OnePlus has come a long way from introducing ‘Flagship Killer’ to simply dethroning the very idea of offering premium smartphones at an affordable price range. The OnePlus 9 Pro joins as a new member in the flagship community and bags the power-packed features to compete in the premium category. This is the first time the Chinese brand has partnered with a camera company (Hasselblad) to bring a refreshed camera setup to the table.
With a 120Hz high-refresh-rate Fluid AMOLED display, oodles of RAM, and power-packed Snapdragon 888 SoC, the device no doubt promises sustained performance. But even with the polished offering, can the new whistles lift of the old curse and justify the OnePlus 9 Pro’s premium pricing? We find out in our review.
OnePlus 9 Pro price in India: Rs 64,999 for 8GB RAM/128GB storage | Rs 69,999 for 12GB RAM/128GB storage
OnePlus 9 Pro specifications: 6.7-inch Fluid AMOLED display | 120Hz refresh rate | Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC | 8GB/12GB RAM | 128GB/256GB internal storage | 4,500mAh battery | 16MP front camera | 48MP+50MP+8MP+2MP rear cameras | OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11| 65W Warp Charge | 50W wireless charge
The design of the OnePlus 9 Pro is nothing extraordinary. The phone retains the premium glass sandwich and shares the same design aesthetics as the previous iteration. The only subtle difference you will find is the camera placement which has now been shifted to the left corner. The phone features a tall form factor with a tapered back that fuses with the display on the edges seamlessly. OnePlus has implemented a glossy reflective glass back with a metal frame that embeds the antenna bands.
The buttons, ports layout remains the same as well. The volume rockers are on the left, the power button on the right, and OnePlus’s signature alert slider sitting just a little higher on the right edge. The bottom part houses the USB-C 3.1 port and is flanked by the hybrid SIM slot and dual-slotted stereo speakers. Ergonomically, the phone is good, although it does feel quite large in hand, the seamless edges provide a good grip (it’s slippery though).
Talking about the rear part, OnePlus has integrated a rectangular camera module to house the Hasselblad-branded quad-camera setup. We received the Morning Mist variant which no doubt looks premium, but is prone to smudges and fingerprints. The glossy back panel can be used as a second mirror too just in case you quickly want to take a look at your face before a shoot.
As for the cameras, two out of four are significantly protruded with metal ring encasing the lenses, while the rest sit intact to the body. While there is not much to complain about the design, except for it’s a tad bit slippery and is a fingerprint magnet, the design ethos of the OnePlus 9 Pro is nothing exciting but rather familiar as the previous iteration.
To recall, OnePlus doubled the conventional rate refresh rate of 60Hz on the OnePlus 8 Pro last year. The OnePlus 9 Pro gets the same high-refresh-rate of 120Hz too. The display supports QHD+ resolution and is compatible with HDR10+. With a peak brightness level of over 1000 nits, the display provides adequate brightness in direct sunlight. You get five colour profiles to tune-in contrast and saturation. The default Vivid settings slightly shift to a cooler tone, but the natural profile provide true-to-tone colours.
The colours are accurate, with deep blacks and no brightness level leakage. The phone offers two notable features- Vibrant Color effect Pro and Motion graphics smoothing. While the former optimises colours in the video to make it appear vibrant, the latter upscales videos by inserting additional frame rates. The feature works well rendering smooth playback but is best suited for playing animated series or live-action series, shows.
The display is by default set at 120Hz, but the phone uses adaptive mode which switches back the refresh rate to conventional 60Hz depending on the content. The phone embeds an optical in-display fingerprint sensor that is accurate and responds quickly.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro provides best in class display, with rich colours, smooth swiping, fast touch response, and excellent sunlight legibility. With the QHD+ resolution, and 120Hz combo, the display prowess can be witnessed across activities that are being played around, be it gaming, swiping browsers, or streaming content on OTT platforms. The only issue I faced is with palm rejection, as the display registered ghost touches near the curved edges especially while playing games where the fingers kept clutching to the device from all sides.
