OnePlus 9 vs. Google Pixel 5 Smartphone Review

We compare these two budget 5G smartphones to pick the right one for you.

Play Video
Tshaka Armstrong
YouTube Host, Mobile
Read More
July 14, 2021
5 min read

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our disclosure policies to learn more.

Today, we're going to have an affordable smartphone battle. We're going to take a look at the OnePlus 9 and compare it to the Google Pixel 5. Both are mid-level 5G phones coming in around the same price point.

There are many smartphones to choose from these days, and I think these two are among the top.

We're going to look at the cameras, the cost, the software feature sets, and help you make a proper purchasing decision. Let's go!

Pricing and plans

Let's look at the cost. You're going to pay $729 for the OnePlus 9, which is still quite new. I'm sure the price will drop at some point, but right now that's what you're going to pay, versus $699 for the Google Pixel 5. So, you'll pay about $30 more for the OnePlus 9.

Here are some popular cell phone plans for the OnePlus 9 and Google Pixel 5 5G smartphones.

Popular plans for the OnePlus 9 5G smartphone

Popular plans for the Google Pixel 5 5G smartphone


Both the OnePlus 9 and Google Pixel 5 have great operating systems. Obviously, Google are the developers of Android, but OnePlus has my favorite OS with Oxygen 11, and it is really great.

One of the things I really like about the OnePlus 9 over the Pixel 5 is the alert slider. I'm always talking about the alert slider with the OnePlus series of phones—I love the alert slider. It's one of those things built into OnePlus's operating system that, for me, beat the stock Android. (BTW, here's my full guide on how to get the most out of your OnePlus 9 series smartphone.)

One con for both phones is that neither offers expandable storage.

System update frequency

Google wins here. In terms of keeping your phones up to date, OnePlus has committed to two years of operating system updates this launch with Android 11. So, you're going to get two years of OS updates there.

But Google has promised three years of updates with theirs, also launching with Android 11.

So, you're going to get one more year on the Pixel 5 with your updates.

Adaptability and accessibility

If you're about adaptability, if you're about accessibility. Google is going to win in that regard because they have the live caption with phone calling. And because Google creates the operating system, too, nothing's broken and all the accessibility features work.

But with OnePlus (and pretty much every other manufacturer), when they put their OS overlay on it, accessibility features do break. Some of the features no longer work in terms of accessibility—specifically in this case, the live captioning with phone calls.

Dust-, shock-, and waterproof design

Both cell phones have IP68-level protection to guard your smartphone's software against water, dust, and shocks.

While the OnePlus 9 doesn't officially have IP68 waterproofing, dust-proofing, or shock-proofing, T-Mobile's version does have official an official IP68 rating. And since they're all built the same, we can assume that all the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro smartphones are IP68.

Battery life

The OnePlus 9 actually comes out a little better than the Google Pixel 5 smartphone in terms of overall battery life.

You're going to get a 4500 mAh battery with the OnePlus 9 versus a 4080 mAh battery with the Pixel 5. The OnePlus 9 gives you 65-watt charging over wire and 15-watt wireless charging. The Pixel 5 is going to give you 18-watt wired charging, 12-watt wireless charging, and 5-watt reverse charging.

Looking for a great deal on the best smartphones on the market?
We've got the top-drawer monthly cell phone deals on lock. We look at deals for new contracts, trade-ins, upgrades, and more. Here's our our roundup of the best cell phone deals.


The OnePlus 9 beats out the Google Pixel 5 in a couple display categories: resolution, brightness, and fingerprint sensor location.


With the OnePlus 9, you get a 6.55-inch AMOLED display, running at 120 Hz, with 2400x1080 resolution and 402 pixels per inch. The Google Pixel 5 runs at 90 Hz and delivers only 2340x1080 resolution at 432 pixels per inch. Bottom line, the OnePlus 9 has the higher resolution and refresh rate, and it is a beautiful display.


The OnePlus is also significantly brighter than the Pixel 5. The OnePlus 9 comes in at 1100 nits worth of brightness, whereas the Pixel 6 tops out around 610 nits. And it definitely shows over the Pixel 5 when looking at dark and moody TV shows like The Witcher.

Fingerprint sensor

It's also worth noting that the OnePlus 9 has an in-display fingerprint sensor, whereas the Pixel 5 has the fingerprint sensor on the rear.

Audio and video playback quality

Both the Google Pixel 5 and OnePlus 9 offer dual-stereo speakers with comparable output. But the OnePlus 9 provides significantly better video-capture quality.


Both have dual-stereo speakers, and when I used a decibel meter to compare the OnePlus 9 versus the Pixel 5, the Pixel 5 actually was about a hair of fraction louder than the OnePlus 9.

When I was watching The Witcher, the average decibels for the OnePlus 9 were 72 with a max of 82, while the Pixel was 73 with a max of 83.

Video quality: 8K vs. 4K

With the OnePlus 9, you're getting 8K video, but you get only 4K video with the Pixel 5.


Let's get to the photos and see how the cameras stack up. When I test cameras, I try to use photos that show how well they handle reds and handle some of the deeper colors, and I look for other factors like sharpness. The best way to see what I'm talking about is to check out the video at the top of the page.

Color saturation

In my comparison, clearly we have a deeper color saturation with the Pixel 5. The OnePlus 9 has a more natural take and more natural capture that isn't so color saturated as the Pixel 5. So this is really going to come down to preference in terms of which picture you like color-wise—highly saturated or more life-like.


One thing of note here is the Pixel 5 is a little sharper when it comes to things like the wording on signs. Based on the photo comparisons (which you can watch in the video above), you're definitely going to see a little bit more sharpness overall with the Pixel.

But here's the thing in terms of the actual, the real sharpness these cameras are picking up. When we push in and look at images more closely—which is always a great determinant of how sharp these cameras are, how crisp their photos are—you notice that the edges around both Pixel and OnePlus images are actually really sharp and really clear. So both cameras actually capture a pretty sharp image.

And the OnePlus 9 actually does a really solid job of giving you that nice background blur as does the Pixel 5, though I'd say the background is sharper with the Pixel 5 than it is with the OnePlus 9.

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

Related Articles

A man sits with a young boy on his lap while using a laptop
Best DSL Internet Service Providers 2023
DSL internet now competes with cable speeds. But is it right for you? We help...
nice homes in neighborhood
Best Home Security Systems of 2023
Whether you want a simple alarm system or a full smart home ensemble, cameras and...
Two children on living room floor watching TV
Sling TV Review 2023
Find out if Sling TV is your streaming service as we get into the details...
Outdoor camera on the side of a house
Best Outdoor Security Cameras of 2023
There are hundreds of outdoor security cameras on the market, but how do you know...