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[The Lab] My Review of the Oneplus 9 pro

  1. Kurt_Paris
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 25, 2021

    Kurt_Paris , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Hi Everyone!

    I'm super excited to be part of this edition of The Lab and I'm working on my review of the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is posted further down this thread.


    Do you have any questions about the device? or is there anything you want me to cover in the review? Please leave a comment below and i'll try my best to answer it.


    Review Part 1 (Unboxing, Design, Battery, Oxygen OS) *Updated after Software Update11.2.3.3

    Review Part 2 (Camera & Conclusion)

    Review Part 3 (2000 photos later, Unedited photo gallery)
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021 at 8:58 AM

    #1
  2. Kurt_Paris
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 29, 2021

    Stickied Post
    Kurt_Paris , Mar 29, 2021 :
    [​IMG]

    Let's kick off - Unboxing the Oneplus 9



    First off, here’s a video showing the unboxing of the device Oneplus sent to me. It’s the Oneplus 9 pro 12G/256G in Morning Mist.





    I know it’s just a box which we discard after a few minutes, but I really like that Oneplus went through the effort of putting the phone in such nice packaging. My last 2 phones (non Oneplus) came in a little generic white box, even though they cost close to €1000 - and I must admit it did make me a little sad. So thumbs up for the unboxing experience - it definitely brightened my day.

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    On the subject of Product Design



    I think we’re getting to a point where there are very few variations in how you can design and build a phone nowadays. Most times we have a rectangular square with a screen on one end and a frankenstein camera bump on the other. With some glass and metal to keep it all together.


    With these constraints in mind, I'm impressed at how well laid out the Oneplus 9 pro is. Even with such a big screen and battery, it doesn’t feel big in my hand (and my hands are on the smaller side). The cameras, flash and sensory on the back are grouped together and arranged in a nice layout - with an elegant metal rim around the cluster and individual lenses.


    From a specification point of view, all the bases are well covered - we find the latest Snapdragon processor, 12G of RAM on my variant - and very importantly, UFS 3.1 storage which makes a huge difference to so many operations on the phone. The screen is a lovely 6.7” large and it is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass (and a screen protector to boot)


    The curved but not so curved screen I think achieves a perfect balance of aesthetics - without compromising the user experience - since having too much of a curve as my previous phone did, really does not give you a good screen experience, with odd colours and warping. On the edge of the phone there is the classic OnePlus slider which I really appreciate. Overall the phone feels very solid and well built - buttons have a reassuring click to them and the use of metal in the Pro’s frame adds to the overall sense of quality.


    From the models released this year, if I had to choose I'd probably get the matt black, however the morning mist was a close second for me - ultimately aesthetics are subjective but I like the understated classy look this phone has. The supplied grey case has a very comforting and grippy “soft touch” feel (the kind you find in a nice car) but I would have personally preferred a clear case


    Let’s not forget that the OnePlus 9 is a phone, so as a phone we need it to be able to connect reliably to stuff. Cell reception (I have 4G) and call quality is quite good, with people telling me I sound quite clear. WiFI is fast and seems to connect and hop around the access points in the house well as expected. Connecting to bluetooth devices such as my Sony headphones, Garmin Fenix smartwatch and my old Mazda was quite straightforward and they all worked very well.


    One big part of the phone’s design is the screen - and they’ve really hit a home run here. Colours are really faithful (I use a calibrated screen for photography at home), legibility in Malta’s sunny weather is effortless and the screen is so snappy. Since the screen is slightly curved, the OnePlus 9 uses this to shoot little discrete blue flashes as notifications when the phone is in standby. OnePlus calls this Horizon light - and I REALLY liked it.


    The last point about the display here - Always On Display is a pretty standard feature nowadays, and the Oneplus 9 has this, but there is a little touch which is that the ‘1’ digit in the clock shows up in red instead of white. This adds a touch of fun which I really appreciated


    To finish off, the stereo speakers on the OnePlus 9 pro are a huge upgrade from the little mono setup my previous phone had. This translates to really enjoyable YouTube and Netflix streaming because not only is it louder, but the quality of the sound is richer.




