The MWC in Barcelona served as the stage for the triumphant entry of Xiaomi's latest star. The Mi 9 attempts to stand up to the competition with a package worthy of admiration. And not only for having the latest technology, as you would expect from any flagship these days, but for having a price tag that is almost scandalous. The Xiaomi Mi 9 is a worthy opponent in today's high-end market. What's more, it could even occupy one of the top places on the podium. I'll tell you why in this full review.
- Value for money
- Great camera
- Enhanced facial recognition and fingerprint reader
- Champion performance
- Fast charging and wireless charging
- Rear side too slippery
- No headphone jack
- Mono sound
The best quality-to-price ratio on the market
Four hundred and forty-nine of the Queen's English pounds. Yes, I repeat, £449! This is the scandalous starting price of the Xiaomi Mi 9. As I pointed out in my review of its predecessor, the Mi 8 Pro, the new flagship from the Chinese brand is even cheaper than that with a better configuration. Seeing the current flagship prices on the market, we can say that this is the smartphone with the best quality-to-price ratio today. That much is certain.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 comes in black, purple and blue, although black and blue are the only colors available on the brand's website in the UK. The only version you can currently order is the one with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. There are currently no plans to release the Mi 9 in the US.
Sparkling case reminiscent of the Huawei P30 Pro
If there's one thing that the Mi 9 doesn't stand out in, it's in its design. Some might even consider it a bland smartphone. For me - a lover of black above all other colors and of the opinion that something simple and sober is better than a colorful mess - it's not a problem. Quite the opposite. Xiaomi's flagship is a discreet yet elegant, simple and unobtrusive smartphone. You don't need the frills to like it. Or at least I don't.
Its body, which feels very good in the hand, is very sexy and stylish thanks to the combination of metal and crystal and the rounded lines that give it shape. Yes, I admit that I have a weakness for curves, which not only provide comfort but are also more aesthetically pleasing. On the left side, Xiaomi has added a button dedicated to Google Assistant that bothers me a little, as I press it without wanting to more often than I would like. It will be useful for many, I will not deny it, but the truth is that I don't spend quite a lot of time with the Assistant of the Big G.
At the rear, the Mi 9 is slightly reminiscent of the Huawei P30, although the finish and curvature of the body have teleported me to the feeling I had with my beloved Mate 20 in my hand. That triple lens configuration arranged vertically on the top left of the device is to blame for bringing it closer to look of the latest Huawei flagship. However, the design of the device and what protrudes from the phone are still reminiscent of Apple. There's no need to remember how the Chinese like to look up to the Cupertino company.
This suggestive and shiny back (it looks like a mirror) presents almost the only defect I have found in the Mi 9. And that is, like the previous one in the line of succession, it is quite slippery. It's a good thing the package includes a non-slip cover to prevent disaster. The Mi 8 Pro landed too many times on the ground and I'd rather run that risk again than use Xiaomi's cover (it's ugly, sorry). Without it - yes, I like a naked smartphone better - fingerprints are inevitable.
A large AMOLED screen
Xiaomi continues to rely on Samsung for its screen and, like its predecessor, the Mi 9 has an AMOLED panel. We already know what this means: excellent quality, good and brilliant colors, very deep blacks and a lot of sharpness even in full daylight. Made with Gorilla Glass 6, the 6.39-inch screen - the same size as the Mi Mix 3 - has a FHD+ resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 and stands out for occupying 90.7% of the smartphone's body.
The edges around it have been reduced to almost the minimum possible, like the notch, which is now in the form of a drop of water. All this makes it possible to have a truly immersive experience and enjoy all kinds of multimedia content, such as your favorite Netflix shows, as it should be. Thank you, Xiaomi!
2D facial recognition and fingerprint reader under the screen: unity makes strength
Like the Mi 8 Pro, Xiaomi relies once again on 2D facial recognition and an in-display fingerprint reader to unlock the device, a tandem that works perfectly. The fingerprint sensor, although it is not my favorite method to access my mobile, is noticeably faster than in its predecessor and is located a little lower, making it easier to access.
I have no complaints about either system, quite the contrary. I have both activated just in case, but the truth is that face unlock is so effective that I have rarely had to put my finger on the screen of the Mi 9. However, I have to say that it is not as good as its predecessor. This is what it takes to reduce the notch. You miss out on the infrared sensor that can recognize your face at night.
MIUI 10 prevents the Mi 9 from being practically perfect
Coming from using the Mi 8 Pro for a few months, I haven't noticed the difference in software between the two phones, as you can imagine. I already had the MIUI 10 lesson learned. However, one never gets used to the damned (sorry) advertising. The personalization layer from Xiaomi - far from being my favorite - doesn't really bother me, I even like it more for its minimalist design, but between the advertisements and the errors it presents, it has sometimes made me a little nervous.
What really got me was one thing: why does a notification cause the volume to dip significantly every time you're listening to something on the phone? It's very bad, very annoying, and very absurd. And it's true that you can avoid this issue if you put the mobile in the "Do not disturb" mode but it took me a while to get there...
