Xiaomi's $450 Mi 9 Looks Like the Best Affordable Flagship Yet

Xiaomi has officially announced its Mi 9 smartphone, its well equipped flagship device that will likely be a good deal for those who can get their hands on it.

Credit: Xiaomi

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

We already knew some details after Xiaomi senior vice president Wang Xiang took to social media to show off the handset, but this official Chinese launch (via Engadget) gives us more about the internals.

The Mi 9 uses the Snapdragon 855 chip and either 6 or 8GB of RAM. It comes with a 6.39-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, as used on its Mi Mix 3, and has a fingerprint reader hidden within it.

The distinctive three camera array on the phone’s curved holographic back is made up of a 48MP main sensor, with a 12MP telephoto lens and a 16MP ultra-wide angle lens joining it, plus a 20MP selfie camera. This is then aided by AI processing, which will ensure your photos look good by doing things such as fixing foreground images on ultra-wide shots that would normally be distorted. Based on images they showed off at the presentation, this phone seems like your best bet for taking images of the moon, if that’s something you’re a fan of photographing.

The battery is a 3,300 mAh model, and can apparently be charged fully in only an hour because of Xiaomi’s 20W charging technology. If you’re prepared to wait another 30 minutes, then you can do so wirelessly, with a $15 pad, or a $25 car cradle that comes with motorized arms that grab the handset once you place it in the holder.

If you want ultimate power, then there’s a limited ‘Explorer’ edition, which comes with a transparent back, although it doesn’t show you the internal components. Rather, this model has a specially designed heat sink panel which bears the Qualcomm logo, plus references to the movie “Alita: Battle Angel”, which is an unlikely partner for this phone.

More importantly, the Explorer comes with 12GB of RAM, and tweaks the 48MP camera to give a seventh lens, and ups the aperture speed.

This all makes the Mi 9 Explorer the most powerful Android phone around too. That is if you go by the results of the Master Lu benchmark, which showed the 12GB RAM goliath beating all other competition.

Credit: Xiaomi

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Alternatively, you could go for the Mi 9 SE. This is the bare-bones version, with a Snapdragon 712 processor and 6GB RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB storage. But it’s still full of features. It has the same number of cameras, keeping the 48MP rear and 20MP front sensors, but swapping out the telephoto lens for an 8MP portrait lens, and the 16MP ultra-wide angle camera for a 13MP wide angle one. It also retains the in-display fingerprint reader, although it’s a 5.97-inch screen on this version.

If you fancy buying the Mi 9, the basic 6GB version costs 2,999 yuan (converting to $446 or £342), while the 8GB version is 3,299 ($491, £376) yuan and the Explorer 3,999 yuan ($595, £457). Meanwhile the Mi 9 SE is 1,999 yuan ($297, £228) for the 64GB storage version, 2299 yuan ($342, £262) for the 128GB model.

The 6GB version ships from Feb 24 in China, with nothing confirmed for either European or a (very unlikely) US release, but we’ll find out more about that at the upcoming global launch, and of course at MWC 2019. Here’s hoping we’ll be able to get our hands on the Mi 9 and tell you if all these impressive specs stack up in the near future.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.