OnePlus 9 Pro review: the best Android alternative to Samsung

OnePlus 9 Pro review: the best Android alternative to Samsung
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OnePlus 9 Pro review: the best Android alternative to Samsung

OnePlus 9 Pro evaluation: the best Android alternative to Samsung

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a professional flagship telephone that’s genuinely aggressive with the best Android telephones on the market — a minimum of from a options and high quality perspective. But by way of market and thoughts share, it’s nonetheless destined to be a distinct segment gadget for a small group of fanatics searching for a selected form of class of their Android gadget.

And that’s nice.

In case you dwell in the US and also you’re shopping for an Android telephone, chances are high very excessive that you simply’ll find yourself with a Samsung Galaxy telephone. Samsung has the provider relationships, high quality, and advertising which have led straight to market share. LG, Motorola, and even Google promote extra telephones right here than OnePlus does.

However after practically seven years and dozens of telephones, OnePlus has established itself as a model that may make nice telephones which can be severe options to the mainstream. The $969 OnePlus 9 Pro achieves that purpose with solely a handful of notable compromises.

OnePlus’ flagship telephones at all times include a laundry record of top-of-the-line specs, however what makes the OnePlus 9 Pro good isn’t the numbers; it’s how nicely these specs translate into considered one of the best experiences you will get utilizing Android.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has an elegant design, but won’t support 5G on all networks

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a sublime design however gained’t assist 5G on all networks.

OnePlus 9 Pro {hardware} design and 5G assist

The {hardware} design on the OnePlus 9 Pro is the most seamless, elegant telephone that the firm has designed to date. It’s, in fact, large. It has a 6.7-inch display that goes from edge to edge in a physique that’s slim sufficient to make it simply barely usable for me in a single hand.

What I can’t assist however discover is how far OnePlus has are available in construct high quality. The glass on the back and front curves into the aluminum rail on the edges with no seams in any respect. It’s well-balanced, stunning, and stable.

Top: OnePlus 9 Pro; bottom: Galaxy S20 Plus. Both phones have similarly curved glass and molded aluminum rails.

High: OnePlus 9 Pro. Backside: Galaxy S20 Plus. Each telephones have equally curved glass and molded aluminum rails.

It has a three-stage ringer switch

It has a three-stage ringer swap.

It’s additionally the spitting picture of a Galaxy S20 Plus. Shift a few buttons round, transfer the selfie digital camera to the center, and swap out the emblem, and it’s the identical design. I get that there are solely so some ways to sandwich curved glass and aluminum collectively, however it’s uncanny.

To be truthful, OnePlus does preserve a few of its id in the three-stage ringer swap, which simply permits you to toggle between a ringer, vibration, and absolutely silent. It could nonetheless be my favourite function on OnePlus telephones, and I stay baffled as to why extra Android telephone makers don’t undertake a bodily ringer swap.

Talking of vibration, the haptics on the OnePlus 9 Pro aren’t sloppy in any respect, in contrast to many Android telephones. Sadly, the trade-off is that they aren’t very sturdy; I usually can’t really feel it vibrate in my pocket.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, which is paired with eight gigs of RAM on the 128GB mannequin. You may’t get it in a smaller display measurement, however you may spend $100 extra to get 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. There’s no microSD card slot for storage growth in both mannequin. What you get is what you get.

It helps each Sub-6 and millimeter-wave (mmWave) types of 5G, however there’s a big caveat: the telephone helps it, however OnePlus has solely managed to land 5G certification from its provider companion, T-Cell. In case you purchase it unlocked, as of now, it’ll solely work with T-Cell’s 5G community. All the things else will probably be LTE. AT&T 5G assist doesn’t seem to be in the playing cards in any respect, and as for Verizon, OnePlus says that it “continues to work with Verizon to certify each the 9 and 9 Pro on its 5G community.” Later, on March twenty sixth, Verizon introduced that it could assist 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro.

OnePlus’ wireless warp charger can fully charge the phone in under 45 minutes

OnePlus’ wi-fi warp charger can absolutely cost the telephone in beneath 45 minutes.

