OnePlus 9 Pro review: OnePlus finally gets camera systems right

OnePlus evolves the OnePlus 8 Pro and doubles down on its camera system. The results are excellent

T3 Platinum Award
OnePlus 9 Pro review
(Image credit: OnePlus)
T3 Verdict

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a mature evolution of last year's flagship that doubles down on the area where the Chinese maker has traditionally been weaker than its main rivals – the camera system. The Hasselblad partnership sees OnePlus address this head on and, as a result, the OnePlus 9 Pro offers the best camera system of any OnePlus phone ever made.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Best camera system on a OnePlus phone

  • +

    Powerful hardware and rapid performance

  • +

    Stylish, premium design

  • +

    Charging and wireless charging tech is superb

  • +

    Slick and intuitive user interface

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Very much an evolution of the OnePlus 8 Pro

  • -

    Battery life is good but not best in class

  • -

    OnePlus 9 offers better value for money

OnePlus 9 Pro – key specs

OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm
Display size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: QHD (3216x1400)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Pixel density: 525ppi
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
GPU: Qualcomm Adreno 660
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Rear cameras: 48MP + 8MP + 50MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Battery: 4,500mAh

There's a reason why the OnePlus 8 Pro has sat in T3's prestigious best phones guide for an entire year. That's because it was fantastic phone that delivered "mind-blowing speed and performance" along with the "best display ever shipped on a smartphone".

There was one thing, though, that wasn't ideal on the OnePlus 8 Pro, and that was the fact that its camera system, while good, was clearly beaten by the majority of other flagship phones. T3 called this out and our verdict still stands to this very day.

But that is why for OnePlus fans this OnePlus 9 Pro review will read well, as the Chinese firm has really tried to rectify that weakness this year with a renewed focus on its flagship's camera system.

A partnership with camera masters Hasselblad has seen the OnePlus 9 Pro come with a camera system co-developed and tuned by them, with the handset delivering the Hasselblad Camera for Mobile system.

OnePlus 9 Pro review


(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 9 Pro review: price and availability

The OnePlus 9 Pro release date is March 31 in the UK, while in the USA the phone debuts in stores on April 2. The phone was officially unveiled at the OnePlus event held on 23 March, 2021, and pre-orders are live now.

The OnePlus 9 Pro price is $969 / £829 / AU$1,250 for the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space variant. The 12GB / 256GB of RAM variant, which is the model tested here, costs $1,069 / £929 / AU$1,400.

In contrast to the OnePlus 9 Pro, the OnePlus 9 starts at $729 / £629 / AU$950, so you're paying a couple of hundred dollars extra for the Pro variant. That extra spend is largely confined to a higher resolution screen and a slightly more feature packed camera system. 

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro features a camera system co-designed by photography experts Hasselblad.

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 9 Pro review: camera system

The star attraction this year on the OnePlus flagship is the new Hasselblad Camera for Mobile camera system. This system has been co-designed with the photography experts and tuned by them, and it makes use of selection of quality Sony image sensors as well.

Camera systems have traditionally been the weakest aspect of OnePlus phones, so this partnership with Hasselblad seems purposely done to address that deficiency. I mean, the cameras on OnePlus phones haven't been bad, but they've never been best in class, and both OnePlus users and critics have called them out on this in the past.

And, after my testing, while I still don't think the OnePlus 9 Pro's camera system is the best on the market, it is a marked step forward and puts the handset on par with the best on the market today, such as the beastly setup included on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, as well as others such as the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and Google Pixel 5.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Detail and accurate color reproduction are excellent.

(Image credit: Future)

As can be seen in the image above, as well as in the image gallery below, the OnePlus 9 Pro's 48MP main rear camera, which uses a Sony IMX 789 sensor, in partnership with a 50MP IMX766 ultra-wide means that capturing subjects and the environment is easy.

Detail is high, there's a very strong macro mode, and in a marked improvement over past flagships, color accuracy and reproduction is now flagship level. Low-light performance remains good if not Huawei-level best in class.

There's also a dedicated monochrome camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro, too, which works largely as a support snapper to add extra detail and layering to any black and white photos you may take.

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OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9 Pro review

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The OnePlus 9 Pro also comes with a 8MP telephoto lens that offers up to a 3x optical zoom, and again while the level of zoom can't compete with the impressive but rather gimmicky 100x zoom of the S21 Ultra, it does allow strong levels of zoom and I feel it is totally useable in an everyday way.

The two image galleries below show the OnePlus 9 Pro's zoom in action. The first shot is taken with the ultra-wide, the second is a standard un-zoomed shot with the main snapper, the third is at 3x optical zoom, and the final shot is at the system's 30x digital zoom limit.

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OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9 Pro review

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OnePlus 9 Pro review

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OnePlus 9 Pro review

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As you can seen the subject in both galleries remains clearly visible when zoomed in on, however, just like with all phones today, the quality of the image deteriorates rapidly when you stray into digital zoom territory.

The OnePlus 9 Pro also has a 16MP front selfie camera, which makes use of a Sony IMX741 sensor. Selfie quality is high, but again in my opinion at least Huawei and Samsung phone offers slightly better results in this department. The bokeh in portrait mode is subtle, though.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

A selfie with portrait mode off, and then with portrait mode on.

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of video recording credentials, the OnePlus 9 Pro can record at up to an 8K resolution at 30fps, a feat which puts it right up there with the best phones on the market. As we've mentioned before in phone reviews, though, while 8K is nice to have, right now 0.00001 per cent of the global population have 8K TVs or monitors, so the ability to shoot in 8K isn't very practical right now. Still, it's nice to have the ability in the OnePlus 9 Pro's armory.

The more practical shooting modes on the OnePlus 9 Pro include 4K at up to 120fps, and that would be my recommendation for users. 60 or 120fps 4K footage is far more useable that 8K 30fps.

Throw in optical and electronic image stabilization, a bunch of cool shooting modes like slow mo, nightscape, tilt shift, panorama, pro and time-lapse, as well three different aspect ratios to capture in, and you've got yourself a very feature packed camera system.

This year OnePlus really seems to have nailed the hardware, software and feature package on their flagship, and for that they should be congratulated. Both casual and professional camera users alike will get on well with the OnePlus 9 Pro.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro's Warp Charge is top-tier charging tech.

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 9 Pro review: hardware and software

In terms of hardware, simply put, the OnePlus 9 Pro is very much an iterative evolution of the OnePlus 8 Pro. The display on last year's OnePlus 8 Pro was the best in the world at the time of its launch, and this year the quality remains very high, with a 6.7-inch, QHD (1440 x 3216), 525 pixels per inch, 120Hz, OLED AMOLED display delivered.

The screen is an absolute beauty still, and also now comes with an advanced adaptive refresh rate technology which, depending on what the phone is being used for, can drop the refresh rate on the fly down to as low as 1Hz to save battery life. The idea is that when viewing photos, for example, you don't need the screen firing on 120Hz, so why not save energy.

OnePlus 9 Pro – Geekbench 5 benchmark scores

GeekBench

(Image credit: GeekBench)

[CPU test]

Single-core: 1,087
Multi-core: 3,510

[Compute]

OpenCL: 4,654
Vulcan: 4,340

After testing the phone, I think this adaptive refresh rate technology is great as you don't notice it shifting the refresh rate, and considering that the phone's battery (4,500mAh) returned a good if not great battery life over our real-world two-day test, clearly it will keep you from running to a wall socket every few hours to charge the device.

That said, if you do need to charge the phone then OnePlus really does have you covered with the OnePlus 9 Pro. That's because the phone comes with its 654-watt Warp Charge wired charging, which simply put is phenomenal. This can charge the the phone from empty to full charge in just 29 minutes!

And, what's more, for lovers of wireless charging, the OnePlus 9 Pro also comes with support for 50-watt wireless charging, too, which can charge the phone to full in just under 45 minutes. As such, providing you've got a charger with you, it's always easy to keep the OnePlus 9 Pro well charged.

All this said, though, next year I'd very much like to see a larger battery stack in the OnePlus flagship.

OnePlus 9 Pro – 3D Mark benchmark scores

3DMark

(Image credit: UL, 3DMark)

Wild Life: 5,832
Sling Shot Extreme: Maxed out!
Sling Shot: Maxed out!

In terms of specs and performance, the OnePlus 9 Pro is powered by the current Android flagship processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and this, in partnership with 12GB of RAM and UFS3.0 storage, meant the flagship performed very well in both our Geekbench 5 and 3DMark benchmark tests.

The OnePlus 9 Pro returned CPU scores in Geekbench 5 of 1,087 in single-core performance, 3,510 in multi-core performance, and 4,654 and 4,340 respectively in terms of compute OpenCL and Vulcan tests. This comes in just under the scores posted by the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but right at the top of the Android phone charts.

