Xiaomi is entering the United States market this spring, with the Mi 9 as the flagship. Are price-conscious United States people ready for the brand’s competitive price-quality ratios? And is the hardware and software from Xiaomi itself in the starting blocks?
Read our Xiaomi Mi 9 review
Xiaomi comes from China and managed to sell more than one hundred million smartphones last year. In their home country, they are even more successful than Samsung and Apple. Since last year they also try to break through in the West. First only in Spain and the United Kingdom, but from this spring also in the United States. They do this with smartphones with a very competitive price-quality ratio. The company says it wants to keep the profit margin as low as possible, in order to get the market share as large as possible.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 review, officially for sale in the United States from this spring, is a good example of that. He has everything you would expect from a flagship. A 6.4-inch screen that fills almost the entire front, the fast Snapdragon 855 chip and a triple camera on the back. Just place this Mi 9 next to the Samsung Galaxy S10 or the Sony Xperia 1, and you will see that the specifications on paper hardly differ. But where those smartphones cost you more than 900 euros, the Xiaomi Mi 9 review has a suggested retail price of only 449 euros.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Design: bright and flashy
What immediately stands out about the Xiaomi Mi 9 review is how beautiful it is actually finished. The back is shiny, and the edges around the display are small. Moreover, Xiaomi Mi 9 review is very thin and light. The back is slightly convex, so at the edge only half as thick as a Galaxy S10. Nowhere can it be seen that this smartphone costs less than other flagships. Small downsides are that the headphone connection is missing, and the cameras on the back do protrude a lot.
The AMOLED screen also looks good and has a sharp full HD resolution. It is slightly less clear than the image of the Galaxy S10, but then you talk about the best screen of the moment. Only if there is bright sun on your smartphone, the image is difficult to read.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Optical fingerprint scanner
There is an optical fingerprint scanner in the screen. If you place your device exactly in the right place, the Xiaomi Mi 9 review will be unlocked. I’m still not a fan of such a scanner on your screen. It looks hip, but it works much less quickly than a scanner on the back. He is hard to find by touch, and my finger is not recognized immediately half the time.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Software: problematic permissions
Unfortunately, there is one big Achilles heel: the software. Just like other Chinese manufacturers who try their luck in the West, such as Huawei and Oppo, Xiaomi has an Android interface that makes a lot of adjustments to Google’s version of the software. MIUI, as the skin is called, may well meet the wishes of Chinese users, but is less suitable for United States people.
That already starts with a few style choices and beauty mistakes. Some system apps have a round icon, others a ‘squircle’ and others are square. Colors often clash, and the settings look a lot less tidy than on a device with stock Android. Also, the United States translation of MIUI does not seem completely complete: we sometimes came across an English or even Chinese explanation for functions in system apps.
The range of included apps is also a bit different. Our review model contains no less than three browsers: Chrome, Opera and a browser developed by Xiaomi itself. There are also some apps from Cheetah Mobile, such as an app that cleans up your storage space. Cheetah has been discredited in the past for violating Google’s rules for Android apps.
Perhaps the most problematic are the permissions that some Xiaomi apps require before you can use them. For example, it makes sense that the Weather app wants access to your location, but not that it wants to view your files, photos, and other media. It is completely bizarre that both the Weather app, Video app, and some other included applications ask permission to start and manage phone calls. This gives these apps access to your IMEI number, a personal number with which Xiaomi can in theory always keep track of the location and conversation history of your device.
Chances are that Xiaomi will do something with that information, but it is nevertheless unheard of that such apps require such information. If you refuse permission, the apps will not work either. You can only watch your own videos if you give them permission. We recommend that you download another video app such as VLC Media Player as soon as possible.
Experienced Android users can install their own launcher in order not to suffer from the MIUI interface. They also probably know that they should not just agree with questionable permissions. However, for users with less prior knowledge, MIUI is a serious disadvantage. Not only because of the messy interface but mainly because the software is full of questionable, possibly even shady apps. There is still a lot of work to be done before the software is really ready for Western users.
The update policy of Xiaomi Mi 9 review is reasonably in order. All Xiaomi smartphones can count on Android updates for at least two years after the release. Moreover, they appear fairly quickly. For example, Android Pie has been available for Mi 8 since the end of 2018. Only Nokia, Sony and Google itself are actually faster.
