OnePlus 9RT Review: Fairly Flagship
Last year, OnePlus revealed a new strategy. It revealed that it was merging its operations with Oppo and its operating system, Oxygen OS would merge with the Colour OS codebase. This also meant that there was no “T” edition of its phone in the pipeline for 2021.
However, that didn’t mean the end of the line for the “T” series of phones. In 2021, it also launched 3 flagship-grade phones instead of 2 — the third one being the OnePlus 9R. Now, the 9R is the one that is getting the “T” treatment – but it also comes at a time when OnePlus has announced the bold new OnePlus 10 Pro for the Chinese market.
Everything about this launch is strange, but considering the price point and the updates, it sure does make for an interesting phone as even its rivals — Samsung and Xiaomi are following a similar pattern.
Samsung has the Galaxy S21 FE, while Xiaomi has the 11T Pro. On paper, the OnePlus 9RT seems more like an update to the OnePlus 9 sans the Hasselblad branding.
While not as boring as the Galaxy S21 FE, it also isn’t as exciting as Xiaomi’s 11T Pro. But it sure does stick to the tried and tested OnePlus formula which could make it a great phone for enthusiasts and folks looking for a reliable gadget without a doubt.
Design & Build
OnePlus has not veered away from its standard design language. The OnePlus 9RT builds on the foundations of the OnePlus 9R which was largely based on the OnePlus 8 series.
Sure, the camera module has changed, and in my humble opinion feels a little more cutting edge with the triple camera setup. It also looks extremely slick in the stealthy Hacker Black version which I received.
The matte finish makes things look really attractive but in a subtle way, but overall, this is a very standard-issue design language. It is ergonomic for a phone of its size, given the large screen, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
It however remains pretty slim for its segment at 8.3mm and relatively light at 198.5g for a phone with a 6.62in panel. But again, this phone lacks any kind of water or dust resistance which is disappointing as many devices have started to offer that nicety in the segment.
Considering the glass back some may have expected wireless charging, but also has been skipped, though as always it does come with OnePlus’s effervescent Warp Charge 65W charger. More on that later.
Screen & Speakers
One thing that you can reliably expect on a OnePlus phone is a nicely calibrated and vibrant display. The 9RT is yet another example of this with it boasting an AMOLED panel with a Full HD+ resolution inside a 6.62in diagonal.
The screen is bright and vivid, to say the least. It gets Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front which is nice to have indeed, though also not the latest Victus cover glass as per the Galaxy S21 FE.
This phone retains the fast and smooth mantra that OnePlus has been boasting about for almost now a decade — thanks to its 120Hz refresh rate which can be manually ramped down to 60Hz.
It also gets an extremely rapid 380Hz touch sampling rate, something we first experienced in the OnePlus 9 Pro last year, but additionally, for gamers, there is a 600Hz touch sampling rate that gets activated in certain games.
To my eyes, I couldn’t discern the difference while testing the phone, but generally, the scrolling remains super smooth.
As for watching content on the device, it is up to the mark. It supports HDR10+ video which shines through on this panel. I watched a bunch of content including the Netflix hit Ozark, some sports with the Australian Open going on and even Marvel’s Eternals, the experience was stellar – backed up with the addition of stereo speakers that were relatively loud.
The display is also home to the optical fingerprint scanner which was largely reliable and lightning fast when it came down to unlocking the phone. The phone also gets a rudimentary face unlock system which works with the solo front-facing camera.
You also get a delightful haptic motor which makes typing a very pleasant experience. So much so, a large part of this review was written on the 9RT in Google Docs.
Specs & Performance
Fundamentally, the OnePlus 9RT has the same package as the OnePlus 9 Pro. It has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset, coupled with 12GB RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 storage.
This alone is a lethal package in terms of performance, but OnePlus upgraded it with a new vapour chamber to better manage heat dissipation and sustained performance.
And boy, do the benchmarks point towards this. In all the synthetic benchmarks the OnePlus did better than some of the other Snapdragon 888 like even the newly launched Xiaomi 11T Pro.
It scored higher on Geekbench, PCMark work performance and GFX bench – both after a fresh boot up and after sustained loads.
High fidelity games like Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 8 were a delight to play on the phone for long periods. The phone never overheated during my tests or for that matter never even got overly long during long gaming sessions.
It sits well with OnePlus’s pitch of angling it as an affordable flagship that also doubles as a gaming phone.
Day to day performance as one can imagine was silky smooth — the phone was just rapid in general usage and switching apps, even if there were more than 30 active, things were breezy. This is a really fast phone.
The OnePlus 9RT comes with a triple camera array which includes the 50Mp Sony IMX 766 from the Pro model as its main shooter.
However, on paper this is an inferior setup — as on the Pro, the 766 was used for the ultrawide lens which gets a much more mundane 16Mp sensor this time around. It also doesn’t get the Hasselblad tuning and there is no telephoto capability as the third sensor is a 2Mp macro lens.
On paper, this may seem like a pedestrian setup, but is still a very versatile camera system that will perform well in most situations and at times can even be sublime. The camera UI has been more or less borrowed from Oppo which is natural thanks to the merger with Oppo. It lacks the Hasselblad camera app which wasn’t great shakes anyway.
The photos captured from the main camera are typified with almost a Pixel like contrast heavy look with a bluish tinge and replete with tons of dynamic range. Generally, whenever given good light, the 9RT takes attractive photos.
Even in low light, it is no slouch. It takes bright photos even without night mode and when the night mode is activated it does surprisingly well in recovering blur-free snaps.
It also gets a decent portrait mode which is highly usable as now it gets pretty reliable edge detection. One can also modulate the amount of bokeh on the camera which also helps with more realistic portrait shots.
