review

Redmi Note 9 Pro Review: Taking a small step forward

An upgrade? Yes! A note-able one? Well…

It is not easy being a Redmi Note device. At least not since mid-2016, when it emerged as one of the highest-selling phone series in the Indian market. As per some sources, if the Redmi Note series was a brand in itself, it would have been among the most successful in the market. So when a new Redmi Note Pro arrives, it comes with about the same level of expectations as a Barcelona team at the Camp Nou stadium – anything less than overwhelming success would be seen as failure!

Looks Note-ably different

So how well does the Redmi Note 9 Pro come equipped to handle all this? Let’s get one thing out of the way at the very outset. Like its two immediate predecessors – the Note 7 Pro and the Note 8 Pro – the Redmi Note 9 Pro comes with a very distinct design touch. But whereas the earlier Notes had been notable (pun intended) for their use of materials on the back and gradient finishes, the Note 9 Pro stands out for the design of the camera unit. As we wrote in our first impressions of the device, the quad-camera in a jutting out the square arrangement on the back reminded us of WALL-E and for the time being at least, gives the Redmi Note 9 Pro a very distinct appearance in its price segment, and actually across the market. We have seen glossy notches and displays with punch holes before, but that camera arrangement marks this phone out as very different.

Redmi Note 9 Pro: A Note-worthy spec up from the Note 8 Pro?

And it does need that visual boost because when you dip into its spec sheet, the Redmi Note 9 Pro might not deliver the sort of leap forward from its predecessors that the Redmi Note 7 Pro and Redmi Note 8 Pro did over theirs. Yes, it does come with the largest display (6.67 inches), is the first Redmi Note with a punch-hole display, has the largest battery (5020 mAh) in Note history, and also is one of the first devices in the country to come with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G processor, but then critics will point out that its main camera sensor is a 48-megapixel one (although a newer one) as compared to the 64 megapixel one on the Note 8 Pro, and that its front camera has gone down from 20 megapixels to 16.

And while the Snapdragon 720G processor is definitely new, it has divided opinion a fair bit, with some feeling that it is not a massive step ahead of the MediaTek Helio G90T on the Redmi Note 8 Pro, which itself had turned in a very impressive performance, especially in gaming. And with that bigger battery does not come discernibly faster charging – both the Note 8 Pro and the Note 9 Pro come with an 18W charger box. That said, both also come with features that have made the Note series so famous of late – the 3.5 mm audio jack, the infrared port, dual SIM connectivity and of course, Xiaomi’s MIUI interface (the Note 9 Pro comes with MIUI 11 on top of Android 10 right out of the box). The Note series, to be fair, has never been about busting benchmarks but about solid, consistent performance. And the Note 9 Pro seems equipped to deliver just that.

A performance worthy of…Note!

Solid consistent performance is what the Note 9 Pro delivers. And in spades. The display might have the standard 60 Hz refresh rate, but it is a good one and more than sufficient for binge video watching and gaming sessions, although we would have liked the better sound (the single speaker is loud enough, but not a big step ahead of the one we saw on the Note 8 Pro).

Speaking of gaming sessions, the Snapdragon 720G turns in a very good performance, handling PUBG and Call of Duty without too many hassles (a few lags sometimes drop-in, but nothing on a deal-breaking level). No, it does not seem a huge step forward from what we got from the MediaTek Helio G90T on the Note 8 Pro, and we actually felt PUBG at times seemed better on the Note 8 Pro, but still, this is a decent phone for gaming. And for all routine day to day tasks as well as multi-tasking. There are no heating issues whatsoever.

And that massive 5020 mAh battery simply keeps going on and on. We saw through close to two days on a single charge. Charging the phone however can be a slightly tedious task – yes, the phone does come with an 18W charger, but it takes well over two hours to charge (which might seem too long for those accustomed to much faster-charging rates from the likes of Realme).

Which brings us to the cameras. And the feeling we got was the same that we had in the gaming department. Even though in megapixel terms, the 48-megapixel camera on the Note 9 Pro might seem a step down from the 64-megapixel one on the Note 8 Pro, it does a very good job, especially in good light conditions. The colors are bright enough without getting into the crazy oversaturated zone and you get a fair amount of detail. Image quality takes a bit of a hit when the lights dim, though, and noise does creep in.

There is a night mode that delivers a bit more detail and color but it is not as good as the one we saw on the Realme 6 Pro. The 8-megapixel ultrawide sensor is good for landscapes and large group shots, but the loss of megapixels does mean some compromise on detail. The 5-megapixel macro sensor is, however, a step up from the more basic 2-megapixel one we saw on the Note 8 Pro, allowing us to get some very good close-ups. Portrait shots, however, remain a little hit and miss as far as bokeh goes.

Video quality is very decent for the price point and the 16-megapixel selfie snapper is surprisingly realistic once you turn the beauty mode off and we think is actually an improvement over the 20-megapixel shooter we saw on the Note 8 Pro.

Of course, this being a Redmi device, the Note 9 Pro runs on MUI 11 on top of Android 10. The interesting part, however, is that we encountered no ads at all in our usage. No, we did not have that big an issue with the presence of the ads themselves, but their absence is definitely pleasing.

Redmi Note 9 Pro Review: A Note-able upgrade?

The Redmi Note 9 Pro starts at Rs 12,999 for the 4 GB/ 64 GB variant, with a 6 GB/ 128 GB variant being priced at Rs 15,999. That actually places it below the Note 8 Pro, which started at (and still starts at) Rs 13,999, albeit for a 6 GB/ 64 GB variant. It also places it in the same range as Realme 6 which was launched at Rs 12,999 and interestingly is powered by the MediaTek G90T chip which was seen on the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

Also challenging it are the Samsung Galaxy M31 which starts at Rs 15,999 but has a 64-megapixel camera, an AMOLED display and an even bigger battery, and its Poco sibling, the Poco X2, which starts at Rs 15,999 but comes with a 120 Hz refresh rate display and perhaps the best camera set up in the sub-Rs 20,000 phone. Round that off with the fact that its Redmi Note 9 Pro Max brother is floating in the vicinity (it starts at Rs 14,999 and comes with a 64-megapixel sensor and a faster charger), and you can see that the new Note, has its hands full when it comes to competition.

Which it can handle with ease. For, no matter what the competition delivers, the stark fact is that the Note 9 Pro gets very little – if anything – wrong. No, it might not be the best in its segment on different parameters – someone might have a better display, another might have a better battery, year another might bring in better cameras, and let us not even get into processor and RAM discussions. Yes, comparisons will be made (and we will be making them too – stay tuned) and it might give ground to the competition in some departments.

But taken as a single package, it still ticks boxes like few of its rivals do. The Note 9 Pro is a typical Note. It is very good at just about everything it does, rather than being the best in a few.

Is it a massive step forward from the Redmi Note 8 Pro? No, it is not. But does it need to be? For, at Rs 12,999, the Note 9 Pro goes right into the charts as one of the best phones you can get for the price.

It is a small step forward for the Note series. But a step forward it certainly is. And small steps can translate into giant leaps.

Just ask Neil Armstrong.

Pros
  • Smooth performer
  • Eye-catching design
  • Fantastic battery life
Cons
  • Does not seem a big step up from Note 8 Pro
  • Low light performance of the cameras is not the greatest
  • Can take comparatively long to charge
Review Overview
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

There is a new Redmi Note in the market. Xiaomi has released the Redmi Note 9 Pro, and well, like most recent Notes, it comes with a truckload of expectations on its rather broad shoulders. Does it deliver on them?

3.9