    Let’s talk about Oxygen OS


    There is a lot of talk about how stock Android is this amazing unicorn of happiness - it’s not. Having used both stock android, and even Google’s own Pixel both have their own issues. Stock android has a huge number of missing features, and when you own a Pixel, every other update tends to fix something but also break something else in the phone. I am NOT a fan of either.


    Going on the complete other end of the spectrum we find HuaweI's EMUI and Samsung’s Bloat UI (I think it’s actually called One UI? now) which have their own apps and integrations for pretty much everything under the sun. Over time these have gotten a bit well behaved but with every phone I have had from these manufacturers - there was always some weird niggle that annoyed me. For example with the Huawei, double tapping the screen inside Instagram (used a lot to reposition or resize stories for instance) causes the OS to load HiVision. A completely useless app which interrupts what I'm doing and annoys me…. And there is no way to switch it off easily.


    Where am I going with this? Simple - Oxygen OS contains the bare minimum of things that are ACTUALLY USEFUL on top of a stock Android experience. It’s very stable, easy to customise and basically just gets out of the way and lets me do what I want to do - exactly what I expect from an Operating system.


    To cut a very long story short, I think Oxygen OS is the best Android experience on the market today, hitting the right balance between stock and custom, updates are fairly frequent and It. Just. Works. For me, this is the best reason to buy a OnePlus device.


    PS The new OnePlus font that you can set as the system font makes Android Roboto look positively dated - I really like what they’ve done with this.


    Battery Life and Charging

    Update after Software update 11.2.3.3.LE15BA - I have noticed a distinct improvement in battery life. Since this update, even though i've been using the phone around the same amount, Battery saver has never kicked in during a day, So i'm very happy that we already have an update that addresses this issue. Well Done Oneplus!

    When I plugged the phone into charge, I just started giggling like a kid. At first it started charging so quickly that I thought that it was some bug in the software, some animation that just was more sped up than reality - but nope, this is real. It makes my previous fast chargers feel positively sluggish. In one particular case I had to run out of the house and my battery was at 24% - I plugged it in whilst I changed into a jeans and hoodie and put on a pair of sneakers - boom 43%. Another example is when I had a few minutes between things to do, and I left it plugged in for approximately 10minutes. It went from 15% to 59% charge, in 10 minutes! Amazing.


    The Oneplus 9 has a pretty wide set of charging options - it can charge wirelessly (and I personally like and use wireless charging - A LOT). Since I usually charge my phone overnight, and I like reading or using socials in bed, just putting it on it’s charging pad avoids hunting for cables and sockets. The Oneplus 9 worked very well with my existing charger - it would charge even quicker with the Oneplus warp wireless charger but this was not supplied so I could not test it.


    Whilst charging is pretty amazing, I feel that battery life could have been better. My previous phone gave me 1-2days of battery life and it’s quite comfortable since you completely ignore the fact that your phone even has a battery - you use it, you put it on the charging pad at night - rinse repeat. With the Oneplus 9 - if I use it heavily (as I am for the review), you will need to charge it at some point in the day. The charging experience is pretty much the best around, but I would rather not have to charge my phone during the day at all.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021 at 9:00 AM

    #95
    superplus, otto2, PuCiNhOOO and 9 others like this.
  3. Kurt_Paris
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 29, 2021

    Stickied Post
    Kurt_Paris , Mar 29, 2021 :
    And now: The Camera.