OnePlus 9 Pro battery and charging

For OnePlus, the standout spec is its proprietary charging expertise. There’s a 65W charger included in the field, and it could possibly cost up the telephone ridiculously quick. The telephone’s 4,500mAh battery is definitely cut up in two, which helps additional velocity charging.

The 65W charger comes in the box (pictured with the regular OnePlus 9).

The 65W charger is available in the field (pictured with the common OnePlus 9).

In case you like, you may spend a further $69 on OnePlus’ new Warp Cost 50 wi-fi charger. It costs at 25W, however since the battery is cut up, it’s basically the identical as charging at 50W, wirelessly. It additionally works when you set the telephone on the charger in panorama mode. With the telephone absolutely lifeless, it charged fully in 45 minutes. With ambient mode in Google Assistant on, it took a bit longer — however it was nonetheless depraved quick in contrast to different wi-fi chargers.

That 4,500mAh battery was sufficient to get me by means of a full day and a half of reasonably heavy utilization. Nevertheless, OnePlus telephones do have a tendency to be a bit extra variable of their battery life relying on use. Spending a day capturing 4K video and pushing the processor with video games meant I might kill it with lower than 4 hours of screen-on time.

So whereas the battery life won’t be best in school, the manner OnePlus has constructed its ecosystem for charging means I’m ready to prime off quicker than I can with different telephones — supplied I exploit OnePlus’ proprietary chargers, in fact.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has an LTPO OLED screen, which can help with battery life

The OnePlus 9 Pro has an LTPO OLED display, which may help with battery life.

OnePlus 9 Pro display

After wi-fi charging, the subsequent standout spec on the OnePlus 9 Pro is that 6.7-inch display. Like Samsung, OnePlus has converted to an LTPO fashion of OLED, which will be extra energy environment friendly and permits the firm to have extra management over the refresh fee.

The display can go all the manner from 120Hz on down to 1Hz, relying on what’s occurring on the show. OnePlus has branded the contact response fee on the display as “Hyper Contact,” clocked at 360Hz for sure video games, and although I’m doubtful it makes that large a distinction for players, OnePlus says it might. Extra consequential is the display decision: 1440 x 3216 at 525ppi. You may go away it at that prime decision and have the excessive refresh fee display going at the identical time. Doing so most likely hits battery life, however to me, the level of this max-spec telephone is to max the specs, so I didn’t flip down the decision or the refresh fee.

These are the specs on the display, however it’s the expertise that issues. And once more, I believe OnePlus has finished a outstanding job right here. One thing about the tuning of the animations in OxygenOS makes this telephone really feel just a bit bit smoother than even Samsung telephones. I additionally respect the shade tuning — though it’s not as subdued as an iPhone or perhaps a Pixel, it’s extra restrained than Samsung’s default settings.

The whole camera system on the OnePlus 9 Pro is solid, but has room to improve

The entire digital camera system on the OnePlus 9 Pro is stable however has room to enhance.

OnePlus 9 Pro digital camera

With out delving into numerous historical past, I’ll simply level out that till very not too long ago, digital camera high quality has been the predominant downfall for OnePlus telephones. It’s a very unhealthy manner to fall down, too, as a result of usually, the clearest and easiest way to evaluate telephones that in any other case look and carry out practically equivalently is to have a look at the pictures they take.

OnePlus is aware of all of this and needs to place the OnePlus 9 Pro as a heads-up competitor — or a minimum of a viable alternative — to the very best Samsung and even Apple have to provide. So it did a factor numerous challenger manufacturers do: known as in a ringer.

That ringer is Hasselblad, which OnePlus is partnering with to enhance its digital camera outcomes. It is going to be a multiyear effort, and it’s removed from assured it’ll be a fruitful partnership. In truth, most of those types of offers don’t actually do something notable when it comes to the digital camera’s high quality.

This 12 months, Hasselblad’s participation with OnePlus’ growth course of amounted to serving to the firm tune the colours from the digital camera and lending a little bit of its interface to the digital camera’s Pro mode. Oh, and most significantly for OnePlus, Hasselblad allowed its emblem to be stamped subsequent to the lenses.