Meanwhile, in 3DMark the phone was so fast that it actually maxed out both the Sling Shot and Sling Shot Extreme benchmark tests, which is something that not even the S21 Ultra could manage, and posted a very healthy average frame rate of 34.10fps in 3DMark's Wild Life test.

Unsurprisingly this led to buttery smooth and rapid performance in apps, games and the phone's UI.

Lastly, in terms of performance, as you would expect from a flagship phone in 2021, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a 5G modem, so anyone who lives in an area with a 5G network can make the most of next-gen super-fast data speeds and low latency.

In terms of software, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes running Android 11 and OnePlus' own OxygenOS skin, the latter remaining one of the lighter and more intuitive skins on the market today. OnePlus has always had a borderline Apple-level of understanding when it comes round to usability and intuitiveness in its handsets, and unsurprisingly it has not lost this knack overnight. 

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a good looking phone.

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 9 Pro review: design and build quality

Again cementing the fact that the OnePlus 9 Pro should be considered an evolution of the OnePlus 8 Pro is the fact that its design is very familiar. That's no bad thing, though, with the phone looking premium and feeling so in the hand. Metal framing joins a glass front and back, which the curvature of the screen is sharp (to maximise useable real-estate) and blends into the aluminium 2.2mm frame seamlessly.

Round the back the new Hasselblad camera array sits vertically in an oblong array and looks classy. This camera array doesn't meld into the framework like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but doesn't protrude too much and is finished with neat silver detailing that makes it standout in a good way. Attention has clearly being paid here, which is something I like to see as not every user wants to hide their phone in an engulfing, fugly case.

And with the OnePlus 9 Pro available in three attractive colorways, including Morning Mist (the model reviewed and pictured here), Pine Green and Stellar Black, the reasons to not hide the phone away have if anything increased with this handset. It looks and feels great, so if you are going to put it in a case then be sure to make it a good one.

Other than that, in terms of design it is business as usual for OnePlus here. You've got your power button and silent mode slider on the right hand edge of the device, a USB Type-C charging port and SIM card slot on the bottom (there is no microSD card slot on this phone, so no expandable storage option), and a volume rocker on the left hand edge.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a visually appealing phone that feels well made.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 Pro review: verdict

So, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a superb all-round phone then and, naturally for such quality device, it is very easy to recommend.

While the OnePlus 9 Pro is very much an evolution of the OnePlus 8 Pro, rather than a wholesale refresh, the fact that once again OnePlus has listened to its users and improved on the areas where it is weakest, has really paid dividends.

The camera system has been one of the weakest aspects of OnePlus phones for good long while now, and T3 has called this out multiple times. The camera systems have been decent to good, but never best in class and rarely comparable with the finest flagship-grade rivals on the market.

And, OnePlus really needed to fix this as its modern flagships like the OnePlus 9 Pro retail for truly flagship price points. And when users pay flagship money then flagship results need to be delivered. There can be no more "well, this feature isn't great, but the phone costs hundreds less than true flagships so we'll give it a pass". Now OnePlus is eating at the top table with Samsung, Huawei and Apple, and the high standards its products need to be held to should be the same.

Luckily, that Hasselblad partnership has really injected the latest OnePlus phones with a huge dose of camera heritage, and the results speak for themselves.

There are a few caveats though to an instant OnePlus 9 Pro purchase, though.

Firstly, the OnePlus 9 Pro is very similarly specced to the OnePlus 9, so my advice is to really weigh up if the benefits you get with the Pro really are worth it to you. The OnePlus 9 is also a superb phone and costs markedly less than the Pro, so you could get a very similar experience that is perfect for you and save money at the same time.

And, secondly, for the money you're spending here to land the OnePlus 9 Pro, pretty much all other flagship phones are now on the cards. OnePlus for years has had value on its side, with its flagship phones often undercutting the major players by a noticeable amount. That is largely how it got its reputation as a company that produced "flagship killers". Now, though, while OnePlus is absolutely making better phones, indeed they are some of the absolute finest phones on the planet, that undercutting on value is markedly reduced.

Pick up the model that I have reviewed here, which comes with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space, and you're going to have to drop $1,069 / £929. That is a lot of money and it is money that can bag you the latest Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone.

Rivals and price aside, though, the OnePlus 9 Pro is fantastic phone that now delivers across the board like never before. It not only delivers insanely fast speeds and powerful performance, as well as stunning design and suite of advanced features, but it also delivers a truly flagship camera system and experience. As such, if you're looking for a superb new Android smartphone, the OnePlus 9 Pro will definitely not disappoint.