Time to get this new phone under the microscope and this time it is a biggy it is the new OnePlus 9 Pro 5G. This is a phone I have been looking forward to using a lot since I started to see the rumours appearing on various sites. I do go into the review with slightly mixed emotions though as this is a brand that built a heritage on being inexpensive flagship grades phones that packed a bang for their buck. I am worried that by now partnering with Hasselblad for the camera components and tuning (more on this later on) they have lost the right to call themselves a cheaper alternative to the flagships. Have OnePlus lost its way in the pursuit of being a flagship killer? This is what I intend to cover in this review.
Before I get started on the review I just want to add this quick disclaimer. I am basing this review on a sample unit that I have been supplied with by OnePlus. I have not had any form of payment for this review and OnePlus have not had any preview of this review either. The thoughts and opinions in this article are my own and this will always be the case with any reviews for Coolsmartphone.com
Here are my brief thoughts in video form if you wish to have the review summarised for you if not read on below for a deeper look!
As is sadly the norm these days the phone is a mix of metal and glass for construction with the model I have received is the Morning Mist colour variant. It has a very glossy finish which sadly means that you will be covering this phone in fingerprints in mere seconds of owning it. If you are looking to get one of these phones I would recommend that you get either the Pine Green version or get a skin for the rear of the phone. The phone does come with a case in the box which does fit nicely but it gets marked up very quickly especially if you’re using this phone in a job where your hands get dirty as mine do. The case is not quite as clean looking as it was when I got the phone out of the box on my unboxing.
The phone is very thin in terms of depth and feels nice in the hand thanks to the curved edges of the back panel and the screen. Although I have noticed more companies are now starting to move away from curved screens it works on the OP 9Pro as it is just enough to add to the feel without detracting from how the phone works.
All this glass hides the metal core which you can see the edge of along the sides of the phones and it is 2.2mm thick at its thinnest point which is pretty mighty it get’s wider for the base and the top of the phone as you would expect. It creates a very nice flow to the design giving a smooth continuous surface the whole way around the phone. This makes it nice for holding it for an extended period such as when playing games or watching a video. Going around the phone we have all the usual element s but let’s start at the top.
Up top, we have got a pinhole mic and two antenna break lines. Just tucked into the edges of the screen and the bezel is one of the speakers that also doubles as an earpiece for voice calls. It is loud and crisp enough to hear the other party reasonably well when on calls. It also works well as a speaker fro when watching content and playing games.
On the left-hand side is where we can find the power key and also the alert slider. This has now become a staple of the OnePlus design and it is something that I miss when I go to use another brand of phone. Coming from a Note 10+ it did take a bit of adjustment to get used to having the power key on this side again but that is a very specialist issue. We also have a few more Antenna breaks here which are good to see as it seems that reception for incoming signals was actually considered in the design which is something that can far too often be missed in the design process!
On the bottom, we can see a few more antenna break lines and the other speaker which is load and punchy without too much tinniness. Next to the speaker is the Micro USB Type C Port which works with OnePlus WarpCharge 65T to allow superfast power input up to 65W for rapid recharges.
It also works as a display output if you wish to hook the phone up to an external display via a dongle. OnePlus don’t have any fancy desktop-like software akin to Samsung DEX so you just get basic screen mirroring. Lastly, we have got another pinhole mic for noise cancelling for calls and video recording. We also have the Sim card slot which is protected by a red rubber seal to ensure IP protection.
On the right- hand side of the open we have more antenna lines and also the volume rocker. Not much else to say on this side.
Around the back is where the biggest news is for this phone. Here we find the camera module containing the two massive lenses along with another two smaller ones, a flash, a laser emitter and another microphone for the primary audio source for video recording.
