If you're reading this Realme 9 Pro review then you're probably looking for one of the best cheap phones, and you're in the right place.
Not only is it affordable but the Realme 9 Pro is stylish too, with a good screen, solid performance and long battery life, although you will have to make a few sacrifices here and there.
Last year I tested out the Realme 8 Pro which managed to pick up a four-star rating in its T3 review. While it didn’t quite match up to the best Android phones you can buy, I was still impressed with its 108MP camera, reliable battery and fast charging, but it fell down in its display quality and performance.
The Realme 9 Pro sits in the middle of the new series, with the cheaper Realme 9i below it and for the first time, a pricier more feature-heavy version above it, the Realme 9 Pro Plus.
In this Realme 9 Pro review, I’ll go through everything you need to know about this handset from its design and display, to the camera system, performance and battery life.
Realme 9 Pro review: price and availability
Available to buy from the 23rd February 2022, the Realme 9 Pro starts at £299 in the UK. Realme doesn’t usually release its handsets in the US and it’s unlikely that this will come to Australia either. Take a look at the widgets on this page to see where you can buy one.
Realme 9 Pro review: design and display
When you first take the Realme 9 Pro out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is the shimmering glittery design on the back of the phone. You can buy it in three different colours including Aurora Green, Midnight Black and Sunrise Blue - I saw the latter, and it is very good looking especially when it catches the light. Realme calls it their Light Shift “Chameleon” design. Its only downfall is that it picks up fingerprint marks quite easily but luckily, the phone also comes with a protective case included in the box that will solve that.
Measuring 164.3 x 75.6 x 8.5mm and weighing 195g, the Realme 9 Pro is a good size for most people, not too big but not too small.
There’s a rectangular camera module with three lenses poking out on the back which make the phone wobble when you use it laid flat on a table. On the front, the screen covers the majority of the phone with just a hole-punch style camera in the top left corner. The bezels are a little thicker than you can find elsewhere but they’re not exactly wide either.
Around the frame, there’s a USB-C charging port and a side-mounted fingerprint sensor to unlock the display but you can also use facial recognition. Still use wired headphones? You’ll be glad to know that this phone does have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom.
The Realme 9 Pro has a 6.6-inch IPS LCD FHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate, so it feels super smooth to use. And it looks great. Bright and sharp, you’ll quite easily be able to read on it or watch TV shows. It’s also very colourful, although some might find it a little too vibrant. You won't get quite the same level of clarity as you would from a pricier piece of kit but most people won't notice day-to-day.
The glossy display does suffer from a fair amount of glare under sunlight so it’ll be quite difficult to see when you’re outside in the summer months.
Realme 9 Pro review: camera
Featuring a 64MP wide camera, an 8MP ultrawide camera and a 2MP macro lens as well as a 16MP selfie camera, the Realme 9 Pro's camera system has had a refresh for 2022.
Using the default point-and-shoot settings, you’ll be able to take decent photos of cityscapes, landscapes and people. Take a look at the gallery below to see some examples of shots taken on the Realme 9 Pro.
Colours come out looking quite accurate and the camera balances light and dark areas of the shot well but photos do lack the level of clarity and detail that you'd get from a camera system on one of the best phones you can buy - you’ll notice lines aren’t as well defined and it struggles to pick up objects that are further away. The quality of the camera system will be perfectly fine for snapping shots for social media though.
The zoom can digitally blow up the image by up to 6x, and there are few camera modes to play around with as well, like Street Mode to maintain control over fast-moving objects, Ultra Macro Mode and a Night Mode. The Night Mode does a good job at brightening up shots taken in low light, although you do lose out on even more detail than in daylight.
Realme 9 Pro review: performance and battery
Packing a mid-range chip, the Snapdragon 695, with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the Realme 9 Pro should be powerful enough for most casual tasks and you can expand the storage with a MicroSD card if needs be.
Throughout the time I was using the phone, I was able to flick through open windows and open up apps without any problems, although it does start to falter with larger mobile games. I ran the Geekbench 5 benchmarking test to compare it to other phones in this price bracket, it scored 692 in single-core and 2,058 multi-core. That’s a big improvement on the Realme 8 Pro, and similar to other cheap to mid-range phones like the OnePlus Nord CE 2 and the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G.
The Realme 9 Pro also has 5G so you’ll be able to make the most out of the fastest internet speeds out and about if you live somewhere that supports it, that is.
Keeping things going is a 5,000mAh battery and it did a great job. The phone didn’t need charging at all throughout the whole day and only needed a charge late in the evening. To test it out more accurately I downloaded and ran a video on full brightness over the space of two hours. In that time, the battery level dropped by 16% so it would have lasted almost 13 hours in total.
Using the 33W charger included in the box, it'll take just XX to recharge the phone from empty to 100%. It doesn't support wireless charging, though. 25%
Behind the scenes, the Realme 9 Pro runs on Android 12 with Realme UI v3.0. While it is very straightforward to use, icons and apps do look a little cartoonish so it’s not as smart as stock Android.
The Realme 9 Pro comes with a few apps pre-installed, some are useful, some are less so. For example, social media like TikTok and Facebook are ready to go, and shopping apps like Amazon, there are some less useful ones as well, like AliExpress.
You get a few extra features on this OS that you don't always get elsewhere, including Flexible Windows which allow you to multitask with floating windows. There's also the Smart Sidebar which lets you quickly open certain apps and a dedicated Kids Space so you can choose which apps your little ones can access as well as set time limits.
Realme 9 Pro review: verdict
The Realme 9 Pro is a striking phone, the new design and colourways are modern and make it look like a much more premium device than it actually is. That's not all it has going for it though, you'll also get a clear, bright screen as well as reliable performance.
It's a shame that the camera tech has been changed because the 108MP camera on the Realme 8 Pro was its crowning glory, but you'll still get good enough shots on this handset, even though they could be more detailed.
All in all, if you're on a budget this will be a good choice, giving you everything you could need from a phone without an eye-watering price tag. It's a solid mid-ranger.
Realme 9 Pro review: also consider
Another cheap and good looking phone to consider is the OnePlus Nord CE 2, it costs about the same as this and has a similar performance. Where it wins though is battery life, it'll easily get you through a whole day, night and then some, and it comes with super-fast 65W charging as well.
If you're looking to spend even less than this, take a look at the Motorola Moto G10. It's nowhere near as stylish but it's durable and does the job for a lot less money. Do bear in mind that it's not quite as fast and it doesn't have 5G support either.