Last year’s Xiaomi Mi 8 smartphones were both formidable and well-priced, ultimately placing Xiaomi as a key rival to other rival smartphones. The Xiaomi Mi 9 is poised to carry on those successes. Equipped with Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 855 processor, which promises to deliver substantial performance boosts over last year’s Snapdragon 845, the Mi 9 also includes a rather generous 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
What’s also special is that the Xiaomi Mi 9 is fitted with a fancy 48-megapixel camera which, equalled only by the recently launched Honor View 20, is the highest resolution smartphone snapper we’ve seen so far. If Xiaomi’s marketing materials are to be believed, we should expect to capture far better quality images and video than we’re currently used to.
Design and features
The design of the Xiaomi Mi 9 is similar to its precursor, but Xiaomi has reduced the top notch from a wide-spanning, iPhone-copying, eyesore to a small teardrop that holds the 20-megapixel selfie camera. Screen size is marginally bigger at 6.39in compared to 6.23in, but once again it’s a Super AMOLED panel with an FHD+ resolution. As before, the fingerprint sensor is embedded in the phone’s display, and it’s remarkably speedy at that.
Power and volume buttons are situated on the right edge of the phone, with the USB Type-C charging port and speakers on the bottom. On the left-hand side, you’ll find the SIM slot and a dedicated Google Assistant button, which when pressed serves one (obvious) purpose: to activate Google Assistant.
The Mi 9 has a 6.39-inch AMOLED display, with a 2340 x 1080 Full HD+ resolution, which delivers vibrant colors with a great brightness range – it was a treat to watch movies on and complemented the fantastic camera array. This screen is broken by a small top bezel housing the front-facing camera, but other than that is unbroken, with no top bezel to speak of and minimal chin.
As for the quality of the screen, this is quite simply the best-looking smartphone display I’ve ever tested. According to our ColorMunki calibrator, the Xiaomi Mi 9’s panel displayed 98.9% of the sRGB colour space on the phone’s “standard” display profile, with an average Delta E of 0.69. A score of less than 1 indicates that colours are displayed perfectly across the entire palette, and the Mi 9 is certainly no exception. As this is a Super AMOLED panel, the screen also delivers unbeatable contrast levels of infinity:1, while the phone is capable of reaching a maximum brightness of 426cd/m2. In summary, this phone’s screen is a good as they come, delivering rich, vibrant-looking colours that appear to pop right off the screen. If you’re frequently tinkering with your Instagram shots on the go, or you’re seeking the best device for your Netflix binges on the morning commute, there’s simply nothing better.
Battery Life and Processor
Taking centre stage is Qualcomm’s brand new flagship mobile processor, the Snapdragon 855 chipset. This is a new 7nm architecture chip with eight cores, which is configured slightly differently to its predecessor. Instead of two quad-core CPUs; one for high power tasks and one “efficiency”-based CPU less power-intensive tasks, the 855 has an intriguing triple arrangement.
The way this works is that a single “prime core” runs at a clock speed of 2.84GHz, while the “performance CPU” runs at 2.42GHz and the “efficiency CPU” is clocked at 1.8GHz. According to Qualcomm, this enables the Snapdragon 855 to deliver higher levels of sustained performance than any Qualcomm-branded chip before it, as well as beating both Apple’s A12 Bionic and Huawei’s Kirin 980 in high-performance tasks.
Put the Snapdragon 855 to the test and it’s clear that the Mi 9 offers a substantial performance boost over phones with the previous generation chipset.
As for software, the Xiaomi Mi 9 includes Google’s most recent version of its mobile operating system, Android 9 Pie. This isn’t a stock Android experience, however, and there are a couple of slight tweaks that need to be discussed.
That’s because Xiaomi’s own MiUI software overlay is present yet again, which changes the look of Android icons and tweaks the notifications menu. That’s about all there is to it, though, and while it does take a bit of getting used to, this is far from being as intrusive as some of the other Android tweaks on the market.
On to the Xiaomi Mi 9’s triple camera capabilities. The Mi 9’s 48-megapixel (f/1.75) camera unit takes pride of place on the back of the phone, which uses an all-new Sony IMX586 quad-sensor (the very same bit of kit that was used on the Honor View 20). Although the main camera is capable of taking 48-megapixel photos, the Mi 9’s AI function captures a 12-megapixel image by default, and you are unable to shoot with HDR enabled while taking a 48-Reinforcing the primary camera is a 16-megapixel (f/2.2) ultrawide module and a 12-megapixel (f/2.2) telephoto camera. Handily, the photo size is listed in the watermark in the bottom left corner when viewing photos in the gallery, so you can see at a glance which shots are 48-megapixel and which are 12-megapixel AI images.
For video, the Mi 9 impresses even more, offering crisp 4K recording at a maximum framerate of 60fps. All of this is fully stabilised of course, and you can even encode the video to H.265 format, reducing file sizes further without any notable impact on image quality. Other recording features include FHD slow-motion capture at 960fps, a night mode which reduces visual noise and brightens up low-light shots, and a portrait mode for Bokeh-like, blurred background photos.
The Xiaomi Mi 9’s positives are numerous; its screen is above reproach (even for the most discerning of eyeballs), it outperforms practically every other smartphone currently on the market, and that 48-megapixel camera is a terrific photographer’s companion, too.
Indeed, Xiaomi’s Mi 9 represents the very pinnacle of smartphone technology, and I’m simply astounded that it does things this well, while costing so little in return. The Mi 9 is yet another five-star smartphone from Xiaomi, and It certainly doesn’t get any better than this.