Technophile

The OnePlus 9 Pro is faster than fast

Mala Bhargava | Updated on March 24, 2021

Now with Hasselblad branding and inputs to the camera this power phone really has it all

Each year it seems like the new generation of OnePlus phones come in a little earlier than the year before. Well, this year, a duo of OnePlus 9 phones is here to further liven up a month that has already been chock-a-block with smartphones. A OnePlus Watch also came along for the ride when all these were presented online by the familiar figure of Pete Lau, OnePlus’s CEO. Reviewers particularly look forward to a meaty bunch of OnePlus phones because they’re really the right target audience for these devices — people who like to use their phones to the absolute fullest.

OnePlus launches new series including OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus R

But OnePlus phones have, for a long time, been so fast and so maxed out on hardware, it’s difficult to make any dramatic changes to them year after year. So OnePlus decided to take what has often been called its weakest point and give that a huge fix. It dove head-first into a three-year partnership with Swedish photography icon, Hasselblad, worth a good $150 million. It gets, first of all, the Hasselblad branding, immediately visible in all the company’s communication on the OnePlus 9 series and proudly displayed on the camera module. It’s a name in photography that’s hard to argue with and so, that’s part of the battle won.

The other part involves R&D between the two companies and the inputs of Hasselblad engineers and photographers to tune the colour performance of the OnePlus cameras. One hopes that in subsequent years the partnership will help OnePlus evolve the cameras into something that also can’t be argued with.

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Meanwhile, we look at the OnePlus 9 Pro returning later to the OnePlus 9 which may well be the better selling of the two devices. As with the previous Pro models, it’s big. And heavy. Speaking from a woman’s point of view, I would definitely say it’s designed with masculine hands in mind, but well, it is what it is. The battery inside is just 4,500mAh so that can’t be what’s making the phone so solid and heavy, but something certainly does. In overall looks, the phone really looks like it could be a cousin of a Samsung phone as OnePlus has long since shed the particular OnePlus look of its initial phones. I do indeed miss that look as it was unmistakable and rather cutting edge even if it didn’t use the fanciest materials. Honestly, now it’s probably just the presence of the slider button on the side and the OnePlus logo that tell you for sure this is a OnePlus phone.

The prominent thing on the back is a very reflective glossy glass panel called Morning Mist but there are other colours that are matte, including a Pine Green that everyone is absolutely craving and no one has. The package, complete with all the charging adaptor etc, also has an elegant pearl grey case and more can be bought from OnePlus’ excellent collection. This is one company that really makes its case with cases.

The other prominent thing on the back is, of course, the Hasselblad branded camera assembly. Personally I think it looks very nice and though it sticks out a bit, a case is imperative because of the slipperiness and smudge-proneness of the glossy variants.

On the front you have very slim bezels and the glass gently curves into the sides at just the right amount. Pronounced curves have always been very troublesome usage-wise even if they look pretty, but on this phone, this aspect has been carefully handled. This is a 6.7-inch 1440x3216 screen which OnePlus is referring to as Fluid Display 2.0. One of the things it does is to allow you to select 60Hz refresh or 120Hz refresh but if it’s the latter, the screen will automatically vary between 1Hz and 120Hz to adapt to what you’re doing. This OLED panel has LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) technology to be able to do this adapting. In short, it’s a great screen but has a different take on colours than a Samsung display on a Samsung phone does and keeps the colours dialled down a little. It also goes up to 1200nits of brightness.

Expectedly snappy

Frankly, if they had nothing to the basic specs of the OnePlus 9 Pro, it would have still been one of the fastest phones in the world. But they did, one of which is to use the Snapdragon 888 which hasn’t come out on other phones in India yet. This is paired with 8 or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128 or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage — no memory card option. Needless to say the phone runs on Android 11 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11 still one of the absolute best interfaces available and even preferable to stock Android for many users.

This is one phone where you remain undisturbed by spammy notifications and unwanted garbage on the device and the trend continues with the new generation of phones. The performance is expectedly snappy. On benchmark tests, the Snapdragon 888 on this phone is faster than the Exynos 2100 on Samsung’s flagship phones. It’s more power than most people will need or want. The 4500mAh battery could have been bigger but with such fast charging, one would argue there’s no need. The ‘Warp Charge 65T’ does the job in 30 minutes and wirelessly in about 45 minutes. The phone now comes with IP68 water and dust resistance, a long-time demand of users. The fingerprint sensor is under-display and a little lower on the screen than before.

OnePlus’ best shot

The cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro are the crowning achievement of this phone. As you take your first photo with this phone and if you’re familiar with OnePlus, you’ll immediately see there’s some difference at work. The primary 48MP is not, however, engineered by Hasselblad. It’s a Sony IMX789 and it takes noticeably sharper images with more realistic colours and greatly reduced noise. The ultra-wide is actually a 50MP Sony IMX766 and it’s for the first time that a lens that usually comes along for the ride has been given such a boost. Work has been done on this lens to reduce distortion on the edges for wide-angle photos. It switches to a macro lens for nice results in good light. The telephoto lens is an 8MP with optical stabilisation and it shoots in 3.3X optical zoom and 30x digital. The selfie camera is still a Sony IMX 471 and shows the least change over previous.

The Pro mode has been revamped to be reminiscent of Hasselblad in the way it’s arranged. Even otherwise, to always remind you of the connection, the shutter button has been turned orange and emits the signature click of a Hasselblad camera. It also sounds nice and satisfyingly retro.

Price: ₹64,999, ₹69,999

Pros: High speed, widely appreciated design, Hasselblad branding and impact on colour science, improved cameras, supersonic charging including wireless, IP68 rating

Cons: Needs a round of software updates for small things, big, solid and a bit heavy, selfie camera needed a boost, now more expensive

Published on March 24, 2021

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