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The OnePlus 9 Pro is a strong flagship with a Hasselblad tuned camera, but does it live up to the hype?
The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the best smartphones available. It's an all-rounder with a fantastic screen, ample power, good looks, a punchy camera system and decent battery life.
If you’re into photography, you may have heard of Hasselblad – an icon in the field. Hasselblad cameras can cost in excess of £40,000, and up until now, a Hasselblad photograph was reserved for an elite kind of photographer. Thanks to smartphone maker OnePlus, though, that signature Hasselblad look can now be had for as little as £829 on the flagship OnePlus 9 Pro.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is much more than just a fancy camera. While it undercuts phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra when it comes to price, it still has a comparably specced screen that’s incredibly smooth, sharp, and vibrant. It’s also poised to perform across the board, with ample power for gaming, stereo speakers for immersive audio, not to mention incredibly fast wired, and wireless charging.
When OnePlus hit the smartphone scene with super-affordable powerhouses almost a decade ago, it boldly branded itself the flagship killer. Now on its ninth generation of smartphone, it’s more of a seasoned flagship maker than a fresh-faced underdog. Nevertheless, if the OnePlus 9 Pro is anything to go by, it looks set to justify a higher price tag than its predecessors, provided that the Hasselblad camera lives up to the hype.
The ‘good at everything’ phone
Price: from £829
The OnePlus 9 Pro is an across-the-board flagship smartphone. Hold it in your hand, and its curved glass and polished metal finish feel special. Fire it up, and the bright, sharp, AMOLED screen beams boldly. Open up Netflix, and its HDR10 visuals combine with stereo speakers to entertain completely. Matched with power for gaming, fast 5G download speeds, and some of the zippiest charging we’ve seen on any smartphone to date (wired and wireless), the OnePlus 9 Pro takes on pricier phones like the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and wins.
The OnePlus 9 Pro
You will be hard-pressed to get a better phone than the OnePlus 9 Pro for less. While it isn’t cheap by any means, it’s still one of the better value flagships out now with reliably good performance in all the ways you’ll likely care about.
Perhaps the highlight for us is the 9 Pro’s main camera. Does it do anything mind-blowing? No. It’s a gimmick-free set-up unless you consider the Hasselblad branding a gimmick. That said, it turns out reliably high-impact photo after photo, does a great job across lighting conditions, and delivers five-star photos across both the wide and ultra-wide lenses. That it also features a respectable zoom camera only adds to the phone’s appeal.
Its speakers sing, its screen beams, and it packs fast 5G mobile download speeds. We got through two episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race while testing it and didn’t have to switch to headphones or a bigger screen once, something most phones force us to do after about 15 minutes.
Then there’s the fast charging. Wired and wireless, the phone powers up quickly. Admittedly, you have to spend £69.95 on a OnePlus Warp Charge 50 Wireless Charger to get the full speeds, but the wired charger ships in the box, and the phone charges at a standard speed on other wireless charging pads.
If we had to pick at a couple of aspects, you could get more for less, the OnePlus 9 Pro might be overkill for you if you don’t need the fanciest, shiniest OnePlus. The lower-specced OnePlus 9 is a great shout and even the OnePlus Nord 2 which launched in July 2021. If you know you want a flagship phone, though, then none represent value quite like the 9 Pro.
The OnePlus 9 Pro features high-end everything. Starting with the screen, and it's a 120Hz panel that matches other top-tier flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra on paper. It's also sharp with its QHD resolution, ensuring even if you peer right up close to it, you won't be seeing any pixels.
In the hand, the phone's premium design doesn't necessarily stand out when set against other flagship smartphones, but neither does it disappoint. Combining high-polish metal and curved glass, the phone looks and feels like an £829 slab, and it's protected from dunks and dust, too, thanks to water-resistant sealing. In the box, you'll also get a case, and there's a pre-fitted screen protector, adding extra layers of protection from scuffs and scratches.
Around the back, the OnePlus 9 Pro's triple camera system is a clear highlight. With through-the-roof resolution, optical image stabilisation, and Hasselblad tuning, it captures nuanced photos that are teeming with detail and impact. The camera also records 8K video, as well as 4K video at a staggering 120fps, which means it can be slowed down to make for some fantastically sharp slow-motion footage.
Powering the phone is the latest mobile processor from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 888. Out of all the phone's running with this processor, the OnePlus 9 Pro is amongst the best for battery and heat management, staying cool for the most part and lasting a full day comfortably.
On the subject of battery, with its blisteringly fast wired and wireless charging, the phone also powers up in as little as 32 minutes. That makes it one of the fastest charging phone's we've ever used.
