Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Samsung 980 SSD

Two-minute review

The Samsung 980 SSD is effectively an acknowledgement that we’re in a transitional period where not everyone has or needs a PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD. The Samsung 980 Pro covered the high end of the M.2 SSD market, and now Samsung’s 980 SSD offers something a little more price-friendly by ditching the DRAM and the PCIe 4.0 capabilities. 

TEST SYSTEM SPECS

This is the system we used to test the Samsung 980
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
CPU Cooler: AMD Wraith Spire
RAM: 32GB T-Force Vulcan Z CL18 @3,600MHz
Motherboard: MSI B550 Pro VDH Wi-Fi
Graphics card: Gigabyte RTX 3070 Vision OC
OS SSD: Samsung 980 Pro @ 500GB
Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 750W
Case: ThermalTake Core V21

$129 (£119, AU$201) for a 1TB SSD is a decent bargain for any SSD, let alone a PCIe SSD and even more surprising to see it coming from Samsung. Samsung also offers a 500GB model for $69 (£64, AU$108) and a 250GB model for $49 (£46, AU$77), but their value proposition drops considerably as the capacity goes down, especially since the performance of the smaller models also drops. 

Samsung’s pricing puts it in pretty close running with the cheaper Corsair MP400 SSD as well as the slightly pricier SK Hynix Gold P31, which has held steady at $134 (about £100, AU$175) for some time now. Though Samsung has shown itself to be the best in the business with many of its SSDs, the Samsung 980 falls into a weird space, and it simply feels like Samsung put its efforts elsewhere. As we’ll see, the Samsung 980 does a fine job, but it fails to stand out in a field that’s growing ever faster and plenty crowded. Both the Corsair MP400 and SK Hynix Gold P31 give Samsung a hard time finding space for itself. 

Samsung 980 SSD

(Image credit: Future)
BENCHMARKS

Here’s how the Samsung 980 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
CrystalDiskMark Sequential: 3,569.82MB/s (read); 2,846.2MB/s (write)
CrystalDiskMark Random Q32: 2,055.83MB/s (read); 1,898.29MB/s (write)
10GB file transfer: 4.71 seconds
10GB folder transfer: 5.19 seconds
PCMark10 SSD: 2,526 points

We tested the 1TB model, and though it performs near the front of the pack for PCIe 3.0 SSDs in spite of its lack of DRAM, it doesn’t lead the way. Though its sequential read speed of 3,569MB/s is impressive, it falls short of the 3,602MB/s of the SK Hynix Gold P31. The gap widens even more when it comes to random writes, where Samsung only hits 2,846MB/s, dropping nearly 600MB/s short of SK Hynix’s offerings. Random read and write speeds, the bread and butter of SSDs, go even further in SK Hynix’s favor with a nearly 400MB/s lead in reads and almost 800MB/s gap in writes. Samsung trades blows with the Corsair MP400, but that drive has an edge in capacity, as Corsair offers 2TB, 4TB, and even 8TB options.

Samsung 980 SSD

(Image credit: Future)

It is impressive that Samsung’s drive is standing its ground as well as it is without DRAM. The drive does use Host Memory Buffer, which may help partially explain how it’s still keeping up so well. While DRAM may have helped it go even faster and maybe keep up with SK Hynix, the omissions undoubtedly helps keep the price down

Though Samsung offers a commendable five-year warranty and 600 TBW endurance for the 1TB model, even that is topped by SK Hynix’s equivalent warranty and 750 TBW endurance. And so far, this has all been the competition the Samsung 980 faces just within the PCIe 3.0-spec. Silicon Power’s US70 and PNY’s XLR8 SSDs are both offering PCIe 4.0 speeds at prices closer to their PCIe 3.0 counterparts.

So, while the Samsung 980 Pro may be a champion in the market, the Samsung 980 simply lives in the shadow of its sibling and borrows from its clout.

Samsung 980 SSD

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

You trust Samsung
The Samsung 980 isn’t leading the pack, but Samsung has a proven track record in the SSD market and that may count for something. Though not the best in its weight class, this drive is no slouch and has ample warranty to back it up.

You want a good value
Though you’ll be paying a small premium over some of the competitors, you’re actually getting a pretty good price for 1TB of storage, especially considering there are some SATA SSDs that cost almost as much but fall way behind in terms of speed.

You’re going for black
Where budget SSDs might opt for plain designed and green PCBs, the Samsung 980 keeps it stealthy with an all-black design that can stay discreet on your motherboard, letting the rest of your components shine.

Don’t buy it if…

You’re filling a PCIe 4.0 slot
For just a few dollars more, you can go from the Samsung 980 and its PCIe 3.0 speeds to the PNY XLR8 and its PCIe 4.0 speeds, which can deliver sequential read speeds up to 5,600MB/s. 

You want to go big on storage
So far, the Samsung 980 is only coming in smaller capacities, topping out at 1TB. For similar performance but more storage, you can grab the Corsair MP400, which comes at capacities up to 8TB.

You want the most for your money
This time around, SK Hynix simply beat Samsung. For $5 more, the SK Hynix P31 leads the way across our benchmarks and even brings 25% more endurance to the table. That’s an extra $5 well spent, if you can look past the green PCB.

Corsair K55 Pro XT keyboard

Two-minute review

The Corsair K55 Pro XT should be at the top of the list for budget-conscious folks who need a full sized gaming keyboard with a light focus on streaming. A $20 upgrade from the $49.99 priced K55 Pro, the higher tiered $69.99 (£74.99, $99) variant features a handful of upgrades, including individually lit RGB keys and more than 10 static lighting colors. This is on top of an already impressive membrane switch keyboard offering IP42-rated resistance, media controls, six dedicated macro keys, Elgato Stream Deck software compatibility and detectable soft palm rest. 

If you are solely looking to upgrade from the K55 Pro and don’t mind adding an extra dub to your budget, the XT tier makes sense. There aren’t many quality, brand name full-sized keyboards catering to streamers at that price. Be mindful, those who don’t need the extra macros or stream focused capabilities may want to look elsewhere. 

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Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)
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Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)

The Corsair K55 Pro XT doesn't appear much different than the cheaper variant on a surface level. Both feature a matte-black finish that feels better than plastic. It definitely feels good to hold and strong enough for all sorts of everyday bumps. Elevation level can be raised to a comfortable position due to latches underneath the keyboard. 

Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)

The soft palm rest also helps in providing wrist support for long typing and gaming sessions. When it comes to its RGB lighting, the individually lit keys look great in light or dark room scenarios. Include the added four plus static lighting colors and the Pro XT does an adequate job of personalizing the cosmetic experience.

Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)

From general typing and gaming to streaming, the K55 Pro XT makes the best of its membrane switch keyboard. At its $20 higher price point, it may be better to get one with mechanical switches, though. Regardless, keystrokes fall in line with what competitors like Razer and Logitech offer around this price range. Media keys work well alongside the RGB brightness and Windows lock buttons. 

The 12-key selective roll-over with anti-ghosting and 1,000 Hz report rate means response times are good during usage. The Corsair K55 Pro XT feels great, whether using word processors, browsing the web or gaming went off.  Plus, the extra macro-keys definitely help when playing competitive games like Call of Duty, League of Legends, World of Warcraft and others. 

Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)

Of course, various macros, keystroke augmentations and RGB lighting can be customized through Corsair’s iCue app. It’s easy to customize the keyboard through the software. Considering the Elgato Stream Deck software compatibility, those macros are put to better use there. That means that aspiring streamers don’t have to buy that expensive Stream Deck to add effects or other streaming specific actions. 

Fans of Corsair’s lower priced K55 looking for a small incremental upgrade may appreciate the Corsair K55 Pro XT. Those looking to host game streaming sessions will most definitely find the Elgato Stream Deck software compatibility and the six additional macro buttons to be extremely useful. The $70 price tag is hard to recommend compared to the cheaper K55 Pro that offers the exact same functionality sans improved RGB. 

Corsair K55 Pro XT

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You need an keyboard that’s offers gaming, streaming and fully featured RGB customization
The K55 Pro XT delivers great gaming performance, features Stream Deck compatibility and offers full iCue customizability for its individually lit RGB keys.

