OnePlus 9 Pro Review: Solid Beyond the Hasselblad Hype

by Nicole on March 23, 2021
OnePlus 9 Pro
Positives
  • Brilliant professional display
  • Elegant industrial design
  • Extraordinary camera with Hassleblad color grading
  • Decent stereo speaker system
Negatives
  • Punch hole display for front-facing camera
  • Curved glass front and back demands protective case

OnePlus used to be a smartphone maker that offered the best hardware specification on a budget. Nine generations have passed since they aimed to be a flagship killer, today, they’re looking to make smartphones for the masses. The OnePlus 9 Pro is a great smartphone that still packs aspirational hardware, a Snapdragon 888, LTPO display and a Hasselblad camera collaboration checks all the boxes. But does the OnePlus 9 Pro have a real place in the market? Or is it just another flagship phone whose features will trickle down to their mid range smartphones in a year where the real sales will happen?

Next Generation Display Technology

The 9 Pro has a very impressive, excellent, top-tier, world-class smartphone display with close to textbook-perfect calibration accuracy and performance. According to DisplayMate Labs, it’s visually indistinguishable from perfect.

OnePlus calls its new form of OLED display “Fluid Display 2.0.” It’s a combination of a Samsung OLED panel, plus a bunch of exclusive OnePlus software optimizations and tunings.

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s base display is a curved 6.7-inch, 3,216-by-1,440 panel at 526 ppi. The OnePlus 9 Pro makes a key shift to be more visible in sunlight. The phone’s auto brightness settings hide a special high brightness mode that kicks in when there’s a lot of ambient light. That max brightness, with a picture covering 50% of the screen, has been pumped up from 1,009 nits on the OnePlus 8 Pro to 1043 on the OnePlus 9 Pro, falling behind only the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (1,240 nits).

White point color shift at a 30-degree angle is similar to the OnePlus 8 Pro. The 9 Pro also pumps up the maximum color gamut in its “vivid” display mode from 126% of sRGB on the 8 Pro to 139% on the 9 Pro. That helps maintain color saturation in outdoor lighting, and slightly beats out the 135% gamut on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra; but the iPhone 12 Pro Max goes to 143%.

Is LTPO the latest display trend?

LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) is the latest improvement in OLED display materials. It combines the previous low-temperature polycrystalline silicon (LTPS) transistors with Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) transistors to reduce power leakage. It gives screen makers much more dynamic control over refresh rates.

LTPO first appeared on Apple Watches in 2019, it then showed up in the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Samsung Galaxy S21. We’re all waiting for it to show up in some of Apple’s iPhones later this year.

Expect this technology to appear with different names on sub-generations of LTPO; Samsung calls the version in the Note 20 Ultra “HOP” (hybrid oxide and polycrystalline.)

While previous-gen LTPS displays stepped from 120Hz down to 60Hz, LTPO lets OnePlus step refresh rates way down to save power, something that leads to the next feature here.

The OnePlus 8 Pro brought 120Hz, 1440p displays to the US. Now the OnePlus 9 Pro brings…a 1Hz display.

Do we Need Hz at all?

This is not ridiculous. It’s power optimization. The slower the refresh rate, the less power the display consumes. The Samsung Galaxy S21’s LTPO display goes from 120Hz to 10Hz depending on what you’re looking at.

When you’re scrolling, the screen moves at 120Hz. When it stops moving, it drops to 1Hz. If you’re watching a video at 30fps, and it runs at 30Hz. This all operates in service of battery life.

Is the Hasselblad Camera All Hype?

There is a lot of new tech in this camera to geek out on, this is the first time that Hasselblad has put anything on Mobile. Hasselblad has industry leading expertise in color science. OnePlus has always made competitive cameras, they’re among the best, but they’re not the best. The software the camera uses to process the images is extremely important and the OnePlus 9 Pro is producing very solid photos using Natural Color Calibration with Hasselblad.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a 50MP Ultra-Wide camera with a 1/1.56 Sony IMX766 sensor which is 3.2X larger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It has a Freeform Lens, which uses a series of curves to correct incoming light. Distortion on the edges of photos taken with the wide angle lens are 1% compared to 10-20% on some others.

The main camera has a 48MP custom built IMX789 Sony 1/1.43 sensor that has 2×2 on-chip lens (OCL), 12bit RAW, dual Native ISO and DOL-HDR. All this means, faster focus speeds and 64x more color information for the Hasselblad customized software to work with.

There is a dedicated monochrome camera which works with the main camera to provide more depth. Like the previous OnePlus handsets that came with this dedicated camera, I’m not sure what the point is. Sure the photos feel like they have more depth than using software, but is it enough to justifying including dedicated hardware?

The photos are color accurate, but I do feel that they are a little over saturated, which tends to be the trend for smartphone makers looking to become crowd favorites.

