The New OnePlus 9 Phones Are Beautiful Beasts

Elegant smartphones for a more civilized age

Key Takeaways

  • The latest phones from OnePlus can compete with Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. 
  • The OnePlus 9 Pro and its less expensive sibling, the standard OnePlus 9, offer blazing speed, terrific screens, and elegant design. 
  • The cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro are excellent, thanks to a partnership with famed pro camera manufacturer Hasselblad.
Someone holding a OnePlus 9 and a OnePlus 9 Pro phones.

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

I’ve been using Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max recently, and have been so impressed with its performance that I was sure the latest phones from OnePlus wouldn’t be able to measure up. 

But I was so wrong. The OnePlus 9 Pro, starting at $970, and its less-expensive sibling, the standard OnePlus 9, offer incredible speed, eye-pleasingly-good screens, and beautiful designs. 

The screens were the first thing to catch my eye. The colors are far more vivid than on the iPhone, and the screen seemed brighter, as well. 

“I was impressed with the photos the OnePlus 9 Pro took, and I’d be happy to use it as my shooter anytime.”

Refreshingly Different Screens

I didn’t think the 120 HZ refresh rate would make much of a difference because I don’t play many games, and watching videos on the phone seems ridiculous with such a small screen. The higher refresh rate is supposed to make everything look smoother.

In reality, I was dazzled by the high refresh rate on the phones that the manufacturer provided for review. It’s a hard effect to explain, but suddenly, the screen seemed more alive than before. Even scrolling through websites that I had looked at many times before was more fun. 

Google Stadia games looked superb with the high refresh rate. I enjoyed watching movies on this tiny screen far more than I thought I would, thanks to the great colors and crystal-clear display. 

The 9 Pro is ridiculously fast. To get technical, it’s got a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 processor, along with either 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM. In practice, I never thought I’d say this, but the 9 Pro is almost too fast.

Closeup of the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro.


Applications popped open before I had time to think about it. The iPhone 12 Pro Max is no slouch when it comes to speed, but the OnePlus phones seemed much faster in actual use. The standard OnePlus 9 felt just as speedy in day-to-day use. 

I can’t say that the extra speed boost over the iPhone 12 Pro Max would make a difference in real life. But the speed was nice to have, particularly if future Android OS updates place extra burdens on the processor. 

Batteries That Last All Day

Despite the powerful screen and processor, the OnePlus 9 Pro had more-than-decent battery life thanks to its 4,500mAh dual batteries. I could use the phone for a full day of web browsing, chatting, and watching a movie on a single charge.

Call quality was crystal clear, as you would expect for a phone at this price point. 

The OnePlus 9 Pro is slightly lighter and thinner than previous models at 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches and 7 ounces.

There are also dual speakers, a microSIM slot next to the Warp Charge-compatible USB-C port, and one of their alert sliders above the power button to switch between silent, vibrate, and full volume modes, and a frame that claims to be water and dust resistance.

The One Plus 9 Pro and the standard One Plus 9 side by side.

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about this year’s OnePlus flagship is its improved cameras. The company boasts that it partnered with famed pro camera manufacturer Hasselblad to ensure color reproduction is as accurate as possible.

There’s a subtle Hasselblad logo engraved on the back of the OnePlus. 

In general, I was impressed with the photos the OnePlus 9 Pro took, and I’d be happy to use it as my shooter anytime. The 48-megapixel primary camera uses a custom-made Sony sensor, and I found the colors to be true to life.

Experienced photographers will like the pro-level software that lets you use a histogram, change color profiles, and switch on focus peaking. 

Videographers aren’t left out. The 9 Pro lets you shoot at resolutions as high as 8K at 30fps. The short videos I took with the phone were dramatic and convincing. 

I’ve long been an Apple devotee, but after using the latest OnePlus phones, I’m seriously tempted to switch to Android. The combination of speed and great photos was just that good. If only the Apple Watch Series 6 played well with Google’s OS, I’d be ready to take the jump.

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