[The Lab] OnePlus 9RT 5G - Return of the Flagship Killer?

  1. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Jan 26, 2022

    Starcommander , Jan 26, 2022 :

    Hey everyone,
    After years of waiting, I have joined the elite lab reviewer’s squad. For the unversed, I have been trying to flaunt the “The Lab Reviewer” tag since 2019, and finally, my dream came true with the OnePlus 9RT. In 2021, OnePlus diversified its device portfolio, with the R series falling under the budget flagship category. OnePlus 9R soon became one of the most popular and easy to recommend smartphones of 2021. With the roaring success of 9R, OnePlus launched its successor in the form of 9RT. Unlike the minimal transition from 8T to 9R, OnePlus decided to cast the 9RT in a new body with a finish similar to the pro lineup. On paper, the 9RT seems to be the perfect budget flagship. The initial positive reviews from the China launch urged me to review this device and I applied for the Lab. Very few products have managed to ring my bells of excitement, and 9RT was one such product. I would like to thank @Daniel D. for sending me the Martini. Like every other Lab reviewer, my review will be published in 2 phases:
    1. Unboxing, Initial impressions, device design.
    2. Display
    3. Software
    4. Performance
    5. Battery and Charging
    6. Camera
    7. Conclusion
    On 17th January, I received the package from OnePlus. I was hoping to get it earlier but it's better late than never. I opened the package with all my enthusiasm and was rather amused to see a Realme logo inside. In my opinion, there is no wrong to reuse cardboard packaging. What do you feel? Digging through the styrofoam protection, my 9RT box was lying in all its glory.

    The packaging hasn’t changed over the years. The design of the box is minimal yet classy. The soft-touch matte finish cardboard material gives a premium feel. OnePlus ticks all the right places when it comes to the packaging of their phones. Inside the box, the OnePlus 9RT lies with its full glory on a white bed with Never Settle engraved on it. The phone is wrapped in a plastic sheet and comes with a pre-applied screen protector.
    Inside the box, OnePlus has bundled a silicon TPU case, a type C to type A USB cable and a 65W charging adaptor. Along with them, the packaging also includes a quick start guide, safety information booklet, an RCC card, OnePlus stickers, a sim ejector pin and a welcome note. While other companies are ditching the charging adaptor, I am really happy that OnePlus hasn’t jumped on to that trend.

    The transition from a transparent silicon case to an opaque soft-touch TPU case is a good decision. Transparent cases often turn yellowish with time. I am hoping this case will be free from any such issues. The glossy “Never Settle” text gives it a unique look. The raised edge around the corner offers better protection.



    OnePlus has launched the 9RT in two different colour options: The hacker Black and Nano Silver. I received the hacker Black variant. With 9RT, OnePlus decided to ditch the simple matte finish from the 9R in favour of a more premium, satin-like looking texture. As per OnePlus, this texture was engineered using the second generation matte-frosted glass treatment process. The glass produces a glitter effect when light falls on it. This effect resembles the brightly lit starry night sky. Honestly, I loved this texture. It looks great and has a premium in-hand feel. However, this texture makes it too slippery to hold, and I wouldn’t recommend using it without a case.

    The 9RT boasts a triple camera setup with a dual-LED flash and a Flick-detect sensor. There is metallic ring protection on each camera lens which enhances the beauty of the phone. The phone is free from the “Hasselblad” branding. OnePlus has embraced the camera bump, and the result is a beautifully crafted camera module. The addition of the shiny metallic ring gives this phone a character of its own. In my opinion, this module looks better than the one present in the OnePlus 9 pro. OnePlus did a commendable job in designing the camera module of 9RT.

    On the front, 9RT has a flat 6.62 inches120Hz E4 AMOLED display with a hole punch cutout for the selfie camera. The top bezel houses the earpiece and proximity sensor. OnePlus has been following the same hole-punch design since 2020, which has become monotonous and boring. OnePlus has added a metal frame to 9RT.