A lot is going on within this module so I will leave it until later in the review when we talk about the cameras in more detail. Other features of the back are not immediately noticeable as they are hidden under the glossy back panel which has got nice colour graduation as you change the angle of the phone to the light but is a fingerprint magnet and very slippy. Under this panel, we have got the hardware for Qi enabled charging and reverse charging. So what makes the Qi charging on this phone a bit special is that the phone actually has two separate cells that can be charged at 25W each allowing for 50W of wireless charging power when used with the OnePlus Qi Wireless charger accessory. When used with a normal Qi charger it will take whatever that can provide through one of the coils in my case 10W via my very old Samsung charging pad.
The reverse charging is enough to power up some buds or a smartwatch or in a bind get your friend some extra juice to keep them going. you will also find an NFC point adjacent to the camera module for contactless payment and NFC enabled accessories (of which there are not many). A point that OnePlus aficionados may note is that the logo has moved down the phone the be in the middle now which is a first for OnePlus.
Before we go onto the screen I quickly want to cover the must use accessory for the Morning Mist colour phone if you don’t want this to happen.
The case that is included in the box is a very nice feeling one and helps you keep the phone in your hands but it is as I mentioned very easy to discolour and mark. I have only been using the phone as my daily driver for about a week and I work with electricians where we have to drill into brickwork etc for the day job.
It is very easy to transfer dirt and grime onto the phone case so if you are going to be using one then I would recommend either the Black Sandstone case or the Karbon case both of which can be picked up from the OnePlus Site.
These will afford a bit more protection without becoming a discoloured mess as mine has!
Now onto the screen which is simply gorgeous to behold and great to use. There are two aspects to this statement. The first one being that the screen is made up of a low-temperature
polycrystalline oxide (or LTPO) enhanced OLED panel.
This has benefits of this technology allows the OP 9Pro 5g to have up to 50% less drain on the battery and also allows the use of a refresh rate that can vary from 1Hz to 120Hz as required. So when you are reading text or displaying a static image the refresh rate will be lower than when scrolling through a website for instance. You do also still have the option of using a standard 60HZ refresh rate if you want to but I don’t really see why you would want to. The panel itself is comprised of a display with a resolution of 1440 x 3216 at 525 PPI which is a really good display size for a 6.7″ screen. The aspect ratio of 20.1:9 does make it a bit taller and thinner than my Note 10+ which has meant that I needed to get used to typing on it again but otherwise caused me no issue.
As for the touch responsiveness, OnePlus have pulled out another trick in the form of Hyper Touch which takes the normal touch response rate of 60Hz and ramps it up by a factor of 6 to 360Hz which makes for near-instant touch response which is all-important for gaming which is really where Hyper Touch comes into its own. It must be said though that in terms of the games I played on the phone it made little to no difference for me as they are not fast action games.
As for the quality of the display, this is the second factor that makes for a great display. The OP9 Pro 5G has a display that has been given an A+ rating from Displaymate. The display offers QHD+, up to 1,300 nits of peak brightness, native 10-bit colour depth, E4 emitting material, HDR10+, MEMC, automatic colour temperature adjustment, front and back ambient light sensing and more. it is a mightily impressive display and I was happily using it in most lighting conditions with no real issues to be found. Combine this with the dark mode UI and the display is great to use.
Moving onto hardware and time to get the low down on the internals of this beast.
