One step forward, one step back

The OnePlus 10 Pro, a phone that launched in China nearly three months ago, is finally going global

author_img Tushar Kanwar Published :  04th April 2022 01:43 PM   |   Published :   |  04th April 2022 01:43 PM
OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro

From never settling to being a part of the smartphone status quo under Oppo, the OnePlus of 2022 is…different from the OnePlus of yore, and that’s saying something for a brand that’s just eight years old. Last year’s OnePlus 9 Pro impressed (the OnePlus 9 slightly less so) even as the price point crept up, but concerns about a timely Android 12 rollout and the ColorOS-ification of OnePlus’ Oxygen OS grabbed headlines and took some of the shine off what was still legitimately good hardware. And so we have the OnePlus 10 Pro, a phone that launched in China nearly three months ago, finally going global with a bunch of improvements around design, battery and a few new camera tricks, not to mention the now-OnePlus ‘Pro’ hallmark of a great display and top-shelf hardware. Was the wait worth it, and do the savings over my new Android favorite, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, come at a significant compromise? Let’s dive right in.

But first, here’s the lowdown on pricing and availability. When the OnePlus 10 Pro goes on sale on April 5th on OnePlus.in and Amazon.in (plus offline stores), it will retail at Rs. 66,999 for the base 8GB/128GB variant and Rs. 71,999 for the 12GB/256GB, both of which represent a two-thousand-rupee markup over the corresponding models for the OnePlus 9 Pro. As colors go, there’s Volcanic Black and the new Emerald Forest (green) which we have for review.  

Straight off, is the camera module inspired by a four-burner kitchen hob or the wraparound module from the Samsung S21 Ultra? Either way, it’s quite a distinctive and an attractive look, not to mention a definite upgrade from the OnePlus 9 Pro, but there are elements, from a silky matte finish to the rounded corners and flowing curves front and back, that are a nod to the design aesthetic of the past. That camera module though, with three large rings surrounding the cameras, with the fourth ring housing the LED flash, all atop a raised ceramic-coated island with the Hasselblad logo on one edge, is quite the sophisticated looker, but the glossy finish attracts smudges like it’s going out of fashion. Not the biggest fan of the cryptic “P2D 50T” inscription either, which is a reference to the “Phone, 2nd-gen Hasselblad camera, with a 50MP triple-lens” setup, which just detracts from the clean design on the rear. The ever-present alert slider is still there, and the phone feels balanced in the hand without feeling unwieldy. Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear, Gorilla Glass Victus on the front is all very well, but OnePlus has opted to drop the IP dust and water resistance certification from all global models save for some carrier variants in the US (where the carrier picked up the costs for the certification process). It’s odd not only because the OnePlus 9 Pro had IP68 rating globally, but it’s also an odd omission for a phone with flagship positioning and flagship pricing. I gingerly dropped the 10 Pro into a mug of water to see how it held out, but kids, don’t try it at home with a 10 Pro you’ve just bought and expect the company to honor a warranty claim! 

Oh, and a huge shout-out to OnePlus for doing what’s right in terms for the consumer, when it comes to packaging. You’re not going to need to go hunting the moment you unbox this device, as it has everything you need, from a color-matched case, an 80W fast charger with a Type-C cable, aside from the obligatory documentation, stickers etc.

OnePlus has retained the same 6.7-inch screen size as last year’s 9 Pro, with the same QHD+ (3216 x 1440) resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate and sticking with the formula is a good move simply because last year’s phone shipped with a fantastic panel to start with. Colors are vibrant, contrast levels are good and peak brightness levels go all the way up to 1300 nits, and this is an excellent panel to consume content, both in terms of the quality of the screen and the overall ergonomics of the device. On that note, the stereo speakers are good, but the bottom speaker sounded a lot fuller, leading to a slightly disbalanced stereo effect while listening to music.

