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(Pocket-lint) - The line between Oppo and OnePlus may be blurring at the management level, and when it comes to launching smartphones in their homeland in China, but when it comes to delivering flagships in western markets, they still take different approaches to things. 

For the start of 2021, Oppo delivered the Find X3 Pro as its standout performer while OnePlus has launched the OnePlus 9 Pro. The two phones both offer top notch specs and performance, but with the prices driving higher this year, how do you choose between them? Should you spend more on the Oppo or is the 9 Pro good enough? 

Design

  • Oppo: 163.6 x 74 x 8.3mm - 193g
  • OnePlus: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm - 197g
  • Oppo: Gloss Black, Blue and White colours
  • OnePlus: Morning Mist (silver), Forest Green and Stellar Black colours
  • Both: Aluminium and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 construction - IP68 water/dust resistant

There was a time when Oppo and OnePlus flagships looked very similar to each other, but with the latest range, that's no longer true. Of course, from the front they both look almost identical, given they have the same sized, skinny-bezeled display and a hole-punch camera in the left corner. Turn them over however, and there's no way anyone's confusing these two. 

Oppo's latest premium phone is unlike anything else on the market. The glass curving up to the camera housing is all part of the same glass that makes up the rest of the phone's rear. That means you get an attractive, seamless look and feel. Plus that matte frosted glass on the blue model makes it feel super soft. 

OnePlus has taken a vastly different approach, placing its cameras in a rectangle protrusion which is attractive in its own right. Each lens is surrounded by a metal ring, making them stand out visually, while the camera housing is colour matched to whatever the colour of the phone is. 

Despite both being large phones, the Oppo is noticeably slimmer in the hand, and it feels more nimble and lightweight in the palm than the OnePlus does. Technically, there's not a lot of difference in measurements, but holding the two yields very different feels. 

Both have metal and glass construction and both are water and dust resistant up to IP68 rating, so which ever one you go for, it should survive being caught in the rain or dropped in a basin full of water. 

Display and software

  • Both: 120Hz LPTO AMOLED 6.7-inch display
  • Both: QuadHD (1440 x 3216) resolution
  • Both: 1300 nits peak brightness + HDR10+ compatible
  • Oppo: ColorOS 11 based on Android 11
  • OnePlus: Oxygen OS 11 based on Android 11

The one area these two phones really are identical is in the display used on the front. Both have exactly the same 6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED display capable of reaching refresh rates up to 120Hz and a peak brightness of 1300 nits. 

Maximum resolution for the both is set at QuadHD+ or, specifically, 1440 x 3216 pixels which gives it a density of 525 pixels per inch. That means they're among the brightest, sharpest and smoothest displays currently available on any phone. 

Both use an adaptive frame rate technology too, so that means if you're looking at a still or slow-moving page, they adapt to the frame rate needed for that page. In the process, that means less power is wasted refreshing the display and as a result, it uses less battery. 

Both feature Always On ambient displays too, although Oppo gives you more available style options to choose from. Plus, you get the ability to design and customise your very own. 

OnePlus used to be the customisation champion with Oxygen OS, but Oppo has pulled ahead in this department offering more wallpapers that take advantage of the fluid, smooth display and giving you more fingerprint animation options. 

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Both sets of software let you enable various display features like a comfort tone that adapts the white balance based on your current ambient lighting, plus the ability to schedule night modes and kill blue light. 

We experienced some quirks with Oppo's notification system during the review however, where the OnePlus didn't seem to suffer with as much inconsistency here. 

Hardware and performance

  • Both: Snapdragon 888 processor
  • Oppo: 8GB/256GB or 12GB/256GB RAM/storage
  • OnePlus: 8GB/128GB or 12GB/256GB RAM/storage
  • Both: 4500mAh battery (2x 2250mAh)
  • Oppo: 65W Super VOOC 2.0 wired and 30W Air VOOC wireless charging
  • OnePlus: 65W Warp Charge wired and 50W Warp Wireless charging

Like its displays there are some clear similarities when looking at the internals of the two phones. Namely: they both have the Snapdragon 888 processor inside keeping everything ticking over smoothly. 