Firstly let’s throw a specs table up here.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
1x Cortex X1 @ 2.84Ghz
3x Cortex A78 @ 2.42Ghz
4x Cortex A55 @ 1.8Ghz
Samsung 5nm LPE
Adreno 660 GPU
|Storage & RAM||RAM：8/12GB LPDDR5 RAM
ROM：128GB UFS 2.1128/256GB UFS3.1 storage
|Display||6.67” AMOLED screen
3216×1440 525 PPI
1-120Hz refresh rate
1300 nits peak brightness
65w Warp Charge 65T charging
50w Warp Charge Wireless charging
Sony IMX789 48MPF1.8
1/1.43” sensor size
23mm effective focal distance
Sony IMX766 50MP
1/1.56” sensor size
14mm effective focal distance
77mm effective focal distance
2mp monochrome sensorF2.4
[email protected], [email protected]/60/120fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, Auto HDR, gyro-EISExtra Features:
Hasselblad Color Calibration, dual-LED flash, HDR, panorama
|Cellular & Wireless||Frequency Bands:
GSM: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
3G bands: HSDPA 800 / 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1800 / 1900 / 2100
4G bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 32, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66
5G bands: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41, 66, 78 SA/NSA
Speed: HSPA 42.2/5.76 Mbps, LTE-A (CA) Cat20 2000/200 Mbps, 5GWireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot
Bluetooth: 5.2, A2DP, LE, aptX HD
|Navigation||Yes, with dual-band A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, SBAS|
|Audio||Double mic noise suppression
|Body||Dimensions:163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm (6.43 x 2.90 x 0.34 in)
Weight:197 g (6.95 oz)
Build: Glass front (Gorilla Glass 5), glass back (Gorilla Glass 5), aluminium frame
SIM: Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)
|Sensors||Ultra-fast in-display fingerprint sensor
Magnetic induction sensor
|Operating System||Android 11,
|Packing List||OnePlus 9 Pro 5G
USB Type-C CableWarp Charge 65W Charge Adapter
SIM Card Needle
Screen Protect Film (applied)
Important Product Information (including the Warranty Card)
So quite a good looking spec list there isn’t it. There are a couple of key talking points that I want to go into more depth on.
First up is that Snapdragon™ 888 Processor. Well, something that this phone is certainly not lacking is the horsepower i have not found any scenario where I have had the feeling that this phone is anything but quick. I am used to using the Note 10+ with a Snapdragon™ 845 processor which has been serving me well and has been perfectly fast and powerful enough. I didn’t think I needed any more power, and while it is nice to have it and to know that I will never be found lacking on the 888 processor that is not really what the latest and greatest is all about. This what OnePlus has to say about the brains of the phone.
With cutting-edge 5G, the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 888 mobile platform delivers lightning-fast speeds and unprecedented power. Every aspect of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s performance is boosted, with one Cortex-X1 core (2.84 GHz) for prime performance, three Cortex-A78 CPU cores (2.42 GHz), and four energy-efficient Cortex-A55 cores (1.8 GHz). With 25% faster CPU performance and 35% faster graphics rendering plus the new 5nm process node, the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 888 offers significant power-savings, allowing for extensive usage on a single battery charge.
I don’t think I could have summarised it any better myself.
This beastly processor is backed up with both LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage which unsurprisingly works faster than the previous-gen LPDDR4X by a factor of 1.5x faster. This makes for ultra snappy performance and smooth transitions when switching apps. The phone I have come’s with the 12GB RAM and 256GB Memory options it is also available for a more wallet-friendly 8 GB of RAM and 128GB of memory. it is worth remembering though that whichever one you buy you will be stuck with that storage level as like most flagships this is not an expandable storage phone.
So we have established that this is a powerhouse of a phone but with all that power comes the need for cooling and thermal control. The good news is from my experience with the phone and testing all aspects of it I have found that the phone keeps its thermals under control, even with the silicone-based case on! This is taken care of by building on the foundation that was set by the OnePlus 8T last year. So they have increased the size of the vapour chamber thickened the graphite sheets and made the copper foil larger as well. All these things help in the passive cooling of the device.
This will allow even the most ardent of gamers to really push this phone to get their best game out of it even with challenging titles like Fortnite, PUBG Mobile and Mobile Brawl. For me, I am happy with playing Grand Mountain a nice gentle relaxing skiing/snowboarding sim!
All of this gaming, filming and photography (more on these later) is going to take a toll on your battery life so how doe the OP9 Pro 5G cope with these demands. Well, I have been very impressed, to be honest. To give you a benchmark I have been using a Note 10+ plus for about 6 months at the time of writing this review. During that time I will normally see out a day with about 20% to 30% of my battery left. This is using my phone for work and also for play. On the phone, I have it set up to pull through my work VOIP calls and normal calls. I have my work email and Teams chat coming to the phone along with all the usual in terms of personal email, Facebook, Twitter, Slack etc. I would say that I spend at least an hour watching YouTube a day and on some days about an hour of Gaming. So when it came to testing the OP9 Pro 5G I tried my best to recreate the same scenario. The only exception was my VOIP work calls as they are tied to my Note 10+. Doing this i was getting very similar results in terms of how long the battery would last. In fact, I have only ever depleted it once fully and even this is not an issue as it will recharge so damn fast!
