Xiaomi has launched the Redmi Note 9 Pro in India. The smartphone obviously competes with the Realme 6 series, but not in the way you would have expected. With the Redmi Note 9 Pro, Xiaomi is going after experience over mere specifications. For the first time, the battle is shifting past specifications on paper. Now, let’s get one thing clear, the Realme 6 Pro seems better over Redmi Note 9 Pro on paper. But then, does being better on paper alone matter? That’s the curious case of Redmi Note 9 Pro.
Xiaomi created this sub-Rs 20,000 market, where performance, camera experience and design became as good as more premium devices. With this year’s model, Xiaomi is addressing another element: experience. Did previous Redmi Note devices lack great experience? Not really but they never nailed it. The Redmi Note 9 Pro wants to achieve that. It wants to be that device where form meets function. A device where every hardware serves a clear purpose. After using the device for sometime, I think Xiaomi is getting there.
Design and Display
The Redmi Note 9 Pro seems like an amalgamation of previous Redmi smartphones. It draws a lot of inspiration from the Poco X2 (yeah, Redmi K30) but stands out at the same time. The design language this year is called Aura Balance and it aims to balance design and comfort of the device. The first thing that Xiaomi took care of is weight distribution. The Redmi Note 9 Pro weighs around 209 grams but doesn’t feel heavy. The weight is distributed across all four corners to balance the grip. As a result, it feels great to hold even in one hand.
Since we are looking at Redmi Note 9 Pro and not Realme 6 Pro, the back is glass. Xiaomi is using Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the front as well as rear. Addition of glass does not make a phone better. It only makes it more prone to damage. But Xiaomi is using glass in a way that the phone does not really look like a mid-range offering. “You should not even feel like using a mid-range device,” said Anuj Sharma, Head of Marketing at Xiaomi India, said during a product briefing. Our review unit is Interstellar Black but there are two more colors: Glacier White and Aurora Blue.
Honestly, our Interstellar Black review unit looks more like a glossy finish of turquoise than black. However, once you put that protective cover included in the box, you get that black feel. So, full points there for ensuring people put cover on their smartphones. In comparison to its predecessor, the back also sees a new camera setup. There are four cameras but they are now stacked in a rectangular array and slammed in a way that looks like a robotic face. I wonder if this design will make the Redmi Note 9 Pro more prone to bending or deforming under stress.
At the front, there is a 6.67-inch IPS LCD display, which seems like the same panel as the one seen on the Poco X2. Instead of the dual punch hole setup, there is a single punch hole at the center. I want to say that the right way to do the punch hole would be to use one at the center. All other formats are either wrong or not well thought out. The display looks fine for most part, support 60Hz and not 90Hz or 120Hz. Is Xiaomi risking this trade-off? We will answer that question in our full review. For now, the best part of Aura balance design is that it did not give me any fatigue after holding it for a really long time.
The natural comparison between Redmi Note 9 Pro and Realme 6 Pro is mainly driven by the use of Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G mobile platform. This is a new processor that is being dubbed as an improvement over the Snapdragon 730G seen on the Poco X2 and the MediaTek Helio G90T seen on the Redmi Note 8 Pro. This processor also brings support for NavIC, the Indian version of satellites for fast navigation with GPS support.
There are two variants: the base model with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage. The second model is a 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. It supports dedicated SD card slot as well. Yeah, that does not really sound special or game changer but that is the theme this year. Sharma mentioned that there is no benefit of high refresh rate with SD720G. Trust me, I haven’t missed the Poco X2’s 120Hz display and even apps don’t seem to take advantage of higher refresh rate just yet.
One of the big changes coming with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro is in the camera setup. Xiaomi is not using a 64-megapixel or 108-megapixel sensor. It is instead using a 48-megapixel Samsung GM2 sensor. This sensor supports the same tech as the ISOCELL GW1 sensor. I am not allowed to show camera samples but what I have seen so far definitely looks promising. There is also an 8-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera, a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a 5-megapixel macro sensor. We will have an in-depth look at these cameras in our full review next week.
Xiaomi and Realme have made the smartphone market impossible to compete. The fight between these two companies is almost like tit for tat. Realme made a huge improvement with the Realme 6 lineup. Now, Xiaomi is showing how it can counter its arch rival. Instead of going after numbers on paper, Xiaomi is going after expertise. Every choice made by the company shows maturity of a company operating in India for more than five years. However, we are yet to figure out if that maturity translates into meaningful performance. So stay tuned to our full review coming next week for an answer.