OnePlus 9RT Review: A solid package overshadowed by fierce competition

Over the years, OnePlus had cemented its place in the Indian market as a brand catering to enthusiasts. It didn’t take long for OnePlus to achieve the premium tag thanks in large to top-end specifications and more importantly, clean software. OxygenOS was a fan favorite due to multiple reasons — it felt close to stock Android, had fast animations, and was fairly feature-rich. In fact, OxygenOS became one of the key selling points of a OnePlus device. It wasn’t the case for long, though, since the OnePlus-OPPO merger meant that the beloved OxygenOS was now getting the ColorOS treatment.

While OnePlus received a lot of backlash for this move, it didn’t stop the brand from making good phones that continued its legacy of speed. The OnePlus Nord 2 is a solid mid-range option and the OnePlus 10 Pro also looks promising. While we wait for the latter to arrive in India, OnePlus has launched the successor to its affordable flagship from last year — the OnePlus 9RT. When the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro launched last year, OnePlus also unveiled the OnePlus 9R in India targeted towards mobile gamers. It was a cheaper alternative that had the previous year’s flagship chipset.

OnePlus 9RT front

The OnePlus 9RT carries over the same legacy. It packs in the Snapdragon 888 from last year and is made specifically for mobile gamers who don’t want to spend too much but also don’t want to compromise on speed, while also looking for a phone that doesn’t go overboard on its “gamer aesthetic”. While you don’t get the coveted OxygenOS anymore, the performance DNA from previous OnePlus phones carries over to the OnePlus 9RT making it a Really Tempting option for gaming. But, is there more to the phone than just raw performance? Is it also a good option for a standard user who doesn’t play games on their phone? Let’s answer those questions.

About this review: OnePlus India sent us the OnePlus 9RT and the device was used for a period of ten days before writing this review. OnePlus did not have any input into the contents of this review.

OnePlus 9RT: Specifications

Specification OnePlus 9RT
Build
  • Glass back
  • Metallic frame
Dimensions & Weight
  • 163.2 x 73.2 x 8.7mm
  • 197g
Display
  • 6.62-inch FHD+ Samsung E4 AMOLED
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 600Hz touch sampling rate
  • 1300nits peak brightness
  • 1000000:1 contrast ratio
  • 100% DCI-P3 coverage
  • HDR10+
SoC
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
    • 1x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex X1-based) Prime core @ 2.84GHz
    • 3x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex A78-based) Performance cores @ 2.4GHz
    • 4x Kryo 680 (ARM Cortex A55-based) Efficiency cores @ 1.8GHz
  • Adreno 660 GPU
RAM & Storage
  • 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM
  • 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1 storage
Battery & Charging
  • 4,500mAh
  • 65W fast charging support
Security In-display fingerprint scanner
Rear Camera(s)
  • Primary: 50MP Sony IMX 766, f/1.8, OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 16MP, f/2.2
  • Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
Front Camera(s) 16MP, f/2.4
Port(s) USB Type-C
Audio Stereo speakers
Connectivity
  • 5G
  • LTE
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • NFC
  • GPS/A-GPS
Software OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11
Other Features Large vapor chamber for cooling

Build and Design

OnePlus 9RT back

When I mentioned initially that OnePlus had attained the premium tag in India, it wasn’t only about what was under the hood. Externally too, OnePlus has been doing a great job with the way its phones look and feel. Right from the beginning, OnePlus has tried doing something different, be it the sandstone back on the OnePlus One or the Silk White finish on the OnePlus 6. The OnePlus 9RT also gets the same premium treatment in the design department.

This is one of the best black-colored phones I’ve used recently

The phone is available in two color options — Hacker Black and Nano Silver. For what it’s worth, both these finishes are similar to what we saw on the flagship OnePlus 9 Pro from last year. OnePlus sent me the Hacker Black variant of the device and boy, does it feel great to look at and hold! It’s got a silky texture on the back that feels great to hold and when light falls on it, you almost see a velvet-like pattern. It’s hard to describe exactly how the phone looks, but this is one of the best black-colored phones I’ve used recently.

OnePlus 9RT design

Black is generally considered a boring color on smartphones since its ubiquitous. Full marks to OnePlus here for making the black color stand out. The camera module has a slightly different finish but it matches the rest of the back very well. The rings around the camera also have a darker chrome finish that gives the phone an elegant look. The back is made of glass with aluminum side rails that also have a black paint job.

USB-C port
Alert Slider

Apart from the good-looking back, OnePlus has also done a good job with the weight distribution on the OnePlus 9RT. The phone doesn’t feel heavy even when you’re using it with one hand. The alert slider, one of OnePlus’ hallmark features is present on the right edge and works as intended. The phone has a dual-SIM slot and a dual speaker setup. OnePlus also bundles a case inside the box that’s different from the traditional clear cases manufacturers provide. It’s still a TPU case but a matte black one that provides basic protection. It’s rather slippery and feels cheap, thus spoiling the premium look of the phone. I recommend getting a better aftermarket case.

OnePlus 9RT case

The OnePlus 9RT feels like a premium high-end smartphone

The attractive back coupled with a solid mid-frame and good weight distribution means that the OnePlus 9RT feels like a premium high-end smartphone. I’m glad that OnePlus hasn’t made any compromises in this department, especially at this price point.

Display

OnePlus 9RT Display

This is another department that’s in favor of OnePlus. The OnePlus 9RT uses a Samsung E4 AMOLED display measuring 6.62-inches. It is a Full HD+ panel with a refresh rate of 120Hz. While the refresh rate is quite standard, the touch sampling rate of the display is 300Hz which can further increase to 600Hz in supported games. This is massive since competitive gamers need the added advantage of registering a touch as fast as possible.

Anybody buying this phone will be absolutely content with the display

During my usage, I could actually tell that the phone was registering touches faster while gaming at 600Hz. If you play a lot of games and want to get into the e-sports arena, you’re going to have a slight edge with the OnePlus 9RT’s display. Apart from the refresh rate and touch sampling rate, the quality of the display itself is fantastic. The colors look great, the contrast levels are excellent, and there’s little to no color-shift and viewing the display off-axis. Anybody buying this phone will be absolutely content with the display and the media consumption experience.

Display brightness

You can also enjoy watching your favorite shows and movies in HDR on Netflix with the peak brightness hitting 1300 nits. The phone has Widevine L1 certification, so there’s no resolution cap on streaming platforms. While the 1300 nits value can be achieved only while consuming HDR content, the display is adequately bright even without that boost. I had no problems viewing the display outdoors either. One thing I observed is that the OnePlus 9RT comes with a pre-installed screen protector that gets smudged easily and ruins your experience. I would suggest getting rid of it and it replacing it with a good quality tempered glass screen protector.

In-display fingerprint scanner

The OLED display houses an in-display fingerprint scanner under the panel which is both fast and accurate. The position of the scanner is slightly lower than I would’ve wanted and it took a couple of days for me to get used to it. I would’ve liked it if it would have been slightly higher since that would be the natural resting position for my thumb.

OnePlus 9RT: Performance and Software

Performance and Software

OnePlus is marketing this phone as a performance powerhouse and the OnePlus 9RT actually lives up to it. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that this is one of the best-performing Snapdragon 888 phones I’ve used. Of course, the chipset by itself packs in a lot of punch, but OnePlus has done a few additional things to ensure you get the best performance out of the hardware on this phone. While the Snapdragon 888 was one of the most powerful chipsets of last year, some phones with the SoC exhibited thermal buildup with prolonged usage.

This is one of the best-performing Snapdragon 888 phones I’ve used

The OnePlus 9RT tackles that with a large vapor chamber for cooling. I ran BGMI at Smooth + Extreme graphics and had no signs of throttling even with prolonged gameplay. The phone performed consistently even on Call of Duty Mobile. The fact that you can push the Snapdragon 888 chip to its limits while not impacting sustained performance is a great sign, especially for gamers who spend long hours at a stretch.

OnePlus 9RT UI

The vapor chamber seems to be making a difference

The vapor chamber seems to be making a difference. Another aspect that makes a difference is the high touch sampling rate that I already talked about. It just makes the entire experience feel smoother when you’re gaming. The third aspect that contributes to good performance is the software. Now, of course, OxygenOS isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still nimble and well-optimized.

There’s a dedicated gaming mode to boost performance along with additional perks like mistouch prevention. The OnePlus 9RT has three Wi-Fi antennas instead of two which should help with better network reception. When you combine these features, the OnePlus 9RT is an excellent option for mobile gamers. It does get warm to the touch, but the performance of the phone does not get affected which is important.

ColorOS Settings

OxygenOS isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still nimble and well-optimized

Coming back to the software, you will see a lot of ColorOS elements in the UI like the camera app and multiple options in the Settings app. This doesn’t impact the usability of the phone, though, since everything flies through the UI just like it did on older OnePlus phones. I did not encounter any bugs either during my usage. What’s slightly disappointing is that being a premium phone, the OnePlus 9RT still runs Android 11 out of the box despite being launched in 2022.

OnePlus does promise 3 Android version updates and 4 years of security patches, but that’s technically only two more years of Android updates since Android 12 should be out for the device any day now. Ideally, the phone should have launched with Android 12 with a promise of three additional version updates. The OnePlus 9R from last year will also get the same amount of updates as the OnePlus 9RT which isn’t justified since the 9RT has just been launched.

