OnePlus 9 5G Review
In 2021, OnePlus attempts to shake things up a bit with the launch of the OnePlus 9 Series, appealing to users who are into mobile photography by collaborating with Hasselblad.
This is another step towards a new direction from being an upstart brand with a small but overly loyal fanbase into a mainstream mobile phone manufacturer. Does the OnePlus 9 represent a welcome change in the company’s direction? Let’s find out.
Design and Construction
One thing that strikes you with the design of the OnePlus 9 is the return of the glossy finish instead of a matte one from recent models. The Winter Mist color that we have really looks pretty, like a pearlescent color that transitions between pink and purple. It also features a gradient that makes it appear darker at the lower part. While the official specs say that the back is covered in Gorilla Glass, the build seems to be more plastic than its predecessors, probably due to the use of plastic instead of aluminum in the frame.
The back also features the OnePlus logo as well as a 2021-style camera bump where you get the three cameras, a LED flash, and the Hasselblad logo, which we’ll talk about more later.
OnePlus has also managed to slim the bezels further in the front by slimming down the chin further while maintaining the flat screen display of the OnePlus 8T. Whether you like the curved displays of the Pro model is a matter of personal choice.
OnePlus kept the display size at 6.55-inch and depending on where you bought the device, and thanks to the additional 5G antennas baked into the device, the device is a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor.
On the left, we have the volume buttons, while on the right are the power button and alert slider. The buttons are quiet but tactile.
The bottom contains the main loudspeaker, primary microphone, USB Type-C port, and dual-nano SIM card slot.
The top houses the secondary noise-canceling microphone and the speakerphone, which is actually cleverly hidden along with the top bezel. It also acts as a secondary speaker when playing media to make a stereo setup, which is nice.
Display and Multimedia
Taking a closer look at the display, we get a 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED panel with a 2400 x 1080 resolution, support for HDR10+, and a 120Hz refresh rate, making everything smoother. While the refresh rate is one area where we feel the downgrade from its Pro sibling with its variable refresh rate, the display itself is no slouch either, significantly if you haven’t jumped into high refresh rate displays.
Colors and viewing angles are on par with what you expect from AMOLED displays, and its peak brightness can help you in situations where you would need it.
Aside from the usual display customization features like the option to hide the punch-hole camera, full custom screen calibration, color temperature adjustment, reading mode, and vibrant color effect, OnePlus also introduced an Ultra High Video resolution mode that uses AI to improve video clarity.
When it comes to audio, the OnePlus 9 5G utilizes a combination of its bottom-firing loudspeaker and earpiece speakerphone to make a stereo setup. So, while it gets loud enough to fill the room, you might notice the slight difference in the emphasis on the mids, which could be attributed to its thicker profile and different choice of materials compared to its flagship siblings. But, overall, it’s still decent enough for casual listening and gaming.
While there’s no headphone jack, the phone offers its usual suite of audio customizations when connected to Bluetooth speakers like enhancement profiles and custom EQ.
This year, OnePlus focused on improving the cameras on its phones dealing with Hasselblad, an iconic Swedish camera company, and the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are the first models to benefit. OnePlus has renamed the Pro mode on the OnePlus 9 to the Hasselblad Pro mode, wherein you can manually control how you take your pictures. It is perfect for someone who wishes to explore mobile photography more seriously.
The OnePlus 9 5G has a total of four cameras — a triple setup at the rear consisting of a 48MP main sensor, a 50MP ultrawide, and a 2MP monochrome. For selfies, a single 16MP shooter.
When it comes to quality, we get some good color reproduction and crisp shots in well-lit environments with good dynamic range. Unfortunately, you won’t get a telephoto lens with the OnePlus 9; instead, it has a dedicated monochrome camera. When it comes to ultra-wide shots, results are pretty good and have a wider field of view with minimal distortion around the edges.
There is a bit of noise for low-light photography, but there is also a good amount of detail in captured shots, with good color reproduction.
For selfies, it is quite pretty good in well-lit conditions and can capture some sharp selfies with a natural-looking skin tone. It supports portrait shots as well, but the background blur feels a bit too strong and unnatural. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the level of blur.
For videos, the OnePlus 9 5G can shoot up to 8K resolution at 30 fps. Quality-wise it looks sharp and stabilized, thanks to its electronic image stabilization and produces good colors. The OnePlus 9 5G can shoot HDR video too, but this needs to be enabled manually.
