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[The LAB] OnePlus 9 Pro Review: My Honest Thoughts

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

    MarkSpurrell , Mar 28, 2021 :
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    Introduction:


    Hey Everyone! My name is Mark, and I am a Tech Reviewer and Content Creator over on YouTube.

    Before last year, I was an employee at a marketing firm straight out of University. During my time at university and while I was working at that company, I had been slowly working on my YouTube channel as a side business. The thing is, my position at the marketing company didn’t last long, because once the global pandemic hit - I was quickly let go.

    Instead of trying to find another job, I decided to pour all of my time and effort into my channel and go full-time as a YouTuber. While I’m still relatively small as far as tech channels go, being a part of OnePlus’ The Lab program allowed me to hit a huge milestone: it was the first time a manufacturer offered me a review unit for free.

    I am immensely grateful to OnePlus for the opportunity, and while my professional obligations require me to be completely and utterly honest about my review of the phone, I hope OnePlus and you (the OnePlus community) appreciate my honesty and enjoy my commentary. So, without further ado - let’s get into the review.

    Unboxing:



    As I mentioned in the beginning of the video, this unboxing was a complete surprise to me. I had received the phone from the mail courrier at the exact time the OnePlus 9 launch event began, so I decided to forgo watching the event to film the unboxing and first impressions video.

    I didn’t know which phone OnePlus was sending me or what color it was, and I had absolutely no idea what the specs of the phone were or what to expect in the box. That made the unboxing kinda fun!

    I didn’t take any photos since I shot the unboxing “live,” so you’ll have to watch the video for my true first impressions and for the visuals of what I’m about to talk about.

    Inside the relatively large box, my OnePlus 9 Pro came with the new 65 watt USB-C warp charger, a usb-c to usb-c cable, some documentation about the phone, some stickers (always love those), as well as a sim card ejector tool.

    It is important to note here that it seems like OnePlus includes different things in the box depending on the region. For example, here in Canada I got stickers in the box and no phone case, while I have seen that people from other regions got a case instead of the stickers. I’d prefer the latter if I had a choice (obviously).

    Overall the unboxing experience was pleasant, and I very much appreciate the fact that OnePlus included such a high powered charger in the box when so many other companies are choosing not to (cough-appleandsamsung-cough).

    Full Video Review:



    If you don't feel like reading this entire post, feel free to watch my full video review of the OnePlus 9 Pro after two weeks with the device here.



    Design:

    OP9 pro design 4.jpeg

    The OnePlus 9 Pro in Morning Mist is a stunning looking phone. In every photo and video I have taken, the phone looks clean and classy. The mirrored finish looks extremely premium, and I like the new camera bump too. It’s different enough from other flagships to be recognizable without being too in-your-face.

    That said - it stops looking clean and classy the second you lay your hands on it. The mirrored finish is a fingerprint magnet, especially towards the bottom of the phone. It also seems to pick up scratches easier than I was expecting. I’ve taken good care of this phone, and I’ve already scratched the bottom corner somehow. You’ll want to put a case on this phone both to get rid of the fingerprint issue and to prevent it from scratching. I just took delivery of the OnePlus Sandstone case in black for the 9 Pro, and it seems to be well made. I'm not a huge fan of the rough texture, but it looks nice.

    oneplus sandstone case_00000.jpg

    The 9 series includes OnePlus’ classic 3 way alert slider - a small but defining feature that I continue to use daily and love. It’s also IP 68 rated for water and dust resistance, so you should have no concerns about bringing your phone near bodies of water.

    alert slider_00000.jpg

    I’m going to go ahead and throw the set of stereo speakers in the design category as well. As is fairly standard among new phones these days, there is a front facing earpiece speaker up at the top of the phone and a bottom firing one next to the USB-C port that together create a stereo image.

    For casual listening, the speakers are decent. But I have noticed that they sound a little less full and more towards the tinny side of things when compared to other flagship phones from competing brands. Not a big deal for me personally, but worthwhile to note.


    Display:

    OP9 pro display.jpg

    Next up is the display, and this is an area where the OnePlus 9 Pro really shines. The 9 Pro is equipped with a 6.7 inch Fluid AMOLED display which runs at a high refresh rate of 120hz. The phone is able to run at its native resolution of 3216 x 1440 (which is incredibly sharp by the way) and its native refresh rate of 120hz at the same time.

    What’s more is that OnePlus is using the new LTPO display tech here, meaning the display can throttle from 120hz all the way down to 1hz to save battery life. It will do this intelligently - meaning when you’re scrolling the web it’ll stick to 120hz to feel fast, and when you’re viewing a photo it’ll drop down (you don’t need that high refresh rate for a static image).

    The display is tastefully curved at the edges - it’s not curved so much that it would cause accidental touches, but instead just enough to look and feel nice.

    OP9 pro display in hands.jpg

    It seems to be well balanced in the color department, and because it’s an AMOLED panel, blacks are perfectly black. Whether you’re watching a movie or content from your favorite YouTuber, the 9 Pro performs admirably.

