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[The LAB] OnePlus 9 Pro 5G Review by E.J. Yu

  1. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Placeholder Image (Version 3).png

    Hey everyone! My name is E.J. Yu, and this is my review thread for the new OnePlus 9 Pro 5G. OnePlus was kind enough to send me a review unit. But just because OnePlus provided me with one doesn't mean I'll be going easy on them. This week, we're going to be objectively looking at the OnePlus 9 Pro in its entirety. However, what I'm most interested in is the camera system this generation because OnePlus made an extremely big deal about the cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro leading up to March 23rd. Additionally, I will also be looking into:
    • What OnePlus did right with the OnePlus 9 Pro,
    • What they didn't do well (and what they can do to improve),
    • How the OnePlus 9 Pro holds up in real-world usage, and
    • Whether or not this is something I would actually recommend to people.
    And of course, I'll be throwing in little bits of other commentary here and there because, ultimately, there is a lot more to talk about than just what went right, what went wrong, and how this phone holds up.

    Throughout the week, I will be adding to this thread as I finish my observations and analysis of each category planned to make an appearance in this review. So check back often to see what's new with me and my OnePlus 9 Pro review!

    Also, in addition to this written review, I will be making a video review and posting that to my YouTube channel hopefully before the end of April. (Early-May at the very latest.) Stay tuned for more information about that!

    Finally, if you're interested in learning more about me and my work, don't forget to check out the About the Reviewer section at the bottom of my review for my social media links and a quick bio.

    Now with that all said, let's review this, shall we?




    Review Outline

    1. Unboxing
      What's included?

    2. Build Quality and Design
      Physical Hardware Analysis / Overall Design Critique

    3. Tech Specs
      CPU / GPU / RAM

    4. Display
      Resolution / Refresh Rate / Viewing Angles / Screen Protector / Usability

    5. OxygenOS
      The Look / The Feel / The Love

    6. Cameras
      Camera System / Photos / Videos / Quality Assessment

    7. Battery Life & Charging
      Screen On-Time / Daily Breakdown / Charging Times

    8. Honorable Mentions
      Connectivity / Call Quality / Speakers / Ports / microSD / SIM / 5G / Wi-Fi 6 / Pricing

    9. Final Assessment
      OnePlus 9 Pro and the OnePlus 9 Series: The Truth

    10. About the Reviewer
      E.J. Yu — YouTube.com/EJYu




    For the best viewing experience, I recommend reading through this review thread on a desktop web browser. Each category on this review thread will be heavily formatted, and that formatting may not be supported on the OnePlus Community mobile app.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021 at 11:19 PM

    #1
  2. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Unboxing

    P1344635_Edit_2.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G's Retail Box (U.S. Variant)

    The OnePlus 9 Pro comes in a fairly large matte-textured box, predominantly sporting a vivid red color that pops regardless of where you place the box. The "OnePlus 9 Pro 5G" and "Co-developed with Hasselblad" holofoil text engravings also have a pronounced luster that makes the text appear different depending on your viewing angle. Overall, the box itself is both simple and elegant, and I'm all for it. This consistency in the box's minimalist design alongside its eye-catching vividness in color communicates a sense of luxury while still maintaining the traditional OnePlus design language.

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    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G's Retail Box: Opened

    Sliding off the box's eye-catching red lid immediately reveals the OnePlus 9 Pro itself, resting peacefully on top of a piece of white cardboard. Right underneath the phone is a text engraving that reads, Never Settle. Two pull tabs are also immediately visible in this view: one to assist the user in pulling out the phone itself, and one for pulling up the white cardboard sheet.

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    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G's Retail Box: Exposed Cardboard Sheet Unpacked

    Inside the box of the North American variant, you will find the following:
    • Your OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
    • Warp Charge 65 Power Adapter
    • Warp Charge USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable
    • Various Documentation and Assistive Parts:
      • A OnePlus Welcome Letter
      • Quick Start Guide
      • Safety Information and Warranty Card
      • OnePlus Stickers
      • One SIM Eject Tool (attached to the Welcome Letter)

    P1344795_Edit.jpg
    Wrapped OnePlus 9 Pro and Documentation

    The white cardboard sheet that the OnePlus 9 Pro sits on top of has a compartment underneath it, holding the documentation. This is where you'll be able to find the OnePlus Welcome Letter, Quick Start Guide, Safety Information, Warranty Card, as well as your brand new OnePlus stickers. The pull tab will help guide you to the location of the opening for this compartment.

    I'm not sure about you guys, but I think the stickers are easily the best part about this entire pullout.

    P1344802_Edit.jpg
    Emphasis on the opened documentation compartment and the OnePlus Welcome Letter, Quick Start Guide, and Safety Information packet

    I heard that some other OnePlus 9 Pro reviewers received a case with their review units, but I didn't. Although I was a little bit bummed out about that, I ultimately don't really mind since the North American variant of the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't advertised to include a case in the box anyway. So at least the unboxing you're seeing here is much more accurate to what you would actually get if you were to purchase a OnePlus 9 Pro for yourself. I didn't get a case with my unit, and you won't be getting one included in your box either. At least, for those in North America, that is.

    And that's pretty much it for the unboxing. Like the box itself, the unboxing experience is also simple and elegant. You get the phone, your documentation, a power brick, and a charging cable—that of which can be used for data transfers too, by the way. It's a very straightforward and uncluttered unboxing process that provides you with the bare minimum of smartphone essentials. And by "essentials," I'm referring to things like the included 65-watt power adapter and the charging cable. Although it could be argued that we should be getting more from a smartphone like this, at least we're getting a power adapter in the box with this generation's OnePlus 9 Pro. That's something that some smartphone manufacturers—*cough* like Apple *cough*—haven't been including in the box anymore, which is such an atrociously anti-consumer move for any company to be making. Time will only tell when OnePlus will make this move, and I sincerely hope that OnePlus doesn't follow this trend of excluding the inclusion of a power adapter in the box of their future products (because, unlike the case of the headphone jack, a charger is—arguably—much more essential). But for the time being, we can at least be appreciable of the fact that your OnePlus 9 Pro will come with a power adapter this generation. A good 65-watt power adapter, that is. Let's hope things stay this way for generations to come.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #2
    hennes, Bouncer71, KaranRIyer and 8 others like this.
  3. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Build Quality and Design

    And here it is: the OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist. Don't get confused though—that's just OnePlus's fancy way of saying silver.

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    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist

    There are two other OnePlus 9 Pro colorways: Pine Green and Stellar Black. The variant featured in this review will be Morning Mist (as pictured). However, do keep in mind that not all colorways are given the same finish. The Pine Green variant sports a double-layered matte finish, while Stellar Black sports a frosted single-layered matte finish, which are both extremely different in terms of look, feel, and function compared to Morning Mist's mirror-like, smudge-collecting, glossy glass finish. So, again, do keep these differences in mind when reading or watching the various OnePlus 9 Pro reviews you come across, as the look and feel of one color variant cannot be said to be the same for the others.

    Although, I do have to admit that I'm really glad OnePlus sent me this Morning Mist color variant. Silver-colored tech is generally my preferred color variant for my technology. There's just something so aesthetically pleasing to me about silver devices. Do you like silver-colored tech too? Let me know in the replies!

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    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist: Closeup of the Top-Half of the Back

    The overall design of the OnePlus 9 Pro is... familiar, to put things nicely. It's not a particularly exciting nor unique look. But that's also not really a bad thing.

