Hands on: Xiaomi Mi 9 Review

Xiaomi's latest powerhouse combines flagship features with a very tempting price tag. Is it shaping up to be one of the smartphone steals of 2019?

First Impressions

It's hard to argue with what the Xiaomi Mi 9 offers for the price, on paper – and after a few days in its company, it looks odds-on to be one of the smartphone bargains of 2019. Competition in the 'affordable flagship' space is going to be fierce, but it combines the very latest Snapdragon chip with some very powerful camera features. Its screen size and MIUI Android skin might not be for everyone, but otherwise, the Mi 9 is going to be a formidable foe for the likes of OnePlus and Honor.

Key Specifications

  • 6.39-inch AMOLED screen
  • Powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile chip
  • 48-megapixel main camera with f/1.75 aperture
  • 16-megapixel ulltra wide-angle camera
  • 12-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom
  • 3.5mm thick at slimmest point; weighs 173g

Who’s the Xiaomi Mi 9 for?

Our Xiaomi Mi 9 review is incoming, so stay tuned for an in-depth look at what the company’s new flagship is capable of. In the meantime, read on for our initial hands-on experiences.

If you’re in the market for a flagship smartphone in possession of some of the latest and greatest features on the market, but you don’t want to pay the typical premium, the Xiaomi Mi 9 might be for you.

Xiaomi’s tagline might as well be ‘bang for your buck’ because its new top dog centres around Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon chipset, along with a killer triple camera arrangement that collectively make for one of the most compelling combinations in the market right now – and all for half the price of your typical flagship phone.

Understandably, the Mi 9 is by no means faultless when compared against the likes of the equally fresh-faced Samsung Galaxy S10 and it’s rather atypical MIUI 10 Android skin won’t be to everyone’s tastes but that doesn’t detract from the fact that you get an impressive amount of tech for your money.

Xiaomi Mi 9 – Price and Release Date

The Xiaomi Mi 9 costs €449 (for the 64GB version) or €499 (for the 128GB model). It became available to buy on 28 February 2019 in certain Europe markets, including Spain but its arrival in the UK is expected to take place in late March.

Xiaomi Mi 9

We’ll update this page as soon as we get official prices from Xiaomi, though it’s likely that the Mi 9 variants will cost £449 and £499 respectively.

When they do go on sale, you’ll get to choose from one of three colours: Piano Black, Lavender Violet or (my personal favourite) Ocean Blue.

Xiaomi Mi 9 – Screen

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the display on the Mi 9 doesn’t offer quite the same visual punch compared to pricer competitors but that gap isn’t anywhere near as vast as you might expect.

The 6.39-inch AMOLED display is vibrant without veering towards over-saturation, and has a very respectable 1080 x 2340 resolution. That’s not quite at QHD heights, but it’s more than enough for most situations – and in my brief time with the Mi 9 outside it was bright enough to cope with the Barcelona sunshine.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The Mi 9 also supports HDR10 (again not quite up to the Galaxy S10’s HDR10+ support, but that’s currently no big deal) and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6.

There’s also an improved in-screen fingerprint sensor, which apparently unlocks the phone up to 25% faster than on the Mi 8. I wasn’t able to do a side-by-side comparison, but it was certainly speedy and reliable.

Xiaomi Mi 9 – Performance and battery life

There have been no corners cut with the Xiaomi Mi 9’s engine – it’s one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 mobile chip.

What does that mean in reality? Well, it’s powerful enough to support advanced camera setups (like the triple-camera module on the Mi 9) and is super-efficient too, which should mean you see gains in other areas like battery life.

Xiaomi Mi 9

I wasn’t able to benchmark the Mi 9 in my two hours with the phone, but it was certainly lightning quick when switching between apps and should be even more comfortable than the already capable Xiaomi Mi 8 at handling 3D games on high settings.

The Mi 9’s 3,300mAh battery is slightly smaller than its predecessor’s, but the improved efficiency of the Snapdragon 855 processor should more than compensate for that. If you frequently wake up to find your now-dead phone down the back of the sofa, you’ll be pleased to hear that fast-charging will also nurse it back to full health in an hour.

Prefer wireless charging? There’s good news there too – the Mi 9 is apparently the first phone to support 20W wireless charging. Granted, you’ll need to shell out for Xiaomi’s Mi Wireless Charging Pad (which doesn’t have a confirmed price yet), but if you do it’ll charge from empty to full in 90 minutes. And make you feel very smug in the process.

Xiaomi Mi 9 – Camera

The Xiaomi Mi 9’s most interesting (and, on paper, impressive) feature is its camera – or, rather, three cameras. This is the company’s first triple-camera setup, and it’s not messing around.

To recap, you get: a 48-megapixel, f/1.75 rear camera (which uses the same sensor as the Honor View 20), which is flanked by a 12-megapixel telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom, and a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera with a 17mm equivalent focal length.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Sounds like overkill? In reality, it just helps to make the camera as versatile as possible and, like Huawei, Xiaomi has included all sorts of ‘A.I’ software help to make sure you don’t get befuddled by all of the options. If you are already pretty handy with a camera, there’s always the ‘Pro’ mode for full manual controls.

These cameras give you a few particularly useful options. That wide-angle camera has a minimum focusing distance of 4cm, which is a bonus for those who like macro shooting. In between the cameras you’ll also find laser autofocus, which should be a handy in low light situations when phase detect AF tends to struggle a bit more.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The Mi 9 seems to handle challenging scenes with light and shade well, with plenty of detail across the shot.

And while that 48-megapixel camera by shoots 12-megapixel stills by default (using the same pixel-binning process as Huawei’s phones, so four pixels can be treated as one for better light-gathering), you can also shoot 48-megapixel shots. In good light, this gives you a lot of leeway for cropping into the particular details of landscape shots, meaning you don’t have to fret so much about nailing the composition first time around.

The Mi 9 also has strong video shooting credentials, with the ability to record 4K video at 60fps and shoot 960fps slo-mo shorts. We’ll have to see how its quality stacks up next to our current video king, the iPhone XS.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The Mi 9 has laser autofocus to help in gloomier conditions, while its exposure seemed well-balanced in my few test shots.

I was only able to take a few quick snaps in my short time with the Mi 9, but it certainly looks promising.

The autofocus generally performed well and, while the default portrait settings err on the side of doll-like ‘beauty mode’ effects, it’s easy to dial that back down for a more realistic look.

Xiaomi Mi 9

In its default settings, the Mi 9’s front camera errs on the side of soft ‘beauty’ modes, but these are easily tweaked to produce more natural looks.

The only downside was that in a low light shot where I deliberately underexposed to highlight a bright area, a lot of detail has been lost and there’s some smudging that suggests the Mi 9 likes to get quite heavy-handed with its processing.

That’s by no means unusual, though, and is something we’ll be able to test when we have a bit more time to put the camera through its paces.

Xiaomi Mi 9

It seemed to perform less well in low light, where detail was lost and smudging suggested heavy processing at work.

 

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.