Xiaomi Mi 9 review — #BaikBeliMi9 is real
Xiaomi's latest flagship brings a 48MP camera, a Snapdragon 855 chipset and the most stunning design they have ever designed at a price point that undercuts certain mid-range devices.
6 + 64GB: RM1699
6 + 128GB: RM1999
+ Beautiful packaging
+ Impeccable design
+ Snapdragon 855 offers performance well beyond any other flagship chipset in the market
+ Great battery life despite small-ish battery
+ Amazing camera
+ Superb bang-for-buck
- No stereo audio
- Telephoto camera could be better
- No IP rating
When we reviewed the Xiaomi Mi 8, we were suitably impressed by its affordable price tag. It comes with almost everything we would want from a flagship except maybe wireless charging or ingress protection. This year’s Xiaomi Mi 9 doesn’t only add wireless charging to the list of features, but they even made sure to include the fastest wireless charging in the market right now. Interested? Let’s go.
The Mi 9 comes in a iridescent white box. Despite the fact that we got a Piano Black, the box is white. Few flagships actually come in a white box, and it’s nice to see Xiaomi shake it up with this iridescent white packaging.
The iridescent finish is continued even on the inside. Xiaomi also appears to be quite proud of their Mi 9’s design, as they embossed the Designed by Xiaomi on the inner box as well.
Under the box is the Mi 9 itself. As usual, Xiaomi applies stickers boasting of the features while protecting the device from scratches in the box.
The Mi 9 comes with all the accessories you might expect, except for a 27W Charge Turbo power brick. You get a standard 18W Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter, which is what you get with last year’s devices. The included case is soft, but unfortunately it is really thin and does not protect the camera bump at all.
Xiaomi has been very proud about how they minimized the lower chin versus the Mi 8. And it really is very minimal now. The waterdrop notch is also much smaller than the Mi 8’s massive one, so we are definitely getting a lot more screen in pretty much the same footprint.
The back here is Gorilla Glass 5, with a very reflective coating under the glass. The camera hump is also embellished with a ring around the first camera, which surprisingly isn’t the 48MP camera but actually the telephoto one.
The Mi 9 also comes with a glossy finish on its aluminum frame. At the top there’s the secondary microphone and also an IR blaster.
Meanwhile over on the bottom we have the USB-C port flanked by two arrays of perforations. One of which is the only loudspeaker, while the one has the primary microphone behind it.
Over on the right we have the power and volume button. There’s an additional AI button over on the left side too like the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3. The camera bump does protrude quite a bit from the glass back of the Mi 9 which does raise some questions about how long can it last without getting scuffed up. Xiaomi claims they used sapphire glass here, so perhaps it will be a bit more resilient than regular glass.
|CPU/Chipset:||Snapdragon 855 (1 x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.84 GHz + 3 x Kryo 485 Gold @ 2.42 GHz + 4 x Kryo 485 Silver @ 1.8 GHz), 7nm FinFET|
|GPU:||Adreno 640 @ 585 MHz|
|RAM:||6GB LPDDR4x 2133 MHz dual channel|
|Display:||6.39″ FHD+ (2340 x 1080) AMOLED display, 103.8% NTSC, HDR, Corning Gorilla Glass 6|
|Storage:||128GB UFS 2.1|
48MP f/1.75 + 12MP f/2.2 telephoto + 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle
Night Mode, Pro mode, Portrait Mode, 4K60 video, 1080p960 slow mo, AI Beautify, face recognition, 48MP HD, super macro
AI Beautification, HDR, AI lens flare, AI make up, AI portrait mode, AI studio light, 1080p30 video
|OS:||MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie|
|Connectivity:||LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/20/28/38/39/40
Dual-band GPS – L1 + L5
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
|Battery:||Li-Po 3300 mAh (non-removable)
Quick Charge 4+ support
27W Charge Turbo, 20W wireless charging
|Dimensions:||157.5 x 74.68 x 7.61 mm|
There really isn’t much to complain about the specifications here. Perhaps a larger battery? But then again, once you see the battery life figures of the Mi 9, you might be less harsh on the small-ish battery here.
The Mi 9 annihilates the rest of the smartphones we have ever tested. The Samsung Galaxy S10 enjoyed its short stint at the top of our benchmark charts before the Mi 9 came to my desk. And as they say, the rest is history.
The Snapdragon 855’s single core performance was not nearly as good as the Exynos 9820. It does sport better multi-core performance, so multi-threaded applications which can take advantage of it will be able to enjoy better performance.
