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realme 9 Pro 5G Review - A great mid-ranger for mobile photography that can game too!

OPPO
Infinix
In our first impressions article, we praised the realme 9 Pro for its neat design and glamorous color with shiny glittery accents. It also got substantial upgrades for its specs and cameras compared to the last-gen.
realme 9 Pro Review - A capable gaming device with impressive cameras!
realme 9 Pro review

But how did it hold up after a long period of use? Is it a device that is well-balanced for gaming, entertainment, multitasking, and photography?

Well, let's jump right in! Here's our full review of the realme 9 Pro 5G.


Multimedia Experience

6.6-inch IPS screen at FHD+ resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate!
6.6-inch IPS screen at FHD+ resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate!

The realme 9 Pro features a 6.6-inch IPS) screen with a 120Hz 6-level adaptive refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, 2412 x 1080 FHD+ resolution, and a 400 ppi pixel density. It is covered by a 2.5D curved glass and has a punch-hole cutout on the left top corner of the screen.

Nice and smooth display!

In terms of the display quality, it is a very good FHD+ IPS screen with crisp details, good colors, contrast, and brightness. During our Netflix and YouTube tests, the colors are vibrant with good blacks for an IPS screen. We were able to stream HD content on Netflix so it must have Widivine L1 support.

In terms of display settings, it has two color modes namely Vivid and Natural. You can also edit color temperature via a slider setting. We made use of the Vivid mode to take advantage of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It also has Eye Comfort, Dark Mode, and Adaptive Brightness.

Speaking of brightness, the realme 9 Pro is totally usable under direct sunlight. At 30 percent brightness, it is still usable indoors so it helps in battery life. We usually have it at around 60 percent brightness at all times.

It has a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz with a 240Hz touch sampling rate. It has a 6-level Adaptive Refresh Rate for different situations. According to realme, it has used 30Hz when static, 48Hz for movies, 50Hz for teleplay, 60Hz for other videos, 60Hz to 90Hz for gaming, and 120Hz for navigation and other tasks. The main purpose of the Adaptive Refresh Rate is to save battery life.

For audio, it has a single-down-firing speaker that has good quality even at a louder volume. It has ample bass presence too. Distortion and clipping are not really present even at maximum volume. It's not comparable to bigger stereo speakers but overall it is impressive.

In terms of wired audio, it was able to drive our JBL Live 660NC competently. It does have Hi-Res audio certification and it was able to provide a solid listening experience. We were able to enjoy our music and videos even at 60 to 70 percent volume only.

Wireless audio is also good. It is reliable and consistent in terms of connectivity. No LDAC here but it was able to drive the JBL Live 660+ and Live Pro+ competently. We were able to customize our EQ through the JBL Headphones app but even the flat preset sounded good.

The microphones delivered clear audio for both our calls and recording tests.

Cameras

realme 9 Pro 5G's cameras
realme 9 Pro 5G's cameras

The realme 9 Pro features a triple-camera setup with 64MP f/1.79 Nightscape main sensor + 8MP  f/2.2 119-degree ultra-wide-angle camera + 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro sensor with a single LED flash. No OIS or any kind of image stabilization here though unlike the Pro+ version.
Camera UI
Camera UI

For the camera UI, it is simple and easy to use. Easily accessible modes are the Night Mode, Street Mode, Video, Photo, Portrait, and 64MP mode. When you press "More", you get Pro Mode, Panorama, Ultra-Macro, Film, Slo-Mo, Timelapse, Dual-View Video, Text Scanner, Starry Mode, and Tilt-Shift.

Pro Mode features manual controls for ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, White Balance, and Focus. It has a max ISO of 6400 and 1/8000 to 32s shutter.

In terms of Night Mode or Super Nightscape, as realme calls it, there is an option of AI or Pro Nightscape. AI will allow you to switch between 2x, wide, and ultra-wide-angle. Pro Nightscape adds the usual manual ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and White Balance into the mix.

Street Photography 2.0 adds a creative take to your photos. You can switch between 16mm, 24mm, and 50mm focal lengths. In addition, you can add effects to your shots such as Neon Trail, Light Portrait, Rush Hour, and Light Painting. All of these are long exposure modes to add lighting effects to your shots.

