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Realme 9 Pro+ Review- Flagship Experience At Mid-Range Pricing?
Realme's growth in the last two years has been phenomenal. Starting as a sub-brand of OPPO in 2018, Realme (now an independent brand) recently overtook Samsung and grabbed the second spot in the smartphone market, according to Counterpoint Research. With an 18 percent volume share in October 2021, Realme now offers a very promising smartphone portfolio that spans across budget, mid-range, and value-flagship price brackets.
- Fluid & Bright AMOLED Display
- Feature-Rich Camera
- Good Low-Light Camera
- Smooth Performance
- 60W Fast-Charging
- Handy To Use
- OIS Disappoints For Video-Recording
- Glossy Back Is A Smudge Magnet
- Camera Software Needs Tuning
- No microSD Card & No IP Ratings
The latest addition to Realme's ever-growing portfolio is a mid-range Realme number series device- the Realme 9 Pro+ Priced at Rs. 24,999 (6GB+128GB), the Realme 9 Pro+ is the company's first number-series smartphone with an optically stabilized camera system featuring a flagship-grade 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor. The Realme 9 Pro+ is also the world's first handset to be powered by the 6nm MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G processor.
In addition, the Realme 9 Pro+ also brings a fluid 90Hz HDR10 enabled AMOLED display, under-display heart-rate sensor (first-of-its-kind), 60W fast-charging and runs Android 12 out-of-the-box. These specs surely sound promising for a mid-range smartphone. But how much of it translates to a good real-life performance? Let's find out.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Design- Handy & Mostly Practical
The Realme 9 Pro+ is a nice-looking phone with a very practical design that ticks most boxes of day-to-day usability. It is very handy and comfortable to use with one hand, which has become a rarity these days. The phone weighs 182g and has a thickness of 7.9mm, making it the slimmest smartphone in Realme's number-series portfolio. Despite its low weight and slim form-factor, the phone feels sturdy and houses a decently sized 4,500 mAh battery cell.
Highly Glossy Back Panel
The construction is mostly plastic (both frame and the back panel) that keeps the weight in check. The front gets a layer of the Gorilla Glass 5. Since the triple-lens camera setup at the back is pretty thick, the phone wobbles on a flat surface. Also, the glossy back panel is a big-time fingerprint magnet. I wonder if Realme will ever introduce a no-nonsense matte finish phone that doesn't shine or bling. Maybe not in the near future.
No microSD Card & No IP Ratings
The handy design also offers useful features such as a 3.5mm audio jack, clicky buttons, and a dual nano-SIM card slot. Realme ditched the dedicated microSD card slot and also didn't bother to make the phone splash resistance (IP52). These features would have added more value to the user experience. Instead of offering such utilities, Realme decided to invest in cosmetics and gave the handset a neat party trick i.e. the light shift design. Read on to find out more about the eye-catchy design trick.
Realme 9 Pro+ Changes Colors, Literally
Similar to the recently launched Vivo V23 Pro, the Realme 9 Pro+ can also change its base color, thanks to a photochromic layer that turns the otherwise flashy blue color into a bright pinkish-orange shade when exposed to sunlight. When ultraviolet light rays touch the back cover, the blue shade completely disappears and turns to a mix of red and pink in about three seconds. Seeing it happening in real-time is quite fun and can draw some attention.
If you aren't fond of unnecessary attention and don't want your phone to change its color, you can consider buying the Aurora Green and Midnight Black variants as the color-changing technology only applies to the Sunrise Blue variant.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Display
The mid-range phone flaunts a vibrant 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1,080 x 2,400 pixels and a pixel density of 411ppi. The Samsung-made OLED is vivid and produces rich colors making the Realme 9 Pro+ a good device for multimedia consumption. Videos and games look immersive and reading text or performing day-to-day operations under direct sunlight isn't a problem, thanks to HDR10 support and high brightness levels.
Fluid User Experience & Vivid Colors
With a 90Hz refresh rate and 360Hz touch-sampling rate, the display feels fluid and offers a buttery smooth scrolling and UI navigation experience. The panel also supports HDR10 and DCI-P3 color space. You can choose between three different color profiles- Vivid, Natural & Pro mode that further offers two modes- Cinematic and Brilliant. We found the cinematic mode (Pro mode) to be the most color accurate in the lot.