The ultrawide lens also does surprisingly well given that this phone uses an inferior sensor to the one used on the 9 Pro. It takes highly impressive landscape shots which are further uplifted if you use the “high resolution” mode in daylight.
The macro camera is a bit of a disappointment which was given the moment it had a 2Mp resolution. This camera is kind of redundant as perhaps OnePlus could’ve enabled the functionality via the ultra-wide lens. Instead, a telephoto lens would’ve been appreciated and since it is absent, that is a stark area of weakness of this camera system compared to key rivals.
In good lighting, video is also quite decent on this phone. It gets niceties like video bokeh mode, an ultra steady mode and AI-enabled visual embellishments. When given good lighting it can shoot highly usable video which can also be used as a b-roll for YouTube videos, however, in low light, the performance of this camera system falls away.
At best it can shoot at 4K at 60fps, but it is best used at 4K at 30fps which provides a nice blend between resolution, brightness and frame rate. The video largely is quite steady, making it again highly usable, rounding off the round capabilities of this camera system.
OnePlus has also improved the microphones which means if you’re recording video which has loud audio, the capture will be quite usable. This has been an area where across the board Android phones have improved when compared to the iPhone.
As is the case with many OnePlus devices, this phone also is excellent with the Google Camera mod and ends up taking better shots all around. This comes with the caveat of getting a stable build of the app. For most people, this will not be needed as the stock camera app is excellent on its own accord.
Another area of weakness is the selfie camera which takes washed out selfies and is rather only uplifted with the Google camera app.
Battery Life & Charging
The OnePlus 9RT comes with a 4500mAh battery which can be charged with the warp charge 65T charger which can fully top up this phone in just over 30 minutes. This always has been a hallmark of OnePlus devices — but come 2022, this is just about above average.
The reason is that Xiaomi has introduced its devastating 120W hypercharge technology which can fully top a Xiaomi 11T Pro which has a larger 5000mAh battery in 17 minutes. But regardless, many, especially, someone upgrading from a phone that’s more than 2 years old or perhaps an iPhone would find this a substantial update.
The charging brick that OnePlus provides is not the brick that can double as a 45W fast-charging brick that we saw on the OnePlus 9 Pro. There is also no wireless charging on this phone.
But all this may be unneeded as the OnePlus 9RT provides perhaps the best battery life we have seen on a OnePlus device in recent times. The PCMark battery mark test lasted more than 12 hours beating even the Xiaomi 11T Pro.
In day to day usage, it consistently lasted more than a single workday with more than 6 hours of screen on time. For most people, this phone could even last a day and a half which is impressive.
Software & Apps
This is one of the first phones that OnePlus has launched after merging operations with Oppo. It features the latest edition of Oxygen OS which leverages the unified codebase with Oppo’s ColorOS. All of this, however, is based on the dated Android 11 – but hold on a second, this is a good thing.
Google has been having a ton of issues with stability on Android 12 even on its Pixel 6 smartphones and most manufacturers who have deployed updates have struggled, including OnePlus.
While many have been critical about the decision to merge Oxygen OS and Colour OS, to me, it feels more or less the same. Sure, there are touches of Colour OS here, most notably the camera app which has been hugely inspired by the camera app on the Oppo phones.
There are also a bunch of customisation options inside the launcher but largely it remains true to the bloat-free no-nonsense experience that stock Android fans have loved.
For iPhone users switching towards Android, this remains the most friendly Android skin because it is bereft of the cruft that plagues most Android phones that get a legion of unneeded apps preloaded.
OnePlus also issued a software update to fix some bugs which is usually the case for the brand as it shoots software updates at breakneck speed. But that’s the kind of change that is reflective not only in the older version of Android but also in the fact, out of the box, the 9RT is rather polished which negates the need for a number of updates.
Price & Availability
The OnePlus 9RT is available in two variants — 8/128GB and 12/256GB in two colours: Nano Silver and Hacker Black. The two start at ₹42,999 (Around £430) and ₹46,999 (Around £470) and are available via OnePlus.in and Amazon.in.
The OnePlus 9RT as of now is neither coming to the UK nor the US and remains exclusive for India. A version of the phone was even launched in China.
The phone has stiff competition from the Xiaomi 11T Pro in India and some people can also consider the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE which starts at ₹54,999 for the base model.
Check out more options in our best mid-range phones chart, and best phones chart.
There is no denying that the OnePlus 9RT is an excellent phone for anyone who is planning to buy a new Android phone for less than ₹50,000. It is fast, well built and comes with clean software and good cameras. What’s not to like?
Well, the fact that there is competition with equally good or slightly superior specs for a wee bit lesser. Or is it the fact that this at the end of the day is a watered-down OnePlus 9 Pro?
At the end of the day, it is boring. It is boring in an excellent way so if that’s your jam go for it.
OnePlus 9RT: Specs
- OxygenOS based on Android 11
- 6.62in (FHD+) AMOLED, 397 ppi, 20:9, 120Hz
- Corning Gorilla Glass 5, Hyper Touch 2.0
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, 5G
- Adreno 660
- 8GB/12GB LPDDR5
- 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 2-LANE
- Main Camera, 50Mp Sony IMX766, f/1.8
- Ultra-Wide Camera: 16Mp, f/2.2
- Macro Lens: 2Mp
- Front camera sensor: 16Mp Sony IMX471, f/2.4
- Video up to 4K/60fps
- Dual-band Wi-Fi 6
- Bluetooth 5.2
- In-display Fingerprint Sensor
- Warp Charge 65T (65W)
- Dual Stereo Speakers
- Dual nano-SIM slot
- Alert Slider
- 162 x 75 x 8mm