Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime review – 2020’s best phone under Rs 10,000 yet

It is a time where global supply chains have been affected. This, along with the added GST levied by the Indian government and the rising price of the dollar has directly resulted in prices of phones going up, unfortunately. Evidently, we had far better deals last year. If you guys remember, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 which launched for under Rs 10,000, offered an unbelievable set of specs. However, the price of that phone has also risen steadily. Now, it starts at Rs 12,499. 

But thankfully, Xiaomi has resurrected the Redmi Prime series and introduced a Redmi 9 Prime to bridge that gap. To be honest, the specs – while not as good as the Note 8 – is still pretty convincing. Let’s find out if the 9 Prime is the new best phone under Rs 10,000.

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Design

The Redmi 9 Prime’s outer body is made of plastic unlike the glass-bodied Note series phones we’ve seen this year. But, it doesn’t feel even remotely cheap. I really like all the colours on offer and this Matte Black one is definitely my favourite. There’s a very slightly raised vertical camera module on the rear with the fingerprint scanner also integrated in it. By the way, this scanner is super fast to unlock the phone. Now, this vertical module is placed inside a concentric cutout similar to the Poco X2. And, there are more concentric circles emanating out of the main one to create a ridged pattern that aids in gripping the phone. 

And, despite the 9.1mm thickness and 198g weight, it actually feels very comfortable to hold and use with one hand. Although, it is odd that the phone weighs so much considering Xiaomi has actually used polycarbonate for the exterior, which is a lighter material. Anyway, the weight distribution is great and using it with one hand is easy too. What aids the whole in-hand feel is, the rear curves gently to ensure the phone sits in your palm snugly. 

As for the rest of the design, you get a tactile power button and the volume rocker on the right. The top has a microphone and the infrared scanner. The left edge houses the 2+1 SIM slot with a dedicated slot to add a memory card. The bottom is slightly busy with the headphone jack, a speaker grille, mics, and a USB Type-C port. Xiaomi is not skimping on anything here. 

Overall, this is a great design for a budget phone and it comes with p2i nano coating for protection of the internal elements against slight spills. 

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Display 

On the front, you get a 6.53-inch IPS LCD display which has an FHD+ resolution. To find a full-HD display in this price range is not very easy. It is a fairly bright display and visibility under bright sunlight is not too bad either. It is actually a decent panel. In fact, the edge bleeding has also been very well contained. The quality of this panel is actually good. And, it is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3.

But what is not good is the oleophobic coating, and therefore I ended up with a lot of smudges on the screen. However, it is not as bad as Realme phones. 

Anyway, you get Widevine L1 support on the phone and I checked both Netflix and Prime and videos were playing back at Full-HD resolution, which is great. Watching videos was a pretty good experience.

What I particularly enjoyed was the touchscreen experience. It was surprisingly good. Latency was pretty low for a budget phone. 

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Performance

A big chunk of the reason why quite a few folks will be looking at the Redmi 9 Prime would be the powerful specs on offer. You get a Mediatek Helio G80 chip inside, which is a gaming chip. As for the variants, you get 4gigs of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage of the eMMC 5.1. 

Therefore, the Androbench score isn’t really great as you can tell from what you see on your screen. The storage speed is definitely a bottleneck. The AnTuTu score is the highest you can get in this price range. I got a score of around 1 lakh 95 thousand. You can see the other benchmark screenshots here as well. 

As for gaming, I tried PUBG and it ran at HD High or Smooth and Ultra. It ran fairly smoothly without heating. But, I’m a bigger fan of CoD Mobile but unfortunately it plays at really low settings despite the smooth gameplay. I strongly feel the G80 can do better graphics. So, let’s see if an update fixes that.

As for the speaker at the bottom, it is really tinny and not very good. Thankfully, there is a dedicated headphone jack and that works fairly well for most audio. So, that’s a consolation. 

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Battery and network performance

Moving on, you get the same 5020mAh battery as we’ve seen on the Note 9 series this year. It can easily last you a day and a half on moderate usage. Charging the phone using an 18W charger took me around 2 hours. With the 10W in-built charger, it takes longer. Much longer. 

Calls on the Redmi 9 Prime were good. Decent quality through the earphones. Plus the 4G performance was rock solid too. No worries there, either. However, the one thing I like about the Redmi 9 Prime is you get support for 5GHz. I make a big deal of this because there are phones under 10k that skip it. 

