OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: The biggest differences

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8
(Image credit: OnePlus/OnLeaks)

The OnePlus 9 arrived earlier this year, and its become one of the best phones we've tested all year. But how does it compare to its predecessor, the 2020 OnePlus 8?

There are a few reasons why you might be interested in a comparison of these two phones. Maybe you already own a OnePlus 8 and are considering an upgrade, or want to know if the updated features of the OnePlus 9 are worth spending the extra over the older model. We hope we can help you make your decision by examining the two phones side-by-side. 

Overall, the differences between the two phones are few in number. But those differences often come out in favor of the newer OnePlus 9. Whether that's enough for it to beat the older phone will be up to you.

Keep in mind too that there's possibly no OnePlus 9T coming later this year. The latest 9T leak claims so, at least. This means that if you don't fancy either of these phones, the next OnePlus will not arrive until next year, presumably called the OnePlus 10.

For the time being, here's a breakdown of how the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 8 compare.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Models

Last year, both the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro debuted in April. An updated version, the OnePlus 8T, followed in the fall, as is typical for OnePlus' release schedule.

You have the same options this year. The basic phone is the OnePlus 9, but there's also the OnePlus 9 Pro if you want the best specs the company can offer.

This OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8 face-off will largely compare the newly-launched phones to the models released nearly a year ago, except for a few spots where we'll mention the OnePlus 8T.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Price and availability

The OnePlus 8T and OnePlus 8 Pro remain on sale at OnePlus' store alongside the OnePlus 9, however the OnePlus 8 is no longer there. Your only choice may be to buy the remaining surplus from third-party sites like Amazon, unless you happen to find a few remaining handsets offered by a cell carrier.

The OnePlus 8 debuted at $699, but these days, you can get a OnePlus 8 for $499 while the price of the high-end OnePlus 8 Pro with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage has fallen from $999 to $699. (The 8GB/128GB OnePlus 8 Pro base model is no longer available from OnePlus.)

As announced at the March 23 launch event, the OnePlus 9 will sell for $729, while the OnePlus 9 Pro will sell for $1,069. That compares well to rival phones. The iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 both start at $799, meaning the OnePlus equivalent saves you a small chunk of change.

The iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21 Plus sell for $999, meaning the OnePlus 9 Pro actually costs a little more. However the 9 Pro shares several features with the Galaxy S21 Ultra , which costs $1,199. So arguably it's still a good deal for the amount of hardware you're getting.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 OnePlus 9 (Rumored)OnePlus 9 Pro (Rumored)OnePlus 8OnePlus 8 Pro
Screen size6.55 inches (FHD+; 120 Hz)6.7 inches (QHD+; 120Hz)6.5 inches (FHD+; 90Hz)6.78 inches (QHD+; 120 Hz)
CPUSnapdragon 888Snapragon 888Snapdragon 865Snapdragon 865
RAM8GB, 12GB8GB, 12GB8GB, 12GB8GB, 12GB
Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras48MP main; 48MP ultrawide; macro lens48MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 8MP telephoto48MP main, 16MP ultrawide, 2MP macro48MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 8MP telephoto, color filter
Front cameras16MP16MP16MP16MP
Battery size4,500 mAh4,500 mAh4,300 mAh4,510 mAh
ColorsArctic Sky, Astral Black, Winter MistStellar Black, Forest Green, Morning MistInterstellar Glow, Glacial GreenOnyx Black, Glacial Green, Ultramarine Blue

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Design and display

The OnePlus 9 looks a little different to OnePlus 8, particularly when you flip the phone over. On last year's flagship, the rear cameras descended in a vertical line down the middle of the phone. For the OnePlus 9, the cameras move to the upper left corner, with the lenses arranged in a rectangular array.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 9 (Image credit: WinFuture)

Up front, the OnePlus 9 again has a flat display, while the 9 Pro has a curved one. It's more subtly curved than the 8 Pro however, meaning that while it doesn't fit so neatly into your hand, it should be less prone to accidental touches.

