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OnePlus 10 Pro review: Business as usual?

, Contributing editor · ·
Review An assessment or critique of a service, product, or creative endeavour such as art, literature or a performance.

(Pocket-lint) - Plenty is always expected of OnePlus flagship handsets. While it's again true for the new OnePlus 10 Pro, though, the questions being asked are changing slightly due to its relationship with its parent company, Oppo.

Over the past year or so, the pair have become much more aligned. OnePlus is now officially a sub-brand, and shares both software teams and R&D with its parent. And though there are still differences in how the smaller details are presented within OxygenOS and ColorOS, the lines have undoubtedly begun to blur. 

That's not always a negative thing, of course, but discovering the extent to which this model compares to Oppo's latest flagship, the Oppo Find X5, is more pertinent than ever. 

Like any new launch, the 10 Pro also presents a great opportunity to right some of the wrongs from previous generations. OnePlus flagship phones have dazzled us in the past, but it's also true that a couple of caveats usually hold them back from true greatness - particularly in camera performance. 

So, does the closer relationship with Oppo help the OnePlus 10 Pro become the flagship dark horse to consider, or is this business as usual? We find out.

Our quick take

In almost every way, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a very good smartphone. In fact, we have no serious complaints about it. The display is bright and smart, and the internal power ensures the 10 Pro retains that OnePlus feel of "fast and smooth" we've come to expect. Even the cameras are strong this year.

However, despite all of its strengths, the 10 Pro also doesn't blow us away in every area. Ultimately, OnePlus hasn't quite produced the holy grail - a flawless flagship phone without the price tag - but it does get pretty close. And, if we're honest, it's allowed a little bit of leeway due to that asking price being much less than the flagship options from Apple, Samsung and, of course, Oppo.

So, in many ways, you get exactly what you pay for. There are some battery life concerns and camera quirks that might make the odd person want to jump up to the next price bracket, but we suspect almost all comers will find the 10 Pro an absolute delight to use.

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Great size and design
  • Superb price
  • Outstanding display
  • Excellent charging speeds
Against
  • Battery isn't as strong as expected
  • Depth of field on cameras is a little unnatural
  • Not very different to Find X5 Pro
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The OnePlus 10 Pro's premium finish pays homage to previous generations. It's a glass back - Gorilla Glass 5, to be precise - but there's a silky matte finish, reminiscent of the sandstone finishes of the past. At least, in appearance. It doesn't have the rough, gritty texture of those original finishes. But if you really want it, you can still get it in the form of a Sandstone Black case. 

There are two colours, Volcano Black and Forest Green, and the black has a shimmer to it - it's easy to see why it was called Volcano Black, and it really is an attractive colour. The green has a similar soft, shimmering finish (that's the colour we've been using during our testing). 

There are no shiny, glossy models this year, and that's no bad thing. The softer matte finish never picks up any visible fingerprint smudges. The only part we've had to regularly wipe clean is the polished camera housing. 

The camera expands, with a huge squared section on the rear housing the lenses and meeting the edge of the phone and wrapping into the frame. Have we seen that before? Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra did similar in 2021. Except, rather than a long rectangle shape, this unit is more square and takes up more than half the width of the phone's rear. 

All told, we think this is an attractive design. The evenly spaced cameras fitting alongside a circular LED ring flash give a purposeful, balanced and symmetrical look to the camera unit. As for the phone's shape, the nicely curved edges on the back provide a comfortable grip: on a device this size, you don't want square edges that cut into your fingers. We also appreciate the Hasselblad branding across the camera - it looks cool. 

Flip the phone to the front and there's a nice, clean display that curves towards the edges and features a punch-hole camera in the top left. The frame also carries the alert slider - still a relatively unique feature, and one that OnePlus fans are quick to promote. It gives you the ability to quickly switch between ring, silent and vibrate modes, and is so much more convenient to use than unlocking your phone and fiddling with the controls in the interface. 

The whole device feels like a very premium offering, and one befitting a phone with flagship status. That's helped further by the upgraded haptic motor inside the phone. This helps provide responsive and subtle feedback whenever you tap on the keyboard, or, indeed, swipe back. 

