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OnePlus 9 Pro review: the best Android alternative to Samsung – The Verge

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The OnePlus 9 Pro is a legitimate flagship phone that is genuinely competitive with the best Android phones on the market — at least from a features and quality perspective. Yet in terms of market and mind share, it’s still destined to be a niche device for a small group of enthusiasts looking for a specific kind of elegance in their Android device.

And that’s great.

If you live in the US and you’re buying an Android phone, chances are very high that you’ll end up with a Samsung Galaxy phone. Samsung has the carrier relationships, quality, and marketing that have led directly to market share. LG, Motorola, and even Google sell more phones here than OnePlus does.

But after nearly seven years and dozens of phones, OnePlus has established itself as a brand that can make great phones that are serious alternatives to the mainstream. The $969 OnePlus 9 Pro achieves that goal with only a handful of notable compromises.

OnePlus’ flagship phones always come with a laundry list of top-of-the-line specs, but what makes the OnePlus 9 Pro good isn’t the numbers; it’s how well those specs translate into one of the best experiences you can get using Android.

OnePlus 9 Pro hardware design and 5G support

The hardware design on the OnePlus 9 Pro is the most seamless, elegant phone that the company has designed to date. It is, of course, big. It has a 6.7-inch screen that goes from edge to edge in a body that’s narrow enough to make it just barely usable for me in one hand.

What I can’t help but notice is how far OnePlus has come in build quality. The glass on the front and back curves into the aluminum rail on the edges with no seams at all. It’s well-balanced, beautiful, and solid.

Top: OnePlus 9 Pro; bottom: Galaxy S20 Plus. Both phones have similarly curved glass and molded aluminum rails.

It has a three-stage ringer switch

It’s also the spitting image of a Galaxy S20 Plus. Shift a couple of buttons around, move the selfie camera to the middle, and swap out the logo, and it’s the same design. I get that there are only so many ways to sandwich curved glass and aluminum together, but it’s uncanny.

To be fair, OnePlus does keep some of its identity in the three-stage ringer switch, which easily lets you toggle between a ringer, vibration, and fully silent. It may still be my favorite feature on OnePlus phones, and I remain baffled as to why more Android phone makers don’t adopt a physical ringer switch.

Speaking of vibration, the haptics on the OnePlus 9 Pro aren’t sloppy at all, unlike many Android phones. Unfortunately, the trade-off is that they aren’t very strong; I often can’t feel it vibrate in my pocket.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has the top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, which is paired with eight gigs of RAM on the 128GB model. You can’t get it in a smaller screen size, but you can spend $100 more to get 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. There’s no microSD card slot for storage expansion in either model. What you get is what you get.

It supports both Sub-6 and millimeter-wave (mmWave) styles of 5G, but there’s a significant caveat: the phone supports it, but OnePlus has only managed to land 5G certification from its carrier partner, T-Mobile. If you buy it unlocked, as of now, it will only work with T-Mobile’s 5G network. Everything else will be LTE. AT&T 5G support doesn’t appear to be in the cards at all, and as for Verizon, OnePlus says that it “continues to work with Verizon to certify both the 9 and 9 Pro on its 5G network.” Later, on March 26th, Verizon announced that it would support 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro.

OnePlus’ wireless warp charger can fully charge the phone in under 45 minutes

OnePlus 9 Pro battery and charging

For OnePlus, the standout spec is its proprietary charging technology. There’s a 65W charger included in the box, and it can charge up the phone ridiculously fast. The phone’s 4,500mAh battery is actually split in two, which helps further speed charging.

The 65W charger comes in the box (pictured with the regular OnePlus 9).

If you like, you can spend an additional $69 on OnePlus’ new Warp Charge 50 wireless charger. It charges at 25W, but since the battery is split, it’s essentially the same as charging at 50W, wirelessly. It also works if you set the phone on the charger in landscape mode. With the phone fully dead, it charged completely in 45 minutes. With ambient mode in Google Assistant on, it took a bit longer — but it was still wicked fast compared to other wireless chargers.

That 4,500mAh battery was enough to get me through a full day and a half of moderately heavy usage. However, OnePlus phones do tend to be a little more variable in their battery life depending on use. Spending a day shooting 4K video and pushing the processor with games meant I could kill it with less than four hours of screen-on time.

So while the battery life might not be best in class, the way OnePlus has built its ecosystem for charging means I’m able to top off faster than I can with other phones — provided I use OnePlus’ proprietary chargers, of course.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has an LTPO OLED screen, which can help with battery life

OnePlus 9 Pro screen

After wireless charging, the next standout spec on the OnePlus 9 Pro is that 6.7-inch screen. Like Samsung, OnePlus has switched over to an LTPO style of OLED, which can be more power efficient and allows the company to have more control over the refresh rate.

