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OnePlus 9RT hands-on impressions: Straight outta the parts pile

A little bit of Nord, a little bit of OnePlus 9, and a glaring lack of pizzazz.
By
January 14, 2022
OnePlus 9RT showing back of the phone on a box
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Months after the launch of the OnePlus 9RT in China, the phone is finally stepping over the Great Wall and making its debut in international waters. Launching in India, the phone is being positioned as a refresh for the India-only OnePlus 9R and a new addition to the broader OnePlus 9 series.

Like the 9R, the OnePlus 9RT slots in between the OnePlus Nord 2 and the OnePlus 9. Additionally, just like the OnePlus 9R, the phone appears to be a peculiar mishmash of components from existing OnePlus devices.

On the surface, the phone doesn’t really offer anything disruptive and serves a singular purpose of giving OnePlus a presence in the popular value flagship segment. In this Android Authority OnePlus 9RT preview, we talk about our first impressions of the phone and if the phone nails the basics needed to take on ample competition.


A fresh coat of paint

OnePlus 9RT placed next to the OnePlus 9
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus 9RT fits like a glove within the broader OnePlus 9 series. That’s largely due to the fact that not much has changed with the design. The phone sits slightly larger than the OnePlus 9R in the hand and accompanying it is an ever so slightly larger, rearranged camera module. The OnePlus 9RT is also 10g heavier than the OnePlus 9R at 198.5 grams, but this hasn’t been a concern in my brief amount of time with the phone.

Like the 9R, the phone sports Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back, but this time around, the display has been stretched to a 6.62-inch panel size. Falling just short of the 6.7-inch display of the OnePlus 9 Pro, this might be a bit off-putting to users who prefer smaller dimensions but, hey, at least you still get a flat display.

Larger dimensions aside, the OnePlus 9RT doesn't look all that different from the OnePlus 9R.

Available in two shades — Hacker Black and Nano Silver — the phone gives the appearance of a matte finish. But don’t be mistaken, the OnePlus 9RT is an exceptionally slippery phone and you’ll likely want to purchase a case for it. I’m also not a big fan of the glittery look of the back panel under direct light.

Build quality is typically OnePlus with excellent construction and top-tier materials. Elsewhere, you’ll get a familiar port selection including an alert slider. It is, however, intriguing that OnePlus has dropped USB 3.1 support and the phone is relegated to USB 2.0 speeds — likely a cost-saving measure.

Additionally, there is no water resistance or claimed splash resistance on offer. You do, however, get dual stereo speakers that get suitably loud and sound plenty good for listening to podcasts or the occasional music video.

OnePlus 9RT display switched on in direct light
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

OnePlus phones have typically packed quality displays and the OnePlus 9RT is no exception. The 6.62-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel sports a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling. Diving into the settings, you can opt between 60Hz and 120Hz modes to optimize for battery life or fluidity, respectively. OnePlus claims that the default 300Hz touch response rate is further boosted to 600Hz for gaming, but I can’t say that I noticed any difference while playing games. That said, I’m not much of a smartphone gamer and the feature might be of use to those with twitchy reflexes.

We’ll cover the display more in-depth in our full review, but after two days with the phone, I can’t really fault the display, especially for the category. Brightness levels are more than adequate and the phone remains comfortably visible outdoors. The default vivid display profile can appear a bit oversaturated but it’s a cinch to tame the colors by switching display profiles. Additional controls for warmth and motion smoothening let you dial in the experience exactly how you like it.

Catching up to the best

OnePlus 9RT with Android Authority opened in the browser
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Following in the footsteps of the OnePlus 9R, the 9RT gets a spec bump to the Snapdragon 888 chipset. Despite the fact that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphones are right around the corner, this is still the fastest chipset widely available on current Android flagships.

This puts the 9RT in an interesting position of packing the same power as the OnePlus 9 Pro, the current OnePlus flagship, at a dramatically lower price. Sure, there’s the more powerful OnePlus 10 Pro but there’s no word on international availability just yet.

The OnePlus 9RT matches the performance of the OnePlus 9 Pro at a dramatically lower price.

Shipping in two configurations with 8GB or 12GB of RAM paired with 128GB or 256GB of storage, performance is more than adequate. I’m yet to come across any thermal throttling and the phone handles just about anything you throw at it. The phone ships with the performance capped for better battery life but toggling the high-performance mode option in settings unlocks all the speed you need.

