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In smartphone years, OnePlus has just started coming of age, spreading its wings to enter new verticals and price segments. The latest, top-of-the-line OnePlus 9 Pro is the star of the company's lineup, and rightly so. The newest Pro has taken the biggest leap a OnePlus phone has taken in years to improve camera quality. But outside its newfound photography capabilities, the phone has a lot else going for it.
OnePlus usually gets the basics right with its smartphones, and that’s also the case with the 9 Pro. There are a handful of features that make it worth buying even at its practically $1000 price tag. Here are a few of those things that we really like about the phone.
That big, beautiful display
To make it clear right off the bat: The 9 Pro gets OnePlus’ best display to date, and that superiority extends to almost every aspect of the screen. While it’s as sharp and bright as the 8 Pro’s, where it stands out is its new LTPO backplane, ostensibly allowing the phone to dynamically dial down the refresh rate to just 1Hz (versus the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 10Hz lowest figure) to conserve some battery. And at 120Hz, it's super-smooth, and more than bright enough for outdoor use.
It’s reassuring that the 9 Pro hasn’t inherited its predecessor’s various undesirable display characteristics, sporting a much more uniform look even at low brightness levels. Ryne also pointed out in his review that the screen doesn’t flicker as it changes between refresh rates, which is good news for those sensitive to such behavior. In short: the display is far less problematic this time around and is, in fact, fun to use.
Flat-screen advocates may not be entirely pleased with the 9 Pro as the top glass still has a slight curve along the edges, even though it’s less pronounced with this phone than it is on most others. Despite preferring flat screens, I was fine with that subtle arc, and didn’t encounter any mistouches or accidental input.
OnePlus’ marketing has long centered around raw performance, and that has often translated to real-world usage too. With Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 888, the OnePlus 9 Pro has more than enough muscle to handle anything you can throw at it — and ample headroom to keep going for several more years. The new processor works in tandem with spacious RAM and storage options for a premium level of performance competitive with the best Android flagships.
That doesn’t mean the 9 Pro comes without any problems, though; the Snapdragon 888 tends to run hot when under heavy load, as evident from several user reports (including some of us at AP). However, in our case, both Ryne and I didn’t come across such severe heating outside the first-time phone setup (with the exception of fast charging). OnePlus has confirmed to us that it plans to fix this issue in the coming weeks with a software update.
It’s mind-boggling how fast smartphone charging has gotten in just a few years. The OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the fastest charging mainstream flagships out there as it guarantees a full charge in just 30 minutes. If that wasn’t enough, the 9 Pro boasts similarly fast wireless charging capabilities, too — delivering about 70% of charge in the same amount of time. This would’ve sounded crazy barely a couple of years back, but here we are.
With the 9 Pro, it wouldn’t be a problem if you forgot to plug in the phone before hitting the bed. It can easily get you a day’s worth of juice with just a few minutes of charging (which truly spoils other phones for you). It’s a little sad now that we even need to mention this, but OnePlus’ proprietary 65W wired charger is also included in the 9 Pro’s retail box.
The Hasselblad flavor
It’s safe to say that OnePlus phones have never been known for their camera prowess, even though they’ve been good all-rounders otherwise. With its Hasselblad partnership, OnePlus was able to make some real changes to the 9 Pro’s cameras, which come through in the form of improved color science. In our testing, the phone produced lifelike colors, which we actually quite liked. It’s also got decent night-time performance, and faster autofocus and HDR shots, while that new ultrawide camera rounds out the package nicely.
Even so, photo quality isn't category-leading. The 9 Pro retains some of the inconsistencies that we have pointed out with previous OnePlus phones, too. At the end of the day, it’s still a good all-rounder that won’t disappoint you unless you came from something better like a Pixel. For an in-depth look at its quad-cam setup, you should check out Ryne’s review of the OnePlus 9 Pro, where he also compares some of the samples with our phone of the year for 2020: the Pixel 4a.
Hardware is important, but most flagship-grade Android smartphones have similar specs now — it’s the software that makes them stand out. Despite its visual transformation with Android 11, OxygenOS continues to be the OS skin of choice for many, including some of us here at AP. That should be evident from our wish to see several OnePlus-exclusive features make their way to stock Android someday.
OnePlus has fine-tuned the animations to make the 9 Pro feel smooth, allowing the apps to load without delay. While it might have its bugs, the company is pushing updates fast and frequently — for now, anyway. (Older phones don't get quite so much attention from the company.)
It may have changed, but OxygenOS is still nice to use, and makes you feel right at home if you’re switching from a lighter software skin.
Bonus: Alert Slider
One of the biggest perks about owning a OnePlus phone remains the Alert Slider. A quick flick switches you between ring, vibrate, and silent modes. It's straightforward and simple, and we wish every phone had the feature.
Standing true to its Pro suffix, the OnePlus 9 Pro can go spec-for-spec with any Android flagship out there. While the camera remains a sore point for some, it definitely isn’t as bad as it used to be in the olden days. OnePlus is truly doing some good work and has once again been able to check the right boxes for certain customers. Still, its phones aren't without their issues, and critics can look at our list of the 9 Pro's "worst" features.