This brings me nicely onto Warp Charge 65T. In the box, we get an EU style charging brick (as this was a review sample) but the guys at OnePlus were kind enough to send me over a UK brick as well. The charging brick is fairly chunky but it holds the Warp Charge technology inside the brick itself to allow for rapid charging of the phone. Here are some pictures of the brick.
Not only will it deliver the 65W charging to the OP9 Pro 5G (and the standard OP 9 5G as well) but it will also allow me to charge my Chromebook and my Core i5 Windows laptop via Power Delivery on USB Type C. This is a great help when I am going between offices and the like as I don’t need to cart around my heavy laptop charger anymore so thanks to OnePlus for including the charger in the first place and secondly making it so powerful!
If you don’t want to have to use a cable to recharge then you can of course use QI as I mentioned above and this will take advantage of the Two QI charging coils that I mentioned in the above section on my device tour. I, unfortunately, didn’t get an OnePlus Wireless charger to test this out though.
That wraps up the hardware elements of the phone. Rest assured that if you do spring for an OnePlus 9 Pro 5G you are getting flagship-grade hardware for certain. However, are you also getting a flagship-grade camera to go with this fancy hardware?
This is an area where OnePlus has historically been slightly behind the curve with its flagships. Dont get me wrong you have never really had a bad camera from Oneplus but there have always been better options on the market and this is something that was deemed an acceptable compromise when it came to the price of the phone. The price of the phone has gone up now to near £1k for the base Pro model so does the camera now warrant this increase in cost. For me no it doesn’t. That may seem a bit harsh but I think it is justified by the results that I have got here.
I took the camera out for a few days to get some photos in varied light conditions to try and showcase where this camera is at its best and its weakest. below I will share the results. I do want to say that this is not a bad camera set up by any means but there are areas where it is weak and this is an area that OnePlus has built a lot of hype about.
You see OnePlus have marketed this phone off the back of their partnership with camera guru’s Hasselblad. They have so-developed the camera with them which to some will mean that they get Hasselblad tech in the camera lens and algorithms used in the image processing. It is not the first time we have seen camera companies do this Lecia have an active ongoing partnership with Huawei, Sony and Nokia have work with Zeiss on their phones in the past and even Hasselblad themselves worked with Motorola on an attachment for the Moto Z range a few years back.
The problem is that when I see the words co-developed in marketing. It can be interpreted in many ways. it could mean that the companies have done the R&D on the camera lens and setup together much like has been done with Huawei and Lecia. It could mean that the company is using the camera makers lens tech but not much else like Nokia and Sony have done with Zeiss. Or it could be what has happened here where OnePlus have added some Hasselblad Filters to the camera UI and an orange Shutter button and Hasselblad shutter sound!
This is why I am disappointed with the partnership as it promised so much but delivers little! There is still much more co-development to be done here in my opinion.
the camera produces some good quality shots when looked at in isolation but if you are able to compare the photos with some other devices then the weakness starts to show through. Here is a simple shot from the OP 9 Pro 5G and the Note 10+ side by side which will show the issues.
Here are the same images but cropped into the area around the red box
In the first set of images, you can see that the colour is a bit more exaggerated on the OP9 Pro 5G image than it is on the Note 10+ so much so that you can not make out the different blue tones on the note pad that can be seen in the Note 10+ pictures. To be fair the OP9 Pro 5G does pick up the texture of the carpet a bit better but it has also oversharpened the writing on the red box massively.
