Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi recently launched the Redmi Note 9 smartphone in India. It is the third and the most affordable Redmi Note 9 series smartphone — the other two are the Redmi Note 9 Pro and the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. Being an entry-level model in its series, the Redmi Note 9 inherits some of the premium features of its elder siblings but compromises on the features that matter the most in its segment — big-capacity battery with fast charging, quad rear cameras, premium glass build, etc. Even if the Redmi Note 9 seems to tick some of the right boxes, how does it fare as a complete product? Let’s find out:
The Redmi Note 9 boasts a premium glass built with Gorilla Glass protection on the front and back. Though it has a plastic frame, the phone does not look cheap or feel clumsy to hold and operate. Moreover, be assured of the durability, as the plastic frame is sturdy and does not bend easily. The glass build, however, attracts fingerprints and requires regular cleaning.
At 199 g, the phone is heavy, and the weight distribution is uneven – the bottom side feels heavier than the top. These things, however, will come to your notice only if you operate the phone in the horizontal orientation for extended hours. In vertical orientation, the heavy bottom adds to convenience and provide a confident in-hand feel.
The phone continues with Xiaomi’s Aura Balance design with dual-tone reflective profile on the back. It looks better than most gradient-design iterations available in this segment. Interestingly, the rear camera module of the Redmi Note 9 does not protrudes as much as it does in its elder siblings. The Redmi Note 9 has a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor — that is a better placement than the side mount, as it remains in reach irrespective of which hand you use to operate it.
The Redmi Note 9 has a 6.53-inch LCD screen with a fullHD+ resolution and 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen has a punch hole for front camera, but the placement here is the top-left corner, instead of the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Note 9 Pro Max's top-centre . Like the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, the top-left punch-hole on the screen seems better positioned, as it does not obstruct the view in most cases.
As for the quality, the display is tuned for neutral colours. Though the phone has an auto-colour display profile to adapt colour tones based on ambient lighting, it does not seem to work effectively. On the positive side, however, the phone has two additional display profiles and a manual colour mode to finetune the display colour profile based on personal preferences. While the display works fine in most conditions, it is not a bright one. Therefore, sunlight legibility is average at best.
The Redmi Note 9 has a quad-camera array on the back, featuring a 48-megapixel primary sensor of an f/1.79 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor of an f/2.2 aperture and 118-degree field-of-view (FoV), a 2MP depth sensor, and a 2MP macro sensor. On the front, the phone has a 13MP sensor.
Considering the phone’s budget pricing, the camera on the Redmi Note 9 is good. The primary camera takes decent shots with fair amount of details in good lighting. It fixes focus quickly and works fine to stabilise the moving objects in frame. The camera uses an artificial intelligence-based scene recognition technology, which works fine across varied conditions but tends to sharpen photos unnecessarily. The phone has a 48MP resolution mode for natural-looking detailed shots. In low light, the sensor works well to brighten the scene. However, the output is marred by noise and missing details.
The ultra-wide sensor works well, too. It, however, has a narrow FoV compared to some of its peers. Nonetheless, it is a capable sensor and works fine in daylight conditions. Like the primary sensor, the ultra-wide sensor suffers in low light conditions. The degradation in low light is most noticeable when you take a picture using the ultra-wide sensor.
There is a built-in night mode to improve lowlight imaging and it works with both wide and ultra-wide sensors. It improves the output marginally by adding highlights and shadows details that otherwise go missing.
The macro sensor in the Redmi Note 9 is the best you get in this segment. It supports autofocus and takes great close-up shots. Limited megapixel counts, however, show up in the picture quality and it seems good only for social media consumption.
The Redmi Note 9 has a Pro mode for still photography, which lets you manually control the camera’s key settings. Surprisingly, the Pro mode supports all available optics and works fine to improve the phone’s imaging, if one knows how to use it.
The front camera is good for selfies and group selfies. It take natural looking portraits and not the artificially improved ones that most budget smartphones tend to take at default setting.
The phone is powered by a Mediatek Helio G85 system-on-chip, paired with up to 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. The phone ships with Android 10-based MIUI11 operating system, upgradeable to MIUI12.
Technical details aside, the Redmi Note 9 works fine as a daily driver for most daily tasks. For processor- and graphic-intensive tasks, it works well, but shows restraint at times. However, it is one of the few phones in the segment that deliver consistent experience even with demanding tasks. You might, however, need to set graphic settings a couple of notches below the maximum for a smooth gaming experience.
The Redmi Note 9 is a capable smartphone with regard to performance but does not give the best user experience. Like other Xiaomi smartphones, the Redmi Note 9 is marred by ads across Xiaomi apps and a few other places, too. You can disable ads but the process to do so is not easy and requires time and patience.
The phone ships with a 5,020 mAh battery, supported by 22.5W fast charger. Unfortunately, the charging power is restricted to 18W out of the box and the phone is said to get a software update in future to enable 22.5W charging output. Nevertheless, the battery is good enough to keep the phone going for around two days on normal usage. The charging time is decent and you get a full charge for the battery in about three hours.
The Redmi Note 9 is not the best value-for-money smartphone you get in the budget and midrange segments. Its base model, priced Rs 11,999, seems to be a balanced budget smartphone ticking most of the boxes right. But the phone’s top-end variant costs Rs 14,999 and seems expensive at this price point, especially when you compare it to the Poco M2 Pro and Realme 6, which offer better performance and features. Therefore, while the base variant is certainly a good bet, the top-end variants are hard to recommend.