OnePlus 9 Review: Splendid performance, great camera, but do these justify the Rs 50,000 price tag?

Is OnePlus 9 the ultimate smartphone to buy under Rs 50,000? Or should you consider the Vivo X60 Pro and the likes? We answer these and more questions in our OnePlus 9 review.

April 06, 2021 / 09:57 AM IST
OnePlus 9 India price starts at Rs 49,999. This has resulted in the smartphone creeping into the ultra-premium category. With the price tag, the OnePlus 9 competes against the likes of the OnePlus 8 Pro, Vivo X60 Pro, Asus ROG Phone 5, etc. If you look at the OnePlus 9 specifications, you will see there are some good upgrades and downgrades over the 8T. Based on these, should you buy the OnePlus 9? Or should you consider checking its alternatives? We answer these and more questions in our OnePlus 9 review.
OnePlus 9 India price starts at Rs 49,999. This has resulted in the smartphone creeping into the ultra-premium category. With the price tag, the OnePlus 9 competes against the likes of the OnePlus 8 Pro, Vivo X60 Pro, Asus ROG Phone 5, etc. If you look at the OnePlus 9 specifications, you will see there are some good upgrades and downgrades over the 8T. Based on these, should you buy the OnePlus 9? Or should you consider checking its alternatives? We answer these and more questions in our OnePlus 9 review.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Design:  The OnePlus 9 looks premium, thanks to its glass back with a minimal design. The edges are curved, and the weight is light too at 183 grams, helping offer a good in-hand feel. Just like the volume buttons on the left edge, the alert slider and the power key on the other side are easily accessible even for people with small hands. That being said, the OnePlus 9 comes with a plastic frame, unlike the 8T's metal chassis. This is a letdown as the plastic frame takes away the premium feel that the phone offers overall. Some might also be concerned over its durability in the long run. Also, our Winter Mist OnePlus 9 review unit has a glossy finish, making it look plasticky at times. In case you hate fingerprint smudges on your phone, you could use the in-box transparent case or pick the Blue or Black colour options that offer a matte finish. By the way, there is no official IP rating for water and dust resistance.
OnePlus 9 Review | Design: The OnePlus 9 looks premium, thanks to its glass back with a minimal design. The edges are curved, and the weight is light too at 183 grams, helping offer a good in-hand feel. Just like the volume buttons on the left edge, the alert slider and the power key on the other side are easily accessible even for people with small hands. That being said, the OnePlus 9 comes with a plastic frame, unlike the 8T's metal chassis. This is a letdown as the plastic frame takes away the premium feel that the phone offers overall. Some might also be concerned over its durability in the long run. Also, our Winter Mist OnePlus 9 review unit has a glossy finish, making it look plasticky at times. In case you hate fingerprint smudges on your phone, you could use the in-box transparent case or pick the Blue or Black colour options that offer a matte finish. By the way, there is no official IP rating for water and dust resistance.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Display:  Just like the OnePlus 8T, the OnePlus 9 comes with a 6.55-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display. The screen is flat and minimum bezels around it. The colours are vibrant and the screen calibration is set to Vivid by default.  It is also HDR10+ certified and offers vibrant colours with enhanced contrast for a better viewing experience.
OnePlus 9 Review | Display: Just like the OnePlus 8T, the OnePlus 9 comes with a 6.55-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display. The screen is flat and minimum bezels around it. The colours are vibrant and the screen calibration is set to Vivid by default.  It is also HDR10+ certified and offers vibrant colours with enhanced contrast for a better viewing experience.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Display:  The screen is plenty bright and hits 1100 nits while viewing HDR content. Even when outdoors, we did not face any difficulty checking out content when under direct sunlight. What makes the viewing experience is the presence of a dual speaker setup, with the earpiece at the top acting as a secondary audio outlet.
OnePlus 9 Review | Display: The screen is plenty bright and hits 1100 nits while viewing HDR content. Even when outdoors, we did not face any difficulty checking out content when under direct sunlight. What makes the viewing experience is the presence of a dual speaker setup, with the earpiece at the top acting as a secondary audio outlet.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Display:  The OnePlus 9 also comes with 120Hz refresh rate support. The Fluid AMOLED display switches between 60 and 120Hz refresh rate depending on what's on the screen. There is an Always-On display feature that displays the time, battery percentage, and some more details. Off by default, you can choose to schedule it or set it On all day. The latter, however, will consume more battery life. While we are at it, let's jump into the performance bit.
