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OnePlus 10T review: call it a comeback

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  • Posted on 03rd Aug, 2022 15:37 PM
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The OnePlus 10T includes a top-shelf Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor — Qualcomm’s latest and greatest — plus ridiculously fast wired charging. It’s a phone for a niche audience, but it delivers on its promises. Technically, OnePlus didn’t go anywhere. Especially in Europe and India, it’s been very much present over the past few years, putting out midrange devices that perform better than their price points indicate. But in the US, it feels like the

p class="p--has-dropcap p-large-text" id="xBssKx">Technically, OnePlus didn’t go anywhere. Especially in Europe and India, it’s been very much present over the past few years, putting out midrange devices that perform better than their price points indicate. But in the US, it feels like the company hasn’t quite had the same profile in recent years.

That’s changing with the OnePlus 10T, a $649 phone focused on delivering high performance. It’s a well-defined niche, and the phone follows through on its promises. It isn’t everything for everyone, and that makes it good.

If there’s one standout on the 10T’s spec sheet to know about, it’s the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor. It’s a highly capable chipset — the very best you can find in an Android phone in 2022. And the 10T has it for less than $700. That tells you a lot about what this phone’s whole deal is. There’s also very fast wired charging on board — 125W in the US, and it only stops there because our power outlets aren’t designed to handle higher voltages.

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What’s missing from the 10T is equally telling: there’s no wireless charging and no Hasselblad branding on the camera system, like the flagship 10 Pro offers. There’s a big, fast-refresh rate OLED screen that anyone can appreciate, but for added niceties like wireless charging, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The 10T is a phone for people who care about getting the best performance they can without spending $1,000. If that’s you, then you’ll be very happy to hear that OnePlus is indeed back.

To accompany that top-shelf Qualcomm processor, the base model OnePlus 10T includes 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage — with no microSD card slot for expansion. There’s also a 16GB RAM / 256GB storage version for $749, both of which will be sold in North America. Those are extremely competitive specs, especially for the price where 6GB of RAM is a more common starting point. I tested the 16GB version, and it handles intensive tasks like a $1,000 phone would.

I can tap and scroll seamlessly through virtual 3D home tours on Zillow’s mobile site (who among us doesn’t window shop for a new house for funsies?). I played Diablo Immortal for 30 minutes without encountering any major problems, except for, like, an angry fire-breathing monster that I had to seven-sided strike into submission. The framerate is a little shaky at times as I move into a new area, but it’s subtle — not a distracting sudden drop that breaks your flow.

With Genshin Impact, gameplay is very smooth, and dropped frames are rare. It’s one of two games that OnePlus says it’s optimized the 10T for with a framerate stabilizing technology (the other is PUBG Mobile), and it seems to work very well.

The 10T’s fast wired charging does everything it promises, too. The phone ships with a charging brick and USB-C to USB-C cable, and the AC adapter is heavy enough to let you know it means business when you pick it up. Charging speeds are nothing short of impressive: blink, and you’ll miss the phone charging up to 30 percent in under five minutes.

Within 10 minutes, I saw a 60 percent charge and a full charge within 20 minutes. That sort of speed can kind of change how you think about your phone’s battery life: if you don’t mind carrying the charger, then you can easily add several more hours of use with even just a few minutes at a power outlet. You don’t have to be precious about how much time you spend gaming or streaming video, even if you spend most of your day away from a power source.

Beyond that, battery life is good. The 4,800mAh cell consistently lasted through a day of moderate use with about 60 percent charge left in the tank. I tested it largely on cellular data with high performance mode enabled — and why wouldn’t you with a phone like this? — using the fastest screen refresh rate mode (on by default). That’s a day of moderate use; if you plan to do a fair amount of gaming, which is a key use case for this device, then you’ll need that quick, late-afternoon recharge to avoid single-digit battery hell.

The 10T carries an IP54 water resistance rating no matter where in the world you buy it. That’s been a point of confusion on previous OnePlus devices that would sometimes have an implied IP rating because the same phone at T-Mobile has one, but the unlocked version doesn’t. IP54 it is, which protects against dust intrusion and water spray — not full immersion. That’s well short of the IP68 waterproof ratings on most flagship devices, but it’s a little insurance against accidental splashes and better than nothing.

One thing you won’t find on the 10T: OnePlus’ signature alert slider. The company’s explanation is that in order to give the phone’s chipset and heat dissipation system enough space, it had to cut the slider. It’s also going to great lengths to stress that just because this phone doesn’t have an alert slider doesn’t mean that it’s gone forever. Still, it’s a fan favorite, and leaving it out is no doubt an unpopular move among the OnePlus faithful. For what it’s worth, I got by just fine without it as I used the phone.

