You may have thought that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has completely ripped off the Android phone market. But the OnePlus 9 Pro came along and suddenly we had some tough competition for the title of best Android phone.
Since its launch earlier this year, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has been the ultimate example of all the features and possibilities that Samsung can offer a smartphone. But there’s a new challenger for the big screen.
Everything the Galaxy S21 Ultra can do, the new OnePlus 9 Pro claims to do better. Giving users a big screen with a fast refresh rate? The OnePlus 9 Pro can do that. Hold load for a long time? No sweat, OnePlus says. Even cameras – a longstanding problem with OnePlus phones – got a lot of attention on the OnePlus 9 Pro.
Oneplus 9 pro vs Samsung s21 ultra which is better? What is the difference between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro? Can OnePlus knock Samsung off the throne of Android phones? To find out, we did a face-off of the OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. This smartphone battle couldn’t be closer.
OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
|OnePlus 9 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Screen size||6.7-inch AMOLED (3168 x 1440)||6.8 inches AMOLED (3200 x 1400)|
|Refresh rate||1Hz to 120Hz||10Hz to 120Hz|
|CPU||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 888|
|RAM||8GB, 12GB||12GB, 16GB|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Rear cameras||48MP wide (f/1.8), 50MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 8MP telephoto (3x zoom, f/2.4), monochrome lens||108MP wide (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 10MP telephoto (3x zoom, f/2.4), 10MP telephoto (10x zoom, f/4.9), laser AF sensor|
|Front cameras||16MP (f/2.4)||40MP (f/2.2)|
|Battery size||4,500 mAh||5,000 mAh|
|Battery life (Hrs: Mins)||10:38 (60Hz); 10:40 (adaptive)||11:25 (60Hz), 10:07 (adaptive)|
|Size||6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches||6.5 x 2.97 x 0.35 inches|
|Weight||6.9 ounces||8.08 ounces|
OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Price and Availability
Outside of Samsung’s flip phones, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the most expensive Samsung device you can buy, starting at $1,199 for the 128GB model. If you want to expand that storage to 256 GB, you’ll pay an extra $50, while the ultimate S21 Ultra – with 512 GB storage plus 16 GB RAM – costs $1,379. That’s still cheaper than last year’s base-model Galaxy S20 Ultra, which debuted for $1,399.
Still, the OnePlus 9 Pro costs less than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The entry-level model of OnePlus with 8 GB of RAM and the same 128 GB storage costs $ 969. Upgrading to a 256GB model with 12GB RAM costs $1,069.
It’s easier to get a Galaxy S21 Ultra, which is available from every major US carrier and Samsung. T-Mobile is the only carrier to sell the OnePlus 9 Pro in the US, although the phone is also available through OnePlus and retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, and B&H.
Winner: OnePlus 9 Pro
OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Design
Aside from the different company logos on the back of each phone, the OnePlus 9 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra are very similar. You’ll find a few phones with subtly curved screens – the OnePlus 9 Pro’s curve is much less dramatic than last year’s OnePlus 8 Pro – without any bezels at the top and bottom of the screen. Flip the phones over and you’ll see rectangular camera arrays in the top left corner. The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera bump looks a little less noticeable thanks to a contour-cut design where the array merges into the side of the phone.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is probably the simpler of the two phones, as it is slightly shorter and not as wide as the 6.5 x 2.97 x 0.35-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung’s phone weighs 8.08 ounces, more than an ounce heavier than the 6.9-ounce OnePlus 9 Pro.
An advantage that Samsung usually enjoys over OnePlus phones has disappeared. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has an IP68 rating for water resistance, but so does the OnePlus 9 Pro. OnePlus usually skips that with its flagships. (For example, the cheaper OnePlus 9 doesn’t have such a rating if you buy the unlocked version.)
OnePlus takes more risks with color than Samsung, as the Galaxy S21 Ultra is available in standard Phantom Black and Phantom Silver colors. However, buy the phone directly from Samsung and you can switch to Phantom Navy, Phantom Titanium, and Phantom Brown options. The OnePlus 9 Pro, on the other hand, only has two color options – Morning Mist and Pine Green – with the former offering a nice mirror-like sheen that can attract fingerprints.
Winner: OnePlus 9 Pro
OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Screen
It is a battle of dynamically updated screens in a showdown between the OnePlus 9 Pro and Galaxy S21 Ultra. Samsung first introduced this trend with the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and now with the S21 Ultra. The huge 6.8-inch AMOLED panel on this phone adjusts the rate of updates based on what you’re doing. Activities such as scrolling that take advantage of a faster refresh rate can cause the screen to scale up to the maximum speed of 120 Hz, while more static activities cause the S21 Ultra’s screen to collapse to 10 Hz.
However, the OnePlus 9 Pro has the same LTPO technology in its 6.7-inch display. The updated range here is even greater than on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, although the OnePlus 9 Pro can scale back to 1 Hz.
