I give you a OnePlus 9R and a OnePlus 8T, and there’s little chance you can figure out differences between them. The OnePlus 9R is, in fact, a OnePlus 8T with minor cosmetic changes and a new chipset (as far as the name is concerned). Is that bad? Had it been 2019, I would have been ranting about OnePlus’ decision. But, it is 2021 and the market dynamics have changed.
Right from the moment I took it out of the box, my colleagues were left dazzled with the way the OnePlus 9R is built – especially the guy who reviewed the OnePlus 9 5G a few weeks ago. The most affordable OnePlus 9 series device has got metal, glass, a hefty weight, and all the premium touches a smartphone user seeks in a phone costing upwards of Rs 30,000.
Does all that mean you should invest in the OnePlus 9R blindly? To figure out an answer for that, I got myself a Lake Blue OnePlus 9R and in the few hours I have spent with it, here are my thoughts.
Design and build
My colleague wasn’t kidding when he said the OnePlus 9R feels like the more expensive iteration of the OnePlus 9. There’s a metallic frame sandwiched between the display and the rear covered in glass. With an overall weight of 189 grams, this OnePlus 9R surely feels like an expensive Android phone.
The design is reminiscent of the OnePlus 8T from last year. Flat display on the front, simple design elements on the rear, a rectangular camera hump, and a large OnePlus logo slapped in the center – the usual OnePlus design traits. For those buying it for the OnePlus brand, it sure looks and feels like a OnePlus phone.
Unlike the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, the OnePlus 9R does not scream Hasselblad on its back. Why? OnePlus hasn’t given out a reason for that but if doing away with the Hasselblad sticker meant lowering prices, I am all up for it. Additionally, the four cameras on the back of the OnePlus 9R could give an inferiority complex to OnePlus 9 owners, if there was ever a competition for “who’s got the most cameras?”
The fit and finish on the OnePlus 9R is impeccable by all means. I personally preferred the elegant camera hump design on the OnePlus 8T but the OnePlus 9R adheres to the 2021 trend of featuring a larger-than-life camera design – I can see the appeal in that.
The front is dominated by an entirety of a 6.5-inch display with slim bezels and a tiny cutout that holds the front camera. The Alert Slider, power key, and volume rockers are all within reach and have a touch of quality to them. Next to the OnePlus 9 5G, the OnePlus 9R feels like an evolution.
Specifications and initial experience
OnePlus has been synonymous with “fast and smooth” and the OnePlus 9R does a lot of things to push that message out. It starts right from the display, with its 6.5-inch canvas just the right size for browsing, reading, gaming and watching videos. The 120Hz AMOLED technology is as good as the one from the OnePlus 8T. So far, it has been a joy using the OnePlus 9R for all my social media needs.
When it comes to the performance bits, I think OnePlus has pulled off a genius here. To quote a friend from the tech fraternity, the Snapdragon 870 chip is the best thing that has happened to the world of premium Android phones this year. It has got all the performance capabilities one expects from a high-end phone, but without making phone makers ask for exorbitant prices. I was impressed with the Snapdragon 870’s performance on the Vivo X60 Pro and on the OnePlus 9R, it is optimised better.
Paired with OxygenOS 11, I am struggling to figure out a reason for recommending the Snapdragon 888-toting OnePlus 9 for mobile gamers and performance seekers – so far. All I can say right now is that a brief session of Call of Duty: Mobile has left me wanting for more gameplay time. The haptic feedback and the stereo speaker setup also caught my attention.
OxygenOS 11 as an operating system is as lovely as it was when it was new last September. It is fast, has minimal-to-no noticeable bugs, and looks pretty. The best part is that even with all the cosmetic treatment OnePlus gave it, OxygenOS 11 has a sense of urgency that I haven’t seen on any other Android phone so far. Fingers crossed for OnePlus to retain this experience over a long time.
Cameras! An area where critics usually loathe OnePlus for the choices it makes. The OnePlus 9R has none of the Hasselblad marketing tricks to rely on, like its pricier siblings. If you are about to write off the OnePlus 9R’s cameras, I suggest you hold on for our full review. For the time being, the cameras on the OnePlus 9R seem fine for casual photography. All I can say is that as long as you aren’t pixel-peeping, the OnePlus 9R’s cameras will be good enough for you.
A photography enthusiast anyway won’t buy a OnePlus 9R; OnePlus will point at the Hasselblad logos on the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro for shutterbugs. The 9R is meant for a no-nonsense fast Android phone seeker and this philosophy trickles down to the battery section too. The 4500mAh battery is the same as the OnePlus 8T and so is the 65W fast charging solution. So far, I am going a full day and then some more before reaching for the red cable.
Do note that OnePlus is shipping USB-A 65W adapter with the OnePlus 9R – this adapter does not support the faster USB-PD capabilities of the adapter that came with the OnePlus 8T.
OnePlus 9R first impressions
Despite many mocking OnePlus for renaming the OnePlus 8T from last year, the OnePlus 9R is a fantastic proposition for a high-performance smartphone buyer. With the Snapdragon 870 chip and the well-optimised OxygenOS 11 experience, the OnePlus 9R seems to stick to OnePlus’ traditional proposition of high-end experience at a reasonable price. And, compared to Samsung’s similar effort with the Galaxy S20 FE 5G, I can say the OnePlus 9R justifies itself better as a refreshment of an older 2020 phone — so far.
Will it be a good buy for a Rs 40,000 Android smartphone in 2021? You will have to keep an eye on our portal as we put the OnePlus 9R through the mundane everyday routine an Indian smartphone has to encounter.