With a high-powered chipset and fast charging, OnePlus has taken care to include a serious heat-dissipation system on the 10T. OnePlus says that it contains the largest vapor chamber in any of its devices to date. There’s 3D graphite and copper foil, and I don’t quite understand what all that means, but I can say this: it works fairly well. The phone heats up, for sure — 15 minutes into downloading the 15GB Genshin Impact (with the animated loading screen on), and it’s warm to the touch but not alarmingly warm.

Same goes after a good 20 minutes of Diablo Immortal: the phone is noticeably warm, but it remains comfortable to use. The only time I noticed the phone getting very warm was when I left it on a soft surface like a couch cushion while doing some intensive task, like downloading massive game files. That’s more on me, though; the cooling system really can’t do its thing when it’s being smothered.

The OnePlus 10T offers a spacious 6.7-inch OLED with 1080p resolution and a top refresh rate of 120Hz. The panel itself is flat, though the device’s edges are curved. It’s also not an LTPO display, which means it can’t drop down to extremely low refresh rates, but the screen will adapt automatically between 60, 90, and 120Hz to minimize the drain on the battery. It’s also not the brightest screen I’ve come across, but its peak brightness of 950 nits is good enough to keep it visible in direct sunlight.

In the screen is a very good in-display fingerprint reader for biometric unlocking — after using the Pixel 6A’s much less responsive reader for a few weeks, this one feels lightning fast. On a device whose whole premise is built on speed, it feels right at home.

Companies like Google and Samsung have increased the number of years that they’re committing to supporting devices with software updates, and OnePlus has followed suit. It’s not offering quite as long support — some Pixel and Galaxy devices get up to five years of security updates — but it’s promising three OS version upgrades and four years of security updates for the 10T. That’s not excellent, but it’s good, and the 10T should be able to keep up well four years from now when it gets its last security patches.

The camera system on the 10T feels like a bit of an afterthought, and that’s actually fine. It has all of the hardware I’d hope for from a premium midrange phone: a 50-megapixel main camera with stabilization, an adequate 8-megapixel ultrawide, and a 16-megapixel selfie camera. There’s a 2-megapixel macro camera on the back panel that’s nigh useless, with its very low resolution and fixed focus. If you like wondering whether your photo is going to be in focus, then you’ll have a great time with it. Otherwise, OnePlus could have done us all a favor and included a close-focusing ultrawide instead, but it did not.

The Hasselblad branding is conspicuously missing, and in a group press briefing, OnePlus spokesperson Spenser Blank explained that the company wanted to position it differently from the higher-priced 10 Pro. Fair enough – using that Hasselblad logo probably doesn’t come cheap, and the Hasselblad integration hasn’t exactly improved OnePlus’ cameras by leaps and bounds anyways. Not much of a loss there.

All this is to say that the cameras on the 10T are just average: photos in good light look nice and are acceptable in low light. It sometimes takes the camera a few shots to get to the right answer, but it gets there eventually. For one, exposure can drift around a little — I took three photos of my husband and son that look a little too overexposed, and then finally, a fourth with the right exposure and skin tones. It keeps shutter speeds high enough to get a fair number of sharp shots with moving subjects in moderate lighting. In very low light, there’s a capable night mode to bring out some good color and detail in static subjects. Exposure is a little squirrely in video recording, too, but otherwise, clips look good up to the 4K/60p max.

The OnePlus 10T isn’t a phone that tries to be everything for everyone, and I think that’s great. It’s smartly priced, and in the US, there’s not a whole lot else available at the same price point. It’s a little pricier than the $599 Pixel 6 with the same 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage configuration, but the screen is bigger (if that’s something you’re into) with a smoother 120Hz refresh rate. If the extremely fast charging appeals to you, then that’s a combination of features you definitely won’t get from the Pixel 6.

The 10T isn’t an all-around class leader, and despite what OnePlus’ marketing might say, I don’t think it really sets out to be one. In this price range – which is a tick below the $849 Samsung Galaxy S22 – the Pixel 6 is still the best bet for most people. It offers a better holistic feature set, including a better camera, more robust IP68 waterproofing, and more frequent software updates for a longer lifespan. OnePlus made a phone that’s good for the money in the 10T, even if it’s not good for most people. In the US market, there’s room at that table.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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