OnePlus 9 Pro Review

An improved premium Android smartphone from OnePlus

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4.5

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

Yoona Wagener / Lifewire

What We Like
  • Excellent camera

  • 5G capable

  • Ultra-fast charging

  • Speedy Snapdragon 888 processor

  • QHD display with 120Hz refresh rate

What We Don't Like
  • Slippery without a case

  • 5G not supported on all networks

The OnePlus 9 Pro promises a premium experience to Android users that want refined looks, 5G connectivity, lightning-quick speed, and a pro-grade camera from their mobile device.

4.5

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

Yoona Wagener / Lifewire

OnePlus provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for our full take.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is the latest illustration of the brand’s commitment to creating some of the best smartphones on the market at more affordable prices than you’ll find in typical flagship models. Shoppers seeking a fashionable and elevated experience will find a long list of noteworthy features, including a prominent 6.7-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, 5G connectivity on supported networks, and a responsive Snapdragon 888 processor for loading up all your most frequently used apps and games without a hitch. 

Also new for the OnePlus 9 Pro and its slightly smaller sibling, the OnePlus 9, is a highly anticipated partnership with Hasselblad, an authority and heavy-hitter in the world of photography and camera lenses. This upgrade is a considerable step up for OnePlus phones and puts it in good company with other premium models such as the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Design: Refined but slippery

The OnePlus 9 Pro has an air of sophistication, with a reflective but slightly matte backing. The Morning Mist model I tested read as silver with a rainbow effect, based on the way the light hit it. That’s not a coincidence; OnePlus employs what it calls a gradient refraction effect that gradually transforms the color from silver to black at the edges. The new quad camera system is also featured prominently on the upper-right corner of the device and is eye-catching. 

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

Like other OnePlus models, the 9 Pro comes slightly supersized at 6.4 inches tall and 6.9 ounces. That’s not very compact or conveniently sized enough for a pocket. The slim 2.9-inch wide and 0.34-inch deep build makes it less unwieldy than I had expected it to be in my smaller hands. While I find the petite iPhone SE (2020) just enough phone and comfortable with my hand size, the 9 Pro’s slim design makes it easy to use thumb inputs without cramping or straining, even single-handed. 

One drawback to the beautiful glossy design of this device is that it’s just a little too slippery to handle without a protective case. I had the opportunity to use an OnePlus branded cover designed for this model, which is also quite attractive and makes up for losing viewing access to the color gradation. Even the case is a bit slippery, however, so I still handled it with an abundance of caution. Though OnePlus gives this device an IP68 water-resistant and dustproof rating, I experienced this device as feeling just a bit too delicate to risk any exposure or rough handling. 

What’s New: Advanced camera tech and warp-speed charging

The OnePlus 9 Pro (and the OnePlus 9) benefit from the new flagship camera system in partnership with Hasselblad, a big step up over the OnePlus 8 series. OnePlus customers that hoped for a bit more from the camera system will be pleased by this upgrade, which brings enhanced color to every shot with Natural Color Calibration.

Translation: colors pop more than they ever have before on an OnePlus flagship phone. On the 9 Pro, four cameras, including a 50MP ultra-wide camera and 8K video capability, take image capturing up a notch.  

The OnePlus 9 Pro (and the OnePlus 9) benefit from the new flagship camera system in partnership with Hasselblad, a big step up over the OnePlus 8 series.

The brilliant photo system aside, OnePlus 9 models also gain an innovative Fluid 2.0 display that dynamically adjusts to save battery and smooth transitions. The OnePlus 9 Pro also boasts Warp Charge technology in wired and wireless modes, capable of delivering a full day of power in just 15 minutes.

Performance: Effortlessly snappy

The OnePlus 9 Pro operates on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, which you’ll find in other Android models like the Samsung S21 and S21 Ultra. It’s the fastest and latest processor in the Qualcomm 800 series chipsets and stakes its top-tier status with technology that boosts everything from camera systems to gaming support and 5G connectivity. According to OnePlus, the Snapdragon 888 delivers 25 percent faster performance than the prior Snapdragon 865.

This top-of-the-line Android processor doesn’t disappoint the 9 Pro, which ships with 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage. It passed with flying colors on the PCMark Work 2.0 test, earning 11,929. Graphics benchmarks proved just as impressive, with 57fps on GFXBench Car Chase 2.0 and 60fps on the T-Rex benchmark.

