OnePlus 9 Pro Review: Android gets its spec monster
In 2014, there was the OnePlus One. And while it came with a surprisingly affordable price tag, it also brought along with it a number of compromises on the spec and design side. Hey, it was supposed to be a flagship killer, not a flagship. Fast forward to current times, and we have got into the premium OnePlus era, in terms of both price and specs. And well, the OnePlus 9 Pro is unabashedly premium in terms of both.
That crazy spec sheet!
The OnePlus 9 Pro does cut a very smart figure with its relatively slim (8.7 mm) frame and its silver grey-ish Morning Mist finish (we think Forest Green looks the best, with Stellar Black for the understated types) on the slightly glossy, glassy back, complete with a quad-camera rectangular unit (with a couple of big lenses) in the corner with Hasselblad branding. No, this is not a small or super light phone (197 grams), but the weight seems very well distributed. The front has a curved display, which tapers a little over the side. The phone feels solidly built, although the back will pick smudges (there is a case in the box), and that glossy back does make it a little slippery. Mind you, it comes with dust and water resistance and an IP68 rating. It looks premium enough although it is not the sort of a traffic stopper the black Galaxy S21 Ultra was.
Mind you, we think many will gawk at the spec sheet of the OnePlus 9 Pro much more than at its appearance. In fact, the OnePlus 9 Pro is perhaps the first OnePlus which is really all about the specs. OnePlus has pretty much thrown the kitchen sink at it. That display is a 6.7-inch quad HD AMOLED affair with a 120 Hz refresh rate that can actually change and go as low as 1 Hz depending on the content being displayed on it, and a maximum brightness of 1300 nits. Mind you, it is set to full HD+ resolution, so do remember to tweak it to see it in all its glory.
And powering it is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, making it one of the first few devices in the country with the flagship chip. This is bundled with 8 GB and 12 GB of LPDDR 5 RAM and 128 GB and 256 GB of UFS 3.1 storage, depending on the variant you choose. There is still no expandable memory and the 3.5 mm audio jack remains absent, but stereo speakers are present, as is a 4500 mAh battery, with support for not just 65 W Warp Charge (a charger is in the box, hooray) that gets it charged in less than half an hour but also for wireless charging at a surprising 50W – you would need to buy a charger separately for THAT, though.
There is 5G connectivity (of little use in India, but hey, always good to have a future-worthy option) and of course, then there are the cameras – a 48-megapixel Sony IMX 789 sensor with OIS, a 50-megapixel Sony IMX 766 ultrawide sensor, an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor with OIS, and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera, and a 16-megapixel selfie snapper. All this with Android 11 out of the box, flavored with Oxygen OS.
No matter how you look at it, this is easily the best overall specced device in the market right now.
A speedy and smooth operator
And well, the performance of the phone lives up to its spec sheet. That display is one of the best we have seen on this side of a Samsung S series or Note device. Yes, it seems a little on the saturated side by default but that can be adjusted, as can the resolution and refresh rate. But combined with some very good daylight visibility and those stereo speakers that deliver good quality sound (although we would rate them a little below the Mi 10 and the Galaxy S21 series), the OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the best devices to be viewing content on, whether it is simple Web browsing or watching your favorite series. It also comes with a fingerprint scanner under it (we wish it was on the side), which works well, although it is not as quick as its counterparts on the side.
That display and those speakers also come to the fore when you pull the phone into deep gaming and multitasking waters. The phone ran Call of Duty and Asphalt at maxed-out settings without a hitch, and allowed us to run dozens of Chrome tabs and social networks at the same time without ever seeming anything but smooth, or even heating up significantly. This is one of those “throw the kitchen sink at me and I will install it in the kitchen and wash dishes in it” kind of phones – it literally can handle anything that you throw at it. Battery life can however be a bit of a casualty if you run the phone on quad HD and 120 Hz – you will just about see out a day in that case. Get the resolution into full HD+ territory and a day can be seen off easily. And yes, that Warp charger will get your phone charged up in about thirty minutes.
