After the launch of a new smartphone, one question that always comes to everyone’s mind is this: Is it worth forking out money to upgrade your device from the previous generation? In the case of the OnePlus 9, the manufacturer has promised significant improvements to the camera as a result, the image quality. But again, is this alone a significant enough reason to upgrade? Let us explore!

 

Now, I am sure this is not the first time anyone has come up with a similar question. In fact, Ben recently tackled the same predicament in a comparison article on the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 models. In the case of the OnePlus 9 series, most of the new feature addition came to the Pro model. Effectively, what I mean to say here is that the OnePlus 9 Pro is the one to go for in case you are looking for a major upgrade.

OnePlus follows a semi-annual release pattern and in the case of the OnePlus 9, its rightful predecessor is the OnePlu 8T. However, given that it’s been only around for six months, chances are low someone is already seeking an upgrade from the 8T. The OnePlus 8, on the other hand, is now a year old and there are several folks who do follow a yearly cycle when it comes to phone purchases. For the same reason, we will focus on the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 9 in this article.

Talking points:

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: head-to-head comparison

Here’s a summary of the hardware specifications of the two models in question.
Model OnePlus 9 OnePlus 8
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
64-bit, 5nm octa-core
Qualcomm Snapdragon 865
64-bit, 7nm octa-core
Memory (RAM / internal) 8 GB / 128 GB
12 GB / 256 GB
Expandable memory None
Dual SIM Yes
Screen 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED / FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080 pixels) display at up to 120 hertz 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED / FHD+ (2,400 x 1,080 pixels) display at up to 90 hertz
Size 160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm 160.2 x 72.9 x 8 mm
Weight 192 grams 180 grams
Connectivity 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 6, USB-C, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.2 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi 6, USB-C, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.1
Main camera 48 megapixels, with 1/1.43″ at f/1.8 sensor 48 megapixels, 1/2″ at f/1.75
Ultra wide-angle 50 megapixels, with 1/1.56″ at f/2.2 16 megapixels, at f/2.2
Third camera Depth: 2 megapixels Macro: 2 megapixels
Front camera 16 megapixels, with 1/3.06″ sensor at f/2.4
Video 8K at 30 FPS
4K at 60 FPS
4K at 60 FPS
Battery Capacity 4,500 mAh 4,300 mAh
Charging technologies 65 watts wired
15 watts wireless
30 watts wired
Authentication Under-display fingerprint reader
Audio Stereo speakers
Materials Gorilla Glass 5
Operating system Android 11 with OxygenOS
Charger included? Yes, Warp Charge (65 W) Yes, Warp Charge (30 W)
Debut price

€699

€649

Launch March 2021 April 2020

The Positives

An improved camera

As Antoine points out in his review, the OnePlus 9 does offer a perceptible improvement in the photography department, even if it is premature to assess the impact of OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad. Even with the more advanced technologies reserved for the OnePlus 9 Pro – such as the Sony IMX789 sensor and the telephoto lens, the OnePlus 9 still fares better than the OnePlus 8 and 8T models when it comes to the camera.

Also, there’s a possibility that further improvements will arrive via future algorithmic changes in camera app updates, but that’s not a guarantee and shouldn’t influence a purchase decision.

NextPit OnePlus 9 camera
OnePlus is yet another Asian brand to display the logo of a European photography specialist / © NextPit

The OnePlus 9 gets newer (and larger) sensors for both; the main and ultra-wide cameras. In addition, the main sensor offers the option to record files in 12-bit RAW format.

A flat, non-curved display

While this might be a downgrade for fans of curved displays, the fact is that the OnePlus 9 now features a flat display as opposed to the curved panels on the OnePlus 8. The transition to a flat panel might have been a cost-cutting move – but in the process, it has also made the OnePlus 9 easier to repair (and use).

AndroidPIT oneplus 8 ports cs2
The curved display of the OnePlus 8 is no longer an option on the OnePlus 9 / © NextPit

120 Hertz refresh rate

There is no doubt here that the display used in the OnePlus 9 is superior to the one we sw on the OnePlus 8. Despite sporting a similar size of 6.55-inches and Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2400 pixels), the refresh rate on the OnePlus 9 is a definite upgrade over the OnePlus 8.

While the OnePlus 8 inherited the 90 Hz Fluid AMOLED display from the OnePlus 7T, the OnePlus 9 gets a much faster 120 Hz panel. The result? Smoother and more fluid on-screen animations, not only in your regular OxygenOS user interface but in games as well.

NextPit OnePlus 9 front camera
The refresh rate adjusts itself according to the on-screen content / © NextPit

For those who are concerned about the higher power consumption due to a faster refresh rate, the display automatically adjusts the frame rate based on what is being shown. OnePlus advertised that the refresh rate varies from 1 Hz (one frame per second) and above, but it dropped to a low of 30 Hz at most in Antoine’s review.

Wireless charging capability

With the OnePlus 9 getting wireless charging support, OnePlus has fulfilled a long-time demand from hardcore fans. The wireless charging option used to be exclusive to the Pro models, but the OnePlus 9 (finally) ended this long-standing tradition. This feature, however, is still missing on the Indian variant of the OnePlus 9. So if you are in India, well, meh. While wireless charging on the OnePlus 9 isn’t as fast on the OnePlus 9 Pro (50W), most users will be happy the option is there. 

NextPit OnePlus 9 usb
In addition to wireless charging, OnePlus 9 is compatible with 65W Warp Charge / © NextPit

In addition, the OnePlus 9 is compatible with the Warp Charge 65T charger, as it delivers 65 watts of power when connected. That’s really fast, and the charger itself is included in the box. That’s more than twice as fast as the OP8’s 30W charger and is capable of topping up the 4,500 mAh battery in about half an hour.

Negatives

Overheating issues

The performance offered by the Snapdragon 888 chipset has an unwanted side effect that was highlighted in Antoine’s review: thermal throttling. This safeguard reduces the processor’s speed when the device detects an excessive rise in temperature or to a degree that actually might harm the phone or the user itself.

This problem normally surfaces during the prolonged use of processor-intensive apps such as theoretical benchmarks. But it is possible for heat to influence performance during gaming sessions, with the FPS dropping to below normal rates after just a few minutes of play.

oneplus 9 pro review performance benchmark1
Frame rate in 3DMark dropped from an average of 34 FPS at the beginning (in the yellow graph) to around 20  FPS after a few minutes / © NextPit

Conclusion: The OnePlus 9 is a good upgrade over the OnePlus 8

Despite the title above, switching from one model to the other basically depends on which features are interesting enough to you. If I were in such a situation, I would consider switching smartphones for the simple reason of wireless charging support apart from the 120 Hz refresh rate and improved camera performance.

If these features are not important to you, then only the superior performance of the Snapdragon 888 chipset remains, which in my case would be noticeable only in more advanced games, not to mention an increased risk of thermal throttling.

For those who change their smartphones every year, the OnePlus 9 is an interesting option for OnePlus 8 owners. Whereas for those who are still using the OnePlus 8T, or prefer to pick up a new device every two years, it may be to your advantage to wait a little while longer. Who knows? Perhaps the whispered OnePlus 9T will deliver an even more unique value-for-money proposition courtesy of OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad…



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