Redmi Note 9 Pro Review: Great Value, Excellent battery life


Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series known for its value-for-money (VFM) saw another upgrade in March. This time the company launched the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Note 9 Pro Max with the main differences being the cameras and support for faster charger in the Max version. The company did not take the high refresh rate route like the POCO X2, but it definitely a major upgrade in terms of display, battery and lots more. The specifications of the Redmi Note 9 Pro look great on paper for the price. Let us dive into the review to find out what the device has to offer.

Box Contents

  • Redmi Note 9 Pro smartphone 6GB + 128GB in Interstellar Black color
  • USB Type-C Cable
  • 18W charger (5V-3A/9V/2A/12V-1.5A)
  • SIM Ejector tool
  • Protective case
  • User manual and warranty information

Display, Hardware and Design

The Redmi Note 9 Pro has a Full HD+ ‘Dot’ Full HD+ display with a pixel resolution of 2400 × 1080 pixels, 20:9 aspect ratio 2.5D curved glass screen with gentle rounded corners. It has a large 6.67-inch screen size and a pixel density of about 394 PPI. The display is bright, thanks to 450 nits brightness and 1500:1 contrast ratio and the colors are vibrant since it has 84% of NTSC color gamut. Sunlight legibility is good, since it has a Sunlight display that uses hardware-level technology to adjust the contrast of each pixel in real time, so images are less affected by glare.

It also has HDR support, which works for supported YouTube videos, but you can’t control it manually. The phone has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The phone has minimal side and bottom bezels.

Since this has a 20:9 aspect ratio screen, you can pinch to zoom to fill the screen when you use video apps, but the content is cropped. There is also an option to hide the notch that adds a black bar on the top. Under the display options there are different options to adjust colors and contrast based on your preference. There is also reading mode that lets you reduce the display’s blue light emission so it doesn’t cause eye strain when you are reading at night, but this will be disabled when you play HDR videos. There is Dark mode, similar to other MIUI phones.

Above the display there is an earpiece on the top edge that also houses a tiny notification LED. The proximity is on the bezel, but it is hardly visible. It also has a gyroscope and a magnetic sensor, otherwise known as a magnetometer. There is also a 16-megapixel camera on the front with f/2.0 aperture.

There is a small bezel below the display, which is almost same as the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro features Z-axis linear vibration motor, which the company says is the only phone in the segment to feature it. The Z-axis linear motor enables over 150 custom vibration patterns across the UI for the best haptic experience, and the different can be felt when using the phone.

The button placements are similar to Redmi Note 8 Pro except the position of the fingerprint scanner. The volume rockers and the power button are located to the right and this time around, the power button houses the fingerprint scanner, just like the POCO X2. The USB Type-C port, primary microphone, 3.5mm audio jack, and speaker grill are present at the bottom. The left side houses the Dual SIM + microSD card tray and the top part houses the IR blaster and the secondary microphone.

On the back there is a 48-megapixel camera along with an 8-megapixel 119° wide-angle lens, 2-megapixel depth sensor and a 5-megapixel macro camera. This has slight camera bump due to the large sensor, but the camera lens is protected by a scratch-resistant glass. Even though the phone has a large screen, it is compact to hold, thanks to the punch-hole screen. This has the Aura Balance design with symmetrical design and 3D glass on the back with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The build quality is good for the price.

The phone also comes in Aurora Blue and Glacier White colours, and the Aurora Blue colour has a nice gradient finish. It comes with P2i nano coating similar to most other Redmi phones, but the Redmi Note 8 Pro had IP52 ratings with watertight seals for buttons and ports. It packs a 5020mAh built-in battery compared to 4500mAh in the predecessor. The phone is a bit heavy at 209 grams since it has a glass body and a large battery, but the weight distribution is decent.

Camera

The phone packs quad rear cameras, that includes a main 48-megapixel primary rear camera with single LED Flash, 1/1.72″ Samsung GM2 ISOCELL sensor, 0.8μm pixel size, f/1.79 aperture, has support for PDAF, EIS along with a secondary 8-megapixel camera with 119° ultra-wide angle lens with OmniVision OV8856 sensor, f/2.2 aperture, 1.12μm pixel size, 2-megapixel depth sensor with GalaxyCore GC02M1 for portrait as well as 5-megapixel camera with Samsung S5K5E9 sensor for 2cm macro with 1.75μm pixel size and f/2.4 aperture. It has a 16-megapixel front-facing camera with OmniVision OV16A1Q sensor and f/2.2 aperture.

