OnePlus Nord 2, OnePlus 9R or OnePlus 9? The One(Plus) for you

Which OnePlus phone should you buy?

A few years ago, choosing a OnePlus was a relatively easy affair. You just had a couple of models to choose from – the latest, and its predecessor. That has changed in recent times with the number of OnePlus models increasing significantly. So much so that today anyone looking for a OnePlus device will have five to choose from – the Nord CE, the Nord 2, the 9R, the 9, and the 9 Pro.

Now, for those wanting a OnePlus on an absolutely tight budget or with no budget restrictions whatsoever, the choice is super easy – if money is right, go for the OnePlus Nord CE and if the bucks are plentiful, opt for the OnePlus 9 Pro (pictured above). However, if you have more money to invest than in the Nord CE, but cannot go all the way to the 9 Pro, then things get interesting.

Yes, there is a price gulf between the three phones – the Nord 2 starts at Rs 27,999, the OnePlus 9R at Rs 39,999, and the OnePlus 9 at Rs 49,999. But thanks to the high performance levels of all three phones, there are many seeking a flagship OnePlus at an affordable price, who get confused between the devices.

So if you want a OnePlus that works at flagship levels, which one of the three should you go for? Allow me to try and sort it out for you.

Design and appearance


If you are looking for a OnePlus with the looks, then I think the battle would be between the OnePlus 9 and the Nord 2, although all three phones look broadly similar (tall displays, curved carbonate sides, glass backs). The Nord 2’s back broadly mimics the OnePlus 9 Pro and it is the most compact of the three devices, but the OnePlus 9 has a clean minimalistic look that might appeal to many and is also the lightest of the three (183g to the 189 of the Nord 2 and the OnePlus 9) and at 8.1mm, it is also the slimmest. If you love a quiet classy phone, I would go with the OnePlus 9 in Astra Black. Want a phone that stands out? The Nord 2 in Green Wood. I am giving this one to the Nord 2, by a very subjective whisker.

Ranking:
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus 9
OnePlus 9R

Hardware: Displays


It is fluid AMOLED full HD+ displays all the way here. The OnePlus 9 has a 6.55-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, ditto the OnePlus 9R, while the Nord 2 slips a little behind with a 6.43-inch one with a 90Hz refresh rate. Ironically, however, it is the display of the Nord 2 that might appeal to some as it seems the most colourful of the three, giving it a very “conventional” AMOLED look. Which is why in spite of the slightly lower refresh rate, I am placing it ahead of the slightly dull-looking 9R – the OnePlus 9 however scores in terms of brightness.

Ranking:
OnePlus 9
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus 9R

Hardware: Processors and RAM


All three phones have similar 8GB / 128GB and 12GB / 256GB RAM and storage options (the Nord also has a rarely seen 6GB / 128GB one), so this is a battle between three processors here – two from Qualcomm and one from MediaTek. And there is a very clear winner – the OnePlus 9 gets the top rank here with its Snapdragon 888 chip, which is the flagship favourite right now (and the same chip seen on the OnePlus 9 Pro as well). The second place battle is, however, fascinating with the Dimensity 1200 AI on the Nord 2 running the Snapdragon 870 on the OnePlus 9R very very close indeed. OnePlus also claims that as the Dimensity 1200 AI has been developed by it in collaboration with MediaTek, the chip has been optimised to work with the Nord 2, and works very differently from other Dimensity 1200 processor devices. I expect this to become more evident in the coming days, and for this, will tie the Nord 2 and 9R for the second spot.

Ranking:
OnePlus 9
OnePlus 9R and OnePlus Nord 2

Cameras: Rear


On paper, this is a surprising one. For most folks, the Nord 2 (thanks to some very persistent marketing) is seen as the winner here with a 50-megapixel Sony IMX 766 main sensor with OIS, as compared to the 48-megapixel Sony IMX 586 (again!) with OIS on the OnePlus 9R and the 48-megapixel Sony IMX 689 (minus OIS) on the OnePlus 9. However, it is actually the OnePlus 9 which wins this round, although the Nord 2 runs it close in low light. The reason for the OnePlus 9’s win is the fact that the main sensor on the Nord 2 is actually its own secondary sensor (although with no OIS). The result is that the OnePlus 9 simply takes the best blend of normal and ultrawide shots. The 9R actually also outshines the Nord 2 in the ultrawide department with its 16-megapixel ultrawide sensor as compared to the 8-megapixel ultrawide on the Nord 2. The 9R also is the only one of the three that comes with a dedicated macro lens (5-megapixels), and it actually turns in reasonable results. All three phones have 2-megapixel monochrome sensors, which frankly have limited use, I think.