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Cameras

As for the cameras, you get a stack of quad cameras on the rear. There’s a 13MP primary camera – the sensor for which, Xiaomi sources from multiple vendors, an 8MP ultrawide angle secondary camera, a 5MP macro, and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front, there is an 8MP selfie camera. These are your basic specs, nothing too fancy schmancy. 

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  • The 13MP camera captures fairly accurate colours and that is very heartening. The reds, blues, and greens are almost true to source with a slight variation. For example, the reds are slightly deeper than I’d ideally have liked it to be. 
  • When it comes to daylight shots, the phone exposes the scene well. It is fairly sharp when it comes to details but don’t expect it to do really well if you don’t find ample light. However, the attached lens has a fair bit of barrel distortion that you will have to contend with. 
  • You do get an automatic HDR mode and can detect a high dynamic range scene accurately, no problem. But, the dynamic range performance is lacking and that is something I expected. The phone really doesn’t do much to pick out the information from the shadows. 
  • The 8MP ultrawide angle camera can go as wide as 118-degrees. But it is not very sharp. I got very soft pictures and I am not really a fan of it. This camera can also shoot 1080p 30fps video and it doesn’t have any sort of stabilisation. Also, the footage looks very soft too. I mean, you do get a wider field of view but the quality is really nothing worth talking about. 
  • What I found really surprising was that Xiaomi added the same 5MP macro camera from the Note 9 series. It takes crispy close up shots with fairly accurate colours too. It can shoot videos as well but you will have to be okay with the focussing issues. 
  • I really like Xiaomi’s portrait algorithm and you can see that the edge detection is great, the facial tones are very good and the details are good too. If you do take pictures of human subjects, this camera does a good job. 
  • I really like the 8MP selfie camera. You get nice facial tones and crisp details too. In fact, it does a fairly good job even indoors. Low light does throw up soft details and the flash doesn’t do much to help. 
  • Even the selfie portraits are pretty good too. Whether it is in good light or indoors. Plus, you get these colour filters that look really nice. 
  • The low light performance is where the Redmi 9 Prime takes a major hit. You don’t get a Night mode and the sensor couldn’t resolve the details in low light. 
  • Whether you are shooting videos with the front camera or the rear one at 1080p 30fps (which is the maximum), you don’t really get any sort of image stabilisation. The rear camera footage also doesn’t look very good, with soft details and noise in the darker portions of the footage. The sound recording is alright, though. The front camera is in fact, fairly usable footage as you can tell. 
  • You can also shoot 120fps slow motion footage at 720p resolution and it looks okay.
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Overall, the cameras are well-suited for casual shooting but don’t expect any miracles from it. I am definitely disappointed that you don’t get a night mode. 

Xiaomi Redmi 9 Prime – Software

You get your regular Android 10 with MIUI 11 on top of it. And, you get a bunch of unnecessary preloaded apps and games. I’m never going to use Zili, so I guess you can uninstall that along with an entire folder of games with Rummy King, Crazy Juicer, and more. Interestingly, I didn’t find any ads as such so that’s good. And, no banned apps either. The Cleaner app definition should change in a couple of months as per Xiaomi’s clarification as well. 

Overall, this is the same MIUI experience that most of us already know about. It works smoothly and that’s what matters.

Should you buy the Redmi 9 Prime?

The Redmi 9 Prime is a well-rounded phone under Rs 10,000. And, I really can’t think of better alternatives in this price range. While some skimp on a full-HD display, others don’t even give you the option for a 5GHz Wi-Fi network. And, that’s just scratching the surface. Even the Realme Narzo 10 that comes with the same Helio G80 chipset is more expensive and it doesn’t have a fullHD display to boot.

I also looked around for an older phone under 10k. The Realme 5 could be considered as competition. It uses the SD665 chip, which has a better fabrication process despite not being an out-and-out gaming chipset. But, you still don’t get a fullHD display and you get slower charging speeds, which is a letdown. 

I just couldn’t find a phone that could actually beat the Redmi 9 Prime in terms of giving you the absolute value for money under Rs 10,000. So, you can just pick this one up if you are considering a media consumption device, and to play games on and off. I am just slightly disappointed with the camera performance. Xiaomi has decided to do some cost cutting on that front.

So, what did you guys think? Do let me know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?