Performance and Benchmarks
As with OnePlus’ previous Pro models, the new flagship receives the same premium treatment. The OnePlus 9 Pro equips Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 888 mobile platform which is paired with up to 12GB of RAM. Speaking of the synthetic benchmark tests first, the new OnePlus phone managed to obtain 1123 points in Geekbench single-core score test, and 3665 points in the multi-core score test. On the 3D Mark stress test, the device earned 5752 points on the best loop score card and 3214 points on the lowest loop scorecard. The OnePlus 9 Pro performed well in the multi-core test but given benchmark results can be manipulated, we have put out the real-world usage report.
With the hardware so powerful, the performance is anyway expected to pass the zenith. Well, the OnePlus 9 Pro does manage to offer a fluid experience. From swift switching between apps, opening multiple tabs, to running 3D games, the phone can swing anything. The haptic feedback is precise courtesy of the vibration engine. Running Call of Duty: Mobile-Day of Reckoning, Real Racing 3 (EA), and Genshin Impact, at the highest graphics settings I didn’t find any stutter.
The phone could render graphics at its best quality with no frame lag. While the gameplay was fairly consistent across the board, I did face heating issues, especially while playing Genshin Impact. Throttling the game for about 45 minutes, the left edge of the metal frame heated up to an extent that I had to shut down the game. Hope OnePlus fixes this issue with a firmware update. That aside, the OnePlus 9 Pro still promises beastly performance, with fast touch response rate and smooth graphics rendition. Although it heats up a bit, it barely skips a beat. The 120Hz refresh rate on the wide display and Dolby Atmos surround sound further levitates the gaming experience.
OnePlus tweaked the looks of the interface with OxygenOS 11 update. Although the Chinese brand added a layer of polish, it no longer provides that vanilla Android experience. First-time users might like the UI, but those upgrading from an old OnePlus phone could find it a bit difficult to adapt to the changes initially. That said, the new OxygenOS skin bundles a host of custom enhancements. Starting with customization, you can switch from Roboto to OnePlus Sans which now provides wider space and a thin typeface.
Adjusting to the small layout takes time, but at least it does not take up unnecessary space. Since the custom interface is based on Android 11, you get in-house Google OS features as well, for, instance, Chat Bubbles, Conversations, Notification history, and permission features.
One of the interesting aspects of the new OxygenOS interface is the ability to send photos from the camera app itself. All you need to do is open the camera app, take a picture and press-hold on the quick view. It will pop-up the options to either share the image on social media platforms, scan through the Google lens, or save it as a note. Another helpful feature is the quick access to brightness level from the notification shade. While earlier it was required to pull down the entire notification shade to access the brightness toggle bar, it is now placed right below the quick settings icons.
There’s a Quick Launch option (in Utilities) as well, which can be triggered via the optical fingerprint reader. To use the feature, unlock the device and press-hold the fingerprint authentication area and it will pop-up the quick launch option. You can customize and add apps based on your preference.
Other features include- scheduling the integrated dark mode, RAM Boost (it optimizes RAM utilization depending on your usage), Canvas (beta version) mode which creates a sketch of your selfies, fingerprint animation and horizon light that blinks whenever any notification pops-up on the device. In a nutshell, OxygenOS still holds that simplistic approach that you can easily get accustomed to.
OnePlus 9 Pro gets a slightly smaller 4,500mAh battery this time as compared to its older sibling. The phone supports 65W wired fast charging technology and bags a dedicated 50W wireless charger. In the PC Mark test, the phone’s battery life lasted for 9 hours and 42 minutes.
Speaking of real-life usage, I was worried that the high-refresh-rate would drain the battery life extensively, but that wasn’t the case, courtesy of the optimization and LTPO technology. With 120Hz mode at full-res, I could get about 7 hours of backup.
