Review: OnePlus 9 series: The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are the two latest smartphones from the Chinese brand OnePlus. They are high-end devices that resemble each other more than ever, but still have some unique features that can be a decisive factor. That is useful for when you want a new OnePlus, but can’t decide which one exactly. In this extensive review we take both the devices with us, because they actually look quite similar. The devices have a suggested retail price of 699 euros and 899 euros; they are available now.
Specifications OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro
|OnePlus 9 / 9 Pro|
|Screen||6.5 inches / 6.7 inches, 2,400 by 1,080 / 3,216 by 1,440 pixels, 120hz / 144hz, amoled|
|Operating system||Oxygen OS 11 (Android 11)|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888|
|Random access memory||8 – 12GB|
|Storage Memory||128 – 256GB|
|Cameras||48 megapixel, 50 megapixel, 2 megapixel (plus 8 megapixel on the Pro) rear, 16 megapixel front|
|Battery||4,500 mAh Lithium Polymer, 65W fast charge|
When OnePlus brings two devices to the market, they often differ enough in terms of specifications, so that you can speak of other phones. This time we see that both models, in this case the OnePlus 9 series, differ minimally from each other. They both have the latest Snapdragon processor, 8 to 12 GB of RAM and 128 to 256 GB of internal storage. The battery, with its capacity of 4,500 mAh, is the same size and they both have support up to 5g and bluetooth 5.2 and nfc on board.
Nevertheless, there are also differences, which explain the price difference. For example, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a display with curved screen edges, which should give the whole a more premium look. In addition, the Pro has an extra camera on board and there is support for wireless charging with a power of 50 watts. The regular variant also supports wireless charging, but with ‘only’ 15 watts. For the Pro model, you do need the wireless charger from OnePlus to achieve that speed.
Signature design with new elements
Although smartphones today increasingly resemble each other – and you can sometimes no longer distinguish the OnePlus from the Samsung – the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro have still been given the characteristic OnePlus design. You notice that especially at the back, because the front is almost all screen. The chin at the bottom is slightly narrower than on the OnePlus 8T (one of our favorite phones of 2020), while at the top on the left we see the front camera in the screen. This is fairly standard.
At the back we find the well-known OnePlus logo. This time it stands out much better than before, because it has been made darker this time. We can also count on all buttons on the sides, including the slider with which you can quickly activate the silent modes. That is still a big advantage on smartphones from OnePlus. The brand has been tinkering with that side of the Pro a bit. The side now appears slightly thinner, due to a small adjustment to the chassis at the buttons. It looks cool, but is also optical illusion.
The OnePlus 9 Pro model we are reviewing is the new Morning Mist color option. This is a silver colored casing, which changes into a mirror effect. It looks cool, but unfortunately all the fingerprints that you leave behind quickly bother you. A case can solve the problem, but that detracts from the cool appearance. That regular variant of the 9 also has this, despite its purple color. In addition, the Pro has an aluminum finish, while the regular version has cheaper materials.
Display and speakers
The screen of the OnePlus 9 is 6.5 inches, while the 9 Pro has a display of 6.7 inches. In addition, you should keep in mind that the Pro has curved screen edges, while the regular version has a flat screen. It’s just what you’re looking for. Because of the small differences between the two devices, the type of screen can be a decisive factor. The resolution can also play a role in this. The Pro has one of 3,216 by 1,440 pixels; the other has one of 2,400 by 1,080 pixels.
With that resolution and the size of the screen, the OnePlus 9 has a pixel density of 404 pixels per inch (ppi). Due to the slightly larger screen and higher resolution, the Pro has a ppi of 525. It is best for the image quality of smartphone screens when the ppi score exceeds 400. Both versions therefore meet that requirement perfectly and that produces beautiful images.
Both screens show fantastic images. The colors look very rich, while the viewing angle is also more than fine. Photos are nicely detailed and watching videos on those screens is not a punishment at all. Neither does gaming and that has to do with the refresh rate. Both smartphones have a refresh rate of 120 Hertz. Games therefore look pleasing to the eye, but scrolling also just looks very nice.
Both smartphones offer support for HDR10+. That’s good news for anyone who wants to watch HDR content via video streaming services such as YouTube or Netflix. In any case, the screen is extremely suitable for it. They can be set quite clearly: the OnePlus 9 has 1,100 nits and the Pro 1,300 nits. That is the maximum value of the brightness. The higher that number, the better you see the screen in lit environments. There is also a front camera that is in the screen that can sometimes get in the way. That may not be a big disadvantage, but sometimes that camera can get in the way for a while.
In addition, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro also have stereo speakers. The sound quality is therefore much better than on models with a single speaker, that should speak for itself. Especially when you just quickly watch a YouTube video, you notice that the audio sounds good and clear. There is also support for Dolby Atmos. If you watch a movie or listen to music, the system can turn on Dolby Atmos for a better sound reproduction. This only works when you plug in headphones.
Battery life and wireless charging
Usually there is a difference in the capacity of the battery between the regular and the Pro model, but that is not the case this time. Both OnePlus models have a battery of 4,500 watts. That is more than enough to get through a day and a half with fairly intensive use. We are talking about a few phone calls, WhatsApp messages that come in all day and the various news feeds that we keep an eye on. We also occasionally take photos and operate our music and smart home with the devices.