OnePlus 9 Review | Display: The OnePlus 9 also comes with 120Hz refresh rate support. The Fluid AMOLED display switches between 60 and 120Hz refresh rate depending on what's on the screen. There is an Always-On display feature that displays the time, battery percentage, and some more details. Off by default, you can choose to schedule it or set it On all day. The latter, however, will consume more battery life. While we are at it, let's jump into the performance bit.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Performance:  When you think of OnePlus smartphones, the first thing you are likely to think of is a powerful performance unit. So is the case with the OnePlus 9. It comes with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 SoC. The processor offers raw power, allowing the smartphone to smoothly get through intensive tasks. We played Call of Duty Mobile and a few other games. Goes without saying, the gaming performance was smooth and lag-free. We did not notice any stuttering or frame drops. That being said, the phone heats up quite a bit after around 30 mins of gameplay. This could be a Snapdragon 888 chip problem as we experienced the same on our  Vivo X60 Pro+ review unit .
OnePlus 9 Review | Performance: When you think of OnePlus smartphones, the first thing you are likely to think of is a powerful performance unit. So is the case with the OnePlus 9. It comes with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 SoC. The processor offers raw power, allowing the smartphone to smoothly get through intensive tasks. We played Call of Duty Mobile and a few other games. Goes without saying, the gaming performance was smooth and lag-free. We did not notice any stuttering or frame drops. That being said, the phone heats up quite a bit after around 30 mins of gameplay. This could be a Snapdragon 888 chip problem as we experienced the same on our Vivo X60 Pro+ review unit.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Performance:  Our review unit packs 12GB RAM and 256GB of internal memory. RAM management has not been an issue and apps continued to load from where we had left them upon switching back. Oxygen OS 11, based on Android 11, offers a clean software experience with a bunch of optimisation and customisation settings. However, it has its share of bugs and issues. There were times when the multitasking window froze and the only way out was to lock and unlock the phone. Even while setting up the device, we came across the notification to finish the setup process. These were minor bugs, which OnePlus seems to have fixed via the two software updates we received during our OnePlus 9 review period.
OnePlus 9 Review | Performance: Our review unit packs 12GB RAM and 256GB of internal memory. RAM management has not been an issue and apps continued to load from where we had left them upon switching back. Oxygen OS 11, based on Android 11, offers a clean software experience with a bunch of optimisation and customisation settings. However, it has its share of bugs and issues. There were times when the multitasking window froze and the only way out was to lock and unlock the phone. Even while setting up the device, we came across the notification to finish the setup process. These were minor bugs, which OnePlus seems to have fixed via the two software updates we received during our OnePlus 9 review period.
 OnePlus 9 Review |   Performance:  What has also improved following the software updates is the battery life. The 4,500 mAh battery, initially, gave us a screen-on time of about 4-4.5 hours on days when we played games or shot photos and videos. However, after the latest update, the battery life improved and gave us an average of six hours of SoT. During the first two days, the always-on feature consumed over 20 percent battery. However, the recent update fixed that as well and the battery drain was much slower. OnePlus has bundled a 65W fast charger in the box with the OnePlus 9 to charge the device in 30 minutes. The best we got was 35 minutes, which is still pretty sweet. Unlike the international model, the OnePlus 9 India variant does not get 15W Qi wireless charging support though.
OnePlus 9 Review | Performance: What has also improved following the software updates is the battery life. The 4,500 mAh battery, initially, gave us a screen-on time of about 4-4.5 hours on days when we played games or shot photos and videos. However, after the latest update, the battery life improved and gave us an average of six hours of SoT. During the first two days, the always-on feature consumed over 20 percent battery. However, the recent update fixed that as well and the battery drain was much slower. OnePlus has bundled a 65W fast charger in the box with the OnePlus 9 to charge the device in 30 minutes. The best we got was 35 minutes, which is still pretty sweet. Unlike the international model, the OnePlus 9 India variant does not get 15W Qi wireless charging support though.
 OnePlus 9 Review| Performance:  The phone also has an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication. Although placed a bit lower than usual, the fingerprint scanner is easily reachable. It takes a fraction of a second to detect and unlock the device. You also get face unlock as an alternative.
OnePlus 9 Review| Performance: The phone also has an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication. Although placed a bit lower than usual, the fingerprint scanner is easily reachable. It takes a fraction of a second to detect and unlock the device. You also get face unlock as an alternative.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Camera:  While performance has been a forte, cameras on OnePlus flagships have been the Achilles' heel. This time around, OnePlus ran the hype machine at full capacity to spread the word about its partnership with Hasselblad. With that kind of hype, there were many expectations from the OnePlus 9 series. OnePlus partnered with the camera maker to fix the colour tuning on the 9 series. And the result? It seems to have worked in their favour... in most cases.
