The OnePlus 10 Pro is sleek, powerful, and…actually fairly priced. How about that!
That’s the biggest takeaway from my time with the newest flagship from OnePlus, which launches in the U.S. on April 14 for $900. To be clear, I know $900 is a lot of money in a vacuum, however, that price is a lot less dire when you see its ultra-sharp 6.7-inch display, feel its high-end Snapdragon chip in action, and experience its very good battery life.
In a crowded Android flagship market, the latest effort from OnePlus manages to set itself apart from the Samsungs of the world thanks to a combination of specs and (relative) value.
The latest and greatest, for less
I know the mere suggestion of great specs can be titillating (jk), but let’s be more specific. This is what you get in the sole $900 model on sale in the U.S., which comes in either volcanic black or emerald forest colorways:
- 6.7-inch AMOLED display (3216×1440 resolution)
- Dynamic refresh rate up to 120Hz
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor
- 8GB RAM
- 128GB storage
- Sub-6Ghz 5G support
- Three rear cameras: 48MP main lens, 50MP ultra-wide lens, 8MP telephoto lens
- 32MP selfie cam
- 5,000mAh battery
The OnePlus 10 Pro doesn’t innovate in the looks department, but that’s fine. The display comes with minimal bezels to produce an edge-to-edge appearance while the Gorilla Glass 5 rear glass cover has this appealingly smooth texture as you hold the phone. It’s all held together by an aluminum frame that feels like it could handle a drop or two, though thankfully that never happened in my testing.
There isn’t much to say about the display other than it’s excellent. It’s huge, the resolution is high enough to make sure nothing looks too jagged on a screen that size, and the refresh rate keeps all your apps, games, and videos looking smooth as hell. Speaking of which, the refresh rate will dynamically scale below 120Hz when the on-screen action doesn’t demand smooth motion, similar to what the iPhone 13 Pro does to conserve battery life. For instance, if you’re just reading static text on a web page, you probably don’t need the screen to refresh 120 times in a second. I have a good eye for this stuff and never once noticed a dip.
The rectangular rear camera bump is substantive, making sure the phone will never sit flush with any flat surface. It sticks out like some kind of unhealthy growth on the left side of the phone’s back, in contrast to the sleeker horizontal camera bump on the Pixel 6. Additionally, I don’t love that the volume rocker is on the left side while the power button is on the right. A 6.7-inch phone is already cumbersome enough to use with one hand, but that particular hardware decision makes this one even tougher to use without occasionally bringing up your other hand. That said, at 201g (or a little less than half a pound), the OnePlus 10 Pro is extremely light for its size.
There’s also a USB-C port for charging on the bottom and no headphone jack. The review unit OnePlus provided came with a USB-C headphone dongle, but the lack of a dedicated port will always be disappointing to me, even if it’s been more than five years since Apple ripped off that band-aid. (I just feel like the phone gods have abandoned us, that’s all.)
Lastly, I’ll note that 128GB is pretty mediocre as the single storage option for U.S. customers. There is apparently a 256GB model coming to the states at an unspecified date but, for now, 128 gigs is all we get. It’s certainly manageable, but if you’re a big mobile gamer, that could fill up quickly.
The Shelf needs to be shelved
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip that bequeaths precious life unto the OnePlus 10 Pro just launched last year and is the same processor that powers the Samsung Galaxy S22 and Moto Edge+. A new processor plus a hardy 8GB of RAM means it’s really hard to find any performance complaints with this phone.
This is a powerful handset with just one software feature that needs to be retooled or let go entirely: The OnePlus Shelf. It’s the same as the “Today” screen in iOS (the thing to the left of the home screen with things like weather widgets), except it’s maddeningly activated by swiping down from the upper right side of the screen. If you’re right-handed like me, you’ll constantly bring down the Shelf by accident and see some useless tidbits about the weather or how many steps you’ve taken in a day instead of the notifications panel you probably meant to look at.
I’m not opposed to the Shelf existing, but there needs to be a way to remap where it’s located in the phone UI so it doesn’t get in the way of checking notifications. At the time of writing, the only option is to turn it off entirely… which I did.
