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realme 9 review - Enticing at PHP 15K?

In our unboxing and first impressions article, we complimented realme 9 for its slim build, eye-catching design, and promising camera performance.
realme 9 review - Enticing at PHP 15K?
Review of realme 9 4G

In the Philippines, the realme officially comes in a 6GB RAM + 128GB storage variant with a PHP 14,999 price tag. 

The realme 9 seems to pack so much potential on device paper, with a Gorilla Glass 5 protected Super AMOLED screen, 6nm Snapdragon 680 octa-core processor, and 108MP ProLight Camera using a Samsung HM6 sensor.

But is it any good? How did it hold up as our daily driver in gaming, photography, and other activities?

Here's our full review to determine if it's overall attractive and worth your cash!

Multimedia Experience

A bright full HD panel that's nice for web surfing
A bright full HD panel that's nice for web surfing

The realme 9's 6.43-inch Super AMOLED screen is packed with a 360Hz touch sampling rate. The handset comes with a pre-installed screen protector and Gorilla Glass 5. The latter adds protection from accidental drops and minor scratches.

Of course, it supports 10 points of multitouch that are pretty much responsive.

As expected, the Super AMOLED panel delivers punchy and bright colors. Aside from that, the screen has good viewing angles, deeper blacks, and better color accuracy than IPS ones. 

Great contrast and vivid colors results are an amazing combo in viewing videos!

As far as display customizations go, it still features a standard three-profile setting and a slider to adjust the color temperature.

The realme 9's display also has a 90Hz refresh rate, which is on the average side. At least it is not at 60Hz, but it would have been nicer if the company competed with those similarly priced devices with smoother 120Hz refresh rates.

But the good thing is that we did not experience screen stutters, even with multiple apps open or active.

Furthermore, the device also offers three refresh rate modes, including auto-select, standard, and high. You can choose the standard refresh rate mode if you prefer to save the battery.

Another huge plus of this screen is that it remains visible outdoors or in bright sunlight. Auto-brightness is also sensitive and quickly adjusts brightness levels according to surroundings.

Whether we put it on a system-wide dark or light mode, the display experience on both is immersive. The display has Widevine L1 support as well, so you can watch content from OTT apps in Full HD.

Personally, the screen size of the realme 9 feels just right, even for one-hand operations. The slimness of the phone also makes it comfortable to carry and use.

As for the audio performance, the device sports a single bottom-firing loudspeaker at the bottom right. It produces pleasing and loud sounds, enough to fill a medium-sized room. 

Despite its loud volume, the phone lacks bass. Turning up the volume to maximum makes it prone to distortion, so it's best to keep it at 70 or 80 percent. The basic earphones that arrived with the box offered a better listening experience.

This speaker is fine for Netflix binging or streaming videos on TikTok

Lastly, the handset's microphone recording was clear and audible. It also gave a satisfying performance when we tested it out for calls, considering the voice quality from both ends.


The realme 9 sports a triple camera system of 108MP f/1.79 Samsung HM6 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.2 120-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro + LED flash. 

The stock camera app comes with the following modes: night, street, 108MP, video, photo, portrait, tilt-shift, slo-mo, text scanner, time-lapse, film (movie), pro, ultra macro, and panorama.

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

The Expert (Pro) mode allows for control of ISO (100-6400), Shutter Speed (1/8000s to 32 secs), White Balance (2000K to 8000K), focus, and exposure compensation (+-2 stops).

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight normal
Daylight normal
Daylight wide
Daylight wide
Daylight photo with a filter
Indoor normal
Indoor normal
Indoor wide
Indoor wide

Similar to what we said in our impressions article, the midrange handset takes good images in bright lighting conditions. We just noticed that the colors are slightly enhanced or saturated, but they are still pleasing to the eyes. 

The same thing we can say with the photos taken indoors, in this case, a restaurant. Although it seems that the sharpness dropped a bit.

Meanwhile, the camera app also gots loads of filters to make your photos artistic or portray a mood. For instance, we used a sepia-toned filter above to get a vintage vibe.

The 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera also captured details with minimal distortion. The tap-to-focus feature on this device is responsive as well.
A portrait of a subject in a dim environment
A portrait of a subject in a dim environment
Portrait of a subject outdoors
Portrait of a subject outdoors
Bokeh blur
Bokeh blur

Meanwhile, the camera got a pleasing bokeh effect that is clean and separates the subject from the background nicely. Even though it's not that outstanding, it still gets the job done.
Night mode normal shot
Night mode normal shot
Night mode wide-angle shot
Night mode wide-angle shot

For night mode, there is an option to switch between normal, wide-angle, and zoom by toggling the button on the screen. The primary camera was able to capture average-looking shots in a dim environment. 

By enabling the night mode, colors are noticeably more vibrant and brighter. However, using it with the ultra-wide lens resulted in lesser quality, and distortions are more apparent.

On a large scale, the cameras of this realme device performed as expected from a mid-range smartphone. 
A 16MP front-facing camera
A 16MP front-facing camera

The selfie shooter housed on the upper left punch-hole allows you to shoot using a few modes like the default photo, video, night, and portrait. Of course, it features beautification, HDR, screen light, AI enhancement, and filters.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie with portrait blur
Indoor selfie without filter
Indoor selfie without filter
Indoor selfie with a beauty filter
Indoor selfie with a beauty filter

As anticipated from its selfie camera, the device produced great-looking selfies in broad daylight. Not only the images are vibrant and detailed, but we also appreciate their color accuracy, especially in skin tones. 

