Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $898

The OnePlus phone on a colorful blanket
Josh Hendrickson

For years now, if you wanted a flagship smartphone, you had but two choices realistically: an Apple device or a Samsung. OnePlus has slowly shifted from “affordable near-flagship” to “actual flagship.” The OnePlus 10 Pro represents its biggest swing for the fences yet. And it got so close.

Here’s What We Like

  • Super fast charging
  • Good battery life
  • Great Display
  • Decent Rear Cameras

And What We Don’t

  • Bad Selfie Camera
  • No 5G on AT&T
  • Android Auto doesn’t work well

The OnePlus 10 Pro marks the second generation of phones that feature Hasselblad camera software. With those cameras come other “premium phone” features that OnePlus used to skip. As with the last few phones, you’ll find wireless charging (how fast depends on where you are), some 5G support (again), an LTPO display, and more. Spec for spec, it keeps up with the other big players in this space at a price just slightly less than the competition. But it’s hard to call OnePlus “affordable” anymore, given how close the cost is to other flagships now.

Hardware and Design

A OnePlus 10 Pro phone leaning against a plant pot
Josh Hendrickson
  • 163 x 73.9 x 8.6 mm, 201g
  • USB-C Port, No Headphone Jack
  • Aluminum Frame

It’s pretty hard to differentiate phones these days, and most of them have the same basic “slab of glass” look, especially from the front. The back is where you’ll find the real personality, and to me, what truly matters in design is how it feels in the hand.

And when it comes to that aspect, OnePlus knocked this out of the park. I’ve bemoaned (again and again) slippery smartphones that want to fly out of your hand, and the OnePlus 10 Pro isn’t like that at all. While I still recommend a case for the first time in forever, I didn’t feel sheer terror the moment I got the phone out of the box. The back frosted glass is slightly slippery, but not in a way that feels unmanageable.

Around the edges, you’ll find all the usual hits for a modern Android smartphone—USB-C on the bottom, but no headphone jack, volume on the left, power button on the right. And on the right side, you’ll also spot the extra that OnePlus always includes: an alert slider. It’s a handy way to silence your phone, and I wish more manufacturers would add one.

My main complaints with the hardware have to do with internals and the “variants” of the OnePlus 10 Pro. Once again, OnePlus only snagged an IP68 water- and dust-resistance rating for T-Mobile branded phones. In the usual wink and nod, OnePlus will say that the other phones are built the same and to do with that information what you will. But frankly, at these prices, it’s past time for OnePlus to get all versions of its phones the certification.

Similarly, if you want a 5G connection, you need to pick your carrier wisely. You won’t get 5G on AT&T at all. And if you’re hoping for millimeter-wave (mmWave), the fastest 5G, that’s a no-go here. I’m on AT&T towers, so I can’t test 5G performance. It’s annoying, to say the least.

Display

The OnePlus 10 pro leaning against a toy car
Josh Hendrickson
  • 6.7-inch AMOLED
  • 120Hz refresh rate (1-120Hz)
  • 1440 x 3216, 525  PPI
  • Corning Gorilla Glass Victus

Samsung makes the best displays on the market, but as it turns out, OnePlus is no slouch in that department too. If you want the short answer on display quality, the OnePlus 10 Pro is pretty dang fantastic. It’s beautiful, bright, and not oversaturated. It gets plenty bright enough to use outdoors on all but the sunniest of days.

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Out of the box, it already has a screen protector applied to it as well. You probably don’t need one, but it doesn’t hurt anything, so it’s a nice perk. Of course, I will complain about the curved screen. Curved displays are the worst, and it’s a trend I really hope dies. This is among the less offending examples, but it’s still pointless.

The phone sports a second-generation LTPO screen, which can shift between 1Hz and 120. You can see the 120Hz when scrolling or playing content that supports it. It’s buttery smooth, and nice to look at. As for the 1Hz, that should only show up on static screens and theoretically improves battery life (we’ll answer that later). If you’re wondering if that has a drawback visually, the answer is no. I honestly can’t tell when the magical wizardry of the refresh rate shift happens, and that’s a good thing.

The one other thing I’m going to mention is the in-display fingerprint reader. In-display fingerprint readers got a bad rap thanks to the Pixel 6 series, where the technology is well and truly awful. There the reader is so slow and inaccurate that it’s a constantly frustrating experience. I’m glad to say that the OnePlus 10 Pro shows no such problems. I’ve rarely had it not read my thumb, and it always does so quickly enough to not leave me annoyed. And thankfully, OnePlus learned from the 9 series and raised the fingerprint reader to a location that isn’t dumb.