With security updates, Xiaomi is also pretty good: for more expensive devices like this, the updates appear about once a month, two to three years after the release. They seem to be just a little less fast and regular than Sony and Samsung, for example, but that is partly due to the fact that the company is still so new on the Western market.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Camera
On the back, you will find three camera lenses, just like on many other expensive smartphones that will appear this spring. The primary camera is one of 48 megapixels. That sounds like overkill, but Xiaomi uses so-called quad more bay technology to compress the image into one sharp, detailed 12-megapixel photo. This technique is also used by the Honor View 20, among others.
Then there is a wide-angle lens of 16 megapixels. You can use this to shoot an entire panorama in one go. The 12-megapixel telephoto lens has a 2x optical zoom, which allows you to zoom in without loss of quality. In addition, Xiaomi naturally also uses all kinds of smart software and artificial intelligence to make your photos more beautiful.
That works surprisingly well. The photos I made are colorful and full of detail. Also in terms of sharpness, this is easy with better smartphones. It may not be as nice as on a Google Pixel or iPhone, but the differences are not huge. This is especially true in situations with sufficient light.
In rooms without natural light, at night or even on a cloudy day, the Mi 9 camera is visibly more difficult. Photos will soon be out of focus. There is little noise on the image, but much detail has suddenly disappeared. The device has a night mode, but unless you know how to keep the camera still, you will soon get fuzzy photos. The Google Pixel 3 XL and Huawei P30 Pro really do a lot better. The Mi 9 camera is satisfactory in many situations, but for the most beautiful snapshots, you will have to save a little.
Xiaomi Mi 9 Battery
The Mi 9 has a battery capacity of 3300 mAh. That is fairly standard in this price range. Nevertheless, the battery life is just a bit better than you might expect with such a capacity. I often made a screen-on time of 7 hours or more. You can easily get a full day without intermediate charging, but two days is a bit tight.
Moreover, the Mi 9 charges quite quickly, although you have to make a small extra investment yourself. The device comes with an 18-watt charger, with which the battery is approximately 50 percent full after half an hour. The Mi 9, however, supports a maximum charging speed of no less than 27 Watts, which means that you already have 70 percent battery after thirty minutes. Even wireless charging is fast on the Mi 9: where the competition goes with a maximum of 10 or 15 Watt, Xiaomi supports 20 Watt wirelessly. You need to purchase such a faster (wireless) charger separately.
Only when you look at the competition does it stand out how strong Xiaomi is. Almost all other smartphones with a Snapdragon 855 chip or comparable new hardware are easily twice as expensive. Then you should think of the LG G8 ThinQ and Sony Xperia 1, for example. Both smartphones cost almost 1000 euros but are nicely surpassed by Xiaomi. Not only in terms of hardware, but also in design, camera, and battery, the Mi 9 is better for each other than its competitors.
Then there is the Samsung Galaxy S10, the most popular Android smartphone that will appear this spring. In terms of raw power, the two are comparable, absolutely not in terms of price. With a suggested retail price of 899 euros, the Galaxy S10 is even twice as expensive as the Mi 9. On the other hand, the Samsung smartphone has a higher resolution, better screen, and better cameras.
The wildcard among the alternatives is OnePlus 7. This smartphone is still unannounced, but will probably appear later this spring. OnePlus also equips its devices with the latest hardware (read: a Snapdragon 855) and requires a relatively low suggested retail price. However, devices from the manufacturer have become slightly more expensive in recent years: it would not surprise us if the OnePlus 7 will soon cost more than 600 euros. Perhaps the company puts some nice features in return, but in terms of price, nobody can beat Xiaomi Mi 9 review.
Conclusion Xiaomi Mi 9 review
Price-conscious Dutchmen can do a joy dance with the arrival of Xiaomi. The Mi 9 is one of the most complete smartphones of the moment, and will only cost you 449 euros. For that amount, you get three good cameras, nice design, and very smooth hardware. In terms of hardware, Xiaomi Mi 9 review is already outperforming competitors such as LG, Sony and HTC, and for a better price too.
Pain is still the software for now. You can get used to the bright colors of MIUI, and a lot less to crazy permissions. It is unacceptable that a manufacturer will still seek such far-reaching permissions in 2019. You can work well around the included apps, but that is actually not a real solution. Fortunately, this problem is also fairly easy to solve with smart updates in the future. The hardware is already solid, especially for this price; now the software.