The screen can go all the way from 120Hz on down to 1Hz, depending on what’s happening on the display. OnePlus has branded the touch response rate on the screen as “Hyper Touch,” clocked at 360Hz for certain games, and though I am dubious it makes that big a difference for gamers, OnePlus says it could. More consequential is the screen resolution: 1440 x 3216 at 525ppi. You can leave it at that high resolution and have the high refresh rate screen going at the same time. Doing so probably hits battery life, but to me, the point of this max-spec phone is to max the specs, so I didn’t turn down the resolution or the refresh rate.

Those are the specs on the screen, but it’s the experience that matters. And again, I think OnePlus has done a remarkable job here. Something about the tuning of the animations in OxygenOS makes this phone feel just a little bit smoother than even Samsung phones. I also appreciate the color tuning — although it’s not as subdued as an iPhone or even a Pixel, it’s more restrained than Samsung’s default settings.

The whole camera system on the OnePlus 9 Pro is solid, but has room to improve

OnePlus 9 Pro camera

Without delving into a lot of history, I will just point out that until very recently, camera quality has been the main downfall for OnePlus phones. It’s a particularly bad way to fall down, too, because often, the clearest and simplest way to compare phones that otherwise look and perform nearly equivalently is to look at the photos they take.

OnePlus knows all of this and wants to position the OnePlus 9 Pro as a heads-up competitor — or at least a viable alternative — to the very best Samsung and even Apple have to offer. So it did a thing a lot of challenger brands do: called in a ringer.

That ringer is Hasselblad, which OnePlus is partnering with to improve its camera results. It will be a multiyear effort, and it’s far from guaranteed it’ll be a fruitful partnership. In fact, most of these sorts of deals don’t really do anything notable when it comes to the camera’s quality.

This year, Hasselblad’s participation with OnePlus’ development process amounted to helping the company tune the colors from the camera and lending a bit of its interface to the camera’s Pro mode. Oh, and most importantly for OnePlus, Hasselblad allowed its logo to be stamped next to the lenses.

I do think there’s some credit due to this color-tuning influence. In the same way that other smartphone brands have a “look” to their photos, I think OnePlus is developing its own. iPhone photos are generally flat and neutral, tending to the warm side of color; Pixel photos contrasty and blue; and Samsung photos have the vibrancy slider set to max.

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s image output lands mostly in the middle. It tends toward blue, and it definitely lifts up shadows to create more even lighting. Its photos are more striking but less accurate than what you’ll get out of an iPhone.

The camera system is good, but it can’t quite match the quality you get from an iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra — both of which cost more than the OnePlus 9 Pro. It handles a variety of conditions quite well, but sometimes I just had to take an extra beat to compose my shot. It let me better judge what the viewfinder was showing and, honestly, gave me time to try the shot again.

As usual with smartphone cameras, I think the difference comes down to software. I like the colors the 9 Pro produces, but sometimes it just tries too hard and whiffs. Similarly, OnePlus seems to want to bring a little of that Pixel contrast magic to bear but instead just oversharpens. And lightening shadows is sometimes laudable, but not when it adds completely unnecessary and distracting image noise.

The camera can try too hard to brighten shadows, introducing noise

The camera oversharpens sometimes, too. Take a look at the fringing around the runners on the lake in this ultrawide shot

The main camera uses a new 48-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS, though when I pressed OnePlus to tell me what exactly that sensor brings to the table, I didn’t really get a clear answer. You can shoot 12-bit RAW images in the Pro mode (which is two bits more than last year, if you’re keeping count).

That’s all nice, but the interface on Pro mode is what gets me. You can clearly see what’s set to manual and what’s in auto mode. It’s simple and easy to use, too. Best of all is focus peaking, which draws little lines over the part of the image that’s in focus. It is a lot clearer and more fun to use than the tap-to-focus you need to use on other phones. (You can do that here, too, of course.)

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s other cameras include a big, 50-megapixel ultrawide with a sensor that’s quite a lot nicer than the usual step-down sensors ultrawides get stuck with. I loved using it right up until it went haywire with sharpening. OnePlus put in a custom lens to help with distortion at the edges, and it works as well or better than pure software fixes at keeping straight lines from bowing.

The telephoto camera is 3.3x, and it’s not anything special at that zoom level. Beyond it, digital zoom is kind of a mess. It gets pantsed by the S21 Ultra with its periscope-style lens. There’s also a monochrome camera that serves only as a helper for the rest of the system, but I suspect it’s not doing anything especially important. OnePlus did drop the gimmicky and pointless “color filter” camera from last year’s 8 Pro this time around. It will probably drop the monochrome camera next year, if I had to guess.