We noticed that indoor photos got more noise and grain which lessened their sharpness a tad. Nonetheless, the colors are still good and the contrast is much better.
Low light selfie with screen light on
Night mode selfie with screen light on
Low light selfie with beauty filter and screen light activated
Night mode selfie with beauty filter and screen light activated

In the dark or poorly-lit surroundings, the front camera struggled. Thanks to its Night mode and screen light, the shots were significantly improved. 

One small issue is that you might want to tone down the beauty filter or not use it at all when using the screen light. As you can see from the photo above, the complexion looked unnatural and cartoonish. 


AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

The company equipped the realme 9 with a 2.4GHz 6nm Snapdragon 680 octa-core processor paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, which is still expandable up to 256GB via microSD.

This is the same chipset used on realme 9i and OPPO A76. Both are under PHP 12K price point. It is commonly found on mid-range devices, but we wish a more capable chip or a higher one was installed.
PCMark and 3DMark scores
PCMark and 3DMark scores
AI benchmark and CPDT
AI benchmark and CPDT

realme 9 benchmark scores:

1. AnTuTu - 287,322
2. Geekbench - 381 (Single-Core), 1,589 (Multi-Core)
3. PCMark Work 3.0 performance - 8,334
4. 3DMark Wild Life - 447 and average 2.7 fps
5. AI Benchmark - 36.4K
6. CPDT - 278.33 MB/s (Sequential write speed), 447.21 MB/s (Sequential read speed)

Nevertheless, this mid-ranger efficiently managed our daily tasks such as emailing, web browsing, social media, and light to moderate gaming sessions. We tried playing graphic-hungry games like Mobile Legends and Call of Duty: Mobile, but the phone failed to give an enjoyable experience.

It would have been better if realme used a more capable chip with 5G connectivity...

Even at low settings, the frame drops and stutters are noticeable. This might not be the best option for heavy gamers. On a positive note, the phone has good thermal management since it does not heat up during long hours of usage.

Multi-tasking is not a problem, and switching between apps is smooth as butter. However, we encountered a few hiccups, especially when multiple apps are opened during camera usage. Thankfully, a simple phone restart solves this tiny issue.

For security, this one features an optical in-display fingerprint scanner underneath, which you don't often see in other budget phones. It works pretty well unless your fingers are wet or something. 

This fingerprint sensor even doubles as a heart rate monitor. Not the most accurate reading I have seen, but it's cool to even have this feature. 

The heart rate monitor on the fingerprint reader interesting addition that's easy-to-use!

The face unlock is also responsive; you can even select to brighten the screen to illuminate your face in dimly-lit areas.
PCMark battery benchmark score
The PCMark battery benchmark score

For battery, the realme device managed to fit a 5,000mAh cell in its sleek frame. The PCMark Work 3.0 battery life benchmark test shows that this battery clocked roughly 11 hours, slightly lower than we expected.

Under moderate usage, the phone can endure a whole day, possibly extending up to a day and a half for light users. Charging took less than an hour using the 33W charger brick included in the package.

The handset runs on Android 12 realme UI 3.0 on top of Android 12. It's still packed with bloatware such as Agoda, Booking.com, Hey Fun, and others. You can simply choose to uninstall or disable them manually. 

One of the features that we find helpful in multi-tasking is the floating window. Selected apps like Videos are automatically scaled down to a corner of your display when you run a second app simultaneously. For instance, we can watch a YouTube clip while typing something on Viber or Messenger.
User interface
User interface

realme UI 3.0 has several UI personalizations, but my favorite is the Sketchpad AOD. In essence, this feature converts your portrait wallpaper into creative Always On Display aesthetics.

To add a photo on the AOD, head to Settings > Personalizations > Always-On Display. Under the Personalized section, tap on Portrait silhouette and select the image you want to add. Sketchpad AOD fades smoothly into your home screen whenever you unlock the device.

When you swipe down, you will see the notifications and shortcuts to WiFi, Mobile data, Bluetooth, and Hotspot to Flashlight, Screen capture, Eye Comfort, Dark mode, Screen Recording, Auto Rotate, Device Control, realme share, and many more.

Pros - Stylish build, great AMOLED screen, ample battery life, several camera modes, nice selfie camera, heart rate sensor
Cons - SD680 is slow for the price, lacks 5G connectivity

realme 9 4G Specs

Display: 6.43-inch Gorilla Glass 5 protected Super AMOLED screen w/ 90Hz refresh rate, 360Hz touch sampling rate, FHD+ 2400 x 1080 resolution at 409 ppi
CPU: 2.4GHz 6nm Snapdragon 680 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 610
ROM: 128GB UFS 2.2 expandable storage via microSD card slot up to 256GB
Back Camera: 108MP f/1.79 Samsung HM6 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.2 120-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 16MP f/2.45
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), 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.1 (SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC), OTG, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: In-Display fingerprint sensor w/ heart rate monitor, Hi-Res Audio, USB-C, Colors: Sunburst Gold, Stargaze White, Meteor Black
Dimensions: 160.2 x 73.3 x 7.99 mm
Weight: 178 g
Price: PHP 14,999


The realme 9 is more than its compact build materials and gorgeous back design. We love the screen of this phone since you can properly enjoy watching videos and movies with its 6.43 Super AMOLED display that can get really bright and colorful.

But then, this device also got some issues. The first is that the Snapdragon 680 octa-core processor performed okay but it is underwhelming for its price point. Next is the super macro mode of its camera is tricky to use. There is no 5G like most similarly priced phones under PHP 15K as well.

To sum things up, the realme 9 is a good choice if you want a phone with a good build, nice aesthetics, and an impressive screen.

On the other hand, its camera is hit-and-miss. It also may lag behind in terms of processor and battery. So if you have an extra 2K to splurge, we recommend that you get its pricier sibling. 

What do you guys think?

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4.5
Cameras - 4.0
Performance - 3.75
Average - 4.13/5

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