Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro review: Another stunning crowd-pleaser from Xiaomi

The Redmi Note 9 Pro succeeds the Redmi Note 8 from a few months ago with a massively capable chipset, long-lasting battery, splendid design and good cameras. At Rs 12,999, what more can be expected?

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro review: Is this worth the hype ...

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Redmi Note 9 Pro starts from Rs 12,999 in India.
  • This is the first Redmi Note device to get a mega 5020mAh battery.
  • The Snapdragon 720G chipset offers great performance for gamers.

he last time I reviewed a Redmi Note series phone was in 2018 when Xiaomi diversified the Note series with a new Pro model – the Redmi Note 5 Pro. It was the first time Xiaomi showed us how budget phones can offer premium features inspired from flagship models with customers paying just a little more over the regular model. Since then, there have three more Redmi Note Pro models and in each one of these, Xiaomi has stepped up the game for its affordable phones. Because of the Redmi Note Pro models, we now expect more from a sub-Rs 15,000 smartphone.

And that’s exactly what has happened with the Redmi Note 9 Pro. The new Redmi Note 9 Pro has offered massive upgrades in multiple areas that matter to regular phone users bigger battery, better design, better build quality, bigger display, and more importantly, a more affordable price tag. Xiaomi also has a Redmi Note 9 Pro Max this year but that phone is meant for those who want some more. For most people, the Redmi Note 9 Pro makes more sense than ever, at least on paper.

But the market is afloat with phones at similar prices that may have an edge or two in some areas. The Realme 6 and Samsung Galaxy M31 are two recent examples that outdo the Redmi Note 9 Pro in key areas. Hence, if you are in the market for a new smartphone, choosing between these might be tough. How does the Redmi Note 9 Pro make a case for itself in this list?

Design and build: Looks and feels upmarket

Xiaomi upped the design and build quality last year with the Redmi Note 7 Pro last year. With the Redmi Note 9 Pro, it has only improved. The Note 9 Pro is now bigger and commands a presence that only a few expensive phones can demand in the market.

Let’s start with the thing that’s most noticeable the size. The Redmi Note 8 Pro got bigger due to a bigger display. The Note 9 Pro is bigger by a few millimetres and has also grown thicker substantially thicker. It has also grown heavier — the Note 9 Pro weighs 209 grams. That makes it heavy by any standard but there’s a good reason for that. The new model packs a 5020mAh battery and that alone increases the weight by some margin.

The Xiaomi blog: Where is the Redmi Note 9 this time? | Technology ...
image by The indian Express

To mask the bulk of the big battery, Xiaomi has cleverly designed the rest of the phone. The rear panel curves on its edges and this makes it easy to hold the phone. The plastic frame has a matte finish that aides with in-hand grip. The weight has also been balanced evenly for better comfort.

Like most reviewers, Xiaomi sent me the Aurora Blue variant and this looks stunning under any lighting. The gradient is subtle and I am glad Xiaomi did not go for a highly reflective pattern similar to the Realme phones subtle colour gradients look civilised. I can comfortably use the Note 9 Pro in my office and at a party alike, and no one, I think, would comment on my fashion choices.

What I am still sceptical of is the rectangular camera hump that looks weird. Xiaomi has at least gone for symmetrical design on this one and hence, I don’t end up paying much attention to this one. The black patch below the camera hump with the 48MP branding looks awkward. Additionally, the hump protrudes a lot but due to the symmetrical design, it doesn’t wobble.

Similar to the rear, the front of the phone also feels upmarket. The phone still uses an LCD display but the bezels are narrow and thanks to the punch-hole cutout positioned in the center, it looks more expensive. The chin is still noticeable and looks ugly but given the price, this is something we have to put up with. The fingerprint sensor sits on the power button and similar to the Poco X2, it is slightly difficult to reach for smaller hands. The volume buttons are positioned too high even for larger hands.

Overall conclusions? The Redmi Note 9 Pro feels more upmarket than it is and due to the added weight, some may be more confident in using it outdoors. However, the 209 grams weight is a concern for users with smaller hands and I wish Xiaomi found a way to keep the weight under check.

Display: More immersive than before but quality needs to improve

Cheaper phones are getting better and one area where that improvement is visible is the display. Realme has spoilt us with nice LCD and AMOLED panels in the sub-Rs 15,000 segment, and I was expecting Xiaomi to outdo it this year. Sadly, the wait continues.

