Updated: January 20, 2022 1:43:13 pm
Many of the flagships these days don’t offer any element of surprise. That can be both a good and bad thing. But when it comes to phones from brands like Apple, Samsung and OnePlus, maybe that is exactly what a bulk of the users are paying the premium for. Lately, OnePlus phones across price ranges have been playing to this narrative, of being the phone that ticks all the boxes even if devoid of the kind of flourishes that put flagships on the pedestal they are still on.
The OnePlus 9RT is the latest from the company and the first in a year when there could be a lot of changes in how this brand projects itself to its customers. However, this is a phone that carries the OnePlus legacy very firmly on its shoulders and knows what the customers are expecting when they buy into the cross sign on the corner of the box.
OnePlus 9RT: What’s good
From the long red box to the first view of the dark device inside, cloaked in plastic paper, everything about the OnePlus 9RT had a familiar feel about it. But still, when I flipped the phone over to see the Hacker Black rear panel I was pleasantly surprised… this is the kind of colour that I like and the kind of colour that endeared me and millions of others to this brand when it first came on the scene.
Though the overall look of the phone did remind me of some recent Samsung phones, this was still distinctly OnePlus, everything from the bold camera bump on the back to the alert slider on the right. The phone offers a good grip and the matte finish back ensures you don’t leave any fingerprints for later. It is also the right weight.
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As always, this OnePlus too has a display that makes a statement. The OnePlus 9RT has a 120Hz display that is both vibrant and precise. The display is light sensitive and adjusts itself to give the best brightness, or dimming, for any given situation. There are display modes that let you choose the kind of feel that you really like — I opted for the cinematic mode which is more warm and ideal for watching videos.
Performance has never been a problem with OnePlus phones. With the 9RT you are buying a top of the line processor that is also future-proofed thanks to 5G. With whatever I did during the testing period of around a week, the phone was more than stable and seemed to be asking for more.
In fact, the phone stayed cool during 4K video recording and even extended periods of browsing video platforms and gaming. While all this is great for regular users, this phone has a lot to offer for power users too, especially those who want to push the phone to its limits with their gaming sessions.
The OnePlus 9RT has a lot to offer for gamers from RAM optimisation to superb touch sensitivity. Playing a game like Hungry Shark I could just glide my fingers on the screen without even having to tap to get the fish to move or dive.
One of the reasons people will buy the OnePlus 9RT over more affordable rivals is the confidence they have in the camera. With the 9RT, OnePlus has added some muscle to the camera.
To start with, the 50MP main camera clicks pretty good images, especially in low light. The relatively larger sensor size of this one helps ensure that images have good detail even if these are shot at night. The image of a shepherd’s pie my wife baked last Sunday, shot with just candlelight, shows the different shades the cheese got cooked in.
Peering into the money plant in a long vase, the camera is good enough to capture the dust on the leaf below.
In the 16MP ultra-wide mode, the low-light performance does tend to be a bit on the lower side, but the 123-degree field of view means you can capture some frames that will stand out. I particularly loved how the camera captured the same money plant vase, but with an all-new perspective.
The macro camera is good too but suffers from burn issues in some lighting. So you need to be spot on while framing. A guided mode can be useful here. A shot of my bonsai roots highlights what this camera is capable of, in capable hands.
I was also impressed by the front camera, which clicked very good selfies without sacrificing the natural. Yes, you can touch these up on the camera app, but the base image itself is pretty good.
However, where the camera really pushes itself is with video. With image stabilisation and HDR this main camera manages some stunning clips, even in low light. The camera manages to retain most of the detail and autofocus acts as if this was a handy cam and not a smartphone.
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There is more, like the high-resolution mode where the camera captures the image at over 100MP but upscales as it shoots. It’s a good replacement for zoom if you crop into the part of the image you want to close in on. While the image that was generated was over 29MB in size, it was saved in a second and there was no discernible lag. But you will need the help of Google drive to send it somewhere.
The Oxygen OS version on the 9RT has good tweaks that help you achieve more without compromising the ease of use of pure Android. There are not a lot of new tweaks, but one thing that caught my attention was the canvas option that changes any portrait of yours into a line drawing for the wallpaper. Then there is a video enhancer that improves the output quality using AI.
The battery lasts close to 36 hours with regular use and can be charged back up in well under an hour. While everyone is talking about super-fast charging, OnePlus seems to be content with what its 65W Warp Charger and achieve, and rightly so.
OnePlus 9RT: What’s not that good
Well, there is nothing that hits you as bad in this phone. But then again there are no big surprises that have you in awe of what OnePlus has done with its new flagship… maybe we need to wait for the OnePlus 10 to get that effect.
OnePlus 9RT: Should you buy?
Yes, if you are on an older version of the OnePlus or on another Android phone and are craving for an upgrade that will propel you to the next level. If you are looking for an Android with a flagship experience, then the OnePlus 9RT is right there among the best options as a phone that ticks all the boxes but does not break the bank in the process.
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