With prices going up and the OnePlus 9 Pro starting at a lofty $969, there's no shortage of quality alternatives on the market.
We will start off with the toughest competitor of all, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. While the phone is technically priced at $1199, as per Samsung tradition it can frequently be available below that. At the time of writing, the price was down to just $900 with a special coupon, which is handily undercutting the OnePlus 9 Pro launch price.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the most accomplished smartphones we have tested. Whether it's build quality, display performance, camera performance, or battery life, the S21 Ultra has you covered on all fronts. The camera performance, in particular, is most impressive and we think that the S21 Ultra has one of the most versatile camera systems on the market.
Another great option is the recently launched Xiaomi Mi 11, which is Xiaomi's implementation of the 'everything but the kitchen sink' smartphone. While not available in all regions, the Mi 11 does undercut the OnePlus 9 Pro in pricing in regions where it is available. That's not to say it's compromised in any way, as the Mi 11 is packed to the gills with all the bells and whistles. Sure, MIUI may still be an acquired taste but in every other aspect it is a very strong contender in this segment.
Next is the Find X3 Pro from OnePlus' sister company, Oppo. The Find X3 Pro combines a stunning industrial design, top-notch feature set, and an excellent set of cameras, great display quality, and the same sort of blazing fast charging speeds that OnePlus is known for (it's essentially the same tech). At $1099, the Oppo Find X3 Pro comes at a premium but one that may be worth paying, especially if you're already considering spending over $900 on a phone.
If you're more into gaming, you might want to consider the ASUS ROG Phone 5. While marketed as primarily a gaming phone, the ROG Phone 5 is an extremely accomplished phone even outside of gaming, with great build quality, a quality display, terrific loudspeakers, great battery life with fast charging, and relatively clean build of Android. And while the camera quality may not be quite on par with some of the other flagships, it's still very impressive and has come a long way from the original model. On top of all that, it's also the cheapest phone in this bunch.
Lastly, there's the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. There was a time when it wouldn't have made any sense to compare a OnePlus phone with an iPhone due to the large gulf in price tags, but those days are long gone now. As for the phone itself, it combines exceptional industrial design, class-leading display color performance with Dolby Vision support, an excellent set of cameras all-round, best in class performance, great battery life, easy to use software with unparalleled software and game library, legendary customer support and a high resale value to boot.
Few devices can match the complete package that the iPhone is and the 12 Pro Max is the best of its kind. Sure, the 60Hz display isn't quite modern and the lack of fast charging in the box (or any kind of charging) is disappointing after paying so much but these may be things worth sacrificing if you want one of the most well-rounded smartphones on the market and aren't tied to the Android platform.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is pretty much what we have now come to expect from OnePlus, a likable, dependable smartphone with almost all the bells and whistles one could ask for but not one that's particularly exciting or game changing. It's as if the company is content with making smaller changes rather than doing something disruptive or potentially controversial.
You can see this in the year over year growth of the Pro line. Whether you look back one year to the OnePlus 8 Pro or even two years to the OnePlus 7 Pro, you aren't going to be seeing a remarkable difference. And that's the crux of the matter here as there is a palpable sense of staleness in the air surrounding the brand that we can't quite shake off.
But this staleness, this sense of contentment with slow progress, is at odds with the steady increase in the price year over year. OnePlus fans and critics over the years have lamented the company's slow but sure move upward on the pricing ladder, turning from the hero who rallied against the oligarchs to living long enough to becoming the villain.
But with a $969 starting price, the company is now truly into the upper echelon of the smartphone market. We are talking about a market of discerning buyers where there is no room for missteps, misgivings, and certainly no room for slacking or slowing down. Even brands like Samsung have to sweat it out every year to keep customer attention in check and companies like Google who couldn't keep up with the pressure had to fall back and reevaluate.
Is the OnePlus 9 Pro good enough to compete in this segment? Not quite. Sometimes, it's not enough to just dress for the job you want. You also have to be good at it.
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