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Xiaomi Mi 9 review

Xiaomi's newest mid-range miracle

Battery life

The Xiaomi Mi 9 has a 3,300mAh which is on the smaller side for a device with such powerful specs, and in practice we found it a little disappointing. 

The battery level dropped quickly from moderate usage – scrolling through social media and checking the news on an hour-long commute used up between 10% and 20%, and the phone usually didn’t last a day without a top-up at some point.

Usually, games and movies drain a phone’s power quicker than normal use, but when playing high-end games and streaming shows on Netflix we didn’t notice a very significant change in how much battery was being burned.

When we put the Mi 9 through our battery test, which involves playing a 90-minute video on full brightness with accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background, the battery only dropped to 85%. That’s better than last year’s Samsung Galaxy S9, which ended on 84%, but not as good as the iPhone XS which only fell 11%.

We did find that the phone charged up incredibly fast – using the charger included with the phone it only took 45 minutes to get to 90%, although the charging speed dropped noticeably for the last 10%. 

Wireless charging was equally impressive – with a 10W charger the handset reached 80% in just 30 minutes, and the Mi 9 supports up to 20W charging, which would power up the phone even faster.

Those are some impressive speeds, and went some way to offsetting how annoying it was to have to charge the phone frequently, but we’d rather the phone had a bigger battery so this wasn’t an issue.

Camera

The camera is one of the Xiaomi Mi 9’s key features, and it’s one of the strongest parts of the phone.

On the back are 48MP f/1.75 wide-angle, 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and 12MP f/2.2 telephoto cameras, which combine to take pretty fantastic pictures, and which are complemented by a collection of AI features to help your photography. On the front there’s 20MP f/2.0 selfie camera, housed in the small 'teardrop' notch.

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Pictures taken with the camera looked great, with colors rendering fantastically well – particular tones are boosted, especially reds and greens which appeared incredibly vibrant on screen.

The camera fared quite well with low-light pictures as well producing decent shots. There is a dedicated "Night" mode that keeps the shutter open longer and can end up producing really good night-time shots that rival top camera phones. We highly recommend using this mode for low-light photography.

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2019 seems to be the year of ultra-wide lenses and the one present on the Mi 9 utilizes the 16MP lens with 117° field of view, to take panoramic pictures. 

This was useful for certain shots, as it let us include more of our subjects in the frame, but the wider angle snapped meant the resulting images did seem a little squashed. 

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Using the Telephoto lens (Image credit: TechRadar)

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Zooming out to wide angle (Image credit: TechRadar)

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And finally the ultra-wide lens (Image credit: TechRadar)

Perhaps the camera’s strongest feature, however, is its depth sensing, courtesy of the 12MP telephoto lens. It was quick to focus on subjects and accurately gauged depth to apply the correct amount of background blur, without even requiring you to select the bokeh or beauty modes the phone packs. 

There’s also a manual focus mode, in which you tap on your subject on the screen to focus on it, and this too was quick and easy to use.

The front-facing camera was strong too, auto-focusing quickly with fair color accuracy, although unsurprisingly they’re not up to the standard of images taken with the primary camera.

Image credit: TechRadar

Image credit: TechRadar

There are  a range of pre- and post-processing features, including beauty mode, which lets you add bokeh effects to pictures, smooth skin tones and add other flourishes, and Pro mode, which lets you take control of shooting settings like aperture and shutter speed. 

These were both great to use – they let us fine tune our shooting to perfect when we needed to take artistic looking photos.

The rear camera also supports video recording up to 4K, which was a little hard to set up as the option was buried in menus.

Footage was high quality and was supported with image stabilization – the handset got quite hot the longer we recorded, but it didn’t affect performance – and we don’t expect many users to be filming in 4K for as long as we did.

Abbas Jaffar Ali

Abbas has been living and breathing technology before phones became smart or clouds started storing data. He also has commitment issues towards mobile phones.

Driven by tech and passion, he has successfully negotiated into bringing the largest gaming and tech publications to the Middle East that include IGN, CNET and TechRadar.