OnePlus 10 Pro, so much promise but fails to deliver the knockout punch » EFTM

In the past year OnePlus has had a few changes.  Previously they were a sister company to OPPO coming under the same BBK Electronics banner but last year, supposedly to cut costs and make the entire smartphone manufacturing process more streamlined, they were swallowed up by OPPO.

Now as a sub-brand of OPPO there are high hopes for OnePlus.  Their software knowhow combined with OPPO’s polish and camera chops would surely make for the ultimate smartphone right?  We were sent a OnePlus 10 Pro to test out and put through its paces – lucky for us and our review we also had an OPPO Find X5 Pro on hand to compare it to.

Display

OnePlus has nearly always had some great displays in their smartphones and this year is no different.  Offering the same display as the top-rated OPPO Find X5 Pro the 2K (1440P) AMOLED 6.7-inch display offers a billion colours along with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz.  Given that OnePlus is under the OPPO banner now it is not surprising to see the exact same display in the OnePlus 10 Pro that is in the OPPO Find X5 Pro. It is an amazing display in the Find X5 Pro and equally good in the OnePlus 10 Pro

The LTPO2 display offers refresh rates from 1Hz up to 120Hz thereby promising a refresh rate that will match the requirements of what is on the display.  When using the phone the display is amazing.  Not only are the colours vibrant and accurate but the refresh rate is easy on the eye.  I said it when I reviewed the OPPO Find X5 Pro but a high refresh rate cannot be overstated – those who ask what the big deal is have never used a higher refresh rate smartphone.

Charging and battery

OnePlus have always been a leader in the western markets when it comes to charging speeds and capabilities. When Samsung are finally offering 45W charging on their flagship Galaxy device (if you pay extra to purchase the charger separately), OnePlus support 80W charging on the OnePlus 10 Pro. Keep in mind for some inexplicable reason OnePlus decided not to make an 80W charger for the US market so if you want a OnePlus 80W charger you’ll need to buy a non-US version. The other option is to buy the OPPO 80W charger separately and use that — it works. In saying all this, the charger included in the box of the US version is 65W and is able to charge the phone from empty to 100% in about 30 minutes. It’s plenty fast enough.

Not just fast wired charging is included but also fast wireless charging with support for 50W charging. To get this you’ll need to buy OnePlus or OPPO’s fast wireless charger. It does support Qi charging, just not at those speeds. If you also have the OPPO 50W car charger that will also charge the OnePlus 10 Pro at 50W. So many fast options that are so much faster than others makes it a complete charging solution.

Battery life is certainly acceptable, and I was fairly easily able to get through a full day — and I’m a very heavy user — with over 5 hours of screen on time. Whether it’s their software optimisation or the way that they kill a lot of background apps (see below) I’m not sure but I was happy with the battery life. Of course, I have a 50W wireless charger as well as 65W wired charger at work and at home along with a 50W car charger so there was never any chance of me getting anywhere close to low when not testing the battery life specifically.

Software has gone backwards but not irreversibly so

The software is a mish-mash of OPPO’s ColorOS and OnePlus’ OxygenOS and that is evident in the issues that have been introduced this year. While the software is still fine in a day to day sense it is nowhere near what we have come to expect from OnePlus.

I had issues with scrolling being stuttery and just plain weird — each time a restart fixed it but that’s not good enough in my opinion. The phone also just stopped and hung up at times — maybe once a day — with turning the display on and off not fixing it. Patience was the key here and eventually the software jump back up to speed.

Some of the worst things about ColorOS have affected the software as well. ColorOS has never offered the double tap on the power button to launch the camera — OnePlus and OxygenOS have. You “can” launch the camera with the double tap still but it will lock your phone so that after taking the photo you can only view that photo and not share or do anything else until you have unlocked the phone.

Last year Device Controls worked on the OnePlus 9 Pro — quick shortcuts to be able to control your smart home — but this year they do not. Not so coincidentally, they do not work on OPPO’s flagship smartphones either with the same issue on the Find X3 Pro and the Find X5 Pro. The option to add them is there but the list of smart home options will never populate and thus is useless and extremely disappointing.

OnePlus have never had a great reputation for background apps running and this year is no different. Although I didn’t seem to miss any notifications, apps often had to reload after they’d dropped down the list of apps I had open.

The software conclusion

With the annexation of OnePlus into the OPPO umbrella some of the OPPO software has been migrated over to OnePlus’ OxygenOS – especially since they merged code base last year.  Unfortunately, this has not been a good thing.

OnePlus have now introduced a less-than ideal version of OxygenOS that has some issues such as scrolling lag and Device Controls not working at all.  OnePlus publicly stated in December of last year that the ColorOS and OxygenOS merger had been cancelled but of course it was not possible for them to create Android 12 for their brand-new phone from scratch in that short time so that had to go with what they had — a Frankenstein’s monster of ColorOS and OxygenOS.

