The Winter Mist colour that OnePlus sent me looks pretty, but it’s very difficult to maintain a clean look due to fingerprints. The overall dimensions of the OnePlus 9 are quite compact and it has a more comfortable in-hand feel compared to the OnePlus 9 Pro. The flat-edged display is crisp and vibrant. It has a full-HD+ resolution and supports an adaptable refresh rate with a maximum of 120Hz. This is not the same LTPO OLED panel used for the OnePlus 9 Pro, so it does have slightly lower peak brightness and misses out on a few software features, but it still achieves all the same certifications for colour accuracy as its bigger sibling.
The OnePlus 9 uses the same flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G SoC as the 9 Pro, and is available in two RAM and storage variants. It also uses LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 flash storage, so no corners have been cut here. You get stereo speakers, NFC, Wi-Fi 6, and the usual sensors, plus a very quick in-display fingerprint sensor.
OnePlus is really going to town with marketing its camera implementation, and while the setup on the OnePlus 9 isn’t as ambitious as the one on the 9 Pro, it’s still an upgrade over its predecessor. The main camera still has a 48-megapixel resolution but it’s now the Sony IMX689 sensor as seen in the OnePlus 8 Pro, which has a good track record. As I mentioned before, the ultra-wide camera is the same one that the 9 Pro has, with a freeform lens to correct barrel distortion before the image is even processed. The third camera is a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor, and it only comes into play when you use a specific filter.
You don’t get a telephoto camera on the OnePlus 9, which is excusable, but what’s surprising is that the main camera doesn’t have optical stabilisation. I haven’t spent too much time shooting with the OnePlus 9 yet, so we’ll have to wait for the full review to see if this is something you’ll miss. The 16-megapixel selfie camera is the same as the one on the 9 Pro and the 8 series, so we know what to expect at this point. OnePlus has kept the 8K video recording option on the OnePlus 9, but has removed the 120fps mode for 4K recording as seen on the 9 Pro.
The OnePlus 9 is the more affordable smartphone in the series, and considering its features and price, it might be the more popular one too. The new rear cameras and increase in processing power give it a nice boost over the OnePlus 8T, but on the other hand, the fact that it has a polycarbonate frame instead of aluminium really puts a damper on things. Other than these things, it’s not too different compared to its predecessor.
Do these changes balance each other out, and is the OnePlus 9 worth its asking price if you’re looking for an upgrade? I guess we’ll find out very soon in the full review.