The OnePlus 9 captures more of the DCI-P3 color space – 84.9% compared to 81.4% of the S21 Ultra. These colors are also more accurate, given the OnePlus 9 Pro’s Delta-E rating of 0.20 versus a score of 0.3 for the S21 Ultra. (Numbers closer to zero are more accurate.)
Where the Galaxy S21 Ultra regains an advantage over the OnePlus 9 Pro is the brightness of its screen. At 722 nits, the OnePlus 9 Pro is anything but dark. But the Galaxy S21 Ultra is even brighter at 821 cd/m², so you can see the entire screen even in bright sunlight.
Winner: Galaxy S21 Ultra
OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Cameras
Previous camera competitions with Samsung and OnePlus were not a big fight. Samsung flagships tend to be consistently among the best camera phones available, while OnePlus cameras struggle to keep up. But the OnePlus 9 Pro puts a new spin on this longstanding rivalry: OnePlus has teamed up with photo specialist Hasselblad to improve its cameras.
This goes beyond just the Hasselblad name alongside the OnePlus 9 Pro’s rear lenses (although that branding is definitely there). Instead, the OnePlus 9 Pro benefits from color calibration improvements that OnePlus and Hasselblad have worked on together.
Competing against the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s cameras certainly takes extra effort. Samsung’s phone has four cameras on the back: a massive 108MP main sensor, plus a 12MP ultra-wide angle lens and a pair of 10MP telephoto lenses, each with 3x and 10x zoom. In contrast, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a single 8MP telephoto lens with its own 3x zoom. You also get a 48MP main camera and a 50MP ultra-wide angle lens, plus a dedicated monochrome camera that doesn’t add much to the picture, to be honest.
In this photo of a fruit and vegetable stall, we immediately see the advantage of OnePlus’ focus on improved colors. The OnePlus 9 Pro’s shot is vibrant but still realistic, while the Galaxy S21 Ultra oversaturated the green peppers that also seem slightly out of focus.
For a close-up view of a flower moving out, the S21 Ultra redeems itself. In the S21 Ultra photo, the flower is sharply focused and the S21 Ultra picks up small details such as water pearls on the leaf. The OnePlus 9 Pro photo isn’t bad, but those details don’t really stand out because the green leaves in the background seem to merge.
Low-light photos were one area where we found real inconsistencies when testing the OnePlus 9 Pro, and that continues in the OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra skirmish. The streetlight in the OnePlus photo is overexposed, making the night sky appear blurry. Things are much sharper in the photo of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, where the lights don’t blow out any detail around them and the yellow of the street lamps stretch out across the grass.
Trying out the portrait features of the respective camera phones is a piece of cake. My colleague Mark stands out a little better from the background in the OnePlus 9 Pro shot, but apart from his bright blue shirt, there is a blurry background in the background. OnePlus also seemed to smooth things out in a way the S21 Ultra didn’t – in this photo, the wrinkles and wrinkles in the t-shirt are more apparent. The color cast also looks more natural in the Samsung shot.
For the ultra-wide-angle lens of the OnePlus 9 Pro, OnePlus used a free-form lens that should remove some of the distortions at the edges of wide-angle shots. I can’t really say that it becomes apparent in this particular shot of a lake, but I’ve seen better comparisons elsewhere of ultra-wide shots showing the OnePlus 9 Pro’s ability to keep that curve out of photos. I just think the OnePlus 9 Pro does a better job of keeping the whole image sharp – see what the dock looks like in both shots – even if the bluer sky is more appealing in the S21 Ultra photo.
We zoomed both cameras into 30x to see which telephoto lens you would trust. None of the photos are really outstanding, but the Galaxy S21 Ultra handles colors better – than a blurry tone coming back from the OnePlus shot – and everything is a bit better in focus thanks to the Zoom Lock feature, which lets you shoot from a distance. can stabilize.
Overall, I think the Galaxy S21 Ultra has the edge in this camera despite being much closer than previous OnePlus vs. Samsung confrontations. The OnePlus 9 Pro has the best cameras that OnePlus has built into its phones and you can see it here.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
OnePlus 9 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Performance and 5G
“Ultra” does not necessarily mean “ultimate”. While the Galaxy S21 Ultra scores very well in benchmark tests, it doesn’t significantly outperform the OnePlus 9 Pro. In fact, the OnePlus 9 delivers better numbers in some tests.
That’s no real surprise, as both phones are powered by a Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip, the best silicon Qualcomm has to offer today. Samsung expands this processing platform with 12 GB or 16 GB of RAM. OnePlus 9 Pro users will get either 8 GB or 12 GB.
On Geekbench 5, the two phones can be compared step-by-step in the single-core test, as the Galaxy S21 Ultra achieved a score of 1,123 against the 1,126 of the OnePlus 9 Pro. The OnePlus mobile phone advances in multicore performance, reaching 3,685 on Geekbench to the 3,400 results of the S21 Ultra.