Saying this I am coming from a point where previously I considered OnePlus’ OxygenOS by far, the best Android skin on the market.  It is still exemplary and well above many others, but it is disappointing to see it go a step backwards.  As a day-to-day phone though it is still a great device, just not up to the level of software smoothness experience we have come to expect from OnePlus.

Where OxygenOS heads in the future is anyone’s guess but I dare say that OnePlus are furiously coding in the background trying to get Android 13 and OxygenOS ready for the OnePlus 10 Pro to bring back the software excellence we expect from OnePlus. It would be unlikely that they roll the whole merger back before then given the sheer size of the undertaking at this stage.

Still not available here in Australia

It still astounds me that OnePlus have not ventured permanently into Australia given the fact that their parent company, OPPO, and sibling companies realme and Vivo have to some extent.   While it is possible they may expand here in a limited form in the future I cannot see that happening any time soon given the pandemic effect on distribution chains and component availability and prices. 

In saying that, it’s 2022 and we live in a worldwide economy so if you really want a OnePlus 10 Pro there is nothing stopping you getting one.  There are multiple importers who will sell you one, including relatively reputable ones such as Kogan.

Depending on where you buy it from the warranty and repairs will vary. If you are going to buy this phone, I suggest you pay very close attention to the warranty details — read the fine print closely and ask questions and get things in writing before forking over money for it. Phones sold in Australia must have a two-year warranty. It is debateable whether buying from Kogan is considered buying in Australia — and the same for other grey market importers.

Camera

OnePlus has promised premium imaging from their smartphones for a while now but unfortunately so far have failed to deliver.  Their partnership with Hasselblad is now over 12 months old and coming under the OPPO umbrella now so we would and should start to expect results. This year it seems that OnePlus has missed the premium photography once again but in saying that it still produces great images — just not up to the level of a phone such as the Pixel 6 Pro.

This year it’s all about software for OnePlus with respect to the camera. It has the same main camera as last year (48MP primary), the same telephoto camera (8MP telephoto) and a wide-angle sensor (50MP ultra-wide (150° JN1)) that is apparently a downgrade on that in the OnePlus 9 Pro. The camera does seem to be a bit inconsistent but as you can see below it still can take some great pictures.

Design and hardware

Inside the phone are all the specs you’d expect from OnePlus including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and 128GB of storage. There is only 8GB of RAM which is disappointing given OPPO include 12GB in their flagships — this may be why they have to limit background apps so aggressively. There is support for Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2Surprisingly, local 5G is supported without any issues. Using Vodafone 5G speeds were what you’d expect.

The design of the phone is, well, it’s a smartphone. The black version we received has a stunning, sparkly rare cover which is ceramic instead of glass and is thus stronger and more robust. The rear is curved which fits nicely with the curved display helping it to fit comfortably in the hand. The rear also includes one of the bigger camera islands you’ll see and with an island this big it’s disappointing better and more camera hardware weren’t included.

The best thing about the design is the alert slider. Taken straight from the Apple playbook way back on early OnePlus devices. It’s ability to switch between various modes quickly is fantastic — and it can be customised to exactly what you want each stage to be.

Conclusion

For Australians, to me this affects whether we import one.  After importing one you have paid pretty much the same as you would have for a locally warranted OPPO Find X5 Pro and that is a tougher sell.  If it was available here for you to walk into a local store and buy it, with full two year Australian warranty, and priced a few hundred dollars cheaper than the other ultra-premium smartphones on the market then it would be a no-brainer.  Importing one though comes with all sorts of risks and I’m not sure they are worth it this year- at this stage.

The OnePlus 10 Pro has a much-improved camera, capitalising on the second year of their Hasselblad partnership, with high-end cameras included in the rear camera island.  It’s a great looking phone, comfortable to hold and use with one of the best displays on the market.

The software offers a multitude of features and although it is a step back from last year, the few little bugs introduced with the merging of the code base with OPPO, it is still a decent experience.  The hardware is top notch, including their own version of the iPhone Alert Slider and considering you can pick one up for the relatively cheap price of $1,250-1,500 from Kogan it’s a tough decision.  The equivalent phone from OPPO, the Find X5 Pro — which is more polished — with software that is consistent throughout (albeit with the same Device Controls bug) will set you back $1,799.

If you are interested in the OnePlus 10 Pro I would say go ahead eventually but first wait.  Wait and see how the software is once they have updated it, squashed a few bugs.  Once those bugs are squashed then the $500 discount of the OnePlus 10 Pro from the full price of the OPPO Find X5 Pro, assuming you are happy dealing with non-local warranty, is enticing and appealing.  

At the moment I would only recommend it for the most enthusiastic users who don’t mind a few bugs on their way to being squashed.  You can pick up a OnePlus 10 Pro from a variety of grey market importers including Kogan starting at $1,165 or attempt to import one yourself using a mail forwarder.

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