The Redmi Note 9 Pro is the latest in Xiaomi’s mid-level handset range. The focus here is to deliver a smartphone with specs that sit at the top-end of the midrange at an affordable price. Given that it comes stacked with solid features, has Xiaomi achieved its goal?
When I unboxed the Note 9 Pro, I was initially impressed. It looks nice. There are two variations of this handset available: one with 64 GB of storage, and one with 128 GB. They both have 6 GB of RAM and retail for $245 and $279, respectively. That’s not a huge jump in price for double the storage.
So, price-wise, things are looking good. When it comes to performance, though, does it . . . perform? Let’s take a look at the specs before we embark on our review:
- A 6.67-inch, 2400 x 1080p dot display, with a 60 Hz refresh rate
- MIUI 11 based (Android 10)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 720 G processor
- 6 GB of RAM
- 64 or 128 GB storage
- Type-C USB port and headphone jack
- A dedicated micro-SD slot
- A power switch with an integrated fingerprint sensor and volume rocker
- Rear cameras:
- A 64 MP wide-angle main camera
- An 8 MP ultra-wide-angle camera
- A 5 MP macro camera
- A 2 MP depth sensor
- A 16 MP front camera
- Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
- A 5,020 mAh battery with 30 W fast charge
- Available in Tropical Green, Glacier White, or Interstellar Gray
- Dimensions: 6.53 x 3.02 x 0.35 inches (165.8 x 76.7 x 8.8 mm)
- In the box: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro, Type-C charging cable, charge adapter, clear smartphone case, pre-applied plastic screen protector
I’m reviewing the 128 GB/6 GB model in Interstellar Gray ($279).
Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that Xiaomi is a Chinese-owned company. Depending on what part of the world you live in, there could be a ban or other restrictions put in place similar to what was done with Huawei.
A Pleasing Design
Despite being a midrange phone, the Note 9 Pro looks and feels more like an inexpensive top-range phone. The interstellar gray has a pleasing purple hue that’s reminiscent of slate. The finish is metallic, which, presumably, is what makes it “interstellar.”
The back of the phone also comes complete with a lustrous panel of Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Admittedly, this looks very nice, until it comes in contact with grubby fingers and clammy palms. Simply picking up the Note 9 Pro can leave some rather unattractive marks on the handset. I found I was forever wiping the back of the phone on my clothing to give it a quick polish.
The rear camera panel houses four different sensors. Unlike the Note 8 Pro, these are in a square housing, with a sensor in each corner.
This camera bump is something I’m not a fan of in any smartphone. It protrudes too far from the rear of the handset, and I never feel like these could cope with being bashed around. You definitely need a case, and, fortunately, you get one in the box (well done, Xiaomi).
The same as on the OnePlus Nord, the screen is flat. This is a feature I welcome because it prevents discoloring (most noticeably, white on a curved screen) at the edges. It also prevents accidental gestures from interrupting whatever you’re doing with the phone.
The top center of the screen houses the front-facing camera cutout. I didn’t find this invasive in any way—at least, no more than a dewdrop camera or the Nord’s dual front-facing sensor array. The bezel that frames the screen is also noninvasive. I didn’t feel like it took up too much real estate on the display.
The left side of the handset features the sim and microSD slot (more on this later). Up top, you have an IR blaster for controlling IR-compatible devices, like TVs. The right side has the power button and volume rocker. The power button also doubles as the fingerprint sensor, which makes unlocking the phone easy. (My girlfriend has a Huawei P20 and the sensor is on the back of the phone. Yuck!)
The bottom of the handset features the Type-C charging port and . . . drumroll, please . . . A HEADPHONE JACK! I was positively floored when I saw this addition because I can use my Sennheiser Momentum 3 cans with the handset, and wired, too. Obviously, this improves the sound quality over a wireless connection. It’s a fantastic feature that is most welcome.
The phone’s 6.67-inch, 2400 x 1080p, FHD+ LCD screen is really nice. It’s difficult to do it justice in a photograph. The screen is slightly larger than that of the Note 8 Pro, which measures 6.53 inches.
