The OnePlus 8 Pro was our best all-round phone of 2020. It managed to take on the gaudy gaming phone brigade for power and game-friendly features, yet it also came in a sleek package that you weren't embarrassed to use in public.
It set a high bar for whatever followed it to reach. What follows is the OnePlus 9 Pro, and thankfully, it manages to clear is predecessor in most of the ways that matter.
At £829 for the entry level 8GB RAM/128GB model, and £929 for 12GB/256GB, it's a smidgen more expensive than its predecessor. But the OnePlus 9 Pro is great with games and an absolute pleasure to use day to day.
Design and Specs
OnePlus hasn't reinvented he wheel with the OnePlus 9 Pro. It's kind of like a slightly tubbier version of the OnePlus 8 Pro, but with a less distinctive and repositioned camera module and a slightly less curved display.
There's a new finish called Morning Mist that looks a bit like you've breathed on a mirror, but it's not quite as interesting as it sounds - especially with all the fingerprints you'll soon accrue.
From a gamer's perspective, it's a well built piece of kit, but a slippery sucker. At 197g it's hardly light, but in a world of gaming phones that can weigh upwards of 250g it's relatively feather-like.
The star of the show here is the OnePlus 9 Pro's 6.7-inch AMOLED display, which can hit a QHD resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate (which is variable this time around) all at once. That's not unusual any longer, and of course some gaming phones have been able to hit 144Hz for a while now. But it looks and handles beautifully.
OnePlus's big play with its latest phone is the camera. This is a quad-camera setup with a peach of a 48MP main sensor, backed by an unusually accomplished 50MP ultrawide. But the real talking point is a partnership with Swedish camera specialist Hasselblad, which has lent its colour-tuning expertise for natural-looking shots.
Both wired and wireless charging are extremely fast here, with a 65W power brick in the box. You can also buy a special 50W wireless charger separately, which is faster than the wired speeds of most other phones.
We should make mention of Oxygen OS too. OnePlus's custom UI is one of the nicest takes on Android 11 in the business, with very little bloat. For our money, it's way more pleasant to use than rival efforts from Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo and the like.
Gaming experience and performance
The OnePlus 9 Pro might not have tacky RGB lights running down its back, but it's been set up with gamers firmly in mind.
Its Snapdragon 888 CPU is the go to component for high-end 2021 phones, but it provides a sizeable performance boost over last year's Snapdragon 865 - especially in the GPU stakes. Backed by 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, it flies through games.
Indeed, it benchmarks a little higher than the likes of the OnePlus 9 and the similarly specced Oppo Find X3 Pro. That could be down to OnePlus's new vapour chamber cooling system, which enables the phone to run at full throttle for longer.
Another game-centric feature is a 360Hz touch response rate, which is considerably nippier than the 240Hz touch response rate of the OnePlus 8 Pro.
You also get a decent set of stereo speakers, and the haptics on this phone are truly excellent - two features that have a positive impact on gaming.
Just about the only spec that doesn't seem massively gamer friendly is a 4500 mAh battery. It's not small by regular standards - and is the same size as the OnePlus 8 Pro's before it. But gaming phones tend to go with a 5000 mAh cell.
It'll last a little longer than its predecessor, thanks to a smarter LTPO screen, a more efficient CPU, and that enhanced cooling system. But playing several games of Wild Rift during a busy day may just leave you running out of power before the day is done.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is an excellent gaming phone, with bags of power, a stunningly responsive display, and a cooling system that's built to game.
In addition to considerable gaming chops, it's simply a very good phone for everyday life. It's well built, easy enough on the eye, and its camera system takes excellent photos.
Hardcore gamers might want a slightly larger battery, but even then the OnePlus 9 Pro is capable of recharging faster than most other phones.
If you're after an all-round phone that can do everything to high standard, including play games, then the OnePlus 9 Pro has taken over where its predecessor the OnePlus 8 Pro left off.