    Both the front and back sides of the phone are made out of Gorilla Glass, and the entirety of the frame is made out of metal—including the buttons. The only prominent and immediately-noticeable application of plastic on the OnePlus 9 Pro is the plastic protective mesh sitting in front of the earpiece. But with how minor of a part this is, I think it's safe to say that we can forget about that on the topic build materials. This means that the OnePlus 9 Pro can pass off as a glass and metal phone, which is good since plastic exteriors on a smartphone at this price premium should never be a thing. That's a pill that some premium smartphone manufacturers—like Microsoft with their plastic-framed Surface Duo, for example—still need to swallow. But let's save the talk about price premiums for a little bit later.

    The sides of the phone are amazing to hold, especially along the long edges. The way that the glass front and back spills over those edges makes it feel as though the glass is melting into the frame. The OnePlus 9 Pro sports some very nice-feeling rounded corners as well, and they don't dig into your palm too much when handling the device, so the comfort factor in this smartphone still exists.

    Now, unfortunately, this curving of the glass along those long edges does worsen the structural integrity of the phone by making it much more prone to major damage if the impact of the drop in question makes direct contact to the glass parts of said edges. Fortunately, if you're one of those people who never drop your phone, then you got nothing to worry about. But coming back to the topic of design, glass is glass. And for a lot of people, the texture of glass might not be very easy to grip. Glass is a smudge-collecting, fragile, slippery material, so if you can't keep your grip on glass, then this design should be a concern to you. Don't drop it!

    P1355012_exportedFrame.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist: This is what it looks like in-hand from afar.

    But although the OnePlus 9 Pro is sensitive to damage, it has a very nice-looking and presentable structural design. For many people, the design of OnePlus 9 Pro may scream "fashion over function," but, overall, we can still come to appreciate how the design of OnePlus 9 Pro has...
    1. A pleasant look and feel, and
    2. The necessary build materials required to—at the very least—stand a change against violent and vigorous bends.
    Although this design might not do so great with drops, this application of metal and glass will definitely hold up against reasonable forms of bending.

    On another note, I do have some beef with the design choices made specifically for the Morning Mist color variant. Particularly with the gradient on the back of the phone. OnePlus intended for the gradient to resemble fog on a glossy mirror, as to honor their nature-inspired theme going on across the lineup's colorways. But the problem is that the lower-half of the gradient, where the mirror effect begins to stand out, only works best when there's no subject reflecting onto it. Most of the time, the back of your phone isn't going to look like Figure A. It's going to look like Figure B, and more so like Figure C—emphasizing the reflections of your fingers much more than other glass sandwich phones.

    P1355113_Edit.jpg
    Figure A: The OnePlus 9 Pro in-hand with a mostly reflection-free back.

    P1355111_Edit.jpg
    Figure B: The back of the OnePlus 9 Pro, out of hand, heavily reflecting its surroundings.
    P1355126_Edit.jpg
    Figure C: The back of the OnePlus 9 Pro in-hand, reflecting my fingers.

    And the sharpness of the subjects that are sometimes reflected into the mirror-like lower-half of the gradient does not contrast very well alongside the flat, nonreflecting light greys of the upper-half of the gradient. Now, of course, everyone's tastes are different, and this perception of color and neumorphic design will always be inconsistently subjective; however, if it were me, I would have made the entire back of the OnePlus 9 Pro—including the colored area of the camera bump—either a complete mirror finish or a completely flat light grey color. But not both. Not a gradient fading between the two. And my reason for this would be to maintain an esthetic consistency across the OnePlus 9 Pro's design. The only problem with my solution, however, is that it wouldn't exactly fit the "morning mist" theme that OnePlus was trying to apply across their phones. So, in that case, if OnePlus were to consider this feedback, but would also insist on keeping this shimmering grey-to-mirror gradient for the purpose of maintaining that nature-inspired morning mist theme, then my final suggestion in response to this would be to at least make the glossy mirror finish on this gradient somewhat frosted, or somewhat more translucent than it is right now.

    Slides of the OnePlus 9 Pro.jpg .​
    Sides of the OnePlus 9 Pro.
    Leftmost Image: The device's LEFT side.
    Centermost Image: The bottom of the device..
    Rightmost Image: The device's RIGHT side.
    Looking around the device, we can see buttons, microphone cutouts, speaker grills, an outline of the SIM card tray, and a USB-C port. Unfortunately, there's no headphone jack on the OnePlus 9 Pro, which may be the one thing that makes or breaks some people's decision to buy this phone, but what this does have is an alert slider.

    And I love the alert slider.

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    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist: Closeup of the Right Side — Emphasis on the Alert Slider and Power Button

    The alert slider makes volume control in tight situations so convenient. This is a feature that all smartphones should have, no questions asked. Kudos to you, OnePlus, for being one of the few premium Android smartphone producers to rock a physical alert slider.

    So, overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro's design isn't something we haven't seen before. It's your traditional glass sandwich, but elevated in some ways. In the case of Morning Mist, the design might come off as boring or uninspiring to some people, but a lot of us need to understand that this still looks pretty good. It doesn't need to look special to be special. Now, you can't say that about every smartphone, but, in the case of the OnePlus 9 Pro at least, this design works just "well enough" to give you a premium-feeling phone. And I'm okay with that. OnePlus didn't really need to do anything more with this 9 Pro colorway.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #3
    hennes, Crystal Z., Bouncer71 and 7 others like this.
  4. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Tech Specs

    P1355009_exportedFrame (Large).jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist

    Alright, now let's get the technical specifications laid out really quick. In this review, I got the OnePlus 9 Pro with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. For the full spec sheet that's provided by OnePlus on their website, you can click here or visit the link below.

    OnePlus 9 Pro Tech Specs: https://www.oneplus.com/9-pro/specs

    But as far as the important components go, here's the roundup of my review unit's specs:

    • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 @ 2.84 GHz (ARM64)
    • GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 660 @ 840 MHz (integrated graphics)
    • Memory: 12 GB of LPDDR5 RAM
    • Storage: UFS 3.1 2-Lane Storage
    • Battery: 4,500 mAh (non-removable)
      • Dual-cell design, where each cell is 2,250 mAh
    • Ports: See below.
      • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
      • Single nano-SIM slot — no dual SIM support w/ this model
    • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 and 5G (mmWave)
    Select categories will be given their own section on this review thread.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #4
  5. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Display

    I think it's safe to say that the display is the one thing that everyone interacts with the most on a smartphone. And with the OnePlus 9 Pro, you can't go wrong with this display.

    P1355089_Edit_Cropped_Smaller.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G: Display / Home Screen

    Here's a quick roundup of what you'll be getting out of this display:
    • Size: 6.7"
    • Resolution: WQHD+ (3216x1440)
    • Refresh Rate: 120 Hz
    • Panel: Fluid AMOLED Display (Laminated)
    • Aspect Ratio: 20.1:9
    • Pixel Density: 525 PPI
    • Other Noteworthy Info: See below.
      • Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid (LTPO) Display Technology — included primarily for adaptive refresh rate support
      • Color Gamut: 139% sRGB / 110% DCI-P3 (via DisplayMate)
      • Color Accuracy: 100% sRGB / 98% AdobeRGB (via SpyderX w/ DisplayCAL — sensor measurements ONLY)
    The display is easily one of the most outstanding parts about the OnePlus 9 Pro. It earned an A+ rating from DisplayMate for its "uniformly consistent top tier display performance" during performance assessments. More information about this is publicly available on the official report from DisplayMate.

    IMG_E0172_Smaller.JPG
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G: Display / Lock Screen

    But you don't even need to read the report from DisplayMate to fully grasp how advanced this display technology is. Just look at it—pick it up—and you'll immediately be welcomed by the vividness and the perspicuous sharpness that OnePlus brags about on the 9 Pro's spec sheet. You get a lovely color-accurate and high-resolution OLED display that supports high refresh rates at its highest screen resolution setting.

