OnePlus is facing more competition than ever. In previous years, the company has offered phones with near-flagship specs for a few hundred dollars cheaper than the competition. Last year, however, Samsung launched the $700 Galaxy S20 FE — a device that borrowed the best things about the Galaxy S20, but came in at a much lower price. Considering that it now often costs just $600, and that the OnePlus 9 comes at $730, the OnePlus 9 has an uphill battle ahead of it in this war between value phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE may be aging a little, but Samsung still sells it — meaning you might be wondering which device you should buy. I’ve used and reviewed both phones. Here are my thoughts.
Design and display
The Galaxy S21 may have a radical and unique new design, but the Galaxy S20 FE sticks to many of the design elements that you would expect from a 2020 phone. It’s not the most exciting-looking device — and it’s definitely not ugly, but it feels like every flagship phone last year came with a rectangular camera bump at the top left and a hole-punch cutout on the display.
Of course, that look isn’t unique to Samsung, and in fact, the OnePlus 9 looks almost identical. Perhaps the main difference, at least at first glance, is the fact that the hole-punch cutout on the OnePlus 9 is in the center instead of the top-left of the screen. There is another difference, though — the OnePlus 9 has a ringer switch. It’s a small touch, but I really appreciate having that switch.
The build is a little different, too. The OnePlus 9 is built from glass, while the Galaxy S20 FE is made from Samsung’s so-called “glasstic.” Frankly, the OnePlus 9 still feels a little cheap to me, perhaps due o the fact that the device still has a plastic frame. And I actually don’t mind the plastic Samsung has been using on its phones.
The design isn’t all that different, and neither is the display. Both phones have a 1,080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and they both look great. They’re extremely responsive and smooth, and while the displays aren’t quite as crisp as some more expensive 1,440p screens, they’re still more than good enough. If I had to pick, I would choose a high refresh rate over a higher resolution every time, though I probably wouldn’t want a screen that’s lower in resolution than 1,080p.
While the design and display is more or less the same, the performance is a little different. Now, let’s get this out of the way right away — the Galaxy S20 FE performs great, and you’re not going to experience a major difference in how these phones perform right now.
Where you might notice a difference in performance is toward the end of these phones’ lifes pans.
The OnePlus 9, however, does technically perform better. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, coupled with either 8GB or 12GB of RAM. And with that high refresh rate display, it feels incredibly smooth and responsive. The Galaxy S20 FE has last year’s Snapdragon 865 processor with either 6GB or 8GB of
Now, where you might notice a difference in performance is toward the end of these phones’ life spans. The Galaxy S20 FE is likely to start slowing down a little earlier than the OnePlus 9, especially considering the heavier software.
While the performance does represent a small difference between these phones, the camera is the biggest difference.
The OnePlus 9 comes with a triple-camera system, with one 48-megapixel main camera, one 50-megapixel ultrawide camera, and one 2-megapixel monochrome camera. The Galaxy S20 FE, on the other hand, has a 12-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. The addition of a telephoto camera helps make it a little more versatile than the OnePlus device.
OnePlus has partnered with Hasselblad for the camera on the OnePlus 9, with the goal being that it will result in a better camera experience on OnePlus phones. And, it might do so — the OnePlus 9’s camera is quite a bit better than the OnePlus 8.
But Samsung has had years of experience in building some of the best phone cameras in the business, and it shows. Even on a phone as inexpensive as the Galaxy S20 FE, you’ll get relatively consistent, high-quality photos that are just a bit better than those taken with the OnePlus 9. They’re a bit more colorful, offer a little more detail, and are definitely more consistent.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is starting to get a little old, but it still offers excellent value for money. Assuming you can afford both of these phones, the device you go for will depend on your priorities. If you want a great camera, the Galaxy S20 FE is the way to go. If faster performance is the most important thing for you, then the OnePlus 9 is the phone to buy. You should also consider the Galaxy S21, which matches the OnePlus 9’s better performance and has a better camera.
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