The camera UI is familiar with other Xiaomi smartphones running MIUI 11 with flash, HDR, AI, Macro mode, colour modes (Normal, Vivid, Film, Amour, Latte, Sun, Cookie, Calm, Soda, Gourmet, Glow, Berries, B&W and Fade) on the top. There is also new Pro colour mode on the top that boosts the colour when capturing images, just like Chroma Boost in realme phones. Pressing the menu option shows camera frame, timer, tilt-shift, straighten, macro and Google lens. There is a front camera toggle on the bottom along with option to select modes such as Slow motion, Short Video, Video, Photo, 48MP, Portrait, Night, Panorama and Pro mode to adjust white balance, focus, shutter speed (1/4000s to 30 seconds), ISO (100 to 3200) and option to select main, ultra-wide and macro lens. You can also shoot in RAW in Pro mode. Beautify option for the front camera lets you adjust several features, in addition to smoothness. There is also a new 21:9 wide portrait feature which is called ‘movie’ mode which works both rear camera front cameras.

Xiaomi has enabled Cam2API by default so you can side-load ported Google Camera APKs for advanced editing including RAW capture.

Coming to the image quality, daylight shots came out well with good dynamic range. After pixel binning you get 13MP output. HDR shots are better with improved dynamic range, and macro shots are good as well with good amount of details. The dedicated 5MP macro sensor captures the details without any blur even when you go as close as 2cms, but the colors are not perfect. Wide-angle shots are good as well, and the portrait shots have good edge detection. 48MP mode that offers a lot of details, but some images can go up to 20MB in size. Even though there is no telephoto lens, it uses the software for offering 2x zoom, which might be handy sometimes.

Low-light shots are decent, thanks to 4-in-1 Super Pixel technology that lets the camera’s sensor hardware combine 4 pixels into a single 1.6μm large pixel, and the night mode is even better making the images brighter offering more details, but there is noise when there is hardly any light. Images with flash are good and the flash is not overpowering. Daylight front camera shots are good, and low-light shots are just average. The output is 16MP in resolution, but the image size is around 4MB. Portrait shots have decent edge detection even though it is done using software.

Check out the camera samples (Click the image to view the full resolution sample.).

It can record videos at 4k resolution at 30 fps, 1080p at up to 60 fps, and it also has slow motion 720p resolution video recording at up to 960fps, but this should be 240fps converted into 960fps since the Snapdragon 720G officially supports only up to 240fps slow motion recording. You can also shoot 1080p 30 fps videos using the ultra-wide and macro cameras. Check out the video samples below.

Software, UI and Apps

It runs Android 10 out of the box with MIUI 11 on top. It recently got Android security update for April, 2020. MIUI 11 that was introduced last year brings several features including Minimalistic Design, Quick Replies, dynamic sound effects, Dynamic Video Wallpaper and more. It should get MIUI 12 and Android 11 as well in the future. It has all the usual set of features such as Dual Apps, Second Space, App Lock, Quick Ball and more.

Inside the special features option there is Quick replies feature. This shows WhatsApp notification in a pop-up box when you are watching YouTube videos or in other apps. This is a useful feature, but it currently works for WhatsApp. Special features also has Game Turbo and Second Space.

Apart from the usual set of utility apps, Google apps and Xiaomi’s own set of apps, it comes pre-loaded with Amazon Shopping, Facebook, Opera mini, Gaana, Dailyhunt and Gaana apps. It also asks for additional app installation during setup, which you can skip. You can easily uninstall these apps, but these come up when you reset the phone.

Xiaomi is infamous for showing ads on its phones with MIUI, which the company says is done in order to support the development cost of its own apps. If you don’t want to see ads, you have to disable recommendations while setting the phone up, promoted apps and in Xiaomi’s own apps such as MusicMi VideoFile ManagerMi DropApp Vault, and others. You can also uninstall these apps by following the procedure here without rooting the phone.

Since the phone has an infrared sensor for remote function, it comes with Mi Remote that lets you control your home appliances easily. It worked flawlessly with Samsung TV, Tatasky Set-top box and other appliances. It also supports A/V receiver, DVD Player, Projector, Camera and more. Out of 6GB RAM, you get 5.58GB of usable RAM, and about 2.8GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. Out of 128GB internal storage, you get about 104.7GB of free storage. Since this has UFS 2.1 storage, we got sequential read speeds of about 502MB/s.

Fingerprint sensor and Face unlock

The phone has a fingerprint sensor on the ride side, embedded into the power button. It immediately unlocks phone just by keeping your finger on the power button so that you don’t have to press it. This is more convenient compared to the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and faster than the in-display fingerprint scanner in the Redmi Note 8 Pro. You can add up to 5 fingerprints. You can also use the fingerprint for app local and payments in apps. The phone also has face unlock, but it is not as secure as fingerprint since it can be unlocked with a photo. It also doesn’t work if you use sunglasses or hats.

Music Player, FM Radio and Multimedia

The Mi Music Player is the default music player with usual Xiaomi audio effects and equalizer. It also has FM Radio with recording. Audio through the speaker is loud.  Since the speaker is present on the bottom, audio doesn’t get muffled when the phone is on a flat surface. Audio through earphones is good. It has Widevine L1 support so you can play HD content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other streaming apps. We have even tested it and it worked without any issues, but it doesn’t support HDR content on Netflix.