The display on the Redmi Note 9 Pro is a massive one it measures 6.67-inches and is bigger than most of Xiaomi’s premium phones. My mom liked the mega size of the display and she said she would like to watch YouTube more on this one than her ageing Mi A1. Part of her attraction on the Note 9 Pro was also due to the punch-hole cutout that’s sitting in the center instead of the corner it imparts the sensation of releasing more space and is less bothersome to the eyes. The narrow bezels also help the cause.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro review | 91mobiles.com

While the big size helps, the quality of the LCD panel is sub-par. The display produces average colours that often look washed out next to an AMOLED panel from a Realme phone. Brightness levels are decent but under sunlight, it’s difficult to see anything on the screen properly. The backlight distribution is uneven around the camera cutout and at times, it is disturbing. Thankfully, the Full HD+ resolution keeps everything fairly sharp and the new 20:9 aspect ratio makes for interesting viewing experiences.

I feel that Xiaomi could have used a better-quality LCD panel similar to the Poco X2 or adopted an AMOLED panel.

Performance: Gamers are going to love it

After trying out the MediaTek Helio G90T on the Note 8 Pro, Xiaomi is back to a Snapdragon chip this time. Specifically, it’s the more premium Snapdragon 720G that’s closer to the Snapdragon 730G in terms of performance. Being the base model, you get minimum 4GB RAM and at most 6GB RAM. Storage is bumped to 64GB as standard but you can upgrade to 128GB on the top model. As usual, there’s MIUI 11 here based on Android 10.

The Snapdragon 720G has garnered praises for its performance and I have nothing new to add. The chipset is powerful and on a phone that costs Rs 12,999, the performance it delivers can be termed blistering. This is a chipset meant for gaming phones and you can see the advances in a session of PUBG MOBILE or Call of Duty Mobile. These 3D games run at high graphics by default but the frame rates are restricted. Hence, the gameplay won’t be as smooth as a premium phone but the phone doesn’t lag in a way to take away the win from your hands. Some games like Asphalt 9 need to be optimised for the chipset but on the whole, the Redmi Note 9 Pro can handle most of the popular games with ease.

While gaming is a big concern, most users will also be worried about how it performs in daily usage. Don’t worry, this is a fast phone at least as of now. Xiaomi optimises its MIUI interface quite well for any given phone and on the Note 9 Pro, it ensures that the experience is pleasing. MIUI 11 has smooth animations and the interface now feels more modern than before. It’s far from the stock Android aesthetics but it’s pleasing to the eyes mostly. The gesture navigation makes this big phone easy to use with a single hand. The dark theme has been implemented tastefully and every corner of the OS feels like this OS has been designed by someone who loves phones deeply.

Sadly, the marketing department at Xiaomi has to make money and it has littered this nice OS with a host of promotional pre-installed apps and games that most of us may not even use ever. I was able to remove most of them to clear up the clutter but what followed this irritation was MIUI’s infamous advertisements. Most of the system apps such as GetApps, Mi Browser and some pre-installed apps kept throwing incessant notifications with irrelevant ads. A swipe up gesture open the Mi browser by default and I had to dig deep in the Settings to disable it. This feels like a deliberate effort to milk money from advertisers Xiaomi’s weird marketing tactics take away a lot from what easily is a great custom OS.

The Snapdragon 720G is quite powerful and on a phone that costs Rs 12,999, the performance it delivers can be termed blistering.

Hence, I installed the Poco Launcher to declutter the UI further and shut off ads to make my experience better.

Some notable upgrades made in this department are the haptics and the NavIC support. Xiaomi says the Note 9 Pro uses a new vibration motor for flagship-phone-like feedback experience. In reality, it’s far from the flagship phone experience and Xiaomi has simply made generous use of haptic feedback for every system UI function. You get mild vibrations while pressing buttons on the quick access tray and even when you are swiping down the notifications tray. The haptics quality is noticeably better than the one on the Redmi Note 8 Pro but there’s room for improvement.

The NavIC support makes locating more precise in maps apps in theory. In reality, I did not find it to be much different from GPS. However, you can be rest assured that getting a lock-on on your location will be faster than ever inside India.

Battery: It goes on and on and on

Redmi Note phones have always had massive batteries to help Indian users go about their busy schedules and the Redmi Note 9 Pro ups that massively. The new 5020mAh battery is the biggest ever to be plonked in a Redmi Note and along with clever MIUI optimisations, this phone was easily lasting two days on moderate usage. As long as you aren’t gaming and are just using the phone for making calls, texting, watching YouTube on an average of an hour per day, casually using the cameras, streaming music on an average of 2 hours and browsing the web or using social media apps for close to 2-3 hours, the Note 9 Pro will ask you fill it up after sun starts settling on the second day.

The 18W fast charger included in the box is a nice touch but given that this is a bigger battery, I would have liked Xiaomi to include the 33W fast charger with this one. The 18W charger takes close to 1.5 hours to fully charge the battery from 5 per cent.

Camera: Great for the price

In short, the new cameras perform on par with what the Redmi Note 8 Pro cameras could do. The new 48-megapixel Samsung GM2 sensor has improved in terms of details and colours. In daylight, you will find vibrant colours and high contrasts if you are using the sunlight to your advantage. The detail levels are high but it’s not on the same level as what the Sony IMX686 sensor on the Poco X2 could manage. With falling light levels, the MIUI camera app tries to enhance the exposure but balances it out in different parts of the frame. Hence, despite a higher exposure on the ground, you will see clouds and blue skies together not fused up as just white light. At night, the camera struggles with sharpness and details but the colour reproduction is nice. Night mode helps to an extent with the exposure and sharpness but there’s some room for improvement.

The ultra-wide-angle camera is average at best and you can only get decent pictures in daylight. The new macro camera now takes sharper images but you will still have to ensure brighter ambient lighting to get good looking macro shots. The portrait mode, as usual, is brilliant with excellent edge detection on the subject and Xiaomi’s studio lighting effects are way ahead of what the competition can offer.

Video performance is capped to 4K at 30 fps but the quality is great. In daylight, you can get colourful videos and there’s no focus hunting issue like with older models. The new Movie Frame mode gives an interesting perspective while shooting videos to make them more dramatic.

The 16-megapixel front camera is good overall but the colours could have been richer. Most of the selfies under direct sunlight look nice but as soon as you are indoors on in the shadows, the colours appear washed out.

Battery: It goes on and on and on

Redmi Note phones have always had massive batteries to help Indian users go about their busy schedules and the Redmi Note 9 Pro ups that massively. The new 5020mAh battery is the biggest ever to be plonked in a Redmi Note and along with clever MIUI optimisations, this phone was easily lasting two days on moderate usage. As long as you aren’t gaming and are just using the phone for making calls, texting, watching YouTube on an average of an hour per day, casually using the cameras, streaming music on an average of 2 hours and browsing the web or using social media apps for close to 2-3 hours, the Note 9 Pro will ask you fill it up after sun starts settling on the second day.

The 18W fast charger included in the box is a nice touch but given that this is a bigger battery, I would have liked Xiaomi to include the 33W fast charger with this one. The 18W charger takes close to 1.5 hours to fully charge the battery from 5 per cent.

Conclusion:

Xiaomi has been ruling the sub-Rs 15,000 segment with the Redmi Note series since the last 5 years and this year is no different. The Redmi Note 9 Pro has its fair share of issues but when you consider that you only have to pay Rs 12,999 for this one, it seems like an absolute bargain of the year for a smartphone enthusiast. Xiaomi has given the common smartphone user what he/she demanded — a longer-lasting battery life, bigger display, more premium design and build, and nice cameras all at a price that doesn’t bother your savings.

The main question is whether you should choose it over a Realme 6 or a Samsung Galaxy M31? These are great phones in their own might and for the price, they are offering a few interesting features. The Realme 6 offers a trendy 64-megapixel camera, a 90Hz display and an attractive design while the Samsung M31 offers an AMOLED display paired to a 6000mAh battery. If these features matter, then you should go for these phones.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro is a phone if you want the best of everything. It may not be high on the numbers but in daily usage, it is a charm to live with. Xiaomi has focused its attention where it matters more for the general phone buyer there’s everything you want and nothing that won’t make a difference.

In short, the Redmi Note 9 Pro is the best phone, in my opinion, to buy if you can’t afford the Poco X2.

Pros

  • Superb battery life
  • Splendid build quality and design
  • Fast performance

Cons

  • Average display

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