OnePlus is no longer a flagship killer, and when you have premium devices like the OnePlus 9 Pro, the going gets tough when you play with the big boys. Between the Pro variant and the cheaper OnePlus 9R, the OnePlus 9 becomes an easy to ignore middle child in the lineup. For a starting price of Rs 49,999, the OnePlus 9 doesn’t come cheap either, but offers several features that you get with the expensive Pro version.
You also have the chance to experience the so-called prowess of the Hasselblad cameras. Add to that, the phone offers top-end performance of the flagship Snapdragon 888 chipset. But does the device have what it takes to sway flagship buyers, or is it lost in the shadow of the OnePlus 9 Pro? We have been using the OnePlus 9 for over a week to determine if all these ingredients make the phone a worthy buy in its price bracket.
Design and display
- 160 x 73.9 x 8.1mm, 183g
- 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED, Full HD+, 120Hz refresh rate, 1100 nits brightness, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
The first thing you will notice about the OnePlus 9 is how light and slim it feels. The flat design also makes it easy to hold, even though some of you might find it hard to use with one hand. But I have never been a fan of the curved edges which is why the OnePlus 9 gets extra points from me for keeping things simple.
When you head to the back of the phone, you get a glass body panel that tends to be slippery and a fingerprint-magnet. Yes, there is Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection but that will only help you for minor drops or nicks. Which is why it’s hard to recommend using this phone without a case, especially if you want to avoid any breakages.
Strangely though, the frame of OnePlus 9 gets plastic finish which might not look jarring to the naked eye at first, but the thought of having it on a Rs 50,000 phone having it surely will. There is no better way to explain the reason behind this, other than OnePlus needing to cut the corners to keep the price down.
Moving on to the display, like every other OnePlus phone before this, OnePlus 9 offers the best quality display. It sports a Fluid AMOLED screen with support for the lowered Full HD+ resolution (compared to the Pro version) and a 120Hz refresh rate.
We have no complaints about the quality of the screen and its experience. The screen is bright, pushes out punchy colours thanks to the AMOLED panel and the sunlight readability along with viewing angles are excellent. The on-screen fingerprint sensor is placed lower than what we are used, to but that does not hinder its effectiveness.
- Rear: 48-megapixel sensor (wide), 50-megapixel sensor (ultra-wide), 2-megapixel sensor (depth)
- Front: 16-megapixel sensor
OnePlus 9 borrows the Hasselblad branding from the Pro variant. But it gets one less sensor than its big brother. You have a triple rear camera on the phone, which includes a 48-megapixel primary sensor, 50-megapixel ultra-wide sensor and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The main camera offers features like Nightscape, Super Macro, UltraShot HDR, Portrait Mode, Tilt-shift mode, Focus Peaking and more.
The major difference in quality is thanks to the new Sony sensors. The images delivered in daylight are bright, rich in detail and even the colours are balanced, thanks to improved calibration. However, there is very little to note about the Hasselblad impact on this device. The auto-focus thrives with the hardware in tow, and the software makes it a breeze.
The shutter response barely sees any lag, and you get quick results. The new ultra-wide sensor delivers on quality. You will notice the details are sharp, even though the contrast maybe a bit lacking.
But when it comes to low-light, we got mixed results with the main camera. When it manages to get the details, you notice a pastel-ish touch to the images. It seems the camera is killing the noise by softening the background and the impact is visible to the naked eye. Maybe a few software tweaks can make it effective in the future. There was no lag in taking pictures, even when shooting in Nightscape mode.
The selfie camera, however, turned out to be average. As you can see in the images above, the images lack sharpness, and even the face details are sketchy. We expect better from the front cameras on a premium phone these days. And being average does not cut it at this price.
Performance, software and battery
- Android 11 with OxygenOS
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
- 8GB + 128GB, 12GB + 256GB
- 4500mAh battery, 65W wired fast charging
A lot has been written about the new Snapdragon 888 chipset from Qualcomm. So what we will say is, this phone makes the best use of the hardware on board. The fluid 120Hz display, the speed with which apps open and the way the phone can handle multi-tasking and heavy use, that’s all on the chipset. And when you have 8GB or 12GB as RAM options, performance is never going to be an issue with the OnePlus 9.
Gaming on this phone was an excellent, and we hardly saw the device break sweat even after an hour-long session of Call of Duty: Mobile. You can enjoy the titles with the highest graphics mode turned on, which gives you the best experience on the 120Hz screen. You tend to miss its quality when you shift to a phone with non-AMOLED screen and 60Hz refresh rate. OnePlus 9 has the best hardware chops, period.
OxygenOS has played a big role in the evolution of the company. Yes, we did notice some bugs in the early version of the software but after the recent update our review unit got, things are a lot smoother and glitch-free.
Moving on, the phone packs a 4,500mAh battery that will easily last through a day’s usage on most cases. However, when you are heavy-duty gaming for long hours, the search for a charger will come sooner than you’d want. But that’s ok with the OnePlus 9 as it supports 65W fast charging, and ships with one in the box. With this unit, you go from 10 percent to 85 percent in less than half an hour. So thankfully, your break won’t be a long one after all. During our video loop test on full brightness, the phone’s battery went from 75 percent to 55 percent in over 3 hours. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t come with wireless charging support seen on the OnePlus 9 Pro.
So, let’s look at this way. The OnePlus 9 gives you AMOLED 120Hz screen and is packed with the latest flagship hardware. OnePlus has improved the cameras with the new Sony sensors, although Hasselblad has not made a telling effect on this device. You get 65W fast charging that was already there with the OnePlus 8T. Put these all together and you have a winner. But the moment you look at its price, the drawbacks come chasing loud and clear. The phone lacks wireless charging, and any sort of IP rating is amiss as well. And when you are spending almost half a lakh on a phone, you want all that and more.
OnePlus 9 is undoubtedly a flagship phone, which makes a strong shout for becoming your go-to sub-60K purchase. But here’s the thing, OnePlus phones in this range will find it hard to convince buyers, especially when you have Apple and Samsung in the vicinity.
In India, if you want that extra raw power of the Snapdragon 888, OnePlus 9 becomes an automatic choice. For everything else, you have options like the new Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, along with older OnePlus models like the OnePlus 8T (review) or even the OnePlus 8 Pro (review).
Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10
- Gorgeous AMOLED display
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Snappy performance
- Impressive rear shooters
- Reliable OS experience
- Decent battery life with 65W fast charging
- No IP rating
- Lacks wireless charging
- No memory card slot
- No headphone jack
- Steep pricing