    And you read that right. The OnePlus 9 Pro's display indeed supports high refresh rates at its highest screen resolution. Which means you will actually be able to experience 120 Hz at 1440p! Not only is this just straight-up impressive, but it's hands-down the most appreciable part about the OnePlus 9 Pro considering that many other competitors in its class advertise high resolution displays and high refresh rates, but not the utilization of both features at the same time. (For example, the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G has a display with a screen resolution maxing out at about 1440p, or WQHD+. However, you cannot set the refresh rate to 120 Hz unless you lower the resolution down to 1080p, or FHD+, which I think is extremely bogus.)

    So for those who haven't gotten the picture yet, you're getting a display that's much better than most smartphones out on the market right now. OnePlus is doing you a lot of favors here, and it would be quite idiotic for anyone to say that this display isn't a good one. Especially once you find out that this is also a 10-bit display that...
    • Is capable of showing over one billion colors,
    • Supports HDR10+, and
    • Gets reasonably bright, up to 1,300 nits.
    Oh, whoops. Spoiler alert.

    IMG_E0152_Edit_Smaller.jpg
    OnePlus Settings > Display > Advanced > Refresh Rate > Smart 120Hz

    There's just a slight catch with that whole "120 Hz at 1440p" situation though. The OnePlus 9 Pro's software won't let you navigate this phone at that 120 Hz high refresh rate all the time. Instead, the software utilizes the display's LTPO technology to offer the user a feature dubbed Smart 120Hz, which is found within the OnePlus 9 Pro's Display Settings. In a nutshell, the Smart 120Hz feature enables adaptive refresh rate for your OnePlus 9 Pro's display, and regulates said refresh rate (on the software's side) depending on the transformative state of the content in question on your display. In other words, this display's refresh rate can increase up to 120 Hz for when you're scrolling through content, down to 60 Hz or 24 Hz for online video content, and all the way down to 1 Hz for when everything shown on-screen is stationary or inanimate—such as when you're viewing a photo, reading a web article, or just admiring your OnePlus 9 Pro's beautiful home screen. There's a little bit more to the Smart 120Hz feature than that, but this explanation should be enough to communicate the basic idea as to how it works.

    The only problem I have sometimes with this adaptive refresh rate solution is that there are visible stutters at times when scrolling through infinitely scrollable pages, and you can clearly tell that this is that "Smart 120Hz" behind this occasional imperfection. Thankfully, this is something that can be fixed in a future software update, so I wouldn't let this feature—nor other parts of the software—be a reason to not get the OnePlus 9 Pro. OnePlus may not have too great of a reputation right now with software, but I'm convinced that they'll be on top of things with the OnePlus 9 Pro.

    IMG_0070_exportedFrame_Edit_Smaller.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro Outdoors — A view of the display under harsh sunlight

    The viewing angles are great, and there doesn't seem to be any signs of tinting, nor any instances of a color shift or brightness shift when rotating the phone. There's a visible holepunch cutout for the front-facing camera (which looks just fine to me), and the display seems to be laminated properly seeing as to how the area around the front-facing camera cutout has no light bleeding imperfections (unlike what some previous OnePlus smartphones have suffered from—such as with the case of select OnePlus Nord models).

    Additionally, the display also curves over the edge. Now, I'll be honest with you guys: I do like smartphone displays that are curved over the edges. But only under the condition that the software is good enough to block accidental touches. I didn't think I'd trigger accidental touch inputs along the edges, but this ended up happening to me quite a number of times with my OnePlus 9 Pro. And now, as a result, I don't really find this curved-edge display very attractive. Thankfully, like the case of the stuttering I've been getting with Smart 120Hz, this can easily be fixed with a software update. But unlike the case of the stuttering with Smart 120Hz, I also have a really low tolerance for the processing of accidental touches along curved-edge smartphone displays. So OnePlus needs to address this very soon, or else I might not want to daily drive this phone anymore.

    Also, it isn't very easy to navigate the display one-handed. Don't get me wrong: I love tall displays, but this is a smartphone sporting a really tall display without any first-party reachability features, or one-handed modes, built into the software. And we kind of need features like that with tall smartphones. Yeah, sure, there are tons of options available on Google Play that I could download and use right now, but let's be real: they've never been as good as the first-party reachability features you get on, let's say, a Samsung phone with One UI 3. So, as of this review, you'll have to do some mild hand acrobatics in order to reach your thumb to the top of the OnePlus 9 Pro in certain situations.

    IMG_E0154_Edit_Smaller.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro in hand with a slight view of the curved display

    But regardless of my concurrent issues with the OnePlus 9 Pro's curved edges or the lack of reachability assist features, this is still a pretty good display. And for piece of mind, your OnePlus 9 Pro also comes with a pre-installed plastic screen protector to protect against any possible scratches or scuffs.

    You can easily see the pre-installed screen protector by looking around the front-facing camera cutout or even the sides of the device—which is where the edges of the plastic screen protector are most visible. It's applied with an endearing amount of precision, so you can say goodbye to those plans you might have had for buying a screen protector for your OnePlus 9 Pro. (At least, until the one pre-installed wears off. Whenever that will happen.) OnePlus will cover that expense for you.

    How thoughtful of you, OnePlus!

    Screen Protector Outline (Smaller).png
    Visible edges of the pre-installed plastic screen protector on the OnePlus 9 Pro (circled)

    So what can we get out of this Display section of my review thread? Well, one thing's for sure: this display is a lot better than what you would get with most other smartphones on the market right now. See, I even bolded that sentence for you so you'd get the idea baked into your head. Skeptics, listen up. This is some serious display technology you're getting in the OnePlus 9 Pro, and I'm not pulling your leg nor trying to pull off some "salesman-type tactics" when I say that this is one of the best smartphone displays you'll ever find. That's literally just how it is—both on the spec sheet, and in real life. And for you photographers out there: if you know how to look for certain colors with the averted vision technique, it'll take seconds for you to realize that this actually is the smartphone display of people's dreams. It's very color-accurate, very high-resolution, very smooth-looking, and, overall, just so aesthetically pleasing to look at.

    But that brings up another topic for discussion. Sure, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a phenomenal display...

    ...but so does the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

    And so does the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    And so does a lot of other smartphones priced even lower than either three of these phones I just mentioned—like the OnePlus Nord.

    Do you see what I'm trying to get at here? OnePlus 9 Pro has a really good display, but so does a lot of other smartphones out on the market. Of course, those other smartphones' displays more than likely won't be anything close to how nice the OnePlus 9 Pro's display is. The OnePlus 9 Pro is much more elevated than most—both in looks, in technology, and in numbers. But even so... if we were to pitch that to your average consumer, then who's counting?

