Phone companies have understood the fact that not everyone wants to spend $1,000 on a phone, but those who spend $800 should still have a great experience. After all, $800 is a ton of cash. For example, while the Galaxy S20 started at $1,000, the Galaxy S21 drops the price to $800.
Of course, OnePlus has been playing in that space for years. Even though its phones are getting more expensive, the new OnePlus 9 still costs just $730, which is only slightly less than the Galaxy S21 — in fact, it’s about the same price when you factor in the usual Galaxy S21 discounts.
Given the similar price, you might be wondering which device to choose. That’s why we put together this guide. Here’s how the OnePlus 9 compares to the Samsung Galaxy S21.
Design and display
For me, the second biggest difference between the Galaxy S21 and the OnePlus 9 is the design, and the first is the camera. We’ll talk about the camera a little later, but for now let’s talk about the design.
For a long time, glass phones were considered more premium than plastic ones. And they generally are. Glass phones tend to weigh a little more, feel stronger, and have other advantages. But the OnePlus 9 bucks that trend a bit.
Not sure why it seems so cheap to me. This could be the fact that the actual frame is plastic and not metal. Or maybe it’s the fact that the device is quite a bit lighter than the OnePlus 9 Pro. Regardless, I thought the OnePlus 9, which is made of glass, he was made of plastic.
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The Galaxy S21 is still made of plastic and still feels premium to me. Now, let’s be clear — the Galaxy S21 feels plasticky. But at first glance, and even at first feel, it could be mistaken for a frosted glass similar to that on the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the higher-end iPhone 12 Pro. It’s just a little thicker, and its metal frame makes it easier to pick up and hold.
None of this mentions the actual appearance of the phone, and the Galaxy S21 wins in this area as well. The OnePlus 9 is by no means an ugly phone, but it looks like a last-gen device. It’s very similar to the 2020 Galaxy S20, with its rectangular camera module. I like the Winter Mist color option based on the pictures I’ve seen, but to be clear, I reviewed the Astral Black model.
Samsung rolled the dice on the design of the Galaxy S21 and it paid off. In reality, the changes are relatively minor — the main one being that the camera module sort of melts into the phone’s frame. But that small change makes a big difference. The Galaxy S21 looks modern, unique and interesting – at least as far as rectangular glass phones go. The colors offered by the Galaxy S21 also look great. My favorite is the Phantom Violet color, which is kind of a golden-purple look, but the other colors look nice too.
Andrew Martonik/Digital trends
Now I understand. OnePlus phones have never been about flashy design – they’ve been about speeds and specs. But when it comes to screen specs, the Galaxy S21 matches the OnePlus 9 in all but one way: screen size. If you want a phone with a big screen, you might prefer the OnePlus 9 over the Galaxy S21, but if you just want quality, the Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 have you covered. Either way, you’ll get a 1080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate — and they’re responsive and colorful and generally look great. The Galaxy S21 can also go a bit brighter than the OnePlus 9.
As mentioned, perhaps the biggest difference between the OnePlus 9 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the camera. OnePlus has been touting its partnership with Hasselblad for the camera on the OnePlus 9, with the goal of making a camera that’s equal to or better than the top phones like the Galaxy and iPhones of the world. While we hope it does, for now the Galaxy S21 still beats the OnePlus 9.
On the OnePlus 9, you’ll get a 48-megapixel main camera, a 50-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and a 2-megapixel monochrome camera for things like depth detection and capturing extra details. The Galaxy S21, on the other hand, has a 12-megapixel main camera, a 64-megapixel telephoto camera (although the fact that it only has 1.1x optical zoom means that the word “telephoto” is a bit of a stretch), and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera.
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While the telephoto camera on the Galaxy S21 isn’t all that special, Samsung has been working on zoom technology on its phones for a few years — and the result is that you’ll still get a decent amount of detail and depth in zoomed-in photos. This means that the Galaxy S21’s camera is a bit more versatile than the one on the OnePlus 9.
The Galaxy S21 seems to be able to capture just a bit more detail, and the colors it captures are a bit deeper. OnePlus 9 definitely wins brighter photos, but brightness does not mean high quality.
The Galaxy S21 has a better design and a better camera than the OnePlus 9, and in every other respect it pretty much matches the new OnePlus device. On the Galaxy S21, you will get a Snapdragon 888 processor with 8 GB of RAM. OnePlus keeps the same processor, but has options for 8GB or 12GB of RAM. The result is that the two phones perform about the same — and you won’t be able to tell the difference in day-to-day use. If the extra RAM comes into play at all, it will be at the end of the OnePlus 9’s lifespan.
You won’t really be able to notice the difference in performance in everyday use.
Perhaps the only area where OnePlus wins over Samsung is billing technology. Both phones will last just over a day on a full charge. But if you need to top up during the day, you probably want to go with the OnePlus 9. The device supports OnePlus’ Warp Charge 65T technology, which can go from 0-100% in just 30 minutes, plus it supports fast wireless charging, provided you have the right charger. Of course, none of that matters if you charge your phone at night and don’t use it for 10 hours of gaming during the day.
The OnePlus 9 is a solid phone, but the Galaxy S21 is just a killer phone. The Galaxy S21 matches the OnePlus in screen quality and performance, plus it has a much more interesting design and a better camera — all for a little more money or even about the same price, depending on the discounts Samsung has. If you’re looking for a premium phone in the $800 price range, the Galaxy S21 is the right choice.