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OnePlus 9 vs older OnePlus phones: Should you upgrade?

Does the OnePlus 9 pack in enough of the latest tech to entice an upgrade?

Published onMarch 28, 2021

OnePlus 9 Pro vs OnePlus 9 camera vs camera
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

After many a leak and teaser, the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro are finally sitting on store shelves. Boasting cutting-edge processing and display hardware, super-fast charging, and a new camera setup polished in partnership with Hasselblad, OnePlus is looking to offer the ultimate all-around smartphone. Although the company’s prices have gradually crept up over the years, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are still more affordable than other premium-tier options on the market this year.

Despite OnePlus’ value proposition, deciding whether to upgrade from an older phone is always a tough choice, particularly as hardware improvements don’t seem to move quite so fast these days. Here’s a rundown of how OnePlus’s latest premium-tier options stack up against their predecessors, and if they’re worth the upgrade.

Our verdict: OnePlus 9 Pro review | OnePlus 9 review

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 5T and older

2017 was a good year for OnePlus, with both the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T launching to critical acclaim. Priced just above and below $550, these phones seem like a steal compared to today’s costs. However, at four years old, the hardware onboard is starting to show its age.

This isn’t to say that the OnePlus 5 and 5T can’t still serve you well, providing the battery has managed to last this long. The phones’ Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor still runs better than many of today’s mid-range options. Although you’re missing out on today’s bleeding-edge gaming performance, AI and imaging processing technologies, and faster networking capabilities. Likewise, OnePlus’ 20W Dash Charging was blazing fast back in the day but pales in comparison to the Warp Charge 65T technology packed into the OnePlus 9. Wireless charging, bigger batteries, better camera tech, and bigger fancy 120Hz displays are also notable hardware upgrades that OnePlus now offers at an affordable flagship price point.

OnePlus history: The company’s entire lineup so far

Don’t forget about those all-important software updates either. The OnePlus 5 and 5T are upgradable to the Android 10 based Oxygen OS 10, but are now too old to be on OnePlus’ roadmap for its latest Oxygen OS 11 update. Without feature and security updates, it’s certainly time to consider a more modern piece of hardware — even if that move will come at the cost of the headphone jack. Sorry.

Needless to say, you’ll definitely benefit from the modern technology and software packed into the OnePlus 9 if you’re rocking a OnePlus handset from before the OnePlus 5. If you’re still rocking a OnePlus 3 or 3T, or even older, it’s time to ditch that ancient hardware.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 6 and 6T

OnePlus 6 against tree

With a Snapdragon 845 processor on board, up to 8GB RAM, dual cameras, and an FHD+ display, the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T don’t exactly feel old. That’s a package that will still pass muster as a decent mid-range handset today. Solid core specs have always been a strength of OnePlus phones, although a closer look at the finer details tells a bit of a different story.

OnePlus guide: Everything you need to know about the brand

The phones’ 20W Dash Charge is pretty slow by modern standards, the FHD+ displays are capped at 60Hz, there’s no wireless charging, and the in-display fingerprint reader on the OnePlus 6T is poor by modern standards. Of course, these older phones don’t support 5G data speeds. This might be something to consider if you live in an area with 5G signal. Overall, the OnePlus 9 is definitely a worthy upgrade over these handsets, and the OnePlus 9 Pro even more so. That is, providing you can stomach the much higher $969 price tag than the OnePlus 6T’s $579 sticker price.

That said, OnePlus 6 series owners might not feel an urgent need to upgrade as the hardware is still pretty capable. But with Android 12 around the corner in late 2021, there’ll be a more compelling reason to upgrade later in the year. The OnePlus 6 and 6T will be upgraded to Oxygen OS 11 in early 2021, if you haven’t received the update already, but are unlikely to be on the list for another upgrade come 2022. The importance of keeping your phone up to date cannot be understated, so this is something to keep in mind as the year goes on.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7 series

OnePlus 7T in glacier blue and frosted silver with OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren edition

OnePlus launched four high-end smartphones in 2019: the OnePlus 7, 7 Pro, 7T, and 7T Pro. That’s not including the niche OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren model either (pictured above on the right). The introduction of Pro variants saw OnePlus push into the premium space, with a price tag to match.

All four handsets boast core specifications that still hold up quite well today. The Snapdragon 855 and 855 Plus processing packages, up to 8GB RAM, and fast UFS 3.0 storage will still feel reasonably snappy by 2021 standards, even for gaming. They’re also already running Oxygen OS 11, and the 7T models, at the very least, should be in line for an upgrade to Android 12 too.

