The OnePlus 9 Pro may look like any other Android flagship at first glance but, upon further inspection, it ends up proving to be one of the best all-around smartphones money can currently buy — and a phenomenal alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. OnePlus has traditionally stood out for selling smartphones with powerful specs at low prices, coming at the expense of other features along the way. This started to change last year with the OnePlus 8 Pro, which stood out as OnePlus’s first smartphone that felt like a ‘real’ flagship.
Now there’s the OnePlus 9 Pro and, for all intents and purposes, it’s one of the most complete Android smartphones available in 2021. It’s ultra-powerful, has a stunning design, and doesn’t have major deal-breakers in any one category. When compared against something like the Galaxy S21 Ultra — the gold standard of Android phones right now — it becomes that much more apparent just how far OnePlus has come. Both phones have the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor for blistering-fast performance, 120Hz AMOLED displays that look downright stunning, and camera systems that are capable of capturing excellent photos in a variety of situations.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is able to go toe-to-toe with the S21 Ultra (and virtually any Android flagship) without much difficulty and, while that’s an impressive feat, simply matching the competition isn’t a good enough reason to make the 9 Pro a compelling purchase. Thankfully, it doesn’t stop there. There are a few unique qualities about the 9 Pro that elevate it over those other Android devices, and following a couple of weeks of regular use, they all come together to make the OnePlus 9 Pro a legitimate contender for the best smartphone of the year.
OnePlus 9 Pro Has Incredible Charging Speeds
If there’s one thing that makes the OnePlus 9 Pro stand out, it’s the phone’s charging speeds. Charging may not be the most glamorous feature to talk about but, for day-to-day use, it’s one of those things that’s more important than a lot of people give credit. Unfortunately for a lot of smartphones in the U.S., though, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation on this front. The Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max, two of the best phones currently available, max out at 25W and 20W charge speeds, respectively.
Those are fine speeds in a bubble, but the OnePlus 9 Pro absolutely eviscerates them. The 9 Pro supports OnePlus’s new Warp Charge 65T wired charging standard, which gets the phone from 0-100 percent in just 29 minutes. Compare that to the latest iPhones, those can only get from 0-50 percent in that same about of time. Fast charge speeds don’t really matter for someone that always charges their phone at night, but when something like the OnePlus 9 Pro can deliver a full charge in about half an hour, it’s possible to rethink charging entirely. This makes it possible to use the 9 Pro without really having to think about battery life because, once it does get too low, it’s brought right back up to 100 percent in a matter of minutes. And, even better, the charging adapter and cable are both included in the box.
Perhaps even more impressive is the OnePlus Warp Charge 50 Wireless Charger. It’s an optional $70 accessory that doesn’t come with the 9 Pro, but for some users, it’ll well worth it. When used with the OnePlus 9 Pro, it delivers 50W wireless charge speeds for a 0-100 percent charge in 50 minutes. It’s not quite as fast as Warp Charge 65T, but having that much speed in a wireless form factor creates a charging convenience unlike any other phone available right now.
The Design Of The 9 Pro Is Surprisingly Practical
The OnePlus 9 Pro is a large phone by design, but despite its ample size, OnePlus still managed to make it a very practical device. It may not be a phone that everyone can use with one hand, but there are a few smart design decisions that are greatly appreciated. For starters, the curved display never gets in the way of normal use. OnePlus really scaled back on just how drastic it made the curved edges compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro and it’s a change that paid off. It’s easy to use the 9 Pro without worrying about accidental touches, but since the screen is still slightly curved, it adds a premium design flair not found on the regular OnePlus 9.
OnePlus also did a great job of keeping the OnePlus 9 Pro’s weight and dimensions as reasonable as possible. The phone measures in at 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm, which compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm dimensions, makes it ever-so-slightly shorter and narrower. Even more impressive is the 9 Pro’s weight — coming in at just 197g compared to 229g for the S21 Ultra. As someone that typically has a difficult time using larger smartphones, the 9 Pro has proven to be surprisingly comfortable.
And, of course, there’s the physical alert slider — allowing users to switch between audible notifications, vibrations only, and completely silent just by moving a switch. This is something OnePlus phones have shipped with for years, but with no other Android manufacturers being willing to adopt the feature themselves, it still gives the 9 Pro a unique design advantage. It’s another element that sounds fairly insignificant on paper but, in regular use, it’s pretty fantastic.
OxygenOS Is A Fantastic Android Interface
The OnePlus 9 Pro is powered by Android 11, but on top of that, OnePlus has added its custom OxygenOS user interface. OxygenOS has evolved a lot since its introduction back in March 2015, and here in 2021, it easily stands out as one of the best ways to experience Android — hands down. Everything is clean, uncluttered, and easy-to-navigate like a Google Pixel, but there’s also a heap of useful add-ons that add a lot of value to the software experience as a whole.
From a customization standpoint, OxygenOS is about as good as it gets. Users can change the accent color to anything, the shape and icon pack of app icons can be customized, and OnePlus offers options for tweaking the design of the ambient display and fingerprint sensor animation. The Canvas feature is especially eye-catching, as it shows an outline of a user-uploaded photo on the ambient display and then transitions into the full photograph on the lock and home screens.
There are also a lot of practical features that come in handy. Reading Mode gives the display a mono or chromatic effect for more comfortable reading, the Parallel Apps feature allows users to run two instances of the same application (useful for managing multiple accounts), and OnePlus’s Zen Mode helps promote a better phone-life-balance by blocking notifications and app use for a set amount of time. Just about every feature OxygenOS adds to Android is legitimately useful in one way or another and OnePlus’s ability to present all of this without cluttering the UI results in an exceptional piece of software.
It’s The Fastest & Smoothest Phone On The Market
Just about every flagship phone is fast these days. Processors and RAM amounts used to be a hot point of contention for Android handsets, but in 2021, there’s the general assumption that just about everything will be more than fast enough for daily use. Despite that, the OnePlus 9 Pro still manages to stand out as feeling noticeably faster and smoother than any of its competition.
From a hardware perspective, the OnePlus 9 Pro has everything a power-user could ask for. There’s a Snapdragon 888 processor, up to 12GB of RAM, a 120Hz refresh rate, and a 240Hz touch sampling rate. Combined with all of the animations and movement of OxygenOS, and the OnePlus 9 Pro has a level of speed to it that’s missing from some other devices. For someone that wants their phone to feel as responsive as possible, the 9 Pro absolutely delivers.
Starting At $969, The OnePlus 9 Pro Is Still A Great Value
Finally, there’s the matter of price. While the OnePlus 9 Pro is more expensive than its predecessors with a starting price tag of $969, that’s still a great deal less than the $1,200 Galaxy S21 Ultra or $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max. And on top of that lower starting price, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with all of those benefits outlined above.
It would have been great if the OnePlus 9 Pro had a better telephoto camera or slightly longer battery life, but as a complete package, it stands out as a smartphone that’s easy to get excited about. It’s built incredibly well, the charging speeds are out of this world, the software experience is top-notch, and the performance is on another level.
When those things get added together with a strong camera, display, price, and so on, the whole package of the OnePlus 9 Pro is one that shouldn’t be ignored. Some people may still be served better by the S21 Ultra’s 100x zoom capabilities or One UI software experience, but for everyone else, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the new best Android phone of 2021.
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