OnePlus 10 Pro First Impressions: Premium hardware, fast performance, and some OPPO touches
The year 2021 was a very interesting one for OnePlus, for it was when the brand finally stopped the pretense of being an independent start-up with a management team compromising of entirely young, westernized Chinese. Instead, OnePlus has pulled the curtain back on the open secret (within the industry) that it is, essentially, a splinter branch of OPPO, and it is, in fact, a “typical” Chinese phone brand after all. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way. OPPO makes great phones, and OnePlus never was an entirely independent, western-centric start-up, regardless of what marketing and puff pieces have said.
But anyway, this change in marketing has led to OnePlus’ new 2022 flagship, the OnePlus 10 Pro, being unveiled and released in mainland China first, before a global launch that’s still unannounced. Even though the phone isn’t selling in Hong Kong (where I am based), retail units have made their way across the border to the city, and I was able to get my hands on one thanks to importer Trinity Electronics. Let’s take a look.
OnePlus 10 Pro Specifications: Click to expand
OnePlus 10 Pro Specifications
|Specification||OnePlus 10 Pro|
|Dimensions & Weight||163 x 73.9 x 8.55 mm|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Security||In-display fingerprint sensor|
|Front Camera(s)||32MP, Sony IMX615|
|Port(s)||USB Type-C 3.1|
|Audio||Dual Stereo Speakers|
About this Hands-On: This first impressions article was written after a day testing a China retail unit of the OnePlus 10 Pro on loan from Trinity Electronics. Neither Trinity nor OnePlus had any input in this article.
OnePlus 10 Pro Hardware: Premium but familiar
The OnePlus 10 Pro comes in two colors — black and green — and I absolutely adore the green colorway of my unit. It’s got a deeper shade of green that goes well with the contrast of the giant camera, space-gray camera module. This module has a design similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, in that one side of the module blends seamlessly into the aluminum chassis. It is less a camera island and more of an extension of the frame.
The Hasselblad partnership that began with last year’s OnePlus 9 series is back, and the phone proudly flaunts the logo of the Swedish camera maker on the side of the module.
This camera piece houses a triple-lens array: 48MP, f/1.8 main camera with an image sensor size of 1/1.43-inch; a 50MP ultra-wide with a field-of-view that gets as wide as 150-degrees, but this results in major fisheye distortion so by default it crops into a more reasonable 110-degree; and an 8MP, 3.3x telephoto zoom. OnePlus ditched the 2MP monochrome sensor of last year’s phone — which I won’t miss.
The back is made of Gorilla Glass Victus and has a matte, frosted coating. The power button and the OnePlus alert sider sit on the right side, while the volume rocker sits on the left side. Around the front is a 6.7-inch, 1440 x 3216 LTPO OLED panel with a variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz. And yes, like all Chinese flagships, it’s a curved panel that blends into the aluminum railing for a smooth, one-piece feel.
The screen is surrounded by non-existent bezels, with a small hole-punch housing a 32MP selfie camera. The OnePlus 10 Pro’s front looks nice, but also familiar to anyone who’s seen an Android flagship in recent years. At this point, no new ground is being broken on the front side, other than the OnePlus 10 Pro’s panel getting to a very bright 1300 nits.
What does break new ground is the processor: the OnePlus 10 Pro is one of the first phones in the world to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, and here it’s paired with 12GB of RAM to combine for more power than most of us would ever need. I am currently stuck in quarantine so I can’t really push the phone through a normal day of heavy use, but I ran some Geekbench numbers for those interested.
The Chinese retail packaging includes a color-matched TPU phone case, an 80W charging brick, and a USB-C cable for topping up that 5,000 mAh battery. This fast-charging system used to be given the OnePlus specific “Dart Charge” moniker, but it is now just SuperVOOC, because it has always been the exact same solution invented by OPPO.
OnePlus 10 Pro: Software: ColorOS brings new features to a OnePlus phone
Last year’s announcement that OnePlus was “merging” with OPPO also brought the news that OxygenOS and ColorOS will be integrated and jointly developed. This was, again, no surprise to people familiar with the Chinese phone scene, as last year’s OnePlus 9 series straight up shipped with OPPO’s ColorOS in China.
This also isn’t really that big a deal because OxygenOS and ColorOS have long been similar. For example, the excellent off-screen gesture (such as launching the camera by drawing a circle on a sleeping screen) has long been available on both OxygenOS and ColorOS.
Anyway, my China unit of the OnePlus 10 Pro ships with ColorOS 12.1 based on Android 12. I’ve long been a fan of ColorOS so I like the software here a lot. For example, with ColorOS, the OnePlus 10 Pro finally has a one-hand mode and the ability to open apps in a floating window.