Definition-wise, it also performs well, particularly for a midrange phone. Colors are bright and the lines are crisp. Despite only having a 60 Hz refresh rate, I didn’t experience any noticeable motion blur during testing.
The screen is bright indoors, but didn’t perform brilliantly outdoors on a sunny day. I struggled to see it in direct sunlight, even in Auto-Brightness mode. When I manually increased the brightness to the max, though, it performed much better.
Overall, the Note 9 Pro is a pleasant handset. It’s a bit on the weighty side, at 7.4 ounces (209 grams), but I didn’t find it overly cumbersome.
One thing to note is there are no IP-ratings for this phone. It isn’t waterproof, although the splash-proof nano-coating should offer a minimal level of protection from rogue droplets. Just don’t drop it in the bath.
Show MIUI That Software
What about the software? Well, the Note 9 Pro ships with MIUI 11, which is based on Android 10, so if you’ve used Android devices, you’ll be in familiar territory. It’s basically Android with some Xiaomi tweaks here and there. The lack of bloatware is great and means the Note 9 Pro performs well, with very few interruptions.
The software also has some nice integrated features. In fact, in the “Settings” menu, there’s an option called “Special Features.” This is now commonplace across all Xiaomi handsets. Here, you’ll find “Game Turbo” mode and “Quick Replies,” but what I really liked was something Xiaomi calls “Second Space.”
This is a second, separate profile you can use to store apps, photos, or files you don’t want others to see. It’s ideal for the more security-conscious among us. It would also work as a child-friendly profile if your little one likes to play with your smartphone. You could even load it with kiddie apps so they don’t litter your space!
As you’d expect, “Game Turbo” improves the phone’s performance when you play a game by killing unnecessary background processes. “Quick Replies” is useful when texting because it allows you to reply to messages directly from the lock screen.
In terms of navigation, you can set up the newer style of gesture navigation (boo!), or stick with the tried and true navigation bar (hurray!). As you might’ve guessed, I’m not a huge fan of gesture navigation. Call me a Luddite, but I make too many mistakes with gestures, so I’ll just tap an arrow to navigate my smartphone, thank you very much. At least you get the choice on the Note 9 Pro.
In all, I like the clean MIUI 11 software. It doesn’t feel bloated and there isn’t much in the way of apps I don’t want. Apart from the continual notifications from Ali Express. I know this is because Xiaomi sells a lot of its ecosystem via this marketplace, but it is super-annoying. It constantly offers you 6-cent discounts on every product they sell. You can delete any preinstalled apps you don’t want, though; they’re not compulsory.
The one thing it’s lacking is the ability to change the Home-screen style. I love a drawer mode, so I can just swipe up on the Home screen and see all my apps in a nice, alphabetical list. I don’t want icons all over the Home screen, which is what you get with the Note 9 Pro. If you also prefer a minimalist Home screen and an orderly app library, you don’t get the choice here.
On the upside, you can always install a third-party launcher if this bothers you too much.
Despite its very low price point, the Redmi Note 9 Pro certainly performs as a midrange phone. In fact, it’s so inexpensive, that I’d venture to say it’s a total bargain. There’s plenty of power in that Snapdragon 720 G processor to run as you’d expect a midrange handset to run.
I noticed no lagging when hopping between menus and apps or swiping through galleries. System animations were buttery-smooth and didn’t stutter, which can be a problem on some similarly priced phones. The Note 9 Pro delivers an experience that’s eminently professional and one I would expect on a phone that costs two or three times more.
Thanks to the Adreno 8 GPU, graphics are also well serviced. The image above doesn’t do it justice, but playing a 4K psychedelic animation on YouTube worked like a dream. The animation didn’t noticeably degrade.
Obviously, you don’t get a 4K screen. However, the graphics processor ensures images are pleasing to the eye, despite the fact that they’re processed at the phone’s maximum 1080p resolution.
