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OnePlus 10T review: Big speed at decent price

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What would you sacrifice for speed?

Video transcript

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SAM RUTHERFORD: When OnePlus does a midyear refresh of its phones, typically you end up with a slightly snappier device with a handful of refinements. But with the new OnePlus 10T, it feels like a lot was sacrificed for the sake of going all in on speed.

Updates include a faster Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, 120 Hertz display with an adaptive refresh rate, and faster charging and some tweaks for improved wireless connectivity. Unfortunately, OnePlus's signature alert slider and wireless charging have been removed, and water resistance is weak.

So while the 10T is a solid device with an affordable price of $649, it doesn't quite have the same mass appeal as OnePlus's previous offers.

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For the 10T design, OnePlus recycled the template used on the 10 Pro but with some cost-saving tweaks. You get Gorilla Glass 5 in front and back with the jade green model sporting the smooth, shiny finish you'd expect. But on our Moonstone Black review unit, OnePlus used two different processes to add a textured finish the company says was inspired by basalt.

This makes the phone sparkle in the sunlight, which is kind of nice for "Twilight" fans or people who aren't planning on immediately throwing the thing in a case. That said, I think you get a very similar effect with glitter. But more than that, it makes the back of the phone feel kind of plasticky, as if it came out of a cheap 3D printer.

Don't get me wrong. This is a really minor offense. But if I was buying one, I'd go with the jade version. The OnePlus 10T also features three cameras in back with a smoothed-out hump, a speedy in-screen optical fingerprint sensor, and stereo speakers that are relatively loud, though there isn't much to say about its overall audio quality.

Sadly, what you won't find is an alert slider, which is a feature that has been present on nearly every OnePlus phone since the OnePlus 2 way back in 2015. Now, OnePlus claims its removal is due to the space requirements for larger antennas, a bigger battery, faster charging, and more, and that the slider will make a return on future devices. But all that kind of makes not having it on the 10T feel even stranger while also removing one of the few things that gives the phone a little bit of personality.

Furthermore as a downgrade from the OnePlus 9, the 10T only gets IP54 dust and water resistance, which is only rated to withstand a splash or two instead of a full 30-minute dunk like you used to get. All around, it kind of feels like OnePlus is regressing a bit on the design front.

Thankfully, at least the screen isn't a step backwards. The 10T packs a big 6.7-inch 2412-by-1080 OLED display with flat edges and a 120 Hertz refresh rate. There's not a lot to complain about here. Colors are bright and punchy while still delivering lovely inky blacks. Meanwhile, using a light meter, I found that the 10T screen delivers a peak brightness just shy of 800 nits, which is great.

And thanks to an addition of an adaptive refresh rate that can switch from 120 Hertz to 90 Hertz or 60 Hertz depending on the content, you also get improved battery life without impacting image quality. When it comes to speed, one of the biggest upgrades is the move to Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, which offers 30% better power efficiency and 10% faster graphics compared to the standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. You can also configure the 10T with up to 16 gigs of RAM, which OnePlus claims is enough to hold up to 35 apps open in the background, along with up to 256 gigs of storage.

All this makes the phone feel rather sprightly, though there's not that much that can really tax a phone with flagship-level performance nowadays. Honestly, I can't even think of 35 or even 20 apps I'd want to keep running all the time. And in side-by-side comparisons with standard Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phones, it's hard to discern much of an advantage in speed. But if you absolutely need to have the fastest silicon you can get in an Android phone, well, here you go.

In addition to its new processor, the 10T also gets the same 1,000 Hertz touch sampling rate you get on the 10 Pro alongside OnePlus's HyperBoost Gaming Engine, which attempts to smooth out any hiccups or stutters in your frame rates. And for people who care about getting the best Wi-Fi speeds, OnePlus also created its Smart Link feature, which is designed to proactively seek out strong networks. This works in tandem with the 10T's 360-degree antenna design so you get optimal signal strength regardless of how you're holding the phone or where your signal is coming from.

