OnePlus 9 Pro review

GSMArena Team, 23 March 2021.

Fluid Display 2.0 with Smart 120Hz

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a 6.7-inch, 3216 x 1440 resolution, 10-bit LTPO AMOLED display. The display has a variable refresh rate that maxes out at 120Hz. It is capable of HDR (high dynamic range) and OnePlus has included support for HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG standards.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

In our regular testing method for brightness, we use a pattern size of 75% but the OEMs are free to decide how they test their claims. Using a much smaller 15% pattern size, we were able to measure 1,150 nits of max brightness. Although not quite the advertised 1,300, not far from it.

For the sake of GSMArena's comparisons and the pattern size we use across all our device reviews, the 9 Pro's display reached a maximum brightness of 871 nits with Adaptive brightness switched on. With this setting turned off, the panel caps at 523 nits and these scores reflect the display's excellent sunlight readability.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Max Auto) 0 1023
Xiaomi Mi 11 (Max Auto) 0 926
OnePlus 8 Pro (Max Auto) 0 888
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Max Auto) 0 883
OnePlus 9 Pro (Max Auto) 0.038 871 22921:1
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 0 822
OnePlus 9 (Max Auto) 0 821
OnePlus 8T (Max Auto) (Prassad) 0 815
Huawei Mate 40 Pro (Max Auto) 0 807
OnePlus 8 (Max Auto) 0 803
Apple iPhone 12 Pro 0 802
Oppo Find X3 Pro (Max Auto) 0 774
Apple iPhone 12 0 639
OnePlus 8 Pro 0 538
OnePlus 9 Pro 0 525
OnePlus 8T (Prassad) 0 518
Xiaomi Mi 11 0 498
OnePlus 8 0 496
Oppo Find X3 Pro 0 493
Huawei Mate 40 Pro 0 485
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G 0 459
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G 0 458
OnePlus 9 0 450

OnePlus' default Vivid mode has pleasing colors and bright whites. This is the typical, punchy profile that most people will have on their device. If you're someone who would rather give your peepers a rest, or prefer something more accurate, OnePlus has you covered as well.

In the default Vivid mode, the display scored an average deltaE of 3.1 with a maximum of 5.8. sRGB is the most color-accurate mode, scoring an average deltaE of just 0.7 and a max deviation of 1.7. Remember, any score below 2 is visually indistinguishable to the eye.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

There are more profiles to choose from. Natural is closely related to sRGB, but not as color accurate. Under the 'advanced setting'. The AMOLED Wide Gamut is the most color-saturated profile for those who really want colors to look over-the-top and exaggerated. sRGB and Display P3 emulate the colors from their respective spaces. The latter three 'Advanced' profiles can be adjusted with sliders for warm/cool and green/magenta.

Display settings - OnePlus 9 Pro review Display settings - OnePlus 9 Pro review Display settings - OnePlus 9 Pro review Display settings - OnePlus 9 Pro review Display settings - OnePlus 9 Pro review
Display settings

While the choice is entirely up to you, we think the Natural mode is the way to go as the device can automatically switch to P3 in applications that support it thanks to built-in color management in Android.

The variable refresh rate is an interesting topic. The display on the 9 Pro (not the vanilla) uses a new LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) backplane in the panel that can dynamically adjust the display's refresh rate and scales power. If you're watching a 24fps video, the display will refresh at 24Hz and can go as low as 1 Hz when viewing a still image on screen. Once you touch the screen and start swiping around, the rate kicks back up to 120Hz.

OnePlus advertises a maximum figure of 120Hz but the display also supports intermediate values like 90Hz, 60Hz, and supposedly even 1Hz, and can adjust based on the content. When set to the 120Hz mode, the device will be constantly adjusting the refresh rate, and there's no easy way for the user to just lock it to 120Hz.

