It’s finally here. The highly-anticipated Xiaomi Mi 9 with the latest generation of hardware has arrived to the Malaysian market and of course, it is received with open arms as the price is just unbeatable at this point of time. But is the phone itself any good?

Thanks a bunch for Xiaomi Malaysia for provisioning us a Mi 9 this early to us to review. Let’s take a look at this in-depth review.

MSI Creator 17 Mini-LED

Unboxing

Xiaomi Mi 9

The box itself is something different this time around. It’s reflective all over as if it’s wrapped in silver. The “Mi” logo and the big “9” at the front of the packaging is debossed into the lid itself.

Xiaomi Mi 9

At the back of the packaging is where we can find some highlights of the Mi 9 alongside with the list of package contents. Most notable here is the inclusion of a USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle, 20W fast wireless charging, under display fingerprint reader, and obviously the 48MP camera.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Opening up the lid reveals the accessories box – and that is also in reflective silver.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Digging everything out, we find a whole list of things in the packaging itself.

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
  • TPU case
  • USB-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle
  • QuickCharge 3.0 charger
  • USB-C cable
  • Documentation

Xiaomi is using a really interesting design this time around. The entire back of the Mi 9 is curved a la a handful of the smartphones that we have tried over the years. This subtle curvature makes the Mi 9 superbly comfortable to hold in the hands

Xiaomi Mi 9

We have the Mi 9 with us in the Piano Black color. It is also available in blue color as well, though I wonder if the violet colored Mi 9 will ever make its way to Malaysia.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The Piano Black here looks a little more grey, and in a way, it’s somewhat like gunmetal grey. It’s also highly reflective and I’d recommend getting a protective case for this since the back of the Mi 9 isn’t entirely flat – and has a humongous camera bulge too.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The included TPU case is adequate to provide enough protection for day-to-day use, but lacks a lip around the camera bulge to prevent direct contact with whatever surface you put the Mi 9 on. Though, Xiaomi uses sapphire glass to protect all of the 3 camera lenses.

The Mi 9 comes with a pretty standard flagship level of connectivity here – with a few variations. Firstly, it obviously supports 5GHz AC WiFi, thus you can enjoy your Unifi Turbo on your smartphone.

Secondly, the Xiaomi Mi 9 also comes with NFC though there are no NFC payment systems available on the Mi 9 – yet. Though I do appreciate the fact that I can transfer files, links, and everything in between by just tapping two phones together.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Then comes the ports. On the left side of the Mi 9 we have the AI button. By default, it opens Google Assistant which is handy. This button is configurable though it has some minor software issues that I’ll explain more in the software section of things.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Right above the AI button is also where we can find the cards tray. Unfortunately, the Mi 9 only has two dedicated nano SIM card slots and no microSD card slot.

Xiaomi Mi 9

At the bottom of the phone we have two grills flanking the USB-C port. The left grill is for the microphone and the right grill is for the loudspeaker. The Mi 9 only has a single bottom-firing loudspeaker, though.

Xiaomi Mi 9

At the left side we have the volume rocker and the power button. These buttons are very clicky and satisfying to press, and requires an adequate amount of force to be pressed. There are absolutely zero accidental presses here though I do wish that the AI button is not on the direct opposite of the power button.

Xiaomi Mi 9

At the top is where we can find the secondary microphone and also the IR blaster. Yes, the Mi 9 does come with an IR blaster so you can use the phone as a remote control. A rare feature for smartphones these days.

Xiaomi Mi 9

You might have realized there is no fingerprint scanner on the Mi 9 – that is because they opted for an optical fingerprint scanner under the display instead. It works well, but I still prefer having a physical one at the back of the phone.

The only one thing that is missing from the Mi 9 is the 3.5mm audio jack. I do think that the Mi 9 would have been perfect if there is a 3.5mm audio jack. Xiaomi removed this port and yet there is no IP-rating hence I have no idea why Xiaomi removed it in the first place.

Xiaomi is going all-out this time around and they’re using Samsung’s Super AMOLED display panels. The Mi 9 is using a completely different color profile compared to the Samsung smartphones and hence not that saturated.

Xiaomi Mi 9

The color temperature is slightly on the warm side. On the display settings menu, you can fine-tune the contrast and colors with a color wheel so you can shift the white balance to whatever hue you want.

Xiaomi Mi 9 display settings dark mode

Like any AMOLED display, it can go super bright or very dim. Also, displaying blacks mean that the black parts are turned off entirely – hence saving battery if you are to use night mode. Luckily, the Mi 9 does have a system-wide dark mode – sort of.

The “sort of” part is because some parts of the settings menu is not updated with dark mode and hence, have a weird combination of dark bands with white buttons. Not a big issue since this menu in a very obscured part of the settings menu.

