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Intro

It’s here – the OnePlus 9 – and we have one. The OnePlus 9 is the next standard edition OnePlus phone, and yet again, they’ve produced a solid smartphone for a great price. This phone is even a suitable upgrade from last generation’s OnePlus 8 model, as the camera alone makes it worth the upgrade. Otherwise, it is largely similar to the OnePlus 8 Pro, with its 120hz screen, wireless charging, and its 4500 mAh battery (the OnePlus 8 Pro actually had 4510 mAh, but that’s a few minutes difference here). One of the massive highlighted features of this device, however, was the camera. Hasselblad, the iconic camera tech company responsible for the moon landing photos, collaborated with OnePlus. Together, they have created a crispy clean camera, great for close-ups or landscapes, and lush with vibrant colour. Let’s have a look at some of the specifications.

Specs

There are little to no surprises about the OnePlus 9 in relation to the specifications. Similar to last-gen, it has 5G compatibility, as well as another high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon processer, the Snapdragon 888. Let’s have a look at some of the specs.

Dimensions 60*74.2*8.7mm (North America /
Europe)160*73.9*8.1mm (India / China)
Weight 192g
Display 120Hz Fluid AMOLED 6.55”, Resolution: 2400 x 1080 pixels at 402 ppi
CPU Snapdragon 888
Software Oxygen OS 11
Rear Cameras 50 MP Ultra Wide

48 MP Main

Front Camera 16 MP
Video
Rear Camera 8k video at 30 fps, 4k video at 30/60 fps

Super Slow Motion: 720p video at
480fps, 1080p video at 240fps

Time-Lapse: 1080p at 30fps, 4K
at 30fps

Front Camera 1080p at 30 fps

Time Lapse

Sensors In-display Fingerprint Sensor, Accelerometer, Electronic
Compass, Gyroscope, Ambient
Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor,
Sensor Core, Flicker-detect
Sensor, Front RGB Sensor
Storage 8/12GB RAM  LPDDR5+ 128/256GB UFS3.1
GPU Adreno 650
Battery 4500 mAh (non-removable) + Warp Charge 65W (10V/6.5V) + 15W Qi wireless charging
Audio Dual Stereo Speakers, Noise cancellation support, Dolby Atmos
Unlock Options In-display Fingerprint, Face Unlock

Out of the box

I don’t like the case supplied with the OnePlus 9. It’s a clear plastic case, it feels cheap, and it has “Never Settle” obnoxiously written across the back of it. Additionally, as opposed to avoiding the camera bump on the back by thickening the case, they have thickened only a specific area around the camera, just to make sure that there is still a camera bump. Camera bumps are annoying. They make the phone wobble when it’s placed on a flat service, such as most wireless chargers, desks, and even holding it. Typing on a device with a camera bump while it is lying on a flat surface is noisy, wobbly, and just inconvenient.

Other than that though, it was the standard premium phone unboxing that you would expect. It came with a charger, the aforementioned case, some reading material, and a SIM removal tool – always a nice touch. The phone also came with a screen cover already applied, which is great, because I’m awful at putting them on myself.

Design

The design of the OnePlus 9 is largely similar to that of the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, with a few subtle differences, and one major difference. Both the lock button and the notification switch have been moved down a few millimeters. These are only noticeable when the phones are held side by side, so it still felt just as familiar as the OnePlus 8 that was my daily driver until now. The display is flat, and the iconic alert slider makes a return on the right-hand-side of the frame. The frame, by the way, is plastic, and the back is still glass. There are also a pair of dual speakers – one speaker at the top in the earpiece, and one bottom-firing speaker. It’s also a pretty bad fingerprint magnet, and so is the included case too.

Volume Buttons

The volume buttons on the left side of the phone have also been moved down. This change is more noticeable, especially when holding the phone in landscape mode or when watching videos. Quite often I would accidentally turn up the volume instead of down, as the up button is approximately where the down button used to be. However, the new placement makes them much more convenient to press when holding the phone with one hand.

