Xiaomi Mi 9 hands-on review

XIAOMI’S AGGRESSIVE entry into the European market hasn’t gone unnoticed, with a slew of handsets ranging from the flagship slayer to the mediocre entry-level.

The Xiaomi Mi 9 definitely falls squarely in the former camp, offering some spectacular specs in a tasty package – the aluminium frame supporting a Gorilla Glass 5 body that’s shiny and pleasing, though – as ever – likely to be a magnet for fingerprints.

Boasting a 48MP rear camera, there’s no question that the Mi 9 is gunning for the Huawei and Google crown for ‘best smartphone camera’. Whether it does or not is difficult to tell from a stand at MWC, but flanked by two other lenses – a 16MP ultrawide and 12MP telephoto – this is a beast for the snap-happy.

All this comes at a cost though, as the lenses stick out a good 3-4mm from the back, which could get pretty old, pretty fast.

The other specs aren’t exactly lacklustre, either; the Mi 9 packs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, offering an octo-core processor and Adreno 640 GPU, which is backed up with a reassuringly large 8GB of RAM (a 6GB version is also available in some markets).

There’s up to 128GB of storage too, but this isn’t expandable. Though there’s a dual-SIM option it can’t be used SD slot, which might prove an irritation for those wedded to on-device media storage, and the lack of a headphone jack can be a bit jarring.

The phone itself is thin and light and feels great in the hand. Unfortunately part of the reason for that is the battery is a relatively paltry 3,300mAh, far lower than other flagships around right now, though Qualcomm QuickCharge 4 will at least mean that you can top it up easily.

There’s also wireless charging at a stunning 20W – the fastest we’ve seen to date (the Huawei Mate 20 Pro tops-out at 15W) though we weren’t able to test its performance during this hands-on.

The 6.39in screen has a teardrop notch, leaving an almost full-screen Super AMOLED display – the bezels are almost non-existent, with over 85 per cent screen to body ratio, and there’s Gorilla Glass 6 to ensure it stays beautiful.

The interface is slick and responsive, with Xiaomi’s MIUI10 overlay on top of Android 9.0 Pie, which nips and tucks the stock experience without overwhelming it.

All told, there’s a lot to recommend the Mi 9 as a fully-fledged flagship offering, and with Xiaomi’s promise of pricing that is only ever 3 per cent above cost, the price has been cut to the bone.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Mi 9 is that, unlike most of the handsets we tried at MWC, this has a definite release date – it’ll be available in China from next month, with the rest of the world shortly afterwards – less than a year after its direct predecessor. 

Unfortunately, there are no specific details for the UK as yet, although there is a holding page on Xiaomi’s UK website, so we know it will get here, sooner rather than later. The European price is €449, which (Brexit depending) will make it somewhere between 385 and 400 of your English quids. μ

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