Google Pixel 6 vs. OnePlus 9: Which flagship touts more value?

Google Pixel 6 Vs Oneplus 9 Lifestyle
Google Pixel 6 Vs Oneplus 9 Lifestyle (Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 Kinda Coral Render

Google's Pixel 6 is the perfect affordable flagship without any big compromises. You get top-notch software, unbeatable cameras, and snappy performance. The only factors that aren't so hot are the 90Hz refresh rate on its 6.4-inch OLED display and the missing charger in the box.

Google Pixel 6

Top-notch cameras

Outstanding cameras
Pleasingly smooth performance
Android 12 with Material You looks sweet
Unusual, bold design
90Hz panel could be brighter
No charger in the box
Not everyone likes the camera unit

OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 in Winter Mist

OnePlus hit a home run with the OnePlus 9, cramming some powerful hardware in a sleek body. You get great Hasselblad cameras, a bright and beautiful 120Hz display, and blazing fast 65W charging. Unfortunately, you have to forego an IP rating and 5G support unless you opt for the T-Mobile version.

OnePlus 9

One glorious screen

Glorious 6.55-inch 120Hz AMOLED display
Expeditious performer
Solid set of cameras
65W fast charging
Only T-Mobile variant is water-resistant
Unlocked version lacks 5G support
Runs Android 11 (upgradable to Android 12)

With OnePlus and OPPO becoming synonymous to many, Google now has the chance to fill the niche that OnePlus left behind. The Google Pixel 6 features the brilliant new Android 12 with Material You, catering to enthusiasts who desire customizability and lightweight software.

On the other hand, the OnePlus 9 is still kicking with a stunning display and high performance, although you don't get Android 12 out of the box. (You can upgrade to OxygenOS 12 based on Android 12, with the catch being that it's basically a ColorOS 12 dupe.) You can expect to give up a few things here and there with these phones, but they are both undoubtedly some of the best Android phones in existence. So, which budget flagship should you get? Let's take a closer look to help you decide.

Google Pixel 6 vs. OnePlus 9: Does the Pixel slay the "flagship killer"?

For a few years, OnePlus was a king in the smartphone world, owing to the brand's unbeatable value-packed phones and some of the best software we ever saw in the Android space. But with the OnePlus 9, the enthusiast brand started to depart from its core philosophies and merged with OPPO, its parent company, therefore losing the unique selling point that kept people coming back for more: OxygenOS.

Enter the Google Pixel 6, Google's first full-fledged flagship in years that goes big instead of going home — and gives the OnePlus 9 a run for its money. The Alphabet-owned tech giant pulled all the stops with the Pixel 6 series, going as far as creating its own 5nm processor called the Google Tensor chip. It harnesses the power of AI and Google's magic sauce to deliver astounding photo processing capabilities. Even with the power of Hasselblad, the OnePlus 9 is overshadowed by the Pixel 6 in the camera department.

Your needs dictate which phone you gravitate towards. Yes, the Pixel 6 has mightier cameras, but the OnePlus 9's photo-taking skills aren't half bad, so it's not out of the picture yet.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 6OnePlus 9
Operating SystemAndroid 12OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11
ProcessorGoogle TensorQualcomm Snapdragon 888
GraphicsMali-G78 MP20Adreno 660
Storage128GB/256GB UFS 3.1128GB/256GB UFS 3.1
Display6.4-inch, 20:9, 1080x2400, OLED, 90Hz6.55-inch, 20:9, 2400x1080, AMOLED, 120Hz
Rear Camera50MP, ƒ/1.85, 1.2μm (wide-angle)12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.25μm (ultra-wide)48MP, ƒ/1.8 aperture, Sony IMX689 (main)50MP, ƒ/2.2 aperture, Sony IMX766 (ultra-wide)2MP
Front Camera8.0MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.12μm16MP, ƒ/2.4aperture, Sony IMX471
SecurityTitan M2 Security Chip, in-screen fingerprint sensor, PINIn-display fingerprint scanner, face unlock, PIN
AudioStereo speakersStereo speakers with Dolby Atmos
Water and Dust ResistanceIP68IP68 only on T-Mobile version*
ColorsStormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta SeafoamWinter Mist, Arctic Sky, Astral Black

Google Pixel 6

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

The two phones share many similarities in specs across the board. You get 8GB RAM and 128GB storage in their base models; they both have stereo speakers; neither device has a headphone jack or expandable storage; and you get similar battery sizes — 4,500mAh in the OnePlus and 4,614mAh in the Pixel. Your decision shouldn't depend solely on these shared features though. It's the key differences that make or break a phone in a one-on-one face-off.

