Which phone is the best value in 2022?
Which phone is the best value in 2022?

Which phone is the best value in 2022?

Those looking for a new smartphone but don’t want to spend a lot usually have two options: buy a current-generation mid-range phone or a high-end flagship phone. One of the more interesting comparisons so far — at least based on price — might be the new $449 Google Pixel 6a and the just over a year old OnePlus 9, which has dropped to under $500 at retail, sometimes less than Pixel 6a price.

Given that the OnePlus 9 was a very good and polished flagship in 2021, it should still hold up well into 2022. But the Pixel 6a is probably the best mid-ranger out there right now. Which phone should you buy if you’re looking for a new Android for under $500? Let’s find out.

    Google Pixel 6a

    The Google Pixel 6a brings back a lot of what made the Pixel 6 great, but in a more affordable package.

    OnePlus 9

Browse this article:

Pixel 6a vs OnePlus 9

OnePlus 9 vs Google Pixel 6a: Specs

OnePlus 9 Google Pixel 6a
  • Fiberglass reinforced polymer frame
  • Gorilla Glass 5 front and back
  • Gorilla Glass 3 front panel
  • back and plastic side
  • IP68 water/dust resistance
Dimensions and weight
  • North America/Europe:
  • Indian/Chinese:
  • 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9 mm
  • 207 g
  • 6.55 inch FHD + AMOLED (2400 x 1080)
  • 402PPI
  • 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Refresh rate 120 Hz
  • Maximum brightness of 1100 nits
  • It supports sRGB and DCI-P3 color space
  • HDR10+
  • Adjust color temperature automatically
  • Gorilla Glass 5
  • 6.1 inch AMOLED
  • FHD+
  • 60 Hz
  • 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
RAM and storage
  • 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM + 128 GB UFS 3.1 storage
  • 12 GB + 256 GB
  • 6 GB
  • 128 GB
  • No microSD card slot
Battery and charging
  • 4500 mAh battery
  • 65W fast wired charging (1-100% in 29 minutes)
  • 45W fast wired charging (USB PD)
  • 15W Qi wireless charging (North America/Europe only)
  • Warp Charge 65T charger included (supports up to 45W USB PD or PPS for non-OnePlus devices)
  • 4,306 mAh battery
  • There is no charger in the box
  • Optical fingerprint sensor on the screen
  • Optical fingerprint sensor on the screen
back room
  • Primary: 48 MP Sony IMX689, f/1.8, EIS, PDAF + CAF
  • Secondary: 50MP Sony IMX766 ultra-wide, f/2.2, freeform lens
  • Third: 2-megapixel monochrome sensor
  • Dual LED flash
  • Primary: 12.2 MP Main
  • Secondary: 12 MP Ultra Wide
Front cameras
  • 5G
  • Oth
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4G + 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • 5G
  • Oth
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6
  • Bluetooth 5.1

Google Pixel 6a vs OnePlus 9: Hardware and Design

The Google Pixel 6a brings back the design language of the Pixel 6 and we really like it. The material of the main body and frame (back and sides) has been changed to plastic, but this is understandable given the low price. The front of the Pixel 6a is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The OnePlus 9, like its flagship a year ago, uses more premium materials, Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, with an aluminum frame.

Google Pixel 6a is useful with blurred background.

Looks are subjective, so mileage may vary, but many of us at XDA really like the design language of the Pixel 6/6a phones with large camera bezels. The OnePlus 9 is also a good-looking phone, and its camera module is a bit more traditional and therefore less attractive. But there are those who believe the OnePlus 9 comes in better color options, including the gradient purple shown below.

OnePlus 9

Both phones are comfortable to hold, although the Pixel 6a, by virtue of its small size, may be on another level of usability. Both phones have curves all the way around, so they rest easily in the palm and not quite like the iPhone 13 or the Nothing Phone. If you’re looking to protect your Pixel 6a, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best Pixel 6a cases here.


The OnePlus 9 Pro has a bigger and better display, a 6.5-inch 120Hz OLED display compared to the Pixel 6a’s 6.1-inch 60Hz OLED display. The 9 Pro’s screen gets even brighter. The resolution is the same for both at 2400 x 1080, but I suppose that gives the smaller 6a screen an advantage in pixel density.

Google Pixel 6a sticker with set of woman photos as wallpaper and custom background artwork.

There are in-display scanners below both displays, and OnePlus wins here as well, as the scanner is slightly more responsive.

OnePlus 9 black on white background

processor and memory

The Pixel 6a is powered by Google’s own Tensor SoC, which specializes in machine learning tasks. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 9 runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. Both are 2021 chipsets, and the Snapdragon 888 is slightly more capable with more processing power. But Tensor is designed to handle machine learning and image processing tasks. Neither of the two SIMs will make you run out of power as you will be able to easily perform any smartphone activity with these phones.

