Xiaomi Mi 9 Review – A contender for the best value flagship smartphone

Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi unveiled its latest low-cost flagship smartphone, the Xiaomi Mi 9, late last month. While the latest premium smartphones from Samsung and Huawei push the $1000 mark, Xiaomi’s Mi 9 starts at nearly half that price. On paper, Xiaomi doesn’t seem to be making very many compromises with the Mi 9. It’s one of the first smartphones to launch with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, and the first smartphone to support 20W wireless charging. It has a triple rear camera setup including a 48MP sensor, telephoto lens, and wide-angle lens. It has a fifth-generation optical under-display fingerprint scanner, a gradient back with a holographic effect, and nearly bezel-less design with a tiny notch. High-end specs aren’t enough to give you a decent experience on their own; it’s up to Xiaomi to take full advantage of the Mi 9’s hardware so you don’t notice where they may have cut corners.

There are compromises nearly everywhere, but when you’re getting a flagship smartphone that costs $450 (for the base 6GB of RAM/64GB of storage model), you’re likely to be pretty forgiving of a few compromises here and there. Fortunately for Xiaomi, the compromises they’ve made are easy to overlook. The Xiaomi Mi 9, in my view, is the best full-compromise smartphone on the market. Here’s why.

Category Specification
Design Front: Waterdrop notch, 3.6mm chin sizeBack: 243 sq. millimeters of sapphire glass covering the triple rear camera lenses

Frame: Stainless steel. No IP rating.

Colors: Lavender Violet, Ocean Blue, or Piano Black; Holographic effect

Dimensions and Weight: 155 x 75 x 7.6mm, 173g

Software MIUI 10.2 based on Android 9 Pie
Display 6.39-inch OLED display (19.5:9), 403ppi, FHD+, 90.7% screen-to-body ratio, Gorilla Glass 6, 103.8% NTSC wide color gamut, 600-nit brightness with High Brightness ModeReading Mode 2.0, Sunlight Mode 2.0
System-on-chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 with Adreno 640 GPU
RAM and storage 6GB RAM LPDDR4X + 128GB storage UFS 2.1
8GB RAM LPDDR4X + 128GB storage UFS 2.1No microSD card slot
Battery 3,300mAh
Charging Wireless: 20W non-Qi with proprietary charger OR 10W Qi wireless charging
Wired: Rated for 27W wired charging (18W charger provided with the device)
Rear cameras
  • (Primary) 48MP 1/2-inch Sony IMX586 sensor, wide-angle lens, f/1.75 aperture, 6P lens, 0.8μm pixel size, 12MP shots with 4-in-1 pixel binning at 1.6μm
  • (Secondary) 12MP telephoto Samsung S5K3M5 lens, f/2.2 aperture, 6P lens, 1.0μm pixel size, 2x optical zoom
  • (Tertiary) 16MP 117° ultra wide-angle Sony IMX481 lens, f/2.2 aperture, 6P lens, 1.0μm pixel size, 4cm macro support
  • LED flash
  • Laser Autofocus (combination of PDAF and CDAF), Closed-loop Voice Coil Motor (VCM) for improved auto-focusing
Front camera 20MP, all Xiaomi AI beauty functions supported
Biometrics Fifth-generation optical in-display fingerprint scanner
Connectivity Dual nanoSIM 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Multi-function NFC (SN100T chip), Dual-frequency GPS with independent L5 antenna, IR Blaster, USB type-C port, HPUE, 4×4 MIMOGSM: B2/3/5/8
CDMA: BC0
WCDMA: B1/2/4/5/8
TD-SCDMA: B34/39
FDD LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/20/28
TDD LTE: 38/39/40
Audio Linear speaker, audio output amplified by Smart PA, no 3.5mm headphone jack
Accessories
  • Wireless charger compatible with Xiaomi’s proprietary 20W non-Qi wireless charging technology.
  • 10,000mAh 10W Qi wireless charging power bank (~$22).
  • 20W wireless car charger (~$25)

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