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Xiaomi Mi 9 Hands-on: Superb Specs at a Brilliant Price

BARCELONA —The Xiaomi Mi 9 wasn’t exclusively revealed at MWC 2019, given the CEO of Xiaomi outed the phone on his social channels some weeks before. But the big phone show marks the first time we’ve been able to get up close with the device.

It’s also the first we’re hearing of the Mi 9’s price, and it turns out you get a whole load of phone for 449 Euros (around $500 / £390, and 499 Euros if you want the top spec).

That’s because Xiaomi hasn’t scrimped on the specs. There’s a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 powering the thing, up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage.

Saving the best till last, there’s a 48MP camera on the rear. It’s a lightweight 173g and thin, at 7.61mm.

Design and Features: Great Curves, Brilliant Camera

The Mi 9 has a really premium feel to it. Its curved body sits well in the hand and the iridescent violet handset we tried out looked superb when it caught the light.

The AMOLED screen is stunning, offering a lovely amount of brightness and the waterdrop notch is small and subtle. The screen is a near edge to edge which makes it feel bigger than its 6.39 inches.

Flip the phone over and there’s a serious amount of camera tech on show here. There’s the aforementioned 48-MP main sensor, which comes with a 27mm lens. Also on board is a 12MP shooter with 2X optical zoom and an ultra-wide 16-MP sensor. The front-facing camera is decent too, clocking in at 20-MP, with an f/2.0 lens.

To make sure you know which one is the 48-MP sensor, there is a silver ring around the lens — it’s a nice design touch.

This is the same sensor that can be found in the Honor View 20 which was superb in our tests.

Xiaomi has decided not to go down the AI route with its shots, though. That should mean that images won’t be too over-processed but you may have to work harder for that perfect shot. There’s a decent Pro mode in the photo section, too, where you can manually control things like aperture and white balance.

Performance: Speedy With Some Software Issues

This phone is speedy. That Snapdragon 855 certainly made the phone feel zippy as I was wading through various apps and home screens. There was some lag on Google Assistant, but I’m putting this down to software that’s still in its testing phase.

I wasn’t that enamored with Xiaomi’s UI that it has slapped on top of Android 9.0 but it’s no less irritating than, say, the Huawei EMUI one.

Given I only had a short amount of time with the Xiaomi Mi 9 I couldn’t test its speed or the camera all that much, but the tests that have been reported on the phone are decent, and unprecedented for a phone at this price point.

In a Master Lu benchmark, the Chinese equivalent of Geekbench, it broke records (although I’m sure that the Galaxy S10 Plus will surpass this) and the camera is currently ranked above the Pixel 3 and iPhone XS Max, according to DXOMark.

Price and Availability

All of this makes the news that this phone will probably never hit the U.S. all the more painful. If you are in Europe, though, you can pre-order now for 449 Euro (6GB/64GB) or 499 Euro (8GB/128GB).

Outlook

The Xiaomi Mi 9 is aggressively priced and packed with innovation. We are starting to see more 48-MP lenses on the back of phones. Having one at this price point is impressive, however.

The Mi 9 is the type of phone that should have the premium crowd looking over their shoulder. But the company’s lack of U.S. presence means that this may be one to admire from afar.

Credit: Tom's Guide