This also marks the one of the few rare phones in the market with a total of 3 different usable cameras. The Mi 9 has this triple rear-facing camera setup:

  • Triple rear-facing cameras
    • Telephoto: 12MP f/2.2; 2x zoom with laser AF and PDAF
    • Main: 48MP f/1.9 with laser AF and PDAF
    • Ultrawide: 16MP f/2.2; 0.48x zoom with laser AF and PDAF
  • Selfie camera
    • 20MP f/2.0 fixed focus

Xiaomi Mi 9

Lately, it’s great to see the disappearance of depth sensor cameras in favor of a real camera – like an ultrawide angle for instance. That is certainly much more useful than getting accurate post-processed bokeh.

Xiaomi is utilizing laser autofocus for all 3 cameras. I applaud Xiaomi for doing this as even the ultrawide angle camera has laser autofocus – which is something that the Galaxy S10 series lacks. Unfortunately, none of the cameras on the Mi 9 has OIS.

Once again you can click here to head on over to our Shutterfly album to check out all of the images below in its full resolution alongside with the metadata.

Rear-facing cameras

Once again, Xiaomi did a pretty good job with the Mi 9’s cameras here. There are room for improvement, as the colors appear slightly differently between the 3 cameras. Overall, I really like the images that it produces – though the telephoto seems to overexposed some of the time.

It comes with an option to correct the ultrawide angle lens distortion too. It is found in the camera settings menu.

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 1
Ultrawide angle camera without lens distortion fix.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 2
Ultrawide angle camera with lens distortion fix.

Here are a few day shots with the 3 cameras for comparison. We have a few sets of images from different scenes.

Set 1

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 3
Ultrawide angle camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 4
Main camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 5
Telephoto camera.

Set 2

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 6
Ultrawide angle camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 7
Main camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 8
Telephoto camera.

Set 4

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 9
Ultrawide angle camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 10
Main camera.
Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 11
Telephoto camera.

Then comes the night shots. The Xiaomi Mi 9 does come with a dedicated night mode that takes a long exposure shot. For some reason, the night mode is available only for the main camera and the telephoto camera. The ultrawide angle camera is unavailable for night mode. We hope that Xiaomi will add this feature in the next firmware update.

Obviously, the night shots look brighter than the normal photo mode. It does, however, have a noticeable lost in picture detail – especially for the telephoto camera. Still, it’s very good for social media use.

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 12
Main camera without night mode.
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Main camera with night mode.
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Telephoto camera without night mode.
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Telephoto camera with night mode.

There are lots of room to improve and I really think that in time, Xiaomi will further improve the cameras – especially the night mode.

Selfie camera

I’m not much of a selfie fan, but the Xiaomi Mi 9 can obviously take good-looking selfies at arm’s length. The colors are great – but I do wish that the selfie camera has autofocus.

Review - Xiaomi Mi 9: What a fantastic surprise 16

Camera UI

Looking at the camera UI itself, I have only one complaint. Why the button to switch to the ultrawide angle camera is placed at the bottom? Pressing the zoom button only changes from 1x to 2x. The ultrawide angle camera button is completely independent and a little difficult to reach, if you ask me.

Xiaomi Mi 9 camera UI

All the images taken by the Mi 9 is in 12MP and Xiaomi is utilizing the 4-in-1 pixel technology all the time. If you want to take a picture in 48MP, you need to change to another mode. The 48MP mode does not have AI, though.

Xiaomi Mi 9 camera UI

Then comes the night mode. Yes, the night mode is also another separate mode. It does not say how many seconds you need to hold to take the shot. The Mi 9 just does its thing and you can see how great the images turned out to be.

Also, there is no option to use the ultrawide angle camera together with night mode.

Video?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Mi 9 can actually capture at a full 4K resolution at 60FPS. Or you can record at 1080p resolution at 240FPS too. This is exactly what we have on the Galaxy S9 which I adore so much and it’s great to see other phones are able to do the same as well.

It does come with a time lapse video option as well. It has a lot of different speeds to select from. We recorded a 30x speed time lapse and created this masterpiece.

It’s no surprise that after so many iterations of MIUI, some parts of it is still the same since its inception – like the lack of an app drawer. The launcher is still very iOS-like and there is no option to enable the app drawer.

Xiaomi Mi 9

With that said, the settings menu is still as convoluted as ever. The location of some settings like the screen timeout is in “lock screen & password” menu. This is just one of the settings that I will immediately change after getting the phone and they are just hidden somewhere deep in the convoluted settings menu.

Xiaomi Mi 9 AI button

The Mi 9’s AI button is the same as the Mi Mix 3 whereby it is quite versatile in terms of how it works. There is a slew of shortcuts that it can do, and I once again applaud Xiaomi for having this option. Though the system-wide dark mode is not implemented here.

Xiaomi Mi 9 AI button

Other buttons can perform gesture shortcuts as well – like double pressing the power button to launch the camera and such. On another note, the Mi 9 has Widewine L1 support so you can Netflix and chill in full HD.

Obviously, one of the main highlight of the Mi 9 is its performance. This is the first ever smartphone in Malaysia that runs on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. Spoiler alert: it wrecks every other chipset in the market today.