They both even use the same speedy LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage, so that means that not only do your apps and games all run smoothly, but downloads and installations are quick too. Especially if you happen to live in a 5G area and can download over 5G. 

What's interesting here is that while batteries are the same size (4500mAh), we had slightly better battery life with the Oppo. No doubt, this is in part down to its pretty aggressive background task management. Still, sometimes we were able to get through two full days with the Find X3 Pro, where the OnePlus 9 Pro was a couple of hours short of making that mark. 

Despite that, both will easily get you through a full day even if you're someone who's on the move constantly, listening to music, making calls and catching a few Pokemon on your travels. 

With both being part of the same tech family, you often find similar charging technology in the companies' devices and it's no different here. Both use a proprietary flash charging system that can reach up to 65W speeds.

What's different here is the OnePlus' phone will retain those speeds for longer and can charge a battery from 1-100 per cent in under 30 minutes. The Find X3 Pro will take a few minutes longer to do the same, but in truth, both charge really quickly. 

It's in wireless charging where the OnePlus 9 Pro has the clear advantage. Its Warp Charge 50 Wireless can give you a full battery in 43 minutes using the bespoke wireless charging stand while Oppo's 30W charge will take noticeably longer (around an hour). 

Cameras

  • Oppo: quad camera system on the rear
    • 50MP f/1.8 wide camera with OIS
    • 50MP f/2.2 ultrawide
    • 13MP telephoto zoom (2x optical) + 3MP micro lens
  • OnePlus: quad camera system on the rear
    • 48MP f/1.8 wide camera with OIS
    • 50MP f/2.2 ultrawide 
    • 8MP telephoto zoom (3.3x optical) + 2MP monochrome
  • Oppo: 4K up to 60fps 
  • OnePlus: 8K up to 30fps, 4K up to 120fps

In our experience, it's in the camera department where you notice the biggest differences between the two phones. Both have high quality wide and ultrawide cameras, but Oppo opted to put the same 50-megapixel sensor on both, giving consistent results between them. Both give colour rich, detailed and warm shots. 

The OnePlus 9 Pro we found quite inconsistent at times, offering photos that looked cool and blue from the primary and warmer shots like the Oppo from its ultrawide. 

Both phones have a telephoto zoom lens and although the Oppo only goes up to 2x optical, we found it delivered higher quality results than the OnePlus' 3.3x optical zoom lens. It was sharper and delivered relatively decent images up to 5x where the OnePlus lost a lot of detail and went quite mushy at times even at its lowest zoom. 

Add to that the fact that the Oppo also delivered sharper, better looking images in its night mode vs. OnePlus Nightscape mode and it's clear that the Find X3 Pro is the much better camera experience overal. 

That's without mentioning the gimmicky Micro lens which lets you get really close into objects and see right into their contruction at an almost microscope-like level. It's fun to play with, but hard to get sharp in-focus shots from. 

Pricing and availability

  • Oppo: From £1099
  • OnePlus: From £829

It's no surprise to see OnePlus' latest premium model cheaper than the Oppo alternative, however, to see the company's phones getting so expensive in recent years must be difficult for some of its early fans. With prices starting at £829 in the UK, it's as expensive as some big-name flagship phones, but still comes in cheaper than phones that are similar in terms of specs and features. 

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Oppo's phone is a flagship device at a flagship price, and creeps over the £1000 barrier just as Samsung and Apple have done in recent years. It sees itself as a true flagship that doesn't need a discounted price to persuade people to see value in its offering. 

Conclusion

Ultimately there are likely only a couple of things that will sway you one way or the other on these two phones. A major factor will likely be the price. Oppo's top tier phone is more expensive than OnePlus', and looking at the spec sheet there may not be enough difference between them to warrant that extra money. 

With that said, given the more consistent and excellent performance of the cameras on the Oppo, and the more refined design - particularly on the matte blue model - we think that's extra money worth spending if you're happy to pony up the extra cash. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 26 March 2021.