realme launched the realme 9 Speed Edition, the company’s latest mid-range smartphone in the realme 9 series, in India last month. This lies between the realme 9 Pro and the realme 9 Pro+. It replaces the Snapdragon 695 in the 9 Pro with Snapdragon 778G. Is this the best phone for gaming to buy in the Rs. 20,000 price range? Let us dive into the review to find out.
- realme 9 5G Speed Edition 8GB + 128GB model in Starry Glow colour
- 2-pin 30W Dart charger
- USB Type C Cable
- SIM Ejector tool
- Clear protective case
- User Guide and Warranty information
Display, Hardware and Design
The realme 9 SE sports a 6.6-inch (1080 x 2400 pixels) Full HD+ 20:9 aspect ratio 144Hz LCD screen with adaptive refresh rate feature that can automatically switch between 6 different refresh rates -24Hz / 30Hz / 48Hz / 60Hz/ 90Hz/144Hz. It has 240Hz touch sampling rate. The display is bright since it has up to 600 nits peak brightness. It offers good colour output and the sunlight legibility is good as well. You can select from Vivid and Gentle screen colour modes.
The 144Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling rate offers a buttery smooth user experience, especially when you are scrolling through the UI and when gaming. Some might miss an AMOLED display. It also has HDR 10 support, which works for YouTube, but it doesn’t work with Netflix. The phone doesn’t have a notification LED, and since there is no AMOLED display, it also doesn’t have an always-on-display.
The phone has a tiny punch-hole on the left that houses a 16-megapixel camera. Above the display, there is an earpiece on the top edge, but the phone doesn’t have streo speakers.
Coming to the button placements and ports, the power button is present on the right side that embeds the fingerprint scanner, the volume rockers are present on the left along with the dual SIM + a dedicated micro SD slot, secondary microphone is on the top, 3.5mm audio jack, primary microphone, USB Type-C port and the loudspeaker grill are present on the bottom.
The phone has a polycarbonate frame which as a smooth matte finish. It also has a plastic back, but the starlight design on the back, which the company says offers an appearance of a star-filled sky under sunlight. The Starry Glow colour that we have looks good.
This phone is just 8.5mm thin, but weighs 199 grams since it packs a huge 5000mAh battery. Some might feel the phone bulky since phones in the range are around 190 grams.
- 48MP camera with f/1.8 aperture
- 2MP B&W portrait camera with f/2.4 aperture
- 2MP 4cm macro camera with f/2.4 aperture
The camera UI is the same as other phones running realme UI 2.0. It has features like dual video, AI color portrait and bokeh flare portrait for images. There is also Dynamic bokeh option for photos. For video, you only get one portrait option. The rear camera offers 12MP output after pixel binning, and the front camera images are 16MP in size.
Daylight shots came out well, thanks to the 48MP sensor, and the dynamic range is better with auto HDR. There is AI mode which recognizes different photo scenes and automatically adjusts camera settings to make boost the colours. 2X is good, but once you zoom after that the quality degrades since it is digital zoom. The portrait mode is decent and the 2MP macro camera is useless, so it is recommended to use 2X zoom with the normal camera.
Low light shots are decent, but there is noise. The night mode is useful, but it takes a few seconds to process. There is also a pro mode in night mode for manual tuning. The front camera is also good in daylight, and there is also HDR mode. The bokeh shots were decent, but the edge detection is not the best since it is just uses software.
Check out the camera samples.
It can record videos in up to 4K 30 fps. There is also slow motion option, and the front camera can record 1080p 30fps videos. Portrait video mode, AI mode are limited to 1080p 30fps. It uses EIS for videos, and there is also ultra steady mode with up to 1080p 60 fps recording which does a decent job.
Software, UI and Apps
The phone still runs Android 11 based realme UI 2.0 out of the box, and the company has promised to roll out realme UI 3.0 based on Android 12 soon. It has Android security patch for March 2022.
Apart from the usual set of realme apps and Google apps, it comes with Amazon Shopping, Booking.com, Josh, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Spotify and Moj. Most apps can be uninstalled, but the Finsell Pay app can’t be uninstalled since it is a system app. However, you can use the ADB commands to remove them.