If you take it a little easier, you can make it to the two days. You can also adjust the screen settings so that energy is used more efficiently. For example, you can reduce the number of images per second to 60 and you can lower the resolution to Full HD. For some users, that can be a godsend if they don’t really notice the differences with 120/144 Hz and the qhd+ resolution, so it’s good to see those options are there. And it’s handy to fall back on if you don’t have a charger handy.
Charging can be done in different ways. You can do that with the included charging cable. You can charge with a power of 65 watts via USB-C. Which means? Well, you can get the battery fully charged within half an hour. Just like in the OnePlus 8T, there are two smaller batteries of 2,250 mAh. Both batteries are charged and discharged in turn; the real gain is the charging speed. You can also use the wireless charging functionality.
Wireless charging works on both smartphones this time. You can do that with a simple Qi charger, but then you don’t get everything out of it when you are a brand new OnePlus 9 Pro owner. When you get the wireless OnePlus charger at home, you can charge the device with a power of 50 watts. Moreover, you can do that both horizontally and vertically, so you can watch a video in the meantime, for example. In this case, it can take up to 45 minutes to fully charge the battery, from one percent capacity.
Both the new OnePlus models have a 48-megapixel main camera, a 50-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 2 megapixel monochrome lens. The Pro also has an eight megapixel telephoto lens. At the front we find a sixteen megapixel camera, which is therefore incorporated into the screen. The rear camera module is bigger than ever, and those big lenses don’t look very appealing — but that’s not so important anymore when they’re taking good photos and videos. What about the quality?
The first impressions are, and that applies to both models, immediately positive. The OnePlus 9 Pro has a more extensive camera system than the 9 and you can decide for yourself whether that is a big problem. Do you often use a telephoto lens? Then you better let the OnePlus 9 shoot (the OnePlus 8T, by the way). Is the telephoto lens important? Then you already know which version is best for you. With the telephoto lens you can zoom in optically 3.3 times, without loss of quality. Fortunately, there is also optical image stabilization.
Photos are sharp and colorful. Sometimes just too colorful, but that can also be due to the default settings of the OnePluscamera application. When you use another camera app, for example GCam, the colors already look much more natural. They are only faded when the environment around you is also faded, but then you capture how the world is around you. If you then make a raw file of it via the professional mode, you can finely edit the colors and other things afterwards.
The camera module is capable of taking reasonably high quality photos. Compared to previous models, the system handles light better (also in the evening!) and we also see that the noise level is significantly less as a result. Even when light sources are in the picture, it is noticeable that the lenses deal with this. The images look sharp and less fuzzy than before. Furthermore, the macro function works fine. When you want to take a photo of something up close, the standard app automatically switches to that functionality.
Then there’s the wide-angle camera. This time we see that OnePlus has made great strides when it comes to side deformation. It is not that it has completely disappeared, but compared to the OnePlus 8T there is a great progress. This makes it clear that OnePlus has really invested a lot in the new camera system. The selfie camera still takes hard photos, which saturated light sources. But under the right conditions you can take quite acceptable pictures with it.
OnePlus 9 series is OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11
Like the OnePlus 8T, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro also run on Oxygen OS 11. That is the company’s own software shell, which is now based on Android 11. That is the most recent version of the Android operating system. Google is currently working on Android 12 , which should arrive for everyone after the summer. Until then, Android 11 mainly gives you access to a lot of improvements under the hood. It is also the case that you can control your smart home, based on Google Home , much better with your Android phone.
If you skipped the OnePlus 8T at the end of last year or have not yet downloaded the Android 11 upgrade for your other OnePlus, the interface may take some getting used to. The interface has undergone a major overhaul last year. Admittedly, it looks sleek and the layout is nice and logical, but it is also very reminiscent of the menu structure and design of Samsung phones. So if you, as a Samsung user, want to make the switch, you know that the software will fortunately be quite painless.
Samsung’s OneUI and OnePlus’ OxygenOS share many of the same benefits. The quick menu is easily accessible, because it has been moved down a bit. In addition, the software is beautifully clean and very accessible, without getting in the way of the normal Android experience. In our opinion, the OxygenOS provides a good balance between the authentic Android experience and the addition of exclusive functions and designs, something that many more manufacturers are mastering. But OnePlus was unique in this, years ago.
Furthermore, the device comes with all Google applications, as it happens, and some applications from OnePlus. The Netflix app is also present, because of the support for certain certificates. Don’t worry: you can remove or disable most apps, so you don’t have to worry about that. Unfortunately, there are duplicate apps, but they can also be turned off. Furthermore, it is true that the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, at the time of writing, has the February security update. Fortunately that is a recent version.
Conclusion – OnePlus 9 series
In terms of design and software, the new OnePlus 9 series are actually not very interesting if you compare them with the previous model. Certainly not if you also consider the price you have to pay for it. Especially the Pro model is quite expensive. Both devices do not differ much from each other and are, except for the cameras, an iterative update compared to the OnePlus 8T. Do you really want much better cameras, do you like the curved screen edges or do you crave fast wireless charging, then the OnePlus 9 Pro is for you. Otherwise, it’s better to stick to the attractively priced OnePlus 8T.
Pros of OnePlus 9 series
- Hasselblad cameras
- Slightly modified design
- Fast software
- Fast wireless charging (Pro model)
Negatives of OnePlus 9 series
- Not exciting in terms of design or software
- Backs are fingerprint magnets
- No IP certificate (ordinary model)