Unfortunately, the one-hand mode is not Android’s usual implementation, which shrinks the screen both vertically and horizontally. Instead, this new ColorOS one-hand mode is just like iOS’ take, which only brings the screen down halfway. This method is not as easy to use in my opinion.
Elsewhere, ColorOS also includes OPPO’s digital assistant Breeno (I’m confident the international version of the OnePlus 10 Pro will have Google Assistant), and it can do on-screen translation of text, which I find quite useful to translate Japanese text.
Otherwise, ColorOS behaves here similarly to my experience with OPPO devices, so expect fluid animations and large, colorful app icons.
OnePlus 10 Pro: Cameras
As mentioned, I am currently stuck inside a room undergoing mandatory quarantine, so I can’t really test the cameras as thoroughly as I usually do, but so far, I like what I see. The OnePlus 10 Pro technically has a “worse” camera setup than the OnePlus 9 Pro, in that the ultra-wide camera has a wider FoV but an inferior sensor (Samsung S5KJN1SQ03 on the 10 Pro vs Sony IMX766 on the 9 Pro), while the main camera (Sony IMX789) and telephoto remain unchanged. This does mean that we may not see the amazing quality-parity between the primary and ultra-wide angle camera this year as we saw last year — but this remains to be tested once we can do a deeper camera shootout.
The camera app on the OnePlus 10 Pro keeps the usual OnePlus camera app design (instead of using ColorOS’ version), which just like the OnePlus 9 Pro includes an orange shutter button, and a fluid zoom dial that allows some of the most seamless zooming in and out on an Android phone.
The OnePlus 10 Pro’s main camera has a responsive shutter and does an excellent job of HDR when shooting against harsh backlight. This shot below, for example, has half the frame with soft lighting (behind curtains) and half the frame with harsh lighting. Notice the OnePlus 10 Pro’s shot is noticeably better balanced than the iPhone 13 Pro, which from my personal testing has had a bad habit of blowing out lights.
The OnePlus 10 Pro’s 1/1.43-inch image sensor size isn’t the largest, but it still shows some nice natural depth-of-field when shooting objects up close.
The ultra-wide camera, as mentioned, can get really wide (150-degree), which shows major distortion. By default, the OnePlus 10 Pro’s ultra-wide shoots at a cropped in 110-degree, with 150-degree being a dedicated shooting mode buried within the phone’s camera app settings.
At night, the OnePlus 10 Pro’s cameras seem to be resistant to turning on night mode automatically (without asking the user) as liberally as an iPhone or a Pixel 6 Pro, instead of trying to pull in light using its sensor and pixel-binning.
Even without night mode, the OnePlus 10 Pro can grab night shots that are well illuminated, though there is noticeably more noise, and slightly blown out lights, than the iPhone 13 Pro’s more processed image which was produced using night mode.
Moving to a darker scene, however, the OnePlus 10 Pro’s photos are consistently darker, drenched in deeper shadows because the phone doesn’t turn on night mode automatically the way rivals do. The Pixel’s shot below, in particular, is really bright, but it also made me wait three full seconds before the photo finished capturing.
The problem is more noticeable with the ultra-wide lens, as the OnePlus 10 Pro’s standard ultra-wide shot is almost unusable unless I manually turn on night mode, which requires two swipes. I’d prefer if OnePlus just do what Samsung, Apple, Google, and Huawei do and turn on night mode for users automatically, and present an option in the settings to disable this behavior, giving the best of both worlds.
The OnePlus 10 Pro’s telephoto zoom lens is like the iPhone’s in that it’s great for short portrait-type zooms, but it lacks the range of a dedicated Periscope camera.
Because there are only so many scenes I can shoot while being stuck in a room, this is about all I can test for now. I will test the OnePlus 10 Pro’s cameras more thoroughly when I am out.
OnePlus 10 Pro: Early Impressions
Overall, the OnePlus 10 Pro is looking like it continues the steady improvements made by the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro before it. It’s a highly polished slab smartphone with a fast and responsive camera and zippy performance. I’m happy to see the major bump in battery size, as the OnePlus 9 Pro’s battery life left me wanting. And with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, it will be able to handle any app you throw at it.
There are several factors that will play major roles in evaluating the OnePlus 10 Pro as a device worthy of purchase. First, we have to wait for the international launch so we can find out the OnePlus 10 Pro’s price, as the China retail price is never what the phone actually costs to most readers outside of China. Second is we have to see what Samsung has in store for its upcoming Galaxy S22 Ultra. Still, this marks the beginning of the annual springtime slab smartphone battle, and we’re all ready for it. Stay tuned!