The OnePlus 9 is one of the biggest leaps over the previous mainline generation in recent years providing some major “core” improvements over the OnePlus 8, but we’re here to examine if an upgrade is actually worth it.

2021 is a landmark year for OnePlus. A new Hasselblad camera partnership, the loss of Carl Pei, and even closer ties with Oppo mean that it’s going to be hard to take it easy on the firm that offered “budget flagship” hardware.

We’re still unconvinced by a six-month release cycle, as the OnePlus 8T is still fresh in our minds. To simplify, if you have the 8T, then the OnePlus 9 is not enough of an upgrade. However, the jump from the OnePlus 8 to OnePlus 9 is more pronounced than any full series release. If you’re finding certain areas lacking then you might have been glancing at the newest releases — and so we’re here to examine if an upgrade is actually worth it.

Video — OnePlus 8 vs. OnePlus 9: Worth the upgrade?

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Hardware

Without seeing the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 9 side-by-side, it’s hard to decipher just what has changed. The specifications tell you that there are just a few fairly minor upgrades to areas such as the display and battery.

The upgraded storage and the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset should provide a bigger performance bump when combined with a slightly faster 120Hz display refresh rate. That’s not to say the OnePlus 8 is slow, as it’s still a beast of a device that should still be able to do everything you would want to on a modern smartphone.

OnePlus 8 OnePlus 9
Size 6.55 inches 6.55 inches
Display Curved FHD+/90Hz/402ppi Flat FHD+/120Hz/402ppi
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 8/12GB RAM 8/12GB RAM
Storage 128/256GB/UFS 3.0 128/256GB/UFS 3.1
Battery 4,300mAh 4,500mAh
Biometrics In-display optical fingerprint scanner In-display optical fingerprint scanner
Colors Onyx Black/Glacial Green/InterstellarGlow/Polar Silver Winter Mist/Arctic Sky/Astral Black

Personally, I find the move to a completely flat display to be the biggest outright hardware change that I noticed. The curves on the OnePlus 8 display are not bad, but it does mean that finding a good screen protector is an issue and some edge mistouches can be a problem. A truly flat display is much better for usability.

The rest of the hardware is fairly similar but holding side-by-side, and you can see a refinement of the design used in 2020. A domino camera setup makes the OnePlus 9 look eerily similar to the iPhone 11, while the OnePlus 8 retains the OnePlus 7 Pro DNA and appearance.

Software

OnePlus has done well with guaranteeing software updates for at least three years on all existing devices. That is set to continue on the OnePlus 9 series but as an older smartphone, the OnePlus 8 won’t get updated quite as far.

Because it launched with Android 10 pre-installed, the OnePlus 8 will be supported up to and including Android 13. The newer device ships with Android 11, and is therefore in line to get Android 14 within its lifetime. Just how OnePlus plans on rolling things out is unknown, but while updates have slowed, they do arrive — which not every other Android OEM appears to be capable of.

OnePlus 8 OnePlus 9
Software Shipped with Android 10 and OxygenOS 10 Shipped with Android 11 and OxygenOS 11
Features Turbo Boost 3.0
Pro Gaming Mode
Zen Mode
Dark mode
Turbo Boost 3.0
Pro Gaming Mode
Zen Mode 2.0
Dark mode w/ dedicated toggle

Many core features found in OxygenOS 11 include an Always-on display, a brand-new UI look and feel, plus tons more. However, some software tweaks reliant on the enhanced camera hardware will not be available on the OnePlus 8 even with the stable OxygenOS 11 release.

Battery

There is only a modest 200mAh interal cell increase from the OnePlus 8 series to the OnePlus 9, but with that battery increase, we’re getting a few important improvements and long overdue battery-related additions.

OnePlus 8 OnePlus 9
Battery size 4,300mAh 4,500mAh
Charging speed 30W wired 65W wired
15W Qi wireless

Wireless charging is finally here on a mainline OnePlus smartphone for the first time, albeit at standard 15W charging speeds. There is also a big bump from 30 to 65W charging on the OnePlus 9. The OnePlus 8 sticks with the still-fast Warp Charge 30T wired charging.

Cameras

The camera sensors have taken a big step up on the OnePlus 9, as although its predecessor comes with a 48-megapixel main sensor, it’s an older model that is the very same you’ll find on the OnePlus 7T. Naturally, the biggest upgrades are not just in the hardware on offer. The might of Hasselblad should lend itself well to the OnePlus 9 series and the ongoing partnership will hopefully birth some of the best smartphone cameras in the business.

OnePlus 8 OnePlus 9
Main sensor Sony IMX586
48MP
f1.75 aperture
Sony IMX689
48MP
f1.78 aperture
Secondary sensor 16MP
f2.2 aperture
116˚ FOV
Sony IMX766
50MP ultra-wide-angle
f2.4 aperture
113˚ FOV
Tertiary sensor 2MP Macro
f2.4 aperture
2MP Monochrome
Front-facing sensor Sony IMX471
16MP
f2.0
Sony IMX471
16MP
f2.4 aperture
Camera hardware features OIS
EIS
PDAF
OIS
EIS
PDAF
Camera software features CINE aspect ratio video
UltraShot HDR
Micro
Nightscape
Hasselblad Pro Mode
Hasselblad UI tweaks
Tilt-shift mode
Nightscape

It shouldn’t be a fair contest this year, as the OnePlus 9 has an upgraded main camera sensor plus a massive bump with a 50-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens. The biggest problem has always been camera tuning and post-processing, and that was the case on the OnePlus 8.

The OnePlus 9 now includes Pro color tuning, courtesy of Hasselblad, with extras within the camera app itself including a dedicated Hasselblad Pro photography mode. Selfies should be practically identical in overall quality though, as both the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 9 comes with the exact same 16-megapixel Sony IMX417 selfie sensor.

OnePlus 8 vs OnePlus 9: Should you upgrade?

About upgrading: 9to5Google often gives specific product recommendations. Sometimes, we may suggest not upgrading, due to various reasons including, but not limited to: increased device cost, negligible performance gains, or environmental impact. Whether to upgrade is always your call, but our aim is to help you make as informed a decision as possible.

As with just about any device just 12 months old, if you are happy with the OnePlus 8, then you shouldn’t upgrade to the OnePlus 9. There are a ton of big upgrades to the package though, which makes it much easier than in previous years. If you have an older OnePlus smartphone such as the OnePlus 6T, then it’s more sensible.

We all know that the camera has always been a weak point for OnePlus devices. The poor post-processing has weakened previous efforts and with a partnership with Hasselblad, you’re sure to see major improvements. The OnePlus 8 felt like it had lots of compromises over the OnePlus 8 Pro. The OnePlus 9 doesn’t feel held back.

It finally has wireless charging, a good camera, impressive design, 120Hz display, and it’s priced competitively. Because of that, upgrading feels more acceptable even though the OnePlus 8 is still less than a year old.

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