One other minor improvement from the previous generation is the placement of the in-display fingerprint sensor. It's higher up the screen, and that helps it feel a lot more balanced when you use it one-handed and want to unlock it quickly.

Only the best will do for OnePlus when it comes to flagship phone displays, which means it's sporting the latest Quad HD resolution panel on the front. Looking at pure numbers, you may not notice any major improvement on the OnePlus 9 Pro. At least, when it comes to resolution and brightness, there's not much more room for improvement. 

However, OnePlus has upgraded a couple of areas. Firstly, there's the refresh rate. Using the second-generation LTPO tech, OnePlus has reduced the time it takes for the screen to adapt its refresh rate to the content on the screen. That means it ramps up to 120fps quicker when it needs to, and drops back down again to as low as 1Hz when a fast refresh isn't necessary. 

It might not be something you ever notice with your naked eye, but the idea is to help conserve battery (at least, in theory, that's what it should do). 

Secondly, there's the auto-brightness. For a while, it was a bit of a pain point with Android phones. In recent years - particularly on OnePlus and Oppo devices - auto-brightness has become quick to respond. What's more, it doesn't just jump between levels of brightness, it gradually shifts when it detects light levels increasing or decreasing. 

Here's the clever bit though: if you manually adjust the brightness in specific conditions, the new phone will remember that. Over time, it builds up an idea of your preferred levels of brightness in certain lighting conditions, and, eventually, you should find yourself not needing to ever adjust it manually. Even in the couple of weeks we've been testing it, the number of manual adjustments has reduced to virtually zero. It's a small improvement, but one that actually makes a difference. 

The display itself is among the best available, too. It's bright, pin-sharp and super smooth when you enable the highest resolution and refresh rates. In its default setting, it is oversaturated, over-egging most colours to give them a bit of pop. Some people like that, so it's no bad thing. Thankfully, for those who like a more balanced approach, there's the 'Natural' mode, which combines well with the 'Nature Tone Display'. 

Nature Tone Display is effectively Oppo/OnePlus' response to Apple's True Tone. It adapts the temperature based on the temperature of the light around the phone. The end result is a screen that's not overly blue and clean, but it does have a more natural look to it. 

As for software, OnePlus has an updated version of OxygenOS. And when we say updated, we mean it's the first version that uses the unified codebase developed in combination with Oppo. As we alluded to up top, that means it shares a lot of similarities with the ColorOS 12 software you'll find on this year's Oppo phones. 

That means - generally speaking - it's a lightweight and highly customisable experience. There's no excessive bloatware, with Google-made apps for things like messaging, phone and calendar set as defaults.

Interestingly, one feature it doesn't have is the ability to automatically adjust the colours of the theme based on your wallpaper. Instead, you have to choose a colour manually. That's different to the approach taken by Samsung or Oppo with Android 12; both of which adopted the Pixel's ability to choose colours based on the wallpaper. 

You can change just about anything, though, from app icon shapes and size to layout and fingerprint animations. Still, there's a sense it is a little lacking compared to Oppo's ColorOS. You don't get as many options for customising the always-on standby display, for instance.

Most flagships launched in 2022 will be powered by the same processor: the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It's the latest offering from Qualcomm's mobile division, handling pretty much anything thrown at it with ease. 

When you combine that processor with a super smooth display, plenty of RAM (either 8GB or 12GB) and effective cooling, you get a phone that feels fast all the time, regardless of what you're doing. Whether it's just flicking through the menus and interface, or loading demanding games to play, it does it all effortlessly. 

OnePlus has always done a good job of making its phones feel fast and responsive. That's not changed with the OnePlus 10 Pro. 

We didn't notice the phone getting particularly warm during extended use, either. Even when we were outside on a warm day, or were using it with the power plugged in to charge it (which occurred infrequently), it didn't become so warm it was uncomfortable. 

Puzzlingly, though, the battery life was a bit disappointing during testing. Despite there being a pretty capacious 5000mAh unit housed inside, it didn't go as long as we'd expect. Well, not compared to the Oppo Find X5 Pro, at least, which has a lot of the same hardware and very similar software. 

