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The Mi 9 (Check on Amazon.com) is the latest top of the range from Xiaomi. It is also the first smartphone to ship with the latest Qualcomm chipset: the Snapdragon 855 ready for extreme productivity but also multimedia and gaming. Just like the Xiaomi Mi 8 (Check on Amazon), the Mi 9 uses a sandwich design with a metal structure placed between two sheets of last-gen Gorilla Glass. The AMOLED screen is wider, while the notch and frames have been trimmed down. It also features a fingerprint sensor under the display for secure unlocking.
The price is probably the most interesting part after the triple rear camera. The Mi 9 supports faster charging than the Mi 8, but also fast wireless charging.
Sadly it lacks an IP68 certification and a 3.5mm audio port and stereo speakers. The internal memory isn’t expandable which is something we are used to with Xiaomi devices but it is a feature that could be very useful considering the rapid increase in 4K videos.
In the box, we find a 12V/1.5A power adapter, a USB to USB-C cable, a semi-transparent black silicone case and a USB-C to audio jack adapter.
Minimal in its elegance
The Xiaomi Mi 9 doesn’t try to be original, and it is similar, especially in the front, to the OnePlus 6T (Check on Amazon). It is slightly longer, but it weighs less, and the notch is somewhat smaller.
Read more: OnePlus 6T review: still a flagship killer?
The entire back consists of a Gorilla Glass 5 sheet completely rounded towards the central frame. These rear curves make the Mi 9 look even thinner than it really is, but also render this handset rather slippery. Since you will want to put a case on it this fact doesn’t represent a big problem.
In the rear we also find the distinctive feature of this smartphone: for the first time, there is a triple camera array on a Xiaomi smartphone.
Returning to the front, the ear capsule is long but very thin, almost engraved on the edge of the Gorilla Glass 6 panel. Next to it, we find a very small white LED for notifications. The ambient light sensor is hidden under the screen in the upper left corner. Hidden beneath the display we also find the fingerprint scanner that works quite well. It is slower than the classic sensor but also more secure.
On the bottom we see a single speaker placed next to the Type-C (only 2.0, so no video output) port. On one side we have a power button and the volume rocker and opposite them, there is a new dedicated button for Google Assistant. This button is also programmable to do other things such as take a picture or turn on the torch.
The Snapdragon 855 is a beast
The new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 (7nm) processor grants blazing performance but the thing that astonished us was its consumption (more on that later).
Obviously, this phone also sports the new Adreno 640 GPU that supports Vulkan 1.1, HDR Gaming and Physically Based Rendering. It is a nice leap forward in performance compared to the 630 in the Snapdragon 845. The new image processor also allows for 4K HDR at 60fps video capture. The phone is also equipped with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Note: the device warms up during extreme usage like heavy gaming for an extended period of time but we never experienced any kind of slowdown in performance.
One thing that I really missed on the Mi 8 and that has made a comeback is an infrared sensor. It might seem silly to many but I am used to controlling all my staff with my phone and this is a feature I am not willing to give up.
MIUI 10 and Android Pie
The Xiaomi Mi 9 runs the latest version of MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie. MIUI 10 further improves its appearance, the gestures, and all-around system performance, while maintaining its lightweight and intuitive interface that somehow deviates from stock Android but thanks to some well-thought features allow the user to have greater control in everyday activities.
The one thing that is really bugging me with the interface is that notifications now appear in the top bar but they go away after a while and the only way to view them is by lowering the top bar.
With the MIUI 10, Xiaomi also introduced a Dark mode that changes all system colors from white to blacks allowing generous battery savings thanks to the AMOLED display.
Note: I do not like the fact that in some MIUI functions and in some preinstalled apps (there is a lot of bloatware) there is advertising: in some apps like “Downloads” you can disable it by pressing on the 3 dots in the upper left corner and uncheck the suggestions box, but in others, it is here to stay. It is true that Xiaomi products cost very little compared to their rivals, but I would like to be given the option, similar to what Amazon does with the Kindle, to pay less and have a product with advertising or more for an ad-free device.
What a photo!
The Xiaomi Mi 9 introduces for the first time a three-sensor camera configuration. The main one is a 48MP sensor with a f/1.75 focal aperture. In addition, we find a 12MP telephoto lens capable of 2x optical zoom, as well as a 16MP Ultra Wide Angle sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. Technically, the Sony IMX586 48 megapixel sensor uses a quad-Bayer arrangement, which essentially is a 12-megapixel sensor but with very large 1.6μm pixels and real-time HDR. The main sensor is not optically stabilized like the other two.
Shots taken during daytime are really great: full of details, with a really interesting dynamic range, bright and precise colors, excellent contrast and, overall, pleasant processing. The images have the right amount of sharpness with obvious details and not many artifacts. The HDR effect is not exaggerated, and most users will be satisfied with the improved dynamic range compared to the Mi 8.
Images taken in low light conditions are still decent. Noise reduction is aggressive and this may lead to some loss of detail. The colors turn out to be faithful but despite the f/1.75 aperture, the Xiaomi Mi 9 often fails to get proper exposure due to the lack of stabilization.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is also equipped with a 20MP front-facing camera with an f/2.2 focal aperture and a fixed focus for selfies. Portrait mode allows for a bokeh effect that is sometimes exaggerated but in most situations works quite well.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 captures video up to 4K at 60fps. Slow-motion is also available at FHD resolution and 120fps or 240fps, as well as HD resolution and 960fps.
A quality AMOLED display
The Xiaomi Mi 9 sports a 6.39″ AMOLED display with FHD+ resolution (2,340×1080 pixels) with HDR10 support, 60,000:1 contrast and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
Although many flagship smartphones have gone well beyond this resolution, there has been no occasion that I felt the need for more pixels. It is simply a great display in virtually every aspect and to my eyes second only to Samsung’s latest Dynamic AMOLED display that has set forward a new level of excellence.
The only thing I do not like is the automatic brightness sensor that is way off at adjusting this screen’s brightness and I really hope Xiaomi can fix it with a software update.
Last but not least the notch adopts the new smaller teardrop design and in the process loses some the sensors for the 3D Face Unlock, now only 2D which is less secure but always fast (no, it won’t unlock with a photo, at least it didn’t when I tried). All this makes for an even more immersive display experience.
Good autonomy but we wished for more
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is powered by a modest 3,300mAh battery 100mAh less than the one in the Xiaomi Mi 8. The good news is that the Mi 9 supports both fast charging and fast wireless charging. Thanks to the 18W power adapter included in the package it is possible to go from 0 to 45% in just 30 minutes. If you use the optional 27W charger, it will take you up to 70%.
It will last you a whole day with medium use, but no more.
The price is great. It costs just (Check on Amazon.com) which is simply unrivaled by other smartphones with similar specs.
Xiaomi is the first company to offer a top-of-the-range device with the new Snapdragon 855 processor from Qualcomm. The Xiaomi Mi 9 was built on the solid foundations of the Mi 8 (Check on Amazon). The company took the Mi 8 and expanded it with a bigger OLED screen, the addition of a third camera, better battery life, and improved user experience.
But the trump card that Xiaomi will always use against the competition is its selling price. And the Mi 9 is a steal. At (Check on Amazon.com) is a no-brainer especially considering that other flagship models go for more than $1000.