The more you learn about photography and editing, the more you start to realize it’s not the hardware. It’s the lighting, environment, composition and post processing that make for truly amazing shots. The best camera in someone who doesn’t know about photography still be worse than a great photographer with average equipment.

The 8MP telephoto camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro offers 3.3x (77mm) optical zoom maxing out at 30x digital zoom. Optical image stabilization (OIS) helps reduce blur and improves focus speeds. There is a tilt-shift mode which uses software to simulate the special miniature effect of a tilt-shift lens. The Pro Mode, looks like a normal Pro mode to me, but it’s been tuned by Hasselblad and has 12Bit RAW compared to 10Bit RAW which is found on most phones.

Low Light Photos

In love with Video on the OnePlus 9 Pro

 


I dont know anyone with an 8k TV, but we could shoot 8K content for them on the OnePlus 9 Pro. You can also shoot at 4K 120fps, with the ultra wide lens you can create time lapse video while walking, portrait video and nightscape Video 2.0. I have to admit that I am very taken with the video quality, the slow motion shots directly into the sun are a bit over processed and slightly over saturated, but the detail is impressive.

Selfies

Performance

The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are powered by the Snapdragon 888, the Pro has a fancy 5-layer “gaming-grade” cooling. The OnePlus 9 Pro scored just over 669,000 points on AnTuTu.The Snapdragon 888-powered phones dominate the field in terms of performance. However, they score in the low 700,000 or high 600,000. We’re not huge believers in benchmarks, but some will find it interesting how it stacks up against other Snapdragon 888 based smartphones.

Where we might see some performance gain compared to other Snapdragon 888 processor based phones is the display. The display will give you faster response time when gaming. Typical syncing speed between the processor and display is 60 Hz or 120 Hz, with Hyper Touch, OnePlus has increased it to 360 Hz – which in theory is 6X faster than the OnePlus 8 Pro. It’s currently available for PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, League of Legends and Brawl Stars. Fingers crossed they add more titles later.

Connectivity is powered by an integrated X60 5G RF system, which is based on a 5nm chip and is a global 5G solution. Being the 3rd generation, it’s got reduced power consumption and heat which will help to improve battery life.

UFS 3.1 Storage offers up to 6400MPbps.

The dual stereo speaker comes with Dolby Atmos and is loud enough for you to be able to show your friends a video or share a song in a noisy environment. The bass is very good for a smartphone, the mid tones are also very rich, making the sound feel very full.

If you’re watching a love of videos on your phone, the combination of the best in class disply with a great speaker is a winning combination.

Warp Charge 65T

Fast wireless charging is here, in just 29min you can go from 0-100. This isn’t a marketing line, real world testing has given me 5% to 89% in 20min, the last 10% always takes the longest in any charge. Warp Charge 50 on the 8 Pro have 0-100 in 43min, for comparison.

The 4500mah battery is dual cell to reduce heat while charging, this battery configuration allows the phone to charge faster for a longer period of time.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a 2.2mm frame and an official IP68 rating.

Software

I’m a OnePlus user, I know it’s they don’t always have the best phones on the market, but am always happy to make the compromise because of the software experience. OxygenOS 11 is clean and powerful with it’s customizations. What’s new is the Turbo Boost 3.0 memory optimization enables you to keep more than 25% more apps open in the background. They’re using RAM compression, which makes data on the RAM smaller, and Virtual RAM, which turns phone storage into RAM.

I have noticed some software glitches that I am sure they will fix with an update. The camera app freezes on occasion and the gps can be a little crazy, you can see in this photo of location tracking in Google Fit. Google Fit isn’t always the most accurate, but this is clearly a GPS bug.

Price

OnePlus 9 Pro 8GB RAM and 128GB Storage in Morning Mist and Stellar Black ins 899EUR and with 12GB of RAM and 256GB Storage with the extra color option of Pine Green for 999EUR.

[mg-amzlist type="search" search="OnePlus 9 Pro"][/mg-amzlist]
Rating
Design / 8
Camera / 8.5
Sound / 8.5
Performance / 9
Battery Life / 8.5
Software / 9
Price / 7.5
Editor's Choice / 9
Hardware / 9
Display / 9
OnePlus 9 Pro

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a fantastic handset, I will be upgrading from my OnePlus 8 Pro. The camera is noticeably better, the video quality is way ahead of what they put out last year. The display is beautiful and since I tend to watch some shows on my phone, the built in speakers are loud with excellent quality. The battery life so far has been easily all day even with big days taking a lot of slow motion video or walking timelapses.
The pricing is also competitive when you look at the Snapdragon 888, extremely fast wireless charging (the reason I disliked the OnePlus 8T so much, no wireless charging), and a solid camera with extreme color accuracy (if you turn the HDR off).
The biggest problem the OnePlus 9 Pro has is that it is just another flagship smartphone. But if you look at sales in the US in Q4 2020 they had 182% YOY growth. It seems that OnePlus just might be coming into its own from niche smartphone maker into the mainstream.

8.6
You have rated this