Realme 9 Pro+ Camera Hardware
The Realme 9 Pro+ has a triple-lens camera system featuring a 50MP main camera with a Sony IMX766 flagship sensor. This lens supports both OIS and EIS and comes with some mighty claims. The main lens is supported by an 8MP wide-angle sensor and a 2MP macro sensor. The camera system is loaded with software features to help you make the most out of the good camera hardware. Now let's check out some camera samples.
Camera Samples & Analysis
The cameras on the Realme 9 Pro Plus capture lively pictures if you have good natural light and vivid subjects. The contrast seems spot on and the dynamic range is excellent. These pictures look as good as shots captured on any flagship device. Check out the yellows and blues in this indoor shot with abundant sunlight coming from the top.
The colors look even livelier if you have enabled the AI toggle; however, it makes the overall pictures look highly saturated and edited. Disable the AI toggle if you prefer natural-looking images.
Disable AI Toggle For A Natural Look
Even with the AI toggle disabled, Images look a bit overprocessed. It's almost like the camera software is applying a vivid filter to the shots you capture from all three lenses. Sharpness goes off-board and colors look very artificial. Things get worse if you start zooming in on the shots. Realme should fine-tune its camera software to deliver a more neutral smartphone photography experience.
How Good Is Optical Image Stabilization?
The optical image stabilization for videos let us down. The 4K and 1080p video feed look as jittery as they come out on a phone with no OIS. If you are solely going to buy this handset for optical image stabilization, you would be disappointed big time. Isn't it ironic, the headline feature, which is one reason for the price hike is mostly flawed. Moving on, the 1080p EIS videos are pretty smooth and despite their cropped form factor, look better than the jerky optically stabilized videos.
It is the low-light photography that seems to be taking the true benefit of optical image stabilization. The camera sensors manage to pull a lot of details and dynamic range. Some late evening low-light shots turned out so good that it was hard to tell if the pictures were captured in such a challenging light scenario. This is good but also very subjective. Do you want your low-light shots to look if they are captured in the daytime?
The Realme 9 Pro Plus could be a good camera device for landscape photography, especially if you are at a scenic place. The 8MP wide-angle camera captures a good 119-degree field-of-view, impressive dynamic range, and decent details for an 8MP sensor. Even the wide-angle shot turned out pretty bright with the night mode. You could see the hills and trees in the background which were not visible to the eyes while present at the scene.
Noise does creep in and images also show some more sharpness and a warmer overall tone in the low-light but that's acceptable for the phone at its asking price.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Captures Pleasing Portraits
Portraits also come out pretty good even though the phone lacks a dedicated portrait sensor. The background blur looks natural but it is worth mentioning that you have to be careful about the distance between the camera and the subject.
Thankfully, the images don't lose out on colors and the dynamic range. The macro shots are below average and fail to impress. A 5MP macro sensor would have done a far better job at this price. These 2MP macro sensors are nothing but marketing gimmicks.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Camera Software
Realme smartphones are loaded with interesting and useful camera software features. There are 13 filters for the standard photo mode, another 13 for portrait photography, and 12 filters for video mode. You also get a very well-crafted street mode with support for both Jpeg and RAW format.
Besides, you can capture 50MP high-resolution pictures, record time-lapse videos, slow-motion videos, capture panoramas and scan text. The 50MP high-resolution pictures look impressive and pack a lot of details along with some unwanted sharpness. The camera is pretty good at taking still shots and recording videos with all such software features. It doesn't feel sluggish and takes pictures without any delays.
Pro Mode For Both Still Photography & Video Recording
The camera app also offers a well-designed Pro mode for both still photography and video recording. The tilt-shift mode is another very useful mode that lets you capture such nice-looking dreamy shots. Lastly, you can also capture some distant celestial objects like stars with the help of starry mode. But you would need a tripod and a clear sky.