    Look. Having a good smartphone display is always great, but the OnePlus 9 Pro is going to need to do a little bit more than just have one of the best smartphone displays on the market in order for it to be a truly viable option for most people. So let's hope that the software experience or the camera system can bring us up to where we need to be.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #5
    hennes, tobias14, Crystal Z. and 4 others like this.
  6. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    OxygenOS

    IMG_0061_exportedFrame_Edit_Smaller.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G: Boot-up

    The OnePlus 9 Pro ships with OxygenOS 11—which is based on Android 11—and it's really not that much different from OxygenOS 10. OxygenOS 11 is much more of a refinement of the operating system, rather than an overhaul—as most people tend to see feature updates as. Most notably, we get…
    • An elevated Always On Display,
    • An elevated Shelf for easier access to integrated tools (such as notes, parking information, your Wallet, etc.),
    • UI updates to make it easier to navigate the stock OnePlus applications (although, a dedicated one-handed mode would've been better), and
    • Of course, Android 11 and all of the great security patches that you get alongside it (but that was already a given).
    It would be a bit ridiculous for me to cover everything that OxygenOS has to offer. But the takeaway here is that this software experience is clean, highly customizable, and extremely well-rounded. OxygenOS 11 doesn't have an overwhelming amount of features like Samsung's One UI 3, but it's still packed with a fairly large amount nonetheless. Most of which you should really try to experience for yourself, rather than listening to or reading reviews about the software experience on OnePlus's smartphones. At this point, I think we're starting to see that OnePlus's vision of the ideal Android software experience is getting closer and closer to their idea of perfection. And OxygenOS 11 has a great look and feel that reflects this vision. With the time that I've had with my OnePlus 9 Pro, I found that…
    • The UI on OxygenOS 11 is much better optimized for tall displays compared to previous OxygenOS versions,
    • The launcher is well-rounded and hasn't shown any lack of polish (so far, at least),
    • There aren't any duplicate bloatware applications pre-installed on the phone (i.e. two app stores, nor two note-taking applications, etc.),
    • The Google Discover Feed continues to be your leftmost home screen page for a newsfeed experience as close to stock Android as possible (which is so much better compared to, for example, that piece of junk Samsung Free on Samsung's smartphones), and
    • Boot-up, restart, and shutdown times are pretty quick—for those who care.
    So the software experience is pretty great so far. I've never come close to thinking, "Gee. I wish my OnePlus 9 Pro were faster." And I'd like to imagine that this same observation will apply to you as well. Everything about this software experience reflects what we should be expecting from a flagship smartphone.

    P1355164_Edit.jpg
    OnePlus 9 Pro 5G: Display / Home Screen

    Now, lately, word has been going around that OnePlus hasn't been very attentive with the quick rollout of major software updates on their previous-generation smartphones. But at the very least, the OnePlus 9 Pro seems to be getting an unusually large amount of updates featuring much appreciated quality of life improvements. They've definitely been on top of their game with the updates since March 23rd. But at the same time, they kind of have to be. This is a brand-new product, after all.

    The only issues I've encountered so far include:
    • The stuttering with the Smart 120 Hz feature,
    • The lack of first-party reachability features (or, in other words, a built-in one-handed mode),
    • Less-than-ideal thermals while using the camera, and
    • The weather home screen widget from OxygenOS 10 is gone, which I really liked. (This last thing isn't really an "issue" though.)
    And we've discussed most of these issues already.

    The thermals, overall, are fine. Sometimes my OnePlus 9 Pro will get noticeably hot—over 45℃—when using the camera for prolonged periods of time. But OnePlus is already working on a fix, and has been sparsely communicating with the OnePlus 9 Pro review team on their progress, so we can expect that to be addressed pretty soon. (Apparently, this is strictly just a software issue.) For the most part, the CPU package temperatures sit at approximately 32℃ (according to CPU-Z), even while idling, which is acceptable in my opinion. For some, that might be borderline too high, especially on the topic of idle temperatures, but fortunately this isn't the kind of temperatures that would throttle performance or degrade the battery. I've yet to experience any performance hits nor have I noticed any weird activity while benchmarking or monitoring the battery during regular use of my OnePlus 9 Pro. The phone generally stays cool and stays snappy.

    Before we wrap up this section, I do want to mention that, if you've got a Windows 10 PC, you can get the Your Phone Companion from the Google Play store and get access to your notifications, calls, texts, photos, and more on your PC. You won't be able to launch applications from the OnePlus 9 Pro on your PC, unfortunately, but I think most of us who are already familiar with the service already know that this is a feature that's currently exclusive to select Samsung smartphones. But regardless, this is still a pretty useful companion app to have for those invested in Microsoft's ecosystem. I use the Your Phone app on Windows 10 quite a bit, and it's a must-have for those who have both an Android-based smartphone and any kind of a Windows 10 PC. It'll make your life so much better, especially with a smartphone like the OnePlus 9 Pro.

    And with that said, this is it for the OxygenOS section of my review. The OnePlus 9 Pro packs a pretty good software experience, and it doesn't take much to realize that this is a near-perfect implementation of the ideal Android smartphone experience.
    • OxygenOS 11 looks great—and can be customized to your liking;
    • OxygenOS 11 feels great—and it's also thanks to the Snapdragon 888 CPU that all models have, as well as the 12 GB of RAM that my specific review unit comes with, that the software can work so well in the first place; and
    • Last but not least, OxygenOS 11 really emphasizes the love that OnePlus has put into its software up to now.
    Hear me out. In the long term, software updates may indeed progressively take longer to come out (as we've been hearing whispers about right now throughout the OnePlus Community forum), and system stability might have its "quirks" here and there too (as all Android smartphones unfortunately go through eventually), but we cannot forget that the software experience OnePlus provides us is—in a plethora of ways—a lot better than the software experiences that other smartphone manufacturers provide. And I'm not just talking about the higher-end, premium smartphones out in the market right now. The same thing can be said about many lower-end smartphones—Nokia and ZTE in particular, but even Xiaomi's smartphones have eccentricities with their software experiences that not everyone is going to appreciate. OnePlus today may not be the OnePlus that some of us used to know, but we also need to acknowledge that they still have their visions set in the right direction when it comes to the software experience.

    The display and the software experience have proven to be pretty good, but now comes the most important part of this full written review: the camera system.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #6
  7. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Cameras

    P1355172_Edit (Large).jpg
    E.J. Yu taking photos in the wild with a OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist. This specific photo was NOT taken using a OnePlus 9 Pro 5G. (Photo 1 of 2.)

    The camera system: inarguably the most important part about the OnePlus 9 Pro. You simply cannot make a OnePlus 9 Pro review without taking an extensive look at its cameras because, for many, this camera system is the entire selling point of the OnePlus 9 Pro. Again, OnePlus made an extremely big deal about the Hasselblad collaboration that went on with the OnePlus 9 Pro—and it would be ridiculous for anyone to claim otherwise. So I do have high expectations. As far as I was able to interpret it, OnePlus's marketing promised an iconic Hasselblad look and feel predominantly in these two categories: the color science and usability.

    P1355251_Edit (Large).jpg
    E.J. Yu taking photos in the wild with a OnePlus 9 Pro 5G in Morning Mist. This specific photo was NOT taken using a OnePlus 9 Pro 5G. (Photo 2 of 2.)

    Here's a fun fact: the color of the shutter button within the camera's software is also orange to—in a way—imitate the look of the shutter button that you'd find on an actual Hasselblad SLR. Now that's pretty cool. Good stuff, OnePlus. But I find it really interesting how OnePlus advertises that this camera system is co-developed with Hasselblad, when the sensors are Sony's.

    Isn't that… weird?
    Or is that just me?

    Don't worry though, I know. The sensor isn't everything. At least, as far as a smartphone camera goes. There are a ton of other categories that Hasselblad could have contributed to, such as the lens physics, or the assimilative process of the computational parts of this camera system, and possibly even other things. But as far as a lot of us are concerned, it may not completely matter what Hasselblad might have contributed to because, regardless of whatever Hasselblad did, we should all have a single general expectation—and it's a very simple one:

    This camera system better be great.

    Let's lay out the specifications really quick. This will be a roundup of only the important pieces of information, so if you're interested in looking into any additional information about the OnePlus 9 Pro's camera system on paper, then please refer to OnePlus's official spec sheet.