The latest version of the Chinese software runs on Android 9 Pie.
One of the most powerful smartphones of 2019
Not only do I say it, because I am very impressed, but the experts say so too. Antutu's prestigious benchmark ranking positions the Xiaomi Mi 9 as the most powerful smartphone of 2019. For the time being, and until another to dislodge the first position, the Chinese manufacturer's mobile is above top-end rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 (in all its variants), the latest Huawei P30 and its Pro version.
Xiaomi's flagship mounts Qualcomm's latest processor, the powerful Snapdragon 855. The San Diego-based manufacturer's chipset provides the Mi 9 with champion performance and fluidity worthy of a mention. It can take anything you throw at it and not slip up. The day-to-day tasks of a very demanding user like me are not a problem, nor are playing titles like PUBG (graphics load perfectly and the game don't freeze up once).
Xiaomi Mi 9 compared to similar devices
|Xiaomi Mi 9||Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro||Nokia 9 PureView||Samsung Galaxy S10||Huawei P30 Pro|
Sling Shot ES 3.1
Sling Shot Vulkan
Sling Shot ES 3.0
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
Mono sound and no headphone jack
Unfortunately, and as is the tradition of the last flagships of the Chinese brand, there is no trace of the headphone jack on the Mi 9. For me this is a great "but", although I am not going to get too upset given the market trend. But I'm asking for my jack back, please!
Instead, we find the increasingly widespread USB Type-C and it comes with an adapter for those who, like me, do not like to rely too much on Bluetooth. On both sides, we have the speaker grilles, although one is fake, as the Mi 9 only has one speaker. No stereo sound, but what we can hear is high quality. No complaints in this regard.
A trio of cameras to fall in love with
The Mi 9 is the first smartphone from the Chinese brand to integrate a triple camera with AI. The central 48 MP Sony IMX586 sensor (like the Honor View20) with f/1.75 aperture is the main one, above is a 12 MP telephoto lens with a Samsung sensor with f/2.2 aperture and 2x optical zoom and below is the Ultra Wide 16 MP Sony lens with f/2.2 aperture. The trio works flawlessly and delivers exceptional quality images under any conditions.
It is clear that with natural light it works better but the night is also a great ally for the cameras on the Mi 9. Well represented colors, good white balance and a lot of detail. I was especially happy to reuse the wide angle that made me enjoy the camera of the Huawei Mate 20 so much. Who needs the five cameras of the Nokia 9 PureView?
The front camera is 20 MP and is also capable of demonstrating its full potential with very little effort. Your selfies are safe.
Undoubtedly, the photographic compartment of the Mi 9 stands out. Very much so. This was also the case for our colleagues at DxOMark, who awarded it 107 points (112 for photos, 99 for videos). As they pointed out and as I have been able to see for myself, the bokeh effect and the autofocus also do a great job.
As for the videos (slow motion at 960fps available), the Mi 9 surprises and the default recording in 4K justifies the details even for indoor recording. It also has a very good image stabilization system.
More endurance than you think and fast wireless charging
Smartphones usually paint a better picture on paper than they do in reality. In the case of the Mi 9 and its battery, the opposite is true. 3,300 mAh did not seem to me to be a figure to impress, however, at the time of use I was pleasantly surprised. During my two weeks of use, I didn't have to stop to refuel once before going to bed . Not once. What's more, I've come to the end of the day with no less than 15% of the battery remaining.
Let's make it clear that I wake up at 6:30 in the morning and go to bed at around 10:30 or 11 at night, and that I use my mobile as if it were an extension of my hand. I take pictures all the time, I publish Stories on Instagram, I look at Facebook, I use two email accounts... not to mention the hundreds of WhatsApp audios and messages I send daily.
The good parts of the Mi 9 battery don't end here. Xiaomi's latest star is the first smartphone on the market to support 20W wireless charging, and although it doesn't come in the box (of course) I've had a chance to try it. What is included in the package is a 27W quick charger that is capable of filling the Mi 9 to 100% in less than an hour.
Xiaomi Mi 9 technical specifications
Final verdict: the true rival of Samsung, Apple and Huawei
The real rival of the stars of Samsung, Apple and Huawei is here. No, it's no joke. For half the price (or even less) the Chinese brand once again proves that it is possible to make a smartphone with everything you need and a little more. And the Xiaomi Mi 9 can meet the needs of any user, even the most demanding.
Qualcomm's latest processor, an in-display fingerprint reader and facial unlocking, a triple rear camera with 48 MP Sony lens and wide angle lens, fast charging, wireless charging, NFC... All the ingredients of a top-notch smartphone are here. Xiaomi once again popularizes for the general public what was previously reserved for only a few. Who wants a Galaxy S10, an Apple iPhone XR or XS or even a Huawei P30 Pro if you can have almost the same for much less? Not me, of course. And all the more so given that in these times when we change smartphones more often than we change shirts!