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OnePlus 9 Review – Not A Flagship Killer Anymore

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By Akhil Kapoor - 
24th Mar 2021
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Review Summary

Unlike what you would assume buying a Rs 50,000/- smartphone would be bliss, it isn’t the case because all smartphones have their pros and cons. OnePlus 9 doesn’t have any OIS nor the monochrome sensor is of any use, there’s no telephoto sensor as well. Apart from that, there’s no official UP rating, battery life stutters and not optimized properly, and so on. On the other hand, there are a few positives such as fast charging, impressive display, powerful flagship processor and a clean UI, and a few others.

PROS

Pros

  • OxygenOS based on Android 11
  • 65T Warp Charge
  • 48MP triple-camera setup powered by Hasselblad
  • Fluid AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • NFC enabled
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
CONS
  • No storage expansion
  • Missing 3.5mm headphone jack
  • No Wireless charging feature
  • No telephoto camera
  • No IP rating – missing dust and water resistance
Key Specs
Battery Capacity
Battery Capacity
4500 mAh
Operating System
Operating System
Android v11
Screen Size
Screen Size
6.55 inches
Highlights:
  • No
  • 4500 mAh
  • Android v11
  • 6.55 inches
Introduction

OnePlus 9 is here and comes with a lot of flagship features and more on paper. It houses the latest Snapdragon 888 SoC tied along with 8/12GB RAM and 128/256GB of storage trims available at your disposal. A style statement infused in a flagship smartphone OnePlus has a triple camera setup in partnership with Hasselblad which takes out all the limelight this year. It runs the latest OS and has AOD, dual-band GPS, and Wi-Fi * support, and more than you want. But don’t just believe in specs listed on a piece of paper and rather check out our detailed review on the OnePlus 9.

Prices in India, Variants, Availability

OnePlus 9 is finally here and it is available in two storage variants. Starting with the lowest at 8GB+128GB, it is available at Rs.49,999/- in India while the higher 12GB+256GB variant is available at Rs.54,999/-. Choose between Astral Black, Arctic Sky, and Winter Mist colourways and will be available for sale starting April 15th. The pricing is not as fascinating as it used to be and definitely does not make the OnePlus 9 a flagship killer.

Specs at a glance

Before we talk in detail about OnePlus 9, let’s have a quick look at the key specifications on paper. 

  • Display: 6.55-inches (16.637 centimetres) 120 Hz Fluid AMOLED Flat Display 
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G, Adreno 660
  • Storage: 8GB/128GB, 12GB/256GB
  • Software: OxygenOS based on Android 11
  • Rear cameras: 48MP (Primary) + 50MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (Mono)
  • Selfie camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4500 mAh, WARP Charge 65T
  • Weight: 183g
  • Dimensions: 160.00 x 73.90 x 8.10
Design and Build - Might Be Disappointing

There are some mixed responses when it comes to the design part of the device. No doubt it looks dashing and aesthetically impressive but OnePlus has used the same hand-me-down method it used with the OnePlus 7. The display is taken from the OnePlus 8T which looks apparent. You get tiny bezels on the edge of a flat display with a punch-hole to the top-left corner which has a batch of mixed reviews as well.

Moving ahead, the back is frosted glass in three colours and two finishes that you can choose whilst buying the phone. You get a less cluttered triple camera setup in a rectangular camera bump with Hasselblad branding that shimmers when the light falls on it. There’s nothing much going on with the back panel except the reworked camera setup. And yes, you will still see a lot of smudges and marks on the phone so do buy a phone cover. The phone has a plastic frame or fibre reinforced plastic to be more precise which feels like a step backwards from an aluminium frame.

The front and back glass is still Corning Gorilla Glass 5 so you can expect it to take several hits from cracking open. There are no antenna lines if that something you would be interested to know. OnePlus 9 now has volume buttons on the left shifted further down to ease usage. The bottom packs in a bottom-firing loudspeaker, a Type-C port, a primary microphone, and a dual SIM card slot. The power and the slider are on the right.

