Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade!

Vyncent Chan
18 Min Read
Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade!
  • Appearance - 8.4/10
    8.4/10
  • Efficiency - 8.8/10
    8.8/10
  • Features - 8.3/10
    8.3/10
  • Materials - 8.1/10
    8.1/10
  • Performance - 8/10
    8/10
  • Portability - 8.2/10
    8.2/10
  • User Experience - 8.3/10
    8.3/10
  • Value - 8.5/10
    8.5/10

Summary

The Redmi Note 9S definitely shows that Redmi truly understands what mid-range smartphone users want and need.

Overall
8.3/10
8.3/10

Pros

+ Fast charging in the box is a nice touch
+ Expansive screen is awesome for everything you do on a smartphone
+ Fresh new back finish looks good without resorting to cheap gimmicky designs
+ Good performance across the board
+ Fantastic battery life
+ IR blaster is extremely useful
+ Vibration feels well above its price range
+ Autofocus on macro camera is a must-have

Cons

– Needs a bit more RAM for a good multi-tasking experience
– Cameras perform rather poorly in low light

The Redmi Note 9S is Redmi’s latest offering in the mid-range, and while it is not a direct successor to the very impressive Redmi Note 8 Pro, it definitely offers a huge upgrade from the Redmi Note 8, with a new Snapdragon 720G versus the Snapdragon 665 in the latter. But of course, a smartphone isn’t just about its chipset, so let’s see if the Redmi Note 9S has what it takes to be the next go-to mid-range smartphone.

If you don’t feel like reading the full review, you can also watch our video review of the Redmi Note 9S.

What’s in the Box?

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 6

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 6

The Redmi Note 9S’ packaging isn’t the most interesting one, but it does its job. You get a full image of the device, although I am quite interested to know if the other color options will come with a different colored image, but since we received the Interstellar Grey variant, it matches.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 7

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 7

In the box are the usual suspects, you get a blacked out TPU case, the SIM ejector tool and also the usual documentation. I appreciate that Redmi is actually giving us 18W fast charging in the Redmi Note 9S, and instead of just giving us an 18W charger, there’s actually a 22.5W fast charger in the box. For whatever reason.

Appearance

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 8

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 8

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 8

The main improvement up front coming from the Redmi Note 8 is the new punch hole display here on the Redmi Note 9S, instead of the notch found in the older device. I did fancy the Redmi branding in the bottom chin of the Redmi Note 8 though, but that didn’t make the cut here. It might have been for a cleaner look though, as Redmi dropped the colored accents around the screen too.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 9

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 9

Redmi went with a plastic frame again, but thankfully they had the sense to use a matte finish here. It feels absolutely solid though, so I have zero complaints here. The fingerprint scanner is also moved here, integrated into the power button. This seems like a trend for any non-OLED smartphone recently, but I am not complaining.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 10

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 10

The Interstellar Grey variant’s back is actually a bit bluer than I expected. It’s a very light shade of grey with a hint of blue and a surprising amount of depth to the mirror-like finish. I really like it as it looks good without going for cheap gimmicky motifs, but instead went with a process that Redmi claims to be a micron-level texture design with a 20-step process. I am a fan of the finish, so I guess the effort paid off? The Redmi Note 9S’ back is made of Gorilla Glass 5, to give it more scratch resistance than its peers with plastic backs. On top of that, the quad-camera is now positioned in the center of the device, so that should avoid the wobbling issues that most smartphones today face.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 11

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 11

The bottom edge is home to the headphone jack and USB-C port. You can also spot that slight beveled edge that’s glossy just to give the Redmi Note 9S a few extra style points.

Redmi Note 9S Specifications

CPU: Snapdragon 720G (2 x Kryo 465 Gold @ 2.3 GHz + 6 x Kryo 465 Silver @ 1.8 GHz), 8nm
GPU: Adreno 618 @ 750 MHz
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4x
Display: 6.67″ FHD+ (2400 x 1080), IPS LCD, 91% screen-to-body ratio
Storage: 64GB UFS 2.1 (expandable via microSD)
Camera: Main Camera(s)
48MP f/1.79 ISOCELL GM2 + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle camera + 5MP f/2.4 macro camera + 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor
Night Mode, AI scene detection, auto HDR, portrait mode, Beautify, ultra-wide angle distortion correction, 1080p60/4K30 video, up to 1080p120/720p960 slow-mo
Front Camera
16MP f/2.48
AI Beauty, AI Portrait, AI scene detection, 1080p30 video, 120 fps slow-mo selfie
OS: MIUI 11 based on Android 10
Connectivity: LTE Band 1/3/4/5/7/8/20/28/38/40
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
SIM: Dual SIM (dedicated dual SIM)
Battery: Li-Po 5020 mAh (non-removable)
18W fast charging (USB-C)
Dimensions: 165.75 x 76.68 x 8.8 mm
Weight: 209 g
Ingress protection: No IP rating, P2i splash-proof nano-coating

Performance

The Snapdragon 720G slots in above the Snapdragon 710/712 in terms of numbering, but in our tests, it actually comes up above the Snapdragon 730G, which is extremely peculiar. Qualcomm must have fallen asleep at the wheel when giving the Snapdragon 720G its name, as it is more akin to a Snapdragon 735 or 731 rather than something that slots below the Snapdragon 730.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 12

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 12

In Antutu, we see exactly that. The Redmi Note 9S comes up on top of the Mi Note 10, although it doesn’t exactly deliver enough grunt to defeat the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 13

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 13

CPU performance sees the Redmi Note 9S come up on top of the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Mi Note 10. This is even more curious as the Snapdragon 720G packs Kryo 465 cores which you would expect to not be as powerful as the Kryo 470 cores in the Mi Note 10’s Snapdragon 730G chipset. Oh well.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 14

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 14

It also packs more GPU horsepower, although both the Snapdragon 730G and Snapdragon 720G come with Adreno 618 GPUs. The specifications for the Redmi Note 9S lists the Adreno 618 with a 750 MHz clock speed while the Mi Note 10 lists a 700 MHz clock speed for its GPU. So maybe that 50 MHz difference along with the difference in CPU performance gives it the advantage we see here.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 15

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 15

No such advantage is evident in PCMark though, probably because the Redmi Note 9S has 1/3 the RAM in the Mi Note 10. PCMark does put great value on RAM, so the lesser RAM will definitely result in poorer scores.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 16

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 16

Aside from performance, the Redmi Note 9S also delivers awesome battery life figures. It’s worth noting that the Redmi Note 9S packs the largest battery for any Snapdragon 720G smartphone launched to date, so it should hold on to its lofty position for quite some time in the mid-range segment. The Mi Note 10’s slightly larger battery, lower clocked CPU and GPU cores as well as the AMOLED display may have helped it gain the lead here.

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 17

Redmi Note 9S Review — definitely a note-worthy upgrade! 17

I managed to clock nearly 8 hours of screen-on time from 100% to 15%, which is absolutely amazing. It seems like the Snapdragon 720G is really quite efficient, although it is worth noting that because of the RMO, I was using WiFi most of the time. And due to the humongous battery here, even 18W fast charging isn’t exactly fast enough. It regained a mere 32% in 30 minutes, but then again 32% should still be enough to last you through at least half a working day.