See also: One year with the OnePlus 7 Pro

The Pro variants differentiate themselves from the OnePlus 7 and 7T with triple camera packages, faster 30W charging, and sharper QHD+ AMOLED displays. With the exception of the OnePlus 7, these phones boast 90Hz display capabilities too, which closes the gap with the OnePlus 9’s 120Hz panel. The two Pro models also feature a funky pop-up selfie camera. None of the 2019 OnePlus phones have IP ratings or wireless charging, which can be found in the 2021 models. The OnePlus 7T Pro was the only one to come with a 5G option, so again the OnePlus 9 series has this going for it.

One of the more consistent complaints about the OnePlus 7 series was about the camera packages. They weren’t quite top-of-the-pack back at launch and you’ll notice the benefits in moving to the OnePlus 9’s setup. Hasselblad’s color profiling has definitely helped step up OnePlus’ game this year. However, remember that the standard OnePlus 9 doesn’t include a telephoto zoom camera, so you’d lose out on some flexibility versus the 7 Pro and 7T Pro.

If you’ve been holding out for a OnePlus phone with a much-improved camera package, now is the time to upgrade. Fans of wireless charging will also want to check out the newer models, particularly if you own the cheaper OnePlus 7. But other than that, OnePlus 7 series owners may still be quite content with their handsets for another year at least.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro

OnePlus 8 Pro vs OnePlus 8 backs

Last year’s OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro brought 5G as a mainstream technology to the series, along with bigger batteries, and, of course, slightly more powerful processing hardware. These two handsets should still be serving you well today, so you’ll have to be after something quite specific to justify an upgrade so soon.

OnePlus 8 buyer’s guide: Everything you need to know

The OnePlus 8 Pro was definitely the stronger model, boasting a 120Hz HDR10+ QHD rather than 90Hz FHD AMOLED display, fast wireless charging, an IP68 rating, and an upgraded camera setup complete with a telephoto zoom lens. Those are features you’ll still find in the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, although the former doesn’t have a zoom camera.

There may be some small arguments for upgrading from the regular OnePlus 8 to the 9 or 9 Pro, particularly if you want an even better display, camera, or wireless charging. However, even then the differences really aren’t that big. If you already own a OnePlus 8 Pro, the OnePlus 9 really isn’t an upgrade at all. The 9 Pro only has slightly faster charging, a marginally better camera, an IP68 rating for global consumers, and of course a newer processor than the 8 Pro, but that’s certainly not worth buying a whole new phone for.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8T

OnePlus 8T rear hero shot
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority
OnePlus 8T

With just five months separating the OnePlus 9 from the OnePlus 8T, it’s surely impossible to justify splashing the cash on yet another smartphone so soon?

In a word, absolutely. The OnePlus 8T improved on the regular OnePlus 8 with a 120Hz refresh rate and 65W fast charging, which are now staples of the OnePlus 9 series. The phone also offered an extra monochrome camera, which you’ll also find on the OnePlus 9, but the OnePlus 8 Pro remained the flagship product.

Our verdict: OnePlus 8T review

The OnePlus 8T bridges the gap between the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 9 quite nicely. The OnePlus 9 throws in wireless charging and a slightly improved camera setup, and of course a faster chip, but that’s about it. The OnePlus 9 Pro takes things further with even faster wireless charging, a better camera suite, and a sharper display. But it’s very hard to justify buying a whole new handset for those features. Even if we found the OnePlus 8T a little underwhelming at launch, it’s still a solid phone that will be supported with updates for at least the next two years.

Should you upgrade to the OnePlus 9 or OnePlus 9 Pro?

OnePlus 9 Pro more rear profile
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

OnePlus smartphones might not be as affordable as they once were, but with prices for the OnePlus 9 starting at $729/£629/€699/Rs.49,999, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your aging handset. Especially if you’re still running a smartphone from 2017 or even older.

Those who own slightly newer OnePlus smartphones, even as far back as the OnePlus 6T, can probably still hold onto their handset for a little longer. Although the OnePlus 9 Pro, in particular, has plenty of bleeding-edge technology to offer those consumers. With its improved camera setup, blazing-fast wired and wireless charging, and one of the best displays in the business, there’s a lot to like.

Will you be upgrading from an older OnePlus smartphone to one of the two new OnePlus 9 handsets? Let us know in the comments!

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