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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions: What has really changed in 2020?

Xiaomi launched the Redmi Note 9 Pro is finally official in India and here's our first impressions of the device.

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi | Updated: March 13, 2020 9:29:35 am
Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions: This one comes with Snapdragon 720G processor and support for India’s NaVIC system. (Express photo: Shruti Dhapola)

The Redmi Note 9 Pro series is officially the first big ‘Redmi’ launch from the company for 2020, and one that will set the tone of how its products will be perceived for the rest of the year. I say this because last year’s Redmi Note 7 Pro did the same. It went on sale in March 2019, and remained a bestseller for the company throughout the year, despite the October launch of the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

In fact, research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) pegged Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 7 Pro and Redmi 6A as the most-shipped devices nationally in 2019. But this time around the Redmi Note 9 Pro series has two variants — the high-specced and more expensive Redmi Note 9 Pro Max and the Redmi Note 9 Pro.

We have the Redmi Note 9 Pro for review, and here’s our first impression of the device.

Redmi Note 9 Pro design: What stands out this time?

The Redmi Note 9 Pro continues with the Aura design or the reflective glass design we saw with the Redmi Note 7 series and later. The glass back has Corning Gorilla Glass 5+ protection as well, and on the front too. The phone is also splash-proof, which we have seen on previous Redmi phones.

The Aurora Blue colour version we have is different from what we have seen Xiaomi do in the past, as it has more of a mix of green and blue. One noticeable change at the back of the phone is the branding, it only says Redmi now, there’s no ‘Redmi by Xiaomi’.

Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions: Redmi Note 9 Pro series is officially the first big ‘Redmi’ launch from the company for 2020. (Express photo: Shruti Dhapola)

Then there’s the camera bump, which is now a rectangular module, placed squarely in the centre of the back of the device. The four cameras are neatly packed in, though this module juts out. But the Redmi Note 9 Pro doesn’t wobble when you place it on a flat surface, despite the camera bump. This is not the prettiest camera bump I’ve seen and I certainly prefer the previous vertical camera arrangement of the Redmi Note 8 Pro and Note 8 to this.

Another change is that the fingerprint sensor is now part of the power button, and not at the back of the device. Given the Redmi Note 9 Pro has a slightly bigger 6.67-inch screen, compared to the 6.3-inch display of the Redmi Note 8, this new placement of the fingerprint sensor might actually work better. It is certainly easier to reach, given it is on the side, and it quickly unlocks the phone.

Redmi Note 9 Pro camera talk: Is this a downgrade?

Given the previous Redmi Note 8 Pro came with a 64MP camera at the back, the Redmi Note 9 Pro’s 48MP camera might seem like a letdown, if you are going by spec-to-spec comparison. But the Redmi Note 9 Pro is really succeeding the Redmi Note 8, and the Pro Max is more premium version this time with the 64MP camera.

Still I would not bother too much about the 48MP camera, because at the end of the day megapixels don’t matter, performance does. Xiaomi has increased the macro camera from 2MP in the previous generation to 5MP. The ultra-wide camera is still 8MP and there’s 2MP depth sensor to improve portrait shots.

Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions: The interesting bit about the Redmi Note 9 Pro series is the support for NaVIC. (Express photo: Shruti Dhapola)

I have not had time to really put the camera through extensive test, but the first few shots have left me a bit underwhelmed on the colour perspective. Yes, the macro camera is good and gets details you would not expect in a phone priced in this range. But the colours in this mode are just off. In the regular camera mode, you get sharp, detailed results in bright outdoors, but then that’s become a standard expectation now on Redmi phones.

The Night Mode actually looks promising given it is making the colours pop a little more, though I’m yet to test this more. The selfie camera is 16MP on the Redmi Note 9 Pro, and we will have more about its performance in our full review.

Redmi Note 9 Pro Display, Specifications and NaVIC support

As noted, the display is bigger at 6.67-inches, though it continues with the full HD+ resolution. The processor is the Snapdragon 720G, and this is the first time that a Redmi Note series phone gets a Qualcomm 700 series processor. Both the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Pro Max run the same processor. The device starts with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, and there’s a 6GB RAM and 128GB storage option as well.

The battery is now 5020 mAh, which should easily last two days for the regular user. It also comes with 18W fast charging, though the higher 33W fast charging is limited to the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max.

The interesting bit about the Redmi Note 9 Pro series is the support for NaVIC, which is India’s own navigation satellite system. The full name for NaVIC is Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) and the new Snapdragon 720G series includes support for this.

Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions Redmi Note 9 Pro first impressions: With the Redmi Note 9 Pro series, there is a price shift. (Express photo: Shruti Dhapola)

This time, the Redmi Note series is not just relying on the US-based GPS system or the Russia’s GLONASS or China’s Beidou system for navigation. The support for India’s own NaVIC should mean better position accuracy when it comes to using location services on the phone. You can go to the GPSTest app and NaVIC will show as one of the satellite options which is being used. I had to update the phone for NaVIC to reflect in the app.

Redmi Note 9 Pro: Let’s talk about the price

With the Redmi Note 9 Pro series, there is definitely a price shift. The phones now start at Rs 12,999 and Rs 15,999 for the 4GB + 64GB and 6GB +128GB versions respectively. Last year, the Redmi Note 8 started at Rs 9,999, and if this is the successor then there is a price jump. Unless Xiaomi introduces a Redmi Note 9 as well at Rs 9,999 later on and surprises us all. The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max starts at Rs 14,999 and goes up all the way to Rs 18,999.

For customers who were looking to upgrade, the Pro Max with its 64MP camera, faster charging, might make it appear a more enticing option. But keep in mind both are running the same processor, and performance should not really be a problem on either of these. For now, the Redmi Note 9 Pro looks promising, but there is a danger that the Max variant could overshadow this easily.

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