The OnePlus 9 Pro continues the brand's tradition of having pleasant but unremarkable designs. While other manufacturers are being more bold and experimental, OnePlus seems content with a safe design that is inoffensive but also somewhat generic and forgettable.
The OnePlus 9 Pro inherits most of the OnePlus 8 Pro design aesthetics but makes some notable improvements. The phone is now both shorter and narrower and while the difference isn't much, it feels much more manageable and comfortable to use, even though the weight hasn't changed.
The OnePlus 9 Pro also loses the aggressively curved display of the OnePlus 8 Pro. While the display is still curved, it's a much more subtle curve that doesn't extend as further down the sides as the 8 Pro did. This has a few advantages, which we shall discuss in the display section.
Along the sides, we find the power and alert slider on the right and the volume buttons on the left. The volume buttons have been shifted down significantly compared to the 8 Pro. This makes it much easier to operate in portrait orientation and the volume buttons also don't rub against your pinky finger when held in landscape mode.
The bottom of the phone is identical, with the same two-slot speaker grille, USB port, and SIM tray design. The top of the phone loses the horizontal cleft and is a simple curve.
The back of the phone houses the most noticeable difference. The OnePlus 8 Pro had the more distinctive OnePlus camera array in a vertical pill shape in the center. The camera had a rather significant bump to it but it wasn't an issue since it was centered and so the phone still felt mostly stable. The OnePlus 9 Pro switches to a new camera array with the Hasselblad branding in the top left corner, similar to many other designs on the market today. The camera bump doesn't stick out as far on the new model but because it's in the corner the phone does rock back and forth on the desk.
The OnePlus 9 Pro comes in three colors and finishes. Our review unit came in Morning Mist, which has a glossy finish that gets progressively more reflective as you go down the back of the phone. Pine Green has a rather familiar shade of green with a matte finish. Stellar Black is the most interesting as its frosted matte finish has a similar texture to the sandstone back of older OnePlus phones. Morning Mist is the only finish that has a shiny frame, the other two have matte finishes.
Both the Pine Green and Stellar Black variants are said to be fingerprint resistant, which is great because the back of the Morning Mist looks like a crime scene after a few minutes of use.
While Morning Mist is the company's featured finish, it doesn't really have that 'wow' factor that OnePlus has achieved in previous years: the iridescent effect of the 7 Pro's Nebula Blue and the breathtaking deepness of the 8 Pro's Ultramarine Blue.
Even still, Morning Mist is an elegant finish, and It reminds us of Mercedes Benz's Diamond Silver paint job. We've also received comments that it's reminiscent of liquid metal / mercury.
Like the OnePlus 8 Pro, the OnePlus 9 Pro is dust and water-resistant with an IP68 rating. Aside from that, the phone feels well-built with a premium finish and a nice, dense feel in hand. It's still a glass phone, however, so you will need a case for drop protection. Also, it's worth noting that OnePlus is sticking with Gorilla Glass 5 for both the front and back of the phone, so you're not exactly getting the latest in shatter resistance.
The first thing we noticed when setting up the handset is the placement of the in-display fingerprint scanner - it's significantly lower. This doesn't drastically change the phone's ergonomics and usability. In a worst-case scenario, it may take a couple of days to get used to the new placement.
The overall size of the 9 Pro is slightly smaller than the 8 Pro at 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm. It's just 2 grams lighter than the 8 Pro at 197g. The display now measures 6.7-inches and the slight change in aspect ratio to 20.1:9 means that although the phone's width is identical to that of the 8 Pro, it also loses a small chunk of length that makes the phone slightly less unwieldy.
The camera setup on the back houses four cameras in a rectangular arrangement. The top camera is the ultrawide, followed by the main 48MP shooter. The lower-left camera is a 2MP monochrome sensor and the last one is the 3.3X telephoto camera. On this cluster you'll also find an AF laser, the video microphone and flash.
The ports, mics, speakers, and buttons are all laid out almost exactly as they are on the 8 Pro. The ridge that was carved into the top end of the phone is no more, but here is where you'll find a noise-canceling microphone.
There's a volume rocker on the left side, and at the bottom of the phone is the USB-C charging port. The SIM tray is here as well, and it will hold two nanoSIM cards. Remember, the 9 Pro (and 9) do not offer expandable storage. The downward speaker has the same dual-slotted port as well.
Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro design improves upon its predecessor in many small ways. It's also built very well and feels sturdy and premium. Unfortunately, it's still a fairly large and heavy device but that seems to be the norm these days with flagship smartphones. Also, the design is a bit generic in our opinion compared to some of the competing smartphones and we wish OnePlus would come up with something more unique and eye-catching in the future.
The design is not strikingly different from its predecessors. If it were not for the new camera partnership, the OnePlus 9 Pro would otherwise seem like an incremental change.
Although OnePlus' intention with the reduced screen curvature was to eliminate accidental touches, we found in our use that the palm rejection still needs some tweaking.
Next up, we'll look at our lab test data to see how much the display has changed in one year. We will also dive into the battery tests results and take a quick look at the phone's loudspeakers.