According to OnePlus, the Snapdragon 888 delivers 25 percent faster performance than the prior Snapdragon 865.

I ran several courses on Asphalt 8 and noticed that the 9 Pro was incredibly fast to load and delivered lag-free performance. Audio and graphics were also vibrant and impressive. Less intensive puzzle games also loaded virtually instantly.

Beyond the light gaming I enjoyed, I also noted the instantaneous app downloads from the Play Store and how quickly everything from Gmail to streaming apps such as Spotify, Netflix, and Discovery+ loaded and played content without interruption. 

Connectivity: Impressive 5G performance

The OnePlus 9 Pro supports 5G connectivity but only on select networks. At the time of this writing, that applies to customers on T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon. I was able to test the T-Mobile 5G network in Chicago with my non-carrier SIM card from Ting. According to tests administered by T-Mobile, the average 5G download speed in several cities throughout the country (including Chicago) is about 218Mbps

Using Ookla Speedtest, I saw a top speed of 315Mbps, though several other readings in and around my neighborhood and at home hovered closer to 214-267Mbps. That was speedy enough to stream Netflix without any hiccups. LTE speeds were similar; I saw a maximum of 237Mbps. At home, I took advantage of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s dual-band Wi-Fi support and found wireless performance equally stellar at around 187Mbps. 

Display Quality: Undeniably vibrant 

The OnePlus 9 Pro boasts a prominent 6.7-inch Fluid AMOLED display with a 3216x1440 resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz, which makes web browsing, gaming, and streaming media feel snappy at all times.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

If you don’t need this QHD+ clarity at all times, you can save battery with FHD+ mode at 2412x1080. For extra-crisp viewing of a range of content, other settings such as Vibrant Color Effect Pro, Motion Graphics Smoothing, and Ultra-high video resolution render video playback with nearly flawless and crisp results. 

The 120Hz dynamic refresh rate makes web browsing, gaming, and streaming feel snappy at all times.

This impressive display doesn’t just look great. It’s capable of plenty of great tricks to adapt to your lifestyle. Features like Reading Mode and Night Mode help reduce strain on your eyes and promote winding down. The Ambient display setting also keeps core notifications and information just a glance away when you need it. 

Sound Quality: Clear and pleasantly nuanced

The OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a surprisingly nuanced pair of dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos. Streaming music or podcasts without headphones was enjoyable. The sound was clear and never registered as tinny or muffled. Gaming audio sounded particularly immersive without headphones.

Although with a pair of headphones with the aptX audio codec, I did notice enhanced audio quality that I hadn’t experienced with this particular accessory on other devices. I also noticed subtle differences when toggling between Music and Movie mode in the Dolby Atmos settings. The earphone adjustments provided an even more gratifying listening experience with Nuanced and Warm modes.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

I wasn’t disappointed with call clarity either. In quiet environments, the reception was so clear it sometimes felt like I was in the same room with the person on the other line. When I placed calls in busier outdoor environments and a large and loud store, the sound quality was also quite clear with no background noise detected—even when speaking through masks on both ends.

Camera/Video Quality: A playground for novices and pros alike

One of the most significant changes the OnePlus 9 Pro offers is an elevated and advanced new camera system. The four-camera setup includes: a Sony 48MP main camera, a 50MP ultra-wide camera, an 8MP telephoto camera that offers up to 3.3x optical zoom, and a mono camera.

This system also offers 4K, 8K, slow-motion, and time-lapse video, along with 1080p recording. That’s on top of the many photo modes, including Pro mode for complete control over shutter speed, aperture, and white balance. 

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

The regular photo mode was really enjoyable to use and produced clear and realistic results. One of my favorite features is the built-in macro mode, which requires no special settings to activate. Just place the camera close to a subject, and the OnePlus 9 Pro will adjust accordingly. Outdoor photographs were also very vibrant, and the night mode for lower-light indoor shots did make a noticeable difference. 

As for video, slow-motion and regular videos were generally smooth. When experimenting with 4K and 8K video, I did notice a nominal difference as well. Overall, it’s quite easy to capture bright and crisp images with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The combination of an accessible automatic mode and numerous advanced options lead me to believe that the 9 Pro’s camera system provides equal enjoyment to average users and professionals. 

