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Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime Review: Our Top Budget Pick In Sub-10K Price-Point
We reviewed the Redmi Note 9 last week which had a significantly higher launch price, as compared to its predecessor, due to the recent hike in GST prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The launch price of the Redmi Note 9 came quite close to the Samsung Galaxy M21 and the recently launched Realme 6i. The former brings an AMOLED display with a visually-appealing and a less-cluttered One UI. The latter on the other hand, banks on the modern and higher refresh rate panel which is a good marketing sell and also delivers a more fluid user experience.
- Big Full HD+ Display
- Dedicated microSD Card Slot
- Type-C Port
- 2-Day Battery Life
- Attractive Design
- Good Performance
- Supports 5GHz Wi-Fi
- Unwanted Ads, Spams & Notifications
- Underwhelming Camera Performance
- Higher Variant Offers Less Value For Money
- Sub Par Audio
Being aware of the tough competition from rivals and the current market scenario, Xiaomi decided to bring back the good old Redmi Prime series device in the form of the Redmi 9 Prime. At a starting price Rs. 9,999, the Redmi 9 Prime packs the same beefier 5,020 mAh battery cell and flaunts the big 6.53-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD panel that you get on the slightly expensive Redmi Note 9. The cost cutting has been done on the chipset and camera front.
We tested the 4GB + 128GB variant of the Redmi 9 Prime which shares the price with the base variant of the Redmi Note 9. Let's find out how the Redmi 9 Prime performs as a daily driver.
Design- Smudge-Free Poco X2-Inspired Back Panel
The Redmi 9 Prime looks more like the Poco X2 than a budget variant from the Redmi Note 9-lineup. However, it has the same hefty build (9.1mm thickness, 194 grams weight) and similar chassis with side-mounted buttons and ports placed at the bottom. The Redmi 9 Prime has a 6.53-inch dewdrop notch screen, whereas the Redmi Note 9 places the selfie camera housing on the top-left corner.
Flip the phone and you will be welcomed with a major design overhaul. The square quad-lens camera module has been replaced with the vertically stacked 3-lens camera setup with one sensor placed adjacent with the LED flashlight. As the fingerprint scanner sits under the third lens, you will find yourself cleaning the 3rd lens very often in the day-to-day routine. The polycarbonate back panel has a concentric circle pattern that makes it smudge-proof and gives a good in-hand feel. The gentle curved also improves the handling to some extent.
Overall, I liked the dual-tone plastic casing on the Redmi 9 Prime. It is smudge-free and looks far better than the glossy back of the Redmi Note 9.
P2i Coating And Corning Gorilla Glass 3 Layer
The Redmi 9 Prime is a budget handset with good durability standards. The phone has P2i coating for splash resistance and the screen is protected by the Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The Redmi Note 9, on the other hand, gets the slightly better Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. That said, if you are planning to buy the 4GB+128GB variant of the Redmi 9 Prime, keep in mind that the Redmi Note 9's base variant offers Gorilla Glass 5 protection at the same price. Also, the Redmi Note 9 has a dedicated microSD card slot to address your storage requirements.
Moving on, the Redmi 9 Prime addresses key requirements by offering a USB Type-C charging port, 3.5mm audio jack, an IR blaster and a triple-slot SIM card tray (dual 4G standby SIM cards) with a dedicated microSD card slot, all under Rs. 10,000. This is simply a high-value deal for price-conscious consumers and also for a premium smartphone user planning to buy a secondary budget phone. The Redmi 9 Prime is available in four color variants: Space Blue, Mint Green, Matte Black and Sunrise Flare. We are testing the Matte Black and it looks much premium than its starting price-point.
Display- Big 6.53 Full HD+ Display With Gorilla Glass Protection At Rs. 9,999
I am glad Xiaomi hasn't cut too many corners on the overall display quality, except the protection layer. Similar to Redmi Note 9, the Redmi 9 Prime also boasts a 6.53-inch IPS LCD panel with 19.5:9 aspect ratio. It is a full HD+ resolution screen, something not very common in the sub-10K price segment making the entry-level Redmi 9 Prime a great budget smartphone for multimedia consumption. But if you plan to buy the higher variant of the Redmi 9 Prime, do check out the Samsung Galaxy M21 for its vibrant AMOLED panel and also the Realme 6i for its fluid 90Hz refresh rate screen.
