When it comes to Android smartphone performance, it’s almost a given that most Malaysians would consider the likes of Huawei and Samsung first. But when the value factor also comes to play, Xiaomi has been hitting the ball out of the park recently with the recent releases such as the Pocophone F1, Mi Mix 3, and Redmi Note 7.
The new Xiaomi Mi 9 is their latest entry in their mid-range line-up, and we’re giving it a spin to see if Xiaomi’s momentum is still going strong or slowing down.
There’s something special about the Mi 9’s overall design that makes me appreciate it. While it may not stand out extravagantly like the Samsung S10 or the Huawei P30 Pro, it holds up well for its own class with a premium-esque feel thanks to its front and back glass finish. The unit that was supplied to us was the Piano Black variant, and for once, the Mi 9 is one of the few phones out there that could pull off this colour really well.
In front, the phone sports a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED display with a teardrop notch that provides 85.2% screen-to-body ratio. Yes... yet another notched phone, but on the long run, you’ll eventually forget about it thanks to its small size and also due to the generous screen estate. On the rear, you’ll find the triple camera frame - protected by sapphire glass - slightly jutting out from the glossy case. Surprisingly, the protruding camera frame did not bother me at all when having the phone held in my hand or stored away in my pocket.
On the Mi 9’s metal frame, you’ll find the lock button on the left, volume rockers to the right, and a USB-C slot at the bottom. Sadly, this phone is yet another that does not embrace the beloved 3.5mm headphone jack.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
The Xiaomi Mi 9’s display is excellent for its class thanks to a 2K screen resolution with HDR support, which is more than sufficient for gaming, video playback, and image viewing. While the phone is running on Android 9 Pie, it is backed by Xiaomi’s own MIUI interface which lacks any visual flare with its plain looking icons. Furthermore, there is no app drawer function, so prepare for a lot of housekeeping to be done if you tend to hoard on apps.
Powered by a Snapdragon 855 chipset with up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, you can expect a great load of performance when it comes to multiple and heavy app usage, as well as high end gaming. In my usual test runs, I’d have the phone juggle between several apps for multitasking, and also have it running certain games at the highest settings if possible. The Mi 9 has managed to ace most of the tests, but even though its performance is stellar during gaming, it did heat up a little. So do be wary of that if you’re planning to play games for a long period of time on the phone.
It’s common for mid-range phones to balance out to either providing performance or battery life - in the Xiaomi Mi 9’s case, it’s the former. The phone comes with a battery capacity of only 3,300 mAH which is far less than expected, but still bearable at best. When required to charge, the Mi 9 supports 27W fast charging and 20W wireless charging.
Hat Trick Hero
The Xiaomi Mi 9’s cameras are definitely the spotlight feature of the phone thanks to its rear triple camera setup which consists of a 48MP primary, 16MP wide-angle, and 12MP telephoto. Images captured with the cameras individually and combined are impressive in details, and even more so with the 48MP sensor. However, an apparent drop in quality is noticeable when it comes to lowlight shots, even when using Night Mode. With that being my only gripe, the Mi 9 does reach flagship-level photography in most aspects, and rarely would any other phone of the same class could offer a triple camera system such as this.
For video recording, the Mi 9 is capable of recording 4K with up to 60fps, 1080p with up to 240fps, and 1080p slo-mo at 960fps. Again, these are impressive features that are rarely expected from a mid-range phone. The only drawback so far that I’ve experienced is that the phone will heat up when continuously recording in 4K.
The 20MP front camera is no slouch either. Thanks to a larger sensor, selfies are more detailed and you can also enhance it further with the camera app’s selection of post-processing features. Vlog enthusiasts would be delighted to know that the front shooter is capable of recording at 1080 as well, but only capped at 30fps.
A Choice For Value With Solid Performance
Let’s do a quick recap: the Xiaomi Mi 9 has a large 2K display, a Snapdragon 855 chip, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, a triple camera with a 48MP main sensor, and much more. With that, it does baffle me that the Mi 9 is classified as mid-range, while having flagship worthy specs. Trust me, that’s hardly a complaint. I’m seriously amazed that a phone with such features could actually cost less than MYR 2,000. If that’s not a bang for buck smartphone, I don’t know what is.