OnePlus 9 review: Is this phone still worth buying in 2022?
Editor’s note, January 12: the OnePlus 10 Pro just released in China, and we’re still learning about OnePlus’ 2022 phone line. But if you’re considering the OnePlus 9, know that while it’s not the most capable phone in the lineup, it still has great specs and its price makes it a solid option for anyone shopping with a limited budget. And despite a delay in its Android 12 deployment in December, the OnePlus 9 now receives OxygenOS 12, based on the latest operating system from Google. This balance of features and price earned it a CNET Editors’ Choice Award. Our updated review follows.
When I reviewed the OnePlus 9 last year, I said it was one of the best and most affordable phones you can buy. Its excellent performance, superb battery life, decent camera and super fast charging meant it was better value for money than its more expensive OnePlus 9 Pro brother and sister. That’s why it won the coveted CNET Editors’ Choice Award.
But since then we have seen the launch of phones like the Google Pixel 6, which also received rave reviews thanks to its excellent camera, sleek Android 12 interface, and good overall performance. And at $599, the Pixel 6 is exactly the same price as the OnePlus 9. Arguably the biggest competitor to the OnePlus 9 today, the Pixel is the best choice if you want the polished features of Android 12 and a top main camera.
Sure, Google’s Tensor processor promises AI improvements, but we haven’t seen many of them yet. The OnePlus 9’s top-of-the-line Qualcomm chip makes it an absolute powerhouse, while its longer battery life and stellar fast charging make it excellent if power is an issue. That said, the aluminum and glass design of the Pixel 6 feels significantly more premium than the OnePlus 9. Additionally, the Pixel comes with an IP68 waterproof rating – something not found on the OnePlus 9.
Then there is the new Samsung Galaxy S21 FE, which also performed well in our review and offers plenty of premium features at a more reasonable price than the flagship S21. But it still costs $700, making the OnePlus 9 the most economical choice for cash-strapped buyers. And let’s not forget the next one Galaxy S22, which is expected in February. While it’s likely to pack some impressive features, we expect it to cost significantly more than the OnePlus 9, so it’s not worth waiting for launch if cost is an issue.
From its blazing-fast performance to its superb battery, the OnePlus 9 has some solid features that make it a great everyday phone for 2022. Sure, it might not have some of the glitzier bits or mobile technologies of points like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or the iPhone 13 Pro, but its more affordable price makes it one of the best mid-range handsets to consider.
- Supercharged processor
- Impressive battery life
- Incredibly fast charging
- Affordable price
Do not like
- No official waterproofing
- Camera is good for the money, but not great
Here are five reasons why this is the best OnePlus phone to buy right now.
Better battery life
The OnePlus 9 has the same battery size as its 9 Pro sibling, but I found its battery life to be a bit better. Why is that? It probably all depends on the screen. At 6.55 inches and 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, its resolution is slightly smaller and lower than the 9 Pro. That means fewer pixels to illuminate, so there’s less drain on the battery. In our ramshackle tests, it went on for an impressive 23 hours, which puts it on par with the S21 Ultra and laughs off the 15 hours the 9 Pro achieved.
And don’t worry about that lower resolution – honestly, I can’t tell the difference between the two screens, and it’s not something you’ll notice 99% of the time.
Incredibly fast charging
If you do manage to pound the battery and find yourself running out of power in the afternoon, the OnePlus 9 has the same 65-watt fast charge as the Pro. It’s amazing and incredibly fast – it can go from empty to full in around 30 minutes. It’s ideal for those occasions when you forgot to charge and just need to quickly top it up before you leave.
Best of all, a 65-watt fast charger comes in the box, so there’s no need to scour Amazon for a compatible third-party one. It also supports wireless charging, although it lacks the 9 Pro’s 50-watt fast wireless charging. Personally, I don’t think it’s a big loss, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
I expected the OnePlus 9 to have a lower-end processor than the Pro, but no, it packs the exact same Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, which is an absolute powerhouse. Games, photo editing, video streaming, everything is managed with ease. In fact, there’s nothing I can really throw at him that slows him down.
It’s also a pleasure to use for your day-to-day tasks, thanks in part to the 120Hz screen refresh rate and ease of use. Android 11– software based – both features you’ll also get on the 9 Pro.
I’ve argued with the 9 Pro that its camera is great, but it’s no match for the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the iPhone 12 Pro Max. While the same is true of the OnePlus 9, this phone isn’t trying to compete with the absolute elite of the smartphone world, so I can be a lot more lenient here.
That said, there were some compromises to the Pro version’s camera. It doesn’t have an optical zoom, for example, so you’ll be using the standard and super wide lenses, and the main camera has a physically smaller sensor. For most shots, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference, as it can take some truly gorgeous shots with even exposures and plenty of detail. The OnePlus 9’s camera colors can sometimes seem more muted than the 9 Pro’s, but there are a variety of built-in color filters to choose from if you want to make things look punchier.
Night mode works well (in standard zoom, anyway) and selfies from the front camera are also crisp and well exposed. All in all, it’s a great camera for all your day-to-day snaps, but if you want the best images you’ll have to look further up the range.
I like the sleek design of the 9 Pro, and the standard OnePlus 9 has much the same visual appeal. There’s the glossy back and metallic bezels, the neat camera unit – and I also like the purple-blue tones on my review model. Its screen doesn’t curve well around the edges like the Pro and overall it feels more mid-range than high-end, but is that really a reason to spend more? For me, it’s a very good compromise.
It also doesn’t have official waterproofing, and while OnePlus reckons it can still ignore a spilled drink or two, it’s best to be extra careful the next time you’re around awkward beer-carrying friends. .
This is one of the few trade-offs you’ll need to consider when debating the OnePlus 9 versus the OnePlus 9 Pro. This thing is cheaper, it’s just as powerful, it’s got a decent camera for most of your daily snaps, and it’s got a battery that fights more.
In short, it’s a superb do-it-all phone that won’t break the bank. That’s why I think this is the best OnePlus phone to buy right now.
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