OnePlus 9 Pro review – CNN Underscored

The latest series of phones from OnePlus is official. The 9 and 9 Pro were announced earlier this week after OnePlus founder and CEO Pete Lau slowly detailed the features of both phones in the days leading up to the announcement.

The OnePlus 9 starts at $729, while the OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $969. Pre-orders for both phones are available now, with delivery on the 26th. March. You can order an unlocked version of either phone directly from OnePlus or from T-Mobile, the only US carrier that will sell all OnePlus models.

We’ve been testing both phones for a few weeks now and we’ve found a lot of positive things about both phones. Let’s take a look, starting with the partial features of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro.

For whom? The OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro have many of the same features you’ll find on the Galaxy S21 series, but for a few hundred dollars less. The OnePlus approach is for those who want a reliable Android device and experience but want to buy a new phone on a budget.

What you need to know: The OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro have many overlapping features. For example, both phones use the same processor, a cellular modem to connect to the 5G network, and the same size batteries. But be warned, if you want to use 5G on the 9 or 9 Pro in the US, you have to be a T-Mobile customer. The company is working on 5G support for Verizon, but it’s unclear when that will be added.

How to compare them: The main intrigue of the 9 and 9 Pro compared to previous OnePlus phones is that the company has finally fixed the camera issues that many have complained about in the past. And for the most part, that’s true. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro have the best camera and output specs OnePlus has used in a smartphone to date. The quality is almost as good as the Galaxy S21 or Apple’s iPhone 12 series, but there is still work to be done.

Design and software

At first glance, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro look almost identical. They both have the same basic design, but there are subtle differences that can only be discovered upon closer inspection. For example, the OnePlus 9’s screen has no curved edges, while the 9 Pro has contoured curves along both vertical edges to prevent accidental contact when holding the phone.

As the saying goes, you can’t judge a phone by its design, and it’s what’s inside that really counts (at least we think so).

When it comes to the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, the core of both phones is very similar. Both devices use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, which offers improved CPU and GPU performance. This drives Android 11 with a customizable OnePlus interface, and the end result is a robust experience that doesn’t get in the way of pure Android.

OxygenOS 11, similar to Samsung’s OneUI on Galaxy devices, tinkers with Google’s core Android operating system and adds additional features. For example, support for third-party icon packs is built into all OnePlus phones, so you can quickly customize the look of your phone without having to install multiple apps.

Apart from its own Photos app, OnePlus is not adding any duplicate apps or services, such as. For example, a custom browser instead of Chrome, or a different messaging app instead of Google Messages.

OnePlus is also optimizing performance with OxygenOS 11. Turbo Boost 3.0 is a fancy name for a memory optimizer that lowers the refresh rate of an open application in the background. It’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of the memory performance boost for us, but during our testing we found that apps didn’t need to be reloaded as often as on other Android devices, including older OnePlus models.

We have used both phones daily for the past few weeks and have come to the conclusion that the battery lasts more than enough for an entire day. Our typical day lasts about 14 hours, with both models being used frequently. Usage includes typical business tasks, such as sorting Slack messages or cleaning up the inbox. Regular YouTube videos, conversations about disagreements, text messages and social media checks were also an important part of our testing regime.

You can get a phone with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage or 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Another common feature is the battery of 4500 mAh. Both the 9 and 9 Pro support the OnePlus Warp Charge 65T, which charges any phone from 0 to 100 percent in less than 30 minutes. That’s really impressive, but there are some key differences in the way wireless charging phones we get in a minute.


As CNN Underscored with all the smartphones we tested, we also put the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro through our standard battery life benchmark. The test consists of playing a video file in a loop using the VLC application. Your phone is fully charged, airplane mode is activated, and screen brightness is set to 50%. We tracked the phones with a camera to capture the exact moment when the battery died.

Our test showed that both phones matched each other for 20 hours and 27 minutes before shutting down. That’s 8 hours more than the Galaxy S21 and twice as much as the S21 Ultra. It’s crazy.

Since both OnePlus phones have the same internal components, we expect performance to be about the same on both phones. As with all the devices we test at CNN Underscored, we ran the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro in test mode. We use the standard GeekBench 5 benchmark application, which subjects the phone to a series of tasks that act as a stress test. At the end of the test, the benchmarks confirmed our expectations.

The OnePlus 9 scores 1,120 points in the single-core test and 3,683 points in the multi-core test. The 9 Rocket Professional scored 1,120 points in single-core performance and 3,610 points in multi-core performance. In other words: Both phones have the same power. A fact reinforced by our personal experiences in daily use and tasks such as email, web browsing, messaging and using social media.

In some ways, the scores were slightly better than the Samsung Galaxy S21 – 1110 points for a single-core processor, 3477 points for a multi-core processor. While the S21 Ultra scored 1122 and 3489 respectively.

Now that we’ve seen how similar these two phones are, let’s take a closer look at them by sorting through the details.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

The OnePlus 9 is a cheaper variant of the two new phones. It’s available with 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage in Astral Black or Winter Mist for $729, or with 12GB of memory and 256GB of storage in Astral Black for $829. Little or no sacrifices have been made to design the OnePlus 9 as a cheaper option. There are some differences, mainly in the screen and camera settings.

The AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 9 is the smaller of the two screens at 6.55 inches and has a resolution of 2400 x 1080. It’s a colorful screen with deep blacks and sharp contrast. And yes, the OnePlus 9 has a very important feature: a 120Hz refresh rate. This is sophisticated technical jargon that basically tells you how many times per second the screen can refresh. The higher the number, the more realistic the reproduction.

The screen will automatically switch from 60 Hz to 120 Hz depending on what you are doing. For example, when scrolling through long emails, Twitter feeds or games, the screen refreshes at 120Hz so that text and images are displayed smoothly and effortlessly. However, if you are viewing a photo or video, the screen will refresh at 60Hz to conserve battery power. This is a reasonable approximation for a high frame rate, and we didn’t notice any hiccups or issues during our testing. Even when scrolling through a long Google sheet or the annoying scrolling in the Reddit app.

Let’s get one thing straight: This technology is not new to the OnePlus phone, and can be found in rival phones like the Galaxy S21 series. Clearly absent from the iPhone 12 family.

Aside from the screen size and technology, the OnePlus 9 is almost identical to the 9 Pro. As described above, it runs on the same processor and offers a memorable experience. The only major difference is the camera angle. Both phones carry Hasselblad’s camera brand and settings, part of a fairly recent collaboration between the camera maker and OnePlus. According to OnePlus, we should see this partnership flourish and grow over the next three years.

Let’s take a look at the camera setup of the OnePlus 9:

  • 16 megapixel front lens
  • 48 megapixel main lens
  • Ultra-wide-angle lens with 50 megapixels
  • 2 megapixel monochrome camera.

You won’t find a telephoto lens on the OnePlus 9, so you can easily zoom in before taking a picture. As for video capabilities, you can shoot up to 8K 30 fps. Assuming you have a screen that can play 8K video so you can watch it.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

The cooperation with Hasselblad plays a role in two areas for both models. First, there’s the natural color calibration that OnePlus and Hasselblad worked on together. The two companies have redesigned the 9 and 9 Pro camera systems to reflect Hasselblads approach to color accuracy in the photos you take. Like Sony’s TV processing, Hasselblad aims to render reality in its highest form. You won’t find crazy levels of brightness or hue that make the image look like it was edited, you want it to look like it was seen in real life, like your eye would see it.

The second area where you can see the partnership in action is in the Pro mode of the camera app. This special camera mode is designed to work with Hasselblad image processing software. The camera app even has an orange shutter button, something Hasselblad users are used to.

If you’re like us and love using a macro camera on your smartphones, don’t worry that OnePlus hasn’t included a dedicated macro camera on any of its OnePlus 9 models. Instead, the company has added macro capabilities to the ultra-wide-angle camera, which can focus on objects up to a distance of 4 centimeters.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

We enjoyed using the OnePlus 9’s camera. It certainly looks and feels like a big improvement over last year’s OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro series. The picture quality was excellent, the colors were not dull. It’s hard to know how much of this has to do with Hasselblad, or how much has to do with the lessons OnePlus has learned after years of criticism of its cameras. We’d still give the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or an iPhone 12 model a run for its money over the OnePlus 9, but OnePlus has made some valuable improvements to its camera setup.

Before we make a final decision on the OnePlus 9, let’s take a look at what the OnePlus 9 Pro offers to justify its higher price.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

The slightly more expensive OnePlus 9 Pro has slightly more features than the OnePlus 9, but is a few hundred dollars less than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Like its little brother, there are two options available for purchase. The $969 Model 9 Pro offers 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and comes in a morning coat. For $1,069, you get 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, plus the Morning Mist or Pine Green option.

The OnePlus 9 Pro features a larger 6.7-inch AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1440 x 3216, which offers a slightly higher resolution compared to the standard OnePlus 9. In everyday life, both phones are pleasing to the eye, but the 9 Pro, which can produce more color, is perhaps a little more immersive. Where the 9 Pro really stands out from its little brother is the Fluidic Display 2.0, which allows you to adjust the refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz depending on what you’re doing. The end result of the fine tuning is to reduce the power consumption of the display by 50%.

If you z. For example, when viewing or reading an image in the Kindle application, the screen is set to 1 Hz. When you watch a movie, the refresh rate goes to 24 Hz, while when you scroll on a website, the refresh rate goes to 120 Hz. All this happens in the background, without any intervention on your part, making communication smoother no matter what you are doing on the phone.

