OnePlus 9RT 5G vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE – Which one should you get?

  1. yashonagori
    The Lab - OnePlus 8 Pro Reviewer Writers' Club Jan 23, 2022

    yashonagori , Jan 23, 2022 :
    BD6FFDF3-B2BA-4AF5-AAD8-15D50DD3C420.png (banner by @rohitanand)

    Hello people,

    it’s that time of the year when the OnePlus world starts brimming with new launches. With the anticipation of the 10 Pro already in our radars, there has also been the launch of the OnePlus 9RT. This phone is no different than the signature OnePlus value proposition, with features and specs crammed to the brim accompanied by OxygenOS (OOS).

    But let’s approach this device with a different perspective this time. How well does it stack against the competition internally and globally, within its budget category? Because, let’s be honest, when and if you’re looking at this device with a purchase decision in mind, that’s what you’d want to know.

    Before anything else, let’s make sure these are the right devices to compare for you. Here’s who this comparison might suit the best:

    1. Your current device is two to three years old and you don’t want to overspend.

    2. You are looking for a “flagship killer” but are willing to sacrifice camera performance.

    3. You are a casual user who mainly uses your device to socialize and occasionally play games or capture photos and videos.

    4. You are not looking to upgrade from the OnePlus 8 series or beyond that device.

    5. You don’t want to go for the OnePlus 9 or 10 Pro because those additional features are not relevant to you.​

    With that out of the way, in this article I’ll be going over the two best available options in this price range in my opinion, namely, the OnePlus 9RT and the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.

    The OnePlus 9RT is more of a successor to the OnePlus 9 rather than the 9R because the specs are oddly similar to the 9 while undercutting the price. The only major difference would be in the cameras and, quite honestly, camera enthusiasts highly lean towards the “Pro” devices anyway.

    On the other hand, we have the S21 FE (or the S21 Fan Edition), a lineup introduced by Samsung with the S20 Series, which is supposed to be a fan favorite device that undercuts the regular S Series with its price, while giving a similar flagship experience.

    If you look at it with a bird’s eye view, both devices are quite similar in terms of where they stand in the market. Both devices queue next in line to their brand’s flagship counterparts, making a few sacrifices here and there to bring down the price.

    Like always, I’m not going to dive too deep into the spec sheets of these devices. For your ease, here’s a detailed comparison between the three devices I’ll be talking about further in this article. Mind you, on paper, these are wildly similar except for a few minor differences and that’s what makes them fight together.

    Compare OnePlus 9RT 5G vs. OnePlus 9 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (GSMArena.com).

    For this comparison, I’ll break it down into two parts: (1) What’s similar and (2) What’s different. Since what’s similar won’t really make a difference in your decision, we’ll largely focus on what’s different to make sure you’re able to make a well-informed purchase knowing what you’d be getting into.

    What’s similar?

    1. The displays
    Both feature Full HD AMOLED displays with 120 Hz refresh rates. Technically, Samsung might have the edge since they manufacture these panels themselves, but you can expect similar and astonishing displays from both devices.

    2. The internals
    Both offer similar RAM and storage options. Depends from user to user.

    3. The speakers
    Both support stereo sound with dual speaker output.

    4. Connectivity
    Both devices support Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. OnePlus does have Bluetooth 5.2 as compared to 5.0 on the Samsung device.

    What’s different?

    1. The performance
    Even though Samsung claims that the Exynos lineup has stepped up to compete with its Snapdragon (SD) counterparts, that’s not really worth a penny considering the SD 888 beats the Exynos 2100 fair and square in both benchmarks and real-life performance.

    To top it off, we can all agree that OOS is a superior Android skin to OneUI. However, props to Samsung for making incremental improvements in their ROM over the past few iterations. On the other hand, OOS might be nearing its end, so that can be concerning for a lot of users.

    For me, OnePlus take the win here.

    2. The cameras
    I strongly believe that one should inspect real-life camera samples rather than read about them to compare these two devices. Now, since I couldn’t convince @dsmonteiro to send me both devices (Or even one for that matter), I resorted to the next best alternative.

    Here’s a really good camera comparison from Trakin Tech English on YouTube (starts at 5:03):

    If you don’t wish to watch the whole thing, here are my takeaways:
    • Both devices produce similar levels of detail.
    • Unfortunately for OnePlus, Samsung does HDR and color reproduction much better in almost ALL scenarios except for Night Mode, something the OnePlus does better. These are two of the main differentiating factors in modern smartphones and Samsung takes triumph here.
    • The macro lens on the 9RT yet again proved to be a useless gimmick and Samsung’s telephoto takes better macro shots.
    • Samsung let's you record 4K video with its front camera as well, something that's absent on the 9RT. Not only that, the quality is miles better too in terms of dynamic range and true-to-life color reproduction.
    Now even though you can’t expect flagship-level camera performance from these devices, Samsung does bring a really good camera experience with the S21 FE that easily beats the OP 9RT. However, as I mentioned earlier, these phones aren’t meant to impress camera enthusiasts and the 9RT produces images that are easily acceptable for Social Media and general use.