Unfortunately, we were unable to verify OnePlus' claims of 1Hz refresh rate mode. With the tools we have at our disposal, we are unable to confirm or deny that the display is doing this. Our skepticism reflects later in this page, in the battery endurance section.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Perhaps more frustrating is OnePlus' continued lack of support for high refresh rate gaming. The company has whitelisted a very small number of games, such as Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, Pokemon Go, etc., and these are the only titles allowed to run at a maximum of 90Hz. This leaves a vast majority of games unsupported and there are also no titles that run above 90Hz. Moreover, OnePlus will also drop down the refresh rate of the display from 90Hz to 60Hz in supported games when the player stops interacting, which causes a jarring drop in fluidity because, unlike static UI screens, games tend to have moving elements on-screen animating at the display's refresh rate.

OnePlus has also added a feature they call Hyper Touch, which boosts the touch sampling rate to 360Hz. While the feature has to be manually enabled from the display settings, it currently only works in select games, including PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, League of Legends: Wild Rift, and Brawl Stars. We played Call of Duty Mobile with the Hyper Touch mode enabled and didn't notice any improvement in the touch response. This shouldn't be surprising as increased sampling rate can only do so much and if your game is still running at 60Hz, you're not going to notice much of a difference.

There's also a new Ultra-high video resolution mode, which at the time of testing was only available for Instagram. This feature uses AI to add edge enhancement to videos within supported apps. Tested videos on Instagram had more pronounced detail but it does tend to look a bit artificial.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro also has the Vibrant Color Effect Pro mode from the OnePlus 8 Pro, which is intended to make videos appear more saturated. However, the feature seems to do absolutely nothing on the OnePlus 9 Pro. On the OnePlus 8 Pro, enabling it would make all supported video apps appear strongly saturated. On the OnePlus 9 Pro, none of the apps we tried had any difference at all when the feature was enabled. We had first observed this on the OnePlus 8T and we are not quite sure what purpose this feature serves anymore.

The OnePlus 9 Pro also supports the Motion graphics smoothing feature found on previous models, which uses a motion compensation algorithm for frame interpolation. The purpose of this feature is to make low frame rate videos appear as if they are high frame rate. In our opinion, this feature does more harm than good, especially when used on cinematic content, which is intended to be viewed at a certain frame rate as that's part of its aesthetic. By increasing the frame rate, the video tends to appear unnaturally smooth, which ruins the creator's intent. Moreover, no motion compensation algorithm is perfect, so you'll still see plenty of motion artifacts, which further destroys the image quality. We strongly advise leaving this feature disabled.

The OnePlus 9 Pro display has great HDR performance. We tested some HDR10 content in the YouTube and Netflix apps and noted improved overall brightness over the OnePlus 8 Pro. The specular highlights can get much brighter on the newer model, which produces a more impactful HDR experience. The OnePlus 9 Pro display can also reproduce detail in the shadows better before clipping to black. Being a 10-bit display with full coverage of the Display-P3 color space also means you are seeing the full breadth of colors that HDR content can have.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The OnePlus 9 Pro display does have an issue that the 8 Pro display doesn't. While the 8 Pro display can get pitch black, the 9 Pro display can only get a dark shade of gray. This isn't noticeable in normal ambient lighting but is quite obvious when watching in a perfectly dark room and while watching content with a lot of dark scenes in it. This issue only pertains to HDR playback and not present in SDR mode.

Like we mentioned in the design section, we're glad to see that the curvature of the edges of the glass were dialed back this time around. OnePlus has opted for a less aggressively curved display this time around. Compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro, the OnePlus 9 Pro display has much less vignetting around the edges, although it's not completely gone. The new display also catches less glare around the edges than the older one.

The 9 Pro display has fewer issues with accidental touches but it's still present. This means there will still be times where you can trigger the touchscreen simply by holding the phone. This happens most commonly while using the camera when you're holding the phone by its edges. If Android manufacturers are going to insist on having curved displays, the least they could do is also implement better palm rejection.

Battery life

The OnePlus 9 Pro uses dual 2,250mAh cells that equate to a total battery capacity of 4,500mAh. It's roughly the same capacity as the OnePlus 8 Pro that came before it. Despite the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform, LTPO display, and OnePlus claims of better battery life, the OnePlus 9 Pro's battery performance was only average this time around.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

We saw a higher 3G talk time score that totaled 33:57h. The web test did get a bump up in endurance at 13:12h, but video playback took a large hit that resulted in just 13:34. This, accompanied by the Snapdragon 888's poor standby score resulted in a significant slip in overall endurance compared to its antecedent. In reference with the other 888-powered phones, the OnePlus 9 falls right behind the Xiaomi MI 11 (score 89h) and ahead of the Oppo Find X3 Pro (score 81h).

