What Hi-Fi (UK)
Oneplus 9 Pro
This premium, feature-packed smartphone won’t break the budget
A premium build Android smartphone with the best technology and no trade-offs, at a lower price than other flagship mobiles – that’s the promise of the Oneplus 9 Pro. It certainly looks the part – the 9 Pro is a 5G phone fitted with a bold 6.7in AMOLED display ready to whip up HDR video and lossless file music entertainment on the go.
The Oneplus 9 Pro is available in three finishes. The Stellar Black and Morning Mist options cost £829 and come with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage, whereas the Pine Green version costs £929 and has 12GB RAM and 256GB of storage.
Fits the flagship name
The Oneplus 9 Pro’s 6.7in screen and the 2.2mm aluminium frame design is fitting of the flagship name, as is the curved Gorilla Glass. It’s IP68 rated too, meaning it is water-, dust- and dirt-resistant.
On the left side is the volume rocker and on the right is the power button and a three-way slider switch to select between silent, vibrate and ring profiles. The fingerprint reader is at the bottom of the display and the software allows for face unlocking too. As is often the case these days, there’s no 3.5mm headphones socket – it’s USB-C only. The mighty looking four-camera set-up has been designed in conjunction with Swedish photographic giant Hasselblad – it recorded man’s arrival on the Moon, so should be able to make something Instagrammable out of your staycation. The cameras make quite the lump on the rear of the device, to the point where it feels a little top heavy to hold. Combined with the sheer size of this phone, it means its best operated with two hands. If it’s a big phone you want, that screen’s going to be important, and the 6.7in AMOLED on the 9 Pro is built with many of the mod-cons you’d expect. Its 1440 x 3216 resolution, 525ppi, QHD+ arrangement makes for a 21:9 aspect ratio. It is Hdr10+-enabled, and there is support for most video formats. It is capable of 10-bit colour depth and a dynamic refresh rate up to 120Hz which can be controlled to bring that battery-sapping speed down.
On the audio front, there’s no wanting for file format support, with both Apple lossless and FLAC represented as well as the usual suspects. If you prefer your music wireless, there is Bluetooth 5.2, with aptx HD, and the device is certified at up to 24-bit/96 khz bitrates. The Sonydeveloped hi-res audio code LDAC technology is also on board.
All of this is orchestrated by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip which makes mincemeat of any task we throw its way. All that engine, screen and multimedia fun come at a fair cost to the battery, though. You won’t get much more than a day’s use out of this device before you need to recharge.
The front face of the Oneplus 9 Pro experience is the company’s Oxygen OS version 11. It’s a light and unobtrusive skin which allows you to more or less strip right back to Android 11.
We watch The Witcher in HDR on Netflix and are impressed with the results. Despite the moody aesthetic, nothing is blown out or lost to the shadows. A scene in a dingy tavern pierced by shafts of daylight is a good example of the Oneplus’s handling of detail. Every part is brought out nicely by the 9 Pro, despite the anti-hero skulking in the gloomiest corner. His leather epaulettes, his chiselled face and the details of the stonework behind him are brilliantly clear. You’ll struggle to find a mobile phone at this price, with this size screen, that can do HDR better.
Beaten for black depth
However, there are some areas where this performance is beaten, including black depth. The quest for brightness and dark detail delivery means that those blacks aren’t as pure as they might be compared with the similarly priced but smaller 6.1in Sony Xperia 5 II. Where the 9 Pro has an edge, though, is with sheer scale; there’s a lot to be said for a bigger screen for watching on the go. It may not have the best screen tech, but it still makes for enjoyable viewing.
The base level of audio on the Oneplus 9 Pro is not the most exciting, but the Dolby Atmos processing on the Music preset adds an impression of the missing dynamism. Listening to Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s a sense of John Fogerty’s crackling voice, the humming bassline and the twangs of the lead guitar, but it’s less thrilling than it should be. It’s a clean enough sound that reveals most of the details of the track and offers a healthy, if uninspiring, representation across the tonal range.
The Oneplus 9 Pro is a compelling way of getting top features and a decent video performance from a smartphone, without paying a flagship premium. All that stands in the way of true greatness is a little more finesse with video and a better than average music performance.