Google Tensor harnesses the power of AI and Google's magic sauce to deliver astounding photo processing.

Performance-wise, both devices deliver smoothness and efficiency. When it comes to the display, the Pixel 6 has a 90hz refresh rate as opposed to the OnePlus 9's 120Hz. Similarly, the former's display isn't as bright, with a peak brightness level of 500 nits. The OnePlus 9 has a dazzlingly bright display, peaking at an impressive 1,100 nits.

The OnePlus device also has a more appealing design, built to please larger crowds and go easy on the eyes. Meanwhile, the Google Pixel 6's appearance is more of an acquired taste since some might find the large rectangular camera bump, in combination with the two-toned look, jarring and gaudy. Looking past the superficial design decisions, OnePlus only offers an IP68 rating or 5G in units bought from T-Mobile. So any unlocked OnePlus 9 handset misses out on these two critical specifications, but you get them in all versions of the Pixel.

OnePlus 9 Pro review

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

OnePlus gives you 65W wired fast charging, 15W wireless charging, and a charger in the box. Don't expect crazy fast wired charging speeds with the Pixel though, because it only supports a measly 21W wired charging and there's no charger in the box. What makes matters worse is that Google marketed that as "30W fast charging", which is just plain dishonest. You do get 12-23W wireless and 5W reverse wireless charging speeds.

OnePlus gives you 65W wired fast charging while the Pixel supports a measly 21W wired charging.

Google promises that Pixel 6 devices will receive major OS updates until October 2024 and security patches until October 2026. The OnePlus 9 will get three major platform updates and four years of security patches. Since it is already done with one major update, which included Android 12, you can expect to get the next two versions of Android until March 2024, and security updates until March 2025.

Speaking of the OS, you might not want to upgrade the OnePlus at all considering what's in store following the Oneplus-OPPO merger. This could be the biggest deal-breaker for you: OnePlus is set to launch a unified OS that mashes OxygenOS and ColorOS. This new Android skin is set to debut with the OnePlus 10 globally. If executed improperly, it could be the bane of OnePlus's existence.

Google Pixel 6 vs. OnePlus 9: Which should you choose?

Google Pixel 6 Material You Pink Theme

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

At this point, you're bound to be debating which premium device matches your lifestyle. Want an excellent photographer and stock Android 12 with a few extra perks? The Google Pixel 6 it is. Just know you'll have to put up with slow wired charging and swallow that design. It doesn't have the brightest or snappiest of displays, but at least it can get wet in the rain. Tensor is a powerful SoC and you won't sacrifice any processing power, especially when taking gorgeous photos. Plus, it comes with 5G and guaranteed updates for many years to come, that too before every other Android phone.

OnePlus has a superb display and that 120Hz refresh rate seals the deal. Enjoy benefits like super-fast charging and a decent camera setup thanks to a well-placed Hasselblad partnership. Snapdragon 888 delivers flagship-level performance and OxygenOS 12 isn't horrible per se. It just isn't the OG enthusiast Android skin that it used to be. Upgrading it right when you get it leaves you with about two more major platform updates, hopefully covering Android 13 and 14. Perhaps the worst bit about the OnePlus 9 is the lack of water-resistance and 5G support in unlocked units. If you're pining for IP68 certification and 5G, T-Mobile is the only vendor you can turn to.

Oh how the tables have turned because all things considered, the Pixel 6 is easier to recommend than the OnePlus 9. Slow charging speeds and average brightness levels can be dealt with, but monopolizing an IP rating or 5G are big no-nos. Considering the identical price tags on both phones, you get a lot more from the Google-made device. Sure, you'll have to spend a few more bucks on a charger, but getting one of the best Pixel 6 chargers isn't going to bankrupt you.

Namerah Saud Fatmi
Senior Editor — Accessories

Namerah enjoys geeking out over accessories, gadgets, and all sorts of smart tech. She spends her time guzzling coffee, writing, casual gaming, and cuddling with her furry best friends. Find her on Twitter @NamerahS.