OnePlus 9 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: has OnePlus made the ultimate "flagship killer"?

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If you want a true rival to the iPhone 12 Pro Max that is not made by Samsung, the OnePlus 9 Pro is probably your best option. With its clean Oxygen OS software and arguably smoother performance than Samsung devices, OnePlus has stood out with phones that are reliable and yet still more affordable than the mainstream flagships. And now, it also comes with a new and powerful camera that bears the iconic Hasselblad name.

So... is the OnePlus 9 Pro the ultimate "iPhone killer" that won't "settle"? There is only one way to find out, so let's put the 9 Pro side by side with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and get to comparing them in this epic clash of flagships.

Hint: one of these phones comes with a charger in the box ;)

Design and Size



While both the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have 6.7-inch screens, the tapered edges of the OnePlus make it much more comfortable for a single hand grip, while the flat sides of the iPhone make it feel a bit wider and less comfortable to hold in the hand.

Both phones also feature glass on the back, with a matte finish on the iPhone, and both a glossy and matte finishes depending on the color for the OnePlus. Both also come with convenient mute switches, a two-way button on the iPhone and a 3-way button for mute, vibrate and sound on the OnePlus. As for what's missing on both that's a headphone jack, but that's hardly unexpected these days.


Display

With a fast, 120Hz refresh rate the OnePlus has the smoother moves


Both the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have extra large screens measuring 6.7 inches. However, the OnePlus 9 Pro display is tapered ever so slightly around the sides, while the screen on the iPhone is completely flat. If you ask us, a flat screen is the better experience, but it also makes the iPhone a noticeably wider phone than the OnePlus, and unless you have hands the size of an NBA player, the OnePlus will be more comfortable to handle.

 
The iPhone also retains the notch, which houses its complex Face ID sensors and front camera, while the OnePlus features a much more discrete punch hole camera on the side that doesn't obstruct your view. You get used to the notch on the iPhone in daily use, but it remains an annoyance while watching videos and playing games.

The big advantage of the OnePlus 9 Pro is its support for 120Hz adaptive refresh rate for buttery smooth scrolling, while the iPhone maxes out at 60Hz.

Performance



The OnePlus 9 Pro comes equipped with the latest and most powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max uses Apple's home-grown A14 Bionic chip.

Both are the most powerful solutions for each platform, using the most advanced manufacturing technology available: 5nm, millions of transistors, and both just... crash the benchmarks!

Still, the cross-platform GeekBench shows a noticeable advantage for the A14:


While important for specs nerds, this is probably not something that the average user should be overly concerned with as both phones will provide sufficient speed for most tasks. In fact, the faster 120Hz screen refresh rate on the OnePlus might actually be the deciding factor in perceived smoothness, and not the processor.

Sustained Performance in gaming



This is one of the most interesting tests that you should look for gaming, 3D Mark Wildlife which runs 20 minutes of intense gaming to see whether the chips inside the phones will heat up and throttle after extended heavy use.

It reveals a few interesting behaviors, notice how the iPhone is capable of super powerful bursts of performance but it quickly throttles to its regular working temperature after just a minute, while the Snapdragon on the OnePlus kind of throttles but is then again able to bounce back to peak performance.

5G Connectivity


The big question around the OnePlus 9 Pro is whether it will be available on all US carriers or not. Currently, T-Mobile is the only carrier to offer the phone, which likely means that the 9 Pro will not support the mmWave flavor of 5G used by Verizon and to some extent, by AT&T. If this is indeed true, the iPhone will have the advantage of being available for all three US carriers AND supporting mmWave 5G. Is that something you should care about? If you are among the 1% that have mmWave coverage AND you really need those super fast speeds, than yes, but for most users this shouldn't be a deciding factor.

Camera

Can a OnePlus phone match the camera quality of the iPhone?


For years, the number one complaint against OnePlus is that the company just wasn't able to make a camera that would be on par with the very best. Well, last year's OnePlus 8 Pro challenged that assumption, it was the first truly great camera by the brand, and we have high expectations for the OnePlus 9 Pro as well.