    The main reason for me being interested in the Oneplus 9 is the collaboration that they announced with Hasselblad. This was particularly interesting for a number of reasons - first of all Hasselblad is a legend in the camera world, but if we look closer to home, collaborations between camera companies and mobile phone companies have produced some interesting results before


    From a spec point of view, I think Oneplus nailed the choice of lenses & sensors on the Oneplus 9 pro. Starting off with the main camera we find a very modern sensor combined with a very fast lens (f/1.8) and a very useful 23mm focal length. This camera also has optical stabilisation which can be useful when taking handheld long exposures


    Next up we find the ultra wide camera, and here we also find a fairly large 50MP sensor with a very wide 14mm focal length. The freeform lens here is quite interesting, and the aperture of f/2.2 is quite respectable. I wished this camera also has OIS so that you can take handheld long exposures even with the ultra-wide camera


    Last up is the telephoto camera. It has a smaller sensor than the other 2 .. but… BUT! It’s actually really nice to see that Oneplus has not gone down the route of attaching crazy zoom numbers or periscope cameras, and has instead opted for a very useful f/2.4, 3.3x (77mm) zoom. This focal length is pretty useful for portraits, and even though the camera only produces 8MP images, colours are pretty decent and it will work in fairly dark conditions thanks to the large aperture - definitely a step up from my previous phone.


    So all in all I think the choice of hardware is pretty spot on: Large sensors, sane zoom, good colours.


    Of course it would be all useless if the specifications don’t translate into a good photo - and the first part of that process is the usability of the phone. In this respect the Oneplus 9 pro is extremely responsive - focus is fast and accurate, and when you click the shutter button, it responds very quickly and keeps responding. I used the phone during a portrait photoshoot in studio where I shot many photos in quick succession and the OnePlus 9 pro did not slow down or miss a beat. I can’t stress enough how important this responsiveness is, and the OP9 pro has it


    When it comes to the user experience of the camera software - it’s really simple and easy to use - the modes are clearly defined and it’s very easy to switch around and change things. Pro mode in particular is really easy to use and you can either rely on exposure compensation on top of the phone’s metering - or you can set each setting manually. Pro mode & RAW produce some really detailed images and if you intend editing the images (I edit all photos I take for instance - in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop) it gives you a cleaner image to work with, and more detail in the colours and shadows/highlights.


    On the subject of editing, typically in reviews you find clinical images that are completely neutral to help comparisons. There are already so many of those that show you what you get out of the box - In my review I'm going to go the opposite way. I’m going to showcase what I was able to achieve using all the tools at my disposal - all the modes and cameras on the Oneplus 9 pro, but also the editing software that I use as part of my day to day.


    To summarize before I include a lot of sample images:

    • Ultra wide camera provides really detailed photos with good colour. There is some distortion typical of any ultra wide angle but this is very well controlled - more so than on any other phone camera I've used. Since there is a very wide FOV you can use this to crop & correct the image further if you want

    • Telephoto camera (Photo mode) and Portrait mode give excellent framing for shots of people and portraits. They do have good colour (definitely better than other camera phones I've used) but they will show quite a bit of processing if you look at the files at 100%. When seen on a mobile screen they are very nice

    • Main camera has really detailed RAWs, great colour and very fast focusing. It’s by far the best camera on a phone that I’ve used. I’m particularly happy with this since the images do not look overprocessed.

    • Photo mode (Automatic) typically provides a detailed, processed image that doesn’t go too far like some of the competition that produces really unrealistic images.

    • Super macro mode (if that’s your cup of tea) can be a lot of fun and produce really detailed photos

    • No RAW support for Ultra wide & Telephoto cameras (yet?)

    • I haven’t seen the point or output from the monochrome camera.

    You can find the full gallery of sample images here:
    https://www.kurtparis.com/blog/2021/3/28/oneplus-9-pro-my-review

    But here are some highlights, all these were shot on the OnePlus 9 Pro (Review will continue after the samples). Unless I write otherwise, all these photos have been edited with Adobe Lightroom, and portraits went through the same editing process i use when shooting for clients with my Canon R5 Mirrorless camera.