You want more dedicated macros
The six dedicated macro keys don’t have to be used for streaming and can be utilized however users want. 

Don’t buy it if... 

You find $70 too much
$70 sounds a bit expensive considering for $20 less you can enjoy all the same functionality minus better RGB.

You don’t want membrane switches  
Individuals looking for more professional-grade mechanical switches may want to look elsewhere. 

You don’t really need the extra macro buttons
Those six dedicated macro buttons are definitely a huge plus for those looking to actually use them on the regular.

Razer Kaira and Kaira Pro for Xbox

One-minute review

Razer might be known as one of the premier PC peripheral manufacturers, but the company’s not afraid to dabble in console accessories, too. Just take a look at the new Razer Kaira and Razer Kaira Pro Gaming Headsets for Xbox. With built-in Xbox Wireless support, the headsets work natively with the whole suite of Xbox consoles – from Xbox One to the new Xbox Series X – adding one more headset to gamers’ arsenals.

Despite what their names might suggest, the only difference between the Razer Kaira Pro and the regular Kaira is that the former supports Bluetooth 5.0 while the latter does not. That means the Kaira Pro can connect to PC, Macs and mobile phones over Bluetooth, but both require a separate dongle to connect to the Razer Headset Setup for Xbox app on PC for full customization options.

Thankfully, the headsets have an exceptional detachable microphone that sounds great and the side RGB lighting definitely has a strong visual appeal. Plus, thanks to their foam earpads, they’re also pretty comfortable as well.

Otherwise, however, there’s nothing really special about them: their 50mm drivers sound fine, but not amazing; the construction is lightweight but also mostly plastic. Those aren’t exactly deal-breakers – and even help to make the Razer Kaira a decent alternative to rival headsets from Turtle Beach – but they prevent the Kaira and Kaira Pro from winning top accolades and a spot on our list of the best Xbox Series X headsets.

Price and release date 

Razer released both the Kaira and Kaira Pro in November 2020, right around the same time as the launch of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. 

In terms of price, you’re looking at $99 (£99, AU$169) for the Razer Kaira that only supports the Xbox Wireless connection and $149 (£149, AU$259) for the Razer Kaira Pro that supports both the Xbox Wireless connection and Bluetooth. 

While that’s a great price for a wireless headset, it puts the Razer Kaira squarely up against the new Xbox Wireless Headset from Microsoft, which we absolutely loved for its stellar audio reproduction capabilities. The Razer Kaira Pro feels a decent value as well, but we feel that other headsets like the Steelseries Arctis 9X offers more for just a little more money.

Razer Kaira and Razer Kaira Pro for Xbox

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The Razer Kaira is pretty sleek… for a gaming headset. With a black and green color scheme and RGB lighting on the sides of the earcups, it’s definitely got that gamer aesthetic – so much so that you wouldn’t want to wear it anywhere else outside of your house – but it’s not an awful look by any stretch of the imagination.

In terms of construction, the Razer Kaira is mostly plastic with the exception of a thin metal band that runs through the bridge of the headset. What that means is that the bridge is fairly sturdy, but the joints themselves are plastic and are more likely to be prone to snapping. That’s not exactly what you want to hear when you’re buying a $149 headset, but that’s what Razer went with here.

The good news is that, because it’s mostly plastic, it’s a fairly light headset at only 293g for the regular Kaira and 330g for the Razer Kaira Pro. That lightweight design, alongside the memory foam padding and cloth earpad coverings, really makes the headsets soft and comfortable to wear for an extended period of time.

Speaking of the earcups, each one comes with its own set of controls. On the left you’ve got a mic mute switch, volume wheel and power button; on the right you’ve got the Xbox pairing button, chat/game volume balancer and the Bluetooth pairing button (exclusive to Kaira Pro).

The only port on the headset is for a USB-C charging cable that you can also use to connect the headset to your PC for firmware updates – but that’s it. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack on either headset, which means you can’t run them wired.

Last but not least, there’s the detachable, ambient noise-reducing microphone that makes you sound great. To detach, all you need to do is pull on it, and then you can reattach at any time by simply plugging it back in.

Razer Kaira and Razer Kaira Pro for Xbox

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

In terms of tonal balance and overall audio quality, the Razer Kaira and Kaira Pro lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. To wit, the headset doesn’t focus much on treble or bass and instead homes in on the mids to make dialogue come through crystal clear. The result is a headset that sounds fine, but not dynamic, spacious or full of detail.

We played a few different games with the Kaira Pro including Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Xbox Game Pass and competitive shooter staple, Overwatch. In both cases we were able to hear some nice details in the ambient sounds and a few positional audio cues, but everything lacked a level of precision we’ve heard on other headsets.

For music and movies, the Kaira and Kaira Pro are good but not great. You’ll notice that focus on the midrange that you’ll hear when paired with consoles and even a little bit of bass response, but it’s lacking details you’d hear with a pair of proper over-ear headphones.

The good news is that, while their audio reproduction skills aren’t great, they do make you sound great to others thanks to Razer’s HyperClear Cardioid microphone. The mic does an exceptional job picking up your voice and radically reduces the amount of ambient noise that comes through on the other end. To put it to the test we called someone with music playing in the background. The person on the other end, surprisingly said they couldn’t hear anything besides our voice coming through the mic.

While the microphone was a particular highlight, the Kaira’s battery life is just so-so. Razer says the Kaira can get up to 20 hours of playback if you turn off the RGB lighting – something you’ll need the Razer Headset Setup for Xbox app to do – you’ll most likely get around 15 hours or less. Worse, because there’s no real battery indicator over Bluetooth, you can’t see how much battery the headset is down to until you start hearing low-battery warning beeps.  

Speaking of beeps, if you connect the headset to both your console and a Bluetooth device, it’s possible that you’ll hear them beep incessantly. Despite being charged and connected over Bluetooth, the Razer Kaira Pro would give us a warning beep every minute or so to tell us that something wasn’t right when paired to both devices. As it turns out, because our Xbox was in the living room and the PC was in the office, the headset beeps to let you know that you’re nearly out of range – which, apparently, is only about 20 feet or so. 

This is a common problem with other Razer devices, according to the Razer Forums, and has even been noted in other reviews. Of course, not everyone is going to be affected by this problem – as long as you keep whatever Bluetooth device you have connected close to the Xbox and the headset you should be fine – but it’s an annoying caveat. 

Should you buy the Razer Kaira and Razer Kaira Pro? 

Razer Kaira and Razer Kaira Pro for Xbox

(Image credit: Future)

Buy them if… 

You need a comfortable headset for Xbox Series X
The two biggest things the Kaira has going for it is that it’s comfortable and custom-built for the Xbox. It’s easy to sync with Xbox Series X and, thanks to its cloth earpads, comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

You need a headset with a great microphone
Razer has done an exceptional job with the detachable microphone. Call quality is clear and background noise is practically inaudible. It’s one of the best mics on any headset at this price point. 

Don’t buy them if… 

You’re looking for surround sound or precise location cues
They’re great for talking to friends, taking a meeting or even using them for phone calls, but as a way to listen to music or movies they leave a lot to be desired. They’re also limited to stereo sound and don’t do any version of simulated surround sound. 

You want a wired headset or to connect to another system
The Razer Kaira and Kaira Pro are premium Xbox headsets, sure, but getting them to work on other systems like your PC or, heaven forbid, your Nintendo Switch, is next to impossible. That could’ve been fixed with a simple 3.5mm audio jack, but no such luck here.

LG Signature Series OLED TV R (65R9 rollable television)

A rollable OLED may be a hard thing to wrap your head around. At one time, seeing a TV appear out of thin air would’ve been something straight out of a magic act. But LG’s new rollable TV, the Signature Series OLED TV R isn’t magic – it’s engineering and display technology risen to the nth degree. 

And while it certainly has a magical, sci-fi quality about it – how many TVs have you seen collapse in on themselves without being destroyed? – it’s now more fact than it is fiction.