Of course, this is a OnePlus device so you get Oxygen OS as its interface. It might not be as clean as in the past, but it still is one of the most uncluttered interfaces on Android, and it runs on top of Android 11. It runs very smoothly too. There are odd aberrations, though. For instance, sometimes phones could not connect to the hotspot created by the phone. We also had occasions when apps seemed to crash at random, but then, this is a OnePlus device – updates are surely on their way (we had a couple even while reviewing the phone).
The Hasselblad effect (kinda sorta)
You might be wondering why we have not discussed the cameras of the OnePlus 9 Pro. After all, they have been hyped to high heaven, complete with a partnership with the legendary Hasselblad. Well, that’s because while the cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro are exceptional and are easily the best we have seen on a OnePlus device, we honestly did not see the Hasselblad effect at work. Yes, we were told about the colors being calibrated to look more natural and a special Pro mode being brought into the device, but nothing really jumped out at us.
The cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro are very versatile and capable of delivering some very good detail. We would have liked a more megapixel laden telephoto (the 3.3x optical zoom is super, but 8 megapixels sometimes sees noise creep in), but the 50-megapixel ultrawide snapper is great for landscapes and also doubles up as a reasonable macro lens – OnePlus has kept the edges of ultrawide shots remarkably straight, avoiding that “convex” effect we get from other devices. Portrait mode works generally well and the video is much improved and sound quality has been given a filip too. Low light performance can be very good if you keep your hands steady and use the Nightscape mode – although the colors sometimes can seem a bit too bright (we are not the biggest fans of using Night Mode to turn night into the day). Normal low light shots however see colors fade a little.
[Click here for full resolution images + additional samples]
The color palette in fact seems a little mixed – getting a little poppy and rich in the shade and fading slightly in better lit conditions. There was also the odd focusing issue with the camera focusing on something else in the backdrop while we wanted a close-up (something we have seen on other phone cameras as well). The selfie camera takes decent selfies but seems stuck in a bit of a time warp – we really hope OnePlus gets the dual selfie snappers on the Nord to the main series soon.
It is these minor inconsistencies that hold the cameras back from being up there with the best from Samsung, Google, and Apple. Mind you, these are very early days and we expect the Hasselblad influence to start making itself felt in the future. Right now, it seems present more in terms of a watermark (searching for Hasselblad in the settings yields no results).
Want the best-specced flagship in town? This is the One(Plus)
All of this at Rs 64,999, which puts the OnePlus 9 Pro right in the middle of them premium flagship wars. Interestingly, that is a space that is not as crowded as it once was. In fact, the OnePLus 9 Pro can claim to be in a zone of its own as the only other phones in the country powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 are its own Pro-less sibling and the very gamer-centric Asus ROG Phone 5. In fact, on the Android side, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s most likely competitor is the Samsung Galaxy S21+, which more than matches the OnePlus in the display and camera department, but comes with an Exynos processor. There is also the iPhone 12 which is available at discounted prices from some sources, and while it does not come with the sort of spec muscle that the OnePlus 9 Pro does, it is well, an iPhone.
All said and done, if you are looking for perhaps the most well-specced device in town – and one which is not oriented towards gaming (sorry, ROG phone, your size, and cameras just do not cut it), you currently have a choice of just one. Make that a OnePlus.
- Very good display
- Very fast charging (wireless and otherwise)
- Improved cameras
- Terrific gaming and multi-tasking
- Inconsistent camera (still)
- Odd interface glitches
- Battery can drain fast at maxed out settings
|Build & design|
The OnePlus 9 Pro is easily the best-specced phone in the market right now, with its combination of display, processor, wireless charging, and cameras. The Hasselblad tie-up for cameras does not quite live up to the hype, but it does deliver the best cameras we have seen on a OnePlus.