Here are the camera specs on both phones:


Let's take a look at some photos, shall we?



The main difference in daytime photos comes down to colors: the OnePlus has these more neutral tones compared to a more vibrant look on the iPhone with much higher contrast. That can make images from the iPhone "pop" more, but sometimes that can be overwhelming as the iPhone crushes the shadows.



When it comes to zooming, the OnePlus can go up to 30X zoom, while the iPhone maxes out at 12 zoom in photos. At about 3X zoom the quality is similar and the iPhone even has a bit of an advantage, but long range zoom like the above 10X zoom shot is a win for the OnePlus.


Portrait mode above can be hilariously wrong on OnePlus phones and sometimes takes two or three attempts, while the iPhone usually gets it more or less right from the first go.



And here is a wide portrait photo, where again the OnePlus has weirdly cut out a part of my head.



In low light, the OnePlus usually captures slightly darker photos than the iPhone, but they have a more authentic "night time" feel, while the iPhone is brighter but looks a bit fake.



And this above photo shows that the iPhone can sometimes get the white balance completely wrong, this building is definitely white as on the OnePlus.



OnePlus teased its new ultra-wide camera like the second coming and it certainly performs well, but maybe not quite up to the incredible hype.



It is in low light, however, that we see the true power of the ultra-wide camera on the OnePlus as it can capture even better photos than rivals.


Battery Life and Charging speeds



  • 4,500mAh battery for OnePlus 9 Pro vs 3,687mAh battery on iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • OnePlus 65W fast charging vs iPhone 20W fast charge
  • OnePlus has fastest ever wireless charge at 50W vs 15W

Finally, these two will have different battery sizes. Android phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro typically come with larger batteries than iPhones, and the OnePlus 9 Pro is another such phone, with a 4,500mAh battery, significantly larger than the 3,687mAh battery on the iPhone. That's a nearly 20% bigger battery on the OnePlus.

In our daily routine, we noticed the OnePlus 9 Pro draining a bit faster than the iPhone. On a typical day, starting at around 8am with a fully charged phone, I would need to top up the OnePlus at about 8pm, while the iPhone would usually last all the way until the morning or even into the next day.

And here is how these two phones compare on our battery tests:

Browsing test 60Hz Higher is better Browsing test 120Hz (hours) Higher is better YouTube video streaming (hours) Higher is better 3D Gaming 60Hz (hours) Higher is better 3D Gaming 120Hz (hours) Higher is better
OnePlus 9 Pro 11h 45 min
11h 29 min
9h 16 min
9h 6 min
No data
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max 14h 6 min
No data
8h 37 min
8h 1 min
No data

Charging


For charging, the iPhone 12 Pro Max can only go up to 20W, while the OnePlus 9 Pro supports 65W wired charging speeds. And yes, this is literally three times faster! Currently, the 12 Pro Max takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes for a full charge, while the OnePlus 9 Pro will charge fully in just around 30 minutes. Super impressive!

Oh, and while we're on the charging topic, the iPhone was the first mainstream phone to ship without a charger, an unfortunate move that luckily OnePlus will not follow as the 9 Pro will come with a charger in the box for free. Take that Apple!

Both the OnePlus 9 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max also support wireless charging, but again, Apple is going with slower speeds. The current MagSafe wireless technology supports up to 15W speeds, while the 9 Pro can top up fully in just 43 minutes with the 50W wireless charger that OnePlus will sell you separately for $70.

Prices


Prices of OnePlus phones started at $300 with the original "flagship killer" OnePlus One, only to reach nearly full flagship level these days. The OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $970, which is higher than the $900 initial price of last year's OnePlus 8 Pro, but it's still below the price of a base iPhone 12 Pro Max. Don't forget that neither of these two phones supports expandable storage, and the storage you buy is what you get.

Here is a price comparison:


Even though OnePlus has raised price, the 9 Pro is still more affordable than the iPhone.

So... with all this in mind, which one would you go for?


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