I don’t miss it, to be honest.
The last thing I’ll say about performance is that the OnePlus 10 Pro’s battery life is quite sturdy. A full charge got me through 15 to 16 hours of substantial use (i.e., Twitter, Spotify, YouTube, web browsing) before I had to plug in. That’s about as long as you’ll be awake if you have anything resembling a healthy sleep schedule. If you don’t, then the 65 watt adapter that comes in the box will get you from desperation mode to a full battery in less than an hour.
While I love video games (especially with certain…assists), I’m not a mobile gamer at all. That said, OnePlus packed the 10 Pro full of Star Trek-sounding features like the “HyperBoost Gaming Engine” with “GPA Frame Stabilizer” and “O-Sync” designed to make it a better gaming phone. And I gotta say, I came away impressed, even if I’m not totally sure what those things mean.
I tested out two common mobile gaming benchmarks, Fortnite and Asphalt 9. The former needs no explanation. On a OnePlus 10 Pro, you can toggle the 60 frames per second mode in the options and the performance largely holds to that smooth frame rate during gameplay. There were snags in extreme circumstances, like parachuting down with the whole map in view to start a round, but once you’re on the ground, it’s solid.
Asphalt 9, a very fast racing game that handles acceleration and turning for you by default, was a really nice showcase for the OnePlus 10 Pro. Even with the high graphics setting turned on (which prompted a warning that it might cause unexpected problems or crashes), the game ran at a totally smooth 60fps with sharp textures and vivid colors. It might barely be a video game, but man, it looks great.
Would you likely get an even better gaming experience out of a dedicated gaming phone like the ASUS ROG 5? Probably. But you’d also pay $100 more to get one and you’d have to deal with an attachable fan to keep the phone cool. I’d stick with the OnePlus if mobile gaming really mattered to me.
Long exposure is rad
To produce the 10 Pro’s camera system, OnePlus partnered with Swedish camera company Hasselblad. I am not a photographer at all, so that doesn’t mean anything to me, but I can tell you the OnePlus 10 Pro takes some really great-looking shots, even if the artist behind them is a total amateur.
My favorite feature is the long exposure lens. Choose from a few different modes (i.e., moving vehicles, water & clouds, light painting), manually set how long the exposure takes, and then hold the phone still to produce trippy, beautiful photos. That’s how I got this shot of a normal Brooklyn street corner with an above-ground subway train that looks like an infinitely stretching gray obelisk and pedestrians who look like forlorn spirits left behind.
Aside from that, there’s also a 150-degree ultra-wide lens that, well, takes really wide shots. Here’s an intersection looking real distorted and goofy in a way that I’m pretty into.
There are also more conventional lens options at your disposal. Portrait mode produces a pretty blur behind the target, which I used to get this nice shot of an absolutely useless crosswalk sign.
Night mode here is okay, but not spectacular. Most of the nighttime shots I took honestly looked more natural and attractive with the default lens, but in the rare parts of Brooklyn where street lights don’t shine, I was able to get a clearer view of things obscured by shadow.
And finally, here’s just a regular shot I took in daytime with the default lens. Great colors, very sharp, no complaints.
A solid Pixel alternative
My stance for a while now has been that Google’s Pixel line is the way to go for the iPhone-averse among us. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the current standard-bearers for Android handsets factoring in attractiveness, feature sets, and affordability. That you can spend just $600 on a regular Pixel 6 and get some of the best performance and camera features around is a godsend.
But…the OnePlus 10 Pro is the first Android phone I’ve seen in some time that I’d consider as a legitimate alternative to the Pixel 6 Pro. Both have the same starting price of $900 and both come with tremendous performance, the same display size and resolution, and the same 120Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6 Pro looks cooler and has more robust camera options and a bigger battery, but the OnePlus 10 Pro is a great gaming phone on top of being pretty good at all that other stuff.
Whether you opt for Google’s device or go with OnePlus, you have to give the latter some credit for putting up a real fight in the Android space when Samsung and Motorola clearly haven’t.