Battery: Solid performance with super-rapid charging

The OnePlus 9 Pro offers solid day-long battery performance and even up to a day and a half before requiring a charge. Unsurprisingly, more media-heavy usage such as gaming and streaming Netflix content drained the battery more rapidly than typical daily use based more on productivity apps and lighter use overall. To help preserve battery life, I did take advantage of settings such as reducing the refresh rate to 60Hz and opting for FHD over QHD resolution. 

I logged a speedy 33 minutes to charge from depleted to 100 percent with the 65-watt charger.

The solid battery performance is made sweeter by the Warp Charge functionality. I logged a speedy 33 minutes to charge from depleted to 100 percent with the 65-watt charger. In another instance, I saw it charge from 1 percent to 14 percent in just 2 minutes.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

With the Warp Charge wireless charger, OnePlus suggests that the potential charging speed of the 4,500mAh battery is 1 percent to 70 percent in a mere 30 minutes. Any way you slice it, that’s pretty fast.

Software: Breezy and customizable Oxygen OS

Like the preceding OnePlus 8T, the 9 Pro operates on Oxygen OS 11, based on Android 11. The latest version puts even more power in users’ hands with features including an always-on display with various clock styles for quick, glanceable information. Zen Mode is another enhancement aimed at encouraging users to step away from the device entirely for a set amount of time.

The upgraded Dark Mode allows control over how long you want to activate this setting, and there’s ample display customization, from the accent color to the system font. Oxygen OS also intentionally places controls near the thumbs for more streamlined and natural interactions when making configurations.

Also on theme with user control, you have three different log-in methods to choose from (finger scanning, passcode, or facial recognition), and navigation settings and quick screen gestures are all customizable. The usual Google suite of apps comes pre-installed along with Netflix and a gaming mode that turns on automatically to avoid mistaken inputs, control notifications, and keep an eye on the device’s temperature and battery level with a quick swipe. 

This thoughtful personalization and overall smooth performance work together to provide a fluid and enjoyable experience across the board. The OS never felt laggy or clumsy, which underscored my initial impression: This is a premium device aimed at delivering a premium experience.

Price: Premium flourishes for a little less

The OnePlus 9 Pro retails for $1,069. In the world of high-end smartphones, that’s a bit of a bargain. Both the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra start at about $1,200. If a professional-grade camera is a priority, the iPhone 12 Pro Max uses three cameras and different technology to appeal to some users over the four-camera OnePlus Pro. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, is a much closer Android competitor. When stacking these two models up to each other, a few factors distinguish the type of upscale experience these Android phones promise.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Lifewire / Yoona Wagener

OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

It’s easy to identify overlaps between the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro. Both models are ultra-speedy 5G phones with large displays boasting responsive 120Hz refresh rates, premium builds, and advanced camera systems. They share the fastest Android processor to date and offer a similar user experience between Android 11 and Oxygen OS 11. 

As for where the two diverge, the S21 Ultra takes the edge with zooming power on its 10x optical zoom telephoto lens. It also has a slightly larger display at 6.8 inches over 6.7 inches on the OnePlus 9 Pro. While the S21 Ultra has a larger 5,000mAh battery, it doesn’t come with a physical charger, which leaves the onus on the user to figure out the charging method. Users report around 1.5 hours for charging time, which pales compared to the lightning-fast 30-minute performance from the Warp Charge capability of the OnePlus 9 Pro. Price is another factor to consider. While the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra starts at around $1,200, that model comes with only 128GB of storage.

Final Verdict

A fresh take on the luxury smartphone.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a capable performer in essential areas, including connectivity, design, camera technology, and speed. This high-end Android smartphone holds its own against premium competitors and offers considerable performance chops for a little less. Whether you want something slightly different or you’re a longtime OnePlus fan, the Hasselblad camera collaboration, fast-charging capability, and smartwatch integration are all compelling reasons to leap or make a switch with this new flagship phone.

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Specs

  • Product Name 9 Pro
  • Product Brand OnePlus
  • UPC 6921815615842
  • Price $1069
  • Release Date March 2021
  • Weight 6.9 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 in.
  • Color Morning Mist, Pine Green
  • Warranty 1 year
  • Platform OS Oxygen 11
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • RAM 12GB
  • Storage 256GB
  • Camera 48/50/8/2MP Quad Camera
  • Battery Capacity 4500mAh
  • Water Resistance IP68
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