OnePlus 9 review: Power reloaded!

OnePlus 9

The smartphone experience on the OnePlus 9

I tested the new OnePlus 9 for about a week as my main Android smartphone. First, I should say that I’m a fan of stock Android, no changes from the original wanted. Although the OnePlus 9 comes with some changes, they’re about improving the user experience in a subtle manner, not about bloating the operating system like some smartphone manufacturers tend to. Thus, the OxygenOS Android flavor feels fluent, and fast, not just beautiful, and I’ve never witnessed lags while using it.

OxygenOS offers a very clean Android experience

During calls, the sound quality is top-notch: loud and clear, even if you’re talking from a noisy environment. Although I used it with just one Nano-SIM card, there’s a second slot available if you want to add an additional SIM. However, note that you don’t get a memory card slot, and the secondary SIM slot doesn’t support such cards either.

The SIM tray can take two Nano-SIMs: one on each side

The package doesn’t include any headphones, and the OnePlus 9 doesn’t have a 3.5mm audio jack. However, we tested the audio quality with a pair of premium Sony WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth headphones. Suffice to say that, when using headphones for listening to music or watching videos, the audio quality is not just good; it’s first-class. The stereo loudspeakers also manage to deliver clear and powerful sound.

The OnePlus 9 features a Fluid AMOLED display. It’s a beautiful screen that displays vivid colors, has high contrast, with deep blacks and bright whites. The touchscreen and the fingerprint sensor under it also work very well even though the smartphone comes with a pre-applied screen protector.

Watching YouTube on OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9’s battery can easily last for a day of moderate usage. In my case, that’s browsing the internet, reading news and checking emails, shooting some photos but not a whole bunch, and watching a movie or a couple of TV episodes in the evening. If you also play demanding games, you will have to charge your OnePlus 9 before the end of the day. However, considering that it only takes half an hour to do so, that’s not really a problem for OnePlus 9 owners, right?

Using the OnePlus 9 is a joy. The hardware as well as the lean operating system, offer plenty of power and a satisfying user experience. The screen is beautiful, phone calls and music are delivered in top-notch audio quality, and the battery life is as expected

The camera experience on the OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 comes with a triple-camera system on its back, as follows:

  • 8 MP camera: f/1.8 aperture, 23mm - wide, omnidirectional PDAF
  • 50 MP camera: f/2.2 aperture, 14mm - ultrawide
  • 2 MP camera: f/2.4 aperture, depth camera

On the front side, on the display, the OnePlus 9 comes with a 16-megapixel sensor with f/2.4 aperture.

The Camera app offered by OnePlus is easy to use but also offers a lot of advanced controls if you know how to use them. This is an area where it looks like the collaboration with Hasselblad took shape. The renowned Swedish company also worked together with OnePlus on the color calibration of the OnePlus 9, but not on the actual cameras on the smartphone, as far as we know. The best thing about color calibration is that the photos you shoot with this smartphone have very natural-looking colors. I, personally, appreciate that a lot, and I bet many other people do too. Different companies have different points of view on this matter. For example, both Samsung and Huawei tend to make the colors more vivid than they actually are in real life.

OnePlus 9: the Camera app

The photos we took with the OnePlus 9 were very good, in most cases. When lighting is appropriately powerful, regardless of whether it’s natural light or artificial, photos are well exposed, and contrast is excellent. At night, photos can also be shot at good quality, especially if you use the Nightscape mode. Obviously, there is some lack of details and sharpening in such conditions, but if you use a tripod, you can shoot excellent night photos.

What’s missing on the OnePlus 9 is a telephoto camera. Unfortunately, there’s none on the smartphone, so you can’t do optical zooming. In a world where most if not all high-end smartphones come with 3x, 5x, or 10x optical zoom cameras, this is an important loss for the OnePlus 9.

If you want to get a better idea about the OnePlus 9 cameras, browse through the gallery below. We’ve included photos shot outdoors, as well as indoors, a few selfies, and also some closeups.

OnePlus 9 can record videos in up to 8K resolution, although that’s overkill for most people. Our recommendation is 4K at 60 fps, as that delivers both high resolution and smooth videos. OnePlus 9 also stabilizes videos using EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization), which can come in handy when you’re recording videos while moving. Here’s a sample video that shot in 4K at 60 frames per second:

Here’s another sample video with more movement, recorded using the same 4K resolution at 60 fps:

If you like slow-motion videos, here’s what a Super Slow-Motion video looks like:

OnePlus 9 has excellent cameras that can shoot excellent photos and videos. We like the fact that their colors are accurate, but we don’t appreciate the lack of an optical zoom camera.

OxygenOS, Android 11, and bundled apps

OnePlus 9 comes with OxygenOS, which is an Android 11 tweaked by the company’s software engineers.

OxygenOS and Android 11

One of the first things we noticed about OxygenOS was the option to use a system font called OnePlus Sans instead of the default Roboto. You get the choice to switch to this font while setting up your OnePlus 9 for the first time, but you can also select it later from the Customization settings. We like the way the OnePlus Sans looks, as it feels more elegant and cleaner; however, it’s also lighter than the default Roboto, so some people might not like it.

The lock screen and the home screen of the OnePlus 9

There are also other little things that we like about OxygenOS: the always-on display options, the different fingerprint reader designs, or the lock screen canvas option that automatically creates sketches of your selected lock screen photos. There’s even a mobile gaming optimization tool called Game Space. It allows you to immerse yourself in your favorite game by blocking notifications and restricting the activity of other apps.

Gaming on the OnePlus 9

As for bundled apps, OnePlus doesn’t bloat its smartphone. On the OnePlus 9, you get the basic Google apps (Google, Chrome, Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, and Photos), and a few other must-have apps like Calculator, Camera, Clock, File Manager, Gallery, Game Space, Notes, and Recorder.

OnePlus 9: home screens and app drawer

The OnePlus 9 comes with OxygenOS 11, a neat and lean mobile operating system based on Android 11. Furthermore, it’s not bloated, bundling only essential Google and OnePlus apps that you’re going to need anyway.

Performance in benchmarks

To see how powerful the processor on the OnePlus 9 is, we first ran Geekbench. It got 1127 points in the Single-Core tests and 3643 in the Multi-Core tests. These are some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen on an Android smartphone. The only other Androids that can match it are the Samsung Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra and the OnePlus 9 Pro, which all use the same processor.

OnePlus 9 benchmark results in Geekbench

PCMark for Android helped us evaluate how well the OnePlus 9 does in productivity tasks. It got a huge 11767 points score. That’s first-grade performance: nothing can stop this smartphone!

OnePlus 9 benchmark results in PCMark

Playing games is essential for many people, so we had to also test gaming performance. To do that, we used the 3DMark benchmark app: OnePlus 9 got 5693 in the Wild Life tests, and “Maxed Out!” in Sling Shot Extreme, both when using OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulkan. These are outstanding results, showing that the OnePlus 9 is right at the top of the performance ladder.

OnePlus 9 benchmark results in 3DMark

To evaluate the battery of the OnePlus 9, we used PCMark's Work 2.0 battery life test. The smartphone managed to last for almost 12 hours. It’s an excellent result, which confirms that you can easily get more than a day of battery life from it, if you have moderate smartphone usage habits.

OnePlus 9 battery life benchmark results

All the benchmarks we ran describe a premium high-end Android smartphone that competes with the best of the best. It’s extremely powerful and fast, so the performance you get in productivity, multimedia, and gaming is top-notch.

Do you like the OnePlus 9 Android smartphone?

Now you know that we like the OnePlus 9. You also know that it’s one of the most powerful Android smartphones out there. Do you like it and would you buy one? Is there something that’s keeping you from getting an OnePlus 9? Let us know in the comments section below.

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