Good Display On A Budget
As far as the 1080p display on the Redmi 9 Prime, it is Widevine L1 certified making it a decent screen for consuming media on streaming apps. The screen also serves well for day-to-day operations. The full-HD+ (1,080 x 2,340 pixels) display has the conventional 60Hz refresh rate and offers decent color reproduction. The viewing angles and the peak brightness levels are pretty average but serve well for indoor use and even for outdoor use, provided that you are not using the device under harsh sunlight.
Comparing the Redmi 9 Prime (base variant) with the Realme Narzo series will give you a better understanding. Realme fails to offer a 1080p panel in the budget price-point whereas Xiaomi has managed to deliver a solid display for masses who love streaming videos and consuming other forms of multimedia content. The Redmi 9 Prime has an edge over the competition in the sub-10K price segment due to a crisp Full HD+ IPS LCD screen.
Quad-Lens Camera Setup
The camera setup had to bear the cost-cutting to keep the price in check. Instead of a fancy 48 or 64MP primary sensor, the Redmi 9 Prime uses a pretty standard 13MP primary camera aided by an 8MP wide-angle sensor with a good 118° FOV, a 5MP macro camera and a 2MP depth sensor. For selfies, the Redmi 9 Prime sports an 8MP sensor. Before we talk about the picture and video quality, you must know that the aforementioned camera specs hold pretty well for a sub-10K handset, i.e. the entry-level variant of the Redmi 9 Prime. These specs are also pretty good for a smartphone priced at Rs. 11,999, especially the 5MP macro sensor in the times when some flagships are still using a 2MP macro sensor.
However, the market has some really good options. Xiaomi's very own Redmi Note 9's base variant offers a 48MP primary sensor and a bigger 13MP selfie camera but then it goes back to the 2MP macro sensor. The specs can be pretty confusing and what matters most is the real-life camera performance so let's talk about it.
Daylight Camera Performance
The Redmi 9 Prime's camera is mostly good for daylight photography. The software processing is not very harsh within default mode when the AI and Pro color toggles are disabled. Resultant, the colors look pretty natural, sometimes washed out, which might not please the targeted users. The AI mode comes to rescue. It is quick to detect the scene to make adjustments, crank up saturation and contrast to deliver the kind of color output the masses seem to prefer in the budget price bracket.
Pro Color Mode, AI Mode But No Night Mode And EIS
The Redmi 9 Prime also features the Pro color mode that makes the output even punchier. When this mode is enabled, the picture output shows a slightly better dynamic range and cranked up contrast and colors. The Redmi 9 Prime can shoot average looking 1080p 30fps videos in daylight and simply fails to impress in low-light. The same can be said for the image output in low-light as the Redmi 9 Prime comes sans a dedicated Night mode. Also, you need to be very steady whole shooting handheld videos on the Redmi 9 Prime as the phone lacks EIS support.
Redmi 9 Prime Captures Decent Macros And Poor Night Shots
The surprising element in the Redmi 9 Prime's camera setup is the 5MP macro sensor. This is the only camera sensor in the triple-lens array that produces some good results. The 5MP macro sensor on the Redmi 9 Prime can capture good close-up shots in outdoor lighting, provided that the subject isn't moving rapidly. The images turn out crisp and show good details. All you need is a steady hand as the sensor lacks autofocus. Will Xiaomi continue offering the 5MP macro sensor as a standard offering on its budget, mid-range and premium devices? Only time can tell.
Disappointing Low-Light Results
As far as low-light camera performance is concerned, the Redmi 9 Prime barely checks the boxes. The 13MP camera can only pull up traces of light in poorly lit environments. There's no dedicated Night mode and I am doubtful that the targeted audience will ever resort to the Pro mode to experiment with night-time photography on this budget device. I think Xiaomi could have offered a Night mode instead of the Short Video mode. Overall, the Redmi 9 Prime only comes across as a decent camera device for casual daylight photography. Look further if you want a good camera phone and be ready to spend at least Rs. 15,000.