GPU performance is exemplary as always. Qualcomm’s Adreno GPUs have traditionally been the best for their segment, and the Adreno 640 is no different. The competition has yet to catch up to the last-gen Snapdragon 845, and the Mi 9’s Snapdragon 855 widens the gap even further.
For PCMark it tops the charts too, no surprises.
Battery life is really the hidden surprise for the Mi 9. Despite featuring the second smallest battery in the chart, it out performs devices with 4000 mAh batteries. While we have already seen what a die shrink can bring, we didn’t expect so much of a difference.
Real world battery life is a bit less remarkable. We get more than 4 hours of on screen time, but not much more. I never had an issue lasting through the day though and with the Mi 9 supporting 27W Charge Turbo and 20W wireless charging, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue to just put the phone down to charge it up a bit before leaving home or the office. It’s worth noting that the standard 18W charger that comes in the box juices the Mi 9 up 51% in 30 minutes, which is slower, but still very respectable.
If you are interested in gaming, the Mi 9 offers more than ample performance for it. One thing to note is that the Mi 9 doesn’t actually come with a heatpipe to dissipate the heat better. However the Snapdragon 855 is cool enough that the device does not warm up uncomfortably. General performance is great too, which is of course what you would expect from a flagship chipset.
The Mi 9 has an awesome curved back that looks amazing and also fits great in the hand. The AMOLED screen here is impeccable with vibrant colors and of course, the deep blacks you would expect from an AMOLED display. The bezels are amazingly thin around the sides and a much reduced lower chin as noted earlier. It actually feels near bezel-less now, except for that tiny dot drop notch.
Speaking of the dot drop notch, Xiaomi somehow over-accommodates the notch by having a slightly wider cutout on the display than the actual notch. Kinda pointless to have a small notch if you are going to lose more of the display. And oh you will be able to use face unlock with the Mi 9, which might be preferable considering the under-display fingerprint scanner is the slowest we have tested in 2019. The wide speaker grille up top doesn’t do much though, with it not adding to the bottom loudspeaker’s output. I must say the loudspeaker on the bottom edge really sounds awesome though. Just… no stereo. Why?
MIUI 10 didn’t change much over the few months since it was introduced. There is something quite unfortunate about the Mi 9’s implementation though. Despite the small notch, Xiaomi doesn’t give the Mi 9 persistent notification icons in the status bar. With that said, the POCOPHONE F1 did receive an update to make the icons stay around, but the Mi 9 doesn’t have it yet and I find it quite stupid at the moment.
The camera here is a huge step forward from the Xiaomi Mi 8. Xiaomi upgraded the primary shooter with a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, and threw in an ultra-wide angle camera with autofocus. As of now, ultra wide-angle cameras seem to be the trend, but other than Xiaomi, only HUAWEI offers autofocusing to enable macro photography. Pretty cool to see it offered on an affordable flagship like the Mi 9 though.
Xiaomi didn’t change much when it comes to the camera UI. Except that there is now a new button to switch to the wide angle camera, and a new 48MP mode which allows you to take 48MP shots.
Image quality is really amazing, and they did fix the Night Mode which was comically bad on the Mi MIX 3. I generally won’t shoot with the 48MP mode, as while it does offer a higher resolution but does have a noticeably reduced dynamic range. The 12MP shots taken with AI mode were much better. 48MP shots also took a bit longer to save, which was quite a turn off for me. Speaking of which, there were some inexplicable shot-to-shot delays which randomly occurred when taking 12MP shots during my use of the Mi 9. Other than that little niggle, the Mi 9 is an amazing shooter. The wide-angle camera is impressive, with good shots and the ability to do really close up macro shots is cool as well. The telephoto camera, not so much. I would generally not recommend using it unless you really have to. You can check out the full-sized images here.
The Mi 9 is one spectacular smartphone. Just like the Xiaomi Mi 8 that came before, the Xiaomi Mi 9 is an affordable flagship with just enough flagship-class features to make it interesting. While we complained about the lack of wireless charging and ingress protection, Xiaomi equipped the Mi 9 with 20W wireless charging. There’s still no IP rating but Xiaomi do promise some sort of splash resistance. Maybe next time?
For RM1999, you get a great camera, the most powerful chipset in any smartphone yet, and a beautifully curved design with wonderful color options. If you get the 64GB variant, you are looking to pay just RM1699. We don’t always recommend a device this highly, but the Xiaomi Mi 9 absolutely deserving of the highest accolade we can offer. #BaikBeliMi9 is real.
Our thanks to Xiaomi Malaysia for providing us with the Mi 9 for review.