Screen Edge

Another smaller design change is that the screen no longer has a curved edge, which has made the OnePlus 9 appear slightly slimmer than the previous generation models. On the plus side, this has negated accidentally touching the screen from the sides when using the phone one-handed. Personally, I much prefer this to the curved edges, even if it may not look as nice to some. As mentioned previously, the screen is Gorilla Glass 5 still, so it’s pretty scratch and drop resistant.

Camera Module

The biggest design change, as expected, is the camera module. The OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 pro both had their camera module in the upper centre of the back. The OnePlus 9 however, has its camera module on the left. It is also slightly wider than the previous generation. Similar to its predecessor though, the camera module does protrude out of the phone chassis, so a case is almost certainly a necessity for the device.

Display

The OnePlus 9 offers a not-so-common screen resolution of 2400×1080, on a 6.55” display. This is 402 pixels per inch, so it’s already significantly beyond that which is noticeable by the average human. The front-facing camera is a bezel-less one, identical in appearance to the previous generation models. And now for my personal favourite part – the refresh rate. The OnePlus 9 offers a 120hz refresh rate for its screen, providing the smoothest scrolling experience one could hope for on a smartphone. This is a premium feature, in my opinion, however, it’s one that once you get used to, it’s hard to go back from. As someone who has used a 144hz monitor for the last number of years, I am quite sensitive to these small changes, which makes the step up from the OnePlus 8’s 90hz to 120hz on the OnePlus 9 very noticeable for me.

The pixel technology is AMOLED, as is the industry standard at this stage. For those unaware, AMOLED means active-matrix organic light-emitting diode. To you and me, however, that means it’s very pretty and colourful and provides more realistic blacks than regular LED screens. The smartphone also comes with features such as Reading Mode, Night Mode, Vibrant Colour Effect, and Ultra-high Video Resolution. The screen and display of the OnePlus 8T got a DisplayMate A+ rating, so with the upgrades installed in the OnePlus 9 model, we should see something similar when that is released.

Camera

As mentioned earlier, the OnePlus 9 camera is going to be what likely gives it the edge over other high-tier smartphones in these coming months. OnePlus has collaborated with Hasselblad, the illustrious digital camera manufacturers. Together, they have reworked what OnePlus previously had, and created a fantastic new design full of new features. These features include; natural hair calibration, ultra-wide, Hasselblad pro-mode, 8k30fps video, and nightscape 2.0. If you needed a reason for considering the OnePlus 9 over competitors, this Hasselblad collaboration is a definite selling point. Here’s a picture using the Hasselblad Ultra Wide camera.

IMG_20210319_162844 (1) (1)

Here is the same photo with the main camera.

IMG_20210319_162851 (1) (1)

However, it is worth noting that the only actual Hasselblad camera on the device is the wide-angle mode. The pro-mode is specifically just Hasselblad software and not hardware. Largely, the camera is almost identical in every way to that of the OnePlus 8 Pro. That is not to say that it isn’t exceptionally good, it’s just… nothing special over the OnePlus 8 Pro camera, excluding the ultra-wide camera. Here are some photos that were taken with the phone’s camera.

OnePlus 9 Photos

To be absolutely clear, the only Hasselblad camera on this smartphone is the ultra-wide camera. There is Hasselblad software in other features, but in testing, they behave similarly to the OnePlus 8 Pro’s camera. The Hasselblad ultra-wide camera, however, is very solid. It features the aforementioned Nightscape 2.0, which allows for extra clarity in dimly lit areas. Here are some photos I took in pitch black.

IMG_20210323_044100

IMG_20210323_044121

IMG_20210323_044043

As you can see, you can make out quite a lot of detail from them. However, there is a significant amount of blur to them too, but I could definitely see more in the picture than I could with my own eyes. You can view the full resolution photos in the Flickr album embedded above.