Outdoor legibility is good, as was seen when I was out and about in the unnaturally hot Bangalore summer. What’s new this year is that the panel makes the switch to LTPO 2 technology, which allows the 10 Pro to switch down to 1Hz for times when you’re viewing static images or the like, to conserve power. Oddly though, the automatic refresh rate did have its off moments, like for instance when you were scrolling through Instagram or Twitter with embedded videos, the 10 Pro would switch between 60Hz and 120Hz, leading to a less than optimized and somewhat jittery experience. In other news, the in-display fingerprint sensor has moved up to a more natural position on the screen and is reliable and quick to authenticate. 

In true OnePlus fashion, the 10 Pro has the du jour flagship chipset for this time of the year, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, accompanied by LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage, and keeping my quibbles aside that we really should start seeing 512GB storage variants on OnePlus devices, this is really getting to be familiar territory in the flagship space so we’re only going to be dealing in marginal differences between OEMs in how they manage to tame the beast via their own cooling solutions. OnePlus claims to have used a new 5-layer 3D Passive Cooling system to dissipate heat, which kept temperatures in check for the most part…save for the odd time when I played Genshin Impact for a good 45 minutes or when I  recorded 20 minutes of 4K video outdoors (when the phone started feeling hot in the hand). 

In everyday use, the phone is as fast as it gets, and the optimizations that switching to the Color OS-based Oxygen OS 12.1 (based on Android 12) has added an extra bit of fluidity and features at the expense of miffing a small sub-section of fans who, let’s put it mildly, aren’t happy with the software roadmap OnePlus is adopting. To be fair, OnePlus has promised to right some of these ‘wrongs’ in Oxygen OS 13. Thankfully, this is a phone minus any amount of bloatware, and OnePlus has promised three years of Android OS updates and four years of security updates for the OnePlus 10 Pro 5G.

On the battery side of things, the OnePlus 10 Pro comes with a larger 5000mAh battery, with 80W fast charging and 50W wireless charging, which is in line with what I’ve seen with other power-hungry Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phones. On my mixed use of social media, instant messaging, email and YouTube, I was able to eke out 6 hours of screen-on-time, and a half an hour of charging with the bundled charger took it to nearly full, which is pretty quick by any standards. 

After years of dealing with criticism around their camera performance, OnePlus finally got the monkey off its back with the OnePlus 9 Pro, with a camera that performed consistently under different shooting conditions and arguably had the best ultra-wide angle shooter out there. The OnePlus 10 Pro builds on some of those foundations, with the same 48MP IMX789 sensor (primary), the same 3.3x 8MP telephoto shooter and an older Samsung JN1 50MP sensor for the ultrawide, the latter now including an insane 150-degrees field of view but dropping autofocus capabilities…which means no macro shooting. An odd exclusion and a regression of sorts, given how the 9 Pro managed to shoot pretty decent macros. 

Images from the primary camera were packed with good amounts of detail, with the Hasselblad collaboration yielding pretty true-to-life colors, with accurate exposure and good HDR performance. Low-light photos had decent amounts of detail too, and the camera took a good stab at getting the colors right as well. The telephoto camera was usable, but the 8MP sensor and limited zoom is clearly getting a bit long in the tooth. The ultra-wide camera had me befuddled – I mean, the extra creativity that the added field of view affords is a neat party trick, but on most occasions, one tended to notice the poorer low-light performance and drop in detail more, not to mention the lack of macro shooting altogether. The selfie shooter is a good improvement over the previous gen, with improved details and HDR performance. Videos shot at 8K and 4K 120fps in particular were good, with some mild amount of jitter if the light levels dropped. 

The OnePlus 10 Pro nails some flagship elements so, so right – there’s the eye-catching design, an excellent display, top-shelf hardware and good longevity with fast charging. It’s also held back by a lack of IP rating, the odd software bug despite the improvements that the Color OS-ification has yielded, and a camera that has overall taken a step forward while taking a step back – an odd set of choices given how good the competition has gotten, with the likes of the iQoo 9 Pro and the upcoming Realme GT2 Pro and Xiaomi 12 Pro. 

OnePlus 10 Pro 

Pros: Solid performance, gorgeous display, fast charging, good battery life, decent primary camera, unique design

Cons: Imbalanced speakers, lack of IP rating, no macro mode, ultrawide camera a downgrade

Rating: 8/10

Price: Rs. 66,999 onwards

Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar

 

Comments