    However, I am disappointed with the bezels. Being a successor to the 9R, I would rather prefer the bottom chin to be the same thickness if not smaller. However, the bottom chin of 9RT is thicker than the 9R by a considerable margin. Having used OnePlus phones before, the front design of this device doesn’t live up to my expectations. Thick bezels do have their advantages but make the phone look old. I hope OnePlus will address this in their next version.
    Bezel comparison (Left- 9RT, Right- 8T)
    The placement of buttons is in a typical OnePlus fashion, with the power button and alert slider on the right edge and volume rockers on the left. The bottom edge has the dual SIM tray, type C port, primary microphone and a speaker grill, while the top edge hosts the secondary mic.
    I am confused with OnePlus’s choice of incorporating a flat edge at the top and a curved edge at the bottom. Unlike the thicker bezels, this design doesn’t hamper my experience. However, It feels weird while playing games in landscape mode. The phone weighs 198gm which is heavier than 9R, but I have gotten used to it. OnePlus has always nailed the weight distribution of their products, and 9RT is no different.
    To conclude, 9RT looks great but there is room for improvement. It has one of the most beautiful rear panels yet fails to impress me in some key areas. The phone feels premium to hold but the thick bezels along with inconsistency in the top and bottom edges are the major setbacks.
    Thank you for reading.
    Stay tuned for the complete review.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2022

  2. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Mar 1, 2022

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 1, 2022 :


    The display is the major contributor to the user experience. OnePlus has incorporated a Samsung made 6.62 inches fluid AMOLED panel with support for a 120Hz refresh rate. The display is a Full HD panel with an aspect ratio of 20:9. With the 9RT, OnePlus has introduced an E4 panel which is an upgrade from the E3 used in the OnePlus 9. As per Charlotte C. from the 9RT AMA, she claims that the new panel helps to reduce the harmful blue light and saves power. The display can reach a peak brightness of 1300 nits. OnePlus claims that they have added a multi-level dimming algorithm that uses the front and rear light sensors to accurately identify the ambient light. In my usage, I found the auto-brightness to be fairly accurate and more responsive than the OnePlus 8T. One of the significant improvements is in the brightness levels. The display doesn’t put a strain on the eyes at night. However, the display of the 8T seems to be a tad bit sharper and a bit brighter under direct sunlight.
    (Display comparison between 9RT and 8T under direct sunlight and brightness set to auto)

    When compared with the OnePlus 8T, 9RT’s panel seems to be on the warmer side. The colours on the 9RT look more vibrant than its predecessor. The higher saturation on the 9RT often makes an object look unnatural. 9RT has 4 colour modes namely, vivid, gentle, cinematic and brilliant. The absence of a natural mode surprises me. I wish there was a mode that made the display, a bit more natural. The following KitKat photo was taken on the 9RT. I prefer natural colours in any smartphone display and from the following comparison, the OnePlus 8T takes the crown. The colour of the KitKat looks more vibrant on the 9RT. But the 8T manages to reproduce a more natural tone.
    (Brightness on both screens was set to auto and colour profile to vivid)
    The viewing angle of this display is decent and on par with most AMOLED panels. There is a rainbow effect on changing the viewing angle which signifies the usage of a low-quality screen protector. It can be fixed by removing the default screen guard. OnePlus has added a video-enhancement engine that claims to enhance the resolution of a video and converts SDR content to HDR. On paper, a low-quality video can be upscaled to a higher quality with punchier colours. However, this feature seems to be a gimmick and brings no change in the video quality. On the brighter side, the screen is free from any major issues like green tint, image retention, black crush, etc. OnePlus 8T had major issues with screen retention and 9r with a green tint. With 9RT, OnePlus has addressed all such issues.
    (Video Enhancement Engine animation on the video-player screen)

    The 120Hz refresh rate along with the 300Hz touch sampling rate makes the phone very responsive to the touch. The animations feel extremely smooth due to the 120hz refresh rate. During gaming, the touch sampling rate can be boosted up to 600Hz. With touch sensitivity set to maximum, the lowest touch delay response is 29ms. However, in real-life usage, it doesn’t bring a drastic improvement in gaming performance.

    9RT boasts some significant improvements over its predecessor. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to a “decent” display. The addition of a high refresh rate makes all the animations smoother. However, the display seems to be a bit more saturated for my liking. The colours aren't natural and I prefer the display calibration of the OnePlus 8T. Overall, a good display but not the best offering from OnePlus. I would prefer the display of the OnePlus 8T/9R over the 9RT.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2022

  3. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Mar 9, 2022

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 9, 2022 :

    When OOS11 was launched, I was disappointed and was hoping for a positive change in the next version. With OOS11.3, OnePlus seems to have picked up the bugs from OOS11 and thrown them away. The current implementation mimics the colorOS 11.1 with a few toppings of OnePlus apps in a bid to retain the OxygenOS name. With the codebase merger and enhanced resources, the 9RT tries to offer a better overall experience. However, the new OOS11.3 feels like a lite version of OOS11. The stability is improved but the essence of OnePlus is lost. The change in UI might be obnoxious to a certain group and sadly I am a part of it. The settings UI looks boring and feels outdated. The about phone section is missing the OnePlus screen. System Update UI lacks the OnePlus design. Overall, the change in UI is hard to digest but it doesn’t affect my daily usage.