Unfortunately, OnePlus 9 doesn’t have an official IP rating. This also means that even though your phone is pretty resistant to water and dust, it is still not covered by a warranty in case something goes south.

Display - One Of The Bests But Flat

There’s no doubt you’ll get the best of display with OnePlus devices and the OnePlus 9 is no exception to that rule. It brings on-board a giant 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED panel with an Adaptive 120Hz refresh rate along with HDR10+ compliancy. The display reaches a maximum of 1,100 nits of peak brightness. It has a 1080×2400 pixels resolution with a density of 402 PPI. Plus, it is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for added protection.

The figures and the specifications don’t tell the entire story, it’s time for actual practical use. OnePlus 9 has a deltaE 2000 figure of around 1.7 in both Display-P3 and sRGB mode where the latter is more accurate than the former. The device has a variable refresh rate at a max 120Hz where the system will boil down to an impressive value to save power. However, it is no LTPO display so you don’t get as low as 1Hz but rather it goes as near as 10Hz when the brightness is above 50 per cent while the refresh rate goes at 90Hz when the brightness drops below the 50 per cent mark.

One thing that’ll surely bug users is the jarring effect that transitioning from 60Hz to 120Hz and vice versa causes. Apparently, OnePlus 9 has locked the refresh rate to 90Hz for many apps including some games. This, however, leaves a few titles clocking at a 90Hz refresh rate although this also means there are plenty of games that aren’t included here and thus, locked to 60Hz only.

Going further, the Vibrant Color Effect Pro mode on OnePlus 9 makes videos look more saturated although it doesn’t do much, to be honest. The Hyper Touch and Motion graphics smoothing modes are absent since you will find them on the OnePlus 9 Pro although that doesn’t make anything worse. The HDR content on the device looks impressive although you can still notice that the blacks aren’t that black enough.

Performance - Here Comes The Flagship

OnePlus 9 is a performance beast no doubt. It comes pre-loaded with the latest Snapdragon 888 SoC octa-core chipset clocked at 2.84GHz max frequency in a tri-cluster arrangement and it is manufactured on a 5nm fabrication node. It comes along with Adreno 660 GPU and comes with 128GB+8GB and 256GB+12GB of UFS 3.1 storage system. OnePlus 9 has an LPDDR5 RAM that runs at a speed of whopping 6,400 Mbps and the storage is the lightning-fast UFS 3.1. Cool Play on-board OnePlus 9 with a larger copper foil, thicker graphite sheets, and a larger vapour chamber that dissipates heat when subjected to
intensive activities such as games.

OnePlus 9 does have impressive benchmark scores on AnTuTu although there’s not much difference between the two. OnePlus 9 has a single-core score of 1,129 points on GeekBench 5 while scoring 3,329 points on the multi-core test lagging behind the OnePlus 9 Pro as well as the Asus ROG Phone 5, Apple iPhone 12 Pro, and a few others.

Also Read: Top 5 Flagship Phones Of 2020

Apparently, the OnePlus 9 with Snapdragon 888 under the hood has outstanding graphics performance like no others. The difference between frame rates attained by the OnePlus 9
and Asus ROG Phone 5 which is a pure breed gaming phone, is almost negligible which is a great feat to achieve.

Software - Who Doesn't Love

The OxygenOS 11 is way ahead of its predecessor with a tweaked interface. The UI has Turbo Boost 3.0 bundles both RAM compression and Virtual RAM that allows 25 per cent more apps to be opened in the background. OxygenOS 11 gives you access to the OnePlus Sans and Roboto font that you can select under the Customization tab. The UI is pretty lightweight with less clutter, and the OnePlus Shelf for faster access to apps, and more.

OnePlus 9 supports 5G as well although you will be able to register to 5G networks in India with only two bands in the country. In any case, there are no mmWave bands that support
onboard OnePlus 9 but only sub-6 bands.

