Review: Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro gives a flagship spin to a mid-range champion
By Tan Jee Yee October 18, 2019
- The same excellent design and cameras, now more powerful
- No wireless charging, and no 27W charger bundled
THE Xiaomi Mi 9T smartphone is a great device. In my review, I called it a “mid-range marvel”, and till now it remains an easy recommendation to people asking for a cheaper alternative that doesn’t seem like it’s sacrificing a lot in terms of specs and design.
Now there’s a Mi 9T Pro, an upgraded version that is here to answer one specific question: what if the Mi 9T were a flagship device? What if it comes with a high-end processor and flexes its flagship performance muscles alongside its already premium-looking design? What if the Mi 9T can be better?
So yes, as it turns out, slapping on a more powerful processor on the Mi 9T can, indeed, turn it into a better phone. But it’s still not a flagship device, even if it has every right to be. It’s just that, while the Mi 9T Pro is an upgrade to an already great phone, it doesn’t bring enough to the table to make it a transformative experience. Just an improved one.
And that’s more than enough, if you ask me.
The same, excellent device
What’s changed from the Mi 9T to its Pro edition is all internal. Instead of a Snapdragon 730, the Mi 9T Pro carries a Snapdragon 855 – the high-end processor that powers the Xiaomi Mi 9. That is perhaps the only significant change you need to know about.
But what this means is that the Mi 9T Pro retains all the excellent things about the Mi 9T, namely its gorgeous 6.39-inch Super AMOLED screen that takes up the entire front of the phone with nary a notch nor punch-hole in sight. That’s because the selfie camera tucks itself into the top of the device, and pokes out when summoned like a groundhog on Groundhog Day.
It has a crisp 2,340 x 1,080 resolution in 403ppi, provides clear, sharp images and is bright enough to work under direct sunlight. Underneath it is the fingerprint scanner, and like the Mi 9T, it works like a charm, able to register fingerprints quickly and with good accuracy, even with damp fingers.
Back to the pop-up camera, it juts out when activated and comes out quickly enough. On default settings, it pops up with a cheerful jingle and accompanying lights (you can turn it off, if it annoys you).
There’s a security feature that retracts the camera if you somehow drop the phone while it’s activated. As with the Mi 9T, I did a drop test on a couch and some pillows and am glad to say that it works.
The best thing here is that it has a 3.5mm jack. That’s one reason to consider it over the Mi 9.
Still excellent with stills
The cameras on the phone are also retained. You get a triple-camera setup at the rear, consisting of a 48MP main shooter, an 8MP telephoto lens and a 13MP wide-angle camera.
The shooters are great. They’re not as exceptional as the highly-expensive flagships from other brands, but at almost half the price, the Mi 9T Pro’s cameras do their job, and do it well. Daylight photos on the main 48MP shooter come out with lots of detail, good colours and contrast.
As with the Mi 9T, you can shoot in a dedicated 48MP mode that you can access separately. I find it rather pointless as it takes up more space, and the details didn’t wow me. Photos on the other cameras turn out similarly well – the wide-angle camera in particular didn’t have a warped effect that is more pronounced on the Mi A3.
Low-light shots are only decent at best, though the Night mode provides a slight improvement. The 20MP selfie camera is also a good front-facing shooter, and comes with the selfie panorama mode that I rather missed since I last got to try the original Mi 9T.
The good news is that the cameras work as well as the Mi 9T. The disappointing news is that you get virtually nothing extra for the higher price you pay. You do get to record 4K videos at 60fps now (which works alright), but that’s not a lot in terms of features and improvements.
Paying for power
And that, perhaps, is the one thing to come to terms with in the Mi 9T Pro. The flagship processor it comes with doesn’t mean that it gains other flagship features. It doesn’t have water resistance nor does it come with the wireless charging the Mi 9 has. It also doesn’t have an expandable storage.
The sole new feature is 27W charging, which technically lets you fill the battery gauge much faster than the original. Xiaomi, however, doesn’t bundle the Mi 9T Pro with a 27W charger, so you get the same default 18W adapter as with the Mi 9T.
It doesn’t mean that the phone takes forever to charge. In my tests, I achieved about 50% of power in slightly more than 30 minutes of charging. It helps that the Mi 9T Pro comes with the same 4,000mAh battery, which has the capacity to last well into the night despite my rather heavy usage (internet browsing, videos, games and photography).
With the Mi 9T Pro, you’re really paying for the Snapdragon 855 upgrade. There’s something else, though. Under the hood, there is now an eight-layer graphite-stack and bi-direction cooling system. What it means is that it has an improved cooling system meant to dissipate heat generated from long-term use – particularly important for its more powerful processor.
It also means that it works well as a gaming device. I used it for hour-long PUBG Mobile sessions with settings set to maximum, and there’s little to no performance hitches. It only heats up mildly, and by then I’m not sure if it’s from the processor or my hands. Regardless, the phone works smoothly.
The 6GB+64GB version of the Mi 9T Pro prices at US$381 (RM1,599), which is about RM200 more than the 128GB version of the original Mi 9T. I would say that it’s a good price for a great device. It may not add more than performance, but the Mi 9T Pro is ultimately the same excellent smartphone with a more powerful heart. It’s still kind of a marvel.