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Revisiting Redmi 9 - Still an impressive budget phone this 2021?

OPPO
Huawei
More and more entry-level devices showcased their competitive specs last year and we think Redmi 9 is no exception.
Revisiting Redmi 9
Revisiting Redmi 9

First announced five months ago, the Redmi 9 is a phone boasting a 6.53-inch FHD+ LTPS screen, 12nm Helio G80 processor, 5,020mAh battery, quad-cameras, and a PHP 6,990 starting price for the 3GB/32GB version and PHP 7,490 for the 4GB/64GB edition.

Fast-forward this January 2021, the handset is now more affordable than ever. This device now starts at just PHP 5,990 (3GB/32GB) to PHP 6,590 (4GB/64GB).

Because of that, we think that this handset is still an impressive budget phone this 2021.

Here's how it performed a secondary daily device.

Build Quality/Design

Circular camera hump at the back

The back panel of this device is made of polycarbonate material. It does not feel lightweight and we can say that it feels sturdy. The front panel comes with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection and a pre-installed screen protector.

The quality of the workmanship is at a very good level despite being a budget phone

The device also got a finely textured back with gentle curves to the sides so you can grip it better for one-hand operations. I also like the fact that the fingerprint and smudges aren't too obvious on this one.

Redmi was able to make it attractive by adding a circular design on the camera module. Redmi 9 is available in three colorways: Carbon Grey, Sunset Purple, Ocean Green. The unit loaned to us is in Carbon Black, a modern and classy shade of dark grey. 

In front, it has a 6.53-inch Full HD+ with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. It also has a water-drop notch camera. Xiaomi claimed that 89.93 percent screen-to-body ratio for a more immersive viewing experience. 
Top view
Top view

The top of Redmi 9 only houses a microphone and an IR blaster. This IR blaster is not a common addition for budget devices but it can be handy for controlling appliances like TVs, aircon, and others.
Bottom view

Meanwhile, the bottom part contains a single bottom-firing speaker, a headphone jack, and a USB-C port. 
Left side

On the left side, you'll see the card slot for the dual sim cards and a micro-SD.
Right side
Right side

 
Lastly, the right side has the power button and volume rocker in the same shade of gray.

This entry-level smartphone measures 163.32 x 77.01 x 9.1 mm and weighs 198 grams.

Multimedia Experience

Punchy colors of the FHD screen
Punchy colors of the FHD screen

At PHP 5,990, this is one of the most affordable with a 1080p screen. It has a crispier screen than a lot of phones at this price point.

FHD screen on a tight budget!

The color reproduction is pretty commendable as well. Understandably, it won't be as good as higher-end panels though. But, the colors are vibrant enough. You can even adjust its color temperature to your liking in the display settings.

The device can go quite bright and can give off 400 nits like Redmi claimed. But, you can still see it struggle when used outdoors. That's still acceptable for its price point.

And even though it's not that visible, the Sunlight Mode helps to increase brightness for outside use. You can activate this setting when automatic brightness is turned off.

To protect your eyes from further strain, there's also an option for reading mode and dark mode.
Bright and clear display for multimedia
Bright and clear display for multimedia

Video content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other video-streaming services can be viewed in HD quality since the device is Widevine L1 certified. This is a huge plus especially for users who like to stream series and movies on Netflix!

For audio, it only has a single speaker setup. It can go quite loud inside a quiet room. For outdoor open use, the sound coming from it will be weaker but still audible.  We can say that the audio quality from its speaker is decent.

When we turned the volume to its maximum, the muffled vocals and hiss were really obvious. It's best to set the volume around 70 or 80 percent for a comfortable listening experience. 

With our favorite wired earphones, we think it performed a lot better. Even though it has a warm sound signature, the bass is not overwhelming. 

The Redmi 9 has stable Bluetooth connectivity that works well with our earphones and speakers. And this is a great device for online calls with your friends and workmates because the speaker can deliver loud and clear audio.

The person we were talking at the end of the line told us that voice turned out crisp and easy to understand.

And, it's a plus that it kind of blocked some background noise because we made a call outside the building. Perhaps we just have to remember it wouldn't be at par with high-end smartphones.

Camera

Camera interface of Redmi 9
Camera interface of Redmi 9

For a budget smartphone, the Redmi 9 features a lot of rear cameras. On the back, there is a 13MP main sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera, a 5MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth camera.

