OnePlus 9RT First Impressions: The Magic is Still There

One last hurrah before complete Oppofication


Sometime in 2021, OnePlus announced it won’t be making a T-variant of the OnePlus 9, as it did for the OnePlus 8, the OnePlus 7 and so on. However, that didn’t mean the T-series (calm down, PewDiePie) would be killed off completely and OnePlus would once again go back to launching one flagship lineup in a year. Instead, OnePlus chose the OnePlus 9R for the upgrade back in October. Now, with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 flagships due to launch any time now, it’s finally making its way to India with the Snapdragon 888, some new features, but mostly that old familiarity.

The last bit is important, because starting from 2022, OnePlus would be merging a lot of its unique persona with Oppo, and by the looks of it, the OnePlus 9RT will be the last of what is one of the most critically acclaimed Android experiences so far. How much of the company’s identity will get retained in the OnePlus 10 Series remains to be seen, but for now, the OnePlus 9RT is proof that the magic is still there. Having used the Galaxy S21 FE 5G for a few days, I switched to the OnePlus 9RT just a day before, and still getting my bearings in order. So for now, here are my initial thoughts —

A no-nonsense Flagship Performer

The OnePlus 9RT isn’t anything disruptive. It’s more of an iteration, a refinement of what the OnePlus 9R had to offer, but with upgraded core hardware. That includes the Snapdragon 888, Up to 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB UFS 3.1 storage, along with a 4500mAh battery with 65W charging. But if you have been following developments in the past year, the Snapdragon 888 isn’t the coolest chipset. It tends to heat up significantly in phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro. To tackle that, this time there’s a VC Cooling system larger than the OnePlus 9 Pro, that the company claims provides 20% better cooling efficiency. So far, the little that I have used, the OnePlus 9R didn’t get hot at all. I emulated the use-cases that triggered the overheating warnings in the OnePlus 9 Pro (like shooting 4K videos), but the phone hardly got warm. Perhaps it’s due to the cold wave blowing through Delhi presently, but I’ll surely be doing much more to stress the performance and check for heating.

With no fear of oveheating (so far), using the OnePlus 9RT was a charm. It’s just so comfortable to hold, and the screen is supremely responsive thanks to the 300Hz sampling rate. This can be cranked up to a whopping 600Hz during gaming for even more instant response times. 29ms is how long the phone takes to register your touch input while gaming. That’s much, much quicker than any other smartphone in this price range.

Not arguably, the touch sampling rate is more important for smoother gaming than high refresh rate, as Android games hardly breach the 60FPS barrier, even on flagship phones. And since we interact with the phone with touch, a higher touch response rate means a lot more quicker responses, and faster results. Speed has been the DNA of OnePlus smartphones since the very beginning, and the OnePlus 9RT is no exception. The age old tag of fast and smooth can easily be carried over to this one.

Aside from the core experience that’s both fast and powerful, there are small upgrades that goes a long way in refining the usage — For instance, the OnePlus 9RT features a 4D haptics motor that’s trained to output 150 vibration types covering events in select games like gunfire, explosions, etc. aside from delivering one of the tightest, and solid rumbles for notifications and calls.

But what I like most was the familiar UI of the OnePlus 9RT. It runs on a stable version of OxygenOS 11, based on Android 11, and as a result, still hasn’t transitioned to Oppo’s ColorOS, as announced by the company last year. OxygenOS is still one of the most minimalist, clean interfaces to use, and offers a wide range of customisations and useful features to suit your needs. Having said that, this will get upgraded to Android 12-based whatever-is-coming-next in the near future.

Oppofication of the camera

While the performance is top notch and in line with the Pro series, the camera setup is closer to the cheaper OnePlus Nord 2 than the OnePlus 9 Pro. At the back, it has the same 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor on the primary camera, along with 16MP ultrawide, and a 2MP macro camera. On the front is a 16MP selfie camera. The primary sensor has also been used in the Oppo Reno 6 series as well as the Find X3 series, and is larger than the 1/2-inch sensor used in the previous OnePlus 9R.

Furthermore, the camera app is straight off an Oppo smartphone. The most used features like photo, video, night mode are a swipe away, while fun features like Long-Exposure, Pro Mode, etc are in a separate sub-menu. The app does let you customise the lineup of options, and the features are easy to find.

There are a few new features, like a hi-res mode that combines multiple shots from the 50MP camera to create a 108MP output. There’s HDR video as well as the option to shoot 4K 60FPS, although you can’t do the two together. These are some of the limitations of the camera. There’s also no astro-mode, or Pro-Video mode that’s present in a lot of flagships like the Vivo X70 series for instance.

Delhi’s weather has been playing spoilsport for my camera tests the past couple of days. The city is covered in a thick haze at all times, making it difficult to judge camera output accurately. I’ve still managed a few shots that bring out some of the capabilities of the OnePlus 9RT. Browse them, below —

Familiar Design ID

OnePlus has carved a name for itself in bringing out shiny new industrial designs for smartphones, focusing a lot on the colour, material and finish. This is one of the reasons OnePlus phones started getting more and more expensive, with the company experimenting with new materials adding to the costs. The OnePlus 9RT is a result of all the past experiments. It’s offered in two distinctly different finishes — Nano Silver and Hacker Black. The former features a chrome-like metallic gradient while the latter has a silken-glass finish speckled with shiny materials that shine against light. I received the Hacker Black variant for review, and it’s just so good to hold. The smooth satin finish is an instant favourite. It’s also quite light at 198 grams and is just 8.2mm thick, and the weight inside is distributed evenly, making it easy to hold and use.

OnePlus 9RT First Impressions

The OnePlus 9RT gets all the right ingredients for flagship-grade performance, as well as a design to go with it. But the camera feels slightly inadequate, especially with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G in the same range, and Vivo’s X70 Pro. As a result, camera enthusiasts may not find much to do with it, but if you’re a gamer or a power user, the OnePlus 9RT will pique your interest. More, in our detailed review next week.