OnePlus 10 Pro review: they FINALLY got it? (video)
This is the OnePlus 10 Pro, and it’s got more than a few slogans to match: “A device that Captures Every Horizon”. “The Second-Generation Hasselblad Camera”. “A design that rewrites the rules”.
Notice how catch phrases like Never Settle and Flagship Killer are gone, and actually, I think the idea of holding on to that past is more of our problem than that of OnePlus. For at least four generations, they’ve wanted this Pro lineup to represent the best they can do, and they’ve even thrown crazy money at fancy partnerships to prove it.
What’s interesting is that this is the first year we have yet to see their non-pro variant. That knight in shining armor that would continue to cater to their core, at a time when even the flagship makers have their own flagship killers. Unless you go Nord, 2022 sees the company lay all its eggs in one basket, and dare I say, a very competitive one.
So, if this singular launch of the OnePlus 10 Pro is a statement to the death of the old, the only question now is if this phone is bold enough to justify a means to an end.
I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t walk into this review too optimistic. Last year the 9 Pro launched in the US with a single variant that was priced like a Pro-Max, and didn’t even come close. It’s as if the base OnePlus 9 was just there to save face and help us believe that the company we knew was not entirely lost.
Now whether there were lessons learned or not, I’m really happy this OnePlus 10 Pro is nothing like that. Instead, it borrows from some of the philosophy that came before its predecessor. The price is now in a far more logical territory, even if we do see some corners cut to achieve it, this again is part of the OnePlus we knew.
So no, there is no Gorilla Glass Victus+, but the front is Victus, and the Gorilla Glass 5 on the back remains well regarded against drops and scratches. There’s no IP rating unless you go T-Mobile, but it’s not like these are technically different in build for us to worry about enough splash resistance. Again, all things that are part of the OnePlus philosophy we knew, and that never stood in the way of what made it popular.
That said, this is a pretty good looking phone. I’d say it’s even dethroned the OnePlus 6 as my all-time favorite. The matte back is now complemented by a ceramic contour that holds a camera module that’s pretty unique, even if drawn from obvious inspirations that at this point are inevitable in such a saturated market. As expected, it is large, but weight distribution was pretty well thought out, and essentials like the three-way mute slider remain as part of the aluminum borders. Yes, we don’t need an extra reminder that some antenna cut outs made it prone to a shelf of shame, but since I’m not in the habit of bending phones as a common practice, I can’t subtract points for that.
I also like that they didn’t cheap out on the display. Surely I’m not a fan of curves up front, but that becomes secondary when the panel is this good. So, 6.7-inches, QuadHD+ resolution at 10-bit, meaning a billion colors, 1,300 nits of peak brightness, HDR10+ certification and yes, LTPO2, which means a smooth 120Hz variable refresh rate. All the bells and whistles of a flagship are here in a very well executed panel that brings fantastic color and viewing angles. The optical fingerprint scanner was raised for better ergonomics, and there is an always-on mode for the basics. Also, yes these are dual firing speakers, but like in the case of the Pixel 6, the bottom module is far stronger than the ear piece.
Oddly though, where things didn’t go the previous OnePlus route is internally, but have you noticed this has become a trend in 2022? If you want more RAM on your S22, you have to go for the higher tier? Well, same here. Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 8GB / 128GB in RAM and Storage, which at least in the US is currently the only option. All flavors of 5G, the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but then aside from a massive battery, this is the only phone in this price range that doesn’t just bring a charger in the box, but that 65W Super VOOC will get you topped in around 40 minutes, with the optional 50W wireless charger being almost as fast. That’s right, a major value proposition is that going Pixel, Galaxy or iPhone won’t even give you a slow charger for the same money.
Now one of the most controversial moves with this phone is OxygenOS 12, and it’s mainly because many argue that it doesn’t remain true to its legacy, which is sort of accurate. Yes, even the unlock sound is ColorOS, but honestly, the rest is actually more Pixel than ever, and that’s both good and bad. So yes, it’s pretty smooth. Yes, you can swipe left for the Google feed, and don’t worry, the app tray is still here. I even feel it improves over every other Android OEM in not letting me see notifications on the lock screen unless my face is detected.
It then keeps sprinkling some OnePlus mojo with a shelf of widgets you can download from the top right, but which you can disable just as much as even the swipe to the bottom gesture in calling the notification shade or Google Search. See this is what I like most about OnePlus phones; having all this granularity of features you can enable or disable at your heart’s content. If anything, what I don’t like is the inflexibility the launcher brought from Google, like widgets having unnecessary wasted space for no logical reason, which only reduce your ability to maximize a screen to all your needs. Also, what happened to Reading Mode, my all-time favorite?