The experience of capturing images is typically positive. In full daylight, autofocus is quick and mistakes are infrequent. The shutter speed and image storing speed are both fast as well.

Back Camera Samples

Normal wide mode, daylight
Normal wide mode, daylight
Ultra-Wide-Angle, daylight

Here, we used the normal and ultra-wide-angle shots on a gloomy afternoon.

As you can see the colors are a bit duller in the ultra-wide-angle photo. The Normal mode photo also is a bit brighter and has better contrast as well.
2x zoom, daylight
2x zoom, daylight
6x zoom, daylight
6x zoom, daylight

The realme 9 Pro 5G can max out at 6x zoom. Here, you can see that the 2x zoom still retains a lot of details and colors. With 6x zoom, you can see some artifacts but it is still a very detailed shot. You can clearly distinguish the Roman Numerals on the clock tower.
Normal shot, daylight
Normal shot, daylight
2x zoom daylight
2x zoom daylight

Here is another example of how much detail the realme 9 Pro was able to retain at 2x zoom. You can still see individual leaves in the background. You can also see the wrinkles and details on the statue's face.
Ultra Macro mode, indoors with daylight
Ultra Macro mode, indoors with daylight
Food shot w/ normal mode, indoors
Food shot w/ normal mode, indoors
Another food shot, indoors
Another food shot, indoors

In Ultra Macro mode, the images come out with enough details to be usable. THat's not to say that it is extremely sharp. It has noise and some detail loss as seen on some of the text of the SD card subject above.

Shooting food with the realme 9 Pro 5G is great. Even with warmer lighting, the photos come out with good colors as well as great details. It does not oversaturate the colors to make the food more enticing which is a welcome mechanic for us.
Portrait mode
Portrait mode
Portrait mode at night

realme 9 Pro 5G's Portrait Mode has great edge detection. However, the colors come out as unnatural. When you take a Portrait shot, it will take a bit of time to process. Then, it will come out with a brighter and more vibrant photo. It is still good but an option to remove the post-process effects will be appreciated in places with ample lighting.

At night, the Portrait Mode still retains great edge detection. Here, the post-processing that makes the photo brighter and more vibrant really made the photo pop.
Auto low light mode
Auto low light mode
Super Nightscape mode
Super Nightscape mode
Super Nightscape Ultra-Wide-Angle
Super Nightscape ultra-wide-angle

In the dark, even without Super Nightscape mode, the realme 9 Pro can produce bright and detailed photos. Adding Super Nightscape, the colors become more vibrant and the ambiance gets brighter. However, as expected, the Super Nightscape with the Ultra-Wide-Sensor has duller colors, fewer details, and some lighted objects that introduce some harsh glares.
Normal mode, night shot
Normal mode, night shot
Night shot with Super Nightscape on

Here is another sample of a side-to-side comparison of the same shot with Night mode on and off. As you can see the colors are more vibrant. The photos are also sharper and brighter, However, it shows so much post-processing at times that the image comes out unnatural.
Neon trail mode in Street Photography 2.0 mode
Neon trail mode in Street Photography 2.0 mode
Street Photography 2.0 Light trails portrait 1
Street Photography 2.0 Light trails portrait 1
Street Photography 2.0 Light trails portrait 2
Street Photography 2.0 Light trails portrait 2
Light painting mode
Light painting mode

We did try Street Photography 2.0 mode as well. It is a collection of long exposure modes that adds creative looks to your night photos. It works very well if your hands are steady or if you have something to rest your phone like a tripod. You also need to make sure that your subject can maintain the pose for around 3 to 5 seconds to maintain details around the face. 

As you can see in your sample shot with a human subject, the body is sharp and detailed with good light trails in the background, however, the face became blurry due to an unnoticed movement. Yes, even the slightest movement will be manifested in the shot.

Overall, Street Photography 2.0 can be an amazing tool for creativity in the right hands.

In front, the realme 9 Pro 5G features a modest yet decent 16MP f/2.05 selfie camera. It is a very capable device with Super Nightscape available to use as well. There's no OIS here though and it uses a fill light via the screen for lowlight situations. There is no ultra-wide or group selfie option here too.

