The problem with Xiaomi’s new smartphones isn’t that they aren’t very good or overly expensive but that the competition has caught up and it also has diversified its portfolio by a huge degree. And that’s a tough environment for a phone to launch in and more so for a Redmi Note which has been the best selling smartphone in India for the last couple of years. The Redmi Note 9 Pro is the successor to the Redmi Note 8 Pro which landed at the fag end of last year and was touted as a gamer first smartphone. In the truest sense, the Redmi Note 9 Pro is the successor to the Redmi Note 7 Pro which landed with a lot of hype about a year ago. I’ve been testing this phone for the last couple of days and I can say confidently, that this is perhaps the most well rounded and balanced smartphone one can get for less than Rs 15,000. The amazing thing about this phone is that it comes without any perceptible weakness.
The most striking thing about this phone is how elegant it looks, and the general quality of its fit and finish. This phone puts the Samsung Galaxy S20+ to shame with its build quality as it feels solid like a rock, yet manages to look elegant, exuding a flair about itself with shiny color while also being very ergonomic in the hand with its curved back. Xiaomi has pulled off a class act which marries the best aspects of the Note 7 and the Note 8 designs.
Sure, it does have a centrally mounted camera hump which is home to its quad-core system, but it looks unique and is not off-center like the previous Xiaomi phones. In a way, this reminds me of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but there is some heavy-duty camera hardware at play which makes this an equitable compromise.
On the front, the screen gets even bigger, now measuring in at 6.67-inches with a peak brightness level of 400 nits which is pretty decent. The screen to body ratio has also been improved further and the addition of a central hole-punch notch makes this a very modern LCD screen. The colours and contrast levels are very good, while the viewing angles are also stellar which make this the ideal phone to be binging on Netflix for hours and hours.
And you can do this to your heart’s content considering the humongous 5,020mAh battery. The size of the battery is what made the Redmi Note the darling of the Indian audience and this time around they have offered a massive bump in the size which makes this a true 2-day battery life phone. The phone also supports USB-PD fast charging at 18-watts so you can either use the supplied charger or select a great third party option like the AMX India XP-60 which can even juice up your laptop. Outside of the Asus ROG Phone 2, this phone gave me the best battery life of all the phones I tested in 2019.
Xiaomi has been quietly ramping up the performance on the Redmi Note line for the last couple of years. That being said, they also do refinement updates like the Redmi Note 4 and this one is also more in line with that. With the Mediatek Helio GT90 in its predecessor, the Snapdragon 720G powered Redmi Note 9 Pro delivers similar performance while staying cooler, adding better navigation for India with the addition of ISRO’s NaVIC satellite technology and more consistent sustained performance. You do, however, lose some peak-level gaming performance as frame rates max out at 40fps instead of 60 on the MediaTek powered Redmi Note 8 Pro. That being said, for most people this will be a small price to pay as it enhances overall battery life, the longevity of the phone and enhances day-to-day usage.
For gamers though, the MediaTek powered Redmi Note 8 Pro remains the champion and since it will be sold beside this, people shouldn’t worry. Also, one should note, that the Redmi Note 9 Pro is more or less on the same level for almost every game outside of PUBG.
Xiaomi has also worked on enhancing the small details of the smartphone experience. For example, this phone now has a more powerful Z-axis haptic motor which makes typing and interacting with the user interface is nicer. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the side on the power button like on the Poco X2 which is more accurate and ergonomic. Apart from this, it remains one of the few phones to have a 3.5mm headphone jack which works well with Xiaomi’s new dual-driver earphones to belt out some powerful audio, albeit not at high-resolution for audiophiles.
They have also added a ton of cool features to the camera app which includes more effects, a more sophisticated pro mode, and even a card/text reader within the camera app.
The cameras are one area where Xiaomi has stepped up its game with the Redmi Note 9 Pro. There is an all-new quad-camera system on the Xiaomi which features a new generation Samsung 48-megapixel sensor coupled with a wide-angle lens, a depth sensor and a module for macro photos. In a nutshell, the photos that come out of this sensor are very good, stopping just short of the Poco X2 in camera performance. This camera may sound like a step back from the Redmi Note 8 Pro as it had a 64-megapixel sensor, but I can assure you it is not.
Another nice thing is that this phone handles video quite well with it even capturing audio quite nicely in loud concert like environments. The camera also gets a short movie mode which allows you to take short clips ideal for Instagram stories with some snazzy effects. For slow-motion fans, the good news is that this phone supports 960 fps video. Selfies too are nice and detailed with even a very good portrait mode.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro isn’t a game-changing reinvention of Xiaomi’s most popular smartphone. It is a deeply focussed refinement of its reinvention from last year making it an all-round phone that does almost everything very well. Its price is what makes it so desirable as no phone can match its functional nature.
It’s not for the spec-sheet junkie who wants headlining features like a 90Hz screen, a 64-megapixel camera or hyper-fast processors. It is meant for a person who just needs an affordable phone that gets everything done without any fuss. The Redmi Note 9 Pro in a sense is the embodiment of no drama, and it remains the Rahul Dravid of smartphones like the Redmi Note 3 which I had reviewed 4 years ago, just now cheaper!