In India, Xiaomi is Redmi — it’s not the other way round. That’s why the Chinese company even created an all-new sub-brand called Redmi because Redmi had the Midas touch in India, its biggest market outside China. And Redmi in India is basically Redmi Note — because it was the success fuelled by the Redmi Note series that made Xiaomi India’s number 1 smartphone brand for last 2.5 years and so on. With the launch of the Redmi Note 9 Pro Xiaomi has created a refined new phone which dials everything up that made the Redmi Note 7 Pro and Redmi Note 8 Pro the darling of the Indian market. This is the new people’s phone.
- Everything about this phone starts with performance and I’m happy to report that it is excellent. This is the first phone to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 720G processor which is even faster than the Snapdragon 730. This is also supplemented by 6GB of DDR4X RAM and UFS 2.1 memory which is basically the benchmark for the category. This phone is fast by any measure — be it multitasking, holding apps in memory, sustained performance and even gaming.
- Talking of gaming many pundits would say this is a step backwards from the Mediatek Helio GT90 based Redmi Note 8 Pro, but it isn’t the case. Yes, the GPU on that phone is faster, but this GPU provides better-sustained performance. In other words, while playing PUBG, the Redmi Note 8 Pro would produce better graphics for a short while, but the Redmi Note 9 Pro locks in a higher frame rate consistently for much much longer. Generally, this is the faster phone with more consistent performance.
- The new quad-cameras are very very good. The new 48-megapixel Samsung sensor provides crisp shots in day-light with plenty of detail while also providing accurate colours. In low-light also this camera system shines as it has a potent night mode which is fast and manages quite detailed shots. Overall, you also get a very good wide-angle lens which is great for landscapes, the portrait mode also works well with impressive edge detection and the macro mode is perfect for super close shots. The new pro mode is also very usable and Xiaomi has also added a photo scanner.
- The biggest improvement over the Redmi 8 Pro comes in the form of the video camera. This phone just takes super stable video, including in 4K at 30 frames per second with superb autofocus. The audio capture is also great if you’re someone who goes to a lot of gigs and likes to bootleg performances. There is short movie mode which is perfect for Instagram stories and there are also a bundle of effects that make this a good package for someone looking for a lot of out of the box features.
- The design coupled with the new punch-hole notch in the 6.67-inch display makes this phone look very elegant. The new twist on Xiaomi’s aurora design makes this phone more ergonomic as it’s gently curved from the back while also retaining the sturdy and premium feel which made the Redmi Note 7 Pro very popular. It also feels very solid, so much so that in front of a Rs 73,999 phone like the Galaxy S20, this is the one which takes the cake.
- The display is also quite nice at 6.67-inches enhancing the screen to body ratio from the Redmi Note 8 Pro thanks to the addition of the hole-punch camera. The colours are accurate and it is great for watching content for a very long time — eg. perfect for binging HDR content on Netflix or watching Star Trek Picard on Prime Video.
- Xiaomi has paid attention to the small details on the phone — for example, you still get a 3.5mm headphone jack, the battery now supports USB PD 18-watt fast charging, the Mi UI interface is also not overly janky in terms of bloatware while there is also a new Z-axis motor for haptics that makes typing on this phone very pleasant. Additionally, the fingerprint scanner has been moved on the right side on the power button which makes it fast and very ergonomic for most people. This phone also becomes one of the first phones in India to support NaVIC which makes homing in on locations within India more reliable.
- Last but not least is the battery life. It is incredible. I’ve managed to get a consistent 7-hour plus screen on time on this phone with me not having to charge it more than once in 2 days. This is also with heavy use, including excessive use of the camera including 4K videos, WhatsApp, VSCOCam, Google Docs, email, Chrome, YouTube, Netflix, YouTube Music and whatnot. The battery life has been fantastic and easily the best outside of phones like the Asus ROG Phone 2, Huawei P30 Pro and iPhone 11.
- Overall, this phone just doesn’t seem like a huge update over the Redmi Note 8 Pro. It actually feels more like an “S” update that we used to see on iPhones. The design has become nicer, but in some ways, the performance hasn’t moved the needle. Similarly, the display also doesn’t feel massively better as its peak brightness levels have gone down.
- Compared to the competition, the display certainly feels a bit behind because a refresh of 90Hz just does not make some racing games feel faster but makes the user interface feel more fluid. It is a game-changing addition which isn’t there in the Redmi Note 9 Pro.
- Xiaomi’s software as always isn’t the most responsive. It also comes with a ton of bloatware. The best way to use this phone is with a third-party launcher. I used Evie launcher. Major software updates are going to be few, but Xiaomi keeps pushing out refinement updates.
- For some people, this phone, it’s a glossy finish and loud colours would be too bold. It is a fact that this phone attracts smudges quite easily on top of it. The glass back makes it more susceptible to cracks and scratches than plastic. A proper case will be needed, even though Xiaomi provides a TPU cover in the package.
To buy or to not?
At Rs 12,999 for the base variant and Rs 15,999 for the top-end variant, it becomes a no-brainer in terms of a value proposition. The reality is that the Redmi Note has always been a phone that has managed to cover all the bases well and this update pushes things further. It also now adds a level of fit and finish with its new haptics, and build that makes it a match for premium phones. As always, the battery life is noteworthy which also makes this a great phone for people who need every lasting battery life. There is literally nothing that this phone does poorly but rather excels at everything which makes this the people’s phone considering its humble price.