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OnePlus 9 Pro review: well worth the Hassel

A fantastic camera sees OnePlus back to what it does best - here are 5 things to know.

OnePlus 9 Pro review: well worth the Hassel
Marc Chacksfield
23 March 2021

For OnePlus, the One Plus 9 Pro is the ultimate moonshot. It's teamed up with Hasselblad - imaging specialists and whose cameras were used to shoot man's first steps on the moon - to tackle an area that even it admits it has not quite nailed yet: camera photography.

It's a gamble for both companies. OnePlus knows that a phone's camera is one of its biggest USPs, Hasselblad has 80 years of imaging expertise to uphold.

Is it a match made in imaging heaven? Here are 5 things to know about the OnePlus 9 Pro.

1. Decent designOnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

We've always been happy with the look of OnePlus handsets and the OnePlus 9 is no different, offering a sizeable screen which doesn't feel too unwieldy in the hand, matched by a premium look and feel to the chassis. OnePlus calls the design 'burdenless' and we kind of get what it means - it's stylish without being too flashy and it's built with comfort in mind. Given most of us spend an inordinate time looking and playing with our phone, this is essential and we never felt like the phone was getting too heavy or cumbersome.

Its aluminium chassis feels lovely, too, but it's likely you will be putting a cover over the thing like we did. It's a shame we had to, as the colour of the phone we tested was gorgeous. Called Morning Mist, it shimmers in the light. Other colour options include: a matt Pine Green and frosted matt Stellar Black.

The phone is pretty thin, too, at just 8.63mm and it's waterproof too.

2. The screen is super-bright and gamer friendly

OnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

Once again, OnePlus has added an 120Hz screen to its flagship and there is a real onus on gaming with the new technology within.

The size of the screen is 6.7-inches and OnePlus has made sure the colour reproduction is spot on. The numbers are impressive (it's QHD+, up to 1,300 nits of peak brightness, native 10-bit colour depth) but all you need to know is that it's brilliant for Netflix watching, is really bright in broad daylight and has some really advanced gaming flourishes.

The standout is something called Hyper Touch. This tech means that gaming on a touchscreen is improved, thanks to more responsive touch controls. The feature doesn't work for all games, but the likes of PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile are compatible with it. OnePlus is quoting that it can make the responsiveness 6x faster. And OnePlus is still the only place where you can play Fortnite on a phone at 90fps.

If gaming isn't your thing, then you'll be pleased to see HDR 10+ is on board for your movie watching.

3. The OnePlus 9 Pro camera is epic

OnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

The camera array on the back of the OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the nicest we have seen, and that's pretty impressive considering the amount of lenses and sensors it had to get on the back of the thing. The Hasseblad branding is a nice touch, too, proving that OnePlus really wants you to know that the photography specs on show here are premium.

It's worth noting that Hasseblad's expertise here can be seen in the software and not the hardware. While this relationship will no doubt blossom and include things like lens architecture in the future, what we have are some dedicated functionality that is there to get the best out of your photography.

This comes in the form of the 'Hasselblad Pro Mode'. This is the first time a phone has had Hasselblad-level sensor calibration and what this means is that colour representation is truer and there are an abundance of fine-tuning controls available to the end user.

This includes things like being able to tweak the ISO, white balance and exposure time. All of this has been available before, but Hasseblad's photographic eye is all over this software to make sure your photos come out looking the best they can and as accurate colour-wise to real life.

In this respect, the relationship between OnePlus and Hasseblad is a little different to what, say, Huawei and Leica have. It feels like the shift to Hasseblad camera hardware could happen in future phones.

We are utterly impressed with the tools available here, however - with the natural colour calibration solution being standout and the ability to shoot in 12-bit RAW will certainly excite the photo enthusiasts among you. The Pro mode doesn't seem to be Hasseblad-branded in the camera settings, it is just simply called Pro - though the shutter button is a lovely Hasseblad orange.

When it comes to the actual lenses, there's OnePlus 9 Pro’s main 48MP camera, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3.3x optical zoom, a 50MP ultra-wide camera and the dedicated monochrome lens is still here which we love to see.

A few other camera features that we enjoyed using include the Tilt Shift functionality (although this type of photography is a little out of favour nowadays) and the various Nighscape layers you can add, including a Cyberpunk 2077 branded one.

There's also 30fps 8K video shooting on board, a really good macro mode and fun time-lapse functionality.

4. The UI is great but not a huge change

OnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

OnePlus's OxygenOS 11 is a fine UI to use and we really like things like the always-on display, the ability to customise pretty much everything and there is a nice lack of bloatware. It's fast, too, and while we were a little sceptical about the new Turbo Boost memory optimisation that OnePlus has added, it really does feel like you can flip between more apps without any slowdown.

We will always be a fan of vanilla Android, but OnePlus has - once again - done a decent job here.

5. Speed is everything here

OnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

From the extremely powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip (which is bet in market) to the boosts it has given to performance, graphics rendering and phone efficiency, this is one of the most powerful phones we have tested and really does deserve its Pro moniker.

Graphic-heavy games loaded with ease with no frame droupouts when playing, flipping between doom scrolling and social networks was smooth and imaging editing and the like takes hardly any time at all.

Couple this with 5G and the new Warp Charge 65T, which delivers a day’s power in just 15 minutes - and can charge from 1-100% in under 30 mins - and what you have is one powerful device. We do have to say that you need the fast charging, though, as our phone's battery did seem to drop pretty steadily throughout the day.

OnePlus 9 Pro review: Final Verdict

OnePlus 9 Pro review: more than worth the Hassel

OnePlus 9 Pro feels like a wonderful refinement for OnePlus. The design of the handset is beautiful but there are no radical changes here. The new screen tech could be a game changer for gaming, but more games need to adopt it. The cameras are standout, though, and it was always going to be this way. While the lenses aren't that different from its rivals, it's the Hasseblad-graded software that really shines, adding in a pro photography suite that will have those serious about their photography jumping for joy.

The OnePlus 9 Pro costs £829 for the 8GB/128GB version and £929 for the 12GB/256GB variant. Head to the official OnePlus site for more information.