OS, UI, and Apps
Running the software department is OxygenOS 11.2 based on Android 11. This is still one of the best Android skins in the market, despite the big design changes compared to Samsung’s OneUI. You still get a clean UI and the customization options you’ve known OnePlus phones for, but managing the device has become a little bit easier thanks to its large menu headers.
Pre-installed apps are kept at a minimum, which only includes the standard Google apps and a couple of proprietary apps like the OnePlus Community app. Netflix is also pre-installed to ensure HDR 10 support.
The system files take about 25GB of the total storage, leaving you about 231GB of usable storage.
Performance and Benchmarks
Under the hood, the OnePlus 9 5G is powered by none other than the current Qualcomm flagship chipset, the Snapdragon 888, along with an Adreno 660 GPU, up to 12GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of internal storage.
OnePlus emphasis on speed still rings true with this device, allowing you to throw as many tasks as you want at it regardless of the type. Gaming performance is fast as expected, with the system can handle Genshin Impact and Asphalt 9 with no sweat. The phone’s gaming mode has been updated to provide better controls and keep you on top of the game. However, phone temperature was of concern when playing for long periods. Check out the benchmark scores we got below:
• AnTuTu v8 – 510,880
• Geekbench 5 – 798(Single-core), 2,898 (Multi-core), 4,626 (OpenCL)
• PCMark – 11,648 (Work 2.0)
• 3DMark – 5,671 (OpenGL 3.1), 5,104 (Vulkan), 1,557 (WildLife Extreme)
• AndroBench – 1,944.86 MB/s (Seq. Read), 765.8 MB/s (Seq. Write)
For biometrics, we get an in-display fingerprint scanner and face recognition, and both worked accurately and quickly.
Connectivity and Battery Life
The OnePlus 9 has the current standards for connectivity features such as dual SIM support, Bluetooth 5.2, USB 3.1 Type-C, dual-Band Wi-Fi, dual-band GPS, NFC, and 5G.
Power is handled by a 4,500mAh battery with support for Warp Charge 65 and 15W wireless charging. Power Delivery over USB is also supported, allowing you to charge your device with other USB Type-C PD chargers.
Battery life managed to hold up for a day despite playing Asphalt 9 for a total of 3 hours in standard graphics setting and 60fps. With moderate use, you’ll be able to get more than a day’s worth of battery from this thing. Charging is also very convenient because you get a speedy wired charger that can charge your phone from 0 to 100% in less than 40 mins. The addition of wireless charging also addresses fans’ long-time complaints. The addition of reverse wireless charging is also helpful to charge your other devices, such as your Bluetooth earphones.
Our standard video loop test (1080p movie on loop, 50% brightness, 0% volume, airplane mode on), the device lasted for 25 hours. In the PCMark Work 2.0 Battery Test, it got a score of 11 hours and 58 minutes. Both of these are solid results.
At PHP 38,990, the OnePlus 9 5G is slowly approaching a price level many of us would consider as flagship, so the omission of OIS and the lack of an IP rating might be a bit of a downer. However, despite these misses, the OnePlus 9 5G is still undoubtedly a solid flagship for all the features we’ve known OnePlus to excel on, from its dedication to packing the fastest hardware around to the minor tweaks that make Oxygen OS 11 tick.
While changes to OnePlus’ strategy has seen it transform to a mainstream phone manufacturer, they need to step up their game in making sure that their flagship phones tick all the boxes expected at their price point and in delivering software updates to its users as the industry leaders have stepped up in this regard. There is hope that their partnership with Hasselblad will help close the gaps in the camera department and bring out OnePlus phones’ full potential as a competitive flagship phone at a lower price.
OnePlus 9 5G specs:
6.55-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080) Fluid AMOLED display, 402ppi
120Hz, sRGB, Display P3
Corning Gorilla Glass
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Adreno 660 GPU
12GB LPDDR5 RAM
256GB UFS 3.1 storage
Triple-rear cameras (Hasselblad):
• 48MP Sony IMX689 F1.8 main
• 50MP Sony IMX766 F2.2 ultra-wide
• 2MP monochrome
16MP Sony IMX471 F2.4 front camera
5G, 4G LTE
GPS (L1+L5 Dual Band), A-GPS, GLONASS, Galileo (E1+E5a Dual Band), Beidou
Fingerprint scanner (in-display)
OxygenOS (Android 11)
4,500mAh battery w/ 65W Warp Charge 65T
160 x 73.9 x 8.1 mm
Astral Black, Winter Mist