Redmi 9 is the new base model in Xiaomi’s budget phone lineup, but the company offers such exceptional value across the board that this handset is stuck between a rock and a hard place: it’s dirt cheap, but not dirt cheap enough to justify some of the corners being cut in comparison to the competition.
It is tough to suggest this phone over the Poco X3 NFC and Redmi Note 9 for any reason save its lower price.
It is now the second-cheapest mobile phone in our roundup of the top budget phones (and the cheapest budget Chinese phone), and is by far the superior pick. It also surpasses Oppo’s pricier entry-level A5 (2020). Nevertheless, if you increase your budget by only £40, you will find substantially better value.
The Redmi 9 is not an ugly phone, but it is made of plastic, which screams affordability. In addition, it employs a Dot Drop display, unlike the rest of Xiaomi’s affordable lineup features full-screen displays with punch-hole camera modules. This makes it appear dated.
On the bright side, the textured rear surface is far more grippy than glass-backed phones, making it much more stable in your hand and when placed on a flat surface.
The display is otherwise great, with a Full HD+ resolution and a large 19.5:9 aspect ratio, but it cannot create the vivid and vibrant colors that AMOLED screens in Xiaomi’s higher-end devices are capable of. In reality, for our PCMark battery testing (see how we evaluate smartphones), we adjusted the screen brightness to 200 nits, which was very much the maximum. We predict that its Sunlight display will only reach 400 nits under direct sunlight.
Xiaomi has also reduced expenses by utilizing the older Gorilla Glass 3, which is significantly safer than having no protection at all, although we would have rather to see Gorilla Glass 5 or 6. Plastic construction lends the impression of sturdiness, but there is no waterproofing. As with all Xiaomi smartphones, a TPU case is included.
The 6.53-inch display is decent, although we must note that it is identical to the Redmi Note 9, which lacks the waterdrop screen notch. Bezels are relatively thin.
The design is rather simple, yet consistent with where you would typically expect to see particular elements. It’s not unusual to find the fingerprint sensor on the rear of a budget phone, and here it’s hidden away at the base of the central quad-lens camera assembly, so avoid leaving greasy fingerprints all over the camera.
Also included are an Infrared blaster, a 3.5mm headphone connector, and a SIM slot that does not require you to pick between microSD storage expansion and dual-SIM capabilities. This is particularly important because the standard model has only 32GB of internal storage, while 64GB is available for an additional £20.
A single mono speaker is located next to the headphone socket; it is functional but will distort at maximum volume.
This phone’s large battery, listed at 5020mAh, is one of its chief selling factors. This is comparable to the Redmi Note 9 and only slightly lower than the Poco X3 NFC, which contains more demanding hardware.
Even with 18W Quick Charge 3.0, the battery seems to take an eternity to recharge, even though it readily lasted a full day in our tests. The included 10W charger required 30 minutes to charge the battery to 20%. Obviously, this is largely due to the battery’s great capacity, but we’ve become accustomed to considerably faster charging phones in recent years. Please note that wireless charging is not available.
Yet, our real-world observations were not supported by synthetic benchmarks. Using the PCMark Work 2.0 battery life test, we recorded 8 hours 13 minutes, which is a substantial decrease from the Poco’s 14 hours 24 minutes and also lower than top budget phones from other companies, such as the Realme 7 (9 hours 2 minutes) and Realme 7 Pro (12 hours 5 minutes). This is one of the lowest scores we’ve seen since the PCMark benchmark was introduced.
We also do battery tests with Geekbench 4, with similarly disappointing results. A result of 6 hours and 50 minutes is the lowest we’ve seen from Xiaomi in quite some time, and devices with Snapdragon CPUs perform significantly better in our tests.
Real-world usage is vastly more useful than benchmarks, so we won’t dwell on these surprisingly dismal results, but they do indicate that the battery isn’t as spectacular as the advertising suggests.
In our benchmarks, the ARM Mali-G52 MC2 GPU’s overall performance was similarly poor, with GFXBench delivering meager and almost unplayable framerates in all but one of its graphics components. Sadly, when we tested the Redmi Note 9, it was unable to complete all of these benchmarks, but the Poco X3 NFC and Realme 7 displayed significantly superior gaming performance.
Connectivity merits note, mostly because it is simultaneously astounding and unimpressive.
NFC (used for mobile payments and rapid pairing through Bluetooth with compatible devices) is only available in limited markets, and this one is obviously not one of them as there is no option for it in the options. Wi-Fi is single-band and incompatible with 802.11ac (in the Chinese model you do get dual-band 802.11ac, however). These omissions are no longer standard or acceptable in inexpensive smartphones.
Dual-SIM capabilities enables both SIMs to simultaneously support 4G (but not 5G), as well as an IR blaster and 3.5mm headphone jack that are becoming increasingly uncommon (probably for good reason). A inexpensive phone with USB-C, a fingerprint sensor, GPS, and Bluetooth 5.0 is equipped with a respectable set of features.
Even before considering image quality, Redmi 9’s megapixel count has been drastically reduced. While the amount of megapixels is rarely a determining factor in image quality, it is crucial to note that with its larger megapixel models, Xiaomi merges four separate pixels into one super pixel, so the end result is not technically 48- or 64-megapixels, but is of considerably greater quality.
Carbon Grey has been tested, however the 4GB/64GB Redmi 9 is also offered in Sunset Purple and Ocean Green.
It is feasible to import Redmi 9 via Chinese vendors like GearBest and Geekbuying, and doing so could save you money. But, keep in mind that when shipping things from China to the United Kingdom, you are required to pay a 20% import charge, and it will make your life much simpler if you get a global model rather than a Chinese one. Check see our advice on how to install Google Services on a Chinese Xiaomi phone if you make a mistake.