For anyone who balks at the price of the OnePlus 9 Pro ( ₹64,999) or even the regular OnePlus 9 (₹49,999) there’s another option. It’s an India-only model called the OnePlus 9R and it’s the least expensive of the series with its starting price of ₹39,999. But it’s ironic that not too long ago, this price point would have been the ‘flagship killer’ that offered about as good value as phones that had no business costing as much as they do. One can see that OnePlus has left its original anti-establishment promise far behind in the distant past and no longer lives by its catchy tagline, Never Settle. Instead it’s creeping up the price ladder to try and join the phones it used to want to beat.
But the consolation is, no matter what, a OnePlus phone performs well and lasts long. But back to the OnePlus 9R. On this phone, gone is the $1.5-million Hasselblad branding. There’s no sign of it anywhere on the packaging or the phone itself when on the 9 Pro and regular 9, it’s being proudly displayed. You want Hasselblad branding, pay more. OnePlus is positioning the 9R instead as a phone for casual and hardcore gamers. It isn’t in the style of phones that are outright gaming devices, like the Asus ROG for example, but it does handle popular heavyweight games well and sometimes impressively. It also has a revamped cooling system to encourage gaming. I still found it a bit warm on long sessions of intensive play, but it’s within limits. In other respects, the 9R is very close to the OnePlus 8T of last year. You could even say it’s the 8TT.
Coming to reviewers in a tranquil ‘Lake Blue’ colour, the 9R looks very much a OnePlus phone and part of the 9 series. There’s another colour variant which is black because no line-up can be complete without a black. It’s got a glossy glass back panel that curves on the sides to make it look more elegant and make it easier to hold, but ever so happily, it doesn’t show up ugly finger smudges at all and whatever coating has been used makes it look nice and clean. It’s an averagely heavy and broad phone and you’ll probably need a case because it’s somewhat slippery. You do get one in the box. It’s a phone that looks and feels premium — and at the ₹40,000 mark, it had better.
The biggest claim to fame for the 9R is that it’s working on the Snapdragon 870 SoC, thought to be the refreshed 865 for the most part. You could well get the OnePlus 8T if there’s a significant deal, in fact.
With the Snapdragon 870 get 8GB and 12GB variants and the storage accordingly is either 128GB or 256GB. I checked out the 12GB version and with these specs, where’s the chance that there would be anything the matter with that performance?
The software is the much appreciated OxygenOS on top of Android 11 and the experience is as OnePlus-like as ever. The screen is a 6.55-inch full-HD+ (1080 x 2400 pixels) AMOLED display. It doesn’t lack the 120Hz refresh rate and also has a 240Hz touch sampling rate. Also, adequate brightness. Sound-wise, it is loud enough though it could have had better depth. The display is very nice and there’s no problem either with content consumption or with gaming, though I believe hardcore gamers will actually want their more specialised devices which can be used with various accessories. You don’t get a 3.5mm jack or memory card slot but that’s been the norm for a while now. There’s also no wireless charging at this price point but you do get 65W fast charging for the 4,500mAh battery. I found the battery life to be specially good in daily usage. In fact, these days I’ve been watching the trial of Derek Chauin, the US police officer involved in the death of George Floyd, and I’ve used the 9R for hours for this. It holds up pretty well. This is also a 5G phone, for when 5G comes along.
The main camera, like the OnePlus 8T, is a 48MP using the Sony IMX586. I’ve lived with this camera for a year on the 8T and found it just fine for everyday shots. I’ve often got very good, sharp, clear, results with it. Accompanying it are a 16MP ultra-wide lens, a 5MP macro and a 2MP monochrome.
There’s optical image stabilisation for video. On the front, there’s a 16MP Sony IMX481 lens. It does a bit of a smoothing job but it’s otherwise good. The nightscape feature works well.
Although the OnePlus 9R is the least expensive of the line-up, it is by no means a compromised phone. You get the untiring top-speed performance a OnePlus phone is known for (borne out by benchmark scores as well) and you can rely on it to last you several years. After a point, I haven’t really known a OnePlus phone to slow down.
Price: ₹39,999, ₹43,999
Pros: As speedy as ever, excellent software experience, looks and feels premium, pretty good camera set
Cons: Still expensive even as the runt of the litter