Two phones are the best options if you want your smartphone to be sturdy, have great software, and have strong cameras.
The Google Pixel 5, and the OnePlus9 are both top-of-the-line phones in the upper mid-range category. They offer impressive specs for a fraction of the price of flagships.
Which is better? OnePlus appears to have the edge, scoring 9 out of 10, compared to Pixel 5’s 8. However, it isn’t that simple.
OnePlus 9 vs Google Pixel 5. Prices and availability
Both these phones can be purchased now with the Pixel 5 being launched on October 15, 2020, and the OnePlus 9 arriving in shops on March 26, 2021.
The OnePlus 9 starts at $729/PS629, 8GB RAM, and 128GB storage. A move up to $829/PS729 will give you 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.
Google Pixel 5 is still available at a launch price of $699 / PS599 / AU$999. However, you might be able to find a deal due to its age.
Both of these phones are great, but we don’t consider them to be a “looker”. Both the OnePlus 9 as well as the Google Pixel 5 are design regressions. The OnePlus8 and Pixel4 were packed with elements that could be considered premium.
We’d still give the Google Pixel 5 the edge because of its bold, normcore-chic approach. The all-metal body makes it stand out from the rest of the glass sandwich crowd, and the curious matte finish (in Sorta Sage or Just Black) gives it a rugged feel.
This phone has a flat display and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner (which isn’t particularly responsive or fast) that completes the workmanlike air. However, the Pixel 5 is not to be confused with any other phone (non-Google).
The OnePlus 9 is a different story. The OnePlus 9 is similarly unobtrusive, or “burdenless”, as it has the same flat display and hole punch selfie cam. It’s also a lot more generic than other phones and even feels a bit cheap.
In contrast to Google, OnePlus has eschewed metal, replacing it with a fiberglass-reinforced polymer frame. You can also choose shiny plastic if you prefer to keep things simple. You have three options for the back of your OnePlus 9: Astral Black, Arctic Sky, or Winter Mist.
The Pixel 5’s compact dimensions are another advantage, at least for some. The OnePlus 9 is smaller than the Pixel 5 with dimensions of 160 x 74.2 x 8.7mm, 192g, and a mere 144.7 x 704 x 8mm. It also weighs in at 151g.
The OnePlus 9’s signature alert slider is something we like. It allows for easy access to vibrate and silent modes. Google could not do better than to adopt something like this.
The design of the Pixel 5 by Google is a close one. However, the OnePlus 9 has a slightly better display.
Both phones have FHD+ OLED screens but the OnePlus 9’s panel has a larger and brighter display. It measures 6.55 inches and has a lot more real estate than the Pixel 6’s. The OnePlus 9’s panel is also larger than the Pixel 6, with a peak brightness of 1,100. This goes far beyond the 700-odd Pixel 5 that was recorded.
The OnePlus 9’s screen is more fluid with a maximum refresh rate 120Hz. Google’s phone only supports 90Hz. This is far from infamy – Apple still uses 60Hz, but the advantage is clear.
Despite the fact that neither display has LTPO technology, the Pixel 5 display will likely be more efficient. Overall, however, the OnePlus 9 display is the clear winner.
These phones offer a flagship-level experience in terms of camera quality, but neither is the best.
The OnePlus 9 has the 48-megapixel Sony IMX689 main camera that was praised for the OnePlus 8 PRO. However, OIS is not included. The Pixel 5 has the same 12.2-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX363 sensor as Google for many years.
This might seem to give Google an advantage on the image quality front. But that would be misunderstanding Google’s singular focus. Iterating on its vast image processing advantage and maintaining a consistent hardware environment, the Pixel phones continue to capture sharp, well-exposed shots.
This department is also a strong suit for the OnePlus 9. This is due to the larger image sensor and color tuning by Hasselblad (camera king), which produces slightly more naturalistic colors than the Pixel.
The Pixel 5 wins Night shots. The OnePlus 9’s inability to use OIS and less-honed algorithms means it is not as good at night photography. Google continues to amaze with low-light results even though it uses such humble hardware cameras.
Both phones are excellent with ultra-wide units. The OnePlus 9 uses a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 ultrawide sensor with an innovative freeform lens. Ultra-wide shots are nearly as bright and detailed as those with the wider sensor. There is also far less fisheye distortion.
