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Redmi Note 9 unboxing and first impressions: a solid upgrade

On: July 24, 2020

The Redmi Note 9 launched earlier this week is the third instalment in Xiaomi’s Note 9 series. The company had previously launched the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max in the country, which brought in several upgrades compared to the Note 8 series phones.

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

While the Note 9 Pro models both feature Snapdragon 720G processors, the Redmi Note 9 is the odd one out with its MediaTek Helio G85 chipset. In fact, it’s the first phone in India to come with this processor. Compared to the Redmi Note 8, the Note 9 brings in several upgrades including a larger battery, punch-hole display, faster charging and more powerful processor.

With prices starting at Rs 11,999, the Redmi Note 9 is an attractive option in the budget segment. Ahead of our review that comes out next week, here’s a quick look at the box contents of the Redmi Note 9, along with my first impressions after having used the phone for a few days.

Redmi Note 9 unboxing

The Redmi Note 9 comes in standard Xiaomi packaging, with a white box and the image of the phone plastered on top. Opening it up, you’ll find a carboard sheath, which houses the clear protective case, documentation and SIM ejector tool. Beneath this is the phone, which comes with a screen protector pre-applied. Underneath, you’ll find the USB Type-C cable and 22.5W charger.

There has been some confusion about whether the Redmi Note 9 supports 22.5W fast charging, since it is capped to 18W on the global variant. We reached out to Xiaomi for a clarification, and were told that while the phone currently supports 18W fast charging, 22.5W fast charging will be enabled at a later date via a software update. This is reportedly due to the fact that Xiaomi hasn’t been able to complete testing for the faster charging speeds due to the ongoing lockdown. It’s worth noting that only the Indian variants of the phone will support 22.5W charging, with global variants being restricted to 18W.

Redmi Note 9 first impressions

Unlike the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Note 9 Pro Max, the Redmi Note 9 features a polycarbonate construction. While this does take away from that premium appeal, the back panel and sides seem well constructed. This also removes the added worry of shattering a glass back panel. I had the Arctic White unit, which looks a bit tacky with the plastic finish, but you can also pick up the phone in Pebble Grey and Aqua Green hues.

The port and button placement is fairly standard, with the power button and volume rocker on the right spine, and the ejectable SIM card tray on the left. The bottom edge is home to the USB Type-C port, microphone, loudspeaker and 3.5mm headphone jack. Up top, you’ll find a secondary microphone and IR blaster.

The back panel is where things get interesting, with a black, rectangular module that houses both the quad rear cameras and the fingerprint sensor. I can’t say it’s aesthetically pleasing – I would have preferred to see the sensor placed independently below the module. The sensor is also on the smaller side, but had no trouble recognizing my fingerprint.

The display is a 6.53-inch panel with full HD+ resolution. There’s also a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, and the entire handset has P2i splash resistance, for protection against spills. The screen is bright and punchy enough for a phone at its price, and quite responsive as well. The punch-hole cutout at the top left corner has a large black border though, which can be distrating initially.

The rear cameras consist of a 48MP primary sensor, 8MP ultra-wide lens, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor. I’ve been using the camera for the past few days, and the results have been hit and miss. While the camera can capture natural looking colours, the details seem fuzzy when you zoom in. Images taken with indoor lighting are pretty good, with no loss of colours and not too much noise.

The macro camera can get close to the subject, but doesn’t offer the sharpest results because of the low resolution sensor. The front camera is a 13MP unit, and I found the results to over-whiten the skin tone, even with the beauty mode turned off. I’ll be testing the camera more extensively over the next few days, and will elaborate on the performance in my review.

As for the performance, the Helio G85 seemed more than capable of day to day performance, involving social media usage, email and instant messaging apps like WhatsApp. My unit came with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but you can also pick up 4GB + 64GB, or 4GB + 128GB variants.

The large 5,020mAh battery is more than enough for an entire day’s worth of usage, with some juice leftover. I’ll have the battery charging stats for you in my review, but keep in mind that this will be for 18W charging speeds at the moment.

As for the software, the phone runs Android 10 with MIUI 11 out of the box. There’s quite a bit of bloatware on the phone, with both third-party and several of Xiaomi’s own apps pre-installed. I’m not a fan of the cluttered screen that greets you, but you can uninstall several of these apps. You do continue to get notifications from Xiaomi’s own apps, like GetApps for instance, but you can manually disable this from the notification shade.

At its starting price of Rs 11,999, the Redmi Note 9 is a compelling option in the budget segment. I’ll have to use the phone for extensively to see how the Helio G85 chipset holds up compared to the competition, which includes the recently launched Realme 6i that ships with the more powerful Helio G90T chipset and 90Hz 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.