Xiaomi Mi 9 Review
Xiaomi Mi 9 Review
Xiaomi Mi 9 Review
While we don’t hear much about it in the US, Xiaomi is better known elsewhere in the world for its solid midrange phones for primarily Chinese and European markets. The Mi 9 (starting at 2,999 yuan, approximately $432) is its best offering yet, featuring flagship-level hardware and spectacular camera performance for hundreds of dollars less than much of its competition. That makes the Mi 9 a real value, and our Editors’ Choice for midrange phones in China.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Review: Design, Display, and Audio
While the Xiaomi Mi 9 follows the current all-glass design trend, it still manages to stand out amongst the competition. It measures 6.20 by 2.94 by 0.30 inches (HWD) and comes in at 6.10 ounces, but seems much more svelte thanks to its curved design and excellent weight distribution. It comes in blue, lavender, or a black that is really a stunning gunmetal gray. The phone is quick to pick up fingerprints, but you’ll probably want to pick up a good case since it offers no official protection from drops or water.
A beautiful 6.39-inch curved AMOLED display dominates the front of the Mi 9. Screen resolution comes in at 2,340 by 1,080, for 403 pixels per inch (ppi). It’s not quite as crisp as the OnePlus 7 Pro (516ppi), but the difference is hard to notice unless you’re looking very closely. Color accuracy is excellent but slightly cool, and it’s easy to make adjustments in the settings menu. At 430 nits of brightness, the screen is easy to see in just about any lighting scenario.
The Mi 9 features a single speaker that’s surprisingly good. At 91dB, it’s loud enough to fill a room, and does so without sacrificing audio quality. Audio is clean and resonant, with a slight tinge of bass. And there’s none of the tinniness you hear on the more expensive OnePlus 7 Pro.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Review: Cameras
The back of the Xiaomi Mi 9 features a triple stack of cameras, arranged vertically. The primary lens comes in at 48MP with an f/1.75 aperture. There’s also a 12MP telephoto lens with an f/2.2 aperture that supports macro photography, and an ultra-wide-angle 16MP lens with an f/2.2 aperture. On paper, this hardware sounds pretty standard, but the specifications don’t tell the full story. The phone relies heavily on AI for scene detection and post-processing, and the end result is stunning.
In our lab tests, the Mi 9 did incredibly well in bright light. Colors are accurate, background details are crisp, and edge distortion is nonexistent on wide-angle photos. Low-light photos are nearly as good, though we noticed a bit of noise creep in around the edges on a handful of our test shots.
On the front of the Mi 9 you’ll find a 20MP selfie cam with an f/2.0 aperture. Daytime test shots look superb, with excellent color accuracy and depth of field. Portrait mode and even the AI beauty features work well, and these can be very hit or miss at this price. Low-light photos are nearly as good, though some background details were lost in test shots.
Hardware and Benchmarks
In terms of power, the Xiaomi Mi 9 is no lightweight, packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor along with 6GB of RAM. For the most part, apps open instantaneously and multitasking is a breeze with more than a dozen apps open. And with GAME Turbo mode (which we’ll talk about more in the software section), gaming performance is stunning. We played PUBG Mobile for over an hour with minimal battery drain and absolutely no skipped frames or lag.
In our extensive benchmark testing, the Xiaomi Mi 9 performed admirably. On PCMark, a benchmarking suite that emulates real-world scenarios, the Mi 9 scored an impressive 8,932, beating out the Honor Magic 2 (7,586) by a long shot. It garnered an equally solid score on Ludashi, coming in at 349,490 and again crushing the Magic 2 (299,742).
In addition to the standard array of PCMag benchmark tests, we added a new player to the mix, AI Benchmark. It’s a suite of tests that requires the phone to quickly identify people, places, and objects. Once again the Mi 9 bested the Honor Magic, coming in at 23,140 to the Honor’s 15,587. And while that doesn’t compare with the OnePlus 7 Pro (25,258) or the ZTE Axon Pro 5G (27, 274), the Mi 9’s capabilities still far surpass most smartphones currently on the market, especially at this price.
Storage comes in at 64GB by default with a 128GB upgrade option available. We recommend the 128GB model, as the phone doesn’t have a microSD slot.
While a 3,300mAh battery may not sound like much for a phone with such a large display and so much power, Xiaomi does an excellent job with energy management. In our battery drain test, the phone lasted 11 hours, 52 minutes, besting the OnePlus 7 Pro (10 hours, 48 minutes) by more than an hour. With more conservative use, you should have absolutely no problem getting two days of power from a charge. If you do find yourself running low, the Mi 9 supports 27W charging via an optional power adapter or 20W wireless charging with its proprietary wireless charging pad. Both can add hours of battery life in less than 15 minutes.
Software and Special Features
The Mi 9 ships with Android 9.0 Pie along with Xiaomi’s custom MIUI 10 interface. Since the phone is made for the Chinese market, it has a suite of custom apps to replace standard Google services. There’s also no shortage of bloatware apps that come preinstalled, though luckily you can delete most of them.
Compared with the OnePlus 7 Pro’s OxygenOS or the Huawei P30 Pro’s EMUI 9.1, MIUI 10 feels a little clunky. While there are tons of customization options, there were occasions in testing that gestures didn’t work as expected and transitions between screens felt slow. That said, these are minor annoyances.
Although the Mi 9’s UI can be a little awkward at times, it does have a number of welcome additions like the aforementioned GAME Turbo mode. This feature allows you to create custom settings while gaming and automatically devotes more resources to gaming apps. It also makes gameplay easier with a quick screenshot gesture, the ability to turn off auto-dimming, and even a way to create screen boundaries to prevent accidental taps. While gaming modes are becoming increasingly common among smartphones, the Mi 9’s is very thoughtful and works well.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is one of the least expensive Chinese smartphones we’ve reviewed, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a stunning handset with a refined design aesthetic, killer performance, two-day battery life, and camera quality on par with phones that cost twice as much. It’s an excellent value that requires very little compromise, and as such, it earns our Editors’ Choice award for midrange Chinese phones.
- Excellent value for the price.
- Strong performance.
- Long battery life with fast wired and wireless charging.
- No official durability rating.
- MIUI 10 isn’t as intuitive as some other UIs.