Cameras

OnePlus marketed its OnePlus 9 series cameras in partnership with Hasselblad cameras. OnePlus 9 has a triple camera setup welcoming a 48MP primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture, 1.12micron pixel size, and omnidirectional PDAF; a secondary 50MP ultrawide sensor with an f/2.2 aperture with 1.0micron pixel size; and a tertiary 2MP depth sensor with an aperture of f/2.4. There’s a 16MP snapper mounted at the front with an aperture of f/2.4 with 1.0micron pixel size. 

Battery - Super Fast Charging

The device is powered by a giant 4,500 mAh Li-Po battery with a 65W fast charging tech capable of charging a battery in 29 minutes. It has a 15W fast wireless charging although it is not available in India. 

When testing out the battery, the OnePlus 9 has dual cells with a 2,250 mAh capacity each combining at 4,500 mAh. The device was able to produce 28:07 hours of battery life on calls, 13:10 hours of web browsing, and so on. The Snapdragon 888 SoC is pretty massive and that is probably what is pulling the endurance rating down to 87 hours which is the same for Oppo Find X3 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 11 that arrive with the same chipset. About charging capability, it takes just 29 minutes to fully charge it thanks to the Warp Charge 65T which goes on-point with what OnePlus advertised.

Audio, Connectivity, Biometrics

Luckily, the OnePlus 9 arrives with a stereo speaker setup which is a blessing. It has an earpiece that doubles as a secondary speaker while the bottom-firing speaker is the primary one. The OnePlus 9 uses its accelerometer to detect if the phone is being used in portrait or landscape mode to tune in the secondary channel as and when needed. The device received a Very Good rating score -24.5 LUFS on the loudness score which falls slightly shorter of the OnePlus 9 Pro -24.1 LUFS. 

You get a tonne of connectivity features with the OnePlus 9. It includes dual-band GPS support including SBAS, Galileo, BDS, Glonass, and A-GPS navigation systems along with NFC, Bluetooth v5.2 with aptX HD, LE, and A2DP; Wi-Fi * dual-band and a lightning-fast USB Type-C 3.1 port for faster data transfer and charging. 

When it comes to the security aspect, no doubt you get the PIN and Pattern lock. But it’s an OnePlus, you also get a lightning-fast optical fingerprint sensor embedded under the display. It is neatly placed albeit in a slightly lower part of the display. But hey, don’t look down on it as OnePlus FPS are pretty quick. Though you might find it slightly off-putting to unlock the phone using different fingers at times. There’s a lightning-fast facial recognition feature on-board that gives you access to your device instantly. 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • OxygenOS based on Android 11
  • 65T Warp Charge
  • 48MP triple-camera setup powered by Hasselblad
  • Fluid AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • NFC enabled
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G

Cons

  • No storage expansion
  • Missing 3.5mm headphone jack
  • No Wireless charging feature
  • No telephoto camera
  • No IP rating – missing dust and water resistance
Verdict
Unlike what you would assume buying a Rs 50,000/- smartphone would be bliss, it isn’t the case because all smartphones have their pros and cons. OnePlus 9 doesn’t have any OIS nor the monochrome sensor is of any use, there’s no telephoto sensor as well. Apart from that, there’s no official UP rating, battery life stutters and not optimized properly, and so on. On the other hand, there are a few positives such as fast charging, impressive display, powerful processor and a clean UI, and a few others. If you want to stick with OnePlus and could afford the OnePlus 9 Pro, the OnePlus 9 is a good option although I would suggest upgrading from the OnePlus 7/7T to the OnePlus 9 is logical but not from the OnePlus 8T. Also, the phone is quite expensive with no OIS, wireless charging 4K 120fps video recording, and a plastic body so you decide what you want to pick. It obviously has many rivals to choose including Oppo Find X3 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21, Asus ROG Phone 5 to name a few.


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