Google’s new 16-megapixel ultra-wide sensor also achieves impressive results. Google’s algorithmic excellence is what you can thank for the lack of distortion. This is more than any hardware. This has the main disadvantage of a smaller 107-degree field.
It is disappointing that neither phone has a dedicated telephoto lens. The OnePlus has a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor. However, that’s almost pointless so we’ll just ignore it.
The selfie camera aspect of the Pixel 5 has an 8-megapixel f/2.0 setup while the OnePlus 9 comes with a 16-megapixel f/2.4 equivalent. Google’s selfie camera has smaller but more pixels. And, of course, it uses the masterful Google software magic to enhance selfies.
The OnePlus 9 can handle 8K video at 30fps and 4K video at 60fps. Although the Pixel 5 can only manage 4K video at 60fps we are still skeptical about 8K footage in 2021.
Performance and specifications
It’s been pretty similar so far, but performance is one area where one phone dominates the others. The OnePlus 9 wins the race.
The OnePlus 9’s Snapdragon 888 SoC is just as fast as smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or the Oppo Find X3 Pro. Both of these phones cost over $1,000/PS1,000. The OnePlus 9 boasts a healthy 8GB or 12GB LPDDR5 RAM.
The Google Pixel 5 simply cannot compete with it. Google made a risk with its new flagship by reverting the Pixel 4’s processor to a Snapdragon 765 mid-range model. This is supported by 8GB slower LPDDR4x RAM.
The Pixel 5’s performance is not affected by this combination. The Pixel 5 is able to navigate very well and can handle the 90Hz display while switching between web pages.
The Snapdragon 888 is a new level, but it’s a generation above. Our Geekbench 5 benchmark testing for both phones shows that the Snapdragon 888 is a step up. The OnePlus 9 has a multicore score of 3,587 while the Pixel 5 only manages 1,617.
The OnePlus 9 has plenty of headroom when it gets tough, especially with high-end gaming and heavy multitasking. The OnePlus 9 can run PUBG Mobile at its maximum settings and still deliver a smooth performance. This is not possible with the Pixel 5.
Both devices have stereo speakers. However, the OnePlus 9 only has Dolby Atmos support. OnePlus offers a choice between 128GB and 256GB storage options, while the Pixel only has a 128GB option. There is no microSD card slot on either phone.
Each phone has its strengths when it comes to software. In fact, these two phones are the best mobile UIs available.
The Pixel 5 comes with stock Android 11, exactly as Google intended. It is cleaner and more intuitive than any other Android UI. There’s no bloatware, and you have access to all of Google’s apps. The Pixel 5 is for you if you are looking for no-nonsense. It will also receive an Android 12 update earlier than any other phone.
OnePlus’s OxygenOS, on the other hand, offers more customization options, more UI bling, and less dependence on Google’s solid foundations. Although it’s not as sticky as it once was, OxygenOS is far more refined than custom efforts by Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, and the like.
The OnePlus 9’s 4,500mAh battery is much larger than the Google Pixel 5’s 4080mAh. The Pixel 5’s smaller, more fluid display and less powerful processor allow for lower power draw.
Both cases will allow you to manage a full day with moderate to heavy usage. It is difficult to say if there is an absolute winner.
When it comes to charging, there is always a winner. The OnePlus 9 comes with a 65W charger that can charge your phone from 0 to 100% in 28 minutes.
The Google Pixel 5 comes with an 18W wireless charger. The OnePlus 9 supports wireless charging at 15W, while the Pixel 5 only supports 12W.
Although these phones may be similar in price, they offer completely different packages. We’re not sure if we can call them the absolute winner. Both phones will suit your needs and be great choices.
Google Pixel 5 is a smaller phone that has a distinctive, if not stunning design. This phone is perfect for people who prefer their phone to do simple tasks quietly and elegantly while remaining oblivious to the rest of the world.
It also includes a great camera that excels in dark conditions. If you love Google’s stock Android OS, and its fast updates, there isn’t a better phone.
The OnePlus 9 offers far more processing power than the average smartphone and a truly flagship-level performance. The display is larger, brighter, and more fluid. These two features alone make it an excellent choice for people who play lots of videos and/or media on the go.
The camera is also good, but not great. It has advanced hardware, but no OIS. OxygenOS is a great alternative to stock Android for software customization and tinkering.