Despite being a newcomer to the UK smartphone market, Xiaomi is making a strong impression with new products appearing at a steady pace. I tested the 6.21-inch Mi 8 Pro only last November, and already the 6.39-inch Mi 9 is here. In between, I got my hands on the Mi MIX 3, an original slider design and the affordable flagship-class Pocphone F1.
Like its predecessor, the Mi 9 offers high-end specs at an average price. At the time of writing this article, the UK price has not been confirmed, but the European launch price is € 449 for the 64GB version and € 499 for the 128GB version, which would mean prices in pounds sterling of around £ 390 and £ 430. Since this handset is based on the latest Snapdragon 855 chipset and has a 48MP main camera, appetites should be sharp.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 has a minimalist look, which is only 7.61mm thick, with the long edges gently curving into the glass back. My Piano Black exam sample was overly reflective and extremely slippery, although not too much of a fingerprint magnet. Xiaomi provides a rubber bumper with the Mi 9, and its fit helped grip – but also meant the fancy glass back was obscured.
Xiaomi says the glass back has a “holographic” design. Well, to me it looked more like a mirror, but maybe one or both of the other colors – Ocean Blue and Lavender Violet – have that quality.
The three camera lenses sit in a slightly raised diamond pattern at the top left of the back. A raised camera body isn’t unusual, but if you like the overall minimalism of the Mi 9, you might feel like it disrupts an otherwise clean look. There’s no fingerprint sensor here – like on the Mi 8, it’s built into the display. Xiaomi says the on-screen fingerprint reader is now 25% faster: I found it quick and easy to use, without the slight lag I noticed with the Mi 8.
The right side houses the power and volume buttons, which share the black coloring on the back. They are high enough to be easily found when the phone is in a pocket. The left side has the dual SIM caddy and another button called “AI button”, which launches Google Assistant by default. It can be configured to do other things, both long press and double press.
The top edge has an IR blaster, and there’s an onboard app called Mi Remote that you can use to control TVs, smart boxes, and other gear.
At the bottom are a USB-C port (Xiaomi provides a converter to 3.5mm) and twin speaker grilles facing a single speaker. The speaker delivers a lot of volume, but the audio quality is average – too rich in highs to be comfortable at higher volumes. Considering that the Mi 9’s powerful processor might appeal to gamers, this is disappointing.
I already mentioned that this is a slim phone (7.61mm). It’s also pretty small considering the 6.39-inch display, which slips into a body measuring 74.67mm wide by 157.5mm deep. There is very little bezel along the long edges, although a few millimeters of bezel is noticeable along the bottom edge. The screen / body ratio is 85.14 percent.
A small notch at the top houses the 20MP selfie camera. It’s a slightly different style to the ‘teardrop’ style notch found on the likes of the OnePlus 6T, but the minimalist draw is the same, leaving plenty of room for notification icons.
The AMOLED display has a resolution of 2340 by 1080 pixels (403 ppi) and offers excellent picture quality at all levels – video, websites, documents. You can change the screen color and contrast, with settings available for “default”, “warm” and “cool” color temperature.
The triple camera system on the rear includes a 48MP sensor with an f / 1.75 lens, a 12MP with an f / 2.2 telephoto lens, and a 16MP sensor with an f / 2.2 (UWA) ultra-wide-angle lens. I was impressed with the photos taken in daylight, which captured a lot of detail and good color rendering. Night shots weren’t great, however.
The UWA goal is a real winner. It turns on and off easily with a toggle button inside the viewfinder, and it leaves a lot more information in an image all around. Because it’s so easy to use, I would see myself using UWA mode a lot if the Mi 9 was my regular phone.
Anything shot in portrait mode using the front or main camera can have bokeh, light trail, and lighting effects added as post-production options. Video is available at 4k resolution and 30fps (fps), and there is also the usual slow motion mode (1080p up to 960fps).
The handset puts a notification mark on every photo taken with the main camera, letting you know something about the photo, including that it was taken on the Mi 9. This is easily disabled if you’d rather not. have what is essentially an advertisement pasted in your photos.
I mentioned at the beginning that the Xiaomi Mi 9 works on Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, which is state of the art right now. Unsurprisingly, backed by 6GB of RAM, it provided extremely impressive benchmark results – on average Geekbench 4 scores of 11,322 (multi-core) and 3,533 (single core). In contrast, the Kirin 980-based Huawei Mate 20 Pro scores 9772/3331 and the Snapdragon 845-based OnePlus 6T scores 8854/2373 (multi-core / single-core, numbers of Geekbench).
My review unit has 128GB of internal storage, of which 12.48GB was used right out of the box, leaving 115.52GB free. A handset like this needs a lot of free storage space for all the videos, games and other media that users may want to store there. There’s no MicroSD card slot, which can make the 64GB variant a bit light on storage.
The other thing that a handset like this requires is stamina. While the Mi 9’s 3,200mAh battery may seem insufficient compared to the 4,000mAh units of several recent flagship phones, the Snapdragon 855 chipset is power efficient: the Mi 9 managed 10 hours and 51 minutes from the start. ‘a full charge under the Geekbench battery. test, for a score of 6510. This places him in the upper echelons of the Geekbench battery benchmark results. For the record, I did not miss power on any test day.
The Mi 9 supports 27W QuickCharge 4.0 fast charging and 20W wireless charging, delivering a full charge in 90 minutes (although you have to invest in a Qi wireless charger to take advantage of it). If you’re really into fast charging, check out the Oppo RX17, which manages to deliver a full (wired) charge in 35 minutes.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 works on Android 9 Pie with the MiUI overlay on top. There are a few additions to the standard Android apps, including a music player, the Mi Remote app, the Opera browser, a cute little notes app, and a pretty good file manager. There are also a few settings tweaks, including a dark mode for the display. Everything is quite light.
It is difficult to find a serious fault with this handset. I’m not the biggest fan of the slippery glass backplate (although a included bumper helps here), or the way the camera software includes advertising on every shot ( although it can be disabled). The Snapdragon 855 processor is very responsive, there is a lot of built-in storage, the AMOLED screen is awesome, the battery life is good and the IR blaster is a nice plus.
My main complaint is the poor quality speaker. If it was better, I would recommend the Xiaomi Mi 9 without any reservations. Even so, it’s probably the best mid-range smartphone available right now, and those a little higher up the price scale should be looking over their shoulders.
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