With the OnePlus 9, the Chinese brand OnePlus is looking for a connection with the competition, especially when it comes to the camera. But of course the smartphone has more to offer, as you read in this OnePlus 9 review.
price From € 699, –
Colors Black, Blue, Purple
OS Android 11 (Oxygen OS)
Screen 6.55 inch OLED (2400 x 1080, 120Hz)
Processor 2.84 GHz octacore (Snapdragon 888)
RAM 8GB or 12GB
Storage 128GB or 256GB (non-expandable)
Battery 4,500 mAh
Camera 48, 50, 2 megapixels (rear), 16 megapixels (front)
Connectivity 5G, bluetooth 5.2, wifi 6, nfc, gps
Format 16 x 7.4 x 0.9 cm
Weight 192 grams
7 Score 70
- Powerful smartphone
- Camera not good enough yet
- No audio port
- Battery life
That OnePlus is looking, that should be clear. Budgets smartphones, smartwatches, earphones. The brand tries to grow in every way, but it is not really successful. Because despite the fact that the disappearance of Huawei from the smartphone market leaves a huge gap, OnePlus is not able to take full advantage of it and it is mainly Samsung that is strengthening itself as a trusted brand.
OnePlus is therefore very keen to make this ninth generation (actually the eighth, since OnePlus avoided the Chinese unlucky number four) a success with growing brand awareness and sales figures. The months before the announcement, a lot of money was invested to generate hype, with ‘leaked’ product images and the upcoming collaboration with a renowned camera brand.
This ninth generation of OnePlus consists of two smartphones: the most luxurious OnePlus 9 Pro and this OnePlus 9. On the back of both smartphones, the logo of the camera brand Hasselblad is also displayed, with which OnePlus has entered into a multi-year collaboration in the hope of camera area compared to Samsung, Google and Apple finally catch up.
OnePlus 9 or Oppo Find X3?
In terms of design, you immediately see that OnePlus smartphones roll off the same assembly line that parent company BBK Electronics also uses for the Oppo Find X3 smartphone series. That is not new, actually all electronics that bear the stamp of OnePlus seem to be made of the same parts.
In any case, the design with the enlarged round camera eyes on the back looks nice, and this time seems a bit less copied from Samsung than it was with the predecessor (the OnePlus 8T). The glass back gives the device a luxurious appearance, the device looks like a jewel. Until you touch it with your fingers, because the glass housing is again a fingerprint magnet. A cover is therefore not a superfluous luxury, especially since the back panel is made of glass. You will find such a cover in the box, which is certainly a plus. By the way, keep in mind that the OnePlus 9 does not have water resistance certification.
It is not surprising that OnePlus has sought cooperation with Hasselblad. Despite the fact that OnePlus keeps hammering on the cameras with every smartphone introduction, it has mainly been quantity over quality. By covering a large part of the back with lenses, a lot was possible. But the photos are always qualitatively worse than the competition, even in cheaper price ranges.
The qualitative differences only got bigger, and that while even Google has been using the same sensor on its Pixel smartphones for years. Nowadays the difference is mainly made in the software that controls the camera. That OnePlus really had to do something, is evident from the fact that many users put GCam on their OnePlus smartphone. Google’s camera software, made for other sensors, was even able to take better photos than OnePlus with its own software.
The OnePlus 9 has the same camera as last year’s OnePlus 8 Pro.
The OnePlus 9 has the same camera as last year’s OnePlus 8 Pro. That does not have to be a disadvantage, because experience shows that with older sensors with good software you can still lead the way in terms of smartphone photography. The cooperation with Hasselblad for the OnePlus 9 has therefore mainly been in terms of adjustment, where, for example, color and noise recognition must ensure more realistic photos.
Such a collaboration is a lot of marketing, your smartphone has the stamp of a renowned photography brand. Nokia partnered with Zeiss and Huawei with Leica. However, both smartphone brands in turn have led the way when it comes to smartphone photography. Expectations for OnePlus are therefore high, also in the long term. Hasselblad’s brand awareness was built especially during the early days of space travel. The Swedish brand supplied the cameras of iconic NASA images that were taken, for example, during the moon landing.
Although Hasselblad is still a trusted brand, a lot has changed. For example, the camera maker has been taken over by the Chinese drone maker DJI, which may have lowered the threshold for the Chinese OnePlus to make contact. In the past, Hasselblad has previously collaborated with a Chinese smartphone maker: Motorola (part of Lenovo). Hasselblad designed a camera that you could put on a Motorola smartphone, a so-called Moto Mod. Unfortunately, this collaboration was disappointing. Both in terms of sales and photo quality.
OnePlus 9 photos
For the OnePlus 9, the collaboration with Hasselblad does not seem to be catching up for the time being. The camera gives mixed feelings. On the one hand in terms of capturing realistic colors and with the night mode significant steps have been taken. On the other hand, I often suffered from motion blur during testing because the camera seems to finish too many viscous processes after pressing the shutter button and the dynamic range is disappointing. My black model cat is no more than a black spot with yellow eyes for the OnePlus 9. For example, the OnePlus 9 is unfortunately still far behind the competition in terms of quality, my much cheaper Pixel 4A 5G managed to deliver a better (unmoved) photo in all circumstances.
In addition to the regular lens, you will find a wide-angle lens and a monochrome lens on the back. The added value of the latter escapes me a bit. The wide-angle lens offers the possibility to zoom out a bit further (0.6x) to get more of the picture. The other zoom levels (1x and 3x) are done by the regular lens, whereby you zoom in digitally with 3x zoom. The wide-angle lens has a bit more trouble with backlighting and low light than the regular lens.
The camera of the OnePlus 9 is therefore no reason to purchase the device. That is a shame, because the cooperation with Hasselblad seems to provide an improvement with the OnePlus 9 Pro. Colleague Rens Blom was positive about the camera in his review of the OnePlus 9 Pro.
From left to right: daytime, evening, evening (night mode).
Powerful OnePlus smartphone
Although there does not seem to be any catch-up in the camera area, the OnePlus 9 still scores good points with the parts used. I already briefly mentioned the beautiful housing, but the screen and chipset also provide a top experience. My version had 12GB of RAM and 225GB of storage in addition to the super-fast Snapdragon 888 chipset, which can also connect to a 5G mobile network if desired.
The screen again stands out when you look at brightness and color reproduction. The Full HD resolution also ensures that everything looks sharp. Especially if you regularly use your smartphone to stream from YouTube or Netflix, for example, the OnePlus 9 is a great choice.
The fingerprint scanner is placed below this screen. This is quite low, which takes some getting used to. In practice, the scanner works very quickly and fairly accurately. But still not in line with a physical fingerprint scanner.
The screen also has a high refresh rate of 120 hertz, which makes image transitions smooth. That’s nice, but it takes its toll on the battery. There is no dynamic setting, which only applies the high refresh rate when needed. This capability has been retained for the OnePlus 9 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S21 series. If you need a good battery life, you can better reduce the image settings to 60 hertz.
Because that battery life is something you have to take into account. Such a high refresh rate and bright screen simply takes its toll on the battery. Especially if you also use 5G. This can ensure that your battery just lasts a day with regular use. If you turn the settings down a bit and use 4G, the battery will last up to a day and a half.
The battery capacity of 4,500 mAh could have been slightly higher to improve the endurance of the OnePlus 9. That pain is slightly softened by the charging options. New compared to the OnePlus 8