Dual SIM and Connectivity

It supports 4G VoLTE for Reliance Jio and Airtel as well as support Dual 4G VoLTE that offers 4G in both the SIM cards at a time. There is Snapdragon X15 Cat-12 LTE modem. Other connectivity options include Dual-Band Wi-Fi 802.11 ac with dual antenna design for better Wi-Fi connectivity when gaming, Wi-Fi calling / VoWiFi support, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, GPS  and it also has NavIC, which works well. It also has USB OTG support that lets you connect USB drives. The dialer and messaging UI are similar to other Xiaomi smartphones running MIUI 11. Since this is a dual SIM phone, you get the option to select either SIMs when calling or sending a text message. Moving on, the call quality is good, and we did not face any call drops and the earpiece volume was loud.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro’s body SAR is 0.483 W/Kg (Distance:15mm) and head SAR is at 0.898W/Kg which is below 1W/kg, even though the limit in India is 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g).

Performance and Benchmarks

Coming to the performance, this is one of the first phones to be powered by an Octa-Core Snapdragon 720G 8nm Mobile Platform, which has 2 x Kryo 465 Performance CPUs (A76-based) clocked at up to 2.3GHz and 6x Kryo 465 Efficiency CPUs (A55-based) at up to 1.8GHz. It has Adreno 618 GPU with support for Open GL ES 3.2, Open CL 2.0, as well as Vulkan 1.1 graphics, 8GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB UFS 2.1 storage.

Thanks to the slightly higher clocked larger Kryo 465 cores based on new Cortex A76, this is faster than the Snapdragon 730G that uses Kryo 470 cores. The Snapdragon 720G also features select Snapdragon Elite Gaming features including Game Anti-Cheat Extensions and Game Fast Loader, True HDR Gaming featuring 10-bit color depth and aptX Adaptive audio provides high-quality synchronized sound. We did not face any issues or frame drops in the graphic-intensive games, and PUBG works in full graphics. It gets a bit warm on intensive gaming and 4G data use since it has a glass back, but it doesn’t get too hot to handle. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below, which shows MediaTek Helio G90T still has a upper hand mainly due to the powerful GPU.

Battery life

Coming to the battery life, the 5020mAh (typical) built-in battery making it the largest battery in the Redmi Note series. It lasts for a whole day even with heavy use, and with average use it lasts for two days, thanks to optimization in the MIUI 11. I got over 11 hours of screen on time with 3 days of use, which is excellent. Since the phone has support for 18W fast charging, it takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes from 0 to 100%, and 0 to 50% takes 45 minutes using the bundled 18W charger. This is not up to mark compared to the realme 6 Pro or even the POCO X2 that come with 30W and 27W chargers, respectively. If you want faster charging, the Note 9 Pro Max is an option, which comes with 33w fast charging at higher cost.

It achieved One Charge Rating of 19 hours and 44 minutes in our battery test, which is good for a phone with a 5020mAh battery, and it is better than the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the POCO X2. Battery life is based on different factors such as software optimization and the processing power that requires to power the phone, so if the phone lasts for a day with heavy use, it is good.

Conclusion

The phone was launched at Rs. 12,999, but after the GST price hike, the phone starts at Rs. 13999 for the 4GB RAM with 64GB version, still it is a good phone for the phone. The punch-hole LCD screen with minimal bezels is good, if you don’t care about AMOLED and Always-on-display, has decent cameras, premium glass body, smooth performance and excellent battery life. Some might miss the AMOLED screen, high refresh rate of at least 90Hz and faster charging, but you have to compromise these considering the price.

Competition

The realme 6 is a good competition for the same price that comes with a 90Hz screen and a better gaming experience, but there the phone heats up quickly. Even though the Galaxy M31 has been launched, the Galaxy M30s is still available in under Rs. 15,000 price range. If you can spend more, then the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max should be better in terms of camera, charging and more RAM starting at Rs. 16,499 for the Rs. 6GB+64GB version.

Availability

Priced at Rs. 13,999 for the 4GB RAM with 64GB storage version and Rs. 16,999 for the 6GB RAM with 128GB storage version, it wil be available through flash sale on Amazon.in and mi.com every week. It partnered with ICICI Bank for a Rs. 1000 instant discount during first few sales, but it is not available anymore.

Pros

  • Large ‘Dot’ display is good
  • Good cameras
  • Smooth performance
  • Premium glass body
  • Dedicated Dual SIM and microSD slots
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • No high refresh rate display
  • Low-light camera performance could be better
  • Might be large and bulky for some
  • 18W charger takes almost 2 hours for full charge
  • Bloatware and ads in UI

Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a Mobile Technology Enthusiast who is passionate about Mobile phones and Mobile apps. He uses the phones he reviews as his main phone. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram