Skip to main content

Hands on: Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T review

The first 5G Redmi phone

What is a hands on review?
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is a decent cheap phone, with improvements over its predecessor and some useful new features. It's not perfect - there's a recurring Xiaomi software problem and so-so cameras, but there's lots to like here.

For

  • Many improvements over predecessor
  • Affordable 5G

Against

  • Cameras are only okay
  • Too many pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is the first smartphone launched by Chinese tech company in 2021 (well, alongside the Redmi 9T, they launched together) and it's an affordable handset which succeeds 2019's Redmi Note 8T.

The Redmi Note 9T fixes loads of issues we had with the Note 8T - it's noticeably faster to use, has a re-positioned fingerprint scanner that is much easier to reach, and the screen looks better too.

That doesn't mean the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is a total overhaul though - the same slow charging is here, Xiaomi's usual bloatware problem is back, and the phone actually has weaker cameras than the 8T (three of that phone's snappers are back, but its ultra-wide snapper is missing).

But there's one other feature we need to highlight - 5G connectivity. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is the first 5G phone from the Redmi brand (though it's not Xiaomi's first affordable 5G phone by any means, after the Mi 10 Lite and Mi 10T Lite).

So the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is three steps forward for the brand, one sideways, and one step back... at least on paper. Pending our full review of the phone, here are our first impressions.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

The Redmi Note 9T (L) and Note 8T (R) (Image credit: Future)

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T release date and price

We haven't been told the price or release date for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T, but you'll probably be able to buy it quite soon, since the phone's launch was a global one.

In terms of price, the Redmi Note 8T cost £159 (roughly $200, AU$310), for 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, and we could see a similar price again (though the 9T unit we tested had 128GB storage, so the price could be a touch higher).

At that price the phone competes with plenty of other Xiaomi phones, as well as some affordable Moto G phones that might be worth buying.

Design and display

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T screen (Image credit: Future)

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T is a pretty big phone - we found it fine to hold, but people with smaller hands might struggle. There's a side-mounted fingerprint scanner, embedded on the power button on the right edge of the device and we found this much easier to reach than the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner of the Note 8T.

Above the fingerprint scanner on the right edge of the phone sits the volume rocker; the handset also has a USB-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack and an IR blaster scattered around the edges.

The rear of the phone is plastic, but it has a textured effect to make it feel nicer in the hand than your 'standard' plastic back. The texture isn't unlike leather, though it's obviously not. 

The rear cameras are housed in a camera block that looks identical to the Mi 10T Lite and Poco X3 NFC, both from Xiaomi. Clearly, the company likes this circular design.

The display has a Full HD+ resolution like its predecessor, and also uses LCD tech like the Note 8T, but it does look a bit better - there's improved contrast, and automatic brightness seemed more responsive and accurate.

The display size is 6.53 inches diagonally, and is broken up by a 'punch-hole' cut-out. It's bigger than the 6.3-inch Redmi Note 8T display, but thanks to having thinner bezels around its display, the Note 9T isn't actually much bigger than its predecessor.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T fingerprint scanner (Image credit: Future)

Camera and battery

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T has three rear cameras - a 48MP main, 2MP depth-sensing and 2MP macro snapper. Then there's a 13MP selfie snapper.

On paper, that's a step down from the Note 8T, which also had an 8MP ultra-wide camera. It's also worth pointing out the 8T was the first affordable phone with a 48MP camera, but over a year later, many phones in that price bracket tout high spec sensors.

If you're on a budget and are looking for a great camera phone, this probably isn't the handset for you. Pictures we've taken so far have seemed fine, but a little dim and colors didn't seem too vibrant - the snaps looked overexposed with even a slight amount of light too.

Selfies looked a lot better though, especially in Portrait mode, with the AI optimization making the subject stand out from the background well.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T camera (Image credit: Future)

This is just the result of a brief camera test, and as we use the phone more, we might find more to like about it.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T battery has a 5,000mAh capacity, which is certainly on the high side for a smartphone, though its contemporary Redmi 9T actually goes up to a huge 6,000mAh.

We haven't tested the phone enough to have a conclusive verdict on the phone's lasting power, having only tested it for a few hours, but the device held charge admirably in that time. It charges at 18W, which isn't exactly fast, but few budget phones go much faster.

Performance and software

Our favorite improvement the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T makes over its predecessor is in terms of performance power - that phone felt fairly slow to use, but the 9T is comparatively great.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T rear (Image credit: Future)

In a benchmark test, the Redmi Note 9T returned a multi-core score of 1,799, a dramatic improvement over the 1,158 of the Note 8T. As a result, apps felt quicker to load and navigating the home menu was smoother.

The Note 9T uses a MediaTek Dimensity 800U chipset - we haven't seen that in use much before, but from this benchmark, it seems a real rival to Snapdragon's 600-series processors (which you'd find in most phones at this price point).

The phone is also 5G-enabled, so you'll get access to the next generation of connectivity if you have an appropriate data plan.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T comes running Android, but with Xiaomi's MIUI 12 laid over the top. MIUI is one of the more popular Android overlays, bringing features like an iOS-style Control Center for phone settings, and some pretty dramatic wallpapers, but it has a big issue with it.

Xiaomi phones often have loads of pre-installed apps, or 'bloatware' cluttering up the main menu when you first turn it on, and that's definitely the case here. We'll attach a screenshot of the menus from when we first booted up the phone, full of apps and folders already. This is before we installed a single app ourselves.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

Note that each folder contains loads of apps too. (Image credit: Future)

Sure, you can delete most these apps if you don't think you'll use them, but it's a time-consuming process given the quantity.

Early verdict

As we said, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T feels like three steps forward, one to the side, and one back for the company (which feels like an overly-complicated dance routine).

The improvements in processing power, great design changes, and addition of 5G connectivity would be the three key points, or 'steps forward' we'd like to highlight, though there's plenty more to like about the phone.

The questionable camera chops are the step back, and the sideways move is Xiaomi's continued issue with bloatware. Some might not mind these things we've flagged, but we'd consider them the big problems with the phone.

So the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T feels pretty good for its price, and a worthy successor to the Note 8T, but you'll have to wait for our full review for a more in-depth analysis on the phone.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.