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OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro review: Much ado about something


We compared smartphones from new OnePlus 9 series that is marginally better but also pricier than its predecessor. We also let you know whether or not Hasselblad really brought something to the table

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I have observed, online and offline, an increasing number of (former?) fans of OnePlus fatigued by the number of phone releases. Maybe it is time we congregate to collectively draft a Change.org petition to BBK Electronics Corporation, the parent company of OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo and Realme, to release fewer phones. Of late, writing a review for OnePlus phones has become an irksome assignment as there is hardly anything new to talk about.

‘Another OnePlus phone that is marginally better but also pricier than its predecessor’ — this one-line verdict will apply to the last five or six OnePlus phones.

This sentiment is a far cry from the excitement around the brand in its early years. The invite-only system gave it an air of exclusivity and garnered a cult following. As it tried to capture a wider market, it shed its image of an indie band with a faithful following. The company, until 2018, released a maximum of two phones a year. There was an expectation ahead of what is going to come next.

From 2019 onwards, however, they have been releasing four phones a year with some additions. When a few photos of OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro leaked, I wondered, ‘Who are these people who can’t wait until the phone’s launch? It is now a recurring event, anyway.’

Now that the OnePlus 9 series (9 and 9 Pro) has launched, let us see what they pack.

The usual good things

The 9 series is OnePlus’s first release since its co-founder Carl Pei’s exit last October. But this has not affected the way the usual looks or performance of the phones. There is no big departure from the usually elegant OnePlus design. The 9 Pro, which has a 6.7-inch display, is great to watch videos but difficult to carry around, especially as it weighs 197 grams. I am not a great fan of phones with glossy finishes because they are prone to finger-smudges. This can be rectified with an all-black protective case but it makes the phone heavier. The OnePlus 9, meanwhile, has a 6.55-inch display and weighs 183 grams.

The 9 Pro has a 3216 X 1440 pixels 525 ppi display compared to 9’s 2400 x 1080 pixels 402 ppi. Both phones have a 120 Hz refresh rate. The 9 Pro has a ‘Smart 120 Hz’ option, which will automatically adjust the refresh rate depending on your usage. You can save battery life by turning down the resolution or refresh rates but that is like buying a sports car and worrying about fuel efficiency.

In any case, you don’t have to worry about the 4,500 mAh battery running out on both phones. Because a full refill, with Warp Charge 65T, takes just half an hour. The 9 Pro also supports 50 Watt Wireless Charging, which means it can charge from 0 to 100 in 45 minutes if you use OnePlus’s Warp Charge 50 wireless charger.

OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9
 
| Photo Credit:
OnePlus

The performance of the phones are not different; both are swift and smooth. They use a Snapdragon 888 processor, which promises faster clock speeds and comes with a new Qualcomm Spectra 580 ISP for better signal processing. They operate on Oxygen OS (based on Android 11). They are available in two variants — 8GB RAM/128GB storage and 12GB RAM/256GB storage.

The Hasselblad hype

Camera has been a thorn in the flesh for OnePlus since they started veering towards the flagship segment. Compared to budget phones, OnePlus’s camera has been miles ahead. Users of the iPhone or Pixel, especially those who are serious about photography, have never been satisfied with OnePlus’ cameras. Which is why the company decided to make the camera its USP in the latest series.

OnePlus, in March, announced a three-year partnership with Swedish camera manufacturers Hasselblad. Neil Armstrong and Co used these cameras during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. OnePlus reiterated this in one of their video ads for the 9 series, in which a boulder-sized moon rolls in our cities. This was OnePlus promising us the moon.

Frankly, the camera does not live up to its hype. There isn’t a significant difference between the cameras of 9 and 9 Pro. The 9 Pro has a quad-cam setup: a 48-megapixelmain camera, 50-megapixel ultrawide camera, 8-megapixel telephoto camera and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera. The telephoto camera is absent in 9.

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro
 
| Photo Credit:
OnePlus

I have been using OnePlus 8T’s camera for a while now. I did not see a world of difference in 9 and 9 Pro’s cameras despite the Hasselblad branding. In the automatic mode, the colours were more vibrant than they were in 8T. Photography enthusiasts will like the ultrawide camera. The telephoto lens with 3.3x magnification works well in well-lit conditions but loses the image quality if you digital-zoom. The monochrome camera, meanwhile, is just a gimmick. Why do you need a separate camera when you can get good black-and-white photos with in-built filters or by reducing the saturation?

The OnePlus cameras are good enough to make a birthday video or a fun vlog. They are not, however, equipped to shoot a short film. With OnePlus 9 Pro, you can shoot up to 8K 30 or 4K 120. The images appear over-processed and the video quality falls short of the camera powerhouses like the Pixel series, Samsung’s Galaxy range, and the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max.

OnePlus’s partnership with Hasselblad will go on for the next three years. It has also promised US$150 million on camera development. So, future OnePlus phones are likely to have better cameras.

However, if you are willing to overlook 9 Pro’s marginally superior camera and want to opt for a smaller phone, then 9 (at ₹54,999 for the 12GB RAM variant) will be the better choice. Meanwhile, pricing the 9 Pro at ₹69,999 (for the 12GB RAM variant), OnePlus has well and truly entered the flagship fight.

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