Xiaomi Mi 9 Review – Should You Buy it?

xiaomi mi 9

Xiaomi keeps coughing up new smartphones at an impressive rate. There’s the Mix series, the budget-friendly Redmi series and the standard Mi phones. The company’s newest flagship the Mi 9, with a $510 price tag, offers high-end specs at a mid-range price combining great performance with stunning photography.

Pros: Cons:
Top-notch camera experience Protruding camera module
Value for money Not waterproof
Super fast charging  

Design

The Mi 9 has a 6.39 inch AMOLED water drop notch display. The phone is slender, not as wide as the Mi 8 and not as clunky as the Mi MIX 3. The chin is only 3.6mm, a welcomed improvement from last year’s Mi 8. The back is made out of Gorilla glass 5 and is curved all the way around which makes it really smooth and comfortable to hold. However. the curvature also makes it slippery so you might want to use a protective case.

Xiaomi Mi 9 6.39 inch water drop notch display

The backs of the Ocean Blue and the Lavender Purple edition both have a holographic layer that reflects light giving it a rainbow spectrum effect. If elaborate design is not your thing you can also opt for the piano black version.

MI 9 lavender purple edition (source: Xiaomi)

The only downside with Mi 9 ‘s design is the protruding camera module. It sticks out really far from the chassis preventing the phone from lying flat. If you slide it across a table you will hear the cameras scraping against the surface. It’s rather unpleasant and I sincerely hope the cameras don’t get damaged. The problem remains even after putting on the included TPU case.

Also, don’t take the Mi 9 for a swim, Xiaomi doesn’t do waterproofing, so there’s no IP rating. It’s one of the things that distinguishes it from more expensive rivals like Samsung.

Camera

The Mi 9 is Xiaomi’s first phone with a triple camera setup. It comes with a 48MP f/1.75 main sensor, a 16MP ultra-wide lens and a 12MP telephoto sensor that offers 2x optical zoom. The photos are very crisp, the colors stay true to reality. Many recent phones have cranked up the saturation so that all your photos look slightly unnatural and filtered, Mi 9 delicately manages to balance the colors so that they’re neither oversaturated nor too bland.

Xiaomi Mi 9 triple-camera
Mi 9 triple camera

In day light settings the phone performs flawlessly, showing great detail in natural light. Paired with a laser autofocus array and the closed-loop motors built into the three lenses, the Mi 9 delivers impressively fast and accurate focusing, significantly reducing the risk of blur.

Mi 8 vs Mi 9 in daylight setting
Mi 9 vs Redmi Note 7 Pro

Night-time lighting proves to be more challenging and although the Mi 9 does a good job, iPhones still have a leg up in that competition. After zooming in, you can see that the Mi 9 is more noisy and not as sharp as the iPhone camera. But then again, when considering the fact that the Mi costs about half as much as the iPhone, there is little to complain about regarding the Mi camera.

night -time photography comparison

The Mi 9 relies on pixel binning to deliver 12MP photos from the primary camera, allowing the sensor to pack in more detail and reduce noise. In the front, you get a 20MP module. The Mi 9 doesn’t have optical image stabilization on any of its three camera modules, and that affects the final image quality. Overall however, the Mi 9 camera is excellent, especially for its price.

Battery and Charging

At 3300mAh, the Mi9’s battery capacity has slightly decreased compared to the Mi8’s 3400mAh. But the efficiency of the Snapdragon 855 makes up for it and you don’t have to worry about the battery not lasting throughout the day. As a bonus, the Mi 9 also charges fast. The device ships with an 18W charger and reached 90 percent in just 45 minutes. If that’s not fast enough you can pay some $20 extra for Xiaomi’s wireless charger or their wired turbo charger. Using the turbo charger the phone charges to full in just 65 minutes. The wireless charger is also not half bad, it pumps 20W of power into the phone and reaches full charge in 1 hour 40 min.

Mi9’s battery capacity

Performance

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is one of the first smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset, probably the most advanced mobile processor available today. Apps open and respond in a split second and everything scrolls smoothly. The chipset makes Xiaomi Mi 9 fit for gaming and high-end games run fluidly even when using the highest graphic settings. The phone tends to get a bit hot after excessive use, more so than other phones, but from what I could tell it doesn’t seem to influence the performance.

Software

Xiaomi Mi 9 runs on the latest MIUI 10 launcher on top of Android 9 Pie. The icons are minimalist and well designed. The interface is light-weight and intuitive and as a returning MIUI user I feel right at home. There’s the option between classic three-button navigation and a gesture-driven experience, so you can choose the setup you’re most comfortable with, personally I prefer the button navigation.

Xiaomi Mi 9 in-display fingerprint unlocking


On the negative side, there’s no app tray option, so all your apps stay on the home screen. I’m also not a huge fan of the in-display fingerprint sensor. Although it’s fast, it doesn’t compare with the instant unlock of Mi 8’s rear fingerprint sensor, and those extra milliseconds can be a source of frustration. Luckily there’s face unlock, however that’s not always the safest option.

Xiaomi has also taken Assistant accessibility one step further, with a dedicated hardware button on the left side that grants easy access to your favorite apps and with a double click you can have a chat with Google Assistant or Xiao AI if you’re in China.

Price

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is already available in Europe and China and is about to launch in the UK. From what we’ve seen so far, there are no signs of it landing in India or the U.S.

For the high-quality specs Xiaomi gives us a real competitive price. The price in Europe is 450 euros ($510) for the 6GB+64GB model, and 500 euros ($570) for the 6GB+128GB version. UK prices have yet to be confirmed.

Should You Buy It?

I currently use the Mi 8 and I don’t think the enhancements of the Mi 9 are substantial enough to motivate an upgrade. But if you’re looking to buy a new phone, I would definitely consider the Mi 9. The camera alone makes it a worthy choice. Now when you pair that with the latest chipset, super fast charging and decent pricing and you’ve got a front runner. As long as you can live with the protruding camera and the lack of IP-rating.