LG's rollable OLED is now on sale in its first territory, South Korea, with pre-orders opening in the UK, and a wider global release expected to follow suit. With a firm pricing, too, we have a better sense of what we might be paying in the US or elsewhere, even if we're yet to hear conclusively from LG on the matter.

This innovative OLED TV was first shown off at CES 2018, with LG proceeding to flaunt the sleek rising and falling screen at tech expos around the globe. However, an initial 2019 release window came and went, seemingly because of production issues, and we got through almost the whole of 2020 before LG was confident enough to release the set to the public.

We've had plenty other OLED sets to contend with in that time too, including the 2020 LG TV range and the LG CX OLED and LG Gallery Series OLED that came with it.

But, as ever, we find ourselves mesmerized by the South Korean electronics maker’s latest innovation. Here's everything we thought in our hands on review of the rollable OLED TV R, when we saw it in the flesh.

UPDATE: The LG Signature OLED R is launching in the UK at a £99,999 price point. Pre-orders open in the first week of April, and we expect US availability to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Price and availability

The Signature Series OLED R, is now available in South Korea, with pre-orders available in the UK.

It's taken a while to get here, as the set was first shown off in early 2018, and we expected a global launch the year after. It's been so long that the product name has had to change from '65R9' to '65RX' to match the naming conventions of 2020 LG screens.

In South Korea, the set is retailing for ₩100,000,000, which converts to around $87,000 / £67,000 / AU$123,000. It's a big step above the $60,000 RRP we were initially told to expect, though still lower than the $100,000 we heard reported by Nikkei Asia in early October.

However, UK shoppers will be paying something of a premium at £99,999, with pre-orders kicking off at the start of April. We expected the US pricing to cleave close to $87,000, but at this rate we reckon it'll match the UK with a $99,999 RRP, and release in mid-2021.

Either way, it's a lot of money, which is to be expected from such innovative (and mechanically complex) tech. We'll never take the simplicity of our LCD flatscreen for granted again...

  • Can't wait for a global release? Check out the best OLED TVs on the market right now!

Design

LG rollable OLED

The rollable OLED, all rolled up

What LG has done with the R-Series is harness OLED’s natural flexibility and built a base that acts both as a storage facility, unfurling mechanism and, also, a sound system all in one. 

The base is slightly longer than 60 inches across but half that size vertically. That’s enough storage space for the screen, apparently, as well as the 4.2 Atmos sound system. 

The housing unit, which has all the inputs and outputs built into the back, sits on top of a plain white stand that comes with every 65R9 OLED. The base and the stand are all you're going to see when the TV is turned off... which is fine as long as you like the white stand and base. If not, you're out of luck: the stand only comes in one color and there's no swapping bases. 

While the single color option is a disappointment, the stand itself is a minimalist’s dream: it’s low to the ground, open at the bottom to allow for storage and fairly innocuous. 

The magic of the unfurling (the term we’ve given to the TV unrolling itself from the stand) remains a bit of a mystery, a short instructional video LG put together shows the TV being rolled up on a spindle inside the base. 

LG rollable OLED

The TV can partially unfurl to this position, where it can show photographs, weather information, or ambient imagery (Image credit: TechRadar)

The TV unfurls itself silently and engineers have told LG executives that the TV can be furled and unfurled around 50,000 times – which means if you turned it off and on twice a day, you wouldn’t hit the upper limit for about 34 years. 

In practice, when you turn the TV on, a small portion of the top surface slides back and the TV unrolls itself into an upright position. The TV can either extend to its full 65-inch form – what LG is calling Full View – or display just a small part of the screen in Line View. The former is used when you're watching TV while the latter might be used when you want to play music or use Mood Mode which displays small visual effects to match a nature-themed audio soundtrack like Rain, Stars or Snow.

According to LG, the 65-inch screen is held it in place with brackets at the base that prevents it from wobbling when upright. That doesn’t mean that the TV could survive a direct strike from a flying object like, say, a CRT could when they were popular a decade ago, but it certainly shouldn’t wilt over time, either. 

Around the back, you’ll find HDMI 2.1 ports which will support 4K120 playback once it’s available via an update later this year. HDMI 2.1 also includes support for HFR content when that arrives sometime down the road.

Performance

LG rollable OLED

(Image credit: TechRadar)

When the TV is fully exposed, you're treated to a 4K HDR OLED TV set. It's just as beautiful as LG's screens from last year, even if there hasn't been a massive change in technology - the panel itself hasn't undergone a massive revision, unfortunately.

Still, what we saw was particularly impressive. OLED picture quality is still at the top of the table compared to standard LED-LCD. Sure, the latter can get brighter - and that certainly makes LED-LCD look better in a brighter room - but when it comes to cinema-quality black levels OLED is still the absolute best.

Inside the 65R9 is the next-generation of Alpha a9 processors that allow for deep learning picture quality and an ambient light detection feature that can actually adjust the PQ curve of a TV depending on the ambient brightness in the room - i.e. when it's daytime the TV will recognize the additional light and raise its max brightness to compensate, and reverse that process at night. 

LG rollable OLED

In terms of sound quality, LG has implemented a new AI Sound mode that really upgrades the forward-firing speaker's audio performance by virtualizing it for a larger space. The speakers, despite no having an upfiring component, sounded very similar to some of the lower-end Atmos systems I've heard - and that was without the TV playing any Atmos-compatible content.

The last feature is all part of LG's new WebOS 4.5 smart platform, which makes its debut on all of the 2019 LG UHD TVs. The big change this year is that the Amazon button on the remote doubles as a way to access Alexa - a short press brings up Amazon Prime Video while a long press brings up Amazon's virtual assistant. That doesn't mean Google Assistant or LG's own ThinQ smart platform are out of a job, however, those smart platforms still exist and can be accessed by pressing the press-to-talk button (microphone button) on the LG Smart Remote.

Lastly, not to be outdone by Samsung's announcement that its 2019 TVs will support iTunes on its Tizen smart TV platform, LG says that it will support AirPlay 2... just stopping short of creating an iTunes app on the LG TV Store. 

Early verdict

While OLED still isn't hitting the brightest highlights that LED-LCD and MicroLED are hitting, it's still one of the best display technologies on the market. Combine OLED's superb picture performance with the novel, nearly magical ability for OLED to roll up into a base stand when you're not watching it and, well, this is easily one of the coolest, most noteworthy TVs we've ever seen at either CES or IFA.

We'll have to wait until we get a Western release and some proper testing time to give a full verdict, though, and we expect the pricing will be a barrier for all but the biggest spenders, no matter how good the TV turns out to be.

If the 65R9 catches on, though, it could spark a wave of more flexible OLED screens – and that would be a sight to behold.

Can't wait until 2021? Check out deals on the latest LG OLED TVs below:

Acer Swift 3X

Two-minute review 

We were very impressed with the Acer Swift 3X. It’s a brilliant laptop that manages to deliver a lot despite its size and weight. This very well could be the best laptop for someone who works on the go.

At just 3.1lbs (1.4kg) the Swift 3X is incredibly light, and measuring only 12.7 x 8.4 x 0.7-inches (17.95 x 322.8 x 212.2 mm) you shouldn’t have any trouble carrying this laptop with you on your commute.

The model we were sent was packaged with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and an integrated  Iris Xe Max graphics chip. The Acer Swift 3X had more than enough power to handle a typical workload in most jobs - and it’ll have school and college work covered too.

An upgraded version of the Swift 3X with an Intel i7 CPU alongside 16GB RAM and 1TB SSB will likely be overkill for most people, but if your work needs the power boost it’ll be worth it.

The only downside of the hardware is the screen. The display itself looks good, but 14-inches can be noticeably small. If you’re used to a larger monitor, it takes a little adjusting to.

However, you can’t complain about the battery. This thing lasts for a surprisingly long time, so as long as it’s fully charged up when you leave, you should be able to get away with leaving your laptop charging cable at home. 

In the worst-case scenario, if you carry a USB-C phone charger around you should be able to keep your device alive for a while longer.

