OnePlus announces the 9 and 9 Pro

OnePlus is back! After weeks of slowly drip-feeding us information we finally know more about their 2021 flagships. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, as expected, have a camera partnership with Hasselblad, some huge sensors and the latest silicon from Qualcomm. The  OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are looking to be very welcome updates to the 8, 8 Pro and to an extent, the 8T.

Starting with the 9 Pro, this new flagship has a gorgeous 6.7″ 3120×1440 fluid AMOLED 2.0 screen, so it’s 120Hz, but now it’s an LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxide) panel, meaning it has the capability to vary its refresh rate for the content on the screen at the time, between 1hz and 120hz. One of the coolers use of this 1Hz mode is actually on the Always-On Display in OxygenOS where analogue clocks can now have second hands, and because they only need to be refreshed at 1 frame per second turning the screen down to 1hz means its sipping power. in fact, the new LTPO panels use up to 50% less power than the older LTPS (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Silicon) panels in static power draw, but even more when variable refresh is enabled. 1Hz for photos and AOD, 24hz-60Hz for video, 60-120Hz for user interaction and gaming.

OnePlus 9 series

The Snapdragon 865 in the 8 series has been replaced by the Snapdragon 888. This 5nm powerhouse of a chip has got ARMs new Cortex X1 and Cortex A78 CPUs inside for its “Prime” and “Big” clusters, with the trusty Cortex A55’s for the little cluster in a 1x3x4 configuration. the GPU is now an Adreno 660 and offers up to 30% better performance per watt than the 865, with the improved driver stack this should make gaming even more impressive. the Snapdragon 888 is made by Samsung Foundry on its 5nm EUV node, this is smaller, makes less heat and uses less power than the 7nm manufacturing node used in the 865 series.

The battery and charging also got an update with the 9 Pro, the battery is still 4500mAh as with the 8T (and a smidge smaller than the 4510mAh of the 8 Pro) but the 65W Warp Charge has been upgraded, it’s still 65W but the Warp Charge 65T has an optimised charge curve, meaning whereas the  8T took an unreasonable  39 minutes to get from 0-100%, with just curve optimisations the 9 Pro knocks that down to 28 minutes, the old adage of a day’s power in half an hour no longer applies, now it’s a full battery in half an hour, and that’s not all. The 30w Wireless Warp charging has been upgraded as well, there is now a 50w wireless warp charger for the 9 Pro and boy is it fast! 0-100% in 43 minutes wirelessly, that’s faster than a lot of competitors charged wired! As with the 8T, the battery is split into two cells each of 2250mAh in size and they are charged in  25w in parallel for Wireless Warp Charging or 32.5w in parallel for Warp Charge 65T. The Warp Charge 65T power brick has a USB-C output that also supports up to 45w USB-PD meaning you can use it to charge other things with up to 45w USB-PD so your Nintendo Switch, iPad Pro even some laptops.

OnePlus 9 series launch

The cameras are the big upgrade here though. In our briefing OnePlus mentioned they knew people wanted better cameras, and whilst they had been incrementally getting better each year, this year is the big one. This year OnePlus entered into a 3-year collaborative partnership with storied camera company Hasselblad. right now, as far as we can tell this partnership is mainly going to be a software partnership, tweaking camera processing for a more “Hasselblad” look, much like the earlier Huawei and Leica partnership, later on, it is not inconceivable that OnePlus and Hasselblad could work together to co-design or package image sensors, but that is not where we are at this point. The main camera is a brand new Sony IMX789 48MP that Sony co-developed with BBK group (so you’ll see it pop up in Oppo devices as well). it’s a huge 1/1.43″ camera sensor with a quad-Bayer subpixel layout, meaning that whilst there are 48 million active pixels, the way they are physically arranged they are designed to take great 12mp shots, but can be re-mosaiced to take 48mp shots. this new sensor has 2×2 on-chip lenses for faster more accurate focusing, which is an issue seen when going to larger sensors. OnePlus has also stepped up the Ultrawide game, with a 50MP Sony IMX766, this is also a huge 1/1.56″ sensor with a quad-Bayer layout. Ultrawide cameras have usually been smaller, lower-resolution sensors and the quality of images shows, bringing the ultrawide up to this quality should allow the 9 Pro to take some stunning wide-angle shots as well as video, but what’s cool about the IMX766 is the inclusion of what is called a freeform lens, which without getting too geeky allows for much less fisheye-ing at the edges of wide shots. whereas normal sensors with wide lenses can have up to 20 degrees or curvature or warp at the edges, the IMX766 with this freeform lens should be closer to 1 degree! There is still an 8MP 3.3x Optical zoom camera which is less inspiring than I’d hope, but apparently more people used Ultrawide than Zoom, and I can agree with that so put the money into the better wide lens. What I’m less of a fan of is the monochrome sensor like on the 8T, this isn’t for shooting with but for monochrome depth data to make portrait shots look better but also to make black and white shots on the main sensors look more like real monochrome shots.