OnePlus’ software-focused Nightscape mode works really well for capturing nighttime shots, although to my tastes, it over-brightens the image. Portrait mode is a mixed bag; heads often look artificially cut out from the blurry background. Again, I can get good shots, but portrait mode was often one of those situations where I needed to try the shot a second time. The selfie camera is passable in good light but falls down fast in the dark.

Unfortunately, video is equally messy. The OnePlus 9 Pro will let you shoot up to 8K 30 or 4K 120, but neither looked good. In fact, regular old 4K 30 has that overprocessed and oversharpened look you see so often from smartphones. The big new feature is improved HDR for backlit subjects, but the effect is minimal at best.

That’s a whole pile of critical takes compared to phones that cost more than this phone. But despite the price difference, I think the OnePlus 9 Pro’s camera should be held to as high a standard as possible — it’s a flagship phone. It can sometimes hang with the best of the best, and that’s a win.

You can put all your widgets in a drop-down menu instead of on your home screen.

OnePlus 9 Pro performance and OxygenOS 11

Even though the camera is often the main differentiator for an Android phone, it’s not necessarily everybody’s highest priority. When I’m not pixel-peeping photos, the OnePlus 9 Pro is the best Android phone I’ve used so far this year. The performance is great. I’m especially impressed with the optical in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is super fast and doesn’t seem to be thrown by weird lighting conditions.

OnePlus’ version of Android is called OxygenOS, and it’s now at version 11. The company has borrowed Samsung’s idea of shifting content down to meet your thumb and added in support for an always-on ambient display. The animations feel smooth, and OnePlus has learned its lesson about how annoying it can be to have apps close in the background too often.

OnePlus has committed to two major OS updates and three years of bimonthly security updates, which puts it ahead of brands like LG but behind Samsung and Google.

You can customize a few things like the font and icons, too. My favorite customization is an ambient display mode that displays a colorful bar that shows how often you’ve been using your phone throughout the day.

One feature borrowed from Apple and / or Microsoft is the ability to put your widgets into a separate panel so they’re not littering your main home screen, accessible via a quick swipe down. I love it, but I wish it wasn’t mapped to the same thing other Android phones use to quickly bring down notifications.

Mostly, though, OxygenOS just feels chill, especially compared to Samsung. OnePlus isn’t pushing its own ecosystem of apps and services (though with a new OnePlus Watch coming, perhaps that may change). It’s also not festooning its own apps with advertisements, unlike Samsung.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is not a “flagship killer.” It’s a flagship. Although it still costs a little less than its top-tier competitors, it nevertheless is a pricey phone that makes a lot of promises. Mostly, it delivers on them. Even though a tiny fraction of customers buy OnePlus phones compared to Apple and Samsung, the company has built a track record long enough to deserve its status as an established brand.

If you’re considering one of the new OnePlus phones, I am actually hard-pressed to make the case for the OnePlus 9 Pro over the regular OnePlus 9, which Allison Johnson reviewed. The regular OnePlus 9 is $240 less, and the things you lose are mostly the nice-to-haves that justify the Pro’s existence: fast wireless charging, OIS, a telephoto lens, mmWave 5G, and the slightly larger screen. The cheaper OnePlus 9 lacks telephoto, but its other cameras take photos that are nearly equivalent to the pro. It has a high refresh rate screen, fast wired charging, wireless charging (though it’s not as fast), and most importantly, a nice OnePlus software experience with great performance.

The reason to opt for the 9 Pro over the regular 9 is in some ways the same reason you’d opt for a OnePlus phone over a Samsung phone in the first place: it’s just a little nicer and a little different than what everybody else has in their pocket.

Update March 26th, 2021 5pm ET: Verizon announced it would support 5G on the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro and OnePlus confirmed they will not work on AT&T’s 5G network. The review has been updated to note the new information.

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Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband

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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Amazon.com Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.

Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”

Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.

Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.

Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.

Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.

Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.

Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.

“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.

Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.

Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.

They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.

Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.

‘SWEET SPOT’

The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10 billion SpaceX and Amazon projects.

“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”

Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.

“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”

Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.

“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.

Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.

Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.

France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400 million ($317 million), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600 million to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246 million in net income in 2020.

Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.

“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.”

($1 = 1.2622 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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$600K donation to boost online mental health programming in Nova Scotia

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Nova Scotia Health’s mental health and addictions program hopes to offer more online support to people across the province after receiving a significant donation this week.

The QEII Foundation announced that RBC is contributing $600,000 toward the province’s e-mental health programming.

“It’s particularly important for the current time under all the strains of COVID,” said Dr. Andrew Harris, a psychiatrist and the senior medical director for the program.

The plan for online programming has been in the works for years, he said, but the pandemic expedited the push. Last June, the department launched a number of applications that can be used to help those with anxiety, depression and addictions.

