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Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: pro performance, max value

Xiaomi’s Redmi Note series is known for bringing premium features to the mid-range. The Redmi Note 8 Pro brought in several upgrades over the Redmi Note 7 Pro, including a gaming-focused processor, 64MP camera and a bundled 18W fast charger. With the Redmi Note 9 Pro devices, Xiaomi has gone a few steps further and revamped the design in addition to updating the hardware.

Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max back in March. The devices have most specifications in common, but the latter brings in a few extras like faster charging, higher-resolution cameras and up to 8GB of RAM. The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max went on sale for the first time recently, and I’ve been using the phone to find out if it’s a good buy in the sub-Rs 20,000 price segment.

Design and display

As I mentioned earlier, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max features a radically different design compared to its predecessor. At the rear, the square quad camera module in the centre is immediately noticeable. The fingerprint sensor has also moved from the back to the side, integrated into the power button. It’s fast and accurate, and the placement feels more natural than a rear-mounted scanner.

Moving to the front, the waterdrop notch has been replaced by a punch-hole cutout, which is placed at top-centre. I find punch-hole displays to be quite unobtrusive, but on the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, the cutout is quite large and can be distracting.

The display is an IPS LCD panel measuring 6.67-inches. It features full HD+ resolution, a 20:9 aspect ratio and a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. Xiaomi pre-applies a screen protector out of the box, which is useful. The screen is sharp with punchy colours, but the absence of a 90Hz refresh rate is disappointing, considering that devices like the Realme 6 and 6 Pro offer this feature.

The glass back panel also features Gorilla Glass 5 protection, and is surprisingly not too slippery. However it’s very glossy and picks up a lot of smudges. The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max comes in a choice of three colours – Interstellar Black, Glacier White and Aurora Blue. I had the blue version, which has greyish undertones, unlike the render on the website which appears to be more sea green. This variant ships with a smoky plastic case out of the box, which looks quite nice. The phone features an even weight distribution, but is too big for one-handed usage, at least for me.

The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max features a P2i splash-resistant coating, which means it should survive in case of an accidental spill or splash. You get a Type-C port and 3.5mm jack at the bottom, and an IR sensor up top. The ejectable SIM card tray houses two nano-SIM card slots and a dedicated microSD card slot.

Cameras

Xiaomi phones usually have good cameras, and the Note 9 Pro Max is no exception. The primary camera on the device is a 64MP Samsung ISOCELL Bright GW1 sensor. This is accompanied by an 8MP ultra-wide camera, 5MP macro sensor and 2MP depth sensor. In the front, there’s a 32MP camera for selfies. Both the primary and wide-angle cameras feature what Xiaomi calls ‘Super Stabilisation’, which according to the brand works better than EIS. Interestingly, the macro sensor can record video in 1080p at 30fps.

The 64MP primary camera takes pixel-binned 16MP photos by default, although you can enable the full 64MP resolution if you want. I enjoyed shooting with this camera – it locks focus easily and captures images with plenty of detail, whether they’re close ups or landscapes. The camera also does an excellent job with dynamic range, although colours tend to be slightly over-saturated.

In lower light and indoors, the camera does an admirable job, without compromising on colour and keeping the sharpness intact. However, if you want to capture an image when it’s dark outside I’d suggest using the Night mode. You’ll have to hold the camera steady for a couple of seconds, but the results are pretty good. The darker areas are brightnened and the overall noise in the frame is considerably reduced as well.

The wide-angle camera on the other hand is hit and miss, and should be used only when the lighting is good. In bright daylight, you can get good results, but this gets affected with overcast skies. The detail captured by the wide-angle lens is also average, and there’s visible softening towards the sides of the frame.

The 5MP macro sensor is one of the better ones I’ve used. Given the higher resolution (many phones opt for a 2MP macro sensor), the images captured turn out to be fairly sharp. You can get very close to subjects with this sensor – an image I captured of a tiny egg on a small leaf turned out to be so detailed that even the veins on the leaf were clearly visible.

The depth sensor assists in taking decent portrait shots with natural looking bokeh. The selfie camera outputs bright images with natural skin tones, although I noticed smoothening of skin even when the beauty mode was turned off.

Performance and software

The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max features the Snapdragon 720G processor, which consists of two high-performance 2.3Ghz cores and six power-efficient 1.8Ghz cores. It is manufactured on the 8nm process, which results in greater power efficiency. The Redmi Note 8 Pro featured a Helio G90T processor which enabled Amazon Alexa support, but this feature isn’t available with the Snapdragon 720G.

The phone features LPDDR4X RAM and UFS 2.1 storage, and comes in a choice of three variants, 6GB + 64GB, 6GB + 128GB and 8GB + 128GB. All offer storage expansion up to 512GB via microSD. I had the 6GB + 128GB variant for review, and I got about 108GB of free storage out of the box.

I’ve been using the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max for over a week now, and have found it to be a fast and capable device. I haven’t experienced any crashes or freezes during my review period, and the phone can hold its own even while multitasking or with multiple apps open in the background. I did notice slight sluggishness in the UI, particularly when opening apps or unlocking the device, which is likely due to the heavy nature of MIUI.

The battery on board is a large 5,020mAh unit. With my usage, the phone easily lasted me two days, but if you’re a heavy user, it should still last you at least 36 hours. Xiaomi bundles a 33W charger in the box which is a bargain at this price. In our tests, the battery charged completely in 1 hour and 47 minutes.

As for the software, the phone runs MIUI 11 based on Android 10. This version of MIUI brings features like an app drawer, quick replies, second space and Google’s Digital Wellbeing tools. Unfortunately, the pet peeves I have with the software, including numerous notifications from native apps and a ton of bloatware still remain. There is a toggle to turn off personalised ads, and if you missed doing this while setting up the device, you can do so later via Ad Services in settings.

The competition

The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max starts at Rs 16,499 for the base 6GB + 64GB variant. The 6GB + 128GB unit I have is priced at Rs 17,999, while the top-end 8GB + 128GB model costs Rs 19,999. At these prices, the most obvious competitor to the Note 9 Pro Max is the Realme 6 Pro (review). Realme’s offering shares many similarities with the Note 9 Pro Max, including the Snapdragon 720G, 64MP quad cameras, side-mounted fingerprint sensor and 30W fast charging. The Realme 6 Pro has a few extras too, including a 90Hz display, dual selfie cameras and a 12MP telephoto lens. However, Redmi Note 9 Pro Max does offer a larger battery and a higher resolution macro camera.

Another notable competitor, and one from Xiaomi’s own stable is the POCO X2 (first impressions). The POCO X2 is similarly priced, but brings additional features like a 120Hz display, more powerful Snapdragon 730G processor, up to 256GB storage and dual selfie cameras.

Bottomline

Xiaomi has been consistently setting new benchmarks with its Redmi Note series, and the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is no exception. It offers good performance, excellent cameras, two-day battery life and fast charging. The lack of a 90Hz display and bloated software are my two main pain points with the phone, but neither of these are deal breakers. While top-end 8GB + 128GB model is priced on the higher side, the 6GB RAM variants are a bargain for their asking price.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8.5 / 10

What works:

  • Long battery life
  • Fast charging
  • Smooth performance
  • Good cameras

What doesn’t:

  • Spammy software
  • Prominent punch-hole cutout
  • 60Hz display
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.