Software and Performance

  • Android 12, OxygenOS 12.1
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 CPU
  • 8GB RAM + 128GB or 8GB RAM + 256GB

Unsurprisingly, the OnePlus 10 Pro runs Android 12, but if you’re used to OnePlus phones, you may be surprised with this version. In the past, OnePlus’ OxygenOS barely touched Android, making minimal changes to the stock software and what it did add was generally helpful. Now OnePlus is embracing ColorOS from Oppo (though you’ll still see the OxygenOS name), and the changes are more noticeable (and less useful).

The OnePlus Shelf, for instance, moved away from the “left side” of the home screen to a drag-down position from the upper right corner—basically the same location as iPhone’s control center. I never once activated it on purpose, so I turned the feature off. If you’re hoping for the extensive customizations found in most versions of Android 12, especially the Pixel 6 series, you’re in for a disappointment. The OnePlus flavor does allow for a good bit of customization, but it’s not to the extent of stock Android 12.

But as for actually using the phone, I don’t have any complaints about most day-to-day activities. Gaming works well, with only the occasional stutter that could be the game itself. And as I went about my day checking email, using slack, sending text messages, and making calls, I never found myself wishing I was on a different phone instead. It worked just fine, which isn’t too surprising given the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and 8Gbs of RAM.

But when I said “most day-to-day” activities, I was carving out a significant exception. Android Auto is terrible on the OnePlus 10 Pro. This isn’t even a new issue; I also saw the problems with the 9 series. But it’s frustrating that this still hasn’t been fixed. If I plug my phone into my car, it defaults to charging only. I used developer options to change the default to data transfer, but that doesn’t always help.

Usually, if I plug the phone in before turning my car on, Android Auto starts up correctly. If that doesn’t work, disconnecting and reconnecting the cable often works. And if it doesn’t, I need to drag down the notification and select the data transfer option.

After all that, it still might not work, and one more attempt at forcing the phone into data transfer mode usually works. But sometimes, I never get the phone to connect to my car for Android Auto. It’s frustrating, especially as no other phone gives me the same issue. I shouldn’t have to do a song and dance every time I want to use Android Auto. But I do. It’s a big miss, making me not want to use the phone.

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Cameras

The back of the OnePlus phone showing the camera array

This is the second year of the OnePlus and Hasselblad partnership for a better camera system, and you’d expect that would mean all-around improvements over the OnePlus 9 series. But while the images you’ll get are “good enough,” I’m not sure I can say they’re significantly improved.

And in some cases, they may be worse than what OnePlus 9 Pro produced. That may be down to the step down in hardware—this series drops the 2-megapixel monochrome sensor (no big loss) and moves from a Sony IMX766 ultra-wide to a less capable Samsung JN1 that lacks autofocus. Hardware isn’t everything, of course, so let’s take a look.

Rear Cameras

  • 50MP Ultra-Wide Camera, F2.2, 150-Degree Field-of-View
  • 48MP Wide Camera, F1.8, Laser AF, OIS
  • 8MP Telephoto Camera, 3.3x Optical Zoom, F2.4, PDAF, OIS

At first blush, OnePlus at least has the right camera setup. You get an UltraWide, a Wide (main), and a telephoto camera. Don’t expect much from that telephoto camera, though—at just 3.3 Optical zoom, you’ll quickly move into digital crop territory, and that’s never pretty.

During the day, the photos you’ll get are competent enough. Thanks to Hasselblad’s tuning, the colors of the photos themselves are excellent. Both iPhone and Samsung generated photos never look “true to life,” instead favoring cool or warm colors for a “pleasing to the eye” effect. What OnePlus manages here is “more accurate to what you see in real life.”

Things fall apart, though, anytime you get into tricky lighting situations, like dusk or a night photo with alternative light sources. Try as I might, I couldn’t get a great picture of the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island once the sun went down.

Ultimately the ultra-wide camera isn’t as good as last year’s model. The edges feel more distorted; the focus isn’t entirely on point. I also can’t say that OnePlus is better or even quite as good as the competition.

But it’s a “close third,” as it were. And chances are you won’t be able to compare photos you take to another phone’s attempt at the same picture. These photos are certainly more than good enough to share on Facebook and maybe even print. And that’s all that matters. No one will shame you for them (unless you’re just bad at photography).