The 9 Pro has four rear cameras and an optional sensor.

  • 50 megapixel ultra wide-angle camera: As the name suggests, this lens allows you to take pictures with a much wider field of view (i.e. more things in the picture) without having to move. This is ideal for expansive cityscapes or to get a unique look at a portrait.
  • The main camera of 48 megapixels: While the megapixel count is the same as the OnePlus 9, the 9 Pro has a different Sony sensor. In our test, it delivered slightly sharper shots than the OnePlus 9. But to be perfectly honest, you have to look closely to see if there are any differences.
  • 8 megapixel telephoto lens: This camera allows you to zoom in without physically moving or compromising image quality. It has a 3.3x optical zoom.
  • 2 megapixel monochrome camera:
  • Laser autofocus sensor : Like what Samsung uses on the S21 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra, this sensor helps the 9 Pro focus on the subject faster and with less effort. This also results in better image quality.

The front camera is 16 megapixels and is located in the hole cut in the top left corner of the screen. For selfies and video calls, it’s just as good as the 9 Pro. Suffice it to say that it can compete with Apple and Samsung.

Hasselblad and OnePlus used the same natural color calibration approach on the 9 Pro, as well as a dedicated Pro mode designed to mimic the Hasselblad experience.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

We preferred the camera on the 9 Pro over the standard 9, not because the picture quality was much better, but because we had more options. The telephoto lens, for example, allowed us to forget about digital zoom (which is used on the OnePlus 9) for those moments when we wanted to get a little closer to the subject. The 9 Pro has a 30x digital zoom, but it’s not as clear as the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s Space Zoom. We do not recommend this if you do not want to take a close-up at the expense of image quality. Focusing time was faster, which meant fewer missed shots of children or pets – something that worries us all.

Like the OnePlus 9, the 9 Pro comes very close to the overall experience and quality of the S21 Ultra or the iPhone 12. Let’s be clear: At this point it is a matter of hair-splitting and it may also be a matter of personal preference. But we’re glad OnePlus is focusing on improving the camera.

Jason Cipriani/KNN

Like the OnePlus 9, the 9 Pro can record videos up to 8K and 30 frames per second. It’s nice to read about it on the spec sheet, but it’s hard to find value in a plate with that resolution now. And you can save space by upgrading to 4K or even 1080p HD.

Fast wireless charging is what sets the OnePlus 9 Pro apart from not just the standard 9, but every other smartphone we’ve tested. OnePlus calls it the Warp Charge 50 Wireless, and the 50 in the name indicates how many watts the 9 Pro can charge. No wires. The iPhone 12 series, for reference, charges at 7.5W. The Galaxy S21 Ultra can be charged wirelessly at a maximum output of 15W. So 50 watts is pretty ridiculous….. in the best sense.

Now, you’ll have to buy the 50 W wireless charger that OnePlus sells for $69.99 to take advantage of the faster charging speed, but for those who are constantly on the go, it may be worth it. In our tests, the 9 Pro’s battery was completely drained in less than 45 minutes (with the device completely turned off). It’s just crazy. Of course, you can also settle for a 65W wired charger that charges your phone in less than 30 minutes.

At launch, the only 5G network the 9 and 9 Pro will connect to is that of T-Mobile. OnePlus is working with Verizon Wireless to become certified for its 5G network, but Verizon customers will currently be limited to the 4G LTE network. AT&T users will only have access to 4G LTE.

On CNN Underscored, we argued that 5G connectivity isn’t important right now because it’s not much faster than current 4G LTE networks and the coverage isn’t extensive enough for everyone to benefit from it. For now, 5G is the way to prove your investment in the future, and we support that assessment. It’s a shame, then, that neither the 9 nor the 9 Pro offer better support for 5G networks, especially when you consider that the 9 Pro costs over $1,000 and is a phone you’ll likely be using within a year or two.

There are so many similarities between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro that it can be hard to know which device to buy. We’ve been betting on Pro 9 all day. The extra camera features, combined with a slightly larger screen that’s just as comfortable and reliable to use as the standard 9, and fast wireless charging that allows the phone to fully charge in 45 minutes, are worth the extra cost as far as we’re concerned.

That said, the OnePlus 9 is not a bad phone. The camera captures well what you see in the viewfinder, and we would be proud to post or share images taken with this camera on the internet.

The biggest drawback of both phones is the lack of widespread 5G support from 5G operators. The fact that AT&T customers can only use 4G and Verizon customers have to wait for 5G compatibility is disappointing, especially if like most people you plan on using this phone for several years.

If 5G is important to you, you can start your research on your Android phone with the Galaxy S21. If you don’t care about 5G and want a reliable Android phone while saving a little money, the OnePlus 9 or 9 Pro is where you should start (and probably end) your search.

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