I didn’t feel like the phone struggled at all with intensive apps—especially games. I always test this with COD Mobile, and the game worked perfectly. The chipset and screen worked harmoniously and delivered as good of a gaming experience as you’re ever going to get on a smartphone.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge mobile gamer, and especially not with processor-intensive games. The Note 9 Pro also steamed through the pick-up-and-play puzzlers I like without a hitch.
If you’re a mobile gamer, I’d recommend the Note 9 Pro over, say, the Xiaomi Note 9. The lesser model only has 4 GB of RAM, so it might struggle with hungrier apps, like COD Mobile. The upgrade to 6 GB will give you a significantly smoother experience.
Finally, I really like the expandable storage, which allows you to add up to 512 GB. This offers plenty of room for you to store larger files, like movies, and music albums or mixes. I prefer to store music as WAV files, as they’re lossless (I like my music to sound good).
This gave me more than enough digital terrain on which to plonk my gargantuan, 500 MB DJ mixes. And I have lots of them, too.
What’s It Like as a Smartphone, Though?
Generally, I was pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of the Redmi Note 9 Pro. My old Huawei P30 Pro struggles to get a full wireless signal when I’m at my desk, but not the 9 Pro! It got a full Wi-Fi signal at the farthest point from my router indoors.
It also worked fine accessing the internet via a cellular connection. I actually noticed no difference, which isn’t the case with any of the other handsets I own. It all works as it should, and as you’d expect.
Calls were clear. I was able to converse and hear the other person with ease. There was no unpleasant crackling from the earpiece during calls. Likewise, the microphone offered a similar call quality to the person with whom I was speaking. Looking good so far.
The battery has a 5,020 mAh capacity. This is pretty large compared to a lot of other midrange smartphones. The OnePlus Nord, for example, only has a 4,115 mAh battery. Hell, even Samsung’s A71 5G, released last year, only has a laughable 4,500 mAh battery. Okay, perhaps that difference isn’t that great, but Samsung’s model costs twice as much as the 9 Pro.
The 30 W fast charge also worked wonders. Pumping the Note 9 Pro full of juice from a dead battery took just over an hour. This might not be as fast as some of the more recent fast-charge-compatible handsets, but this isn’t one of those, so I was more than happy with this charging time. The battery lasted for a good two days of frequent use before charging was required.
The main camera does a fantastic job of defining shades and textures (see images above). The 64 MP main rear sensor is brilliant and captures some really nice shots, as you can see in the first image above.
The Macro mode picks out details at very close proximity, as you can see in the second image above. This flower was around 1.5 cm wide, and the camera was about an inch away.
The depth sensor is okay, but it’s a little temperamental. It’s not brilliant at replicating bokeh in Portrait mode, but it does enough that you sometimes get the effect. It wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the cameras on other phones I’ve used. The OnePlus Nord does a better job of background blur.
The Portrait mode isn’t bad, it just isn’t brilliant. The third image above provides an example of this in (in)action.
However, as a smartphone, the Note 9 Pro performs the basics and performs most of them really well. In fact, it does a better job than a lot of the more expensive smartphones can manage.
I remain resolutely impressed by the Note 9 Pro after fully testing it—and pleasantly surprised, too.
A True Bargain
If you’re on the hunt for an inexpensive smartphone, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro is an excellent choice. It has plenty of the features you’d expect to find on a more expensive phone, and even some you won’t! The ability to expand the memory, for example, is a massive plus, given that default storage space isn’t all that vast.
Performance is good and it has a comparatively huge battery life, even compared to some of the bigger brands in the U.S., like Samsung’s midrange A71 5G. The inclusion of the 3.5mm headphone jack is also a bonus.
Overall, you get a midrange phone that offers a superior experience to many others in the same class, but at a much cheaper price.
Here’s What We Like
- 64 MP camera
- Second Space
- Easy-access Dark mode
- Headphone jack
- Type-C charging port
- Case included
- Great battery life
- Expandable storage
And What We Don't
- Depth sensor isn't great
- Can't change Home-screen style
- Not great in direct sunlight with Auto-Brightness
- Some unwanted apps preinstalled