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Redmi 9 Prime review: a ‘Prime’ budget contender

On: August 13, 2020

A few years ago, it was customary for Xiaomi to launch both standard and Prime variants of its budget Redmi series phones. The last such duo was the Redmi 3S and Redmi 3S Prime, launched back in August 2016. In May 2017, Xiaomi announced that these were the best-selling smartphones for the brand, with the Redmi 3S being the highest selling phone online in India at the time.

Also readRedmi Note 9 review: the budget champ

Four years later, Redmi has brought back the ‘Prime’ moniker with the launch of the Redmi 9 Prime. The latest offering comes in as the successor to last year’s Redmi 8 (review). Essentially, it is the same device as the Redmi 9 that was launched globally in June this year, with the added Prime moniker. I have been using the Redmi 9 Prime for over a week now, to see if the device can make a dent in India’s sub-Rs 10,000 segment.

Design and display

The Redmi 9 Prime comes clad completely in plastic. However, the glossy finish from the Redmi 8 has been replaced by a textured back, with a circular island housing two pill-shaped camera modules. The larger one in the middle houses three cameras and a fingerprint scanner, while the smaller unit placed on its right contains a single camera lens and an LED flash.

I personally prefer the textured plastic finish as it offers more grip and keeps smudges at bay. This allowed me to use the Redmi 9 Prime without the provided case, and show off the sophisticated Matte Black colourway alongside. The Matte Black and Mint Green variants are the solid colour options, whereas the Space Blue and Sunrise Flare are gradient hues.

Other elements include the power and volume buttons on the right, ejectable SIM card tray on the left, and an IR Blaster on the top. The bottom edge houses the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port and speaker grill. The fingerprint scanner on the back has been reduced in size, and is placed inside the larger camera module. It isn’t very recessed, which makes it difficult to locate initially.

The Redmi 9 Prime’s window to the world is a 6.53-inch FHD+ display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2,340 x 1,080 pixels. There’s a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on top of the display for protection against accidental damages and scratches. You can set a colour scheme (auto, saturated or standard) and adjust the colour temperature (neutral, warm or cool).

The screen also gets a dedicated reading mode and a Sunlight mode. The Sunlight mode makes the darker areas more visible without washing out the lighter areas on the display. Needless to say, the sunlight legibility is pretty great. I found colours, sharpness, and viewing angles to be commendable for a budget phone. The screen also comes with Widevine L1 certification, which means you can enjoy HD content on Prime Video and Netflix.

Cameras

In the optics department, the Redmi 9 Prime is a massive upgrade over the Redmi 8 as it offers a quad-camera setup compared to the dual camera module on its predecessor. The new launch features a 13-megapixel primary camera backed by an 8-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, a 5-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The waterdrop notch in the front houses an 8-megapixel selfie snapper. The camera app features various modes like HDR, AI scene recognition, Pro Colour, Live Filters, Portrait mode, Macro and Pro.

The camera setup captures decent images in daylight with good details and acceptable dynamic range. The colours are more on the muted side and if you don’t like that, there’s the Pro Colour mode to boost the hues. The AI scene recognition works as intended and recognises whether its an outdoor shot, scene, building and such. The AI scene recognition is the closest you can get to a night mode, as there’s no dedicated mode for low light imaging. Despite the AI scene optimisation, the night shots are full of grain, with the details looking smudgy.

In order to use the wide-angle mode, you will have to tap on 1x on the viewfinder, and then choose 0.6x (wide-angle). The wide-angle camera isn’t much to write home about, with visible distortion around the edges. The 8-megapixel selfie camera takes good pictures in daylight, but struggles in low light and with the edge-detection in portrait mode.

Performance, software and battery

The Redmi 9 Prime is powered by the budget MediaTek Helio G80 processor, which is a 12nm budget gaming SoC backed by a Mali-G52 MC2 GPU. Xiaomi is offering the Redmi 9 Prime with 4GB RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage. The storage can be further expanded up to 512GB using a microSD card.

The Redmi 9 Prime manages to multi-task quite well with several apps opened in the background. I didn’t notice many apps shutting down despite being in the background for long. However, if you keep heavy apps running in the background for multi-tasking, I would suggest long pressing on them in the recents menu and locking them in the memory.

Coming to the gaming performance, PUBG Mobile started in HD graphics and High refresh rate by default. The gameplay throughout my stint with the Redmi 9 Prime has been smooth and I am yet to experience any lag or frame drop on the device. Less intensive games like Call of Duty: Mobile and Forza Street are child’s play for the Helio G80 SoC. The gaming performance is also aided by the integrated Game Turbo mode, which frees up the memory and gives network priority to the game to enhance the overall gaming experience.

Speaking of the Game Turbo, it’s a part of the Android 10-based MIUI 11 that comes pre-installed on the Redmi 9 Prime. I was glad to see none of the banned apps like Helo, Clean Master and the likes on the handset. However, the recently banned Mi Browser was still present. Xiaomi has announced that it’s working on a MIUI update will remove all banned apps.

As is usual with MIUI, there is a heap of bloatware but most of these apps can be uninstalled. There’s also Xiaomi’s own GetApps app store, which continues sending notifications for recommended apps all the time. On the bright side, the MIUI 11 comes with useful features like system-wide dark mode, Google’s digital wellbeing, parental control, lite mode, enterprise mode and more.

Powering the Redmi 9 Prime is a 5,020mAh battery unit with support for 18W charging. However, Xiaomi is only offering a 10W charger in the box. During my stint with the phone, the bundled charger took almost two and a half hours to completely charge the battery from 0 to 100 percent. With my usage pattern, which varies from light to moderate, I was able to push Redmi 9 Prime to two days on a single charge. This included occasional PUBG sessions, lots of WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

The competition

The Redmi 9 Prime starts at Rs 9,999 in India, with the price going up to Rs 11,999 for the 128GB model. At this price point, the smartphone goes up against the Realme Narzo 10 which only comes in a 4GB +128GB variant. The Narzo 10 offers a higher resolution 48-megapixel primary camera, 16-megapixel selfie camera and 18W fast charger in the box. On the flip side, it misses out on the FHD+ display and instead offers an HD+ screen.

The Samsung Galaxy M11 priced at Rs 10,999 and Rs 12,999 for the 3GB + 32GB and 4GB + 64GB variants respectively, is the second contender. It offers an outdated Snapdragon 450 SoC and 15W fast charging. However, it misses out on FHD+ resolution and a 128GB storage variant.

Bottomline

With the base variant priced under Rs 10,000 and the top model just shy of Rs 12,000, the Redmi 9 Prime brings a lot to the table including a powerful gaming processor and a massive battery. The 4GB + 64GB variant is undoubtedly one of the best smartphones in this price bracket, however, if you are looking at the 128GB model, the Narzo 10 with its 48-megapixel quad-camera setup and 18W fast charging is another excellent option to consider.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Good performance
  • Full HD display
  • Sturdy design
  • Long-lasting battery life

What doesn’t:

  • Cameras struggle at night
  • No fast charger in the box
  • Excessive notifications in MIUI
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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.