When it comes to photography, the 10T's cameras are one of the biggest departures from its more expensive sibling. Not only does the 10T not have any features or tuning from Hasselblad like you get on the 10 Pro, it also lacks a dedicated telephoto lens. Instead, you get a 50-megapixel main camera based on a Sony IMX 766 sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide cam, and a 2-megapixel macro camera.

Thankfully, even without help from Hasselblad, the 10T's image quality is still pretty good. During the day, you get rich saturated colors and relatively sharp details. It was only after I compared the 10T's pics with similar shots from the $500 Pixel 6A that I noticed it sometimes oversharpening things a touch or exaggerates more vivid colors like the oranges on a flower.

At night, the 10T holds up pretty well too, though I still have to give the Pixel 6A an advantage in low light thanks to Google's Night Sight mode. As for the other cameras, the ultrawide camera is totally serviceable and provides a more expansive 120-degree field of view. Unfortunately, the macro cam is kind of a bust because while it can take close-up photos, its low resolution and hit-or-miss focus means you're often better up just using the main camera and then cropping it.

OK. Let's talk charging. Because while the 80-watt charging system on the 10 Pro was anything but slow, the new 150-watt SuperVOOC system on the 10T is ridiculously fast, and it actually lives up to OnePlus's lofty claims. Starting with just 1% charge, the 10T refills its battery to just shy of 60% in 10 minutes before going on to hit 86% in 20 minutes and 100% in less than half an hour. That's more than twice as fast as what you get from a lot of other high-end Android phones, including stuff like the $1,200 S22 Ultra, which has just 45-watt fast charging.

That said, there are a number of caveats about the 10T's 150-watt charging system you should know. The first is that you can only get these speeds when using OnePlus's included power adapter and cable. But hey, at least you get a charging brick in the box, unlike a lot of other phones.

When I tried charging the phone with two other 130-watt or higher third-party adapters, 10T added less than 20% battery in 10 minutes. And that was even when using OnePlus's included cable. Finally, for anyone dreaming of juicing up a laptop or some other gadget using OnePlus's power brick, you should know that standard USB PD charging is capped at just 45 watts.

When it comes to software, nowadays, most Android phone makers have gotten their custom skins in a pretty decent spot. However, with OnePlus's OxygenOS having transitioned to a platform based on Oppo's ColorOS, starting with the 10 Pro and now the 10T, things can feel a bit jarring for longtime OnePlus fans. That's because while you still get things like the OnePlus sans font, other elements like the Settings menu, UI, and even some of OxygenOS's new sounds constantly remind you that this is not quite the operating system that you're used to.

I've also noticed some odd bugs and inconsistencies, like not getting a pop-up to enable file transfers when connecting the phone to a PC over USB-C. To fix this, I had to manually enable Android's Developer Settings, which isn't something that an average user should need or have to do. On the bright side, the 10T should enjoy solid software support with OnePlus promising at least three major Android updates and four years of regular security patches.

The company even says it plans to upgrade some of its phones to Android 13 later this fall, starting with the OnePlus 10 Pro, not the 10T, and then moving on from there. So the big question is, should you get one? For the kind of people who crave speed, the OnePlus 10T is an interesting device. It has top-of-the-line performance, a big OLED screen, and stupidly fast charging for just $650, or $750 if you want the 16-gig plus 256-gig config. Its cameras are solid too, even though I wish one OnePlus had opted for a zoom lens instead of a macro, and its battery life is truly superb.

The somewhat disappointing part are some of the cuts made to achieve all that speed. You don't get OnePlus's signature alert slider, there's no support for wireless charging, and its water resistance is mediocre. So while it's super fast, the OnePlus 10T isn't as well rounded as phones like the Pixel 6.

To complicate things even more, alongside the 10T's release, OnePlus is permanently reducing the 10 Pro's starting price from $899 to $799. That puts the 10T in a tough spot between great values like the $500 Pixel 6A or the $600 Pixel 6 and then more full-featured phones like the S22 and OnePlus 10 Pro. But if you've got to go fast and you want an affordable phone with excess haste, the 10T might be exactly what you need.

But what do you think? Tell us in the comments down below. And don't forget to like, subscribe, and stay tuned to Engadget for more reviews coming real soon.

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