I do assume there’s some credit score due to this color-tuning affect. In the identical manner that different smartphone manufacturers have a “look” to their pictures, I believe OnePlus is creating its personal. iPhone pictures are typically flat and impartial, tending to the heat aspect of shade; Pixel pictures contrasty and blue; and Samsung pictures have the vibrancy slider set to max.


OnePlus 9 Pro: indoor with blended lighting handles shade nicely.

OnePlus tends to ramp up blue colors, which is usually fine but can sometimes get the camera into trouble

OnePlus tends to ramp up blue colours, which is normally tremendous however can generally get the digital camera into hassle.

OnePlus does a good job not adding too much vibrancy when it’s not there in the first place

OnePlus does job of not including an excessive amount of vibrancy when it’s not there in the first place.

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s picture output lands largely in the center. It tends towards blue, and it positively lifts up shadows to create extra even lighting. Its pictures are extra hanging however much less correct than what you’ll get out of an iPhone.

The digital camera system is nice, however it could possibly’t fairly match the high quality you get from an iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely — each of which value greater than the OnePlus 9 Pro. It handles quite a lot of circumstances fairly nicely, however generally I simply had to take an additional beat to compose my shot. It let me higher decide what the viewfinder was displaying and, truthfully, gave me time to strive the shot once more.

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Galaxy S21 Extremely (left) vs. OnePlus 9 Pro (proper)

As common with smartphone cameras, I believe the distinction comes down to software program. I like the colours the 9 Pro produces, however generally it simply tries too laborious and whiffs. Equally, OnePlus appears to need to deliver a bit of that Pixel distinction magic to bear however as a substitute simply oversharpens. And lightening shadows is usually laudable, however not when it provides fully pointless and distracting picture noise.

The camera can try too hard to brighten shadows, introducing noise

The digital camera can strive too laborious to brighten shadows, introducing noise.

The camera oversharpens sometimes, too. Take a look at the fringing around the runners on the lake in this ultrawide shot

The digital camera oversharpens generally, too. Check out the fringing round the runners on the lake on this ultrawide shot.

The primary digital camera makes use of a brand new 48-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS, although after I pressed OnePlus to inform me what precisely that sensor brings to the desk, I didn’t actually get a transparent reply. You may shoot 12-bit RAW photos in the Pro mode (which is 2 bits greater than final 12 months, when you’re retaining depend).

That’s all good, however the interface on Pro mode is what will get me. You may clearly see what’s set to handbook and what’s in auto mode. It’s easy and simple to use, too. Better of all is focus peaking, which pulls little traces over the a part of the picture that’s in focus. It’s a lot clearer and extra enjoyable to use than the tap-to-focus you want to use on different telephones. (You are able to do that right here, too, in fact.)

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s different cameras embrace an enormous, 50-megapixel ultrawide with a sensor that’s rather a lot nicer than the common step-down sensors ultrawides get caught with. I liked utilizing it proper up till it went haywire with sharpening. OnePlus put in a customized lens to assist with distortion at the edges, and it really works as nicely or higher than pure software program fixes at retaining straight traces from bowing.

The telephoto digital camera is 3.3x, and it’s not something particular at that zoom stage. Past it, digital zoom is form of a large number. It will get pantsed by the S21 Extremely with its periscope-style lens. There’s additionally a monochrome digital camera that serves solely as a helper for the remainder of the system, however I believe it’s not doing something particularly necessary. OnePlus did drop the gimmicky and pointless “shade filter” digital camera from final 12 months’s 8 Pro this time round. It’ll most likely drop the monochrome digital camera subsequent 12 months, if I had to guess.

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30X zoom. Samsung Galaxy S21 Extremely (left) vs OnePlus Pro 9 (proper).

OnePlus’ software-focused Nightscape mode works very well for capturing nighttime photographs, though to my tastes, it over-brightens the picture. Portrait mode is a blended bag; heads usually look artificially lower out from the blurry background. Once more, I can get good photographs, however portrait mode was usually a kind of conditions the place I wanted to strive the shot a second time. The selfie digital camera is satisfactory in good gentle however falls down quick in the darkish.