Even with moderate/light usage of about 2-3 hours a day, it wasn't close to performing as a two-day battery. Taking it off charge around 8am, the phone would often be between 30-40 per cent by 11pm. Its sibling phone, the Find X5 Pro, was usually up near the 50 per cent mark with similar usage. 

That's not the mark of a terrible performance, by any means. Every user should still be able to make it through a full day, but it just felt a little disappointing to notice a higher battery drain compared to a similar phone. In fact, it feels like the 500mAh extra you get over the OnePlus 9 Pro hasn't added a significant boost, or, really, any boost at all. 

Granted, this phone is more powerful and has a big, bright, fast refresh screen. At the same time, though, that display adjusts the refresh to ensure battery usage should be kept to a minimum and not waste energy when doing low-intensity tasks like Twitter and email. We're used to seeing pre-launch frailties like this quickly become rectified with patches, and we'll return to this point as we update our review and use the device more over the coming months.

If it is truly an issue that's set to burden all 10 Pro models, at least the 80W charging does help ensure that battery anxiety is kept at bay. The fast charger can completely refill the battery in just over 30 minutes, which is incredibly impressive. What's more, since the first 80 per cent of this charging happens within about 20 minutes, you can get a significant chunk of power even when you're in a last-minute rush to get ready to go out or leave the house in the morning.

Cameras haven't always been OnePlus' strong point, which is likely why it formed a partnership with Hasselblad, beginning with last year's flagship. The idea, obviously, was that the camera experts could help with colour and image processing standards. Whether or not that's been a fruitful partnership for OnePlus' camera quality is up in the air. 

With that said, we think the triple camera system on the OnePlus 10 Pro is its strongest effort to date. It offers versatility and pretty consistent results between the three lenses, with colours not varying all that much when switching between ultrawide and primary. On the whole, even in bright daylight, the colour balance seems good - it doesn't tend to oversaturate or make images unnatural.

The only real issue in this regard was when we switched to the 3.3x zoom lens, and images did get a little too contrast-heavy. It can look quite rough at times. 

There are also times we feel it over-exposes pictures, and so that does affect the way the image looks. If it's too bright, say, it loses a little of the colour that should be there. It's not terribly faded, but, when there's something particularly bright in the scene, it can get overblown. 

HDR is enabled by default, and this does a good job of evening out the backlighting and shadows - aside from the aforementioned slight over-exposure, of course. It is worth mentioning, mind, that we did notice a lot of time that finer details can get a bit messy. It's almost like it creates a double-line around some elements if they're not perfectly still. 

Similarly, when shooting some objects close-up, the background blur was unnaturally strong and narrow. It's almost like it kicked in too heavily and too close to the subject in focus, rather than blending naturally. This was without portrait mode, we should say, and just in the normal photo mode.

The camera performs well in low light situations, too. Using the same kind of algorithms we've seen from a number of other smartphone makers recently, the OnePlus stabilises footage while it draws in light to ensure your nighttime shots are in focus and relatively noise-free. That means night mode performance is strong - particularly from the main camera. 

It's only here where we really witnessed the difference between main and ultrawide lenses; the main camera was much better at drawing in light than the ultrawide. Still, the ultrawide has its uses. It's a new type of ultrawide lens that has enabled OnePlus to offer a dedicated 150-degree ultrawide mode and, with it, a fish-eye effect. It's a fun tool to have, even if it's not always useful. Add that to the X-Pan modes added by Hasselblad - which shoot a narrow panorama-like shot - for yet another fun creative tool. 

For videographers, there's even more flexibility than before, with up to 8K resolution offered and 4K up to 120fps. There's even a dedicated 'Film' mode for manually adjusting settings, as well as the ability to shoot in LOG mode. This means a desaturated, balanced image ideal for colour correction and tweaking in edit suites. 

Selfies are just about good enough for most people. In good daylight, you'll get a relatively well-balanced shot, although, again, the end result is a sometimes bit washed out - particularly looking at faces. 

To recap

In almost every way, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a very good smartphone. In fact, we have no serious complaints about it. The display is bright and smart, and the internal power ensures the 10 Pro retains that trademark 'fast and smooth' feel we've come to expect. Even the cameras are better this year. However, despite all of its strengths, the 10 Pro also doesn't blow us away in every area.

Writing by Cam Bunton.