    (New about phone UI)

    Oxygen OS is known for no-bloatware software and the current version is no different. Most of the pre-installed apps can be uninstalled. However, for some reason, youtube can’t be disabled. This software is bundled with the usual OnePlus apps like launcher, file manager, Zen Mode, Work-Life balance, Gaming mode, notes, weather, RCC, etc. My favourite feature in this build is the app lock. One can now set a different privacy password to lock the apps. The partial screenshot is another addition that I ended up using daily. There is a new high-performance mode that boosts the performance. When compared with OOS11, there aren't many additional features but the stability of the existing features have been improved. Since most of the apps are now optimised for android 11, I haven’t faced any “app not responding” bugs. There were zero instances of kernel panic on the 9RT. I gave this phone to my Mom for a couple of days and she loved using it. While the OG community might prefer the old OxygenOS, most people won't notice the changes.

    OnePlus has retained most of the customisation options in OOS11.3. However, it misses out on my favourite OOS feature: Bitmoji AOD. In the fonts section, OnePlus has added a new Sans Adaptive option. In this version, one can also customise the notification shade.
    While the addition of new features is a welcome addition, I do not appreciate the removal of existing features. There is no option to have a customised accent colour. A long-requested feature from the OnePlus 3 days is now removed from OOS11.3. The Purple colour option from the horizontal lights is now gone. The time customisation option of showing seconds in the status bar is missing too. In OOS11.3, the removal of some customisation options outweighs the addition of new features. I am hoping the above features will be reinstated with the OOS12 update. Also “Shot on OnePlus” wallpaper section has been removed.

    OOS11.3, however, is not free from bugs. With the introduction of Google’s cross-platform file sharing service, “Nearby share” OnePlus discontinued the File Dash feature. The feature never worked on 9RT. Every time, I try to share a zip file over 100Mb, it throws an error. No such issues were found on other OnePlus devices. Notifications from various apps are often empty. The input box gets covered by the keyboard in developer options. Changing the alert slider position while browsing opens the “Find in page” settings. While these are minor issues, I faced a major issue with the IMEI of the phone.

    Fixed! Thanks @Daniel D. and @Aiden.H

    Apart from the above-mentioned bugs, 9RT has a very stable and reliable OS. With almost no bloat, OOS continues to be my preferred android skin. If I had one word, to sum up, my experience, the software on 9RT is good. Not the best nor the worst. It lacks the excitement of a OnePlus software but gets the job done. Hopefully, the software update will make the experience better and add the missing features.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2022

  4. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Mar 20, 2022

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 20, 2022 :

    OnePlus 9RT is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset along with 12GB of ram. On paper, the internals of 9RT is bumped up in every possible way when compared to its predecessor. The phone supports enhanced cooling along with a faster RAM module. Does the 9RT's performance live up to its expectation? Let's find out.

    Due to the excessive heating nature of snapdragon 888, I expected the 9RT to meet the same fate as its siblings - 9 pro and the vanilla 9. However, I was shocked to notice how efficiently it has managed the heating. There are zero instances of overheating, a problem that plagued a lot of 9 pro users. I performed a 5 min 4k 60 fps video test and it passed with flying colours. To test the device’s thermal management in prolonged use, I played Genshin impact with the highest graphics settings and to my surprise, the phone was able to maintain the peak performance with a negligible increase in temperature. I am very impressed with what OnePlus has achieved with the 9RT and snapdragon 888. Thanks to the 12GB ram, apps open in a jiffy.

    While I firmly believe a benchmarking app cannot do justice to real-life testing, they give a fair idea about the expected performance. On running geekbench 5 under the high-performance mode, there was a tremendous boost in the result.
    Geekbench 5 results:
    Antutu Benchmark:
    I did a few tests on stress management and there was a 15% performance dip. But the test had no adverse heating.

    For gaming lovers, OnePlus has provided a new set of features in the gaming mode. One of them is a touch response rate of up to 600Hz. During a multiplayer match in COD mobile, I did feel a faster response however, the difference was marginal and something very hard to notice. I was very excited about the voice changer feature but sadly the experience wasn’t great. Might be a temporary bug. The best part about gaming in 9RT is the “high-performance mode”. In some games like Genshin Impact, there is a noticeable boost in performance under that mode. I wish there was an option to toggle the mode from the quick settings or the gaming screen.