Sadly, video is equally messy. The OnePlus 9 Pro will allow you to shoot up to 8K 30 or 4K 120, however neither appeared good. In truth, common previous 4K 30 has that overprocessed and oversharpened look you see so usually from smartphones. The large new function is improved HDR for backlit topics, however the impact is minimal at best.

That’s an entire pile of important takes in contrast to telephones that value greater than this telephone. However regardless of the value distinction, I believe the OnePlus 9 Pro’s digital camera needs to be held to as excessive a normal as attainable — it’s a flagship telephone. It could possibly generally cling with the best of the best, and that’s a win.

You can put all your widgets in a drop-down menu instead of on your home screen.

You may put all of your widgets in a drop-down menu as a substitute of on your property display.

OnePlus 9 Pro efficiency and OxygenOS 11

Though the digital camera is usually the predominant differentiator for an Android telephone, it’s not essentially all people’s highest precedence. Once I’m not pixel-peeping pictures, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best Android telephone I’ve used to date this 12 months. The efficiency is nice. I’m particularly impressed with the optical in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is tremendous quick and doesn’t appear to be thrown by bizarre lighting circumstances.

OnePlus’ model of Android known as OxygenOS, and it’s now at model 11. The corporate has borrowed Samsung’s concept of shifting content material down to meet your thumb and added in assist for an always-on ambient show. The animations really feel easy, and OnePlus has realized its lesson about how annoying it may be to have apps shut in the background too usually.

OnePlus has dedicated to two main OS updates and three years of bimonthly safety updates, which places it forward of manufacturers like LG however behind Samsung and Google.

You may customise a couple of issues like the font and icons, too. My favourite customization is an ambient show mode that shows a colourful bar that reveals how usually you’ve been utilizing your telephone all through the day.

One function borrowed from Apple and / or Microsoft is the skill to put your widgets right into a separate panel so that they’re not littering your predominant dwelling display, accessible by way of a fast swipe down. I adore it, however I want it wasn’t mapped to the identical factor different Android telephones use to shortly deliver down notifications.

Principally, although, OxygenOS simply feels chill, particularly in contrast to Samsung. OnePlus isn’t pushing its personal ecosystem of apps and companies (although with a brand new OnePlus Watch coming, maybe that will change). It’s additionally not festooning its personal apps with commercials, in contrast to Samsung.

OxygenOS 11 is smooth and less annoying than other versions of Android

OxygenOS 11 is easy and fewer annoying than different variations of Android.
Photograph by Vjeran Pavic / GadgetClock

The OnePlus 9 Pro (top) and OnePlus 9

The OnePlus 9 Pro (prime) and OnePlus 9.

The OnePlus 9 has a slightly smaller screen

The OnePlus 9 (proper) has a barely smaller display.

The OnePlus 9 Pro just isn’t a “flagship killer.” It’s a flagship. Though it nonetheless prices rather less than its top-tier rivals, it nonetheless is a dear telephone that makes numerous guarantees. Principally, it delivers on them. Though a tiny fraction of shoppers purchase OnePlus telephones in contrast to Apple and Samsung, the firm has constructed a observe document lengthy sufficient to deserve its standing as a longtime model.

In case you’re contemplating considered one of the new OnePlus telephones, I’m truly hard-pressed to make the case for the OnePlus 9 Pro over the common OnePlus 9, which Allison Johnson reviewed. The common OnePlus 9 is $240 much less, and the belongings you lose are largely the nice-to-haves that justify the Pro’s existence: quick wi-fi charging, OIS, a telephoto lens, mmWave 5G, and the barely bigger display. The cheaper OnePlus 9 lacks telephoto, however its different cameras take pictures which can be practically equal to the professional. It has a excessive refresh fee display, quick wired charging, wi-fi charging (although it’s not as quick), and most significantly, a pleasant OnePlus software program expertise with nice efficiency.

The explanation to go for the 9 Pro over the common 9 is in some methods the identical purpose you’d go for a OnePlus telephone over a Samsung telephone in the first place: it’s just a bit nicer and a bit totally different than what all people else has of their pocket.

Replace March twenty sixth, 2021 5pm ET: Verizon introduced it could assist 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro and OnePlus confirmed they won’t work on AT&T’s 5G community. The evaluation has been up to date to be aware the new data.

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