    People & Portraits
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    Portraits:
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    Crops from RAW shots:
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    Photo mode with Telephoto lens:
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    Ultrawide:
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    Super Macro, Ultra wide & Nightscape
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    Handheld 1/5 sec exposure with main camera:
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    Nightscape:
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    Ultrawide - Architecture & Dynamic range tests
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    Same mode, Same spot - 3 different lenses - Unedited:
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    I'm also including a small movie I made of my morning coffee routine. I am not a videographer by any means and this was recorded (mostly with one hand) in the default settings of the Oneplus 9 Pro. Lighting was not ideal and I had just woken up. Still.. it was really easy to use and the result was a bit of fun



    On the subject of editing

    First of all i want to really give a shout out to Dave aka @Mr West, Yash aka @YRJ and Tiago aka @PuCiNhOOO (Reviewers from previous editions of The Labs) for a really good discussion on this subject. I have glossed over this a bit in the review above but I want to highlight some points which I think are really important here.

    Editing your photos (and i'm not talking about just slapping a filter on here) is key, whatever equipment you're using - but more importantly so on a phone. When we use our phones as cameras we are really fighting physics - the effort to miniaturise all those components and make them work in such a small package comes at a price. If you had to compare any of the photos above at 100% with a similar photo taken with a top end SLR there would be no comparison, not even close. When you try use your camera to make calls, or try put it in your pocket... that is not really possible now is it.

    Another thing to keep in mind is - "where is this photo going to be seen?". If you are intending to use and see your photos on a phone, then you can afford to really push the editing/processing of a photo much farther than what the phone will do by default, and this is the key here. Phone camera software has to fit within a one-size-fits-all profile that covers all the phone's users and all the different ways they will use it. When you are editing a photo, you can tweak it based on your planned usecase and your particular taste.

    Lastly, if you don't edit your photos today, then check out Snapseed or Adobe Lightroom. Even setting some basic parameters such as white balance or exposure can really improve your existing treasured photos. The way I work is that i will shoot using the camera, select my favourites within the gallery app, and then only edit those. Like that i reduce my work, it gives me something to do in my spare time and i have a smaller set of photos to store/backup/display

    I will be posting some unedited photos for completeness, but when you base your choice on these kind of photos I suggest you rely on a controlled test & environment such as the ones done on DxOMark. Also remember that not all phone photos can take the same level of editing, and this you will only know once you edit them :)



    Overall Impressions, Summary & TLDR


    I think the most honest thing I can say here is that if I had paid for this phone, I would be very satisfied with what I received. As a daily driver, the phone is solid - it does what I need it to do with a minimum of fuss and has a “it just works” attitude. The camera is very good, probably the best I’ve ever used so far on a phone - it opens and snaps very quickly, picture quality is good and you have a very useful set of lenses. Battery life is decent and charging using the supplied Warp 65 charger is stupidly fast - you can literally plug it in for a few minutes whilst you change your clothes and have enough charge for a night out


    I like that both a case and screen protector are supplied in the box - I personally would have gone for a different case but it’s nice that from Day 1, your phone is protected should you want to - without having to remember to buy a cover (which I always forget to do).


    Most of all though, with OnePlus I feel that the company really listens to their community - way back in the OnePlus Camera Open ears forums in Hamburg we had asked for - Larger sensors with the option to get images with less processing, Useful megapixel count and focal length (not 100x super/space zoom that is completely useless) and most of all accurate colours. It may have taken a while but here we are - the OnePlus 9 pro ticks all of these boxes, and whether it’s true or not - I'd like to think that I have had some small part in that. So as I finish off this review, here is the last part of my unboxing: A message from Pete Lau




    If you have any questions or comments please ask them below and i'll be happy to answer. Hope you enjoyed this review!

    Kurt
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021

    #96
  4. Kurt_Paris
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Apr 3, 2021

    Stickied Post
    Kurt_Paris , Apr 3, 2021 :
    2,000 Photos later & Unedited samples

    Having used this phone as my primary driver for a few days now, i am getting used to some of the strengths and quirks of the camera system. By far, my favourite part of it is the responsiveness of the camera - you click, it shoots, no delay - happiness.