All of this is packaged in a reasonably priced, mid-range laptop that is well worth the $899.99 / £899.99 / AU$1,199 price tag it comes with. If you're looking for your next work laptop, the Acer Swift 3X is definitely one to consider.

Acer Swift 3X laptop from behind

(Image credit: Future)
Specs

Here is the Acer Swift 3X configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-1135G7 (4-core, 12MB Intel Smart Cache, up to 4.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X (4,266MHz)
Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD
Storage: 512GB SSD (PCIe, NVMe, M.2)
Ports: 1x USB-C 3.2, 2 x USB-A 3.2, 1x HDMI, combi audio jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: 720p webcam
Weight: 3.1 pounds (1.4kg)
Size: 12.7 x 8.4 x 0.7-inches (17.95 x 322.8 x 212.2 mm; W x D x H) 

Price and Availability 

The Acer Swift 3X is available starting at $899.99 / £899.99 / AU$1,199. At that price you’ll get an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 14-inch full-HD screen.  You’ll also get Intel’s integrated Iris Xe Max graphics.

That’s the model we tested, and we’d safely say that for what you’re paying, you’re more than getting your money’s worth out of this laptop.

For $1,199 / £1,199.99 / AU$1,599.99 you can grab a version of the Acer Swift 3X with an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSB. The cheaper version offers more than enough power for regular use, but if you’re looking to spend a bit more for a laptop that packs a stronger punch you’d again be hard pressed to find something better.

As for availability, it seems like the Swift 3X is a popular laptop as it was a little difficult to find when we searched for it online. It can take a little bit of looking across the UK, Australia and the US to find the exact model you’re after — something that isn’t helped by the similarly named Swift 3.

However, the Acer Swift 3X is well worth looking for, as it should be able to pull off almost everything you could need. It’s not going to be suited to heavy duty tasks like 4K video editing or high-end gaming, but for regular work — and more casual photo or video editing — we found this laptop can more than handle what you throw at it.

Acer Swift 3X

(Image credit: Future)

Design 

What you get with the Acer Swift 3X is a fairly standard, yet clean, laptop design. It won’t blow you away, but we still like the look and feel of it. Our only worry is that the screen seems a little thin, as it feels like it wouldn’t take much to break it — though thankfully we didn’t find out during our review. 

Apart from that, the HD display is good. Acer’s Swift 3X comes with a 14-inch (35.6 cm) LCD screen that looks great and uses ComfyView (anti-glare) technology. A slightly larger display would be nice, but that’s our only complaint on this front.

We’re also fans of the fingerprint scanner. It was as easy to set up as on any smartphone, and we found it reliable too. However, it was placed off to the side in a slightly weird position below the keyboard, rather than being incorporated into the trackpad or power button. If you find it awkward to use, you can always opt for a more traditional password or pin instead.

Acer Swift 3X left side

(Image credit: Future)

Weighing in at 3.1lbs (1.4kg) this laptop is incredibly lightweight and can easily be picked up with one hand. Measuring only 12.7 x 8.4 x 0.7-inches (17.95 x 322.8 x 212.2 mm) it will fit in most bags too, so you shouldn’t have any trouble carrying it around wherever you go. 

However, the small size does come at a cost, as ports-wise the Swift 3X is a little lacking. On the left side, there are USB-A 3.2, HDMI and USB-C 3.2 ports. The USB-C slot doubles as an alternative laptop charging port too if you’re looking to reduce the number of cables you carry with you.

Over on the right, you’ll find another USB-A 3.2 port as well as an Aux port for headsets. Overall it’s not awful, but a few extra ports could have been nice — perhaps another USB-C port or two to keep the laptop’s smaller form but not sacrifice on utility. There’s also no SD or microSD slot on the Acer Swift 3X, but that’s by no means the end of the world.

The keyboard is one thing that doesn't suffer from the Swift 3X’s size, however. The keys are well laid out and are more than large enough. An inbuilt backlight can be toggled on or off if you want to make them glow in lower light conditions — just don’t expect anything too fancy as your only color option is white.

Acer Swift 3X right side

(Image credit: Future)
Benchmarks

Here’s how the  Acer Swift 3X performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench R20 CPU: 2,256  points
3DMark Time Spy: 1,838; Fire Strike: 5,437; Night Raid: 16,215
GeekBench 5: 1,426 (single-core); 5,391 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 4,946
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 10 hours 43 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 16 hours 39 minutes 

Performance 

The Acer Swift 3x (2021) is a pretty powerful laptop - boasting one of Intel’s 11th generation mobile processors and integrated Intel Iris Xe Max graphics. The model we reviewed came with an Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 14-inch full-HD screen.

The 16:9, 14-inch FHD display put the Iris graphics to good use, offering us a great image, and thanks to the anti-glare technology — or ComfyView tech as Acer calls it — bright sunlight shouldn’t get in the way of you seeing what’s on screen while you work.

On top of this, the Acer Swift 3X’s specs meant that it performed impressively when running Windows 10, booting up quickly and performing regular day-to day tasks — like document creation and browsing the internet — with ease.

The speakers are a little lacklustre, but unless they are vital to the work you do, they’ll be more than good enough. A pair of headphones can also solve any problems you might have.

For those looking to stop working from home when you can, this should be a more than powerful enough laptop that you can easily carry with you on the days where you need to head into the office — or into school or college. For any Zoom meetings, the webcam and microphone are more than passable as well.

However, more difficult tasks like high-end gaming and 4K video editing will be a little outside of this computer’s abilities. But if you’re okay settling for a more casual experience in these areas, you shouldn’t find too many problems at all.  

When it comes to general use though, the Acer Swift 3X packs a lot into its relatively low price tag, making this an excellent mid-range choice.

Acer Swift 3X webcam

(Image credit: Future)

Battery Life 

When it comes to battery, the Acer Swift 3X excels - we were blown away by how well the laptop ran in our benchmarking tests. If you need a laptop that can go the distance, the Acer Swift 3X might be the one you need.

PC Mark’s battery test is designed to see how long the device can last while the program mimics intensive workloads while at 50% screen brightness. At 10 hours and 43 minutes, the Acer Swift 3X showed that it’s more than capable of handling whatever you’d need to throw at it in a typical nine-to-five day job - and it’d still have more to give on a single charge. 

In our movie test, where we ran a 1080p video on loop at 50% brightness, the Swift 3X managed to last for a whopping 16 hours 39 minutes. With the times it’s putting out you could happily leave your laptop charger at home, as long as you remembered to charge it up the night before.

If you are caught in need of power, you can always use the USB-C port to charge up the Acer Swift 3X with your phone charger. The fast charging should recharge your laptop quickly or, if your phone charger can’t muster up enough power, it should let you coast on whatever battery life is left.

Acer Swift 3X

(Image credit: Future)

Software 

The Acer Swift 3X runs on the Windows 10 operating system, which it comes with pre-installed. Otherwise, the laptop doesn’t have too many applications already loaded onto it - much to the relief of ‘bloatware’ haters everywhere.

While some could be useful - there’s easy links to access Express VPN and the Firefox browser - others are ones you’ll want to remove to free up space. In our testing there weren’t any that stood out as ones that are particularly worth keeping, so feel free to delete any programs you don’t want.

Thankfully, though, even with all the programs you aren’t sent many unwanted notifications. We got warnings about the pre-installed Norton antivirus trial ending soon, but only just after start up, and we otherwise didn’t have any problems.

Acer Swift 3X fingerprint scanner

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if… 

You want a long battery life
The battery life the Acer Swift 3X pulled off is incredible, and should be more than enough for everything you’d need.

You need a small laptop
Light and compact, this laptop excels at portability. The Acer Swift 3X is the perfect on-the-go laptop that you can carry with you anywhere.

You want a laptop that can handle your workload
Sporting some very modern hardware, the Acer Swift 3X will offer you more than enough power to tackle most typical workloads with speed and ease.

Don’t buy it if... 

You want a larger screen
The 14-inch display is a little small, so if you prefer a larger screen the Acer Swift 3X won’t be for you.

