Who’s the Xiaomi Mi 9 for?
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is for those who want to own a flagship smartphone with most of the latest toys, but don’t fancy paying a flagship price tag.
In fact, Xiaomi’s tagline may as well be ‘bang for your buck’ because the Mi 9 combines the latest Snapdragon mobile chip with a triple-camera setup that is, on paper, one of the best around. And all for less than half the price of some of today’s top-tier phones.
Naturally, the Xiaomi Mi 9 has some weaknesses compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S10 and its MIUI 10 skin for Android won’t be for everyone, but there’s no doubt it offers an impressive spec sheet for the price. Here are our early thoughts after spending a coupe of hours with one.
Xiaomi Mi 9 – Price and Release Date
The Xiaomi Mi 9 is going to cost €449 (64GB version) or €499 (128GB model) when it goes on sale from 28 February 2018 in Europe.
It’s going to be out slightly later than that in the UK, though, with an expected release in late March 2019 over here. That means we don’t yet have confirmed UK pricing.
We’ll update this page as soon as we get those prices from Xiaomi, though it’s likely that the Mi 9 variants will cost £449 and £499 respectively.
When they do go on sale next month, you’ll get to choose from one of three colours: Piano Black, Lavender Violet or (our personal favourite) Ocean Blue.
Xiaomi Mi 9 – Screen
As you’d expect from its price tag, the Xiaomi Mi 9’s screen isn’t quite on a par with its £1,000 rivals – but it’s not far off.
The 6.39-inch AMOLED display is vibrant without going into into over-saturation, and has a very respectable 1080 x 2340 resolution. That’s not quite at QHD heights, but it’s more than enough for most situations – and in my brief time with the Mi 9 outside it was bright enough to cope with the Barcelona sunshine.
The Mi 9 also supports HDR10 (again not quite up to the Galaxy S10’s HDR10+ support, but that’s currently no big deal) and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
There’s also an improved in-screen fingerprint sensor, which apparently unlocks the phone up to 25% faster than on the Mi 8. I wasn’t able to do a side-by-side comparison, but it was certainly speedy and reliable.
Xiaomi Mi 9 – Performance and battery life
There have been no corners cut with the Xiaomi Mi 9’s engine – it’s one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 mobile chip.
What does that mean in reality? Well, it’s powerful enough to support advanced camera setups (like the triple-camera module on the Mi 9) and is super-efficient too, which should mean you see gains in other areas like battery life.
I wasn’t able to benchmark the Mi 9 in my two hours with the phone, but it was certainly lightning quick when switching between apps and should be even more comfortable than the already capable Xiaomi Mi 8 at handling 3D games on high settings.
The Mi 9’s 3,300mAh battery is slightly smaller than its predecessor’s, but the improved efficiency of the Snapdragon 855 processor should more than compensate for that. If you frequently wake up to find your now-dead phone down the back of the sofa, you’ll be pleased to hear that fast-charging will nurse it back to full health in an hour too.
Prefer wireless charging? There’s good news there too – the Mi 9 is apparently the first phone to support 20W wireless charging. Granted, you’ll need to shell out for Xiaomi’s Mi Wireless Charging Pad (which doesn’t have a confirmed price yet), but if you do it’ll charge from empty to full in 90 minutes. And make you feel very smug in the process.
Xiaomi Mi 9 – Camera
The Xiaomi Mi 9’s most interesting (and, on paper, impressive) feature is its camera – or, rather, three cameras. This is the company’s first triple-camera setup, and it’s not messing around.
To recap, you get: a 48-megapixel, f/1.75 rear camera (which uses the same sensor as the Honor View 20), which is flanked by a 12-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom, and a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera with a 17mm equivalent focal length.
Sounds like overkill? In reality, it just helps to make the camera as versatile as possible and, like Huawei, Xiaomi has included all sorts of ‘A.I’ software help to make sure you don’t get befuddled by all of the options. If you are already pretty handy with a camera, there’s always the ‘Pro’ mode for full manual controls.
These cameras give you a few particularly useful options. That wide-angle camera has a minimum focusing distance of 4cm, which is a bonus for those who like macro shooting. In between the cameras you’ll also find laser autofocus, which should be a handy in low light situations when phase detect AF tends to struggle a bit more.
And while that 48-megapixel camera by shoots 12-megapixel stills by default (using the same pixel-binning process as Huawei’s phones, so four pixels can be treated as one for better light-gathering), you can also shoot 48-megapixel shots. In good light, this gives you a lot of leeway for cropping into the particular details of landscape shots, meaning you don’t have to fret so much about nailing the composition first time around.
The Mi 9 also has strong video shooting credentials, with the ability to record 4K video at 60fps and shoot 960fps slo-mo shorts. We’ll have to see how its quality stacks up next to our current video king, the iPhone XS.
I was only able to take a few quick snaps in my short time with the Mi 9, but it certainly looks promising.
The autofocus generally performed well and, while the default portrait settings err on the side of doll-like ‘beauty mode’ effects, it’s easy to dial that back down for a more realistic look.
The only downside was that in a low light shot where I deliberately underexposed to highlight a bright area, a lot of detail has been lost and there’s some smudging that suggests the Mi 9 likes to get quite heavy-handed with its processing.
That’s by no means unusual, though, and is something we’ll be able to test when we have a bit more time to put the camera through its paces.
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