Gaming

If there’s one area the phone doesn’t let down at all in, it’s gaming. The 120hz screen grouped with the 12 GB of RAM and speedy processer enables silky smooth gameplay in popular smartphone games such as C.O.D Mobile and PUBG Mobile. The automatic gaming mode built into the phone was very distanced from the gameplay itself, allowing for uninterrupted gaming sessions on it. The Gaming Tools menu itself is another great feature – you can view statistics such as the remaining battery percentage, core temperature, and quickly view any notifications you might be blissfully ignoring while blasting opponents in Pochinki. The menu to open the Gaming Tools is also very out-of-the-way. It requires you to swipe down in one of two very specific areas, that are unlikely to accidentally occur.

Charging

The OnePlus 9 features wireless charging, something that the OnePlus 8 base model did not. This is a massive upgrade, and a big step in the right direction, as it is only a matter of time before wireless charging becomes the norm. The OnePlus 9 specifically supports up to 15W wireless charging, which charges the device in about an hour and a half. The OnePlus 9 does have a 4500 mAh battery, so it is very much on par with what you’d expect anyway.

It is the regular ole wired charger however, that is of note with this smartphone. Warp Charge offers 1-100% in 29 minutes, and from my testing, the 65W charger does just that. It is very convenient to see your phone is low battery, plug it in for a few minutes and forget that it’s there, only to look at it 20 minutes later and see it fully charged. Such is the standard nowadays, and it is something OnePlus has always delivered.

Feedback and Criticism

Microphone Quality

I have always been a big believer in audio quality before video quality. If I was going to watch a concert or a play, I would always choose to have higher quality audio, with a decent enough quality video. And that is one area where I noticed the OnePlus 9 could be improved – the microphone quality was lackluster. While talking, any background noise seemed to confuse the software as to what it wanted to focus on. And I mean any background noise – even adjusting my grip on the phone while talking phased my voice in and out quite significantly. Using it to record singing or instrument playing is not something I would advise, as I found the audio actually peaked quite a lot too. I tested this specifically using an acoustic guitar. Other uses that might be affected by this microphone would be voice messages, phone calls, and voice messages.

Auxillary Port

I might be beating a dead horse here, but I’m still an advocate for an aux port in today’s smartphones. I understand the difficulty in including one, however, I think it would at least be worth the manufacturer’s time to at the very least include an adapter. Most people still have headphones that don’t support wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or otherwise. For example, in my own experience, I use wired headphones as well as a wired speaker on my desk, so realistically, if I’m going to be playing audio through the phone, it’ll be through the phone speakers (which are of a high enough standard to justify doing so). Given that I don’t have to take the bus thanks to the pandemic, this isn’t as much of an issue as it could be. However, I feel obligated to mention it.

This takes me to my last criticism, which I’ve already touched on, but the camera bump – or rather, the lack of compensation for it. A great feature of the OnePlus 8 was the case it came with, as it perfectly compensated for the large camera bump and made it unnoticeable. However, the case that came with the OnePlus 9 feels like it emphasises the bump. I’ve already mentioned the downsides of this previously, but I feel it is worth mentioning it again, as it is an annoyance that seems avoidable, given that it was avoided in the previous generation.

Conclusion

The OnePlus 9 is a solid smartphone. It offers nothing exceptionally special. It is essentially a OnePlus 8 Pro, with some more updated specs here and there, and some different design layouts. I believe it is appropriately priced for what you’re getting, which will make it a competitor for the other high-end smartphones. Having the previous generation pro features in the base model is a nice bonus, such as basic 10W wireless charging and a 120hz screen. It is an elegant-looking device, with a pretty shine to the build.

Pricing

European pricing for the OnePlus 9 is set to start at €699, bumping up to €799 for the 12GB of RAM, 256GB storage variant. It will be available for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk from the 23rd of March, at 3:30 pm GMT. It will be available for general sales at John Lewis and Amazon from the 26th of April.

Post Author: Evin Kierans

Musician, tech enthusiast, gamer, journalist and web designer