The OnePlus 9 represents a few changes for OnePlus. For starters, it’s among the most expensive OnePlus phones ever to be released. It also represents the beginning of OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad, with the goal of that partnership being a OnePlus camera that can truly compete with the best phones out there.
But just how much of a leap forward is the OnePlus 9? Last year’s OnePlus 8 was hailed for its solid display and excellent software experience. Is the OnePlus 9 really that much of a leap forward? I’ve extensively used both devices and put them head to head.
Design and display
The OnePlus 9 offers a pretty different design from the OnePlus 8, and while it’s ultimately down to personal preference as to which look you prefer, the OnePlus 9 does seem to look a little more modern than the OnePlus 8. There are a few reasons for this, like the rectangular camera module on the back instead of the vertically aligned one, and the flat display on the front, in place of the curved one on the OnePlus 8.
The phones are available in different colors, though again, the color you like best will depend on your preferences. I personally love the Interstellar Glow on offer by the OnePlus 8, though it does attract fingerprints. The Astral Black OnePlus 9 that I have just looks a little…boring.
The displays on both of these phones are great, but the OnePlus 9 is better. Both phones have a 1,080p resolution, which is a step down from the 1,440p resolution on offer by the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro — though you won’t really notice a difference unless you put them side-by-side. More importantly, they both have high refresh rates. The OnePlus 8 has a 90Hz refresh rate, while the OnePlus 9 steps it up to 120Hz. Frankly, the difference between 60Hz and 90Hz is more noticeable than that between 90Hz and 120Hz — but there’s no denying that the OnePlus 9 feels incredibly smooth and extremely responsive. The OnePlus 9’s display also gets quite a bit brighter.
OnePlus has been touting its partnership with Hasselblad for the OnePlus 9 series, with the goal being that the deal will result in a much better camera. And, there is a clear improvement — the camera on the OnePlus 9 is an improvement over that on the OnePlus 8. But it’s not so much better that you should completely avoid the OnePlus 8, and if you already have a OnePlus 8, it’s not a big enough improvement to warrant upgrading to a OnePlus 9.
On the OnePlus 8, you’ll get a 48-megapixel main camera, with a 16-megapixel ultrawide, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The OnePlus 9, on the other hand, offers a 48-megapixel main camera, a 50-megapixel ultrawide, and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera, which is used to capture extra detail. In other words, the cameras are about as useful as each other, with none of them having a telephoto lens.
The OnePlus 9 camera is not the best in its class. That title probably goes to either the Galaxy S21 or the iPhone 12. But it does offer a little more detail, and better color, than the OnePlus 8. But the OnePlus 8 will still get the job done the majority of the time, even if it doesn’t do it quite as well.
The phones offer a few differences under the hood, though honestly, in day-to-day use, you’re unlikely to notice a major difference. The OnePlus 8 has a Snapdragon 865, while the OnePlus 9 steps it up to a Snapdragon 888.
The OnePlus 8 is still an excellent-performing device, and it can still handle mobile gaming, heavy multitasking, and more.
The only real reason I included a section on performance is to dispel any fears around the performance of the OnePlus 8. The phone is still an excellent-performing device, and it can still handle mobile gaming, heavy multitasking, and more. The technical difference in performance between the two devices may come into play towards the end of their lifespans — but right now, at the beginning, there’s almost no difference to speak of.
The OnePlus 9 is a clear evolution from the OnePlus 8. It has a slightly better screen, a slightly better camera, slightly better performance, and more. But those steps forward are incremental, and ultimately, if you have a OnePlus 8 you just don’t need to.
If you’re deciding between spending the money on the OnePlus 9, or saving your cash and, the conversation is a little different. Ultimately, at $500, the OnePlus 8 represents excellent value, and for most, it’s more than enough phone. But if you don’t mind spending the money, then the slight improvements on the OnePlus 9 may be worth it to you.