    Camera enthusiasts should opt for the Pro devices anyway, so this sacrifice wouldn’t mean much to the average user. At the same time, OP does improve camera performance with software updates, but you can’t really buy phones hoping for a future improvement that no one even promised.

    Samsung takes the win here.

    3. The batteries
    Both phones feature a 4500 mAh battery. However, S21 FE only supports 25-watt charging while the 9RT features a whopping 65-watt support, which promises to take your phone from 0-100 in just 29 minutes. Needless to say, Samsung is left quite far behind in this race.

    OnePlus take the win here.

    4. The hardware
    The 9RT features a fully glass-built design, whereas the S21 FE features a cheaper feeling plastic back. Personally, I use a cover all the time, so neither would make a real difference. This is all up to personal preference since both designs have their pros and cons.

    5. The pricing
    After discounts, you can cop the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE for about Rs. 50,000 and the OnePlus 9RT for about Rs. 39,000 on Amazon. For anyone looking for a device in this category, that difference of about 25% can be huge given they are competing head-to-head when it comes to real-life performance in all aspects.

    OnePlus take the win here.

    If we go back to where we started and consider the fact that we are NOT looking for the best camera performance in these devices, and otherwise too, the OnePlus 9RT takes a clear victory.

    As for my camera enthusiast fellows, I would propose you ask two questions:

    (1) Are you NOT planning to buy/upgrade your camera in the near future? (2) Are you okay sacrificing performance and battery life on your phone?

    If the answer to BOTH of those questions is yes, only then go for the S21 FE and spend the extra bucks. On the other hand, if you are looking for a device that does phone things better and serves a decent camera experience, go for the OnePlus 9RT.

    With that being said, ONLY go for any of these devices if you urgently need to replace your phone. These are not generational leaps and rather just filler phones in between cycles. With the OnePlus 10 Pro and the Samsung S22 Series right around the corner, I would strongly suggest waiting if you can afford to.

    Phew, that was a lot. But I’m really glad we did this because, personally, I know which device I would go for between these two, since I know what sets them apart and what fits my needs better.

    Lemme know what you think below!

  2. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Jan 23, 2022

  3. HarshKK14
    Jelly Bean Jan 23, 2022

    HarshKK14 , via OnePlus 7 , Jan 23, 2022 :
    we can all agree that OOS is a superior Android skin to OneUI : NO WAY

    I am not a person who takes many pictures. So I am fine with a decent camera setup. Performance is very important for me. So I'll choose OnePlus 9RT, assuming OOS doesn't become the worst Android skin in the market.

  4. 06222021
    Cupcake Jan 23, 2022

  5. C1574007010763
    Eclair Jan 23, 2022

    C1574007010763 , via OnePlus 7 , Jan 23, 2022 :
    Definitely S21 FE (would prefer S21 though), looks and feels much premium unlike Oppo.
    Better customer support unlike Oppo.
    We should definitely start calling it, Oppo 9RT.

  6. C1574007010763
    Eclair Jan 23, 2022

    kikham, abbyck, AnonymousAnas and 3 others like this.
  7. M1642928326689
    Cupcake Jan 23, 2022

  8. Sid_Ck
    Ice Cream Sandwich Jan 23, 2022

    Sid_Ck , Jan 23, 2022 :
    Samsung for sure just for the software experience and not for buggy and scrappy oxygen OS wearing color os

    Dhiraj Kumar Saha and enorkrahul like this.
  9. WartleS
    Gingerbread Jan 23, 2022

  10. enorkrahul
    Eclair Jan 24, 2022

  11. CosmicPaladin
    Jelly Bean Writers' Club Jan 24, 2022

    yashonagori likes this.
  12. J.OwL
    Cupcake Jan 24, 2022

    yashonagori likes this.
  13. Kushal_Gowda_A
    Ice Cream Sandwich Jan 24, 2022

    yashonagori and Starcommander like this.
  14. Athresh_Bhat
    Ice Cream Sandwich Jan 24, 2022

    yashonagori and Yijiayijia like this.
  15. AriEs_
    Eclair Jan 24, 2022

    AriEs_ , via OnePlus Nord CE , Jan 24, 2022 :
    Oos was a great os when it didn't merged with colour os . But now u don't have any match with One ui . And the main funny thing is that nowadays Cos 12 is better than Oos . Oppo is providing faster updates then OnePlus .

    yashonagori likes this.
  16. Girish.Pranav
    KitKat Jan 24, 2022

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  17. mallu.achayan
    Honeycomb Jan 24, 2022

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  18. Sid_Ck
    Ice Cream Sandwich Jan 24, 2022

    Sid_Ck , Jan 24, 2022 :
    Nice on a oneplus community everyone is selecting s21FE as their choice it clearly shows where OnePlus is heading.

  19. MySelfNetaji
    Gingerbread Jan 24, 2022

    yashonagori likes this.