    OVERVIEW
    • [x1] Front-Facing Camera
    • [x4] Rear-Facing Cameras
      • Main Camera
      • Ultra-Wide Camera
      • Telephoto Camera
      • Monochrome Camera*
    • Flash & Microphone

    MAIN CAMERA
    • Sensor: Sony IMX789 (1/1.43")
    • Max. Resolution: 48 MP
    • Focal Length: 23mm
    • Aperture: f/1.8
    • OIS: Yes

    ULTRA-WIDE CAMERA
    • Sensor: Sony IMX766 (1/1.56")
    • Max. Resolution: 50 MP
    • Focal Length: 14mm
    • Aperture: f/2.2
    • OIS: No

    TELEPHOTO CAMERA
    • Sensor: Unspecified
    • Max. Resolution: 8 MP
    • Focal Length: 77mm
    • Aperture: f/2.4
    • OIS: Yes

    FRONT CAMERA
    • Sensor: Sony IMX471
    • Max. Resolution: 16 MP
    • Focal Length: Unspecified
    • Aperture: f/2.4
    • OIS: No

    MONOCHROME CAMERA*
    • Max. Resolution: 2 MP
    • Useless: Yes

    *For the sake of time, I'm not covering this monochrome camera in my review. If you want a quick one-liner, then here it is. It lacks shadow detail, and isn't usable. (Seriously though, who asked for this?)

    And just from that information alone, we can already deduce that, on paper, the OnePlus 9 Pro is pretty good when it comes to the hardware side of things. (Of course, except for you-know-what*, but let's just pretend that's not there.) Which means that, at the very least, all we need left is…
    • Great dynamic range
    • Accurate and consistent automatic white balance
    • Highly-detailed and consistent textural properties
    • Properly-utilized OIS
    • The color science that OnePlus has been advertising
    …and then the OnePlus 9 Pro can pass off as a universally viable smartphone in the smartphone market.

    Let's begin.

    IMG_20210323_175648 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    A partially cloudy day at the beach, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210323_180257 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Beachside "stairs" going up a cliffside, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210323_180933 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    An obstructed view of the coast of San Diego, California, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    IMG_20210324_160153 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Lake with golfers in the background and ducks swimming in the lake, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210402_165728 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Mossy, green creek, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210402_171233 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Mossy, green creek closeup, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    IMG_20210402_172852 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Forest vegetation and a creek, taking using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera.

    IMG_20210402_175649 (Custom) (Large).jpg
    Rolling hills, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    Overall, the rear-facing cameras are quite nice. Especially that 50 MP ultra-wide camera. The photos produced from these three cameras are sharp, high in contrast, but surprisingly low in saturation in comparison to the photos produced from (for example) a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G—which was my previous daily driver.

    However, this lack of saturation and vibrancy isn't a deficit. It actually makes the images produced from each camera awfully close to how it is in real life. Now, unfortunately, this doesn't apply in certain lighting situations. For example, if you're in extremely low light, or you're shooting directly towards the sun, then sometimes the photos you take will be noticeably blanched of color. In this photo right here of me shooting directly towards the sun to catch some paragliders over the ocean, I lost a lot of important color information. Compare it to the shot right below it, which was pointed immediately left of the sun. There's a huge dissimilarity in the way that this camera system picks up color information.

    IMG_20210323_172521 (Custom).jpg
    Photo of paragliders against the sun, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    IMG_20210323_172511 (Custom).jpg
    Photo of paragliders to the left of the sun, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    This happened in my panorama (below) too, but it wasn't nearly as bad. You can somewhat see that a small area in the ocean that lacks color to the point where that's obviously not how it could've looked in real life anymore. Even editing the color back in (solely from existing photographic information) is a pretty hard task with this photo. Additionally, most things in the center are blown out because of the sun—and I did everything I could to try to get the camera software to expose to the sun, mind you.

    IMG_20210323_181354 (Custom).jpg
    Beach overlook, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera in panorama mode.

    IMG_0047.jpg
    Compare the photo above to this panoramic photo taken using an iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    20210323_181303.jpg
    A similar panoramic photo, but now taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G. This image doesn't handle the sun as well as the iPhone 12 Pro Max does, but it still looks much better than the OnePlus 9 Pro. White balance and colors in this panorama are also much more accurate to how this scene looked in real life, compared to the panorama from the OnePlus 9 Pro.

    Fortunately, in good lighting, the photos produced with the OnePlus 9 Pro are decently close to being what you would expect from a flagship smartphone in 2021. The colors are fairly similar to how they are in real life—which might almost seem "too realistic" for certain people's tastes (but at that point, this preference is beyond the topic of how to "properly" perceive color)—and the sharpness of the photos produced are very pleasing to the eye. But an area that the OnePlus 9 Pro's camera system doesn't too well with is the auto white balance.

    IMG_20210323_180523 (Large).jpg
    Cliffside, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210323_180534 (Large).jpg
    Cliffside, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera.

    For some reason, the auto white balance is jarringly inconsistent between the main camera and the ultra-wide camera. The photos (shown above) of a cliffside are much cooler when taken using the main camera. On the ultra-wide camera, they came out much warmer. (And in case you were wondering, the ultra-wide's white balance is much closer to how that cliffside looked in real life when I took the photo.) Just for reference, my OnePlus 9 Pro was running OxygenOS 11.2.1.1.LE15AA when the majority of these photos were taken.

    The dynamic range, in a general sense, is more than decent. But for a flagship smartphone in 2021, this isn't where it needs to be. It noticeably struggles in environments where the lighting conditions are somewhat complex. Arguably, one could say that the lighting conditions are too intense for a mobile camera system to handle, but my immediate rebuttal would be, "So why can iPhones and Samsung phones do better?" Look at these photos. The dynamic range is quite poor. If you take photos outdoors towards any kind of sunlight, or even towards any reflection of said sunlight, then the majority of highlights around the light source are going to clip, guaranteed. Not as bad as some of the lower-end smartphones do, obviously, but still considerably bad for a flagship smartphone. Although not perfect, the iPhone 12 Pro Max can handle complex lighting situations much better than the OnePlus 9 Pro, for some reason. Wasn't the OnePlus 9 Pro supposed to have sensors that are three times larger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max's? Not even the ultra-wide camera has the dynamic range I'm looking for—and that was supposed to be the best camera on this smartphone.

    CrushedBlacks1 (Custom).jpg
    In all photos, parts of the woods are pitch black. This information is completely unrecoverable.
    Left: Ultra-Wide Camera
    Center: Main Camera
    Right: Telephoto Camera

    IMG_20210402_182102.jpg
    Creek and vegetation, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera. Unfortunately, the majority of this photo has crushed blacks. This scene, when it was being taken, didn't look this dark nor this black in real life. Most smartphone cameras today would have been able to retain the information that was lost in this photo.

    IMG_20210402_172248.jpg
    Another view of the creek and its vegetation, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera. The majority of the lower-right portion of the photo contains crushed, unrecoverable shadow information. Additionally, the top-left portion of the photo (where the tops of the trees can be seen) wasn't that bright in real life. I have a feeling HDR kicked in and made that area look funky though.

    Now, if you know how to expose properly, then it's quite easy to restore the overexposed areas with a little bit of editing magic after taking the photo. Just make sure to expose according to your highlights while ensuring that your scene's most important shadows aren't going below approximately 10 - 12 IRE. But on the more unfortunate side of things, that immediately reveals how bad that the OnePlus 9 Pro's computational photography is when it comes to handling shadows properly. In every single photo I take, regardless of lighting condition, there will be at least one area—that may be dark in real life, but still very much visible—that will have crushed blacks. And for those who aren't aware with this term, crushed blacks are just pieces of shadow information (on the lower end of the histogram) that are completely black and unrecoverable. And the OnePlus 9 Pro crushes shadow information on every photo I take with this camera system. It's so weird. And so annoying. Why does it do this?