You want to game
Even with it’s good specs, the Acer Swift 3x won’t be running many modern games on its integrated graphics card. However if you like retro and indie games, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

You’re on a tight budget
This mid-range laptop isn’t as expensive as some out there - but it’s not as cheap as many laptop options you can buy. If you’re on a tight budget maybe reconsider the Acer Swift 3 X.

Ledger Nano X cryptocurrency wallet review

The Ledger Nano X is a premium hardware cryptocurrency wallet built to keep your digital wealth as secure as possible. Unlike hot wallets, which are connected to the internet and therefore vulnerable to attack, the Nano X stores your private keys offline, on the device itself.

To ensure the hardware is as resilient as possible, Ledger employs a custom built OS (BOLOS) and CC EAL5+ certified Secure Element (SE) chip. The security of the device has also been audited and verified by ANSSI, the French national cybersecurity agency. 

The Nano X offers all the features of its cheaper sibling, the Ledger Nano S, but with the added ability to store a greater range of assets at once and to manage your portfolio on the go by linking the device to the smartphone app via Bluetooth.

A much larger 100mAh battery also means you can use this hardware wallet when you’re out and about, without needing to hook it up to a power source. 

While the Nano X is designed primarily with HODLers in mind, it’s also simple to add to your cryptocurrency portfolio and put your holdings to use, thanks to partnerships with crypto exchanges Coinify and Changelly and DeFi protocol Compound.

Price

The Ledger Nano X will run you $119/£109. Alternatively, you can buy a three-pack for $299/£274, although there’s no reason you’d want to do this as an individual user.

The closest competitor to the Nano X is possibly the Model T from Trezor, which costs $170 (roughly £125).

The slightly less sophisticated Ledger Nano S is just as secure as the Nano X, but lacks the same connectivity options. Costing $59/£54.50, the Nano S could be the better option for people who are concerned about securing their crypto, but don’t want to break the bank.

Ledger Nano X

Ledger Live desktop app (Image credit: Future)

Interface and ease of use

Using the Ledger Nano X is relatively straightforward; there’s not much that can go wrong when there are only two buttons available. When the device is powered on, the buttons are used to navigate left and right within menus, and pressing both at once confirms your selection.

However, this process feels a little clumsy at times, especially when it comes to retreating back to a previous menu, and left us wishing for a touchscreen or at least a third button.

When it comes to managing your crypto, the device will need to be hooked up to either the Ledger Live desktop or mobile application, via a USB-C to USB-A cable for the former and Bluetooth for the latter. Native clients are available for all major operating systems, covering Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

Both the desktop and mobile applications are easy to use, thanks to a simple design and clean interface. The various different functions are housed in self-explanatory tabs in the sidebar on desktop and bottom nav bar on mobile.

Linking the Nano X with the Ledger Live apps is simple enough, provided the instructions are followed to the letter. Failing to note down your 24-word recovery phrase could lead to disaster, for example, but that’s part and parcel of securing crypto using a hardware wallet.

The only problem we ran into concerned setting up a Bitcoin account via the app, which requires you to choose between two different address formats. The app could do a better job of explaining the difference for crypto beginners, even if the topic is covered off on the Ledger website.

Ledger Nano X

Ledger Live desktop app (Image credit: Future)

Transferring funds:

Using the Nano X to send and receive cryptocurrency is a breeze. With the device connected to the Ledger Live app, transactions can be set up and approved with just a few button-clicks. The wallet also supports a whopping 1,800 different crypto assets.

However, what sets the Nano X apart is the ability to purchase crypto directly via the Ledger Live app, courtesy of a partnership with Coinify. Doing so allows you to circumvent any transaction fees you would incur by purchasing crypto via an exchange, and then triggering a transfer to your Ledger wallet. This is especially handy at the time of writing, with Ethereum transaction fees sitting at circa $13.

Ledger Live also includes some DeFi functionality, allowing you to put your crypto to work, as well as secure it. A partnership with lending protocol Compound allows you to lend Ethereum-compatible assets and accrue interest as a reward for adding liquidity to the network.

Finally, the Swap tab gives you the opportunity to directly exchange one crypto asset for another (e.g. Bitcoin for Ether), which is a quick way to diversify your portfolio without switching back out to fiat currency. However, this feature is not available in certain regions, such as Japan and the United States.

Ledger Nano X

Ledger Academy (Image credit: Future)

Support

The main avenue of support is the extensive knowledge base on the Ledger website. Here, you’ll find detailed information on setting up your wallet and transferring crypto for the first time, but also deep-dives into the more complex features and potential technical glitches.

Ledger Academy, meanwhile, is a completely free resource designed to help beginners learn more about the esoteric world of cryptocurrency and the underlying technology, blockchain.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for in the knowledge base and FAQs, you can make use of the website’s live chat feature or submit a ticket via the online contact form.

However, while Ledger offers its customers a range of different support resources, it would be remiss of us not to mention the security breach suffered by the company in the summer of 2020, which exposed the personal data of hundreds of thousands of customers.

Having gained access to the company’s e-commerce database, hackers were able to lift a variety of personally identifiable data, such as names, email addresses and home addresses. This data was later published online and used by criminals to threaten and extort owners of Ledger crypto wallets.

While the breach itself had nothing to do with the security of the actual hardware wallets, it’s not unreasonable to look upon an incident of this kind as a red flag.

Alternatives 

When it comes to rival hardware wallets, the closest competitor to the Ledger Nano X is the Trezor Model T. Both devices have a premium feel and are pretty watertight from a security perspective; it’s only a few small differences that set them apart.

The Nano X is slightly cheaper, but the Model T boasts a touchscreen interface, which is preferable to Ledger’s two-button system. The Ledger device has native apps for a wider range of platforms, but the Model T is completely open source and therefore more transparent.

Both companies also offer cheaper but slightly less feature-rich alternatives: the Ledger Nano S and Trezor One.

The other option is to store your cryptocurrency in a leading hot wallet - such as Exodus, Electrum or Wasabi - all of which are totally free.

Unlike wallets attached to crypto exchanges, non-custodial hot wallets give you control over your private keys. The only downside is that these wallets are connected to the internet, and are therefore more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Ledger Nano X

(Image credit: Future)

Final verdict

The Ledger Nano X is an attractive, highly secure and easy-to-use hardware crypto wallet that will give you peace of mind when it comes to storing your cryptocurrency.

Unlike other hardware wallets on the market, the accompanying app also allows you to purchase crypto directly, as well as exchange tokens for one another and earn interest on your holdings via the lend function.

However, while the addition of Bluetooth allows you to manage your wallet on-the-go, the fact that hardware wallets are designed predominantly for long-term crypto holders anyway means we’d be tempted to opt for the much cheaper Ledger Nano S.

New Smartphones, OTA Updates & Tech Launched in March 2021 – Monthly Wrap-up

In the month of March, there are several mid-range smartphone launches happened. For those who are looking for a flagship smartphone, Vivo, OnePlus, and Xiaomi have unveiled their premium flagship smartphones with top-notch hardware. Moreover, several last-gen budget smartphones have also revealed the latest Android 11 update. In case if you have missed out on […]

The post New Smartphones, OTA Updates & Tech Launched in March 2021 – Monthly Wrap-up appeared first on PhoneRadar.

OnePlus 9 review

Two-minute review

The OnePlus 9 is the latest flagship - alongside the OnePlus 9 Pro - from a brand that, despite shifting its phone strategy to compete directly with other premium handsets, had until now kept coming up short in one category: cameras. 

To address this deficiency, OnePlus has partnered with legendary photography company Hasselblad in a three-year plan to improve the photo capabilities of its smartphones. 

The OnePlus 9 is the first attempt to right the ship, and the improvements are noticeable, with better color fidelity and improved low-light performance. The digital zoom has also been improved, while there are some fun new tricks like the macro-simulating close-range effect on the ultra-wide camera. 

As much as the cameras have changed, the rest of the phone hasn’t: the design is virtually the same, from the placement of the buttons to the display to the size, which is nearly identical to that of its immediate predecessor, the OnePlus 8T, and the OnePlus 8 before that. The display hasn’t changed, either, but there’s no complaining about the sharp 6.55-inch Full HD Plus resolution AMOLED display.

