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OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: expectations


This comparison is based on leaks and rumors about the OnePlus 9. When the phone is released, we will update this article with the official information.

Rumors and leaks about the OnePlus 9 have been ever-present recently, building up the hype for the upcoming flagship release by OnePlus. While the OnePlus 9 Pro is set to aim high against the Ultras and the Pro Maxes out there, the vanilla OnePlus 9 is shaping to be a smaller device, but nonetheless ‒ a flagship model. On the other hand, we have the Galaxy S21 ‒ the smallest of Samsung’s S flagships this year, but still capable and mighty-fast, that is a direct OnePlus 9 competitor. 

Here, we will compare these two phones in several key categories: design, display, performance, cameras, and battery life. If you’re looking into upgrading this year to either the OnePlus 9 or the Galaxy S21, let’s explore whether or not it’s worth waiting for the OnePlus 9’s possible release sometime in March.

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: design and colors

Samsung went in a very interesting design direction with the launch of the Galaxy S21 series, which has that unique approach to the camera bump on the back, and on top of that, the S21 came in four fresh and interesting colors: Phantom Violet, Phantom Pink, Phantom White, and Phantom Grey. On the front of the phone, we see a beautiful 6.2-inch AMOLED display with a centered punch-hole for the selfie camera and razor-thin bezels.

On the other hand, according to rumors, OnePlus is not changing the design of the OnePlus 9 from the OnePlus 8T too much. Renders show the phone resembles the OnePlus 8T quite a lot, at least in the front, with its left-hand-side punch-hole camera and its flat screen. There are no leaks on the color options it will be available in, so for that, we will have to wait.

Here are some leaked images from the OnePlus 9:

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: display

  • 120Hz display refresh rate on both
  • 6.55-inch vs 6.2-inch display

The Galaxy S21 rocks an FHD+ resolution, meaning 1080 x 2400, and the same resolution is rumored for the OnePlus 9, which has a slightly bigger display. The difference in both displays means that, at least in theory, the Galaxy should offer a crisper image with a higher pixel density than the OnePlus 9. However, we are talking here about a few pixels, so we doubt the difference will be that visible with the naked eye. Our final verdict on that will come once we have the OnePlus 9 to test and observe.

Rumors state the OnePlus 9 display will not differ as much from OnePlus 8T’s, so, for reference, check out the display benchmarks we did with the OnePlus 8T and the Galaxy S21.

Another key feature, present on flagship Android phones, is the 120Hz display refresh rate. The Galaxy S21 has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate that can go down to 48Hz, depending on the content you are visualizing. The OnePlus 9 is also rumored to sport a 120Hz display refresh rate, and it will most likely also be adaptive, but we haven’t heard much about that yet. We know the OnePlus 9 Pro will most likely feature LTPO technology, but the latest leak did not tell us anything about the OnePlus 9’s refresh rate, so we have to wait and see.

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: hardware and performance

The Galaxy S21, as expected, comes equipped with the industry’s greatest, Snapdragon 888 flagship processor (at least in the States), while in Europe it features Samsung’s own Exynos 2100 chip. The OnePlus 9 is also expected to come with the mighty Snapdragon 888, so in terms of performance, we don’t expect to see a big difference between the two phones.

When we were testing the S21 for our Galaxy S21 review, the phone did indeed offer flagship performance with snappy and responsive software and hardware. It did not struggle with any task thrown at it, and that extra-quick performance was emphasized by the 120Hz display refresh rate. We can reasonably expect the situation with the OnePlus 9 to be pretty much the same: a fast, responsive phone.

An aspect that’s important to note here is that OnePlus phones are known to remain fast even after years of usage, while other Android phones can get relatively slower, so that’s something worth mentioning when talking about the OnePlus 9 as well.

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: cameras

  • Triple cameras on both
  • 48MP main vs 12MP main
  • 48MP ultrawide vs 64MP zoom
  • OnePlus 9 third sensor is unknown at the moment

The camera department is, unfortunately, an aspect where OnePlus hasn’t been investing as much. For now, we expect the OnePlus 9 to come with a triple-camera system with a main sensor of 48MP and a 48MP ultra-wide camera, with a third sensor that could most likely be a macro camera or a color filter as the black-and-white filter seen on the OnePlus 8T. The OnePlus 8 has a 48MP main sensor, as does the rumored OnePlus 9, so here below we will show you some sample images from our OnePlus 8 review, so you can get a feel of what the OnePlus 9’s camera could offer.

The Galaxy S21 comes equipped with a triple camera system as well. It features a 12MP main sensor, a 64MP zoom camera, and a 12MP ultra-wide camera. The photo quality the phone produces is top-notch: the images have a fantastic dynamic range, true-to-life colors, and sharp details. Overall, photos from the Galaxy S21 turn out great, as you can see on the samples down below, taken from our Galaxy S21 review.

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: battery life

  • 4,500mAh vs 4,000mAh
  • wireless charging support on both
  • 65W wired vs 25W wired charging

Here, at least on paper, we see the OnePlus 9 earn a point. The OnePlus 9 will reportedly rock a 4,500mAh battery cell, while the Galaxy S21 comes with a 4,000mAh battery, definitely not small either. In our tests, the Galaxy offers a dependable battery life, but it did score less in our extensive battery tests than the OnePlus 8, which has a 4,300mAh battery. Based on that fact, we can expect the OnePlus 9 to shine in this category with an even bigger 4,500mAh battery.

Another strong point the OnePlus 9 may earn here is charging: rumors claim the phone will support 65W fast wired charging and on top of that, it might come with fast wireless charging as well. Currently, rumors don’t say exactly how fast the wireless charging on the OnePlus 9 will be, but we hear the Pro variant will surprise us with the 45W wireless charging. It’s quite possible the vanilla OnePlus 9 will not feature such speeds, but nevertheless, it may have some form of faster wireless charging support on board.

OnePlus 9 vs Samsung Galaxy S21: price and availability

  • No pricing on the OnePlus 9 revealed yet
  • Galaxy S21 starts at $799 base storage

We expect the OnePlus 9 to be announced soon, possibly in March. However, at this stage, it’s hard to know exactly what pricing strategy OnePlus will go for this year. Now, the company has the mid-range market covered with the OnePlus Nord, so it’s highly probable that the pricing on the OnePlus 9 can go even higher than the $699 the OnePlus 8 started at last year.


Although it’s still early to make any assumptions on how the OnePlus 9 will perform in real life, there are some aspects that can make you want to go for it: the fast charging and the bigger battery being one of its strongest features in comparison to the Galaxy. However, we don’t expect miracles in the camera department, while the Galaxy is a strong competitor there. Once the OnePlus 9 is released and we get to test it, we will know for sure how well it compares with the competition. Until then, stay tuned for more news on the OnePlus 9!

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