Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review: one of the best 5G phones on a budget

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T makes sure your money goes a long way

Redmi Note 9T
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The Redmi Note 9T from Xiaomi gives you plenty of smartphone for your money, with 5G connectivity, a large screen and impressive battery life all wrapped up in a package that won't cost you much at all. It's an appealing proposition for bargain smartphone hunters.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Amazing value for money

  • +

    5G on a budget

  • +

    Very good battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Average camera

  • -

    No waterproofing

  • -

    Xiaomi software

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With the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T you've got a handset looking to be one of the best phones around while still coming in at a price that's very reasonable: it continues the tradition of the Xiaomi-made brand, offering something more affordable than the Mi series of handsets.

In fact it shoots straight into our list of best cheap phones because of the combination of features, connectivity, build quality and price that you get here. Notably, it has 5G on board, which is very useful if the next-gen network has reached your part of the world.

In the Redmi Note 9T review that follows we'll take you through all the key features, specs and details that you need to know about when it comes to this phone – from what you can expect in terms of battery life, to how well the camera picks out details in the dark.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review: price and availability

The Redmi Note 9T is out now and available to buy direct from Xiaomi, SIM-free and unlocked: prices start at £179 during the flash sale that's running at the time of writing, and after that the regular prices will be £229 for the 64GB storage version and £249 for the 128GB storage version. Expect the phone to arrive at other retailers in due course.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review: design and screen

Redmi Note 9T

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

The Redmi Note 9T brings with it a fit and a finish that belies the handset's very affordable asking price – it's hardly the lightest or most stylish phone we've ever seen, and it feels slightly cheap and plasticky in the hand, but just by looking at it you couldn't guess that it's as inexpensive as it actually is. We like the textured finish to the back, and the curved edges, and the choice of colours (either Daybreak Purple or Nightfall Black, with the black one the model we reviewed).

We also like the 6.53-inch, 1080 x 2340 pixel LCD display – at this price point you can't expect anything like a super-fast refresh rate, and HDR support is also missing, but it's big and sharp and bright enough to keep most people happy. Whether watching movies streamed over the internet or browsing through articles on the web, we found the display of the Redmi Note 9T perfectly fine.

There's just a single punch hole notch for the selfie camera interrupting the display on the front, while the rear camera is in the centre on the back: not the most aesthetically pleasing setup we've ever seen, but we can live with it. The phone also sticks its fingerprint sensor inside the power button, a move we don't generally approve of – it makes the power button more difficult to find and press, and the fingerprint sensor less easy to use. It worked well enough in our testing, but we prefer to see it placed on the back (or under the phone display).

Xiaomi describes the Redmi Note 9T as having a "water-repellent coating", but you're not going to get anything approaching an IP68 rating for waterproofing here (par for the course down at this price point). There is, however, a headphone jack. Overall, we'd say we're largely impressed by what the phone has to offer in the design and screen departments, though you won't be mistaking this for an iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review: camera and battery

Redmi Note 9T

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

The triple-lens 48MP wide + 2MP macro + 2MP depth rear camera sported by the Redmi Note 9T isn't much to write home about, but you've got to bear in mind the price you're paying. There's no ultrawide mode, and no optical zoom, but the main 48MP camera does a respectable job of taking good photos in good light – something that most budget phones are able to manage now.

The shutter speed could be a little faster, and colours were occasionally off balance, but overall you'll get very satisfactory snaps from this phone – definitely good enough for social media and then some. Unfortunately we had a week's worth of rain during our time with the Redmi Note 9, making it difficult to take some really impressive pictures, but the samples we've included below give you some idea of what the rear camera can do.

As always with budget phone cameras, it's in low light where problems start to happen, with plenty of noise creeping in and a lot of details lost. The handset can still get some okay shots in low light – though the night mode doesn't seem to make a whole lot of difference either way – but it's worth bearing in mind that a lot of mid-range phones have excellent cameras. If photos are a priority, you might want to consider spending a bit more on your next phone upgrade.

In a two-hour video streaming test, the battery on the Redmi Note 9T fell from 100 percent to 81 percent, which would work out as 8 hours overall. That was with the screen brightness set to the max though, so you could probably extend that. In general use, the phone easily gets into a second day, thanks to that large 5,000 mAh capacity battery – it's definitely one of the better handsets we've seen for battery life, though you have to make do with (18W) wired rather than wireless charging.

Redmi Note 9T review: other specs and features

Redmi Note 9T

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of internal specs, the Redmi Note 9T brings with it MediaTek Dimensity 800U 5G processor, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage (and there is a memory card slot if you want to expand that). Looking at those specs you know that the phone isn't going to offer mind-blowing performance, but the combination of processor and RAM mean you can get through most tasks without too much trouble.

While the experience of using the phone isn't exactly what you'd call nippy, it is perfectly usable, and we didn't have any issues with slowdowns or lag. This will change if you start to load up a few dozen browser tabs, but for the majority of the time everything will run smoothly. We put the Redmi Note 9T up against some of the more demanding games on the Play Store too, and they all ran without a hitch. On Geekbench the phone scores 595 (single-core), 1788 (multi-core), and 1909 (OpenCL), which are by no means the worst results we've ever seen.

There is, notably, support for 5G here – making this one of the cheapest phones to offer the next-gen connectivity. If 5G has already rolled out in your area, or it's scheduled to do so soon, then you can take advantage of the improved download and upload speeds with the Redmi Note 9T. If you're going to be stuck with 4G for the foreseeable future – and remember 4G still offers some very decent data rates – then you might consider 5G something you can live without for now.

The phone runs Android 10 rather than the latest Android 11, and the usual Xiaomi MIUI skin is here. It's by no means a disaster as far as software goes, but the bright and almost childish colouring, as well as the array of preinstalled apps – WPS Office, Amazon Shopping, Facebook, TikTok, AliExpress, the bundled Mi apps – leave us yearning for the lightweight and bloat-free stock Android edition.

Redmi Note 9T review: price and verdict

Redmi Note 9T

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

If you're shopping down at the budget end of the smartphone market, then you will of course have to temper your expectations about what you're going to get in return for your money: you're not going to come away with something that has the screen, camera and build quality – or the performance – of the best iPhones (for example) if you're only paying a fraction of the price. Low-cost handsets are improving all the time though, and the Redmi Note 9T definitely holds its own at this price point.

The inclusion of 5G in a phone so inexpensive is definitely worth noting, while the large screen and the overall design of the Redmi Note 9T are to its credit as well. While the triple-lens rear camera is going to struggle in some situations, especially as it gets darker, it is capable of producing some very good results – and again you have to take into consideration the phone's affordability when weighing up any aspect of it.

It's really a question of what you actually need a smartphone to do for you, and the Redmi Note 9T will do just about all of it for a price that undercuts almost everyone else. We've seen some appealing and affordable phones from the likes of Motorola, Nokia and others in recent months, but Xiaomi is definitely in the conversation when it comes to stretching your money as far as it will go on your next phone upgrade.

While we feel the lack of ultrawide and optical zoom on the camera, and continue to prefer stock Android to the MIUI software that Xiaomi puts on its phones, we don't really have too many complaints about this phone when you factor in the price. Come the end of the year we reckon that the Redmi Note 9T from Xiaomi is still going to be up there in our list of the best cheap phones you can get your hands on.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.