The OnePlus 9 packs the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, and while the 8GB / 128GB or 12GB / 256GB RAM and storage options are the same as for its predecessor, they're on a par with other flagship phones in its price range (most notably, the Samsung S21). 

What the OnePlus 9 does better is recharge its 4,500mAh battery extremely quickly – from empty to 100% in around half an hour with its Warp Charge 65T charger.

Ultimately, the OnePlus 9 provides great performance and battery life for its price, while shoring up its camera offering, and it all makes for a serious-value package. Sure, the phone inherits a lot from the OnePlus 8T, but with its greatest weakness addressed, the newest affordable flagship makes a strong case to be the best phone at its price tier.

OnePlus 9 release date and price

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus 9 launched on March 23, and will be available to buy on April 2 in the US and April 26 in the UK. We don't expect OnePlus to sell this smartphone in Australia as it doesn't bring its phones to that market.

The OnePlus 9 starts at $729 / £629 (about AU$940) for the 8GB of RAM / 128GB of storage model, while bumping that up to 12GB RAM / 256GB storage raises the price to $829 / £729 (about AU$1070).

That price makes the OnePlus 9 slightly cheaper than, and competitive with, the Samsung S21, which starts at $799 / £769 / AU$1,249. 

But it also makes the phone very good value compared to the OnePlus 9 Pro; while it misses out on a couple of key features and flourishes (telephoto lens, 50W wireless charging), it's much more affordable than its pricier sibling, which starts at $969 / £829 (about AU$1,250). 

In the US, it will be sold by online vendors Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, and on OnePlus.com. Only T-Mobile will carry the phone, and it will work on Verizon (LTE and 5G, though the phone doesn't support mmWave) and AT&T (LTE only so far).

The OnePlus 9 comes in three colors: the light-purple Winter Mist with a gradient effect, the light-blue Arctic Sky with matte finish, and the glossy Astral Black.

Design

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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Magnus Blix)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Magnus Blix)

There’s no getting around it: the OnePlus 9 has a very similar design to its predecessor, the OnePlus 8T, aside from the obviously different camera block. 

It has the same glass-fronted 6.55-inch display and glass back as its predecessor, and the same lock button and signature OnePlus ring/vibrate/silent toggle on the right side and volume rocker button on the left, all of which are in easy reach when you're casually holding the phone. There's also the same USB-C port on the bottom with the speaker to the right, as well as a second speaker out of the earpiece.

There is one difference between the OnePlus 9 and its predecessor: its frame is plastic, not metal. Also, the OnePlus 9 is IP68-rated for dust and water resistance – if you get it from a carrier like T-Mobile, that is; otherwise it's conspicuously unrated, although identical in design, winkingly providing the same protection but without the costly certification.

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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

Inheriting so much from its predecessor isn’t a bad thing: the OnePlus 9 looks much like other flagships in its more affordable tier, like the standard Samsung S21 – that is, the materials are high-quality, but it lacks some of the flourishes of the priciest phones. To wit, both phones have AMOLED displays, but they’re flat, without the 'waterfall' curved edges of their premium siblings.

The OnePlus 9 does have a glass back, unlike the S21’s plastic (or 'glasstic') back, but not all glass is equal: the former phone’s rear doesn’t have the same density and classy feel as the glass backs of other flagships. Tap the back of the OnePlus 9 and it sounds a bit hollow, like plastic backs. This isn’t a major drawback, just something to keep in mind: affordable flagships are made with affordable-flagship materials.

Display

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Magnus Blix)

As previously mentioned, the OnePlus 9 has a 6.55-inch AMOLED display, with a Full HD Plus-resolution (2400 x 1080) screen. It produces sharp, vibrant visuals, much like the display on its predecessor. 

The screen is only broken up by a punch-hole in the top-left corner for the front-facing camera. It has an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which we found only read our print reliably when our finger was upright in relation to the phone – don’t be surprised if you have to unlock the phone via face or passcode every so often.

The display has a 120Hz refresh rate, which in practice means a much smoother visual experience when you're browsing apps or scrolling your social feeds. Games that support up to 120fps should also benefit from this feature.

The OnePlus 9 does miss out on a pair of features that are exclusive to the OnePlus 9 Pro. One of these is low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO), a backplate to the display that enables the phone to dynamically set the refresh rate based on what you're doing, dialing it down for low-intensity activities like browsing photos to save battery (a feature first seen in Samsung phones).

The other, Hypertouch, reduces the latency of touch controls by 25-30ms, conceivably improving performance in competitive online games like PUBG; if you're playing on the OnePlus 9 you'll have to rely on your reactions rather than software.

Camera

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus 9 has a triple rear camera setup, though you’ll probably only realize that you’re using two of them. The 48MP main camera and 50MP ultra-wide camera are what you’ll use most, while the 2MP monochrome sensor helps with low-light photography, and with black-and-white photos if you set the correct filter.

The big news in the cameras department is OnePlus’ three-year partnership with noted camera brand Hasselblad, with the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro cameras bearing the first fruits of this collaboration. It may be a year (or more) before Hasselblad lenses end up in the company’s phones, though, and its big contribution this time around is in the area of color calibration. As with most tweaks, this is mostly apparent in side-by-side tests, with images showing more vibrant and true-to-life colors.

While we found the color reproduction to be slightly less precise than in images taken on last year's iPhone 12 Pro – still the high-water mark for phone photography in 2021 – the OnePlus 9 unquestionably takes better photos than its predecessors. In side-by-side comparisons (below), the color range is not just more true-to-life, the camera captures more detail in surface textures and shadows. 

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OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 main camera mode (Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 9

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OnePlus 8T

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 8T

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OnePlus 8

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus 8

This improved color reproduction is evident in images taken with both rear cameras, the 48MP main and 50MP ultra-wide. The latter camera also packs an extra surprise: a specialty macro mode that captures up-close photos that are easily better than those shot on other phones with designated macro lenses, including the OnePlus 8T. It also comes with a freeforming lens, which OnePlus claims corrects barrel distortion – the warping at the sides of images from some ultra-wide cameras – down to 1%, and it appears to work, as we didn’t notice any distortion.

There's also another cute photo mode: tilt-shift, which allows you to keep the center strip of the scene of subject in focus and blur the rest. It's a neat trick, even if it doesn't have too many applications.

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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

There’s also a 16MP front-facing camera that shoots admirable photos, with good color and sharp detail, although these have weirdly narrow dimensions. Portrait selfies are pretty spectacular though, especially given that there's only one camera pointing out of the display.

That’s not all from Hasselblad – the phone’s Pro Mode has been customized to resemble the screen on Hasselblad cameras (even up to the yellow shutter button), and a shutter sound has been added that simulates the sound of a 'proper' camera. There aren’t just cosmetic effects though: the Pro Mode has more controls, allowing you to manually adjust ISO, white balance, shutter speed, focus, and more, although tinkering with them one at a time takes a little bit of finagling. Better still, you can save images in the 12-bit raw format for optimum quality and editing flexibility.

The OnePlus 9’s main camera shoots video in 8K 30fps, providing 16x the pixel count of the standard 1080p. The ultra-wide camera can shoot time-lapse videos, and there’s a low-light video option called Nightscape Video 2.0. 

Camera samples

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OnePlus 9

Main camera (Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

Ultra-wide camera (Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)
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OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

Specs and performance

OnePlus 9 specs

Weight: 192g
Dimensions: 160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm
Display size: 6.55-inch
Resolution: FHD+ (1080x2400)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Pixel density: 402ppi
Chipset: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Rear cameras: 48MP + 50MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Battery: 4,500mAh 

The OnePlus 9 packs the same top-tier specs as the OnePlus 9 Pro, and aside from an updated chipset, the same RAM and storage options. It’s fast, running games and loading apps without a hitch. 

The OnePlus 9 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and 8GB or 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, which puts it on par with the Samsung Galaxy S21, at least on paper. 

In performance benchmarks, it certainly holds its own with a Geekbench 5 multi-core average score of 3654 - outperforming nearly every other Android phone on the market. 

Frustratingly, the OnePlus 9 doesn’t have expandable storage, meaning you’ll have to live with either 128GB or 256GB and rely on the cloud if you run out of room.

The OnePlus 9 runs Android 11, as well as OnePlus’ UI, presenting the usual combination of clean interface and helpful menu features. The OnePlus 9 is a 5G-capable hone, but it doesn’t support mmWave – only mid and sub-6 bands.

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

The OnePlus 9 has a 4,500mAh battery, which is substantial, and should get you through the day, though there are other flagship phones with larger batteries. 

The OnePlus 9’s real advantage lies in its charging speeds. You get the Warp Charge 65T charger in the box, which OnePlus CEO Pete Lau claims will charge the phone to 100% in just under half an hour, and also has 15W Qi wireless charging.

In our tests, we found much the same results for wired charging. These wildly fast recharging speeds are partially due to the battery's construction, as the 4,500mAh unit is actually split into two roughly 2,250mAh cells that are charged in parallel by the 65W wired charger. 

It’s a development that debuted in the OnePlus 8T, which recharged from zero to 100% in just under 40 minutes with its Warp Charge 65 charger – the OnePlus 9 shaves nearly 10 minutes off that time with improvements to the power brick, hence the ‘T’ in the Warp Charge 65T name. 

Should I buy the OnePlus 9?

OnePlus 9

(Image credit: Magnus Blix)

Buy it if…

You want top specs at the most affordable price
The OnePlus 9 packs the best Android specs you can get in its price range right now, and it's a great-value phone.

You want a great photography experience for the price
If you’re hunting for the best Android camera phone at this price, and one that doesn’t skimp on specs (sorry, Google Pixel 5), the OnePlus 9 is worth considering.

You want a phone that charges in super-quick time 
The OnePlus 9’s battery fully charges in under 30 minutes over a cable, and in 45 minutes using wireless charging. If you hate waiting for hours to charge your phone, you'll love the OnePlus 9.

Don’t buy it if…

You want high-quality zoom photography
The OnePlus 9 takes great photos with its main and ultra-wide cameras, but its zoom photography is limited to digital. If you want a phone with good telephoto capabilities for a similar price (in the US at least), pick up the Samsung Galaxy S21.

You want more storage
The OnePlus 9’s specs are great, but without expandable storage, its 128GB or 256GB internal memory is the limit. If you want more, pick up a phone with a microSD slot.

You want even more battery
Yes, there are phones with even bigger batteries than the OnePlus 9’s 4,500mAh capacity. If you want longer battery life, and can afford the extra outlay, pick up the Samsung S21 Ultra with its 5,000mAh battery, or Asus ROG 5 with its 6,000mAh capacity.

First reviewed: March 2021

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Two-minute review

The OnePlus 9 Pro is a culmination of the company’s efforts over the past couple of years, and it’s the first time a smartphone from the company has felt like the complete package.

It offers top-end power, a great camera experience and all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a flagship smartphone right now. This is a handset that can genuinely compete with the very best phones from the biggest brands.

However, it also comes with a high-end price tag, and there’s no denying that the OnePlus 9 Pro is an expensive choice for your next phone.

There’s very little missing here, with the lack of microSD support being one of the few features this smartphone doesn’t offer when compared to other handsets.

The OnePlus 9 Pro has a premium design, with a handsome 6.7-inch QHD display that delivers strong brightness levels and top-notch detail, while a super-smooth 120Hz refresh rate adds to the top-tier feel.

The handset itself may be too big for some, but the design feels worth the money, with a glass rear and the choice of three colors to ensure that your new OnePlus matches your style – we think the Morning Mist shade pictured throughout this review is particularly good-looking.

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OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)
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OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

The OnePlus 9 Pro’s biggest upgrade is in the camera department. The company is putting a strong emphasis on photography here, which includes partnering with legendary camera brand Hasselblad to improve how colors are processed.

We were impressed by the cameras throughout our time with the OnePlus 9 Pro – the versatile setup delivers great results in auto mode, and can produce some stunning images to rival those from the very best camera phones.

Photography-wise it may not be the absolute best choice for everyone, but OnePlus has made notable improvements and it’s now an option that can compete with the likes of the iPhone 12 or Samsung Galaxy S21.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, and the phone is well capable of doing everything you need it to. Battery life isn’t the absolute best we’ve seen on a smartphone, but it’ll mostly last you a full day, and there are a couple of fast-charging options.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is the best smartphone the brand has ever made, and while it’s an expensive handset, it can comfortably compete with other high-end options, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra or the iPhone 12 Pro Max, to justify that price.

OnePlus 9 Pro release date and price

The OnePlus 9 Pro was revealed on March 23 in a virtual event from the company, and preorders went live immediately after the event finished. The phone is now available in the UK, and you'll be able to buy the phone from April 2 in the US.

We don’t expect the OnePlus 9 Pro to be on sale in Australia as the company doesn't often sell its phones there.

The OnePlus 9 Pro price isn’t as low as some might have hoped, and if you want the 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage variant you’ll be spending $969 / £829 (about AU$1,250). 

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

US carrier T-Mobile will sell the phone, while it will be supported on Verizon (LTE and 5G, including mmWave) and AT&T (LTE only so far).

Want more storage and extra RAM? There’s also a 12GB / 256GB model of the OnePlus 9 Pro, which costs $1,069 / £929 (about AU$1,400). If those prices sound a bit steep, there’s also the OnePlus 9, which was unveiled alongside the 9 Pro and which starts at $729 / £629 (about AU$950).

Design

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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The OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t a big departure from the company’s last few handsets, and if you’ve owned a phone from the company since the OnePlus 7 you won’t be particularly surprised by the design here.

It looks premium, and when you handle the device it feels premium. The OnePlus 9 Pro has a glass rear, and you’ve got the choice of three colors: Morning Mist (the silver shade pictured throughout this review), Forest Green and Stellar Black. You may be restricted to certain colors depending on where you are, so don’t set your heart on one particular color until you’ve seen what’s available.

The phone has metal edges. On the right edge is the power button, and above this is a silence slider that enables you to quickly mute your phone when you want to. The volume rocker is on the left edge.

The bottom edge of the phone is home to the USB-C charging slot, along with the SIM card drawer and a speaker grille.

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

OnePlus has trimmed down the camera bump on the OnePlus 9 Pro compared to its previous handsets, but it still juts out from the rear of the phone. You’ll find the Hasselblad logo emblazoned on the camera alongside four shooters (you’ll learn more about the cameras, and about the Hasselblad connection, in the Cameras section of this review).

The rear of the phone curves gently at the edges, and we found that helped the handset to sit nicely in our hands. Note, though, that this isn’t a small phone by any means: it measures 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm, and weighs 197 grams which is about typical for a phone of this kind.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 Pro has a premium look and feel that can rival any other top-end phone you’ll find on the market right now. Not much has changed here compared to previous OnePlus Pro phones, and that’s just fine with us.

Display

The OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a large and high-resolution display befitting its Pro status. It’s 6.7 inches from corner to corner, with a QHD resolution of 1440 x 3216 – that equals 525 pixels per inch. That resolution on this AMOLED display is noticeable from the moment you first turn on the display with images jumping out of the screen and text appearing razor-sharp.

Brightness is good, although the auto brightness mode can sometimes struggle to go bright enough in some scenarios. If you’re in direct sunlight, you’ll likely want to play around with the brightness features to ensure you can see the screen.

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OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)
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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

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OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)
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OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

As on 2020’s OnePlus 8 Pro, the display has a 120Hz refresh rate, which is starting to become the norm on top-end Android phones. This means the display refreshes 120 times a second, rather than 60 times on older smartphones and some current flagships, like the iPhone 12, which have a 60Hz refresh rate.

Essentially means that you’ll enjoy a smoother on-screen image, whether you’re playing games – it’s particularly welcome when you’re playing fast-paced action games such as Call of Duty: Mobile – or scrolling your social media feeds.