Speaking of displays, the 9 series continues the tradition of assigning a larger screen to the Pro version. The OnePlus 9 features a 6.55-inch FHD display while the OnePlus 9 Pro has a 6.7-inch QHD panel. Those screen sizes are essentially unchanged from the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, which used 6.55-inch FHD and 6.8-inch QHD screens respectively. Therefore if you're after a stunning display on your phone, the older models still hold up today.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The OnePlus 9 has a big improvement over the OnePlus 8 when it comes to refresh rate. The older phone featured a 90Hz refresh rate — impressive compared to a 60 Hz screen, but not as fast as the OnePlus 8T, OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro with their 120Hz displays.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Cameras

Cameras have been an area in which OnePlus phones have come up short. It's not that past models have lacked the optics, but the post-processing software hasn't been enough to keep up with the best camera phones. OnePlus is looking to improve that in the OnePlus 9, having entered into a partnership with Swedish optics specialist Hasselblad.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 9 (Image credit: Dave2D/YouTube)

Again, the lenses on the OnePlus 8 models were nothing to sneeze at. The standard phone had a 48MP main camera augmented by a 16MP ultrawide shooter and a dedicated 2MP macro lens, while the OnePlus 8 Pro took that same main lens and added a more powerful 48MP ultrawide camera along with an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and a 5MP color filter camera.

For the OnePlus 9, both the 9 and 9 Pro use 48MP main cameras and 50MP ultrawide lenses, and 2MP monochrome lenses. The Pro model adds a fourth camera onto that: an 8MP telephoto camera with 3.3x optical zoom.

That ultrawide angle camera isn't just any old shooter. OnePlus says it's using a freeform lens with two prisms to capture images that are then stitched together with software. The result should be a final photo with less distortion around the edges.

One Plus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Additional photo features on the OnePlus 9 will be on the software side of things, with Hasselblad working to improve the new phones' color calibration. The cameras can capture 8K video at 30 frames per second, and 4K video at 120 FPS, too.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Performance

The processor powering the OnePlus 9 models is a pretty straightforward jump from the OnePlus 8. Last year, the OnePlus 8 used the Snapdragon 865 chipset, while this year, it's the Snapdragon 888.

What this means for performance can easily be shown with some benchmark scores. In Geekbench 5, the OnePlus 9 Pro managed 1,126 on the single-core section, and 3,685 in the multicore section. The OnePlus 8 Pro's scores were 906 and 3,379 respectively.

Those scores will differ depending on which version you buy however. Both the OnePlus 8 series and OnePlus 9 series offer users the choice of buying either model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, or 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. The 12GB version will offer slightly better performance, but costs more in return. If this is a priority, you could try and get the best of both the OnePlus 8 and 9 by purchasing the older phone but with the 12GB RAM package.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Battery and charging

The new OnePlus 9 models have more in common with the OnePlus 8T than either of the earlier OnePlus 8 phones. The 8T featured a 4,500 mAh battery, and so do both the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. The OnePlus 8 used a smaller 4,300 mAh battery, while the OnePlus 8 Pro has a marginally larger 4,510 mAh battery.

OnePlus 9 vs. One Plus 8

OnePlus 8 Pro (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The bigger difference comes in with charging. Both of the 8 series phones offer fast 30W wired charging, with the OnePlus 8 Pro going one step further and supporting 30W wireless charging with a compatible charging pad. 

However, both OnePlus 9 models charge at 65W , thanks to the dual-cell battery design that allows the phone to take on twice as much charge as before. Both also get wireless charging, with the 9 capable of 15W maximum, and the 9 Pro able to charge at 50W if you buy OnePlus' second-generation charging stand or another compatible charging pad.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8

OnePlus 8T (Image credit: OnePlus)

The OnePlus 9 phones last longer too. Even with its displays at its maximum refresh rate, the OnePlus 9 Pro lasted 10 hours and 40 minutes on Tom's Guide's custom battery test, while the 8 Pro managed a slightly longer 11 hours and 5 minutes only by locking its refresh rate to a basic 60Hz. The OnePlus 9 managed 10 hours and 51 minutes of the test at 120Hz, with the OnePlus 8 only beating it (with a time of 11 hours and 4 minutes) by disabling its higher 90Hz refresh rate.

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 8: Outlook

Unsurprisingly, the newer OnePlus 9 is better than the older OnePlus 8. But that doesn't mean the OnePlus 8 is completely superseded by the OnePlus 9. Since both series of phone use almost identical displays, you could go for the older phones if you weren't fussed by the improved cameras or more powerful chipset. If you care about high refresh rates though, you'll have to go for the 9 series, since they can maintain a decently lengthy battery life without needing to disable 120Hz mode.

The other reasons to pick a OnePlus 8 instead of a OnePlus 9 are more subjective. The design of the 8 series is certainly more unique with the central spine of cameras on the back, plus if you like your smartphones curved, the OnePlus 8 Pro definitely beats the 9 Pro.

Ultimately it comes down to price. The OnePlus 8 costs $200 less than a OnePlus 9, and the OnePlus 8 Pro costs a considerable $370 less than the OnePlus 9 Pro. Ask yourself if you'd prefer the advanced features on the 9 series, or to save that money for something else by buying the 8 series, and you'll find the answer.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.