Wireless charging has finally stopped being inconvenient
Xiaomi is out with its latest flagship smartphone, the Mi 9. This is the line of smartphones that started everything for the company, so it does have a sweet spot in Xiaomi's heart. The Mi 9 sports a number of things that you would expect from the company, like top-notch specs, ground-breaking wireless charging speeds and a triple camera setup. But, is this the flagship that you should be buying from Xiaomi? Or should you wait for something like the Mi MIX 4 later this year? Let's find out in our good review.
Disclaimer: Android Headlines now reviews all major phones from the "good" and "bad" perspectives separately. This gives our readers the ability to see the good and the bad of the device, before making their decision to purchase said device. If you are specifically interested in any problems or issues you should know before buying – check out our full bad review.
Wireless charging has been pretty, inconvenient for many years. That's because it's super slow, and wireless chargers are not cheap to get. Xiaomi is changing that, beginning with the Mi 9. It has 20W wireless charging, which is four times faster than normal wireless charging, and two times faster than Samsung's "fast wireless charging. It is almost the same speed as plugging in your Quick Charge 3.0 charger that is included in the box and charging up the phone.
Being able to just set your phone down on the charging pad and watch the percentage go up within minutes is definitely satisfying. It makes it much easier to top off your phone before you head out for the evening. The only downside is that Xiaomi is the only one that has wireless chargers capable of charging at 20W. Which means the options are pretty limited for wireless charging, and your existing chargers won't work (well, they will "work" just not at 20W speed).
However, you won't need to top off the battery, because the phone does last all day long and then some. It does have a somewhat small battery pack inside, but that doesn't mean battery life is bad. We've been able to make it through a full day numerous times, and still have between 20 and 30-percent at the end of the day. This was after getting around four to five hours of screen on time. Not quite to the levels of the Galaxy S10+, but depending on how you use the phone, it's going to get you through the day.
It won't let you down
Using the Mi 9 day-to-day, you'll notice zero issues when it comes to performance. Xiaomi is using the latest and greatest silicon from Qualcomm, with plenty of RAM to boot. Whether you are browsing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or doing some pretty heavy gameplay, the Mi 9 will perform like a champ. Part of this is due to the software optimization that Xiaomi has done with MIUI 10. Making the software very fluid and fast is a big part of making a phone feel fast, and stay snappy.
We did play Asphalt 9: Legends and it performed very well. The graphics looked pretty impressive on the Mi 9, and having a nearly bezel-less display means that the game looked even more immersive than on some other phones. After playing hours of Asphalt 9: Legends, the Mi 9 did not get overly hot either. It did get a bit warm, but it wasn't uncomfortable to hold, nor did it feel like we had to close the game and stop playing to let it cool down.
The notch on this display isn't bad, some may say that it distracts from the rest of the display, but it's one of the smaller notches out there. And after a couple of days, you likely won't even notice it anymore. Since it is the same height as the status bar, it's not as bad as many might think.
Colors on this display are plenty vibrant. This is because it is an AMOLED panel. There won't be any complaints here when it comes to how this display looks. Even out in direct sunlight, you are able to see the display. It's still tough to see, like most smartphones, but it could be far worse. It's almost at the same levels as Samsung's recent smartphones – as far as brightness goes.
MIUI looks incredible on this vibrant display
MIUI isn't everyone's cup of tea, however it is one of the best Android skins on the market. It's one of the best for a few reasons. Including customization, how lightweight and fast it is, and how many useful features are included.
When it comes to customization, there are no shortage of options available. From using dark mode, to using different icon packs (with the stock launcher) and everything in between. No matter what you want to do with your phone, MIUI is able to do it. Having a system-wide dark mode is one of the most popular features on MIUI 10, and that is because of how good it truly looks. MIUI also includes a number of very useful features. This includes the dedicated button for the assistant (in China, it's Xiaomi's own assistant, the rest of the world gets Google Assistant). It's not a button that is very easy to press like the Bixby button on the Galaxy S10 or the Google Assistant button on the LG G8 ThinQ, which is a good thing. As you won't press it by mistake.
MIUI looks like a bloated and overweight skin, but the reality is, it's very lightweight and it is fast. On this hardware, you'd expect this phone to be a bit slower with MIUI running, but it's the opposite. Everything is very snappy. And while that could be due to the newer hardware, we've used other phones with the same internal specs, that are slower and not as snappy. Meaning that MIUI is optimized for this chipset.
Gestures is a feature that many smartphone makers have struggled to really perfect. Google is a main culprit, with the gestures on the Pixel 3 being so terrible and useless. But Xiaomi (and to an extent, Huawei) have done a great job with Gestures. Making them useful, and easy to use. Two very important features when talking about system-wide gestures. The gestures are pretty natural, swipe up to go home, swipe up and pause to go into your recently opened apps. Finally swipe in from the left or right, anywhere on the screen to go back. That gesture in particular is the most useful. It means you won't need to reach down to the bottom of the phone to hit the back button.
The recents screen is another place where MIUI is better than most other Android skins. Google decided in Android Pie to change that screen for the worse. Giving you a full-screen preview of the apps you have opened, and only allowing you to see one at a time. MIUI has a vertically scrolling list of your open apps. With a few shortcuts – including the Split Screen mode – at the top of the screen.
A Camera For Every Shot
The camera is perhaps the most important feature on any smartphone, especially in 2019. Xiaomi has a triple-camera setup on the Mi 9, and it is very similar to how other triple-camera smartphones work. With a wide-angle lens, a regular and a telephoto lens. This allows the user to get a shot at any focal length, at least in theory. It does actually work out that way. With the wide-angle lens you can get a ton of content into a shot, you won't even need to take a step back to take the photo.
The telephoto lens is also pretty useful. When you want to zoom in, you can switch to the telephoto lens and get a better picture. We all know how bad digital zoom is on smartphones, so adding a telephoto lens is definitely a better way of ditching digital zoom.
Xiaomi's camera app is jampacked with features, but it's not as feature-rich as some others on the market. That is actually a good thing. For smartphone makers, they need to hit a happy medium. There are some modes and features that everyone wants to have in their camera. But when you go to far, it makes the camera app very cluttered and hard to actually use. Xiaomi has all of the important modes included like Portrait, Slow Motion, and Night mode.
The video portion of this camera is decent. It does support 4K60, as well as 4K30, allowing you to get some super smooth video out of the Mi 9. It does quite well. Though some of the colors may not be as bright as they would look in real life, that should be something that can be fixed in a software update though.
As always, you can check out our samples taken with the Xiaomi Mi 9 at Flickr using the link below.
The Phone For Everyone
These days, a lot of companies are doing a line of smartphones that are targeting everyone and then a line that's for the more niche markets. The Mi 9 is one of those "phones for everyone". It's not bleeding edge like the company's Mi MIX lineup, but it also has a much smaller price tag. The Mi 9 brings a lot to the table for under $500 USD (converted). This includes three cameras on the backside, a robust ecosystem, and top-notch performance.