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OnePlus 9 Pro review: A much better camera on a better flagship

OnePlus 9 Pro review: The new OnePlus 9 Pro clearly aims for the top of the shelf competition with features that will hope to satisfy the needs of the most discerning user.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Rs. 64,999
Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 29, 2021 9:19:53 am
OnePlus 9 Pro review, OnePlus 9 Pro camera review, OnePlus 9 Pro samplesOnePlus 9 Pro review: The flagship phone makes a lot of promises and delivers well. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

As I was sifting through old stuff before shifting to a new house this week, I chanced upon the original OnePlus One box. It’s been seven years since the phone was launched and in those years OnePlus has changed a lot.

What was once a one-phone-at-a-time brand has now become more like Apple with multiple phones through the year. That is not essentially a bad thing and shows how the brand has become confident enough to enter other product segments and categories. And this means the “flagship killer” now has multiple flagships in its bouquet, trying to take on other flagships in the different price segments.

The new OnePlus 9 Pro clearly aims for the top of the shelf competition with features that will hope to satisfy the needs of the most discerning user.

OnePlus 9 Pro price in India: Rs 64,999 for 8GB/128GB | Rs 69,999 for 12GB/256GB

OnePlus 9 Pro specs: 6.7 inch AMOLED display with 1440 x 3216p at 525 ppi and smart 120 Hz refresh rate |  Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 with 8/128 GB and 12/256GB options | 48MP main camera + 50MP ultra wide + 8MP telephoto and 2MP monochrome + 16MP front camera | 8K video recording at 30fps | 4500 mAh battery with Warp Charge 65T (10V/6.5A) Warp Charge 50 Wireless |  OxygenOS based on Android 11 | 197g

OnePlus 9 Pro: What is good?

The OnePlus 9 Pro seems like a OnePlus phone from the first instance. The design language has not changed at all, despite the new prominent quad-camera block. That is a statement in itself, accented by the Hasselblad branding below it. The review unit we got came in the Morning Mist colour, which is very interesting — almost a metallic finish that gives a foggy look on one side of the phone. Yes, the phone has a design that will make it stand out.

Actually, I could not help but think that the Morning Mist’s metallic finish slowly enters Samsung territory with its ultra-luxury looks. But this is a OnePlus phone all the way with the unique notification toggle still getting a pride of place on the side.

A look at the back panel of the OnePlus 9 Pro. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

OnePlus has worked a lot on the display of the OnePlus 9 series. The OnePlus 9 Pro offers a lot in terms of display. This is a phone that can adjust its refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz depending on what you are doing. This is also a practical thing to do, considering you hardly need the 120Hz all the time and a 1Hz will do if you are looking at something static. The phone works very well in bright environments and even under this year’s exceptionally sunny March sky, I could manage with just half the brightness.

There is more to this display. OnePlus has added a Hyper Touch to offer a much faster response time to gamers. And to go with the stunning screen is audio that is loud and sharp, good enough for both enjoying movies and being successful in gaming.

The OnePlus 9 Pro gets a display with an adaptive refresh rate and higher touch sampling. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

Thanks to Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 888 5G, the processing power is the best you can get in Android phones. The phone is clearly capable of handling everything. I noticed a bit of heating after about 30 seconds of 8K recording, but that is understandable. For top-end gaming, where you will be using 120Hz refresh rate and pushing the CPU and GPU to its limits, OnePlus has added the CoolPlay feature that keeps the device temperatures low. So all my efforts to get the car back on the road in a rather long and very unsuccessful session of Hashiriya did not have much of an impact on the phone.

The phone runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

But the selling point of the OnePlus 9 Pro for me is clearly the Hasselblad camera. Now, OnePlus is using only software knowhow from Hasselblad to improve what has always been a decent camera. For me the biggest impact of this unison is how OnePlus has stopped being an Android camera with the improved colour reproduction from Hasselblad. The results now are more natural, more iPhone like.

Check out the full unedited camera samples on Flickr by clicking on the image below

OnePlus 9 Pro//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I have not been able to say this for any other Android camera before, where colours have always popped out and looked better than they were in real life. Also, the mono lens is to die for and gives photographers a great tool to express themselves, without the distraction of colour. This is also the sharpest ultra-wide camera I have used with a 50MP sensor and is hence devoid of the noise you are used to usually with these cameras. The Macro camera works as advertised.

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One more reason why this phone will enthuse a lot of camera enthusiasts is its video capabilities. This camera can do 4K at 120fps and 8K at 30 fps. Along with the better still camera, the OnePlus 9 Pro now stands up as an option for those looking to get more out of it phone camera, even using it for professional needs. But there are some caveats here.

The OnePlus 9 Pro supports wireless charging. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

Then there is wireless charging. I remember asking OnePlus founder Pete Lau a couple of years back about wireless charging. He told me the time for that will come when it is as fast as wired charging, not as slow as it was then. And true to his word, the Warp Charge 50 wireless charger, which can be bought for the OnePlus 9 series, charges the 4500 mAh battery of the OnePlus 9 Pro in about 45 minutes. This could end the pain point around wireless charging once and for all.

OnePlus 9 Pro: What is not that good?

As has been the case with flagships in recent times, the OnePlus 9 Pro betters on the legacy of earlier devices from the company. So this phone does not really hit anything out of the ballpark as far as features go. Everything is great, nothing is stunning.

OnePlus 9 Pro comes with 65W fast charging support. (Image credit: Nandagopal Rajan/Indian Express)

The camera is the best feature of this phone, but it has some rough edges. For instance, the lenses jump from one to the other, specially when you are clicking a subject at close quarters. Then, on video there is no zoom available when you are using 4K with 120fps and 8K at 30fps, which is a bit odd.

But that is about it when it comes to issues I could spot in the first week of use.

OnePlus 9 Pro: Should you buy?

I strongly recommend this phone for those on earlier version of OnePlus smartphones from before 2020. These users will notice a big jump in experience and features, especially with the camera and screen. This is also a good option for those looking at a top-end Android phone, but don’t really want to spend that much. Also, those using a phone for serious photography and video work can look at this as a good option that offers natural results. Then gamers have a new phone that also does other stuff very well too.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a lot going for it. This is one of the best Android flagships at the moment and frankly, there is not a lot to choose from in the price range the OnePlus 9 Pro finds itself in.

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