With the selfie camera, you can use the Video mode, Photo Mode, Night Mode, and Portrait Mode. Portrait Mode has an adjustable bokeh effect from f/0.95 to f/16 which is usually found in high-end smartphones.

Selfie Camera Samples

Well-lit selfie with Portrait Mode
Well-lit selfie with Portrait Mode

In the photo above, you can see that the selfie camera with Portrait Mode works well in areas with good lighting. Beauty Mode does not make the photo look too artificial. Edge detection is very impressive as well.
Portrait Mode with less ideal lighting
Portrait Mode with less ideal lighting
Indoor selfie, wide shot

Here, you can see a Portrait Mode selfie with less ideal lighting. Even on the side where the shadows are more prominent, you can see that the edge detection is still good. Colors are consistent in both well-lit and less ideal lighting shots as well.

In addition, the 16MP selfie camera also has a wide FOV as well. It is not ultra-wide but it is wide enough to fit a lot into the frame.
Normal mode selfie in low light condition with no flash
Normal mode selfie in low light condition with no flash
Normal mode selfie in low light condition with flash
Normal mode selfie in low light condition with flash

With no flash in Normal mode, you can see that the colors are less vibrant and there is a lot of noise. Still, it was able to detect our faces even with no flash. Using the flash is better with less noise but the color remains to be duller.
 Selfie with Super Nightscape and flash in pitch black conditions
Selfie with Super Nightscape and flash in pitch black conditions

This photo is shot in pitch black lighting conditions. We used Super Nightscape together with the flash. The resulting photo came out with less noise, more vibrant colors, but fewer details. You cannot make out the individual locks of the baseball cap. It is still very impressive!

Let's talk video capabilities! The realme 9 Pro 5G has no OIS but it has Ultra Steady Mode. It can shoot up to 1080p 30fps and 720p 60fps. No 4K capabilities here though. It also has AI Highlight mode for better videos at night. Selfie videos can go from 720p to 1080p with Ultra Steady Mode available.

In Ultra Steady mode, the shakiness is compensated immensely. Yes, the footage is smooth but it comes at the expense of quality. Footage becomes grainy in Ultra Steady mode. We only recommend you use it if you must but not as a go-to stabilization solution. A thing to note here is that the realme 8 Pro last year has support for UIS.

There's a more extensive Film Mode with manual controls for Shutter Speed and ISO levels. Dual View Video can shoot a selfie and rear camera videos at the same time. There are also Slo-Mo and Timelapse modes.

Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

For performance, the realme 9 Pro 5G features a 2.2GHz Snapdragon 695 octa-core processor, Adreno 619 GPU, 8GB LPDDR4X RAM, and 128 expandable storage. This is a good enough specs sheet for 90Hz gaming, multitasking, and entertainment.

The Snapdragon 695 octa-core processor is a 5G-capable SoC. Aside from that, it was able to handle most of our apps and games during our usage. realme was able to include a good thermal management system as well. The realme 9 Pro 5G did not get uncomfortably warm during extended gaming sessions. Heating is only an issue if you use it for streaming and gaming while charging.
PC Mark and 3DMark
PC Mark and 3DMark
AI Benchmark. CPDT
AI Benchmark. CPDT

realme 9 Pro 5G benchmark scores:

1. AnTuTu - 324,699
2. Geekbench - 687 (Single-Core), 1,992 (Multi-Core)
3. PCMark Work 3.0 performance - 11,055
4. 3DMark Wild Life - 1,210 and average 7.20 fps
5. AI Benchmark - 69.3K
6. CPDT - 174.37 MB/s (Sequential write speed), 322.26 MB/s (Sequential read speed)

The RAM and storage size for the price point is decent. The latter is average in speed. The chipset of choice can be better but in its asking price, it is also good enough to be in the middle of the pack. There are other devices at a lower price with the faster 2.4GHz Dimensity 900 octa-core 5G processor. This could have been a good choice as well.