    PortraitPhotos_SideBySide_Resized (MQ).png
    Left: A regular photo from the front-facing camera.
    Right: A photo from the front-facing camera using portrait mode.

    The front-facing camera is pretty nice, though. When taking normal photos, the dynamic range is still lacking in a plethora of areas. But in portrait mode, the dynamic range seems to do a little bit better, but just barely. It's not the best, but I don't really have a problem with that.


    OnePlus 9 Pro: Video Sample #1

    Let's talk about videos now. The camera system on the OnePlus 9 Pro utilizes OIS quite effectively when taking photos, but when it comes to taking videos, there seems to be a complete absence of any optical image stabilization (and yes, OIS universally apply to videos as well—not just photos). All that's offered within the stock camera app is electronic video stabilization, but (1) that's only available in 1080p @ 30 FPS and 4K @ 30 FPS, and (2) that's just not what we're looking for in the first place. On top of that, electronic stabilization should never be a substitute for optical stabilization when applicable.

    So... where did the optical image stabilization go?
    Did it just… disappear?


    OnePlus 9 Pro: Video Sample #2

    I took a bunch of videos of myself walking a nice forest trail, but all of my footage was shaky as heck. Now, I do have to mention that I was shooting at 4K UHD @ 120 FPS, so this could have been easily fixed by setting the resolution and frame rate to 4K @ 30 FPS. But on a phone that can shoot 8K @ 30 FPS / 4K @ 120 FPS, just tell me: who's going to want to film anything lower? No, seriously though, who? You wouldn't be getting your money's worth if you weren't recording at those resolutions or high frame rates. And 4K video at 120 FPS does not take up as much storage as you think, so don't make storage an excuse.


    OnePlus 9 Pro: Video Sample #3


    OnePlus 9 Pro: Video Sample #4


    OnePlus 9 Pro: Video Sample #5

    The videos taken on OnePlus 9 Pro look great (color-wise) and sound great. Videos still suffer from crushed blacks like the photos do, but... at this point, what can you do, right? At least the colors are decent. If only the stabilization was just there, then this would've been decent for most people.

    But I have a question for you, OnePlus. Why can't I use the ultra-wide camera for filming videos? There's no way that it cannot be capable of taking 8K videos at 30 frames per second, or 4K videos at 120 frames per second. Heck, there's no way that the ultra-wide camera shouldn't be capable of taking ANY video at all. So why can't I use any of the other cameras for filming videos? Again, doesn't the OnePlus 9 Pro have larger sensors than the iPhone 12 Pro Max? Why can the iPhone film 4K @ 60 FPS across all cameras and the OnePlus 9 Pro cannot? The camera software on the OnePlus 9 Pro is so inconsistent—and that has to be its biggest quirk yet.

    IMG_20210323_172950.jpg
    Paragliders over the ocean, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    IMG_20210323_174055.jpg
    People taking off on paragliders in the distance, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's telephoto camera.

    IMG_20210323_174058 (Large).jpg
    People taking off on paragliders in the distance, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210324_162626 (Large).jpg
    Wide-angle shot of a leafless tree, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro ultra-wide camera.

    IMG_20210324_162631 (Large).jpg
    Leafless tree and lake, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's main camera.

    IMG_20210328_172846 (Large).jpg
    Wide-angle shot of a plate of fried onions, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera.

    IMG_20210328_172903 (Large).jpg
    A wide-angle shot featuring two empty booths in the background and fried onions in the foreground, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's ultra-wide camera.

    IMG_20210402_172713 (Large).jpg
    Regular selfie of E.J. Yu at a recreational reserve, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's front-facing camera.

    IMG_20210402_172724 (Large).jpg
    Portrait mode selfie of E.J. Yu at a recreational reserve, taken using the OnePlus 9 Pro's front-facing camera in portrait mode.

    Obviously, a lot of these photos and videos aren't the most professional-looking things that you guys have ever seen. In many cases, the composition in my photos could've been better, I could've shot in other angles other than eye level all the time, and there's a noticeable lack of guided lines. But that was all done on purpose.

    People don't always take photos thinking about composition, angles, guided lines, or really anything most of the time. A lot of us just snap and go. As long as it looks good, it looks good. And with a lot of these photos, not every photographic property of the photos and videos I've captured is delivered in such a way where everyone will think it's "good". There are a bunch of things about these photos and videos that I've shown today that really stand out and could detract from the perceived quality of each picture.

    So here are my final thoughts on the OnePlus 9 Pro's cameras: as far as this camera system's hardware goes, it ticks all the right boxes. OnePlus has their minds set in the right place, and we can definitely see that on the spec sheet. But when it comes to the camera system's computational photography performance, I'm disappointed. Don't get me wrong, this is still a more than decent camera system. But at the same time, "more than decent" isn't gonna cut it for a flagship. This has to impress. This has to exceed expectations. We shouldn't be getting, for example, an extremely overexposed sun nor a bunch of crushed blacks in the bushes with a flagship smartphone of any kind. And I feel like this has to be a software issue more than anything because this camera system's hardware is inarguably more than capable to capture the photographic information that this smartphone needs in order to provide us with photos and videos that won't suffer from major quality detractors—such as clipping, or crushed blacks. Additionally, the regular photo mode in the stock Camera app had great stabilization while the regular video mode did not. Where did the stabilization go? Does OIS just… only work when taking still images? Honestly, I doubt that.

    P1355157_Edit.jpg
    Camera bumps! (ft. OnePlus 9 Pro 5G, iPhone 12 Pro Max, OnePlus Nord, and Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G)

    The TL;DR is this.
    • The camera system lacks dynamic range and crushes blacks to the point where shadow information around those areas are completely unrecoverable.
    • White balance has "usually" been accurate, but never consistent between cameras.
    • OIS is missing when taking videos. (And, again, EOS is NOT a substitute for OIS, and should NEVER be.)
    • I didn't mention this in detail, but the photo you think you took (based on what you saw through the viewfinder) isn't the same as the actual photo you take. Software issue?
    • Who asked for the monochrome camera? Seriously, who?
    But on a more positive note, this camera takes the photos and videos that I expect it to take under well-lit conditions.
    • The camera system isn't free from fringing and chromatic aberration, but fortunately it's minimal.
    • The advertised color science is near-perfect under said lighting conditions and, therefore, delivers.
    • Shutter lag is acceptably minimal.
    • The camera system produces photos that are…
      • Highly-detailed (when not crushed black), and
      • Consistent in terms of the balance between texture and noise.
    So… wow…
    What a turn of events.

    We were doing so good up until now. The display is great, the software experience is pretty much great, but the cameras disappointed me. And don't get me wrong. The camera system isn't garbage or anything like that. It's just that the quality of photos and videos I was expecting wasn't there. You can still take some gorgeous photos and videos with this camera system, but you'll have to adjust your shooting style quite a bit to account for the foibles that this system possesses, which many people may find annoying. I mean, OnePlus, you guys need to rememeber that the smartphone market isn't completely filled with professional photographers that know how to work around the quirks of an imperfect camera system. To this review's convenience, it just so happens that I'm a very knowledgeable freelance filmmaker; therefore, I do, in fact, know a great deal about shot types, exposure, proper color perception techniques, photographic balance, and the post-production process to name a few—all of which can assist me in figuring out how to work around this camera system's quirks. But not everyone has the knowledge to work around these issues. Not everyone knows that kind of information. And more often than not, nobody's going to want to take the time to learn—especially when the camera is being used in a tight situation. Therefore, not everyone may be able to work around the quirks that the OnePlus 9 Pro's cameras currently hold.

    People need to be able to just press that shutter button and get a good photo. Simple as that. And, in the case of a flagship smartphone like the OnePlus 9 Pro, people should be able to get a great photo immediately after pressing that button—not just a "good" photo.

    Great photos from a flagship smartphone in 2021 shouldn't overexpose highlights and whites; great photos from a flagship smartphone in 2021 shouldn't crush the majority of shadows in a scene; and great photos from a flagship smartphone in 2021 should have a wider dynamic range than what we're seeing here today.

    OnePlus should have tried to exceed our expectations, and not just try to meet them.

    This may not be the kind of performance I was expecting from a OnePlus-Hasselblad collaboration, but, at the very least, these are still decent cameras. I do wonder if my expectations were way too high for the OnePlus 9 Pro's camera system, but… once you consider the kind of marketing and the kind of hype that OnePlus had been producing, can you really blame me?
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021 at 9:54 PM

    #7
  8. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Battery Life & Charging

    Time for some insight into battery life with the OnePlus 9 Pro! So, just as a reminder, you're getting a 4,500 mAh non-removable battery with the OnePlus 9 Pro, featuring a dual-cell design for some insanely fast charging.

    On paper, the size of the battery seemed like it would offer some pretty promising battery life, but I was surprised to find out that the battery drained a lot faster than I was expecting. On a good day, I'm able to hit approximately 6 hours of screen on-time, but that's only if I'm barely using my OnePlus 9 Pro. Maybe listening to music, and talking to my lab partner on Discord during my breaks between classes at my university. But other than that, I didn't really do much to be getting just 6 hours of screen on-time with my OnePlus 9 Pro.

    I get 4 hours of screen on-time much more consistently on a full charge, but that still isn't a good number for a device like this—even if you considered some of my energy-demanding usage preferences (like how I tend to prefer using max brightness). One time, I even got as low as 2 hours and 11 minutes of screen on-time on a full charge. That's really bad.

    But on a more positive note, the insanely fast charging on the OnePlus 9 Pro somewhat makes up for this poor battery life. Only somewhat though. Allow me to explain.

    So, if you recall from the unboxing earlier this week, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a 65-watt fast charging brick. And let me tell you: "fast" is a serious understatement. Like, it's really fast. Actual "fast" charging. Come to think of it, I think this is the first time that the name "Warp Charge" actually holds up for once. If you thought any previous OnePlus smartphone had fast charging, oh boy. You have no idea what OnePlus is hooking you up with this generation. On average, this takes 31 minutes to go from 5% battery to a full 100% charge. At the very most, it'll take 40 minutes. And I'm not making these numbers up. Half an hour might not sound that impressive of a duration to be waiting for, but you should seriously try it for yourself. This charging rate is so helpful—I wish more smartphones had this kind of charging rate. I could literally sit down and watch the battery percentage go up without getting too bored—and that's because we don't really see these kinds of speeds with most smartphones today, particularly with the more popular ones like iPhones (arguably). In the amount of time that my iPhone 12 Pro Max can charge a few percent, my OnePlus 9 Pro would have some percentage increase near fifty. Needless to say, I am impressed. (With the charging rate, that is.)

    But here's the thing with this. You gotta use a very specific power brick and cable to achieve these speeds. And—in case it isn't obvious already—that "specific power brick and cable" combination is the power brick and cable that's included in the box with your OnePlus 9 Pro. However, this—I'd like to imagine—is not going to be an ideal charging solution for a lot of people. The cable is annoyingly short, and the power adapter is unnecessarily large for a single-port brick—which might not be the best solution for people who travel or have to commute to work. With that in mind, I'm willing to bet that you'd likely use some other brick-and-cable combination to charge the OnePlus 9 Pro. And whatever that "other combination" might be, I can assure you that it's not going to provide charging rates as unbelievably fast as the OnePlus Warp Charge 65.

    And this is where the trade-offs turn out to be nowhere as balanced as we initially thought it was. It's unfortunate that the battery life isn't so stellar, but the charging times should make up for it—IF you're able to hog the original power adapter and cable with you wherever you go.

    Now, perhaps my screen on-time numbers were low because...
    1. My screen resolution is always set to QHD+,
    2. My refresh rate is always set to Smart 120Hz, and
    3. My brightness is—for the most part—maxed out.
    But I wouldn't really make that an excuse for the poor battery life. A lot of other Android-based flagship smartphones get you more hours than what I'm reporting here.

    Fortunately, there are many ways to save battery on the OnePlus 9 Pro:
    • You could set the resolution to FHD+
    • You could set the refresh rate to Standard 60Hz (but with a phone like this, nobody should really want to...)
    • Battery Saver actually works extremely well on the OnePlus 9 Pro, so don't forget to utilize that feature when possible
    • Keep your brightness under approx. 60% to stretch out your hours
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2021

    #8
    Bouncer71, tobias14, hennes and 4 others like this.
  9. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Honorable Mentions

    So, at this point into the review thread, we've discovered a lot of things about the OnePlus 9 Pro. The TL;DR is this:
    • Product Design: Good
    • Specs on Paper: Good
    • Display: Great
    • Software: Good
    • Cameras: Decent
    • Battery Life: Not good
    • Charging Times: Great
    But before this review thread comes to a close, I do want to give some honorable mentions to some other parts about the OnePlus 9 Pro that didn't get their own section on this review thread. A lot of these "other parts about the OnePlus 9 Pro" are really straight-forward to assess, so some sections won't be needing a huge multi-paragraph excerpt written about them.
    • Cellular Connectivity & Call Quality: Good
    • Speakers: Great
    • Microphones: Good
    • Port Selection: Not good
    • Haptics: Great
    • Fingerprint Reader: Good
    • Pricing: Scroll down to see what I have to say.

    Cellular Connectivity & Call Quality
    • Calls sound decent on this phone.
    • Earpiece speaker is amazing for VoIP calls that transmit high-quality audio.
    • Cellular connectivity has been pretty reliable for me. You really shouldn't have problems.

    Speakers
    • The dual stereo speakers are fantastic. Better than most speaker systems on smartphones, as we should be expecting from a flagship.
    • Speaker volume gets surprisingly loud. Minimal distortion at maximum volume, which is stunning to me because this speaker system on my OnePlus 9 Pro does a lot better than the speaker systems on a lot of laptops today. Considering how much smaller the drivers in the OnePlus 9 Pro are, this is an absolutely wild observation for me.
    • It just barely lacks bass, but you can get a slight kick out of the bass by tweaking the equalizer a little bit.

    Microphones
    • They're decent and get the job done.
    • There's an unnecessarily huge amount of background noise reduction happening. I can see this being annoying for certain people.

    Port Selection

    My OnePlus 9 Pro has the following ports:
    • USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
    • Single nano-SIM card slot
    I do want to emphasize that the OnePlus 9 Pro does NOT have the following:
    • No headphone jack, which might be okay for some people nowadays.
    • No microSD card slot. Terrible decision on OnePlus's part.
    • No dual-SIM functionality w/ my unit. For markets that this applies to, the lack of dual-SIM functionality will be a huge inconvenience for select users.

    Haptics
    • STRAIGHT-UP AMAZING!
    • Phenomenal vibration motors.
    • Vibrations are very strong, and the intensity is configurable.
    • Very nice haptics. Gets the job done in an elevated manner.

    Fingerprint Reader
    • The fingerprint reader is way too low. Why does OnePlus insist on continuing this fingerprint reader placement?
    • The placement of the fingerprint reader is easy to get used to if this is the only smartphone you decide to use.
    • Not lightning fast, but definitely above average. Most people really shouldn't have a problem with the fingerprint reader—other than with its placement, of course.

    Pricing

    Alright, now it's time to address the elephant in the room. Pricing. This is a little bit more complicated to discuss, so I won't be using bullet points here.

    So, for those who don't know, the OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $969, with my review unit being priced at $1,069. (This is in U.S. Dollars, by the way.) And, irrespective of me winning the reviewers contest for OnePlus 9 Pro: The LAB, we have to be realistic about the pricing with this generation of OnePlus's smartphones. Had the OnePlus 9 Pro's cameras met my expectations, I think that this would have been worth the price premium that it's being sold at. But because the cameras weren't as shockingly great as I was expecting, this smartphone comes off to me as overpriced simply because it underperforms in the one area that it needed to be the most impressive in.

    A thousand U.S. dollars isn't something that's easy to come by. At a thousand U.S. dollars, we better be getting something that's better than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and better than the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. At the very least, the OnePlus 9 Pro should have been better in the camera department, above all things—since, you know, the whole selling point of the OnePlus 9 Pro was that its cameras are "supposedly the best." But, as I've come to realize, the OnePlus 9 Pro's camera system doesn't quite meet the expectations I had for a flagship mobile camera system. Although the OnePlus 9 Pro is—without a doubt—a lot better than its competition in certain categories, it's not better than the competition across every category—and that is what makes the OnePlus 9 Pro hard to recommend to people. It was so close though. OnePlus just needed to get the camera right, and this would've been an easy recommendation. But they didn't get it right, and I find that pretty unfortunate. But even though the OnePlus 9 Pro is a lot pricier than I think it should have been, it's also not "too expensive to compete", if you know what I'm trying to say. We'll talk about this a little bit more in the Final Assessment section in my review.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021 at 11:01 PM

    #9
  10. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    Final Assessment

    Alright, OnePlus. Like I said at the beginning of my review, I wasn't going to go easy on you just because you picked me as one of the reviewers for OnePlus 9 Pro: The LAB. When there was something genuinely good about the OnePlus 9 Pro, I gave you guys credit where credit was due. But at the same time, I made sure to call you out on the things that didn't live up to my expectations—that of which should, ideally, be everyone's expectations.

    I reviewed the OnePlus 9 Pro as if I actually bought it. And, through my impartial considerations for the best and the worst about the OnePlus 9 Pro, the final assessment I have for this smartphone is dead simple:

    1. Is the OnePlus 9 Pro a viable flagship smartphone?
      My answer is yes. It is.

    2. However, had I bought this phone, would I have thought that I got my money's worth?
      Personally, no. I wouldn't have thought so.

    3. So, with that in mind, would I recommend that you buy it?
      Well… it depends. (And it really does.)

    Your options for a new smartphone—as well as the configurations for said options—are going to vary depending on which part of the world we're talking about. For example, in the United States, flagship smartphones from Samsung contests the OnePlus 9 Pro quote closely, especially when it comes to camera performance and productivity. The Note20 Ultra or the Galaxy S21 Ultra with Snapdragon CPUs will easily sway the majority of smartphone buyers today alongside the promise that they get a much more "complete" phone. But outside of the United States, Samsung's phones are mediocre in terms of performance due to the Exynos chips that are shipped with the international versions of Samsung's phones—so then the spotlight gets taken by iPhones and specialty Android smartphones like the Surface Duo. Similarly, in East-Asian markets that the OnePlus 9 Pro is coming to, the (marginally) more reasonable prices of smartphones from Oppo or Xiaomi will be somewhat more appealing, as you'd be getting a better-valued smartphone for the money (at least, on paper) with certain products.

    Point being: although the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't the "best" option everywhere, it's the better option in certain markets. In some countries, the OnePlus 9 Pro will be the flagship of people's dreams—even if the camera doesn't meet expectations—but in other countries, it may fall short.

    Now, I don't think that the OnePlus 9 Pro lived up to the hype. OnePlus might not be too happy with me for saying this, but that's just what I think. In the case of the OnePlus 9 Pro, OnePlus made the 9 Pro seem like...
    1. It was going to have the mobile camera system of the year, and
    2. That these presumed "camera improvements" would finally make this generation's OnePlus smartphones absolutely perfect.
    But after having some extensive hands-on experience with this smartphone, being my daily driver and all, I wouldn't exactly call this the mobile camera system of the year. And I also wouldn't exactly say that the rest of the phone is completely foolproof either.

    But look. Even though I didn't think that the OnePlus 9 Pro lived up to the hype, as you saw in this week's extensive review, it's still a good smartphone. It's expensive, but you get OnePlus's elevated variations of essential smartphone features. The cameras might not be that much better than iPhones or Samsung's phones at the moment, but they're still pretty decent and they seem like they'll hold up for quite a few years. The glass sandwich design and the minimal port selection might rub off as "generic" to some users, but this STILL looks, feels, and functions like a premium, high-end smartphone—regardless of how generic or overused you think these design trends are.

    Again, the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't trying to be a game changer, and it didn't need to be. If you want to upgrade to something that packs…
    1. "Decent" cameras,
    2. A great high-resolution, high refresh rate display,
    3. Good-sounding stereo speakers, and has
    4. Wi-Fi 6 and 5G support
    …then the OnePlus 9 Pro is a good option for you to consider. And the keyword there is option. This is not a product where I can instantly say "Yes, this is the one to get!" to people who ask me if they should buy the OnePlus 9 Pro (and that's merely just because the cameras fall short of where they needed to be), but this is still a viable-enough option in the smartphone market for me to still be able to bring it up to a select handful of buyers. And I say it's "still viable" because other things about the OnePlus 9 Pro—such as the display, the speakers, and the charging times—are enough to make it "considerable" to that aforementioned select handful of buyers. It's only the camera system that makes this harder to recommend to most people. But the keyword there is "harder". I never said that the camera system makes this impossible to recommend to most people. That's the key difference some of us will need to understand.

    Don't feel like you've let me down if you decide not to go with the OnePlus 9 Pro. I totally get it—for a lot of us, there are a lot more intriguing alternatives out there. But if you do decide to make the OnePlus 9 Pro your next smartphone, I don't think you'll be disappointed with your decision as long as you don't hold this device to any abnormally high expectations—like what the hype did.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021 at 11:12 PM

    #10
  11. ejyu
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 28, 2021

    ejyu , Mar 28, 2021 :
    About the Reviewer

    About the Reviewer - Banner Design 2.1.png

    I’m a tech reviewer on YouTube with a focus on premium laptops and tablets. I want to get to a point where I can regularly review high-end laptops and other premium devices on my YouTube channel someday, so I hope you'll stick around to watch me grow!


    Thank you all for your support!


    —​


    Previous Product Reviews
    • OnePlus Nord Full Review:
    • Surface Pro X Full Review:
    • 12" MacBook Review:
    Coming Soon to E.J. Yu's YouTube Channel
    • OnePlus 9 Pro Full Review
    • Surface Duo Review
    • Surface Pro X (SQ2) Review
    A widget featuring my full video review of the OnePlus 9 Pro will be available here once it's up! Stay tuned!
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021

    #11
    Bouncer71, hennes, KaranRIyer and 7 others like this.

  12. #12
  13. Wasi730
    Cupcake Mar 29, 2021

  14. Nbalugas
    Gingerbread Mar 29, 2021


  15. #15
  16. jlasensiofi
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Mar 29, 2021


    #16
    KaranRIyer and BetiK like this.

  17. #17
  18. J.e.F
    Froyo Mar 29, 2021

    J.e.F , via OnePlus 5T , Mar 29, 2021 :
    😄
    And THAT is a timeless value 😉😉😉
     

    #19
    KaranRIyer likes this.
  19. Caomhin
    OnePlus 9 Series Expert Community Expert Mar 29, 2021


    #20
    KaranRIyer likes this.