It is n second set of cropped images that we start to see things unravel more. Again we see the same oversharpening on the Op9 Pro 5G with the writing on the box and the colour shift and texture loss on the blue cloth. Strangely the text on the pen is clearer on the Note 10+ pictures. I have to say that from these two images alone I prefer the look of the Note 10+ images as they are more true to life. I have also taken a bunch of other images on the OP9 Pro 5G and this trend is continued throughout.
With all that being said though in isolation this is a perfectly serviceable camera and if like most people you don’t have the ability to compare images then you will be happy as long as you don’t get tempted to use the zoom too much as the next shots show.
It all looks good until you get to the 30x Zoom when you get what looks like a dodgy watercolour from a kids school eurgh! I am particularly happy with the Ultrawide and the 1x as they do showcase the area in the photo really nicely and there is not too much shift in terms of the colour between the two lenses which is good to see. This is mostly down to the fact that the phone uses primary camera sensors in both the ultrawide and the main camera which is a nice touch as normally the ultrawide is a less capable sensor. For the Ultrawide we have a 1/1.56” Sony IMX766 sensor and the main camera has a custom-built 1/1.43” Sony IMX789 sensor. The Ultrawide camera utilises a Freeform lens to help minimize edge distortion down to 1% compared to the 10 to 20% found on other phones. This allows for those really crips photos in UltraWide like the ones below.
As for macro and close up shots the camera is pretty good here as this is also using the same UltraWide lens setup along with a bit of AI to help with things.
I was also happy with the main camera when using it for full point and shoot photos.
And lastly here are some Selfies to show how that camera works which is not too shabby to be fair even with the Portrait mode on there is not too much going on with regard to beautifying me!
I do also like the subtle bokeh effect applied here as it pulls the subject to the front of the photo nicely.
Here are few night time shots first with the main lens
Next with the Ultrawide lens
The addition of Starry mode alongside Tripod mode does allow a little bit more light to be captured but it is not an amazing difference. The images are nowhere near as good as the like of the Pixel 4a or even the Realme 8 Pro that I reviewed last week. Now I know both those phones have different lens and sensors but they are also considerably cheaper, in the case of the Realme it is nearly a 1/4 of the price of the OP9 Pro 5G!
Now for a test of the Video not something, I use very often but for thoroughness, I figured I needed to include some for you. This just standard 1080 at 30FPS.
The end result is pleasing and not too much blur The camera will also record at 4k and 8k if required but I have found for the limited amount of video recording I do I don’t really need that.
The last bit of the camera side of things in the Hasselblad Pro mode option allows you to really dial in on the settings if you are aware of what these settings do! There a lot of things to find in here and I was able to play with them a bit but given the addition of AI algorithms, I would be much happier using them to be fair. I also noticed a bit of an orange hue in the preview of the viewfinder was evident in the pro mode that was not the case in normal mode which was a bit strange. it didn’t show in the pictures but it was a bit off-putting when framing a shot.
You can see the tinging on the keys on the keyboard backlight of my laptop!
Here is what OnePlus have to say about the Hasselblad Pro mode
The new Hasselblad Pro Mode brings Hasselblad-level sensor calibration to a smartphone for the first time, resulting in incredibly accurate and natural color for a solid foundation for post-editing. It has been revamped with a new user interface based on Hasselblad’s image processing software to give users a unique Hasselblad look and feel. It also allows professional-level photographers to manually control and fine-tune their photos, with the ability to adjust ISO, focus, exposure time, white balance and more. Users can also shoot in 12-bit RAW format for 64x the color compared with 10-bit RAW traditionally found in other smartphones.
If this is your thing then you are covered but I just like my cameras easy and simple which is open of the reasons I have always been a fan of Pixel devices as they are simple and easy to use. I believe this is true of iPhones but I haven’t used one since the iPhone 4G so I am not certain if this is the case anymore!
That wraps up the camera section of this review. Is it a bad camera no could it be better yes does the Hasselblad co-development help and warrant the extra cost no not really at least for me. Onto software.
