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OnePlus 9 Pro review

One giant leap

OnePlus 9 Pro review
(Image: © Aakash Jhaveri)

TechRadar Verdict

The OnePlus 9 Pro is finally a flagship from the brand that we can wholeheartedly recommend, thanks to a massively improved camera system, along with capable performance, a beautiful display and impressively fast charging, ticking all the boxes that a premium Android smartphone should — at a premium price.

Pros

  • +

    True-to-life camera

  • +

    Excellent display

  • +

    Great ergonomics

  • +

    Incredible charging speeds

Cons

  • -

    Average battery life

  • -

    Telephoto lens

  • -

    Expensive

OnePlus has always aimed to play in the big league, but each season, it would get really close but fall just short. With the OnePlus 9 Pro, the company charges forward with laser focus on being amongst the best phones in the market, by offering a significantly improved camera experience.

OnePlus knows how to make a great phone, and has proven its mettle multiple times in the past. Things are no different this time, as the OnePlus 9 Pro is a proper complete package, that makes it easier to recommend with no major shortcomings. Of course, those upgrades also mean that the OnePlus 9 Pro is the most expensive offering from the Chinese company by a mile.

As always, the phone nails the fundamentals, especially on the hardware front. Running of the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset with oodles of fast storage and RAM, the OnePlus 9 Pro is as good as things get on the Android side of things, when it comes to performance. 

Things are great on the outside as well, as the phone offers a very premium design than feels uniform and cohesive in all the right ways. It’s even better on the front with the new display that is bright, clear, colourful and very smooth. There are some new additions here as well, which make the content consumption experience even better. To top things off, we also get a dual speaker setup for stereo output.

Our biggest issue with the OnePlus 9 Pro is its battery life: it is strictly average. You could get a full day’s worth of juice, but anything more will be a stretch. Thankfully, it covers up ground by offering the fastest wired as well as wireless charging that we’ve seen.

Welcome to the top flight, OnePlus.

Most importantly, the phone finally offers a legit flagship-grade photography experience, thanks to new hardware and a partnership with Hasselblad on the software front. Combined, the OnePlus 9 Pro is able to create beautiful results that are very accurate in terms of colour rendition, temperature and dynamic range. All of that holds true for the ultra-wide lens as well, which is not something we are used to seeing on smartphones.

If you’ve been waiting for a premium flagship from OnePlus that can rub shoulders with the likes of Samsung and Apple in all aspects, this is it. 

OnePlus 9 Pro price in India

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Check out the OnePlus 9 Pro (opens in new tab)

8GB + 128GB: Rs 64,999| 12GB + 256GB: Rs 69,999

Available starting April 1 on Amazon.in


Launched on March 23 in India, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes in two variants. The base 8GB + 128GB variant is priced at Rs 64,999 while the higher-end 12GB + 256GB model will set you back by Rs 69,999. Colour options include Morning Mist, Pine Green and Stellar Black.

The first sale on Amazon.in (opens in new tab) will take place on April 1. SBI credit card holders will be eligible for a Rs 4,000 instant discount.

At a price higher than ever before, the OnePlus 9 Pro now competes with the best phones in the premium segment, such as the iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy S21 and Xiaomi's upcoming Mi 11 Ultra.

Design

Upon first glance, the OnePlus 9 Pro will look very similar to other recent smartphones from the brand. Once again we have a curved back with a rectangular camera housing in the corner and an expansive screen on the front. 

Compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro from last year, the phone is a lot more comfortable to wield, thanks to a reduction in size on all three axes. At just 8.7mm thick and a sub-200 gram weight, it can now fit in far more pockets and purses without getting awkwardly uncomfortable. 

This year, we also get three new finishes to choose from – and all of them seem rather classy. We tested the Morning Mist variant, which has a glossy silver finish that gradients to a mirror-like surface towards the bottom. Apart from that, there’s a Pine Green colourway that has a matte finish (similar to the iPhone 12 Pro) and a Stellar Black variant that has a rough texture, similar to the OnePlus One’s sandstone back.

While the back is protected by Gorilla Glass, our unit already has a visible scuff on the back with just weeks of use.

Holding everything together is a stainless steel frame that blends seamlessly with the front and the back. On the left is the volume rocker, while the right edge has the power button and the alert slider. OnePlus continues to be the only Android smartphone maker to offer a direct shortcut like this to quickly changes audio profiles. 

The OnePlus 9 Pro has two speakers, with the primary grille on the bottom and the earpiece doubling as the second channel. The phone gets very loud and surprisingly does not rattle or distort even at the highest levels. Paired with a strong vibration motor and it becomes a treat for more senses.

Ergonomics are underrated.

The cameras placed in a rectangular island in the top left corner, barely jut out of the already slim body. The even weight distribution, coupled with the gently curved sides on the front and the back make the device seem a lot more petite than it actually is.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro seems far more polished than anything we’ve previously seen from the company. In a time when the rivals such as the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra show no regard for our wrists, this phone was a breath of fresh air. 

Brownie points for the IP68 water-resistance.

Display

The improved in-hand experience is a byproduct of the new display. Now spanning 6.7-inches across with a 20.1:9 aspect ratio, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s Super AMOLED display curves gently on the sides, beautifully balancing ergonomics and accidental touches.

With a resolution of 1440 x 3216 and 1,300 nits of peak brightness, visuals would always pop out with excellent dynamic range, sharpness and vibrancy. 10-bit colour depth and HDR10+ will take the experience further, but those differences are relatively incremental, at least for now. We’d have liked the auto-brightness to be a little more aggressive instead of slowly transitioning between scenarios and flexing its 8,192 levels of adjustment.

You also have the option to enable MEMC and force regular content to be displayed at higher refresh rates.

While OnePlus was one of the first smartphone makers to jump on the high refresh rate bandwagon, the OnePlus 9 Pro takes things a step further by offering a Smart 120Hz refresh rate. Using an LTPO panel, the display can automatically adjust its refresh rate on the fly based on the content being displayed, conserving power wherever possible. For instance, games will run at 120Hz, movies will opt for 24Hz, whereas something like an eBook will go down all the way to 1Hz. The implementation is not perfect though, as we often noticed stutters when the display would be changing its refresh rate.

We loved the fact that the bezels have been kept extremely minimal on all four sides, making way for a very expansive viewing experience. Ditto for the punch-hole selfie camera. 

Under the settings, you can further customize the viewing experience by changing the resolution, screen calibration, colour profiles, temperature tone and more. There’s also the option to increase the touch response rate to 360Hz for gaming. The under-display optical fingerprint scanner is also amongst the fastest ones we’ve seen.

Simply put, there’s not much more that we could’ve asked for from the OnePlus 9 Pro’s display.

Wallpapers from Elora Pautrat (opens in new tab)

Performance

As always, the OnePlus 9 Pro goes with the very best hardware that is currently available, with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. It is quite difficult to get it to slow down, even with heavy gaming or editing. Day to day operations are piece of cake. 

Along with that, you get 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, with the storage acting as additional virtual memory if needed. While you’re unlikely to perceive a difference between the two, keep in mind that the amount of RAM will determine how much storage you get. If 128GB is not enough for you, you will have to spring for the 12GB + 256GB variant. There’s no storage expansion via micro SD possible, to plan your purchase accordingly.

Unsurprisingly, the OnePlus 9 Pro flies through everything thrown at it. Apps are quick to open, content stays in memory for hours, games load quickly and run well. There were close to no stutters in our time with the device.

In India, it will support the N41 and N78 SA and NSA 5G bands.

It is also 5G-ready, for whenever the networks become available. Cellular reception on Jio 4G was excellent throughout our testing, as was the Wi-Fi performance. The earpiece grille seems to be rather difficult to position, as we often struggled to get a loud and clear calling experience, especially in louder environments.

Out-of-the-box, the OnePlus 9 Pro runs on Oxygen OS 11 atop Android 11. Signature features such as always-on display, themes, Zen mode, Pro Gaming mode (nee Fnatic mode) are all present here. Apart from that, there’s not a lot of bloatware here.

We did face some Bluetooth connectivity stability issues, but that is likely to be due to the pre-production software that our unit was running. This section will be updated if and when the company brings forth updates to fix the issue. 

The phone would heat up while wireless charging, and on one occasion, it got so hot that the camera would not let us click any pictures. There have also been quite a few instances where the phone would randomly heat up while doing light tasks.

Battery

OnePlus’ insistence on pursuing better ergonomics instead of larger batteries is well-known by now.