Out of 8GB LPDD4X RAM, you get 7.3GB of usable RAM, and about 4GB of RAM is free when default apps are running in the background. It also has DRE or dynamic RAM expansion feature, which uses the built-in storage as RAM. This has up to 5GB of additional RAM expansion. Out of 128GB, you get about 106GB of free storage. The phone uses UFS 2.2 storage, and we got sequential read speeds of about, 1026 MB/s.
Fingerprint sensor and Face unlock
It has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that unlocks the phone quickly. 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 feature.
Music and Multimedia
YouTube Music is the default Music Player that has Real Sound Technology with customizable Smart, Movie, Gaming and Music modes, but doesn’t have Dolby Atmos. It doesn’t have FM Radio support. Audio through the mono speaker is good without any distortion even in full volume. Audio through earphones is good as well. This has Widevine L1, so that you can play HD content on Netflix and other streaming apps. It supports HDR content on YouTube, but this doesn’t work on Netflix.
Dual SIM and Connectivity
The realme 9 SE has support for several 5G bands that includes for n1/n28/n41/ n77/n78/n41 in India. It has 4G Wi-Fi and VoLTE with support for Carrier Aggregation on 4G. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6 802.11 ax (2.4GHz + 5GHz), VoWiFi / Wi-Fi calling support, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS / GLONASS / Beidou. It has OTG support, doesn’t have NFC support. Moving on, the call quality is good, and we did not face any call drops and the earpiece volume was loud.
The realme 9 SE’s body SAR is 1.028W/Kg and head SAR is at 1.159/Kg, which is well under the limit of 1.6 W/kg (over 1 g) in India.
Performance and Benchmarks
This is the only phone in the price range to be powered by Snapdragon 778G 6nm Mobile Platform that uses Qualcomm Kryo 670 CPUs with new architecture delivers up to 40% performance uplift and the Adreno 642L GPU is designed to deliver up to 40% faster graphics rendering compared to the previous generation. It has 4 x A78-based Kryo 670 Performance CPU clocked at 2.4GHz and 4 x A55-based Kryo 670 Efficiency CPUs clocked at up to 1.80GHz.
The Adreno 642L GPU offers a smooth gaming performance even in graphic intensive games, and the phone doesn’t get too hot even during long hours of gaming. The phone gets a bit warm on intensive gaming, but it doesn’t too hot. We did not face any issues or frame drops in the graphic-intensive games like COD (Supports Very High Graphics + Max Frame rate), BGMI (Supports HDR Graphics + Ultra Frame rate) and Genshin Impact. It reached maximum 41º in our testing indoors in Wi-Fi, but this might vary outdoors in 4G. That said, check out some synthetic benchmark scores below.
Coming to the battery life, the phone packs a 5000mAh (typical) built-in battery. It lasts for a whole day even with 4G and dual SIMs, and heavy multimedia use. I got about 5 hours of screen on time with over a day of use on Wi-Fi and in auto refresh rate. Since the phone has support for 30W Dart Charge, it can charge from 50% in 25 minutes and up to 100% in about an hour with the bundled 30W charger.
At a starting price of Rs. 19,999, the realme 9 5G Speed Edition offers a great value if you want good gaming performance on a phone. Even the camera is decent, but it misses the ultra-wide camera. The 144Hz LCD screen with variable refresh rate is good, but some might miss the AMOLED screen. It also lacks stereo speakers, and still runs Android 11.
Pricing and availability
The realme 9 5G Speed Edition is priced at Rs. 19,999 for the 6GB + 128GB version and the 8GB + 128GB version costs Rs. 22,999. It is available from realme.com, Flipkart and offline stores.
There is no direct competitor in the price range if you need a good gaming phone with a powerful SoC like Snapdragon 778G. The iQOO Z5 comes close and has the same SoC at a slightly higher price tag.
- 144Hz HDR display is good
- Smooth performance
- Good camera performance in daylight
- Good battery life
- Still runs Android 11
- Some might miss AMOLED display
- Average low-light camera performance, No ultra-wide camera
- No stereo speakers