OnePlus 9 Review | Camera: While performance has been a forte, cameras on OnePlus flagships have been the Achilles' heel. This time around, OnePlus ran the hype machine at full capacity to spread the word about its partnership with Hasselblad. With that kind of hype, there were many expectations from the OnePlus 9 series. OnePlus partnered with the camera maker to fix the colour tuning on the 9 series. And the result? It seems to have worked in their favour... in most cases.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Camera:  To start off, the ultrawide camera is perhaps the best you can find in any smartphone in its price range. It has the same Sony IMX766 50MP sensor you get on the 9 Pro. Images produced by the ultrawide and the 48MP Sony IMX689 primary sensor offer neutral tones and you get good detail in most situations. There are times, however, wherein it messes up with the tones. You can play with the saturation in post-process using apps like Lightroom or Snapseed.  There is a very slight distortion in ultrawide shots but it is considerably lesser than other ultrawide cameras. The dynamic range, although not at par with the main 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor, is still pretty good. Oh, by the way, the colour tone and temperature across the two sensors matches in most scenarios.
OnePlus 9 Review | Camera: To start off, the ultrawide camera is perhaps the best you can find in any smartphone in its price range. It has the same Sony IMX766 50MP sensor you get on the 9 Pro. Images produced by the ultrawide and the 48MP Sony IMX689 primary sensor offer neutral tones and you get good detail in most situations. There are times, however, wherein it messes up with the tones. You can play with the saturation in post-process using apps like Lightroom or Snapseed.  There is a very slight distortion in ultrawide shots but it is considerably lesser than other ultrawide cameras. The dynamic range, although not at par with the main 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor, is still pretty good. Oh, by the way, the colour tone and temperature across the two sensors matches in most scenarios.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Camera:  In terms of lowlight camera performance, the device performs above average. It gets the colours right and the software ensures that night looks like night. However, there is noticeable noise in the shadows, even when you click photos using the NightScape mode. It does keep a check on not blowing out the highlights though.  Click here to check some of the sample images shot on the OnePlus 9 camera .
OnePlus 9 Review | Camera: In terms of lowlight camera performance, the device performs above average. It gets the colours right and the software ensures that night looks like night. However, there is noticeable noise in the shadows, even when you click photos using the NightScape mode. It does keep a check on not blowing out the highlights though. Click here to check some of the sample images shot on the OnePlus 9 camera.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Camera:  All is not well though. There is a noticeable shutter lag. This could be a problem when you are shooting something on the move. The preview window might suggest that you got the shot right. But, when you tap on it after the processing is done, you are likely to see the camera captured the next frame. Also, there is no Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), which is a big bummer for a sub Rs 50,000 smartphone. In case you struggle with keeping your hand steady while shooting photos and videos, maybe   check our Vivo X60 Pro review .
OnePlus 9 Review | Camera: All is not well though. There is a noticeable shutter lag. This could be a problem when you are shooting something on the move. The preview window might suggest that you got the shot right. But, when you tap on it after the processing is done, you are likely to see the camera captured the next frame. Also, there is no Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), which is a big bummer for a sub Rs 50,000 smartphone. In case you struggle with keeping your hand steady while shooting photos and videos, maybe check our Vivo X60 Pro review.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Camera:  The front camera quality on the OnePlus 9 is not as good as the rear. It offers good details and has a reasonable dynamic range. However, the 16MP front camera struggles to get the skin tone right. You also see some amount of smoothening on the face. Portrait mode gets the edge detection right and the bokeh doesn't look artificial either.  Click here to check some of the camera samples shot for our OnePlus 9 review .
OnePlus 9 Review | Camera: The front camera quality on the OnePlus 9 is not as good as the rear. It offers good details and has a reasonable dynamic range. However, the 16MP front camera struggles to get the skin tone right. You also see some amount of smoothening on the face. Portrait mode gets the edge detection right and the bokeh doesn't look artificial either. Click here to check some of the camera samples shot for our OnePlus 9 review.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict:  Coming to the main question: Should you buy the OnePlus 9? Does it justify the Rs 50,000 price tag? The OnePlus 9 is an incremental upgrade over the 8T when you look at the spec sheet. You get the same buttery-smooth 120Hz AMOLED display, a boosted performance unit with the same battery capacity, and a clean Oxygen OS software experience. The overall camera performance has also improved considerably. That being said, the competition has caught up and you now have multiple options as alternatives to the OnePlus 9.
OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict: Coming to the main question: Should you buy the OnePlus 9? Does it justify the Rs 50,000 price tag? The OnePlus 9 is an incremental upgrade over the 8T when you look at the spec sheet. You get the same buttery-smooth 120Hz AMOLED display, a boosted performance unit with the same battery capacity, and a clean Oxygen OS software experience. The overall camera performance has also improved considerably. That being said, the competition has caught up and you now have multiple options as alternatives to the OnePlus 9.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict:  Vivo X60 Pro (Rs 49,990) gets the closest to OnePlus 9 as an alternative. The overall camera performance of this premium smartphone is better than the OnePlus 9 in most cases. If you like boosted colours that do not need any post-processing, you can consider buying the Vivo X60 Pro. It also comes with a curved 120Hz AMOLED display that gives it a premium look. The performance unit includes a Snapdragon 870 SoC, which is marginally slower than the OnePlus 9's Snapdragon 888. However, for Rs 49,990, you get 12GB RAM and 256GB storage on the X60 Pro compared to the OnePlus 9's 8GB + 128GB storage. It does not even come with a dual speaker setup though, and if that is among your primary requirements, buy the OnePlus 9.  Click here for our Vivo X60 Pro Review .
OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict: Vivo X60 Pro (Rs 49,990) gets the closest to OnePlus 9 as an alternative. The overall camera performance of this premium smartphone is better than the OnePlus 9 in most cases. If you like boosted colours that do not need any post-processing, you can consider buying the Vivo X60 Pro. It also comes with a curved 120Hz AMOLED display that gives it a premium look. The performance unit includes a Snapdragon 870 SoC, which is marginally slower than the OnePlus 9's Snapdragon 888. However, for Rs 49,990, you get 12GB RAM and 256GB storage on the X60 Pro compared to the OnePlus 9's 8GB + 128GB storage. It does not even come with a dual speaker setup though, and if that is among your primary requirements, buy the OnePlus 9. Click here for our Vivo X60 Pro Review.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict:  The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the ultimate pick if you prefer gaming on a smartphone. Not only does it pack the 144Hz AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 888 SoC and a massive 6000 mAh battery but also comes with a host of features that enhance the gaming experience. That being said, the phone is heavy at about 250 grams and also has an average camera unit.  Click here to check our Asus ROG Phone 5 First Impressions .
OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict: The Asus ROG Phone 5 is the ultimate pick if you prefer gaming on a smartphone. Not only does it pack the 144Hz AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 888 SoC and a massive 6000 mAh battery but also comes with a host of features that enhance the gaming experience. That being said, the phone is heavy at about 250 grams and also has an average camera unit. Click here to check our Asus ROG Phone 5 First Impressions.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict:  There is also OnePlus' own OnePlus 8 Pro that is available for Rs 54,999 - the same price as the 12GB RAM variant of the OnePlus 9. You get a more premium design and decent camera performance. The phone also comes with an IP rating and wireless charging support as well.
OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict: There is also OnePlus' own OnePlus 8 Pro that is available for Rs 54,999 - the same price as the 12GB RAM variant of the OnePlus 9. You get a more premium design and decent camera performance. The phone also comes with an IP rating and wireless charging support as well.
 OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict:  Lastly, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. It comes with a generation older Snapdragon 865 chip but you are unlikely to notice any major difference in day to day performance. The phone also comes with a more versatile camera setup on the back. Samsung's recent track record suggests that the S20 FE 5G will not only get regular but stable updates as well. It also offers an IP rating, comes with a microSD card slot, and wireless charging support for Rs 47,990. However, the phone has a polycarbonate shell, which takes away from the premium-ness feel.
OnePlus 9 Review | Verdict: Lastly, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. It comes with a generation older Snapdragon 865 chip but you are unlikely to notice any major difference in day to day performance. The phone also comes with a more versatile camera setup on the back. Samsung's recent track record suggests that the S20 FE 5G will not only get regular but stable updates as well. It also offers an IP rating, comes with a microSD card slot, and wireless charging support for Rs 47,990. However, the phone has a polycarbonate shell, which takes away from the premium-ness feel.
Pranav Hegde
first published: Apr 3, 2021 03:47 pm

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