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OnePlus 10T review: Powerful smartphone with a few tradeoffs

OnePlus went back to its roots with the 10T. But the phone loses its sheen due to mediocre camera performance and the missing trademark alert slider

On the outside, the OnePlus 10T follows a formula familiar to anyone who’s seen the 10 Pro. It’s hard to tell them apart from a distance. (Twitter/OnePlus India)

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What started off as a play on iPhone ‘S’ variants, in quite the literal sense – a ‘T’ is 1+S, after all – OnePlus’ ‘T’-series has, since the 2016 launch of the OnePlus 3T, come to represent mid-cycle refreshes of the company’s numbered flagships, bumping up the internals to the du jour flagship Qualcomm chip and sprinkling in just enough tweaks to last it out till the next big release. Only this time, with the 10T, there was no OnePlus 10 to build upon. Instead, the 10T takes design cues from the OnePlus 10 Pro and oddly enough, even manages to upstage the company’s premium offering in pure performance and charging speed.

It’s a bit of a return to OnePlus’ enthusiast roots, but will it be what the doctor ordered for the brand as it takes on increasingly fierce competition in the value flagship segment?

On the outside, the OnePlus 10T follows a formula familiar to anyone who’s seen the 10 Pro. It’s hard to tell them apart from a distance. Same stove-top-like camera array, except the back glass now curves up to meet the camera island much like the Find X5 Pro from parent company Oppo. There’s Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back but you’ll want to slip on the included case to avoid constantly having to wipe down the smudges that the glossy finish on the Jade Green variant so easily attracts. The Moonstone Black variant has a rough, stone-like finish on top of the glass back that looks rather unique and is less of a fingerprint magnet.

There’s definitely some dialing back on some elements – the metal frame of the 10 Pro has been swapped out for a plastic mid-frame, the phone lacks any IP-rating for dust/water protection, and the ceramic camera island has made way for a glass module. Crucially, the OnePlus 10T lacks the characteristic alert slider to quickly change alert profiles, and the ostensible reason offered was to make more space for larger thermal cooling and higher wattage charging. We’ve seen this happen on phones in OnePlus’ Nord lineup, but the fan favorite feature missing on the numbered series OnePlus phone is a bit disappointing and in some ways, makes the 10T a little bit less of a OnePlus device (in spirit, at least).

Elsewhere, the 10T draws inspiration from the OnePlus 10R, both in terms of the 150W fast charging and the excellent display – a 6.7-inch full HD+ panel with 60 or 120Hz refresh rates – that does a fine job both while rendering HDR10+ content on OTT services and being perfectly usable when you’re out and about in the usually hot Bengaluru August we’ve been having. No battery-saving LTPO-based variable refresh rate display that we saw on the 10 Pro, though…and the speakers are a bit imbalanced, with a defined skew towards the bottom speaker. The built-in fingerprint sensor works along with face-unlock to snappily unlock the device, though one would have much preferred the sensor to be placed higher on the display to allow for a more natural unlock position.

With the emphasis on performance, it’s no surprise that the phone ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, which we’ve seen power practically every top-end Android flagship phone in the second half of this year (including the latest foldables from Samsung). The big gains with this chip over the 8 Gen 1 which powered the 10 Pro have to do with improved power efficiency, which when coupled with the 10T’s vapor chamber cooling, translated to better sustained peak performance and impressive thermal management.

The big-ticket inclusion is that of 150W peak charging speeds, which charges the phone at a blistering rate, from empty to full in under 20 minutes.
The big-ticket inclusion is that of 150W peak charging speeds, which charges the phone at a blistering rate, from empty to full in under 20 minutes. (Twitter/OnePlus India)

In the 12GB memory variant (priced at 54,999; Rs. 49,999 for the base 8GB variant) we tested, the phone handily managed to run games like Apex Legends Mobile and Genshin Impact without any drop in frame rates or anything more than lukewarm temperatures even after 45 minutes of gaming. OnePlus has recently launched a 16GB variant (Rs. 55,999) which looks particularly tempting if you were already in the market for a 12GB variant. Battery life on the 10T kept up with heavy usage, and the phone regularly lasted upwards of 6.5 hours of screen time on a single charge, which translates to a reasonably heavy cocktail of gaming, streaming, maps etc. The big-ticket inclusion is that of 150W peak charging speeds, which charges the phone at a blistering rate, from empty to full in under 20 minutes!

The software experience is familiar territory – the phone runs Oxygen OS 12.1 on top of Android 12, which is a thinly veiled ColorOS 12 that we’ve seen on many Oppo and Realme devices this year. No significant complaints, though – and the lack of bloatware is refreshing in this segment. OnePlus has committed to three major Android updates and four years of security patches, which is decent support for a flagship device.

Part of that tradeoff for performance is that the OnePlus 10T doesn’t really move the needle on the camera setup in any meaningful fashion, and the camera setup – a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with an 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro sensor – is basic, at best, with no sign of the Hasselblad collaboration that we saw on the OnePlus 9 Pro and 10 Pro.

Images shot on the primary camera are reasonably detailed, but tricky light situations that require high dynamic range processing trip the camera up sometimes. The ultra-wide offers images that are soft around the edges and lack the detail of the primary shooter, while the 2MP macro is not worth writing home about. Low-light photos fare worse, but the Nightscape mode helps somewhat. Selfies are acceptable, but as with the rest of the setup, you can do much better at this price point.

With the 10T, OnePlus has gone back to its roots, delivering a gaming- and performance-forward device, with a great display and excellent battery and charging performance – all this at a higher-but-still-very-palatable price. And much like the classic OnePlus many of us remember, a mediocre camera for the segment too. This is a device for someone who knows they will utilize the full power of the device, but others would do well to consider options from iQOO (9T) or Samsung (S22) or Google (Pixel 6a).

Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar

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