In terms of low-light performance in stills and videos, the OIS on both the Nord 2 and 9R at times seem to outgun the OnePlus 9. Some might also like the more colorful snaps of the Nord 2, but in terms of sheer consistency and detail, the OnePlus 9 wins time and again. It is also the only OnePlus of the three to come with a Hasselblad tie-up. The difference will not jump out at you right away, but the 9R has a clear edge here. I would place the 9R second because of the greater variety of its cameras (it is the only one of the three to have quad cameras, and three of them are useful – the other two have only two really useful cameras).

Rating:
OnePlus 9
OnePlus 9R
OnePlus Nord 2

Cameras: Front

The Nord 2 pulls off an upset here, scoring a win with its rather good 32-megapixel selfie snapper over the ones of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9R, both of which come with the staple 16-megapixel camera that is seen on so many OnePlus phones. It is not just about megapixels – the Nord 2 seemed to deliver better detail and slightly brighter colours, which some would like. The 9R and 9 tie for second spot.

Ranking:
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9R

Software: No shortage of Oxygen


This is the easiest parameter of all to decide. All three phones run on OnePlus’ Oxygen OS. The flavour on the Nord 2 is tinged a little with Color OS, but that is expected to move to other devices too, thanks to the greater integration between OnePlus and OPPO. It is a clean minimalistic UI and thankfully, the closeness between OPPO and OnePlus has not changed that.

Ranking: All three are the same

Gaming and multimedia


A huge department and it is here that the OnePlus 9 really pulls ahead of the 9R and the Nord 2. The difference will not be obvious in casual and routine gaming with all three devices having good displays and stereo speakers, but start moving up the settings stakes and the OnePlus 9 gets into the lead. It is the only one of the three that can handle the likes of Asphalt and Call of Duty with settings maxed out without breaking into a sweat. Its display just seems a clear notch above the others as do its speakers. Interestingly, the 9R and Nord 2 run each other very close here – it is not easy to tell the difference, with each seeming better in different circumstances. Some might prefer the slightly bigger display of the 9R which is why I am giving it a slight edge over the Nord 2, but all said and done, the difference is marginal.

Rating:
OnePlus 9
OnePlus 9R
OnePlus Nord 2

General performance


Get into the general performance zone, and things get interesting. There is no doubting that the OnePlus 9 seems marginally more zippy than the others and its display and speakers seem superior. But then comes the Nord 2’s smaller form factor which makes it easier to handle. The 9R is the one that gets sidelined here. Call quality and general functionality is broadly similar here, but I am giving this one to the Nord 2 again. The form factor helps.

Ranking:
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus 9
OnePlus 9R

Price

OnePlus 9R

In terms of price, as I stated earlier, there is a wide gulf between the three devices. The OnePlus Nord 2 starts at Rs 27,999 for 6GB / 128GB, a 8GB / 128GB variant for Rs 29,999 and a 12GB / 256GB variant for Rs 34,999. The OnePlus 9R starts at Rs 39,999 for 8GB / 128GB and has a 12GB / 256GB variant for Rs 43,999. The OnePlus 9 has a 8GB / 128GB variant for Rs 49,999 and a 12GB / 256GB variant for Rs 54,999. The Nord 2 wins in terms of sheer affordability, but I would actually give this round to the 9R as it delivers a very good performance and specs at a price that is not all the way as expensive as the OnePlus 9. Unless one is really constrained, the OnePlus 9R at Rs 39,999 gets you a lot.

Ranking:
OnePlus 9R
OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus 9

Final judgement: Plus which One(Plus)?


Their prices might vary, but for the general user who is not crazy about benchmarks or really pushing their devices, there is actually not that much separating the three phones. Yes, there is no doubt that the OnePlus 9 is the boss of the pack, with the best cameras, hardware, and overall performance, but in sheer performance, the other two do not trail by much, unless you are a compulsive pixel peeper or frame rate counter. So yes, while the OnePlus 9 is the best overall choice, I would say that if you want to keep your expenditure to a minimum, the Nord 2 would more than suffice, with its compact design and excellent cameras. And the 9R comes very handily in the middle for those willing to spend a little more than the Nord 2 but not wanting to go all the way for the OnePlus 9.


The big issues that might confront some would be whether to go for a top-end OnePlus Nord 2 or a base OnePlus 9R. My advice, in that case, would be to go for the latter, as its rear cameras simply let you do more, although the difference in other regards is not a massive one. Choosing between the high-end OnePlus 9R and OnePlus 9 is easier – the 9’s cameras and processor win it the battle.

It literally is “pay for what you get.” OnePlus seems to have got its pricing very much on point here.