Most new phones launched in the market usually intend to challenge the champions of their category. But with the OnePlus 9 Pro, the company has vehemently dethroned the reigning titleholders and establishes a new era of 'flagships'. With the top-end models of the flagship Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max crossing the Rs 1 lakh mark, the OnePlus 9 Pro for Rs 64,999 has set a new benchmark.
With top-of-the-line specifications, OnePlus continues to offer the flagship experience with its latest OnePlus 9 Pro and is inching closer towards Samsung's Galaxy. But unlike the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't about the zoom and capturing the moon as it gets close to shooting iPhone-like images. All this hype around the Hasselblad partnership has put the OnePlus 9 Pro in the spotlight. After all, we had witnessed some stunning camera phones from the Huawei and Leica partnership in the past - P9, P30 Pro to name a few.
To start with, the OnePlus-Hasselblad partnership has worked towards achieving natural colour calibration and nothing fancy. And the OnePlus 9 Pro lives up to the claims. The images shot using this smartphone are well-balanced with natural colours, very similar to the kind of results I get from the iPhone 12 series. But if you like the super bright, vibrant and oversaturated colours of the Samsung Galaxy S flagship series, you will find this phone's camera a bit disappointing.
Of all the shots I captured from the OnePlus 9 Pro, my favourite was the bright pink adenium flower with water droplets against green leaves that looked stunning. However, there were instances where I felt the camera didn't do justice and instead flattened the colour, especially with clouds and some bright colours indoors.
Overall, the images captured of the primary 48MP sensor are sharp. The smart scene recognition feature that intelligently recommends the best shooting effect came in handy. But the auto macro feature was a bit of a hassle as it kept on switching between the sensors when closer to the subject. Thankfully, I was able to turn it off.
Besides the main sensor, OnePlus has focused on the ultra-wide lens too by adding a 50MP big sensor, which has helped with distortion-free edges. There were instances where I found the colour accuracy of the ultra-wide to be better than the main sensor, especially when pointing at the sky. In addition is an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and a 2MP monochrome camera.
The 30x digital zoom isn't anything to rave about. However, the monochrome filter does an impressive job. Then there are modes assisting for all types of shots. The software-driven Nightscape does a good job at capturing images in low-light and dark but only when I managed to hold the phone still for a few seconds. Mount it on a tripod and it captures great shots.
Besides, it's the Hasselblad branded Pro mode for manual settings that captures stunning images - professionals' photographers would love to use this. A few cosmetic additions of the partnership also include an orange shutter button, the same shutter sound as on Hasselblad cameras and the Hasselblad branding in the watermark. Besides, it captures videos at 30fps at 8K or 120/69/30fps at 4K resolution. The 16MP front camera captures decent selfies. All in all, the camera does not disappoint.
But the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't just about its camera as the display, performance and battery make it a great flagship smartphone. The 6.7-inch looks super-bright and is legible in bright sunlight too. OnePlus has used LTPO technology for more control over the refresh rate. The Smart 120Hz has been turned on where the refresh rate switches basis the scenario and also saves battery.
The Hyper Touch (turned off by default) improves touch response speed and frame rate stability while gaming and could make a difference in the gameplay for select games including Call of Duty, PUB-G and more.
However, it isn't just the display as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 also contributes. The overall performance of the OnePlus 9 Pro is top-notch with no signs of lag with running multiple apps in the background including gaming, streaming videos, video editing and more. It did heat up a bit after prolonged gaming and camera sessions but nothing much to worry about.
Complementing the experience is the clean Oxygen OS (my second favourite after stock Android) with apps neatly placed in the app drawer. And, unlike Apple and Samsung who did away with the charging adapter with the latest flagship, OnePlus hasn't.
A 65T Wrap charge adapter has been added to the box that juices up the 4,500 mAh battery on the Pro 9 from zero to 100 in less than 30 minutes. It also supports wireless charging, which is equally awesome -- as the Wrap 50 wireless charger (Rs 3,990) does the job in just 45 minutes. The 4,500 mAh battery was good enough to last me a day with medium to heavy use. And the high-power adapter came in handy.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro looks neat, simple and nothing extraordinary. Just like other Android flagships, OnePlus has used glass at the front and rear, which curves towards the edges blending into aluminium chassis. This makes it rather comfortable to hold.
OnePlus' ringer slider - my favourite -- continues to be on the right panel, accompanied by a power button. There isn't a headphone jack, and the speaker is placed next to the charging port. The in-display fingerprint scanner is slightly towards the bottom panel, which at times makes it tricky to unlock as I fear dropping the phone. The rear is neat with raised camera module and OnePlus branding at the centre. However, the glossy rear of my review unit (Morning Mist) attracted fingerprints and I had to clean it often.
Verdict: It is not and need not be the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung S21 Ultra, or a competitor. It is the OnePlus 9 Pro. Period!
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