OnePlus‘ new lineup consists of its two flagship models: the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. With these devices, OnePlus establishes a new position with competing OEMs as it snags the Hasselblad camera brand in a new partnership to help it further develop OnePlus’ camera prowess. OnePlus is using the tagline “Your best shot”, so let’s see what all the fuss is about.
You may be asking exactly how Hasselblad was involved in the development of the OnePlus 9’s cameras. As per OnePlus, Hasselblad has collaborated with the OEM to calibrate the cameras’ sensors and tune the color optics to behave as they would on high-end Hasselblad cameras – known for their accurate colors and image output in 16-bit RAW. While the OnePlus 9 can’t quite shoot in 16-bit RAW, it does have the ability to do so in 12-bit color while using the camera’s Pro shooting mode.
In this review, we’re going to focus on the (slightly) smaller of the two. The OnePlus 9 does skip out on some of the features that are exclusive to the 9 Pro – which has extra camera features, a more premium display, and support for OnePlus new 50W wireless charger. Storage is now updated to UFS 3.1 for faster read/write speeds, as well.
The look and feel of the OnePlus 9‘s design do not deviate far from its predecessor. The OnePlus 9 keeps the flat display and the new plastic frame could fool anyone into thinking it was metal. Don’t worry though, the front and back panes are still made of Gorilla Glass. The punch-hole camera cutout remains in the same spot for now, and the main camera cluster gets a new arrangement.
Coming from the OnePlus 8, the 9 gets updated wired charging, updated camera modules, support for 120Hz refresh rate, and now supports bi-directional wireless charging, though only in select markets. The more obvious updates include the Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform, and a bump in battery capacity.
OnePlus 9 specs at a glance:
- Body: 160.0×73.9×8.1mm, 183g; Glass front (Gorilla Glass), glass back (Gorilla Glass), plastic frame.
- Display: 6.55″ Fluid AMOLED, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1100 nits (peak), 1080x2400px resolution, 20:9 aspect ratio, 402ppi; Always-on display.
- Chipset: Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680; Adreno 660.
- Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 12GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
- OS/Software: Android 11, OxygenOS 11.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 48 MP, f/1.8, 23mm, 1/1.43″, 1.12µm, omnidirectional PDAF; Ultra wide angle: 50 MP, f/2.2, 14mm, 1/1.56″, 1.0µm; Depth: 2 MP, f/2.4.
- Front camera: 16 MP, f/2.4, (wide), 1/3.06″, 1.0µm.
- Video capture: Rear camera: 8K@30fps, 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60/240fps, Auto HDR, gyro-EIS; Front camera: 1080p@30fps, gyro-EIS.
- Battery: 4500mAh; Fast charging 65W, 1-100% in 29 min (advertised), Fast wireless charging 15W (EU/NA only), USB Power Delivery.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (under display, optical); NFC.
The OnePlus 9 now shares the same dual-cell battery setup that debuted on the OnePlus 8T. This means that the 9 supports OnePlus’ Warp Charge 65T. This tech quickly charges two smaller batteries that work in tandem and a full charge of the batteries’ combined 4,500 mAh capacity is promised in about half an hour.
The camera module has been updated to the Sony IMX689 – the same sensor from the OnePlus 8 Pro. The difference here is that this one is tuned with Hasselblad’s likeness. The ultrawide module is a significant upgrade. This is a large 50MP sensor that beefs up the performance of the ultrawide camera in low-light photography and when shooting video. It also has a fancy new lens that drastically minimizes distortion normally observed on ultrawide cameras – we’re excited to test it out.
Let’s dig into the OnePlus 9 and see what experience the entry-level OnePlus flagship has to offer. Let’s start with the contents of the phone’s packaging.
The OnePlus packaging has become a standard fare and the OnePlus 9 is no exception. Inside the now familiar red box is the phone at the top layer, followed by some paperwork, a silicone case in some markets, the 65W Warp Charge power adapter, and the usual red Type-C to Type-C USB 2.0 cable.
Unlike the opaque silicone case that comes with the 9 Pro, the OnePlus 8 silicone case is clear. We’re not sure why OnePlus chooses to omit this accessory in some markets and decides to leave it elsewhere. There will be aftermarket cases, obviously, along with some first-party options from OnePlus.
As usual, there are no audio accessories inside the package. Not even an audio adapter.
The OnePlus 9 starts at $729, which is a fairly serious price tag that gets it some fairly serious competition. For starters, it’s more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S21, which starts at $699 but can occasionally be found for a lower price. Probably the most underrated of the three new S21 phones, the standard S21 is still a great smartphone whose only real flaw is perhaps opting for a plastic back in a market full of glass phones.
But if that’s a real deal-breaker to you or if you just want something larger, then there’s the S21+, which goes for $799 or at times even $749. The S21+ is a fully-featured smartphone that leaves very little on the table and has the performance to match the price tag. Samsung may even throw in an accessory or two in some regions or offer a discount on them if you pick this up, which makes the deal even sweeter.
The newly launched ASUS ROG Phone 5 is also a tough competitor in this segment. ASUS has not just chosen to pack this phone with as many features as possible but also opted for an aggressive pricing at around the same price as the OnePlus 9. While clearly marketed as a gaming phone (and it’s a damn good at that), the ROG Phone 5 is also a fairly complete package, with respectable performance in nearly every area.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, then maybe you’d want to consider the Apple iPhone 12. Possibly the best value iPhone in a while, the standard iPhone 12 manages to pack great design and build quality, a high quality display, best in class performance, a high quality set of cameras, easy to use software with unparalleled software and game library, legendary customer support and a high resale value to boot. The iPhone 12 will also be appealing to those who are looking for a more compact smartphone but for those who want something even smaller, there’s the $100 cheaper iPhone 12 mini as well, which does basically everything the iPhone 12 does in a smaller size. Yes, the 60Hz display aren’t exactly modern and the lack of any kind of charger in the box may be frustrating to some but as a complete package, the iPhone 12 is still hard to beat.
From being the hero of its own story to becoming the sidekick, the non-Pro line of OnePlus phones has had a tragic demotion over the years. We first saw this with the OnePlus 7 and two years later, not much has changed.
It’s clear the Pro device is going to get all the best stuff moving forward but at times it feels like OnePlus swings the cripple hammer too hard on the non-Pro mode. A plastic frame, no certified ingress protection, lower resolution display from last year’s model, no telephoto camera and downgraded main sensor, no 4K 120fps recording, no OIS, and no wireless charging outside of NA and Europe.
As reviewers, it’s hard to get excited about the OnePlus 9. Just as it was hard to get excited about the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 7. As a phone, it’s perfectly adequate and for the most part it’s quite nice to use. But at $729 starting price, it’s supposed to be nice. The brakes on the OnePlus price hike train stopped working years ago and the company clearly has no plans on slowing down. So then why are things being taken away instead of being added?
We can’t decipher these mixed signals. If the OnePlus 9 is available in your region at a reasonable price, then it is a reasonable phone to pick up. But if OnePlus wants to play the price hike game, it will have to do better than this.
- Good display performance
- Relatively clean software and great UI performance
- Powerful loudspeakers
- Good performance from the main wide and ultra-wide cameras
- Fast charging
- Plastic frame
- No official IP rating
- No OIS
- No dedicated telephoto camera
- Outdated front camera
- Hasselblad partnership mostly a marketing gimmick
- Monochrome camera is useless
- No wireless charging outside of NA and Europe
- Worse battery life performance than previous models
- Most games still locked to 60fps