OnePlus 9 versus Galaxy S21: which one should you buy?


Now that the reviews have dropped, it seems that the OnePlus 9 could present a better overall value when compared to its larger brother in the OnePlus 9 Pro. The same could be said for the Galaxy S21, which is quite a bit cheaper than that of the Galaxy S21 Ultra, while maintaining the essence of what Samsung is doing with its 2021 flagship line. So how do these two entry-level devices stack? Let’s find out.


Samsung’s Galaxy S21 takes the early lead here with a smaller 6.2-inch display while maintaining the same 2400 x 1080 resolution as the OnePlus 9. But the smaller display and same resolution make for a higher pixel density so things are likely to look a bit sharper on the Galaxy S21. High refresh rates is a key feature in just about every smartphone, regardless of price, and both the S21 and OnePlus 9 deliver.

120Hz is the name of the game here, with both the Galaxy S21 and OnePlus capable of providing those higher refresh rates. However, the Galaxy S21 adds another notch in its belt thanks to the Adaptive Refresh Rate, which ranges from 48Hz and goes up to 120Hz based on what you are doing. The OnePlus 9, on the other hand, is left out of the adaptive game, as that was reserved for the more-expensive 9 Pro. Instead, you’ll be able to manually switch between 60Hz and 120Hz and that’s about it.


When it comes to performance, both of these phones are just absolutely beasts. The Snapdragon 888 is at the helm for both Samsung and OnePlus’ entry-level models, along with a variant including 8GB of RAM for each. OnePlus finally gets on the board, however, as you can bump the RAM up to 12GB if you want to try to future-proof yourself, or just want all of the specs in your phone.

Storage is also the same, with both devices offering either 128GB or 256GB of storage. And now that Samsung has joined the anti-microSD card hype train, neither of these devices can have their storage expanded, so what you purchase is what you get. This is fine for most people, but you may find yourself relying more on cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive to keep your storage levels down.


The camera systems for both the Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 read like a book about re-using last year’s hardware. That’s because Samsung didn’t change anything with the triple camera setup on the Galaxy S21, as there’s a main 12MP lens, a secondary 12MP camera, and a 64MP telephoto option on the back. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 9 gains one of the best cameras of last year with the 48MP primary camera which was found in the OnePlus 8 Pro.

While much of the camera magic in this year’s OnePlus release was left for the 9 Pro, the standard OnePlus 9 also enjoys the all-new 50MP ultrawide sensor. There’s also a 2MP depth sensor on board to help with portrait mode, but it will likely remain unused for many of your photos. Early indications are that the OnePlus 9’s camera is better than expected, and Samsung’s cameras are almost always top-notch making for an interesting battle. But OnePlus does get the slight edge here thanks to the Hasselblad partnership paying dividends with the software processing.

Battery Life

While Samsung gained the upper hand in the display department, OnePlus is roaring back when it comes to battery life. Not only does the OnePlus 9 feature a larger 4,500mAh battery compared to the Galaxy S21, but it is also equipped with MUCH faster wired charging speeds. With Warp Charge 65T, you’ll be getting up to 65W of fast wired charging, AND OnePlus includes the necessary wall adapter in the box.

Between the Snapdragon 888 and the larger battery, we expect the OnePlus 9 to be a battery champion. Plus, being able to go from 0-100% in less than 45 minutes is quite the feat in and of itself. Meanwhile, Samsung opted for slower wired charging, capping the Galaxy S21 at just 25W speeds.

It’s important to note that this is the first year that all of OnePlus’ new handsets are capable of wireless charging, but the OnePlus 9 and Galaxy S21 are only capable of charging at 15W wireless charging speeds. This isn’t all that surprising, other than the inclusion of wireless charging on the entry-level OnePlus flagship.

Which is for you?

Without considering the higher 12GB/256GB option, the easy pick here is the OnePlus 9. The phone features a larger display, along with the same internals and an improved camera system that uses last year’s 48MP sensor that was found on the OnePlus 8 Pro. Outside of sales and other deals, the OnePlus 9 is also $70 less expensive than Samsung’s offering. Plus, you’ll get a charger in the box and your OnePlus 9 will be able to charge at speeds up to 65W.

OnePlus 9 Samsung Galaxy S21
Price $729/$829 $799
Screen size 6.55-inches 6.2-inches
Resolution 2400 x 1080 2400×1080
Density 402 ppi 421 ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 8/12 GB 8GB
Storage 128/256 GB 128/256 GB
Battery 4500 mAh 4000 mAh
OS Android 11 Android 11
Rear camera Triple cameras:
48MP, EIS, f/1.8, 1.12 μm (main)
50MP, f/2.2, freeform lens (ultra-wide)
2MP (monochrome)
Triple cameras:
12MP Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8, 1.8µm (main),
12MP FF, FOV 120° F2.2, 1.4µm (ultrawide),
64MP Phase Detection AF, Hybrid Optic 3X, OIS F2.0, 0.8µm (telephoto)
Front camera 16MP, Fixed focus, f/2.4, 1.0 μm 10MP Dual Pixel AF, FOV 80°, F2.2, 1.22µm
Bluetooth v5.2 v5.1
NFC Yes Yes
Dimensions 160 x 74.2 x 8.7mm 71.2 x 151.7 x 7.9mm
Weight 192g 171g
Water Resistance N/A IP68
Wireless Charging Yes Yes
Special features 65W fast charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, in-display fingerprint sensor, WiFi 6, sub-6 and mid-band 5G, in-display fingerprint sensor, 25W fast charging, 15W wireless charging, 120Hz dynamic refresh display, mmWave & Sub6 5G, Wi-fi 6E, ultrasonic fingerprint sensor

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