    Under the bottom portion of that display sits a fingerprint reader. I find the positioning a little odd given how close to the bottom bezel it is, but after I got used to where the reader was located, I had no issues with it. It is a very fast fingerprint reader, and I haven't had any issues with it not recognizing my thumb yet. Thumbs up for that ;)

    Cameras:



    Next up are the Hasselblad-branded cameras that everyone loves talking about. I did a full video on the cameras of the 9 Pro (see above) testing all of the different modes, and to be honest - I was both impressed in some areas and unimpressed in others.

    op9p cathedral.jpg

    In outdoor photography or in areas indoors with plenty of light, the 9 Pro’s cameras perform so well that photos coming from them might just be the best smartphone photos I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love shooting architecture with the new Sony IMX 766 ultrawide sensor. It has a distortion correcting lens, so every line in a building is straight as an arrow with no distortion.

    OP9 pro ultrawide 1.jpg

    The colors are also extremely accurate and true to life as shown in photos of people. This is where I suspect Hasselblad had the most influence on the development of the camera system. Portrait mode shots are surprisingly good with few edge detection errors, and overall I like the photos coming from this camera a lot.

    op9p portrait mode 1.jpg

    That is - until you start taking photos where there isn’t a lot of light, whether that be in a dimly lit room or outdoors at night. This is where the new cameras start going downhill. As I mention in the video, they are consistently inconsistent. Sometimes it’ll get the white balance wrong, and other times it’ll miss nailing the autofocus. If you like shooting a lot in areas where there’s not a lot of light, the 9 Pro’s camera won’t impress you much.

    bad night 2.jpg

    That said, the 9 Pro’s cameras do have a saving grace: video. It is capable of shooting 4k 120fps video that can be then slowed down on a computer to create some of the best slow motion footage I’ve seen coming from a smartphone. It can also shoot insanely sharp 8k 30fps video, and overall the results in both color and overall image sharpness is extremely impressive. You’ll have to watch the video for those samples.


    Performance/Software Experience:

    I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about the performance on this phone. Why? Because as you should expect from a flagship phone from OnePlus, the phone is very fast. All models are equipped with the latest Snapdragon 888 CPU, and my model has 12 gigabytes of RAM.

    Needless to say, whether you’re flicking through apps, browsing the web, or playing the most demanding of mobile games, the 9 Pro will chug through without any slowdowns or hiccups. It is among the fastest phones I have ever tested (and it should be).

    I have heard whispers of some people experiencing some shutter lag in the camera app or some overheating issues, but in all the time I have spent with this phone so far, I have not experienced either of those problems.

    The software experience as a whole has been about as good as I’ve come to expect from OnePlus. Oxygen OS’s Android 11 skin is clean with little to no bloatware and is full of customization options. I especially like the ability to change the icon pack and default font of the phone.

    I’ve only had one bug pop up on my unit: whenever I would disconnect from WiFi after leaving my house, my mobile data would not kick in. It would claim that I am connected, but all of my apps refused to believe I had a connection. I had to turn off my mobile data in my settings and turn it back on to fix the issue. Keep in mind that this is technically pre-release software though, so the likelihood of you experiencing this issue is low.


    Battery/Charging:

    OP9 pro batt charge.jpg

    The final category before my conclusion is the battery and charging category. In my opinion, this is an area where OnePlus absolutely decimates most of the competition.

    Like I mentioned earlier, the 9 Pro comes with their ludicrously high-powered 65 watt warp charger in the box. This will charge the phone so fast you can literally watch the battery percentage increase. Just 15 minutes of charging will make the phone go from 1% all the way to 65%. This is something I never realized I wanted until I had it.

    There are some concerns about whether or not that will damage the phone over time, but OnePlus has thought about this. The 9 Pro actually uses two 2,250mAh battery cells instead of a single 4,500mAh cell. This allows each battery to be charged at 32.5 watts instead of the full 65, preserving battery health significantly.

    The 9 Pro is also supposedly capable of 50 watt wireless charging if you buy OnePlus’ new Warp Charge 50 Wireless charger, but I have not been able to test that out to verify their claims.

    The battery life on the 9 Pro has been good for me overall. If you use the cameras a lot or play a lot of games, you could potentially kill the battery before the end of your day. But on a normal day where I’m not stressing the phone out, I haven’t been able to bring the battery below 40 percent.

    Even if you do manage to kill the battery quickly, that 65 watt fast charging makes it largely irrelevant. Just plug it in for a few minutes and you’re good to go.


    Conclusion:

    OP9 pro camera photo 1_00000.jpg

    This is the most expensive phone OnePlus has made to date, but with its impressive spec sheet it’s also the best they’ve ever made. The Hasselblad cameras may have been a little overhyped, and the Morning Mist finish isn’t my favorite, but the rest of the phone is excellent.

    If you’re someone who values a great display, top tier performance, a clean software experience, and fast charging, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a solid choice - even if you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for it.


    Thank you all very much for reading and/or watching my review. Feel free to leave me some questions below and I will do my best to answer them!

    • Mark
     

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    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021

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  5. Does!Compute
    KitKat Mar 31, 2021

    Does!Compute , Mar 31, 2021 :
    Excellent review buddy!
    I liked the fact that you put forward the facts exactly as you thought they were, without sugarcoating them. The camera does seem a little disappointing to me, just because of its consistency and lack of a periscope lens. The ultra-wide is excellent, but the main camera is still nowhere near as good as promised.
    Cheers :)
     

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  7. VeDxnTa
    OnePlus Accessory Tester Mar 31, 2021

    VeDxnTa , via OnePlus 8 Pro , Mar 31, 2021 :
    Great Review @mark! You may not know this but I've been watching your videos for a long time. I adore this review as it explains everything what I wanted to know clearly.
     

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