OnePlus 9: A Phone With Near-Premium Experience At Un-Premium Price

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OnePlus started as a value flagship proposition and it helped the brand grow into a household name. But, over the past few years, the Chinese company has shifted focus more on the premium offering with its Pro models. With this year’s OnePlus 9, however, the company has once again tried to win over the value-for-money segment, an area that it once dominated.

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Evident Price Advantage

OnePlus announced the OnePlus 9 at an online event in March this year. The Chinese company pitched it as a successor to the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8T. In terms of price, the OnePlus 9 costs less than both these phones. The OnePlus 9 128GB/8GB version is priced at $729, while the 256GB/12GB version costs $829.

Additionally, the OnePlus 9 costs $240 less than the OnePlus 9 Pro, and more importantly, it costs $70 less than formidable rivals, including Samsung Galaxy S21 (128GB) and the iPhone 12 (only 64 GB variant available).

So, it won’t be wrong to say that with the OnePlus 9, the Chinese company has been able to retain its reputation of beating the rival flagship devices at least in terms of price. Whether or not the OnePlus 9 is at least at par with the rival flagship devices in specs and performance is something that we will be focusing on in our review.

OnePlus 9

What’s Special With OnePlus 9?

The OnePlus 9 comes with a host of camera improvements over the OnePlus 8 Pro. Of course, much of the credit for this can be because of the company’s partnership with Hasselblad. This partnership with Hasselblad makes OnePlus 9 camera way better, with features like true-to-life colors, interesting shooting modes and more.

Additionally, the camera comes with better color fidelity and improved low-light performance. The camera also features improved digital zoom, as well as fun new tricks, such as the macro-simulating close-range effect. It won’t be wrong to say that the OnePlus 9 series camera performance takes away one common weakness among OnePlus' recent flagships.

Along with the camera, there are plenty of other aspects that make the OnePlus 9 a strong contender for those wanting a near premium phone, but don’t want to spend that much. For instance, the phone features a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 chipset, making it one of the fastest phones on the market.

Like with all its phones, the OnePlus complements the chipset with optimized software and speedy memory. This ensures that the phone works smoothly even with heavy tasks, including gaming.

Moreover, the OnePlus 9 is amongst the fastest-charging smartphone on the market currently. The phone takes about half an hour for a full charge. However, one can’t say the same about the battery life, but it could still last for an entire day, depending on the usage.

OnePlus 9Pro

Points That Matter

The OnePlus 9 features a 6.55-inch bright AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate (OnePlus 8 had 90Hz refresh rate). In my testing I found no issues with screen colors at all and always got accurate colors. In terms of brightness, the OnePlus 9 screen was clearly visible outdoors, even in bright sunshine.

As said above, the OnePlus 9 features the Snapdragon 888 processor, the latest and greatest system-on-a-chip from Qualcomm. Only a handful of phones presently feature this chip, such as Samsung's Galaxy S21 and ROG Phone 5. So, the presence of Snapdragon 888 makes OnePlus 9 performance at par (and in some cases even better) with these phones, and there are many tests that vouch for this, including the Geekbench 5 test for general performance, 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited test, and more.

Such a level of performance makes OnePlus 9 a viable option for gamers as well. I have had no issues with the graphics, speed and temperature even when playing demanding games, like PUBG.

Another OnePlus 9 feature that would appeal to gamers is the phone's stereo speakers. These speakers are not just loud but are front-firing as well, meaning you won’t cover them up when holding the phone in landscape orientation, ensuring sound to be loud and clear.

In terms of software, the Oxygen OS 11 does offer valuable add-ons. For instance, the phone has a folder of its own apps, making it extremely easy to migrate data from another phone. Also, the OS comes with the Turbo Boost memory-optimization feature, which the company claims allow 25% more apps to open in the background than before. Though I wasn’t able to verify the claimed number, switching between the apps was smooth and quick.

No Change, But No Complaints Either

The design of the OnePlus 9, including the display size and placement of the buttons, is almost identical as the predecessors, including the OnePlus 8T and the OnePlus 8. I don’t feel there is any room for complaints here as users still get a sharp 6.55-inch Full HD Plus resolution AMOLED display.

Moreover, the phone features the same glass back as its predecessor, as well as the same lock button, signature OnePlus toggle on the right and volume button on the left. No complaints with these either as the buttons are easily reachable when holding the phone. Similarly, the phone has the same USB-C port on the bottom, the speaker to the right and the second speaker out of the earpiece.

There is, however, one major difference between the OnePlus 9 and its predecessor, and its of the frame. The newest variant comes with a plastic frame, unlike the metal frame of the predecessor. Still, in no way, anyone can say that it is a drawback, rather it is more of a compromise to offer premium specs while keeping costs down.

Talking of drawback, one real one that may go against the phone is that it has no IP rating.

OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 Pro: What You Don’t Get With OnePlus 9?

As one would expect, the OnePlus 9 misses out on a few features that are exclusive to the OnePlus 9 Pro. One such feature is the LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide). Samsung was the first to use this feature.

LTPO is basically a backplate to the display that allows the phone to adjust the refresh rate on the basis of what a user is doing. For instance, the phone lowers the refresh rates for low-intensity activities, like browsing photos. This improves the battery performance.

Another important feature that the OnePlus 9 users, especially gamers, will miss is the Hypertouch. This feature reduces the touch control latency by 25-30ms. This means that OnePlus 9 users would have to rely more on their reactions rather than software when playing reaction-intensive games like PUBG.

One more noticeable difference between the two is the OnePlus 9’s flat display compared to curved edges on the Pro.

Apart from these, the OnePlus 9 is virtually the same as the OnePlus 9 Pro, including improved sensors, display refresh rate, 4,500mAh battery, 65W fast charging and the Hasselblad partnership. The box contents are also very similar except for the transparent case (not opaque).

Despite such misses, any OnePlus 9 user shouldn’t have complaints because he or she is paying $240 less and still getting almost all the features of the Pro variant.

Final Words

The camera improvements are undoubtedly a major point in support of the OnePlus 9 (OnePlus 9 series).  These improvements make the OnePlus 9 much better in the photography department than many leading flagships, including the Galaxy S21, which is also expensive than the OnePlus 9.

In terms of phone performance, one can expect the same level of performance as with the ROG Phone 5. And, this makes the OnePlus 9 an affordable option for gamers as well. These along with wireless and ultra-fast charging, solid software are all very welcome additions, especially keeping in mind the price factor.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 is an easy phone to recommend, especially for those who want a near-premium experience without emptying their pocket. So, if you are planning to upgrade to a new phone, then this phone should certainly be on your list, especially if you are looking for a below $800 flagship phone that offers a great photography experience.

Disclaimer: We received this product free in exchange for an honest review.