This is an area where OnePlys have historically excelled and i am pleased to say that this is the same here as it has always been. I rate the UI on OnePlus phones as second only to that of the Pixel devices. it is just what i want from an Android phone it is clutter-free and smooth. It does what you want it to do and has some tweaks that enhance the user experience without clogging it up with additional apps stores that you don’t need or want. The only apps that are added to the stock setup are the following.
- Game Space
- OnePlus Switch
These cannot be deleted but are for the most part useful, with the only exception potentially being Files if you use your own preferred one as I do for the most part.
I like a few things about the UI a lot. The way you can customise the colours still gives me good vibes and the text that is just a little bit different from the Android default makes the phone feel a bit more “custom”.
The drag down Shelf contains useful extra bits like the weather, recently used apps a dashboard to view your phones key stats and a parking location reminder! You can of course add other features in as well such as Widgets and other services from the phone such as Zen Mode.
Zen Mode is a way to aid with the daily digital detox that we all need in our lives. it essentially Locks your phone down for a set period of time. You can still receive calls and make emergency ones but all notifications are muted and all apps disabled barring the camera. Once you have activated it you cannot cancel it until the predefined timer has expired. here is a small video showing what Zen Mode looks like once enabled.
I will share a few more screenshots of the UI below for you to show you what the phone looks and feels like from a software standpoint. But the long and short of it is if you like your phone to have a clean and easy to use interface and not be full of crapware then OnePlus is as it always has been the way to go.
An additional cool customising feature is the ability to use a photo and then make an always-on display outline from it.
The last area I want to mention which I alluded to earlier is gaming
This is not designed to be an out and out gaming phone for that you need to look at things like the ROG Phone and Black Shark as these will certainly tick more of the boxes that gamers want.
Having said that the phone is more than capable of playing high-end games and this is contributed to by The advanced chipset in the form of the Snapdragon 888 processor and the enhanced cooling. I have used the phone for what I would call more casual gaming in the likes of World of Warships and Grand Mountain and I have been more than happy using it for these things. The battery life was not diminished too quickly to allow me to have a long gaming session where I wanted to. The phone also remained comfortable to hold in terms of heat build-up. I know I mentioned some of this in the hardware section above but it is worth reiterating that if you are into your gaming then the OP9 Pro 5G will keep you in the loop. It does have a Games Pace app which will allow you to customise some aspect of your gaming experience if you wish to do so.
All the functions you would expect are hidden in the menu within the Games app and you can access a pop-out menu in the game if you wish to quickly change things on the fly.
So it will even accommodate light to medium Gamers. That about rounds up the review so let’s jump into the conclusions.
Should you be looking at the OnePlus 9Pro 5G as your next phone? Yes and no, helpful as always!
The reasons for yes are that this is a gorgeously designed high-end flagship that boasts amazing hardware in a slim sleek waterproof package that crams all the latest and greatest tech into it. It has a more than adequate camera if you don’t fall for the hype and it will serve you well in the photography and video department.
No, if you are looking for a high-end digital camera replacement for a fraction of the cost of a DSLR with Hasselblad credentials.
So the main message is if you can afford it then this is certainly a great option out there but don’t fall for the Hasselblad marketing as the camera is not the best on the market yet. I say that as in the time I have had the phone which was just prior to launch until now there have been two software updates and having spoken to some of the earliest reviewers they have seen a noticeable improvement to some of the camera irregularities. I think that if OnePlus continue to work with Hasselblad and tighten down on what co-developed means to them then they could have the potential to create something amazing here.
The biggest let down in this phone is also the biggest marketed aspect of the phone. So does it justify the price hike associated with the Hasselblad Logo, I don’t think it does and that is a shame as this phone could have been at least £100 to £150 cheaper without that extra logo as for now that is all it really seems to be?
The other factor to your buying decision is, do you need the “Pro” version of the phone. Well, I have the standard OnePlus 9 5G and I will be posting my experiences of using that soon to see if the missing elements make a big difference. so check that out on the site soon.