Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: the camera phone for the masses


Usually, everyone wants a great camera. But cameras are expensive, and more than the hardware itself, their implementation is even more expensive. That’s why the Google Pixel and iPhone cameras can do things that even big boy megapixel smartphone cameras can’t do. And that’s what makes the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max unique. On the face of it, it’s the identical twin of the Redmi Note 9 Pro — but with one huge difference. Its camera can do things that even a 35k plus iPhone can’t do apart from providing the benefits of what’s made Xiaomi’s Redmi Note line amongst the best selling phones in the world and India. 

What’s warped 

  • Shutterbugs will love this phone due to its superb camera system. The main difference between the standard “pro” and “pro max” is the that Xiaomi has swapped the 48-megapixel Samsung sensor with a larger and higher resolution 64-megapixel Sony sensor. It’s this camera that delivers stunning photographs in low-light which will even put all iPhones apart from the iPhone 11 to shame. Xiaomi’s night mode also works really well as it just doesn’t light up a dark scene it does so almost instantaneously eliminating any shutter lag while also maintaining a decent balance between realism and beauty. Expectedly, even given good lighting the Xiaomi always delivers the goods taking attractive photos. Apart from the main camera, you also get a decent wide-angle camera, a depth sensor which helps takes some superb portrait shots and also a macro lens which helps with close up shots of things like plants, coins or whatever you’d want. 
  • What’s brilliant about this phone is that in the hands of a trained photographer, it’s even a better camera phone out of the box. Again, that’s something you really can’t say about an iPhone without downloading an app. There is a pro mode and also a mode which allows you to shoot at a flat 64-megapixel resolution instead of the pixel binned resolution of 16-megapixels. It also excels at video — it shoots great 1080p video, we even managed to shoot major parts of our review of the iPhone SE using it. It can go all the way up to 4k 30 frames per second besides adding a litany of modes including ones for short-form video for services like TikTok and Instagram. 
  • Like its predecessors, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is a battery champion. At 5,020mAh its battery is the largest that Xiaomi has ever installed in a Redmi Note. And outright its battery life is the highest of any smartphone I’ve tested in 2020. In fact, its battery life is basically the best of any phone I’ve seen outside of the Asus ROG Phone 2 which has a much larger battery than it. What makes the “max” stand out more than the “pro” is the fact it ships with a 33-watt fast charger that can juice up the phone to 100% in less than 90 mins. Overall, even if you’re an aggressive user, this phone will always have enough battery to go beyond a day. 
  • The basics of this phone are also rock-solid. It is attractive to look at with its new design, while also being pragmatically functional with a fast fingerprint scanner on the side spine, a 3.5mm jack for headphones, accurate haptics,  a 6.67-inch screen with a hole-punch providing accurate colours and usable levels of brightness apart from an overall solid design that feels sturdier than phones that cost 10 times more even providing a basic p2i splash protection. 
  • All of this is packaged with a powerful base – the new Snapdragon 720G which provides superb performance especially sustained performance which can be a Call of Duty lovers delight. This phone almost never runs hot while getting the job done without breaking a sweat. The phone also supports ISRO’s NAVIC location system which could potentially make location services more accurate and consume less battery on the phone. Call quality also on this phone is pretty good. 

What’s not

  • I used to be a fan of MiUI at the turn of the last decade when Xiaomi was founded. I remember installing it on my Galaxy S2 in 2011, then again in 2012, I bought a Mi 2S because I loved what Xiaomi was doing with its software. I can’t say the same today. Don’t get me wrong, it remains one of the better Android customisations but it has regressed in the last couple of years and I fear it may become worse with future updates. It has become a tad sluggish, certainly more convoluted and become an injector for targeted ads that often are distasteful. Of course, these ads can be disabled but how many users will know how? More than this, its privacy practices are now questionable at best – a recent Forbes report outed its browser harvesting user data in incognito mode? The one thing is for sure, as good as the hardware is, and as customisable, the software is, I wouldn’t be trusting any Mi branded apps for my work. I’d stick to third party alternatives or the preloaded Google apps that come as a part of Android on the phone. 
  • Because of these reasons, many corporates don’t allow employees to use Xiaomi phones for any official work — so that’s going to be another thing people will need to take into consideration before buying something from the company, especially in the age of work from home. 
  • For most people, who don’t want the killer camera, the standard “pro” model will do. And for those who want the camera can also look at the Poco X2 considering it has a slightly faster processor and a nicer display? 

Should you buy it?

For most people, the Redmi Note 9 Pro will make a lot of sense, however, if I were to put my money where my mouth is, then I’d go for the Max. Its camera and faster charging make it worth the extra money. Generally speaking, it is a delightful device with just one shortcoming MiUI. One hopes with MiUI12 coming in Xiaomi will fix the misgivings of the last couple of years.