In any case, the configuration realme picked is more than enough in real life and for the device's intended market. We've never had any problems using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. We were also able to do some light photo and video editing as well.
Game settings for Mobile Legends, Wild Rift, Apex Legends

For games, we were able to get high graphics fidelity while maintaining at least 60fps in Mobile Legends, Wild Rift, and Apex Legends. The cooling system realme got installed really maintains the 9 Pro 5G's temperature in control leading to no throttling in performance.

For connectivity, it has dual-band WiFi, 5G SA/NSA, 4G, Bluetooth 5.1, OTG, GLONASS, BeiDou, NFC, and dual SIM slots.

For security, it has a reliable face unlock even in the dark and a fast side-mounted fingerprint sensor.
realme 9 Pro battery benchmark
realme 9 Pro battery benchmark

For battery, realme 9 Pro 5G features a big 5,000mAh cell with 33W Dart Charge. In our synthetic benchmarks, it was able to do 18 hours and 33 minutes. However, the synthetic benchmark is not an indicator of how good the battery life is in real-life usage. That said, this is a very impressive result.

Impressive battery performance!

We were able to fit in a full day of work and extended gaming sessions before we needed to charge. This is an average of 17 to 19 hours per charge. This indicates good battery efficiency for the chipset as well as optimizations of the OS used. The adaptive refresh rate also helps here as it can save battery when not doing tasks that need high refresh rates.

The 33W Dart Charge can charge the realme 9 Pro 5G for 10 percent to 100 percent in just 1 hour and 10 minutes.
realme UI homescreen
realme UI homescreen
realme UI notification panel, setting toggles

realme 9 Pro 5G runs Android 12 with realme UI 3.0 on top. It has round icons on the home screen and its toggles. The transitions and navigation are both fast and buttery smooth. In the toggles, you have the usual settings like WiFi, Mobile Data, Ringer mode, Bluetooth, Flashlight, Airplane Mode, Location, Auto-rotate, Dark Mode, Personal Hotspot, Screenshot+, Power Saving, Screen Recording, and Eye Comfort.

There are some realme exclusive ones as well such as realme Share. There are no intrusive ads as well. It is very clean and easy to use. There are some pre-installed apps such realme Community but nothing we can consider bloatware.

Pros - Gorgeous design, 120Hz FHD+ IPS screen, large RAM and storage, HUGE battery, great cameras, and camera app features, 5G ready, very fast charging
Cons - Some have better SoCs in lower price ranges, no dedicated image stabilization, only 1080p at 30fps for videos

realme 9 Pro 5G Specs

Display: 6.6-inch LCD (IPS) screen w/ 120Hz 6-level adaptive refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, FHD+ 2412 x 1080 resolution at 400 ppi
CPU: 2.2GHz 6nm Snapdragon 695 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 619
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 128GB expandable storage via microSD card slot up to 256GB
Back Camera: 64MP f/1.79 + 8MP f/2.2 119-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 macro + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 16MP f/2.05
Battery: 5,000mAh w/ 33W Dart Charge
OS: Android 12 w/ reaIme UI 3.0
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), 5G SA/NSA, 4G, Bluetooth 5.1, OTG, GLONASS, BeiDou, dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor, Hi-Res Audio, USB-C, Colors: Sunrise Blue, Aurora Green
Dimensions: 164.3x 75.6 x 8.5 mm
Weight: 195 g
Price: PHP 16,990

Verdict

For a smartphone that balances photography and gaming performance at PHP 16,990, the realme 9 Pro 5G does the job pretty well while having a premium-looking design.

The development in its camera software and technology is impressive when put into action, especially with Super Nightscape and Street Photography 2.0. The latter does need some practice to utilize properly. The lack of OIS to EIS was tried to be replaced by Ultra Steady mode but a dedicated solution will always be better.

In terms of performance, it drives most apps and popular games competently with little to no problems. Thermal management is very good as well as it did not get uncomfortably hot when gaming. The screen is one of its best features as the size is ample enough to deliver vibrant, bright, and detailed content.

In general, we can highly recommend the realme 9 Pro 5G if you are looking for a phone under PHP 18K. It is future-proof with its 5G capabilities, it has good performance, and it also has great cameras. It also feels good in the hand.

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4.5
Cameras - 4.5
Performance - 4
Average - 4.31/5
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