The Pixel 6a comes in one configuration: 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while the OnePlus 9 comes with an extra 2GB of RAM, as well as the option to double the storage.


Both phones offer dual camera systems that cover both ultra-wide and ultra-wide focal ranges. The Pixel 6a has a pair of 12MP sensors to handle these shots, while the OnePlus 9 uses a 48MP main camera and a 50MP ultra-wide camera that then produces both 12MP photos and 12, 5MP. There’s also a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor that we can ignore.

In terms of camera hardware and software processing technology, the OnePlus 9 is slightly ahead. The IMX789 sensor that OnePlus uses for the main camera is newer than the Pixel 6a’s IMX363 and has a larger image sensor to boot. But Google’s computational photography is second to none, and this, along with Tensor, really helps the Pixel 6a’s cameras punch well above their weight class. Simply put, the OnePlus 9’s main camera is very good, but the Pixel 6a’s is great. This will be noticeable especially in low-light photos, where Google’s “Night Scene” produces not only a brighter image, but also an image with excellent color and contrast.

However, for wide-angle photography, the OnePlus 9’s shooter is arguably better, as the camera sensor is larger and pixel binning allows OnePlus to generate more light and detail in the photo.

Google Pixel 6a camera module

Battery, touch devices and other hardware

The battery sizes are the same – 4500mAh in the OnePlus 9 and 4410mAh in the Pixel 6a. Since the Pixel 6a has a smaller, slower screen and has Google’s own SoC that increases power efficiency, this allows the Pixel 6a to get better battery life. Neither phone will go for the endurance champion, but the Pixel 6a will likely last a full day of heavy use, while the OnePlus 9 probably won’t.

However, the OnePlus 9 comes with a charging brick while the Pixel 6a doesn’t, and the OnePlus 9 also charges faster at 65W to the Pixel 6a’s 18W charging speed.

Touches and speakers are solid for both phones—typing on either device is fun, and the stereo speakers deliver satisfying sound. However, there is no headphone jack on either phone.

Google Pixel 6a vs OnePlus 9: Software

The Pixel 6a is a newer phone – and Pixel means it runs the latest version of Android. The OnePlus 9 ships with the older Android 11 out of the box, but depending on where you are, you might get the Android 12 update.

Even on Android 11, the OnePlus 9’s OxygenOS display is a joy to use, with very fast and fluid animations and plenty of shortcut gestures. The version of Android running in the Pixel 6a is perhaps the purest form of Android (it is, after all, made by Google for its baby), but it doesn’t have many shortcut gestures.

But in contrast, the Pixel 6a is very smart, with the best voice dictation of any smartphone, as well as Pixel-exclusive features like Magic Eraser, which can remove objects from the background of photos.

OxygenOS 11 on OnePlus 9 Pro

Google Pixel 6a vs OnePlus 9: Performance

As mentioned earlier, the Snapdragon 888 powering the OnePlus 9 already scores higher in benchmarks than the Tensor, but you won’t really notice significant performance differences between the two unless you’re a heavy gamer. Other than that, for basic smartphone use, both phones perform very well in 2022. Overall, we think the OnePlus 9 is faster at launching apps, but the Pixel’s camera is smarter. For example, have you ever sat in a bar and asked yourself, “What is this song playing?” The Pixel 6a will determine this for you and display the track address on the phone’s always-on display. It’s a nice little touch that shows the Pixel phone is a little more “aware” than other phones. Of course you can turn this off if it scares you. Both phones have excellent speakers, although the larger screen of the OnePlus 9 will make videos more immersive.

Pixel 6a chalk on white background.

Google Pixel 6a vs OnePlus 9: Which phone should you get?

It’s a close fight, but if the prices are equal, we’d recommend the Pixel 6a because it has a better camera lens and more years of guaranteed software updates. There are areas where the OnePlus 9 excels, like getting a better screen, better build quality, and a slightly more powerful GPU, but those things are less important than the overall camera and software updates, in our opinion.

Pixel 6 in three colors on a gradient neon background

Note in the paragraph above that I said “if the prices are equal”, it’s because the OnePlus 9 is a year old, which means there may be repeat sales and more availability on the pre-owned and second-hand market. I’ve seen a few OnePlus 9 listings on Amazon for $350, which makes it $100 cheaper than the Pixel 6a. The Pixel 6a also has deals, but since it’s a new phone, it’s not likely to see a huge price drop anytime soon. If there’s a triple-digit price difference, the OnePlus 9 jumps back into the fray — but only if you’re okay with not getting software updates as quickly as the Pixel 6a. Either way, both phones are very good phones if you don’t want to pay more than $500.

    Google Pixel 6a

    The Google Pixel 6a brings back a lot of what made the Pixel 6 great, but in a more affordable package.

    OnePlus 9