The Xiaomi Mi 9 that we are reviewing comes with these core specs:

  • 6.39-inch Super AMOLED display with 2340×1080 pixels in resolution
    • Waterdrop notch
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset (7nm fabrication)
    • 1x Kryo 485 @ 2.84GHz
    • 3x Kryo 485 @ 2.42GHz
    • 4x Kryo 485 @ 1.80GHz
    • Adreno 640 GPU with 384 ALUs
  • 66GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.1 storage (no microSD card slot)
  • 3,300mAh battery
    • Bundled with QuickCharge 3.0 charger
  • Android 9.0 Pie with MIUI 10.2.6.0

As mentioned earlier, the Snapdragon 855 wrecks every single phone in our library of phones. The Snapdragon 855 is really, really powerful.

Xiaomi Mi 9 3DMark benchmark Xiaomi Mi 9 VRMark benchmark Xiaomi Mi 9 Geekbench benchmark Xiaomi Mi 9 Antutu benchmark

In day-to-day use, it really depends on how well the software is optimized. In the case of MIUI 10, it works very well. It’s snappy and has gesture shortcuts that work instantly.

Gaming

This time around, we have a new test method to test games. We have a way to know the frame rate of whatever application is running on the screen and that is good since many of you are requesting for frame rates.

Firstly, we tried Honkai Impact 3. It came with a new update and now they separated HD assets into an optional download. So here is what I did – downloaded the HD assets and maxed out the graphical settings, then head on to the open world Sakura Samsara with God Kiana and started playing.

Xiaomi Mi 9 Honkai Impact 3

I did realize that the frame rate is mostly around 50FPS to 60FPS, with intense battles dipping to ~40FPS. However, God Kiana’s ultimate skill is really graphically intensive, causing the frame rate to dip to ~30FPS.

Xiaomi Mi 9 Asphalt 9

Then comes Asphalt 9. For unknown reason, the game does not allow highest graphical setting – hence we are stuck at only the default graphical setting. The game is capped at 30FPS and the Mi 9 can run it at 30FPS smooth throughout.

Lastly, PUBG Mobile. To our disappointment, PUBG Mobile is not optimized (yet again) and the highest possible graphic settings is at HDR with ultra frame rates. We also turned on anti-aliasing and disabled adaptive graphic quality.

The Mi 9 can run PUBG Mobile consistently ran at 40FPS, so there is no issues whatsoever.

The Mi 9 comes with a 3,300mAh battery. And before you say the word “only”, let me reintroduce a PSA we did years ago. Here’s why your 3,000mAh can last longer. And that article is still valid until today because the Snapdragon 855 has a smaller gate length, hence decreasing power consumption. With further optimization done to the architecture, the power efficiency is improved even further.

Hence, the Mi 9 is actually pretty high up in our battery life benchmark. Take a look at it.

Xiaomi Mi 9 battery life benchmark

Coming in at just shy of 13 hours, the Mi 9 can last you for a full day’s use quite easily – given that there is no gaming involved. Overall, a very powerful chip yet power efficient.

Charger

It’s funny how the Mi 9 is actually compatible with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 4.0+ but Xiaomi only included a QuickCharge 3.0 charger. But that’s okay – since the QuickCharge 3.0 charger is till way faster than 5V 2A chargers.

Xiaomi Mi 9 battery charging curve graph

For the bundled QuickCharge 3.0 charger, it took about 20 minutes to reach 50% battery and about 33 minutes to reach 75% battery.

As for standard 5V 2A charger, it took about 39 minutes to reach 50% battery and about 68 minutes to reach 75% battery.

Without a doubt the Xiaomi Mi 9 is one of the most powerful smartphone available in the market today. It packs 3 different cameras at the back – a 48MP main camera, telephoto, and ultrawide. And all of them have autofocusing as well.

The real party is at the its core. Snapdragon 855 chipset found in the Mi 9 is blazing fast and destroys other phones in our benchmarks. With that said, the Mi 9 also comes with good battery life.

Xiaomi Mi 9

While the Mi 9 is near perfection, I still would like to see a 3.5mm audio jack or perhaps IP-rating. Also, I would very much appreciate a microSD card slot on this phone.

When the Mi 9’s price was announced, I was shocked. Xiaomi Malaysia’s “honest pricing” is something that I now applaud them for. For us Malaysians, the Mi 9 comes in two configurations:

  • 6GB RAM + 64GB storage – RM1,699
  • 6GB RAM + 128GB storage – RM1,999 (we reviewed this one)

Honestly speaking, I will recommend the Mi 9 to whoever is looking to buy a smartphone today. It’s a fantastic phone and the price is unbelievably affordable for a flagship smartphone with the latest and greatest hardware available in the market. And you can buy it now at Lazada.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Materials
9
Software
7
Connectivity and ports
7
Screen
9
Performance and gaming
10
Camera
8
Battery and charger
8
Value
10
The enthusiastic nanoelectronic engineer who found his way into simplifying the world of tech for everyone. Introverted, but noisy. Nice to meet you!