Front-Facing Camera

  • 32MP Front Camera, F2.2

If the rear cameras are more than worthy of use, the selfie camera leaves me wanting. A lot. As a man approaching my 40s, I have come to accept that my hair is thinning, but somehow the OnePlus 10 Pro emphasizes that fact in a way no other phone I’ve used has. Exposure is all over the place, haloing is a constant problem, and it’s hard to find anything nice to say about the selfie camera.

I’m not a vain man, and I don’t mind posting “bad pictures” of me for a review (just see any of my phone reviews for proof!). But I can usually find a mixture of “that didn’t turn out well and “that turned out good” photos to show.

But when it comes to the OnePlus 10 Pro, I had to try a little harder to find photos I didn’t totally dislike. What you see above comprises the very best of the selfies I could manage. And they aren’t bad—just not great either. And it took more effort than I’d like.

It doesn’t help that there’s a consistency issue at play. The last two photos are taken back to back, and yet notice the differences in color and skin tones. Perhaps I could learn to take great selfie photos with the OnePlus 10 Pro with enough time, but I’d rather it be good out of the box.

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Battery Life

  • 5,000 mAh Battery
  • 65W Wired Charging, 50W Wireless Charging (with OnePlus Wireless charger, sold separate)

Moving away from the selfie camera, I’m happy to say that the OnePlus 10 Pro’s battery life is pretty great. But that battery life, unfortunately, comes with a great big asterisk. In my experience, the OnePlus 10 Pro does an outstanding job of lasting all day. I’m a heavy user of smartphones and am constantly (to the dismay of family) checking it for new slack messages, the latest news, and even some video use.

I also play quite a bit of RL Sideswipe whenever I have a few minutes of downtime, and I naturally took more photos “than usual” for this review period. Despite that, I never ended the day worried about my battery. Typically I’d have at least 40% to go when I plugged the phone in for the night. Even if I did have worries, I could have broken out the fast charger that OnePlus actually includes in the box (huzzah!). In the U.S., the OnePlus 10 Pro can fully charge in just over 30 minutes. That’s pretty dang good for a 5,000 mAh Battery.

And to be clear, I tried to drain the battery. I have pro gaming turned on, the optional higher resolution enabled, and just about any other battery-draining setting I could think of enabled. The OnePlus 10 Pro lasts all day for me. Except, did I mention an asterisk?

I’m on AT&T towers, and that’s the source of the asterisk. For whatever reason, OnePlus doesn’t support AT&T’s flavor of 5G. You’re good to go on T-Mobile and Verizon, but not my towers of choice. So I couldn’t test what using 5G would do to the battery. That’s annoying and prevents me from giving thorough results. This is an ongoing thing for OnePlus, and it’s seriously past time they made a change.

Should You Buy the OnePlus 10 Pro?

Right now, you have plenty of great options for a smartphone. Of course, you can always go with an iPhone, but if you prefer Android, things get more complicated. You have the Samsung series of phones, the Pixel series, and OnePlus. The Pixel 6 series can’t really be called a flagship, though, and is inundated with issues, so let’s set that aside.

That leaves you with three flagship options: the iPhone 13 Pro, the Samsung S22, and now the OnePlus 10 Pro. The pricing makes for another wrinkle. It’s certainly better than the Pixel 6 Pro, but it also costs significantly more. But at $899, it’s only $100 less than the Samsung S22 Plus (when that isn’t on sale), and for that little bit of extra money, you get better cameras, better 5G support, and more.

And whether you go with Samsung or Pixel, you’ll get more updates as OnePlus only promises to provide three major OS updates and four years of security updates. That is an improvement over previous generations, but still less than the rest.

If you just don’t like Samsung’s phones (and there are good reasons not to), and the Pixel 6 line’s rocky history has put you off that choice, then the OnePlus 10 Pro is a serious contender. It’s the third flagship we’ve been wanting. But in my case, it doesn’t quite meet the company’s tagline—Never Settle. No matter what phone you go with, you have to make some compromises. And there’s too much “settling” for me to stick with this one.

Here’s What We Like

  • Super fast charging
  • Good battery life
  • Great Display
  • Decent Rear Cameras

And What We Don’t

  • Bad Selfie Camera
  • No 5G on AT&T
  • Android Auto doesn’t work well