Redmi Note 9 Pro First Impressions: A little, Note-able ray of WALL-E
What’s Note-worthy this time?
Xiaomi really upped its design game of the Redmi Note series last year with the launch of the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) and the Redmi Note 8 Pro (Review). The looks of the two phones were sharp and distinguishable. They punched way above their weights and could easily give any of the budget flagship phones, if not premium ones, a run for their money in the design department.
Now the Redmi Note 9 Pro has come along. Looking all sharp, flashy in its own shiny way. And with one teeny-tiny detail that took us back in time, specifically back to 2008. Over a decade ago, Disney-Pixar had created a movie about this tiny but extremely adorable waste-collecting robot who falls in love with a more modern robot and the two take on a journey that ultimately decides the fate of mankind, WALL-E. We remember this is TechPP and the article is about Redmi Note 9 Pro. But it is actually the pint-sized, tarnished, scrap metal of a robot that first came to our minds when we looked at the new Note from Xiaomi.
In the world where elongated, capsule-shaped camera units rule the smartphone world, especially in the sub Rs. 20,000 price range, the new Note comes with a square camera unit that juts out. Now you must be wondering from where did WALL-E come into this? Well, it might not hit everyone as obviously as it hit us, but the thin silver accent around the first two camera lenses on the back is what reminded us of the adorable robot’s eyes.
Residing on the upper half of the back, the square camera unit along with an attached black strip that carries the flash is what makes the Note 9 Pro stand out of the crowd. The back itself is super shiny and glass-y making it an absolute sucker for fingerprint and smudges and the lower half of it carries the Redmi logo. Take away the distinct camera unit and you will enter mainstream design town with shiny glass backs and tall displays. And that is exactly what the Note 9 Pro comes with.
The front is a tall DotDisplay (aka punch-hole display) taller than any Note has ever seen, a massive 6.67 inches full HD+ display. It is surrounded by thin but visible bezels on three sides and has slightly thicker bezel for a chin. Both the front and back of the phone come with a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 to protect it against bumps and bruises. It also has the P2i coating which means it is splash-proof.
Giving all that glass a break is a matte metal frame that stays mostly bare on the top (there is an IR blaster dot) but carries the 3.5 mm audio jack, the USB Type C port and the speaker grille on the base. The left side holds the tray for dual SIM card and microSD card while the right side houses the volume rocker and the flat power/lock button which doubles up as a physical fingerprint scanner (a design comeback we absolutely love).
The phone measures 165.7 x 76.6 x 8.8 mm and weighs 209 grams. It is definitely big and heavy and it feels like handling it with a single hand will be a task.
And while the looks of the phone are very distinct thanks to that very WALL-E-ish, square-shaped camera unit on the back, we, unfortunately, could not find a similar distinctive feature in the specs segment. No, we are not saying that the Redmi Note 9 Pro is poorly specced. It just does not excite us the way the Note 7 Pro and the Note 8 Pro did.
The Note 9 Pro is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G. Yes, the extremely brief MediaTek affair that we saw with the Note 8 Pro seems to have been put on hold and Xiaomi is back to Qualcomm. The 720G is a relatively new processor and we first saw it on the Realme 6 Pro. It did handle everything pretty well there, from gaming to everyday tasks and we are hoping to see the same here as well. Our unit is paired with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage. There also is a 4 GB/ 64 GB variant of the phone and the storage can be expanded up to 512 GB by using a microSD card.
The cameras on the new Note have taken a dive, at least in megapixel terms. There is a quad-camera setup on the back, which is a combination of a 48-megapixel main sensor with f/1.79 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, a 5-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The Note prior to this came with a 64-megapixel main sensor with f/1.9 aperture. Xiaomi, however, says that this is not really a step down because the Note 9 Pro comes with an advanced Samsung ISOCELL GM2 sensor whereas the Note 8 Pro had a GM1 sensor. We see the same numerical step down on the front as well whereas as opposed to the 20-megapixel sensor on the Note 8 Pro, there is actually a 16-megapixel sensor on the Note 9 Pro. We are hoping all these subtractions from the megapixel count will not really compromise the camera quality of the new Note.
The Note 9 Pro comes with Android 10 out of the box with a layer of Xiaomi’s MIUI 11 on top. We have never really had any major issues with MIUI except for random ads popping up on the phone every now and then. But you have an option to turn that off.
The Note series has forever been about a big battery and this one gets an even bigger one. It is powered by a 5,020 mAH battery and comes with 18W fast charge support with an 18W charger bundled in the box. It is a big number which should last for quite a while and does have support for fast charging but it is just 18W, which might not be ‘fast enough’ in the age of 30W fast charge support.
All of this, coming at a starting price of Rs. 12,999 for the 4 GB/64 GB variant (the 6 GB /128 GB variant is priced at Rs 15,999, seems excellent value for money. The Note series has been pretty much nightmare for all the phones in its segment but this year the Note 9 Pro finds itself tougher competition than ever before – most notably from the Realme 6 (Review) and 6 Pro (Review) and the Samsung Galaxy M31. That said, perhaps the biggest comparison many will draw will be with its own predecessor, the Note 8 Pro, which still does not seem like a bad bet. Just how well the new Note fares against its competition, both inside and outside the family, will be revealed in our detailed review.