Moving on swiftly to the OnePlus 9, you’d be surprised at how much stays the same. The screen changes to a 6.5″ 1080p+ 120Hz panel, but no variable refresh rate, so either always at 120hz or always at 60Hz, it is also flat, unlike the mildly but still curved panel of the 9 Pro, maximum brightness is lowered a slight bit from 1300nits to 1100nits, which is still eye-searingly bright. The RAM and storage configuration is the same on both, so 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM gets paired with 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage and 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM gets paired with 256GB storage, though the 12GB/256GB model variant is only available in the mirror purple chrome on the 9 and the Pine Green on the 9 Pro. The main camera makes a small change to the Sony IMX689. The Ultrawide however is the exact same Sony IMX766 as the 9 Pro, OnePlus really want you to have a great ultrawide experience and it shows. The selfie snapper is the same 16MP Sony IMX471 fixed focus unit, and whilst I would have liked to see autofocus like on newer Samsung phones, OnePlus can do a lot with software these days.

OnePlus 9 series launch

Internally, the same Snapdragon 888 from Qualcomm is here with the same RAM and storage configuration. The Battery is also the same 4500mAh with Warp Charge 65T optimised 65w charging, and wireless charging is here as well, but this does take a bit of a gut punch down to just 15w, although this is standard Qi, not the specific OnePlus variant for 50w. Both the 9 and 9 Pro have USB-C ports on the bottom, and both are USB 3.1 Gen1 which is rated for 5gbps transfer speeds, which is important when transferring the 8K video or high frame rate 4K video that these phones can capture. The biggest change between the 9 Pro and 9 is the materials. whereas the 9 Pro gets Aluminium and glass, the 9 gets a fibreglass-reinforced polymer frame, so fancy plastic, however, the metallised colouring on the fibreglass polymer looks absolutely astonishing.

Lastly, OnePlus is making a watch! this is a 46mm faced smartwatch with a 2.5D curved OLED screen and a stainless steel frame. it will run its own proprietary RTOS (Real-Time Operating System) instead of Google’s WearOS platform, for better or for worse. there is 4GB of internal storage for storing media, Bluetooth peripheral support so you can connect Bluetooth earbuds to the watch and listen to songs or podcasts on it, it has a glut of workout reporting modes and reportedly a battery life of up to 2 weeks, though we’ll have to see that for ourselves. There will also be a special “Cobalt Edition” Edition, replacing the stainless steel and glass with a Cobalt allow frame and a sapphire display covering, and the fluoroelastomer strap with a leather strap, though pricing and availability weren’t given for either, we can expect the Cobalt Edition to bump up the price significantly.

OnePlus 9 series launch

Pricing for the new devices is £620 for the “Astral Black” and “Arctic Sky” OnePlus 9’s which have 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The “Winter Mist” model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is £729, it’s a shame the colours are segmented but that Winter Mist is truly gorgeous. On the OnePlus 9 Pro side, £829 gets you “Morning Mist” and “Stellar Black” with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, whereas the utterly stunning  “Pine Green” model comes in at £929 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The OnePlus 9 Pro will go on pre-sale today at 15:30 on, Amazon, John Lewis and Three with orders shipping on March 31st, whereas the OnePlus 9 goes on pre-sale at the same time it won’t ship until April 26th. The OnePlus Watch will cost £149 but we have no news on availability as of yet.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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