    9RT ticks all the right boxes when it comes to performance. The combination of hardware and the optimised software delivers lag-free performance. I haven’t found any issues when it comes to performance. However, for some reason, OnePlus decided to incorporate a USB 2.0 with the 9RT. While it doesn’t make any sense in 2022, this doesn’t hamper my experience. I always use wifi directly to transfer files between my laptop and the phone. Having said that, I would highly recommend the 9RT to anyone who craves performance.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2022

  5. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Mar 21, 2022

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 21, 2022 :
    The OnePlus 9RT 5g has a 4500 mAh battery with support of warp charge 65T. OnePlus claims to use a dual-charging technology that can fill up the battery from 0-100% in 29 minutes. When OnePlus advertised their warp charge 65T to be better than its previous version used in the 8T, I didn't believe them. Turns out, I was wrong. The OnePlus 9RT is the fastest charging phone I have ever used. With the 8T, the phone did heat up after 15 minutes of charging but the 9RT stays cool even in the hottest environment. The 9RT has no support for wireless charging but its advanced wired charging capabilities makes up for its absence.

    I plugged in the phone at 10:40 am. Here are my observations:
    From 3% to 100%, the phone took around 32 minutes. It reached the 50% mark within the first 13 minutes. The phone was cool to touch and I didn't face any overheating issues while charging. The same result was obtained in the different charging cycles. It's safe to say, the 9RT delivered what was promised.

    They say battery and charging go hand in hand. While the charging speed of the 9RT is exceptional, the battery backup isn't the best. In the initial days, the battery backup was very bad and I managed to get only 4.5 hours of SOT. But with frequent updates, the battery backup was improved. With screen refresh rate set to 120Hz, Always-on display set to scheduled and High-performance mode turned off, I got a respectable SOT of 5.5 hours.
    There were instances where an app consumed excessive battery in the background which was fixed in the latest update.

    During testing, the day ended with 10% battery life. For any working individual with normal usage, the battery life is sufficient for daily use. However, a hardcore user might need to carry a powerbank. While the battery backup could have been a bit better, the ultra-fast warp charge 65T makes up for it. To conclude, the 9RT has an average battery life with exceptional charging speeds.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2022

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

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 23, 2022 :
    The OnePlus 9RT 5g features a triple camera setup with a 50mp primary lens, 16mp 123° Ultra-wide lens and a below-average 2mp macro lens. The main camera is powered by Sony imx766 and has support for OIS. On the front, the phone features a standard 16mp shooter.
    On paper, the 9RT has decent camera hardware. But with computational photography booming in the market, software plays a major role in today's smartphone photography. I will divide this segment into 3 parts:

    Camera Application:
    The OnePlus 9RT's camera application is way different from its predecessor. The position of "switch lens" and the "gallery" has been reversed and the UI seems to be inspired by that of OneUI. At the top, OnePlus has added the famous AI mode. Initially, the changes were hard to digest and I was particularly upset about the AI enhancement option. But with time, I realised it was wrong for me to judge a book by its cover. Open the camera settings and you will find a variety of AI-based features.
    Most of them go unnoticed, but one particular feature which I liked was the smart audio effect. It tries to replicate the audio zoom. The icing on the cake is, it works pretty well. Another feature that grabbed my attention was the support of "level" in addition to the usual grids. This feature is very helpful while shooting flat lays.
    In addition to the standard camera modes, OnePlus has added a new "Movie", "Long exposure" and "dual view video" mode. While the dual-view video seems to be a very gimmicky feature, I believe a particular group of users might like the feature. Among all these modes, I was most excited about the "movie" mode. I always requested OnePlus to add a pro mode for videos and my prayers are finally answered with the 9RT. I would have used this feature if I hadn't purchased my mirrorless camera. After harnessing the power of a real camera, it's difficult to go back to a mobile camera. However, to my surprise, my favourite mode was the long exposure. I loved playing with this mode. I can finally capture long exposure hypnotic shots without the need for an additional ND filter. Although I hate the UI elements used in the new application, I appreciate OnePlus for adding new features to the camera app.

    Image Quality
    The main goal of a camera system is to produce good quality photos. The picture quality of a camera outweighs the extra added features.

    1)Main lens
    The images captured from the 50 MP primary shooter of 9RT are crisp and full of details. It has one of the best hdr Implementations and the lens flare is very low.
    (2x zoom)
    However, I am not so sure about the colours. The photographer inside me wants to turn down the vibrance of each of the photos. But when I asked my friends, almost everyone preferred the colours of the OnePlus. Although the colours are not always natural, the 9RT produces some punchy colours which are pleasing to the eyes of a viewer.
    (2x zoom)​
    Turn on the AI mode and the camera intelligently makes a scene more appealing. While the boosted colours of the AI mode looks good on a few scenarios, it fails on many. I try to stay away from that mode as much as possible but it has become my mum's favourite mode. Overall, the main sensor produces pretty decent photos. At night time, the main sensor does a decent job with the pictures. However, it seems that OnePlus boosts up the sharpness of night shots. I am not a huge fan of such over sharp images.


