Review: The Xiaomi Mi 9T is a mid-range marvel
By Tan Jee Yee July 26, 2019
- Excellent screen, camera and performance for price range
- Daytime pics look great, but night shots could be better
THE moment I realised that I truly liked the Xiaomi Mi 9T was when I accidentally activated the selfie camera. This is one of those motorised pop-up cameras, which pokes out of the top of the smartphone with a cheerful jingle.
This wasn’t the first time I had activated the front camera (accidentally or otherwise), but what surprised me was that I had activated it while using the camera’s panorama mode. As it turns out, there’s an in-built selfie panorama feature in the Mi 9T. With it, you can take a selfie like you would a panoramic shot, if you can get everyone to stay still for several seconds.
It feels like the phone’s features suddenly opened up alongside the wider selfies I could now take. It’s an unexpected feature and, after using it for the 10th time within a day, a welcome one.
Panorama selfies aren’t new, and neither is a pop-up camera. In fact, the only new thing the Mi 9T can claim as its own is being the first smartphone to feature the Snapdragon 730 CPU. But it’s the inclusion of this feature – alongside many other nifty ones – in a price point that makes the whole package immensely attractive that makes the Mi 9T stands out.
It may be a mid-range device, but it’s certainly committed to giving you as much as it can.
Phones under the US$300 (RM1,234) price point usually play a game of compromise. How much features can you sacrifice to make room for others? The Mi 9T feels like it’s played this game optimally. Sure, at that price point, you probably shouldn’t expect the device to be water-resistant and have wireless charging. The sum of its parts, however, isn’t lacking.
The most immediately arresting aspect of the Mi 9T is its screen. This is a 6.39-inch AMOLED FHD full screen display that stretches across the entire face of the smartphone. There’s no notch here, no punch-hole camera. As mentioned, the selfie camera protrudes out of the top camera to maximise screen estate.
It helps that the screen is a gorgeous one, displaying at a crisp 2340 x 1080 resolution in 403ppi with brightness enough to provide a clear display under direct sunlight. This pairs up nicely with the phone’s rear finish, which has this rather dashing flame-like effect in the right light. It doesn’t appear quite as nicely in the carbon black model I tested with, but the Flame Red and Glacier Blue versions look stunning.
The fingerprint scanner is located under the screen, and I’m happy to report that it works accurately and surprisingly fast.
Let’s talk more about that pop-up camera. It rises with a jingle (which you can toggle in the settings) complete with LED light effects. Xiaomi says that if you drop the device, the camera retracts automatically. Having tested this by dropping the phone on a couch with fluffy pillows, I’d say that it retracts almost instantly the moment it detects freefall.
Image quality on the front camera is solid, with good details and colours. It can even take blurred background selfies despite not having a depth sensor, though sharpness seems to take a hit when you try that. The selfie panorama mode is great, however.
The Mi 9T carries a three-camera setup: a 48MP camera, an 8MP telephoto shooter and a 13MP wide-angle camera. The main camera functions wonderfully for daytime shots – lots of detail, good colours and nice contrast. It takes 12MP shots in Photo Mode, and there’s a dedicated 48MP that you can access separately on the camera.
I won’t say that the 48MP provides markedly superior images. There is an increase in detail, but not entirely worth the space it takes up (one image can eat about 30MB of storage).
The telephoto lens provides images that are just as good. Sometimes it appears a little noisier, but hardly noticeable for daytime shots. The ultra-wide-angle camera (pic, above) similarly provides some quality images. I’d say that the Mi 9T’s daytime shots can just as easily match some of its higher end competitors.
Night shots are where the Mi 9T falters a little. On the main camera, the night shots appear more decent, but you do see an overall dip in detail, (pic, above) though there isn’t so much noise. Night Mode (pic, below) improves the images by quite a bit. It takes a little while to capture an image, but it’s not too slow either.
The ultra-wide-angle camera isn’t great for night shots, though, so it’s best to stick to the main camera and Night Mode.
The Mi 9T doesn’t sport the high-end Snapdragon 855 as with the Mi 9, but the Snapdragon 730 it houses is no slouch either. Combined with 6GB of RAM, the smartphone handles pretty much everything from multi-tasking to HD videos and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite with little to no issues.
The speakers work decently as well – it’s loud enough in most instances, though it’s not spectacular. The Mi 9T does come with a 3.5mm headphone jack, though, which is a welcome inclusion that the Mi 9 lacks.
As far as user interfaces go, I’ve never quite had an issue with Xiaomi’s MIUI, so the MIUI 10 in the Mi 9T certainly works well enough without feeling complicated or cumbersome. There’s no app drawer, but you can put apps in folders for better management. As with other MIUI devices, you can download new themes from the Mi Store. There’s even a security app to help scan for viruses and free up RAM.
Battery life is hefty. The 4,000mAh battery means I usually have more than enough charge to last a day of social media, camera usage, some videos, a spot of gaming and listening to music. Thanks to Quick Charge, you can mostly get about 45% charge from empty in around 30 to 40 minutes. Unlike the Mi 9, though, you won’t get wireless charging.
At US$291.22 (RM1,199) in Malaysia, the Mi 9T feels like a steal. It’s an overall great phone with three great cameras, as well as the performance and battery life to support it. You can surely say that other high-end devices can do better, but for what it’s worth, the Mi 9T is truly a mid-range marvel.