OnePlus has done a few great things to make sure its battery story stands out. For starters, it’s big at 4500mAh. Not the biggest (the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s battery is larger), but it’s on par with some of the best out there, like the OPPO Find X3 Pro.
OnePlus has also been clever with its power management. Some phones with the exact same battery spec as the OnePlus 9 Pro don’t last as long. The phone’s mighty Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset is a beast when it comes to performance, but it’s also battery hungry (and gets pretty hot too). OnePlus has tuned everything to keep the heat down better than some of the competition and make sure battery performance is on-point.
The phone also charges very quickly, with the OnePlus 9 Pro’s in-the-box charger powering it up at up to 65W. To put it into context, 65W charging is very fast. An iPhone 12 Pro charges at up to roughly 22W (and the charger is sold separately), so while you can fill up the OnePlus 9 Pro from empty to full in roughly half an hour, the iPhone will take around two and a half hours.
What’s extra special about how the OnePlus 9 Pro powers up is that its wireless charging is also super-fast at 50W, powering the phone up in under 45 minutes. That’s versus over three hours to wirelessly charge the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Why should you care about fast charging? If you’re rushing out of the house and remember you’re low on juice, plonking the 9 Pro on a fast wireless charging stand for just half an hour will power you up 70 per cent. That’s enough power to last you a full day, making the feature incredibly handy.
With a 48MP main camera leading the charge on the OnePlus 9 Pro’s quad-camera system, the OnePlus 9 Pro packs big pixel counts and ultra-wide and zoom photo capabilities.
The primary camera sports a nice and wide-angle (more so than most), so it gets a fair bit of detail in each photo. It’s also all stabilised with optical image stabilisation, meaning if your hand is a bit shaky, the photos aren’t going to be a blur soup. This is all matched with that Hasselblad photo tuning we spoke about earlier, which gives photos taken on the OnePlus 9 Pro an Instagram-ready glow.
Alongside the main camera is a 50MP ultra-wide camera, which features a brand new sensor made by Sony. Ultra-wides get loads in-frame (kind of like estate agent cameras), but the OnePlus 9 Pro’s ultra-wide camera also captures over a billion colours, something very few main cameras do, let alone secondary cameras.
The only camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro that doesn’t quite feel like the main event is the zoom camera, which features roughly three times magnification compared to the primary camera. It also sports optical image stabilisation, so it does a decent job dealing with hand-shake, but when the lights go down, its photos get noticeably worse, failing to stack up to the adjacent wide and ultra-wide cameras.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the OnePlue 9 Pro records video at up to 8K resolution. This totally over the top-spec will likely only appeal to video editors but also showcases the phone's future-proofed power. So too does the ultra-high-speed 4K video capture. Shot at 120 frames per second, 4K video taken at this setting can be slowed down by four times without looking like a stop motion video.
Unbox the OnePlus 9 Pro, and you get to enjoy one of the most neutral looking but premium phone designs we've seen for a while.
Neutral might sound negative, like vanilla or even beige, but by neutral, we mean the phone is super accessible; easy to get on board with whether you want it for work, play, or anything in between. Nothing folds, nothing shimmers too much, there’s no hot pink colour pops or vegan leather trimming here, it's just a glass and metal, good looking handset, and we like it.
On the front is an all-encompassing curved display, with a punch-hole selfie camera in the top left. The phone's sides are high-polish metal, and around the back is more curved glass.
One highlight of that premium OnePlus phones feature is a notification slider, so you can fumble in a bag or pocket and mute your phone easily.
In the hand, the OnePlus 9 Pro is a large phone, not not as overbearing as phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. It feels and looks rich, even if it does love fingerprint smudges. Fortunately, there's a case in the box, so that will definitely help keep grubby marks at bay.
Once you get past its fine design, firing up the phone brings the beautiful screen to life – it beams brightly and crisply, and OnePlus's set-up process consists of a handheld walkthrough that helps you load up your accounts and migrate your data from your old phone without any headaches.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the best smartphones out now. It really is an all-rounder that looks good, has a fantastic screen, ample power, a punchy camera system and decent battery life. That it also charges very quickly and has value adds like a case in the box only boost to its already bursting appeal. While you can get phones with more camera zoom and slimmer bodies, and the OnePlus 9 Pro definitely isn’t cheap, all the competition that beats it tips the £1,000 mark. That means you really do get what you pay for when you pick up the 9 Pro: best-in-class quality across the board with very few caveats.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is available to buy off-contract from: