OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: the perfect two-year upgrade?

If you skipped last year’s OnePlus the 2021 model will be a brilliant upgrade

OnePlus 9
(Image credit: OnePlus)

The best phones, including the best Android phones, tend to be improved incrementally every year: a faster processor here, a better camera there, a few more pixels or a higher density display in there.

And that’s good, but it does mean that the improvements aren’t so massive that you need to upgrade the version you already have. For many of us, two years is the sweet spot: that’s when you can see, feel and be happy about the improvements in your new phone.

The new OnePlus 9 is a great example of that. Its specification isn’t hugely better than the OnePlus 8, but if you’re moving from the OnePlus 7 there are a lot of very significant improvements that we think you’ll really love.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: design and display

Both phones look very similar apart from the placement of the camera bump, but there are some differences in their display and audio. 

The OnePlus 7 has a 6.41-inch AMOLED with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 and a pixel density of 402ppi. 

The display in the OnePlus 9 is bigger and faster: it’s a 6.55-inch 120Hz Fluid Display. The Fluid Display here is an AMOLED with a very high output: peak brightness is 1,100nits. It’s HDR10+ certified and its two ambient light sensors deliver smoother automatic brightness adjustments. The resolution is 2,400 x 1,080 pixels with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 402ppi. 

In both phones the display is teamed up with stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos; the OnePlus 9 supports Qualcomm’s latest audio codec for better in-game audio.

OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 9

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: processor and storage

The OnePlus 7 has an eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. The memory is LPDDR4X.

The processor in the OnePlus 9 is a much newer Snapdragon, the 888 5G. It’s a faster octa-core processor and according to OnePlus it delivers up to 25% better CPU performance and 35% better GPU performance than the previous generation processor, which in turn was faster than the Snapdragon in the OnePlus 7. It’s also more energy efficient and teamed with a third-generation 5G radio and Wi-Fi 6, aka 802.11ax. 

The memory options for the newer OnePlus are 8GB or 12GB of faster LPDDR5 RAM and the on-board storage is 128GB or 256GB. If you’re a gamer or run very power-hungry apps you’ll appreciate the 5-layer cooling system that keeps the handset from getting too warm: between that and the more energy efficient processor and 5G radio this shouldn’t get alarmingly hot.

OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 9

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: cameras

The main rear camera in the OnePlus 7 is 48MP with a Sony IMX586 sensor and optical image stabilisation, and the secondary camera is 5MP. You can shoot 1080p and 4K video at up to 60fps and there’s super slow motion and time-lapse for video. For photos you can benefit from HDR, portrait and Night-cap modes and store photos as RAW images.

The cameras in the OnePlus 7 are pretty good, but the ones in the OnePlus 9 are considerably better. Developed in association with photography legends Hasselblad, the triple-camera system in the OnePlus 9 gives you much more accurate colour reproduction. There’s a 50MP ultra-wide camera with a Sony IMX766 processor, and its cleverly curved Freeform Lens dramatically reduces edge distortion: where it’s 10% to 20% on the ultra-wide lens of comparable phones, it’s around 1% here. The lens also enables you to take macro photos at distances as short as 4cm.

The second camera in the OnePlus 9 is the 48MP main camera. This cameras has a Sony IMX689 sensor, 12-bit RAW and 3-HDR. It delivers cleaner daytime and night photos than before, with higher dynamic range in videos. There’s also a fun tilt-shift effect and a monochrome camera for more detail in black and white photos. You can record 8K video at 30fps and there’s time-lapse video and better low light recording than before. The front camera is 16MP.

The Hasselblad connection has created a new Hasselblad Pro Mode for power users. This offers Hasselblad-level sensor calibration – a first for smartphones – and enables you to manually adjust ISO, exposure, white balance and other key settings. It supports 12-bit RAW.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: batteries and charging

The battery in the OnePlus 7 is 3,700mAh with 5V fast charging. The battery in the OnePlus 9 is bigger and charges much faster: it has a new design that enables it to charge from 1% to 100% in 29 minutes. Warp Charge 65T fast charging gives you a day’s worth of power in about 15 minutes and the included adapter can also be used to charge devices such as laptops and tablets. 

OnePlus 7 vs OnePlus 9

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 7: price and verdict

The price of the OnePlus 7 has come down quite a lot in the last year, and it’s often available SIM-free for around £499. The OnePlus 9 is brand new and won’t be heavily discounted for some time, but it’s pretty cheap for the spec: it starts at £629 for the 8GB model with 128GB of storage, rising to £729 for 12GB and 256GB of storage. 

If you don’t already have a OnePlus 7, it’s a very good smartphone – but it’s two years old now and this is a very competitive, fast-moving sector so it might not necessarily be the best Android phone for you. But if you have a 7 and like OnePlus’s way of doing things, this is a very worthwhile upgrade: you get much better performance, much faster charging, a smoother, more responsive display and a significantly improved camera too.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (