While both phones come in at under the $1,000 mark, the OnePlus just barely ekes it out at $969 compared to the $899 starting price of the Pixel 6 Pro. Both phones feature similar specs with solid rear camera arrays, 6.7-inch adaptive 120Hz AMOLED screens, in-display fingerprint sensors and IP68 water and dust resistance.
While Google has dramatically improved its hardware this year, OnePlus has made notable improvements to its software update policies that have traditionally held it back, making this a much more even fight than we’ve seen in the past.
With both of these phones earning a spot among our
for 2021, there are no wrong answers here. However, each offers some clear advantages over the other, so read on to find out which is our overall winner and whether that phone is the right one for you. best smartphones Pixel 6 Pro vs. OnePlus 9 Pro: price and value
The base Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899 with a reasonable 128GB of storage and an impressive 12GB of RAM. You can upgrade to 256GB or 512GB of storage for $999 and $1,099, respectively.
The OnePlus 9 Pro starts slightly higher at $969 for the same 128GB of storage, but 8GB of RAM. There’s only one upgrade option for the OnePlus 9 Pro. For $1,069, you double your storage to 256GB and boost the RAM to 12GB.
If both phones launched at the same time this would be an easy win for the Pixel 6 Pro, but deals abound on the OnePlus 9 Pro after over half a year on the market. The base model is now hard to find, but the upgraded 256GB model is now typically available for $899 or less, which is an amazing price for this hardware.
As this section is not just price, but also value, I’m going to call it a draw even factoring in this advantage for the OnePlus 9 Pro as Google offers much better software support, delivering OS updates faster and longer than OnePlus. If you are someone that always wants the latest and greatest new features from Google or you hang on to your phone for more than a couple of years then this could definitely tip the scales for you.
Pixel 6 Pro vs. OnePlus 9 Pro: design
The Google Pixel 6 Pro design has its fans and its detractors. I fall into the former camp as not only is it unique, but it’s incredibly comfortable to hold and use. The full-width camera array on the back may make it look like a prop from Star Trek, but the cameras it houses are worth it and it has the added benefit of sitting evenly on a desk which is a rare feat in phone design these days.
The OnePlus 9 Pro design, by comparison, fails to stand out in any meaningful way from flagships of the last few years. The curved glass back, curved display and rounded edges make it pleasant enough to hold, although I find it a bit slippery. The Pine Green finish offers a little more personality than the Morning Mist of my review unit, but overall it’s a disappointing design from OnePlus.
Aesthetics are pretty subjective though, so let’s take a look at the hard numbers for the Pixel 6 Pro and the OnePlus 9 Pro. Both phones offer IP68 dust and water resistance, but the Pixel 6 Pro has the edge on durability with its superior Gorilla Glass Victus screen protection compared to Gorilla Glass 5 on the OnePlus 9 Pro.
With 6.7-inch displays, it’s a safe bet that with or without a case these phones aren’t fitting conveniently in your pocket and they have virtually identical dimensions with one exception. At 6.43 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches the OnePlus 9 Pro is notably narrower than the Pixel 6 Pro at 6.45 x 3 x 0.35 inches. For most people, these phones are too big to easily use one-handed anyway, but this makes it a bit more likely with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The Pixel 6 Pro is also slightly heavier at 7.41 ounces to 6.95 ounces, but it’s not a meaningful difference in use.
I’m awarding this to the Pixel 6 Pro for its distinct design and more robust display. The narrower display is the one design feature the OnePlus 9 Pro has going for it, but it won’t be a selling point for everyone.
Winner: Pixel 6 Pro
Pixel 6 Pro vs. OnePlus 9 Pro: display
If you look at the specs sheet for these two phones, you would be hard-pressed to tell the displays apart. The Pixel 6 Pro features a 6.7-inch, QHD+ (3120×1440 pixel) LTPO OLED display with Google’s Smooth Display adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. The OnePlus 9 Pro uses a 6.7-inch, QHD+ (3216×1440 pixel) LTPO AMOLED screen with an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate.
With its narrower display and slightly higher resolution, the OnePlus 9 Pro offers a sharper display, but at 526 pixels per inch compared to 512, it’s not a difference you’ll notice unless you hold the phone inches from your eye. (P.S. Don’t do that.)
The OnePlus 9 Pro also offers a slightly wider range with its adaptive display tech, dropping all the way down to 1Hz if you are viewing truly static content like a photo. The Pixel 6 Pro can only drop to 10Hz by comparison, again not a significant difference, but a point for OnePlus. The 120Hz refresh rate at the high-end is more important giving you buttery smooth animations throughout the operating system and in supported apps and games.
I’ve spent weeks with both of these phones as my primary device now and I can say that these are easily two of the finest displays among the many phones that I reviewed this year. For my side-by-side comparison, I turned to Life in Color with David Attenborough as that show does such an excellent job of testing the limits of HDR support. While the Pixel 6 Pro produces a slightly brighter image at its max setting, the difference between the two when it comes to color accuracy and vibrancy is negligible to my eye. A poison dart frog on a dried leaf shows the range and sharpness of each display with the orange-red of the frog popping against the bokeh of the green background while retaining the fine details in the veins of the leaf below it.
Our colorimeter results show that the OnePlus 9 Pro actually has a bit of an edge. The OnePlus 9 Pro covers 84.9% of the DCI-P3 color gamut in its Natural color setting, which puts it reasonably ahead of the 74% that the Pixel 6 Pro managed. If you prefer a more colorful image though the vibrant setting on both nearly doubles that result with the OnePlus 9 Pro managing 147.4%.
Brightness tips back in favor of the Pixel 6 Pro; it managed the highest result that we’ve seen on an Android phone with 842 nits, easily beating the 722 nits max for the OnePlus 9 Pro. There is a perceptible difference, but rest assured the OnePlus 9 Pro is still plenty bright to view even in direct sunlight.