OnePlus 9 Pro: Excellent Performance, Display, and Camera
PC Magazine|May 2021
The OnePlus 9 Pro smartphone delivers a streamlined flagship experience to T-Mobile and Verizon subscribers, finally catching up to its competitors. The phone itself is light in the hand, and the user experience is weightless as well.
SASCHA SEGAN AND STEVEN WINKELMAN

The cameras take knockout photos in pretty much all conditions, and the integrated fast charging is the best we’ve seen. The Galaxy S21 Ultra scores a bit better in our battery and wireless radio testing, it works with Samsung’s excellent S Pen stylus, and its camera offers killer optical zoom, so it just edges out the 9 Pro to be our Editors’ Choice among flagship smartphones. Still, the OnePlus 9 Pro is outstanding. If you want a top-notch, loaded phone that makes your heart sing, you’re now spoiled for choice.

THE ONEPLUS PROMISE IS FINALLY REALIZED

OnePlus was once a company that made just one great phone at a time. Now, it has a full line of phones at T-Mobile (and providers such as Google Fi, Metro, and Mint Mobile that use T-Mobile’s networks): the OnePlus 9 Pro ($969.99), the OnePlus 9 ($729.99 ), the OnePlus Nord N10 ($299.9), and the OnePlus Nord N100 ($179.99). They all share the OnePlus philosophy—speedy, elegant software and a streamlined physical design.

Cameras have always been the one area in which OnePlus tended to fall behind Samsung and Apple, so OnePlus made a deal with Hasselblad for color tuning and bought a new sensor from Sony. As a result, the 9 Pro’s camera is mostly on par with the latest from Samsung, slightly short only on optical zoom.

The OnePlus 9 offers similar overall performance to the 9 Pro but steps down a bit on screen, camera, and radio quality, and it doesn’t integrate super-fast wireless charging. If you don’t mind those downgrades, you can save $240 and get an even smaller and lighter phone. See our review of the OnePlus 9 for all the details.

OnePlus 9 Pro

PROS

Fast performance. Excellent all-around camera. Beautiful sunlight-readable screen. Incredibly fast wired and wireless charging. Little bloatware.

CONS

Battery life could be better.

BOTTOM LINE

The OnePlus 9 Pro holds its own against other flagships with a spectacular ultrawide camera, smooth performance, and impressively fast wireless charging.

LIGHT, SLEEK DESIGN

The 9 Pro’s base model has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The 12GB/256GB model costs an additional $100. It has no memory card slot. The phone is a perfect size at 6.42 by 2.89 by 0.34 inches (HWD) and 6.9 ounces. That’s a little wider than the 2.8 inches we use as the cutoff-width measurement for small phones, but it’s noticeably smaller and lighter than the Galaxy S21 Ultra and narrower than the OnePlus 8 Pro. Of the three, the 9 Pro is the easiest to use with a single hand.

The design, in tune with OnePlus’s “burdenless design” philosophy, is slim and elegant. The phone’s body is rounded and has the traditional OnePlus mute switch on the left side and the Hasselblad-branded camera module on the back. The camera doesn’t stick out nearly as much as recent Samsung camera bumps do (because it doesn’t have a giant periscopic zoom lens in it). The front-facing camera is a hole-punch on the upper-left corner, just like on the 8 Pro.

The phone has an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance (which means it’s resistant to dust, dirt, and sand and to submersion to 1.5 meters underwater for up to half an hour) and comes in two colors. If you’re not going to put your phone in a case, we like the matte pine-green better than the mirrored silver “morning mist” glass back, which has a greasy fingerprint problem. Our review unit came with a black carbon-fiber case that made that issue moot. (There’s a third black phone, but OnePlus tells us it won’t be sold in the US.)

Unlike the Galaxy S21 Ultra and recent Apple iPhones, the OnePlus phone comes with a cable and a 65W charger. Luxury! There’s a reason: OnePlus uses proprietary USB-C chargers. Although the phone can charge from any USB-C source, it’ll achieve its highest charging speeds only when you use the included charger.

The phone has no headphone jack or adapter included. At this writing, OnePlus’s own (very good) USB-C headphones are out of stock. For now, you’ll have to go with a third-party adapter or third-party wireless USB-C earphones. You can also go wireless. OnePlus Buds and even less expensive Buds Z both offer customizable tap functions that work only with OnePlus phones. If you’re looking at other wireless earbuds, try to find a pair that supports Qualcomm’s aptX HD codec, since it’s the highest-resolution codec available on the 9 series.

As for the onboard speakers, the audio quality is excellent. Dual stereo speakers deliver audio with a peak volume of 98dB and a surprising bit of mid-bass. For voice calls, which have a maximum volume of 81dB, the phone supports the best voice codec currently available, HD voice with EVS.

A BRIGHT YET BATTERY-SAVING DISPLAY

The bright and beautiful 6.7-inch, 525ppi, 3,216-by-1,440-pixel screen can be dialed back to 1080p in the phone’s settings to conserve battery life. The display uses a relatively new technology called low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) that reduces power consumption and gives phone manufacturers more control over refresh rates. It was previously seen in the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 series. Worth noting is that only the 9 Pro, not the 9, offers this screen technology.

This is a top-of-the-line OLED display with a bonus: It’s very visible in direct sunlight. A screen protector is preinstalled; we didn’t remove it from our test unit. According to DisplayMate Labs tests, the 9 Pro’s display set to Auto Brightness mode beats the 8 Pro, the Galaxy S20 series, and the latest iPhones in ambient light, though not the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. The 9 Pro also improves the maximum color gamut in its vivid display mode, which helps it maintain color saturation in outdoor lighting.

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