We were under the impression that we'd see better scores in the screen-on tests than what we saw with the OnePlus 8 Pro, we are wondering whether the LPTO panel is working as advertised. Unfortunately, we are unable to confirm or deny this, as the FPS counter that's built into the Android Developer tools is not yet compatible with the LPTO tech.

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating denotes how long the battery charge will last you if you use the device for an hour of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. More details can be found here.

All test results shown are achieved under the highest screen refresh rate mode. You can adjust the endurance rating formula manually so it matches better your own usage in our all-time battery test results chart where you can also find all phones we've tested.

Charging

The 4,500 mAh battery on the 8T, 9, and 9 Pro all use identical dual-cell battery tech. This means that the adapter is simultaneously fast-charging two batteries that work as one. OnePlus debuted 65W charging with the OnePlus 8T, but the 9 Pro gets a bump up in charging speed with Warp Charge 65T. The 9 and 9 Pro received improvement that "reduces internal charging resistance", according to the company, so the battery can receive high wattage for a longer time before dialing its voltage back down.

30min charging test (from 0%)

  • OnePlus 9
    100%
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    100%
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    99%
  • OnePlus 8T
    94%
  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (66W bundled)
    87%
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    83%
  • OnePlus 8
    69%
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
    63%
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
    59%
  • Apple iPhone 12
    58%
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    55%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    54%
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
    54%
  • OnePlus 8 Pro (Warp Charge Wireless)
    48%
  • Google Pixel 5
    41%
  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (65W PD)
    33%

Time to full charge (from 0%)

  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
    0:28h
  • OnePlus 9
    0:29h
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
    0:32h
  • OnePlus 8T
    0:36h
  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (66W bundled)
    0:45h
  • Xiaomi Mi 11
    0:50h
  • OnePlus 8
    0:53h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
    1:11h
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
    1:12h
  • Apple iPhone 12
    1:30h
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro
    1:30h
  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
    1:32h
  • Huawei Mate 40 Pro (65W PD)
    1:42h
  • Google Pixel 5
    1:54h

With Warp Charge 65T, the 9 Pro's battery was fully replenished in 31 minutes, 2 minutes short of OnePlus' promised 29 minutes. The OnePlus 8T can fully recharge in 39 minutes so the improvement is marginal, but still impressive.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Wireless charging sees a significant update with the 9 Pro. The company debuts a faster Warp Charge 50 Wireless Charger that delivers 50W of peak power to the phone. This comes as an update to the Warp Charge 30 Wireless Charger that launched with the 8 Pro. That charger didn't have a removable charging cable so it made it more difficult to replace the charging cable without buying a whole new charger. It also made cable management more difficult.

This time around, the Warp Charge 50 does not have a permanent wire on it. Instead, it requires that you use the Warp Charge 65T charger brick that comes included with the 9 Pro. Though it doesn't include an adapter, the wireless charger comes with its own USB-C to C cable.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

The Warp Charge 50 Wireless dock promises a full charge in 43 minutes. In our 30 minute charge test, we achieved a 70% charge.

The Warp Charge 50 dock has dual charging coils. This is so you can drop the 9 Pro onto the Warp Charge 50 Wireless charger either upright or on its side. The charger has two coils: one on the lower part of the charger and one higher up. This way, you can recharge the 9 Pro or any Qi-compatible phone upright or on its side.

The OnePlus 9 Pro also supports reverse wireless charging, which can recharge other Qi-enabled devices at up to 5W.

Speaker test

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a stereo speaker setup with a dedicated loudspeaker on the bottom of the phone and the earpiece serving as the second channel. In portrait, the earpiece get the left channel, while in landscape the phone uses the accelerometer to switch the channels to match the orientation.

The OnePlus 9 Pro earned a 'Very Good' rating for loudness in our test, essentially the same result as the OnePlus 9, though with a marginal edge when it comes to the numbers.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone sample recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

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