Cameras

OnePlus 9RT Cameras

The recent generation of OnePlus phones has improved considerably in the camera department. The OnePlus 9R last year had underwhelming cameras but the OnePlus 9, 9 Pro, Nord 2, and now the OnePlus 9RT have substantially improved camera systems. The primary sensor on the OnePlus 9RT is the IMX 766 which is the same 50MP sensor used on the ultra-wide camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro. It’s paired with a 16MP ultra-wide camera and a 2MP macro lens.

OnePlus 9RT Camera Samples

Shots from the OnePlus 9RT look great in terms of color reproduction but the dynamic range could have been better. Shadows tend to get crushed especially if there’s not a lot of light in the scene you’re capturing. The shots are detailed for the most part at the center of the frame but get softer as you move to the corners. I’m not a big fan of the way the OnePlus 9RT captures skin tones. It tends to add a slightly reddish tinge that’s not very pleasing.

When you move to low-light situations, the OnePlus 9RT’s primary shooter holds its own and captures images with a good amount of detail with Night Mode enabled. The images aren’t very noisy thanks to ISO levels staying low, but I would have liked to see slightly better colors. The camera leans towards warmer color temperatures in low-light situations. The ultra-wide camera is good in daylight but starts to get noisy at night. There’s a noticeable difference in the color parity between the two lenses which isn’t ideal.

Cameras

The cameras have improved considerably but are still not flagship-grade

Selfies haven’t looked great on OnePlus devices for a while now and that’s, unfortunately, the case with the OnePlus 9RT as well. The OnePlus 9 Pro clicked selfies which were soft and did not depict skin tones that well. The same can be said about the OnePlus 9RT. This is even more apparent in low-light conditions. The 2MP macro camera is there when you need it but the images it took look sort of muddy.

The OnePlus 9RT has a good set of cameras that have considerably improved from the last-gen OnePlus 9R. However, they’re still not flagship-grade and something like the Xiaomi 11T Pro would serve you better if your primary requirement is a great set of cameras.

Battery Life and Charging

Battery Life

The OnePlus 9RT has a 4,500mAh battery which gave me about 5-5.5 hours of screen-on time on average. That’s good, but nothing extraordinary. If you play a lot of games, you will end up draining the battery faster. This is a one-day battery phone at best. But for when you are running low on juice, OnePlus gives you a 65W charger in the box that can top-up the phone from around 5% to 100% in 32 minutes in my experience. That’s pretty good since you gain a considerable amount of charge even with a short break while you’re gaming.

This is a one-day battery phone at best

There’s no wireless charging on the OnePlus 9RT which is no surprise since the Indian version of the OnePlus 9 didn’t have it either. I would’ve liked to see a 5,000mAh battery on this phone which would probably have resulted in much better endurance. The battery life isn’t bad, but a phone that’s targeted towards gamers ought to last longer.

Verdict: Should you buy the OnePlus 9RT?

OnePlus branding

The OnePlus 9RT starts at ₹42,999 (~$580) in India, which if you read the performance section of this review, is a tempting deal for gamers. You’re getting last year’s flagship chipset, a premium design, an excellent display, a good set of cameras, and 65W fast charging. However, Xiaomi just launched the Xiaomi 11T Pro in India which also gets the same Snapdragon 888 chipset but comes with a bunch of additional perks over the OnePlus 9RT such as a 10-bit display, a 108MP camera setup, a larger 5,000mAh battery, and crazy 120W fast-charging — all for ₹3,000 cheaper.

The OnePlus 9RT is a solid phone that is unfortunately overshadowed by its competition

The Xiaomi 11T Pro starts at just ₹39,999 and is a better deal compared to the OnePlus 9RT. There’s no particular aspect about the OnePlus 9RT that stands out and justifies the additional premium, except the performance maybe. The vapor cooling chamber keeps the thermals under check and enables excellent performance, but the Xiaomi 11T Pro isn’t going to be too far behind either. There was a time when I would have recommended the OnePlus 9RT for the better software experience that OxygenOS provides, but there’s not a lot of difference in that department now. In fact, MIUI has improved so much that I would even prefer it over OxygenOS in some instances.

OnePlus 9RT rear view

The OnePlus 9RT is a tempting option for gamers, but not the best value proposition for everyone else

Not to forget, the iQOO 9 is also expected to launch sometime soon in India with a similar set of specifications. If history is anything to go by, iQOO will definitely price the phone very aggressively which will bring a third competitor into the mix. The OnePlus 9RT is a solid phone that is unfortunately overshadowed by its competition. It’s a tempting option for gamers, but not the best value proposition for everyone else.

    OnePlus 9RT

    The OnePlus 9RT is a good phone that delivers on almost all fronts. However, there are better phones out there with more aggressive pricing that make the OnePlus 9RT feel slightly expensive.

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