The refresh rate is adaptive so certain apps, such as an eBook, will offer a 1Hz refresh rate while others run at up to 120Hz, which saves battery. We found the adaptive setting worked well, adjusting the display seamlessly, and we didn’t notice when the screen was running at a lower refresh rate.

There's also a fingerprint scanner in the screen, and we found this technology to work similarly fast to most other flagship phones that feature this tech in 2021.

Camera

OnePlus smartphones have always struggled to keep up with other top-end Android phones in the camera department, but the OnePlus 9 Pro has the best camera we’ve seen on a handset from the company.

OnePlus has stepped up its game here by including new sensors with at least one of them made in combination with Sony, and by teaming up with famed camera maker Hasselblad to improve color calibration, so that the colors you see are reproduced as accurately as possible.

The main camera is a 48MP rear shooter, and it uses a Sony IMX789 sensor that was made in collaboration with Sony. There are three other cameras on the rear, including a 50MP ultra-wide camera that uses a Sony IMX766 sensor.

There’s also an 8MP telephoto shooter that can shoot at up to 3x optical zoom, while the final element is a 2MP monochrome shooter that essentially allows you to get higher quality black and white imagery.

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The main sensor on the OnePlus 9 Pro is a cut above what OnePlus has made before, and we found that it could take fantastic images, with great-looking colors and masses of detail.

If you compare images to those taken with previous OnePlus phones, you’ll find that colors look far more natural, which we presume is the result of the aforementioned collaboration with Hasselblad. The image quality here is more like what you get from Apple’s iPhones, rather than what you’d see from a Samsung phone, for example.

We’ve also been impressed with how the OnePlus 9 Pro can produce great results even when you’re using its automatic mode, when you want to just point and shoot with the minimum of fuss.

You can switch to the ultra-wide camera with a quick tap of a virtual button, and the results here are similarly good, with a new distortion-correction technology working behind the scenes to minimize the ‘barrel’ distortion that typically appears at the edges of ultra-wide shots. 

We found this to work well within our shooting, but it's not the type of feature that will impress you unless you're looking out for it.

The telephoto zoom camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro is capable of shooting at up to 3x optical zoom, beyond which it’ll switch to a digital zoom for anything up to 30x zoom.

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

Main camera (Image credit: TechRadar)
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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

30x zoom (Image credit: TechRadar)

Images taken using the optical zoom looked good, and are usable for sending to your friends on messaging apps or posting to social media accounts. As you’d likely expect, things get worse as you zoom in further, with images looking dramatically inferior to those from the outstanding telephoto camera on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

For video, you’re able to record in 8K at up to 30 frames per second, which is one of the highest resolution/frame rate combinations we’ve seen on a smartphone. This quality is largely unnecessary if this is a video you’ll be watching back on the phone, however, and note too that shooting at this top setting will eat up a lot of storage.

Other video options include 4K at 30, 60 or even 120 frames per second for slow-motion footage, and there are also slow-mo options for 720p at 480fps or Full HD at 240fps. We found all of these to work well, and these settings are comparable to other Android phones you’d find on the market right now.

The main camera has both optical and electronic image stabilization to ensure that footage is shake-free and overall you’ll likely be happy with the quality of video shot on the OnePlus 9 Pro

On the front of the phone is a selfie shooter with a 16MP Sony IMX741 sensor and an aperture of f/2.4. This isn’t the highest-end selfie camera we’ve seen on a smartphone, but we were happy enough with the photos and video it captured.

Camera samples 

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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OnePlus 9 Pro camera samples

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Specs and performance

The OnePlus 9 Pro is powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, and as has been the case with other Android phones using this chip, we’ve been impressed with the top-end performance it enables, with the phone loading apps almost instantaneously.

You get either 8GB or 12GB of RAM depending on which variant of the phone you opt for, and while an extra 4GB won’t make a huge difference to most users, it’s worth noting that the amount of RAM you choose dictates how much storage you get. The 8GB model of the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with 128GB of storage, while if you opt for the 12GB phone you get 256GB.

As with other OnePlus devices there’s no microSD support here, so you’ll be restricted to the built-in storage of whichever variant you buy. If you think you’ll be using your phone for a good few years, we’d recommend opting for the larger-capacity option.

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)
OnePlus 9 Pro specs

Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm
Display size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: QHD (3216x1400)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Pixel density: 525ppi
Chipset: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Rear cameras: 48MP + 8MP + 50MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Battery: 4,500mAh 

We’ve reviewed the 12GB version of the OnePlus 9 Pro, and we found its benchmark scores to be particularly strong. We haven’t seen any reason to doubt that the 8GB variant is also a  strong performer, although we’ve yet to test that phone.

We found the 12GB of RAM variant had an average Geekbench 5 multi-core score of 3630. That's just behind the Asus ROG Phone 5, and beats results we've seen on other top-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21.

The OnePlus 9 Pro is also a 5G-ready handset, so you’ll be equipped to take advantage of next-gen internet connectivity even if you don’t expect to be using it in the near future.

The phone comes running Android 11 right out of the box, with OnePlus’s own OxygenOS look over the top, which brings with it a variety of features such as an always-on display and the brand’s own unique look and feel.

We found the phone did suffer from some Bluetooth connectivity issues, but we're hoping these will be solved in a final software update from the company. We'll update this review when we hear more.

There isn’t much bloatware on the OnePlus 9 Pro, and those who like OnePlus’s signature look will enjoy the way the software works on the handset.

Battery life

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: Aakash Jhaveri)

The OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t going to offer game-changing battery life, but it’ll reliably see you through a full day on a full charge with typical use. Only on one or two occasions during our testing time did we need to give OnePlus 9 Pro a top-up at around 10pm.

The 4,500mAh battery is large, and the OnePlus 9 Pro can hold its own against most of our best smartphones right now in this department, but it won’t last you two days if you’re using the phone regularly.

With particularly intensive use  we found the phone wouldn’t make it through a full day, but helpfully there’s some impressive fast-charging tech here to enable you to top up your handset quickly when you need to.

There’s 65-watt wired charging, and, perhaps more impressively, the OnePlus 9 Pro supports 50 watt wireless charging, which is some of the highest spec we’ve seen for this technology, and which is particularly impressive given that OnePlus didn’t embrace wireless charging until 2020’s OnePlus 8 series. 

Unlike competing phones from Apple, Samsung and a handful of other Android manufacturers, the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with a new charger in the box. Several manufacturers have removed chargers from the box, citing the need to cut down on e-waste, but OnePlus has seen fit to include one here.

Should you buy the OnePlus 9 Pro?

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if… 

You need a powerful smartphone

The Snapdragon 888 chipset combined with 12GB of RAM has impressed us during our testing, and if you’re after a top-end phone with great power, the OnePlus 9 Pro fits the bill. It’ll run any app or game you want it to without breaking sweat.

You want natural-looking photos

The results of OnePlus’s collaboration with Hasselblad are clear to see, with images having more lifelike colors than we’ve seen from previous OnePlus phones. This isn’t the very best camera phone you can buy, but it is a step above the OnePlus 8 series.

You want a great screen experience

The 6.7-inch 120Hz QHD display is among the best we’ve seen on a smartphone, with plenty of detail, strong brightness, and a variety of other tweaks. If you like to watch a lot of video on your phone in particular, this is a great option.

Don’t buy it if...  

You need lots of storage space

OnePlus hasn’t included microSD support on any of its phones to date, and it’s the same story with the OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t an exception. If you want the option to expand your phone’s storage as and when needed, look elsewhere.

You need super battery life

If you’re used to a smartphone that can last over a day, you’ll be disappointed with the OnePlus 9 Pro. The middling battery life won’t prove especially frustrating to most people, but neither is it going to impress you.

You want a cheaper smartphone

The OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t a cheap handset, costing as it does the equivalent of some of the very best phones from brands such as Apple and Samsung. OnePlus's best phones are no longer the 'flagship-killers' they were once branded as, and you'll have to look to the company's Nord series if you want a more affordable option.

First reviewed: March 2021 

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