OnePlus 9 Pro Review – All-in on camera and display

Chris Burns - Mar 23, 2021, 10:00am CDT
OnePlus 9 Pro Review – All-in on camera and display
Editors' Rating: 9/10
Pros
  • Brilliant professional display
  • Elegant industrial design
  • Extraordinary Hassleblad camera array
  • Decent stereo speaker system
  • Out-performs launch price
Cons
  • Punch hole display for front-facing camera
  • Glass front and back demands protective case

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a smartphone with a big, brilliant display and a high powered set of cameras. OnePlus 9 Pro is one of two devices, the other also called OnePlus 9 (without the Pro), with a price that’s over $200 different – with specs to match. With a price starting at approximately $969 for the most basic OnePlus 9 Pro, we’re expecting OnePlus to out-do itself on all fronts.

Hardware

The OnePlus 9 Pro works with a 6.7-inch AMOLED (with LTPO) display with 1440 x 3216 pixel resolution (525 PPI). This device’s display panel has the ability to work with 120Hz image refresh rate and 360Hz touch polling. OnePlus calls their touchscreen touch polling refresh rate “Hyper Touch”, and the image refresh rate “Fluid Display 2.0.”

This display is great, and likely the nearest-to-perfect curved-edge display you’ll have ever seen. OnePlus seems ready to address the nature of the beast with curved displays here, too, as they’ve suggested in press materials: “Compared with the previous generation, the curved display of the OnePlus 9 Pro has been carefully optimized to minimize discoloration and mistouches.”

I’ve not experienced any mistouches in the time we’ve had the device in for review. The only discoloration – or anything like that – we’ve experienced with this device is in the miniscule shadow and/or reflection of the protective case as it rises up and to the side of the display. Such is the nature of the beast.

OnePlus 9 Pro has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. It has 3D Corning Gorilla Glass on its front and on its back, and a body that’s 8.7mm thin. I don’t feel comfortable carrying this device around without a protective case – but then again, I’m not careful enough with phones I carry to consider skipping a case.

OnePlus is conscious of people like me. They ship the OnePlus 9 Pro with a protective screen protector (which you can remove right away, if you wish), and they offer several OnePlus / Evutec cases at launch. The pre-installed screen protector can be seen in the photo below – notice how it, too, has a punch-hole.

We also have the OnePlus standard hardware switch on the right side, near the power/lock button, and a volume rocker on the left. This device also has the ability to tap-to-wake (tap the display to wake it up) and an in-display Fingerprint Sensor.

The version of the OnePlus 9 Pro we’re working with (North America) has GSM, WCDMA, CDMA, LTE, 5G NSA, 5G SA, and 5G mmW NSA. You’ll need to check with your carrier to make sure your device works with their network. We’re also working with 2×2 MIMO, Wi-fi 802.11 2.4G/5G, and Wi-Fi 6. At launch, this device works with T-Mobile 5G, and with Verizon you’ll get 4G LTE. OnePlus suggested they’re working with Verizon to enable 5G ASAP.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has NFC, Bluetooth 5.2, and a set of cameras that steal the show. Take a peek at the Camera section below to learn more about this array.

OnePlus 9 Pro has dual stereo speakers that do not blow out sound – they still sound GOOD when they’re cranked up to maximum volume. They roll with Dolby Atmos audio, the Qualcomm WCD9385 audio codec, Qualcomm Aqstic platform, and they blast out of the bottom of the device (by the USB-C port) and through the grille above the display.

It’s almost a tragedy that the speakers aren’t both facing the user, as they sound highly decent in the positions they’re facing now. They’d border on perfection if they both faced the same direction.

Software

The OxygenOS experience is an iteration of Android that is at once minimal and finely fitted. OnePlus allows the best bits of Android to shine through as it refines the software experience for the unique device: OnePlus 9 Pro.

In this case, that means a unique set of abilities for the camera system, enabled by the unique set of sensors and lenses at the back of the device. It also means enabling a set of display features that the user can choose to work with when they do so desire.

It’s important to note, here, that OnePlus acknowledges the idea that the user may not always want to make use of the 120Hz image refresh rate or the 360Hz* “Hyper Touch” touchscreen polling. You might not always need up to QHD+ resolution or 1,300 nits brightness.

*At the same time, it’s a bummer that touch sync beyond 120Hz only works with a select set of gaming titles, for now. At launch, Hyper Touch works with PUBG Mobile, League of Legends, Brawl Stars, and Call of Duty Mobile. OnePlus suggested that this feature is “coming to more titles soon.”

OnePlus also boasts that “Since the OnePlus 8 Series, OnePlus flagship devices are still the only smartphones supporting Fortnite at 90fps.”

The variety of display adjustments one can make with the OnePlus 9 Pro’s basic settings is extraordinary. Most smartphones do not give the user this wide a variety of controls, or even have the ability to adjust this many elements in the display panel with which they work. Here, OnePlus also makes the process of adjusting the display simple to do and easy to understand, too.

Battery

I’ve never used a device whose battery could last so long OR run out so fast, depending on which settings I’m using. This is a testament to OnePlus’s trust in the user, that they’ve put settings and features in this device that they’re relatively up-front about being experimental and (as a result) have the ability to run the battery out quick, if you want.

If I’ve flipped all the switches for highest performance everything, including 120Hz screen, AI smoothing, peak brightness, touch polling, and I’m playing a game that can take advantage of the lot, I can run the battery out in a matter of hours.

If, on the other hand, I’m using this device as I normally would, the battery lasts for at least a day. If I’m only using this device for the most basic stuff – social networking, email, the occasional photo, this OnePlus 9 Pro’s battery can last for days.

With a 4500mAh battery inside this device, I can charge overnight and not worry about needing to charge until I’m ready to head to bed at the end of the day, easy. This device has a Warp Charge 65T charger in the box with USB-C cord for wired charging, so I’m able to re-charge with extreme speed, too. If I’m using the Warp Charge 50 Wireless charger, I can charge nearly as fast as the wired connection – which is extraordinary.

This charger looks and feels a lot like the similar wireless charger OnePlus released last year, complete with the fan to keep the device cool whilst charging. The phone has a “Bedtime Mode” option that’s made for this wireless charger specifically. With Bedtime Mode, the user can set a period of time where the phone directs the charger to run on low-power, removing the need for a running fan.

Camera

The camera array on this device is spectacular – as it certainly should be, given the claims OnePlus made with Hassleblad for its abilities. The front camera works with a Sony IMX471 16-megapixel sensor with 1.0um pixel size, fixed focus, EIS, and an f/2.4 aperture. This camera is OK. It’s fine for selfies that’ll disappear after they’re sent, but this camera clearly wasn’t the focus of the designers’ efforts in this device.

It’s the backside array of cameras that pack the punch. It’s there that the OnePlus 9 Pro works with a Sony IMX789 1/1.43-inch 48-megapixel sensor. This main camera has a 7P lens array, f/1.8 aperture, 23mm equivalent focal length, OIS, EIS, and 1.12 μm/48M; 2.24 μm (4 in 1)/12M pixel size.

The backside also has a 50-megapixel ultra-wide camera. This camera has a 1/1.56-inch Sony IMX766 sensor, 7P lens array, 14mm equivalent focal length, f/2.2 aperture, and a “Freeform Lens” system. There’s a telephoto camera back here, too: 8-megapixels, 1.0um pixel size, and f/2.4 aperture. The final (of four) cameras is a dedicated 2-megapixel monochrome camera – for real-deal black-and-white photos.

Below you’ll see a gallery of photos captured with the camera’s macro feature activated. We’re getting up close and personal, here – and we’ve scarcely found a photo that didn’t focus as close and on-point as we’d expected it might.

The standard camera app works with Focus Tracking, timelapse, hyperlapse, and an array of filters. In that filter collection is the dedicated monochrome photo mode – which delivers some top-notch results.

This device has Cat/Dog Face focus which works well, just so long as your dog or cat is sitting relatively still. In-motion animals remain as difficult to focus on as ever.

OnePlus 9 Pro has also has a new Tilt-shift mode that allows you to make… goofy photos like the one you’ll see below this paragraph – and there’s Focus Peaking, too.

Focus peaking is particularly useful if you’re aiming to make your photos POP. OnePlus includes all features (Focus Peaking and Tilt-shift and etc as optional. They’re all off by default. The OnePlus 9 Pro takes highly decent photos by default, but allows features like Focus peaking and an array of adjustments in Pro mode* (Focus, EV, Shutter, WB, ISO) so you’re allowed to go all-in if you’re interested in tweaking your output.

To add to the sense that you’re using a device that’s co-branded with the expertise of Hassleblad, the Pro mode is called “Hassleblad Pro Mode” and uses the Hassleblad “H” as its icon.

The images we’ve captured here are part of our extended OnePlus 9 review experience. Take a peek at our OnePlus 9 Review (incoming) to compare how the two devices are capable of capturing photos in a variety of environments.

Wrap-up

If you’ve grown used to the OnePlus “Pro” experience over the last few years, it’ll be difficult to go back to anything less. The OnePlus 9 Pro is a best-in-class smartphone that delivers on the promises made by its cost. This is the sort of phone you can buy and use for years into the future, no sweat.

The OnePlus 9 Pro was announced on March 23, 2021 with a release date of April 2, 2021. The pre-order date for the OnePlus 9 Pro was announced as March 26, 2021, with two price possibilities. The OnePlus 9 Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage (in Morning Mist color) was priced at approximately $969 USD. The OnePlus 9 Pro with 12GB RAM and 256GB internal storage (available in Morning Mist or Pine Green) was priced at approximately $1,069 USD.

The device has a charger in the box – both a warp charger and a USB-C cord – but you can also purchase a OnePlus 9 Warp 50 Wireless Charger to make your premium experience as top-notch as possible. That device will cost you approximately $70, with the same release date and pre-sale date as the phone.

The OnePlus 9 Pro Sandstone Bumper Case in Black or Rock Gray was announced with a price of $24.99 USD. There’s also a OnePlus 9 Pro Karbon Bumper Case (as shown in the photo above), available in black, for around $40 USD. There’ll also be a “OnePlus 9 Pro Unique Bumper Case” available with a “OnePlus Droid” design with a price around $40 USD.


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