    In general i'm quite happy with the overall quality you can achieve from the phone - i also had the opportunity to play with it head-to-head with an S21 Ultra. In my unscientific opinion, the S21 Ultra has more capable hardware, and especially when it comes to detail the images i saw with it had that little bit more... but, but the user interface, and the 'wow' editing baked out of the box into the photos is questionable.

    Whilst pro mode is a very usable feature, and one of the strong points of the phone's camera experience, i found that the auto/default photo mode has become my go to. One thing i've really gotten used to as i used the OP9 pro is that if i open the camera, point, click - the result is pretty much what i was expecting - and this builds trust. I know that i have enough detail in the shots that i can tweak as i want in Lightroom (and i do for most files) but out of the box i think OP really nailed the 'look' of the photos. I would have probably preferred a bit less sharpening, especially in some portraits and i really wish OP would introduce the 'silky water' mode i had on my Huawei phone

    To also address a gap in my review, here are some photos that are completely untouched (Full res images can be found here: https://www.kurtparis.com/blog/2021/3/28/oneplus-9-pro-my-review)

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    Last edited: Apr 3, 2021

    superplus, J.e.F, tobias14 and 2 others like this.
  5. Arshad41
    Eclair Mar 25, 2021

    Arshad41 , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Ayy buddy nice video looking forward to seeing more :):)
     

    #2
    otto2 and H1597817985386 like this.

  6. #3
    otto2 and V1598961544136 like this.
  7. AbhilashSaikia
    The Lab - OnePlus 8 Pro Reviewer Mar 25, 2021

    AbhilashSaikia , Mar 25, 2021 :
    First of all, congratulations Kurt!
    Nice quick teaser there. Looking forward to the upcoming parts.
     

    #4
  8. Kurt_Paris
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 25, 2021

    Kurt_Paris , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Thanks everyone 🙂 I have my first photoshoot with the phone tonight so we'll put the camera through its paces then

    So far though without giving too much away, this is a really, really good phone.
     

    #5
  9. MosheG1
    The Lab - OnePlus 8 Pro Reviewer Mar 25, 2021


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  10. Syedfidaali
    Cupcake Mar 25, 2021

  11. K@reem34
    Froyo Mar 25, 2021


    #8
    jlasensiofi and rasta_firasta like this.
  12. Overzee
    The Showcase Reviewer Mar 25, 2021

    Overzee , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Liked the video, I'll keep an eye out for the other thread with your OnePlus 9 Pro review! Good luck on reviewing in the coming days.
     

    #9
    otto2 likes this.
  13. DDemo
    Eclair Mar 25, 2021


    #10
    N1594356372131 and pkg3107 like this.

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  15. Antonio_Luis
    Ice Cream Sandwich Mar 25, 2021

    Antonio_Luis , via OnePlus 8T , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Congratulations on making The Lab! Give us a little history about yourself. How long have you been a OnePlus user? Are you a photographer? I also can't wait to see the rest of your review.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2021

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  16. pkg3107
    Honeycomb Mar 25, 2021


    #14
  17. Sorriso_NWK
    Gingerbread Mar 25, 2021

    Sorriso_NWK , Mar 25, 2021 :
    @Kurt_Paris
    You're not the only clumsy mobile user. Stoked that case is included. The included charger however isn't the Warp charger. Will you have the opportunity to compare speeds with both?
     

    #15
    KaranRIyer likes this.
  18. meatandy
    Oreo Mar 25, 2021

    meatandy , Mar 25, 2021 :
    Are you sure there wasn't a sim tool and OnePlus paperwork under the hardware tray ?
     

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  19. SRD.
    Lollipop Mar 25, 2021


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  20. northbay5566
    Ice Cream Sandwich Mar 25, 2021


    #18
  21. B Lee
    Cupcake Mar 25, 2021


    #20
    SantoshAvasthi likes this.