With casual usage, I could easily get over 9 hours of battery backup with a 15-16percent charge still remaining till the day’s end. As for the charging speed, the 65W wired charger takes about 40 minutes to charge up the device to its peak percentage. The 50W wireless charger, on the hand, takes about 47-48 minutes to pump up the battery to 100 per cent.
OnePlus 9 Pro ticks almost all the prerequisite boxes needed to get the premium flagship badge, but the optics is one of those areas where the device still sings the same old saga. The Chinese brand has yet again reserved the 48-megapixel sensor on the OnePlus 9 Pro’s primary camera slot. But instead of a Sony IMX689 sensor, it now gets a Sony IMX789 sensor. The ultra-wide sensor has been bumped up to 50-megapixel. The phone also features an 8-megapixel telephoto lens and a 2-megapixel depth sensor for portraits.
Although OnePlus has implemented a Hasselblad-branded camera setup, the camera software is not flawless but flaw-full. While shooting during daylight, the portion near the camera module tends to heat up excessively thereby restricting the camera usage. The large sensor no doubt produces good dynamic range and shallow depth of field, but the primary camera struggles to lock focus on the subject especially while zooming in or using the Super-macro mode. Even after maintaining (the demanded) distance from the subject, the super macro mode produces blurry images.
The primary camera manages to render photos with good detail and texture in daylight. Shots taken with the ultra-wide sensor has good centre focus as well, but distortion can be observed around the edges. The Nightscape mode tends to brighten the images and add enough details to the shadows. But the ultra-wide sensor fails to deliver similar performance. Colours, exposure balance is decent, but aggressive noise occurs throughout the scenes. Similar to its predecessor, the OnePlus 9 Pro gets Pro mode which allows adjusting ISO, White Balance, shutter speed, exposure, and focus. You can capture photos in RAW mode as well which comes in handy for post-editing.
Speaking of the front camera, selfies and portraits turn out decent in daylight with good subject separation. However, I did notice a weird shift in colour tone with a red outline on my forehead while taking a portrait shot in harsh light. Keeping that aside, the non-portrait clicks came out well with good dynamic range and the right amount of sharpness. The night shots, however, are just average with noise creeping in and skin tone turning pale in low light.
It is worth mentioning, that OnePlus recently released a software update to fix night-time brightness, and optimize white balance, noise. Although the white balance is tuned-in to an extent, the focusing issue still persists. However, a glitch that occurred in a low-light shot has now vanished with the update. Confused as to what I am talking about? Here’s the sample for your reference.
In a nutshell, the camera software is under-baked and the sensors produce a mixed bag result. The quad-camera array no doubt renders good colour and dynamic range, but it tends to oversaturate images in certain scenarios. The inconsistency with the autofocus is another disappointment and the slacky software just pours cold water on Hasselblad excitement. I hope OnePlus fixes these issues in a future update.
OnePlus 9 Pro verdict
Gone are those days when OnePlus smartphones used to be ‘Flagship Killers.’ To keep the premiumness intact, the Chinese brand has begun putting a hefty price tag (still not that expensive as iPhone) on its flagship phones. The OnePlus 9 Pro no doubt cash-in on most of the requisite elements- a class-leading high-refresh-rate display, powerful hardware, immersive audio quality, and super-fast wireless charging support.
However, when it comes to the camera, the OnePlus 9 Pro slightly falls short in performance. While the Hasselblad branding might tempt OnePlus users, we recommend users to hold back the temptation and wait until OnePlus releases software update to fix these prominent issues.
Should you pick this new OnePlus flagship? In case you are looking for the fastest Android phone right now that not just offers a great display experience, but hyperfast performance and exceptionally fast charging solution, the OnePlus 9 Pro will surely ring all those bells and whistles. The Hasselblad-tuned cameras are more than fine for most but shutterbugs may find the iPhone 12 as a viable alternative.