Overall, the Realme 9 Pro Plus has managed to us with its camera performance, except the optical image stabilization. I wish the brand had skipped the OIS and had offered a 13MP wide-angle lens plus a 5MP macro sensor. This could have made the Realme 9 Pro Plus the ultimate camera phone in the mid-range price segment.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Hardware Performance
The mid-range smartphone is powered by the same 6nm octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 920 chipset, which was recently seen on the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge. The processor is mated with three different RAM-ROM configurations including 6GB+128GB, 8GB+128GB and 8GB+256GB. We got to test the top-of-the-line variant and it impressed us with day-to-day performance. The phone can handle light to heavy tasks without any performance issues.
Be it basic day-to-day tasks such as calling, social media, or demanding operations such as 1080p 60fps video editing, 4K video shooting, playing heavy game titles, etc. the Realme 9 Pro+ never showed any signs of a slowdown. The user experience is as smooth as any value flagship handset that usually costs up to Rs. 45,000. The thermals are also handled very well as the phone never got too hot which should lead to any performance issues.
Built-in Heart Rate Sensor & Stereo Speakers
The Realme 9 Pro+ packs an additional party trick that is quite useful. The under-screen fingerprint scanner doubles up as a heart rate sensor that can measure your heart rate as you unlock the handset. If you don't have a smart wearable, this phone can help you keep a tab on your heart activity. The feature is hidden inside the Realme labs in the settings menu.
For audio, the Realme 9 Pro+ has two speakers, one at the bottom and the second one is essentially the earpiece grill that doubles up as a front speaker. Combined, the speakers produce loud and clear audio. The sound clarity and loudness are pretty good for the price. Importantly, the phone also comes equipped with a 3.5mm audio jack giving you freedom and ease of using any standard earphones with the handset.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Software
The Realme 9 Pro+ is the brand's first handset to run on the latest Realme UI 3.0 based on Android 12 out-of-the-box. The new UI brings a host of new features and software optimizations. You will see new personalization features like AOD tweaks, redesigned icons, floating window 2.0, and a few other useful features. Besides, the usual Realme UI utilities are offered such as edge lighting, kids space, simple mode, smart sidebar, etc.
Bloatware That You Can Uninstall, Mostly!
The software runs smoothly and we never encountered any app crashes or general bugs that could hamper the general day-to-day performance. The UI never lags or behaves abnormally on this mid-range handset, which helps improve the overall user experience. A slight bummer is the high number of bloatware but thankfully, you can uninstall most of these preloaded apps from the app management settings.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Battery Life
Like most mid-range handsets, the Realme 9 Pro+ can mostly last 20-25 hours with day-to-day usage under normal workload including Twitter, WhatsApp, web-browsing, voice calls, etc. With light usage, the battery can last more than a day. Long gaming sessions and continuous video playback take a toll on the battery life and you would need the charger by the end of the day.
But thanks to the bundled 65W fast-charger, the phone recharges from flat to 100% in around 45-minutes. It is worth mentioning that the handset supports 60W fast-charging even though the bundled charger offers 65W support.
Realme 9 Pro Plus Connectivity
As far as the connectivity is concerned, the Realme 9 Pro+ supports a range of 5G bands in India covering n1, n3, n5, n7, n8, n20, n28, n38, n40, n41, n77, n78, and n66. You also get 4G VoLTE with Carrier Aggregation (4G), Wi-Fi 6 802.11 ax (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.2, and GPS / GLONASS. The call quality remained very stable on the Airtel network in the Delhi NCR region. We also didn't encounter any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-related connectivity issues on the handset. Basics are handled very well by this mid-range smartphone.
The Realme number series is no more a budget-oriented smartphone category. It has evolved into a feature-packed mid-range offering and the Realme 9 Pro+ is the best product of the series. Yes, the price has gone higher but the features, hardware, and consecutive performance justify it. For a starting price of Rs. 25,000, the mid-range smartphone brings a handy design, vibrant 90Hz display, runs Android 12-out-of-the-box, and delivers lag-free day-to-day performance.
The still photography results are best in the price segment but the OIS for videos disappoints and it mostly benefits the low-light photography. The lack of microSD card slots and IP ratings are also a letdown. We expect the Realme 10-series to boast a good IP rating. For now, the Realme 9 Pro+ should be on your list if you are looking for a well-rounded package in the sub-30K price segment. Some other options in the same price-point are- Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge, OnePlus Nord CE 2, Samsung Galaxy M52 5G, Vivo V23, Poco F3 GT, etc.