So yeah, when it comes to OxygenOS, some of it is the same, some of it, for better or for worse, is not. In its defense I have to admit that it doesn’t get in the way of a good user experience. This is not just a pretty snappy phone to use, regardless if you need it for basic needs or gaming. I did struggle a bit at the beginning with its connectivity, so I’m glad I held this review for the software updates as that’s pretty much solved. From remaining connected to phone calls, this phone is pretty consistent. Best of all, I’m going to call this the battery life king. It is so good at sipping power that even if you were to forget to charge it at night, the battery meter won’t take a hit.
But fine, let’s talk about cameras. Sadly generation two of this Hasselblad camera system did not bring new hardware, and in cases like the telephoto, I can’t say the spec sheet really impresses me at all. What’s interesting is that I feel the whole collaboration for color tuning has gone from inconsistent to pretty good, because if there’s one thing these photos have, it’s character.
Like Leica is to Huawei and Panasonic, we finally see Hasselblad bring uniqueness to OnePlus. Think of S Cinetone for Sony cameras where colors are warmer and toned down. It’s like a permanent filter that manages to preserve the intensity of the reds, and doesn’t affect dynamic range in the process. Zoom in and even notice how the lens switch handles the darkness of a loss in aperture really well. Even if these aren’t massive sensors, separation and depth of field are great. No need for focus mode. Even detail is well preserved, regardless of the loss of megapixels. Guys, I know it took eight years, but we finally get great photos from a OnePlus phone.
Even at night, the processing is quick, and this phone holds its weight really well at all focal lengths, making each shot perfectly usable. The added tuning makes you want to play around with street signs and get results you’d need to filter from other phones.
Selfies are probably the ones that benefit most from these colors. Skin tones look natural, portraits handle separation and light with added personality, even when the sun is harsh on your face. Maybe the only thing I don’t like is the play of sharpness around the eyes, but they keep getting better with every software update.
Yes you’ll find lots of tricks like a Fish-eye option. Macros are pretty well handled, and you can choose to go fully pro as well, aside from even long exposure modes once you dig into settings.
Sadly my only problem is video. In defense to OnePlus, yes, most Android OEMs fumble with this, but sadly the 10 Pro brings extra layers of things that just don’t make sense. I mean sure, colors, detail and stabilization is pretty good. I love to see even 4K 120 and 8K here, even if each with its own set of focal length or time restrictions, but then the feeling lasts so long as you keep the footage in the phone. Once you try to use it on social media apps or bring to a computer, you realize it’s all filmed in the Rec 2020 color space. Yes, I read the Pro in the name, but let’s be real, any real Pro that understands how to tune it won’t be using a phone. I don’t see myself moving away from REC 709 any time soon. No video editor or even YouTube handles it well. Like what’s the point?
And then there’s the problem that while the primary cameras exaggerate, the selfie camera underwhelms at 1080p. There is no phone in this price range that goes this low. Heck even the first generation OnePlus Nord has 4K selfie video. It’s hard to understand the thinking here as well.
To conclude, I think it’s interesting to see this as both an evolution, and a return to its roots for OnePlus. I do feel it’s a good strategy to not cheap out in the things that matter, and to leave the secondary things aside in order to help a product stand out with the price, all while dramatically improving the execution.
I personally like the OnePlus 10 Pro. I do believe this is the best phone the company has ever made, and I do feel that for any OnePlus fan looking for an upgrade, this is definitely the right time to do so. Even if video is still a mixed bag, it’s hard to deny that even the usual camera pain point finally got resolved.
Now where things get interesting is once you consider it’s not sold in a vacuum, and especially when it’s priced to go toe to toe with the Pixel 6 Pro. That’s where I feel OnePlus has cornered itself as ignoring basics like selfie 4K video are enough of a reason to put this phone at an unfair disadvantage. If anything the only reason it’s not really a problem is because the Pixel is sold in less regions overall. That said, don’t worry, I’ll have a comparison soon to help you decide between them, but to even have this feature in a cheaper iPhone 13 is proof that this is not the time to settle on excuses.
If OnePlus wants this to be considered the best flagship, it has to either nail all the bullet points, or do what it did best before, which was to make its competitors look really bad in features for the price. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good phone I have no problem recommending. I just feel it falls short of certain essentials in this price bracket, but which shouldn’t hold you back if they are not things you care about.
OnePlus 10 Pro
OnePlus 10 Pro ships with a 6.7-inch QHD+ display that uses a 2nd generation LTPO panel. It also features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and aims to deliver a unique camera experience with a 150-degree Ultrawide camera and implementations from the second year of the Hasselblad partnership. For $899, it offers capable hardware that can hold its own in the sea of flagship smartphones.