The graphics also match based on the results of 3D Mark’s Wild Life Unlimited test. Here, the S21 Ultra achieved a speed of 34.4 frames per second, which is essentially in line with the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 34.5 FPS result. In other words, you get essentially the same performance from both phones – a sign of the OnePlus 9 Pro, as it’s nearly $250 cheaper than its rival Samsung.
However, when it comes to 5G connectivity, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has an advantage over the OnePlus 9 Pro. You can use the Samsung phone on any 5G network in the US. The OnePlus 9 Pro is a bit more limited. It works fine with T-Mobile’s 5G, but not at all with AT&T 5G.
After this OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra first appeared, Verizon and OnePlus announced that the OnePlus 9 Pro will run on Verizon 5G – both the slower nationwide network and the fast Ultra Wideband 5G that Verizon has given up on the market over 60 cities. The cheaper OnePlus 9 won’t work with ultra-wideband, Verizon says.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra battery and charging
The Galaxy S21 Ultra seems to have an advantage over battery life as it is powered by a 5,000 mAh battery over the 4,500 mAh battery in the OnePlus 9 Pro. And of course, the S21 Ultra lasted a long time in our battery test, where we had phones continuously surf the internet via the mobile network (in this case 5G) until the power ran out. With a runtime of 11 hours and 25 minutes, the Galaxy S21 Ultra lasts long enough.
But there is one big caveat. We got this lasting result when we set the refresh rate of the Galaxy S21 Ultra to 60 Hz. Activating the dynamic display function required longer battery life, with the S21 Ultra lasting 10 hours and 7 minutes in this test. That’s still really good.
However, it’s not as good as the 10 hours and 40 minutes that the OnePlus 9 Pro lasted with the dynamic display feature enabled. By setting the OnePlus 9 Pro at a refresh rate of 60 Hz, the result dropped by 2 minutes to 10 hours and 38 minutes, which is puzzling.
Regardless, the S21 Ultra wins the battle for battery life as it can last significantly longer than the OnePlus 9 Pro.
If the OnePlus 9 has a slight advantage in terms of battery life, then it has a big advantage over the Galaxy S21 Ultra in terms of battery charging. OnePlus has equipped this phone with WarpCharge 65T technology, which basically powered up the OnePlus 9 Pro after just 30 minutes. (It cut the phone down to 98% if you want to split your hair.) The OnePlus 9 Pro also supports 30W wireless charging with the right charging accessories.
This wireless speed is faster than the 25W charging speed that the Galaxy S21 Ultra offers. After 30 minutes of charging, our S21 Ultra battery was way behind the OnePlus 9 Pro at 56%. And we had to bring our own charger – the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t come with one.
Winner: OnePlus 9 Pro
Oneplus 9 pro vs. Samsung galaxy s21 ultra software and special features
Personally, I prefer the Oxygen OS build of Android that OnePlus uses in its phones over Samsung’s One UI skin. OnePlus’ approach looks cleaner and feels more like a pure Android experience. I also never got used to the round, large icons that Samsung prefers on its phones.
Still, Samsung has an advantage over OnePlus that has nothing to do with the software. For starters, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first phone outside of the Samsung Galaxy Note series to support the S Pen stylus. (You buy the pen separately for $40 and you’ll need a case to store it because there’s no room on the phone itself to store your new S Pen.)
Then there is the not insignificant problem of Android support. Samsung says it will support three major Android updates and four years of security updates. That’s a year longer than what OnePlus promises for both software updates and security
Winner: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
OnePlus 9 Pro vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra verdict
The Galaxy S21 Ultra is by far the best Android phone you can buy, beyond the OnePlus 9 Pro. While the OnePlus 9 Pro is closer to Samsung’s crown than ever, the S21 Ultra still wins, especially in terms of camera and software support.
|OnePlus 9 Pro||Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra|
|Price and availability (10 points)||8||6|
|Design (10 points)||8||7|
|Display (15 points)||14||15|
|Cameras (20 points)||15||17|
|Performance and 5G (20 points)||15||16|
|Battery life and charging (15 points)||14||13|
|Software and special features (10 points)||7||9|
|Overall (100 points)||81||83|
The narrow victory of the Galaxy S21 Ultra should not hide the fact that the OnePlus 9 Pro remains a great phone. And for many people, the S21 Ultra will be the better choice in any OnePlus 9 Pro compared to the Samsung Galaxy S21 decision. In addition to the slightly better cameras, the S21 Ultra has a brighter, larger screen and it is easier to connect to 5G networks on the Samsung phone. The extra year of Android support is also great if you want to keep your phone longer.
But the strong performance with its Snapdragon 888 processor and ample RAM – not to mention the impressive battery life and ultra-fast charging – make the OnePlus 9 Pro a very attractive phone. The fact that the cameras are now in the same conversation as some of the best camera phones out there speaks for OnePlus. But Samsung is still king for the best Android phone, even if the crown is very competitive. We are excited to see how this type of competition will develop in 2022.