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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Realme 9i review: Good budget phone, but is this a worthy upgrade?

The Realme 9i aims to beat the value-for-money bar set by the Realme 8i, but does it succeed? Read on to know more.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Rs. 13,999
Written by Chetan Nayak | Mumbai |
Updated: January 31, 2022 6:48:17 pm
realme, realme 9i, realme smartphone, realme phone under 15000,Here's our full review of the new Realme 9i. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

Realme’s ‘i’ series brings an interesting addition to the brand’s lower mid-range portfolio each year. From specifications to design and build quality, this series has offered excellent value-for-money propositions in the past. The latest version is the Realme 9i which aims to build on the success of its predecessor. But does it achieve these goals? Here’s our review.

Realme 9i specs: 6.6-inch FHD+ IPS LCD panel with 90Hz refresh rate | Snapdragon 680 4G chip | 4/6GB RAM and 128GB UFS storage | 50MP +2MP +2MP camera, 16MP front camera | 5000mAh battery with 33W fast charging |

Realme 9i: What’s good?

Display: The Realme 9i offers an IPS LCD panel, which is fairly good for daily use. The viewing angles aren’t bad and the colours look vibrant, but it isn’t a very bright panel so expect to strain your eyes a little when under direct sunlight.

realme, realme 9i, realme smartphone, realme phone under 15000, The Realme 9i offers a good, colourful IPS LCD panel. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

A 90Hz refresh rate is always great to see in a phone in this segment. Transitions and other animations look good. However, it isn’t the 120Hz you saw on the Realme 8i last year (more on that later).

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Design and build: The Realme 9i is a good looking device. There’s a plastic frame but the device feels solidly built overall. The Prime Blue back looks great and doesn’t pick up dust and smudges as easily. The phone will relatively look clean without a case.

The placement of the power button-fingerprint sensor is great and it can be easily reached from either hand when you hold the phone. One impressive addition here is the stereo speakers on the phone, which are loud and sound good on high volumes as well.

realme, realme 9i, realme smartphone, realme phone under 15000, The phone’s back doesn’t attract a lot of fingerprints or smudges. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

Software: Realme UI offers an almost overwhelming experience of customisation so those who like to tinker around with their home screens, themes and UI should feel right at home with Realme UI 2.0. However, the phone is still on Android 11, at a time when Android 12 has been out for months. The phone should get an Android 12 update later on, but this also means you will have one lesser Android version update in the longer run.

Camera: The main 50MP camera on the phone is great. You see good details and colour reproduction in pictures and the night mode actually turned out better than we expected. A number of software-oriented features in the camera app offer you some creativity without being overwhelming.

realme, realme 9i, realme smartphone, realme phone under 15000, The Realme 9i features a triple camera on the back, but has no ultrawided sensor. (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

Details and colours on the front camera were great too, although as expected, the performance dropped quickly in low light scenarios.

Here are some samples we clicked. Click on the image below to check them all out

Realme 9i

Battery Life: Perhaps the best aspect of the Realme 9i is the battery life on the phone. The 5,000mAh battery means the phone can easily last you two days of light-to-moderate use before running out. With the battery saving mode, you could take this phone on a long weekend without a charger.

The phone does charge quickly too with the 33W fast charger you get in the box. A full charge from 0% takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Performance

The Realme 9i is powered by the Snapdragon 680 chip. The 4G-only 600-series chip is a great 6nm chipset, with good day-to-day performance, great battery efficiency and no heating issues. However, its presence in the Realme 9i is questionable and I’ll explain more in the next segment.

Realme 9i: What is not good?

The Realme 9i doesn’t get many things wrong, but there are a couple of missed opportunities here. For one, the Realme 8i from last year featured a MediaTek Helio G96 chipset, which offered better gaming performance compared to the current Snapdragon 680. This chipset could also be a likely reason for the Realme 9i being capped at 90Hz, while the Realme 8i featured 120Hz. While the new chip isn’t necessarily a downgrade, it isn’t a worthwhile upgrade either.

You can still play casual games easily, but don’t expect a great experience with more resource-heavy titles like Genshin Impact or Battlegrounds Mobile India. I feel the phone’s gaming performance could have been better, especially if I consider the older Realme 8i, which is still available at the same Rs 13,999 price as the Realme 9i right now.

Bloatware

Another issue is the bloatware on the phone. While pre-installed apps aren’t necessarily a bad thing, a home screen page full of apps you never installed is a sight you don’t want to see on a new phone. Thankfully, you can uninstall most of these applications, but apps like Finshell Pay and many Realme system apps that you may never use, along with a ‘Hot Apps’ shortcut are here to stay.

realme, realme 9i, realme smartphone, realme phone under 15000, How many bloatware apps can you spot on the Realme 9i? (Image Source: The Indian Express/ Chetan Nayak)

Triple camera, but no ultrawide sensor

The phone has two 2MP sensors on the back instead of an ultrawide sensor, which could have made the setup more complete. Instead, what looks like a flashy triple-camera setup on the back is actually only one main 50MP sensor and two other sensors you probably won’t use enough.

Verdict: Should you buy the Realme 9i?

For those who want a solid budget phone under Rs 15,000, without 5G or gaming requirements, the Realme 9i is an option to consider. But the phone becomes harder to justify as a good update given how little it changes things from its predecessor. The Realme 8i might still offer a little more value at the same price for many users.

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