It's good that Redmi incorporated a variety of shooting modes in this one. It got a wide mode, 2x zoom, portrait, macro, panorama, and an expert mode. Apart from these, you can also use HDR, beautification, AI features, and filters to capture the images according to your context in mind.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight outdoor shot
Daylight outdoor shot

As for our experience, the primary camera of this device offers a solid level of performance for the price. The colors were close to the actual color of the subjects while the contrast is respectable.
Daylight wide-angle
Daylight wide-angle
Daylight shot with 2x zoom
Daylight shot with 2x zoom

Most of the photos in daylight are highly-detailed, especially those that I captured under good lighting conditions. Details stay sharp even I used the wide-angle mode and the zoom function. 
Under daylight gloomy condition
Under daylight gloomy condition
Zooming on the subject
Zooming on the subject

Even in slightly dim weather, the Redmi 9 delivers usable images. But it is a bit grainy and lacking in dynamic range.
AI feature helps to give more life on this photo of a flower
AI feature helps to give more life on this photo of a flower
Enhances the green color of this leaf
Enhances the green color of this leaf

The AI feature of its main camera and HDR boost the intensity of the subject's color. Though sometimes, it is a bit overexposed.
Well-lit indoor shot
Well-lit indoor shot
Indoor close-up photo
Indoor close-up photo

We also noticed that the device also did a good job in bright indoors, photos have great saturation and dynamic range.
Outdoor dim environment
Outdoor dim environment
Close up photo in a low-lit room
Close up photo in a low-lit room

Since the Redmi 9 lacks a night mode, its struggle against low-light scenarios is pretty apparent. Although you can see how they turned distorted and soft, you can see details are still there.

For shooting quick selfies, this device sports an 8MP f/2.0 camera. I like the fact that the beautification of this phone can be subtle and customizable according to facial features. Like typical smartphones, it includes beauty filters.

Selfie Samples

Selfie with bokeh mode
Selfie with bokeh mode

The sharpness is more than okay for an entry-level smartphone and the skin tones also look natural.
Selfie with beauty mode
Selfie with beauty mode

Under daylight or bright indoor lights, the front-facing camera takes photographs that are suitable for Facebook or Instagram.
Outdoor selfie at nighttime
Outdoor selfie at nighttime

Photos are also acceptable in low light. But don't expect it to be superb. That's okay on budget phones.

For videos, it records up to 1080p using the back and front cameras.

Performance

Redmi 9 scores on AnTuTu and Geekbench
Redmi 9 scores on AnTuTu and Geekbench

Inside, the Redmi 9 is powered by a 12nm MediaTek Helio G80 octa-core processor paired with Mali-G52 2EEMC2 GPU. Arguably, this is the fastest chip for the price.

It is also equipped with 3GB/4GB RAM or 32GB/64GB memory that is expandable up to 512GB through a microSD slot.

The MediaTek Helio G80 is far from a flagship processor, which you will notice in everyday use. But, this performed well light web research and casual gaming.

But, you shouldn't set your expectations too high, there can be stutter and lags, especially for games like Call of Duty and PUBG on higher settings.

The one with the 4GB RAM and 64GB storage is the unit that we have. Likely, there will be a dip in speed if you decided to go for the 3GB/32GB version.
Battery performance of Redmi 9 on PCMark
Battery performance of Redmi 9 on PCMark

On the PCMark battery test, the 5,020 mAh of entry-level smartphones lasted for almost 15 hours. I also enjoyed using this device for watching Netflix and playing music on Spotify for about 8 hours straight and that's truly impressive. Perhaps it also helps that I turned its the Dark Mode to save power a bit.

As for charging the device, it has an 18W fast charging support so I just have to wait around 1 hour and 45 minutes for it to be fully charged. 

For connectivity, WiFi, 4G LTE, Bluetooth, and GPS works decently. But don't expect its signal reception to be stronger than higher-end phones. It is just fine for the price.

For security, it has a responsive rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. There is a face unlock as well. The face unlock feature works well under well-lit background but sometimes it's slow.

Redmi 9 has the following sensors: accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure.

Redmi 9 Specs

Display: 6.53-inch 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3 protected LCD (LTPS) screen w/ FHD+ 2400 x 1080 resolution at 395 ppi
CPU: 2.0GHz 12nm MediaTek Helio G80 octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G52 2EEMC2
RAM: 3GB/4GB
ROM: 32GB/64GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 512GB (dedicated)
Back Camera: 13MP f/2.2 + 8MP f/2.2 118-degree ultra-wide-angle + 5MP f/2.4 w/ 4cm macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8MP f/2.0
Battery: 5,020mAh w/ 18W fast charging
OS: Android 10 w/ MIUI 11
Connectivity: WiFi, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, FM Radio, NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, IR Blaster, Splash-proof nano-coating, dual-mic, USB-C, Colors: Carbon Grey, Ocean Green, Sunset Purple
Dimensions: 163.32 x 77.01 x 9.1 mm
Weight: 198 g
Price: PHP 6,990 3GB/32GB (PHP 5,990 new SRP), PHP 7,490 4GB/64GB (PHP 6,590 new SRP)

Quick thoughts

The Redmi 9 is worth every penny! This solid build, an immersive FHD screen, and nice quad-cameras.

It even has a speedy processor for the price, strong battery performance, and all the connectivity basics that are very much needed today. Also, it is a huge plus for us that it has expandable storage, headphone slot, and dual SIM slots.

While it can't compare with mid-rangers, it's an excellent option for those who are looking for a decent performing handset without the need of shelling out top cash.

During the testing period, we've encountered minor issues, but they are understandable for the price.

Even in 2021, very few can match its bang-for-the-buckness. And yes, it is still an impressive budget phone.

Do you guys agree?
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