Unfortunately, despite the souped-up processor and increased display size, the OnePlus is sticking to the same battery capacity. It’s early days to form a definite opinion on battery life, but the 4500mAh battery is bog-standard for the category and should presumably last a day. Stay tuned for our full review for more on the same.

Elsewhere, there is no change in charging speeds and users will get to enjoy speedy 65W charging with the included charger. No, there’s still no wireless charging either.

Photography ups and downs

OnePlus 9RT close up of the camera with glittering back
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Continuing its streak of co-opting features from the company’s existing portfolio, the OnePlus 9RT is employing the 50MP IMX766 sensor from the ultrawide camera on the OnePlus 9 as its primary sensor. In addition, the OnePlus 9RT includes the same 16MP ultrawide sensor as the OnePlus 9R but drops the dedicated 2MP monochrome sensor. The 5MP macro camera also gets a downgrade to 2MP making it pretty obvious that best-in-class imaging is probably not what the company had in mind while designing the OnePlus 9RT.

That said, the upgraded ISP on the Snapdragon 888 should help improve image quality a smidgen. More to follow in our review.

Check out: The best camera phones you can get

No software changes, but that might be a good thing

OnePlus 9RT showing about page and software version
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The OnePlus 9RT ships with Android 11 out of the box, which is a strange situation considering that the company has already begun rolling out Android 12 to some of its older phones.

Read more: Android 12 update — when is it coming to your phone?

That, in fact, might just be a good thing because of the bug-ridden Oxygen OS 12 update that also adds a lot of Oppo flavor to OnePlus’ skin. OnePlus claims that the update should hit the phone sometime in Spring 2022. Regardless, you get a fairly clean user experience that brings a mix of stock Android and One UI-like design sensibilities.

The software is exactly the same as on any other OnePlus device including all the standard OnePlus goodies like a work-life balance mode and a host of customization options.

OnePlus 9RT Specs

OnePlus 9RT
Display
6.62-inch AMOLED
20:9 aspect ratio
2,400 x 1,080 at 397ppi
120Hz refresh rate (static)
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM
Min: 8GB
Max: 12GB
Storage
Min: 128GB UFS 3.1
Max: 256GB UFS 3.1
No external storage support
Power
4,500mAh battery

Warp Charge 65
65W charger in box

No wireless charging
Ports
USB-C 2.0
No 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity
5G support
2x2 MIMO
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax
NFC support
Bluetooth 5.1
Cameras
Rear:
1) 50MP main (Sony IMX766)
ƒ/1.8, OIS and EIS

2) 16MP ultra-wide
ƒ/2.2
123-degree field-of-view

3) 2MP macro

Front:
16MP single (Sony IMX471)
1.0μm with EIS
ƒ/2.4, fixed focus
Video
4K at 30 or 60fps
Super slo-mo at 720p/480fps or 1080p/240fps
Time lapse at 1080p/30fps or 4K/30fps

Audio
Bluetooth 5.2
aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, AAC
Dual stereo speakers
Dolby Atmos
Security
No IP rating against water/dust
In-display fingerprint sensor
Face unlock (insecure)
Software
Android 11
Oxygen OS 11
Dimensions and weight
162.2 x 74.6 x 8.29mm
198.5g
Colors
Hacker black, Nano silver

OnePlus 9RT preview: A derivative phone that plays it too safe?

OnePlus 9RT rear panel gleaming under direct light
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

There’s really no way to mince words about the OnePlus 9RT even after spending such little time with it. In isolation, there’s nothing glaringly wrong with the phone but it is hard to look past the derivative nature of the hardware once you factor in the alternatives. Put bluntly, the OnePlus 9RT makes next to no effort to stand out amongst its ultra-competitive peers.

The OnePlus 9RT does just enough to be an option, but not a true competitor in the value flagship space.

The few improvements like an upgraded processor far outweigh the cons of using the same ol’ design, side-grade cameras, lack of an IP rating, and the outdated (albeit stable) software. We’ll do a deep dive into the hardware shortly, but based on our first impressions, and priced starting at Rs. 42,999 (~$577), the OnePlus 9RT appears to give little reason for a recommendation over phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Rs. 49,999/$699) or the upcoming Xiaomi 11T Pro ($649). We’ll see if that’s the case for sure when our OnePlus 9RT review lands very soon.

OnePlus 9RT official stream
OnePlus 9RT
The OnePlus 9RT improves on last year's OnePlus 9R with a Snapdragon 888 chipset, larger display, and an improved camera sensor.