OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: is the latest OnePlus phone worth upgrading to?

The OnePlus 9 offers a lot, but is it enough of an upgrade for OnePlus 8 users to make the switch?

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8
(Image credit: OnePlus)

When it comes to buying the best phones, sometimes it’s wise to sit out a generation: with many smartphone firms working on a tick/tock cycle where the really big changes happen every second year, it’s sometimes wise to stick with what you’ve got if it’s only a year old.

But is that the case with the latest OnePlus 9, or does it take the winning formula of the OnePlus 8 and add some significant improvements? Let’s find out.

This OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8 comparison feature is designed to make it easy for people to see exactly what each phone offers, thereby making it easier in terms of making a choice for a new phone upgrade. It also helps existing owners of the OnePlus 8 to see how much of an improvement the OnePlus 9 delivers, and if they should consider the OnePlus 9 Pro instead.

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: design and display

The two OnePlus generations look very similar to one another with their fun colours and shiny glass backs, but there are some important differences in the displays. 

The 6.55-inch display in the OnePlus 8 is really impressive. It’s a Fluid AMOLED with a 90Hz refresh rate, HDR10+ and a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080 pixels at 402ppi. But the 6.55-inch display in the OnePlus 9 is even better, because it’s the display from the OnePlus 8T. That display is a 120Hz display with great colour accuracy and 1,100 nit brightness, Its resolution is 2,400 x 1,080 pixels with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 402ppi.

Both phones have dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos but the OnePlus 9 also supports Qualcomm’s latest audio codecs for better in-game audio. 

OnePlus 8

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: processor and storage

The OnePlus 8 shipped with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, 8 or 16GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage.

The processor in the OnePlus 9 is the newer, more efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G. It’s an octa-core processor delivering up to 25% better CPU performance and 35% better GPU performance than the previous generation. It’s teamed with a third-generation 5G radio for faster, lower latency connections and as with the OnePlus 9 you can choose between 8GB and 12GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage. The RAM in the OnePlus 9 is faster than the RAM in the OnePlus 8: it’s DDR5 compared to the 8’s DDR4.

If you’re a gamer or run very demanding apps you’ll appreciate the improved 5-layer cooling system that keeps the OnePlus 9 from getting too hot. And if you’re a power user you’ll like the OxygenOS 11’s memory optimisation features, which can compress data to fit more apps in the same space as well as use local storage as temporary RAM.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: cameras

The main camera in the OnePlus 8 was 48MP with a Sony IMX586 sensor, but the 9 upgrades the sensor to a Sony IMX689 – the same sensor used in the OnePlus 8 Pro. The 8 also has a 16MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP macro camera. 

The camera in the OnePlus 9 is better. With some help from photography legends Hasselblad, the triple-camera setup has much more accurate colour reproduction and even higher resolution. There’s a 50MP ultra-wide camera with a Sony IMX766 processor, and its curved Freeform Lens has been created to dramatically reduces edge distortion from the 10% to 20% you often get on the ultra-wide lens of comparable phones to around 1% in the OnePlus 9. The lens also delivers macro photography at 4cm.

The second camera is the 48MP main camera. This camera has a Sony IMX689 sensor with support for 12-bit RAW and 3-HDR. The newer sensor delivers clearer daytime and night photos and has higher dynamic range in videos. There’s also an entertaining tilt-shift effect and a monochrome camera to give you additional detail in B&W photos. The main camera can  record 8K at up to 30fps and has time-lapse video and improved low light shooting. Round the front, the pinhole selfie shooter is 16MP. 

The new Hasselblad Pro Mode is ideal for more demanding photographers and offers Hasselblad-level sensor calibration – a first for smartphone cameras. Pro Mode enables you to manually adjust the exposure, the ISO, the white balance and other key criteria and you can work with images in 12-bit RAW.

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: batteries and charging

The battery in the OnePlus 8 is 4,300mAh and supports Warp Charge 30T fast charging. The OnePlus 9 battery is 4,500mAh and has a new design that enables it to charge it even more quickly, going from 1% charge to 100% in 29 minutes. Its Warp Charge 65T fast charging gives you a day’s power in about 15 minutes and the supplied adapter can also be used to charge devices such as laptops and tablets. 

OnePlus 9 review

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 9 vs OnePlus 8: price and verdict

The OnePlus 8 cost £599 / $699 for 8GB/128GB and £699/$799 for 12/256GB. The OnePlus 9 is only marginally more expensive, coming in at £629 for the 8GB model with 128GB of storage, rising to £729 for 12GB and 256GB of storage. 

If you already have the OnePlus 8, we think the changes here are nice to have rather than utterly essential – the OnePlus 8 remains a superb smartphone and it’s still relatively young. But if you’re considering buying an 8 or a 9 to replace something else, the 9 is the one to buy here. It’s not significantly more expensive but it offers better photography, better battery life, faster charging, better performance and a better screen too.

Carrie Marshall
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 thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).