With the Xiaomi Redmi 9 we find ourselves most definitely down at the budget end of Xiaomi's smartphone offerings, and like any phone at this price, it's all about how much you're paying (or rather saving) – everything else should be weighed up against that price.
Bear in mind that buying a budget phone isn't the disaster that it once was. Smartphone tech has now evolved to the point where even the cheapest handsets can just about do a job, with performance and features that are going to satisfy the majority of users.
And so it is with the Redmi 9 – while it obviously lags behind the mid-rangers and flagships of this world in just about every category, it's also very affordable, and at this sort of price you do start to wonder whether you do really need a fancy night mode for the camera.
We've been spending a few days in the company of the Xiaomi Redmi 9 and you can read our thoughts below. Considering the growing reputation of Xiaomi outside of its Chinese home, this is definitely worth considering if you're in the market for a budget handset.
Xiaomi Redmi 9 review: price and availability
The Xiaomi Redmi 9 is available now to buy in the UK at retailers including Amazon (opens in new tab). Check the widgets on this page for the latest pricing and the best deals on the web, but at the time of writing you can pick up the phone for around £170 without a contract and SIM-free. It's also available direct from Xiaomi (opens in new tab).
Xiaomi Redmi 9 review: design and screen
We say this about a lot of budget phones, so maybe we need to adjust our expectations, but here it is again: the Xiaomi Redmi 9 looks more expensive than it actually is. We're very much fans of the textured backing that Xiaomi has used here, which is made of plastic but has a distinctly premium feel. The plastic, and the thicker bezels, and the slightly thick casing give the game away that this is a budget phone, but it still looks stylish enough.
We're impressed with the screen too, a 6.53-inch IPS LCD affair that runs at a resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels and an unspecified refresh rate (none of that fancy 90Hz or 120Hz speed here, not at this price). It's bright and sharp, and perfectly good for watching YouTube videos or scrolling through the expanses of the web. It's one of the better displays we've seen on a phone down at this end of the price scale.
The top of the screen is interrupted with a small teardrop notch, which looks a little outdated these days, but the bezels around the side of the display aren't so big that they're off-putting. The fingerprint sensor is round the back below the camera module, which is just about our favourite place to have a fingerprint sensor (at least until manufacturers work out how to put it under the screen).
You don't usually get waterproofing or dustproofing with phones that cost so little, and so it is with the Redmi 9. Data and charging is via USB-C, and you get a good old 3.5mm headphone jack as well as a single speaker. It's worth mentioning that the Corning Gorilla Glass used to protect the screen isn't up to the very latest standard, but it's still going to be enough to survive most bumps and knocks. Carbon Grey, Sunset Purple and Ocean Green are your three colour choices.
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Xiaomi Redmi 9 review: camera and battery
These days most budget phones tend to pack in multiple cameras and fancy software features to make up for the fact that they're not actually that good – and in that vein the Redmi 9 comes with a quad-lens 13MP wide + 8MP ultrawide + 5MP macro + 2MP depth rear camera. Despite all of those different cameras, you're not going to get results that match up to the mid-rangers that cost a little bit more.
Most shots come out looking fine though, especially in good lighting. The focus and shutter speed is a little slow, but we were happy with most of the pictures we took in the great outdoors, and an ultrawide lens is always welcome. The 8MP selfie camera on the front is okay too, provided you're just taking photos for social media and your family's chat group rather than for photo canvases that are going to go up in the living room.
Low light performance isn't great, though the Redmi 9 will make an effort at trying to get something usable out of dark scenes. Details get lost and noise creeps in, and if night time shots are going to be important to you then maybe save up for a bit longer to get something more capable in this department than the Redmi 9.
Battery life is good, on the whole – we tended to have plenty of juice left in the tank at the end of the day, and if you're careful you might get two days between charges. Our two-hour video streaming test at maximum screen brightness knocked the battery level down from 100 percent to 83 percent, which equals an impressive 11 or 12 hours of video streaming before the battery will give out completely. The larger-than-normal capacity of 5,020 mAh no doubt helps here.
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Xiaomi Redmi 9 review: other specs and features
The internal specs is where the Redmi 9 cuts some corners to hit its price: the Mediatek Helio G80 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage is only a little bit above the bare minimum for getting Android to run properly (a 3GB and 32GB version is also available, which we'd avoid). Apps and menus take a few milliseconds longer to open up than they would on a mid-range phone, and the handset can really start to slow down if you switch between too many apps to quickly.
Complex websites that are heavy on the visuals can cause the Redmi 9 to stutter, and so can advanced games with fast-paced action and a lot of 3D rendering – everything will run on this phone, just about, but it might not all run smoothly. The low Geekbench 5 scores of 359 (single core), 1331 (multi core) and 1134 (OpenCL) that we got reflect that.
It's not unusable by any means though – most tasks are taken care of with no issues on the Redmi 9, and it's fine for social media, checking email, taking a look at the web, and so on. Again, it's all relative compared against the price, and considering you're getting a working smartphone for not much money at all, it's difficult to complain too much.
We don't like the MIUI skin that Xiaomi puts on top of Android (Android 10 in this case) all that much, but your mileage may vary – it's just a bit too garish and interfering for our tastes, but there's nothing here that would necessarily put you right off the phone. You do get quite a lot of Xiaomi's own apps on board out of the box, but they're easy enough to uninstall or ignore if you don't like them.
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Xiaomi Redmi 9 review: price and verdict
It seems like fewer and fewer of us can justify spending flagship money on flagship phones, and with handsets like the Redmi 9 around, you really don't need to – it's a fantastic little budget phone, with a screen and design that impress, and camera quality and performance levels that are good enough for a budget phone.
If you've got more money to spend, of course the mid-rangers are better in terms of speed, and display quality, and the sort of results you can get from the camera, while adding features such as 5G and wireless charging. But that doesn't mean the Redmi 9 from Xiaomi doesn't appeal at a significantly lower price point.
Every smartphone is a compromise between price and everything else, and when it comes to this handset that's most noticeable in low light camera performance and the overall speed of the device. However, we were perfectly happy using the Redmi 9 as a phone for a few days, with only the occasional moment of frustration at a slowdown.
Remember longevity when you're buying a phone – budget phones won't last you as many years as flagships will. We'd also recommend checking out all the other budget phones on the market at the moment, as it's a strong field right now. The Xiaomi Redmi 9 more than holds its own though, and is absolutely worth considering as an affordable pick.
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