    2)Ultra wide lens
    Things however change a lot with the ultra-wide lens. OnePlus has provided a 16MP ultra-wide lens with 123°. While the images are pretty good in bright daylight, the colours seem to be a bit different from the main lens. The HDR on this lens seems to overexpose some parts of the image.
    (Ultra wide lens)
    (Main lens)
    (Main lens)
    (Ultra wide lens)
    While the main lens seems to be on the warmer side, the secondary lens is on the cooler side. However, at low light, the quality of the image drastically drops. At night time, the photos captured using the ultra-wide lens in night mode are decent. But the output of expert mode has a lot of colour noise.

    3)Macro lens
    The 2mp macro sensor is bad. The quality is not up to the mark. The 5mp macro of 8T/9r is way better than the 2mp of 9RT. I feel OnePlus could have removed the sensor and added a better sensor in the ultra-wide lens. Images are grainy and they remind me of pictures clicked in the 2010 era.
    The following images are shot on the 2 MP Macro lens:

    4)Selfie camera
    The 16mp front camera is being carried over from the previous OnePlus devices and it gets the job done. AI beautification give a touch of make up. HDR on the front camera is a hit or miss.
    The AI beautification mode is something which I do not want in my camera but it has become my mum's favourite feature. While I might rant on some of the features, I believe every single feature added by OnePlus has a use case.

    Video Quality:
    The 9RT supports video recording of 4k upto 60fps on both the lenses. However, while recording at 4k 60fps, one cannot switch between the two lenses while recording. The video quality from the main lens is decent but the output of the ultra wide lens is bad especially in low light. The phone has an AI mode for video which boosts the color of each frame. There is a video portrait mode which is a hit or miss. Ultra stable mode uses the ultra wide lens to record the video which drastically reduces the quality. There is a slow-motion mode which supports video recording upto 1080p. The front camera can shoot videos upto 1080p and no option to select the FPS. The overall video quality of this phone is decent and should get the job done.

    The cameras on the 9RT do a decent job. It's a perfect replacement for a point and shoot camera. The new features such as movie mode, long exposure are some of my favourite features. However, the colors are not more saturated for my liking. The macro lens is a disaster and the ultra wide image sensor could have been better. The cameras on the 9RT are good but not the best and I wouldn't recommend it to a camera enthusiast.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2022

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  7. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Mar 25, 2022

    Stickied Post
    Starcommander , Mar 25, 2022 :

    To summarize the entire review, the 9RT is a great offering by OnePlus. The key strengths are its performance, battery and software. While OxygenOS has lost its root, the current implementation is very stable and free of ads. It is probably the only snapdragon 888 device which doesn't heat up and maintains a prolonged peak performance. The device has a decent display and a good camera system. The phone scores a home run when it comes to charging. However, the downside of this phone is the addition of USB 2.0, 2 MP macro and Android 11. 9RT seems to be an abandoned child because all its siblings have received the OOS12 update.

    The price of 9RT starts at ₹43,999 which is an incredible value for money device. While there are competitors offering better specs at a lesser price, the 9RT offers a better overall experience. I would recommend the 9RT to anyone who wants an all rounder device and is ready to sacrifice a bit on the camera. The only issue with the camera is the low light ultra wide noises and the processing. If these issues are addressed with the help of third party apps like gcam, then 9RT will be the perfect package.

    Lastly but not the least, I would like to thank @Daniel D. for this amazing opportunity. I had a lot of fun interacting with you and all the lab reviewers. I will definitely cherish these moment for years to come.

    That's me, signing off.
    Thank you for reading :)

  8. Sam197
    Jelly Bean Jan 26, 2022

  9. psygarden
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Jan 26, 2022

  10. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Jan 26, 2022

    Starcommander , Jan 26, 2022 :
    Thank you

  11. geohashmyboby
    Donut Jan 26, 2022

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    Honeycomb Jan 26, 2022


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    Eclair Jan 26, 2022

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  17. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Jan 26, 2022

    Starcommander , Jan 26, 2022 :
    Thanks guys!

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    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Jan 26, 2022

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  26. Starcommander
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9RT 5G Writers' Club Jan 26, 2022

    Starcommander , Jan 26, 2022 :
    Glad you liked it :)
    Not physically.
    Thanks guys

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