The weakest point of the OnePlus 9 Pro experience is its battery life. The 4,500mAh pack offers an average backup that is easy to kill by the end of the day. Most of our testing was done at Full HD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate, where it would give about 4 to 5 hours of screen-on time with moderate use.

Thankfully, it somewhat makes up for that by offering some of the fastest charging speeds we’ve seen on any smartphone. With Warp Charge 65T using the included charger, the phone can go from empty to full in just about 35 minutes. Further, there’s also support for 50W wireless charging, which took about 45 minutes for a refuel. 

The charger can also be used for other devices as it also supports 45W USB Power Delivery and PPS.  

Camera

OnePlus smartphones have always lagged behind the other top-end Android smartphones when it came to cameras. With the OnePlus 9 Pro, the company changes that in many ways, thus becoming a proper flagship with no major weak links.

This has been achieved by using new sensors for the primary and ultra-wide cameras, along with help from the legendary camera company Hasselblad for the processing bit. We’re glad to report that the improvements in colour accuracy and temperature are huge, not only beating its forerunners but also most of the competition.

The main camera is a 48MP f/1.8 unit, using the new 1/1.43-inch Sony IMX789 sensor. It takes fantastic images with incredible dynamic range, a beautiful focus roll-off, and true-to-life colours. It focuses very quickly and is much closer to the shoot-and-forget territory that was previously occupied only by iPhones and Pixels. 

In all lighting conditions, the phone managed to replicate the colours in a very natural way. In fact, you might even feel that they lack oomph because of a comparatively lower saturation and contrast. With the inclusion of 12-bit RAW capture, you get even more flexibility to tweak the images later.

Not offering Pro mode capabilities on the ultra-wide camera is a missed opportunity.

Unlike most other phones where the ultra-wide lens is an afterthought, the OnePlus 9 Pro opts for what is probably the best wide-angle camera on the market. Using a large 1/1.56-inch 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with a freeform lens, it manages to capture images that have loads of detail, along with a high level of colour parity with the primary camera. Moreover, there’s close to no barrel distortion around the edges, which is a first. 

The same camera functions as a macro shooter.

Rounding things up, is a 3.3x telephoto lens that has an 8MP resolution. This is the same sensor that was seen on the OnePlus 8 Pro, and the results are slightly underwhelming – probably due to how good the other cameras are. Firstly, a 3.3x magnification is a very awkward focal length, as it is too much for regular usage and too little to blow you away. While it does try to match the colours and dynamic range, the smaller sensor and aperture mean that the depth of field is very ordinary. It works well in good lighting conditions, but breaks apart easily if you stress it.

Lastly, there’s a 2MP monochrome filter which is supposed to assist in black and white photography, if you’re into that sort of art.

The 16MP selfie camera was pretty good too, offering loads of dynamic range and detail in the right light. Notably, it has a very particular focal length, so group photos could have some people out of focus. Switching to portrait mode automatically adds some beautification and smoothening.

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s photography experience is much better than anything we’ve seen from OnePlus earlier. The transition between lenses is smooth, photos are generally likeable, videos are very stable and crisp, and all the usual shooting modes are available. Low-light photography and videography were great, too.

Unlike other Chinese phones, we do not get some of the cooler options such as astrophotography, light painting, sky replacement, etc. 

Verdict

Buy it if...

You need a powerful smartphone

The Snapdragon 888 chipset combined with 12GB of RAM has impressed us during our testing, and if you’re after a top-end phone with great power, the OnePlus 9 Pro fits the bill. It’ll run any app or game you want it to without breaking sweat.

You want a great screen experience

The 6.7-inch 120Hz QHD display is among the best we’ve seen on a smartphone, with plenty of detail, strong brightness, and a variety of other tweaks. If you like to watch a lot of video on your phone in particular, this is a great option.

You want natural-looking photos

With the help of Hasselblad, OnePlus now offers images with lifelike colours that are very accurate in many ways, and is a big step above the OnePlus 8 series.

Don't buy if...

You want great battery life

The OnePlus 9 Pro barely lasted us through an entire workday. If you're often away from the wall plug, this is not the phone for you.

You're looking for something cheaper

Even with all the impressive upgrades, there's no denying that the OnePlus 9 Pro is a very expensive smartphone. If you want much of the same experience at a lower price, check out the OnePlus 9R (opens in new tab).


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Aakash Jhaveri
Aakash Jhaveri

Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.