Good Day-To-day Performance
The Redmi 9 Prime also comes in two variants with eMMC 5.1 storage-- 64GB and 128GB. You can add more storage (up to 512GB) via a dedicated microSD card. The phone has 4GB LPDDR4X RAM to handle multitasking and is powered bythe MediaTek G80 chipset. These are pretty good specs for a budget device and reflects in the day-to-day performance. The Redmi 9 Prime ensures smooth day-to-day performance. It runs without any lags and delivers fluid user-experience if you mostly use the handset for media consumption, web browsing, news reading, social media and basic calling and messaging jobs.
The game-centric MediaTek Helio G80 chipset with an ample amount of RAM and well-optimized MIUI 11 ensures smooth multitasking. You can also play the popular game titles on this budget device at medium to high settings. Interestingly, the phone can render PUBG's gameplay on high graphics settings in HD+ and the performance is pretty decent from a budget handset's perspective. Mostly, this is a smartphone for occasional gamers but can also be used to run some popular game titles with little compromises.
MIUI 11.0.2 based on Android 10- Runs Smooth But Marred By Bloatware
As far as software is concerned, the Redmi 9 Prime runs the MIUI 11.0.2 based on Android 10. The MIUI 11 is pretty feature-rich and runs smoothly on the Redmi 9 Prime; however, it has its fair share of bloatware in the form of the annoying applications and unwanted notifications. For instance, the Get Apps notifications popped up on the home screen several times and even in the notifications panel despite disabling the app while setting up the device.
Also, apps like Zili and games like Crazy Juicer, Bubble Story, Dust Settle, etc. are still available but can be uninstalled anytime. You should also disable the notifications in Mi apps if you prefer a cleaner software user-experience.
Plenty Of Useful Software Features
If you ignore the bloatware and spammy nature of the MIUI 11, which is very difficult, it has some useful features to offer such as system-wide Dark Mode, One-handed mode, Reading Mode, Quick ball, Smooth Android 10 navigation gestures, Quick Replies, Second Space, Lite Mode, etc. These features come quite handy in day-to-use and enhance the overall smartphone user-experience.
The face unlock is pretty snappy and the conventional rear-mounted fingerprint scanner is a delight to use. It's fast and pretty accurate in unlocking the device.
Battery Life, Connectivity And Audio
The long-lasting battery life is the highlight of the Redmi 9 Prime. The phone draws power from a 5,020 mAh battery cell which easily lasts you a day even with heavy usage and can survive a two-day usage if the phone is being used moderately. The phone supports 18W fast-charging but Xiaomi ships a 10W charger in the box. The 10W charger takes I sweat time, around 3 hours to charge the hefty battery from flat to 100% so make sure you keep the charging time in mind for full-day use.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the Redmi 9 Prime supports 4G VoLTE, 5Ghz Wi-Fi for faster download speeds, Bluetooth v5.0 and GPS/ A-GPS. I did face some call connectivity issues on the handset but that's mostly because of the pathetic services by Airtel in Delhi/NCR. The audio is handled by a single bottom-firing speaker that produces sub-par sound. I would recommend using standard 3.5mm headphones to enjoy multimedia playback and gameplay on the budget device.
Despite its shortcomings, the Redmi 9 Prime is a steal in the sub-10K price segment. I would recommend going for the base variant. You can simply add the microSD card at a later stage if you find the 64GB built-in storage somewhat restricting your storage needs. Don't buy the higher variant and if you are hard-pressed to spend extra Rs. 2,000, check out the Redmi Note 9's base variant. It offers slightly better camera setup, better screen protection and faster-charging support. There's no major real-life difference between the two Mediatek's SoCs.
Moreover, I would also recommend you checking the Realme 6i. At Rs. 1,000 extra, it brings the 90Hz fluid screen and a faster chipset (MediaTek G90T) for better day-to-day and gaming performance. You have to compromise a bit on the battery life but the 30W fast-charge support and the fluid 90Hz refresh rate truly compensate for the loss.