Since then, as many as 3,000 Nova Scotians have used the site to access mental health services.

“There’s a persistent difficulty in accessing services,” Harris said of traditional models in Nova Scotia. He said those who don’t need intensive therapy may find the support they need through the online programs.

He uses the example of someone who can’t take time off work to speak to a clinician.

“It’s better for them to be able to access a service after hours or on the weekend. So our e-mental health services are tailored a little bit to meet that need.”

Calls to crisis line increase

Harris said the province’s mental health crisis line continues to see a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, so he’s trying to raise awareness that services can be accessed immediately online.

“I think everyone is aware that for a lot of people it’s much easier to talk about a physical illness than a mental illness. So there’s an allowance there for privacy, for some anonymity but still making available things that can help the person who is struggling in the community.”

The online portal has a list of programs that people can use, covering things like reducing stress, solving problems and becoming mindful. It mirrors a site in Newfoundland and Labrador that Harris said is used to help people in remote areas.

Harris said the donation from RBC will be used to continue to evaluate more services, and pay for the licensing of the products that are mostly developed by other organizations.

He encourages anyone who is struggling to test out the site, and use it as an entry point into the mental health system.

“It’s important for people to acknowledge when they’re struggling. It happens to all of us through our lives in different times.”

Anyone in Nova Scotia looking to access the tools can visit: https://mha.nshealth.ca.

Source:- CBC.ca

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Samsung’s cheapest 5G Galaxy phones yet are launching this month

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Samsung

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Samsung is launching five new phones in its Galaxy A series this month.
  • Three of them will support 5G connectivity, and the most expensive phone is just $500.
  • The cheapest phone of the five still has three cameras but lacks 5G and other features.
  • See more buying advice on the Insider Reviews homepage.

Samsung may be best known for its high-end Galaxy S phones that rival the iPhone. But the tech giant is proving that it can appeal to cost-conscious customers with the launch of five new smartphones in the United States, the priciest of which only costs $500.

Samsung’s new lineup of budget phones, which debuted in other markets before coming to the US, are all launching this month. Some of them will be released as soon as this week, while the least expensive model will debut on April 29. The launch comes as competitors like Apple and Google have also been focusing on cheaper smartphones to boost sales.

Three of these new Samsung devices also support 5G, another sign that shoppers no longer have to pay a premium to get access to next-generation wireless networks. All five of the new phones also have the traditional headphone jack for wired listening and run on an octa-core processor.

Here’s a look at the new Samsung Galaxy A series phones that will be launching soon.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Galaxy A52 5G_Awesome Black_Front_Back



Samsung

  • Release date: April 9
  • Price: $499.99

The Galaxy A52 5G is the most expensive smartphone of the bunch. It comes with a 6.5-inch FHD+ screen and a quad-camera system that includes some of the same features as Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S phones. These include Single Take, which creates several different photos or video clips with different effects with a single press of the shutter button.

Its screen can also boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and performance, a feature that has become common on pricier flagship phones but is rare on cheaper models. It’s also the only phone in this A-series lineup to include Samsung’s notch-free screen design.

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G

Galaxy A42 5G_Prism Dot Black_Front_Back



Samsung

  • Release date: April 8
  • Price: $399.99

The less expensive Galaxy A42 5G has a slightly larger screen than the A52 5G, but scales back on certain features when it comes to the camera and screen refresh rate.

Still, it has a triple-lens camera with high-resolution sensors, and like its pricier sibling it also supports Single Take.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

GalaxyA32 5G_Awesome Black_Front



Samsung

Release date: April 9

Price: $279.99

The Galaxy A32 5G is Samsung’s cheapest 5G smartphone to date. It has a large 6.5-inch screen, but it’s made from an LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED. That means it will likely lack some of the contrast and boldness of Samsung’s other devices. But Samsung hasn’t skimped on the camera considering this model has a quad-lens main camera, which is rare if not unheard of at that price.

Samsung Galaxy A12

Galaxy A12_Black_Back



Samsung

Release date: April 9

Price: $179.99

Samsung’s Galaxy A12 doesn’t come with 5G support, but it still gives you a lot for the price. For less than $200, you’re getting a quad-lens camera and a large 6.5-inch LCD screen. But remember this phone only has 32GB of storage, so it’s best suited for those who don’t store a lot of photos and videos on their device.

Samsung Galaxy A02s

Galaxy A02s_Black_Front



Samsung

  • Release date: April 29
  • Price: $109.99

The Galaxy A02s is Samsung’s cheapest phone, offering a 6.5-inch LCD screen and three main cameras. It doesn’t have 5G support or as much computing power or camera prowess as Samsung’s other A-series phones, but that’s to be expected for a device at this price. This phone is truly for those who just need the basics and little else.

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