OnePlus 9 Pro — 5 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip

OnePlus 9 Pro — 5 reasons to buy and 3 reasons to skip
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With the launch of the OnePlus 9 Pro, existing OnePlus and Android users (and perhaps a few iPhone owners too) will be wondering if they should switch to what is now our pick of the best Android phones. The answer will depend on your priorities, because as good as the 9 Pro is, it's not flawless.

Below, we've highlighted the best and worst things about the OnePlus 9 Pro experience. Overall it's a fantastic phone, with impressive cameras, charging, display, performance and software. However its cost, smudgy design and problems with 5G networks are potential reasons why you'd want to avoid buying one.

OnePlus 9 Pro: reasons to buy

Massively upgraded cameras

Photography is perhaps the area where the OnePlus 9 Pro has improved the most compared to last year's OnePlus 8 Pro. It offers some excellent sensors in the form of a 48MP main camera and 50MP ultra-wide, competitive zoom with its 3.3x 8MP telephoto, and a unique 2MP monochrome sensor for textured black and white shots.

There are more improvements beneath the surface, too. Thanks to the involvement of camera company Hasselblad, OnePlus' photo processing has undergone a significant overhaul, resulting in more natural color tones in your images. A detailed Pro mode in the camera app also gives you lots of control over the sensors, exposure, shutter speed and other settings, which is useful if you know what you're doing.

The cameras aren't quite at the level of those in the best camera phones, but the huge improvement over previous OnePlus phones, and the excellent quality overall, make photography a real highlight of the OnePlus 9 Pro.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Trademark rapid charging speed

The OnePlus 9 Pro offers 65W wired and 50W wireless charging, making it quicker than the majority of its rivals. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S21 offers 25W wired and 15W wireless, while the iPhone 12 series is capable of 20W wired and 15W wireless.

Granted, you can only access the full 50W of wireless power if you buy OnePlus' own charging stand. However, unlike the iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21, OnePlus still includes a charging block in its box, so you can make the most of its top charging speed without spending more on accessories.

Smooth and detailed display

There's a lot to love about the OnePlus 9 Pro's display. At 6.7 inches, it's a large screen that's still usable with one hand, thanks in part to the subtle curvature of the left and right sides. It's also rich in detail, due to its quad HD (QHD) resolution.

The best thing about the screen, though, is its dynamic refresh rate. When needed, the OnePlus 9 Pro's LTPO panel will let you scroll through content at up to 120Hz, but it will scale that down to just 1Hz if you're pausing to look at an image in your photo gallery. That means you get the advantages of a high refresh rate, while minimizing the impact on battery life.

Great performance for gaming and apps

You won't be let down by the power within the 9 Pro's chassis. OnePlus has installed the Snapdragon 888 and up to 12GB RAM in the 9 Pro, helping it to score higher than the Asus ROG Phone 5 in our review testing — no small achievement, given that the Asus is designed to be a powerful gaming device.

OnePlus offers a couple of gaming-friendly features on the 9 Pro itself, such as a focus mode to avoid unwanted pop-ups and a "Hyper Touch" 360Hz touch sampling rate to make controls more responsive. But whether you're wanting the 9 Pro for work or play, it's got power to spare.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OxygenOS is still great

If you're a user of other Android smartphones, you've potentially been irritated by the lack of an app drawer or the inclusion of unwanted bloatware. Neither of these are problems with OnePlus' excellent OxygenOS, currently on version 11 alongside Android 11.

There are only a handful of pre-installed apps on the OnePlus 9 Pro, tidied away into a single folder. Considering these include the super-useful OnePlus Switch app to help you transfer your data, and also Netflix (which you probably want anyway), you're unlikely to mind their presence too much.

Other features include the app drawer, a customizable always-on display, live wallpapers and a sharp and easy-to-understand interface. Aside from the stock Android experience you get on the Google Pixel 5 and other Pixel phones, this is probably Android at its best.

OnePlus 9 Pro: reasons to skip

Smudgy back

If you like your phone to always look smart, you might want to avoid the 9 Pro — or at least the Morning Mist version. This glossy colorway with silver-to-mirror gradient is really attractive, but it's one of the worst for picking up fingerprints, dust and dirt. 

You could always put a case on the phone, but that's both an extra expense and a shame, given the phone's design. The only other options, beyond just accepting that your phone will always be covered in smudges, are to invest in smartphone skins, or a good quality microfiber cloth.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5G inconsistency

You get 5G with the OnePlus 9 Pro by default, but it may not be the kind of 5G you need.

In the U.S., if you buy a 9 Pro with T Mobile, there's no problem at all: you can make the most of the reliable and speedy 5G connection as soon as you set up the phone. But buy the phone from Verizon or AT&T, and you'll only be able to use LTE data.

In Verizon's case, it seems like this is a temporary issue. OnePlus has confirmed it supports the correct 5G signal bands for Big Red, and once the OnePlus 9 Pro (and basic OnePlus 9) are certified, you'll have 5G access. The 9 Pro doesn't support any AT&T 5G bands, however. If you're confused by this (and why wouldn't you be?) you can get the full details in our OnePlus 9 5G explained guide.

Large asking price

OnePlus started its smartphone-making life as a company that undercut the competition while offering high-quality hardware. That all changed when it introduced Pro models, starting with 2019's OnePlus 7 Pro, and prices have risen steadily since.

The 9 Pro has a starting price of $969, making it the company's most expensive phone yet (excluding special editions). That's still a touch lower than equivalent phones from Apple and Samsung, but it's hardly in line with OnePlus' founding philosophy.

Fortunately, OnePlus offers an answer to this problem in the form of the standard OnePlus 9. It's not quite as technically accomplished as the Pro model, but it offers many identical features while selling for a much more reasonable $729.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.