More than four months after the official debut of the Realme 8i, a successor has already appeared on the market, namely the Realme 9i. This is undoubtedly an improved smartphone in some respects, although you can find problems, as well as some shortcomings of the updated model that have not been fixed.
That said, the 9i is a pretty interesting smartphone, even though it has strong competition. I hope my review will help you make a better choice.
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Specifications Realme 9i
|Screen||6.6″ IPS LCD, 2412×1080 pixels (~400 ppi), 90Hz, 480 nits (typ.), 20:9 aspect ratio, Dragontrail Pro tempered glass|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 4G SM6225 (6nm) Octa Core (4x Kryo 265 Gold 2.4GHz + 4x Kryo 265 Silver @ 1.9GHz)|
|Inner memory||64/128 GB UFS 2.2, dedicated microSD slot up to 1 TB|
|System and software||Android 11 and Realme 2.0 UI|
|Front camera||16 MP, f/2.1, wide-angle, 26mm, 1/3.0″, 1.0µm|
|Main camera||50 MP, f/1.8, wide-angle, 26 mm, 1/2.76″, 0.64 μm, PDAF + 2 MP, f/2.4, macro + 2 MP, f/2.4, depth|
|Video recording||1080p at 30 fps|
|Communication and connections||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, NFC, GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS, USB Type-C 2.0, USB On- The Go|
|networks||GSM/HSPA/LTE 2G GSM 850/900/1800/1900 – SIM 1 and SIM 2 3G HSDPA 850/900/2100 4G bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41 1, 3, 5, 8, 38, 40, 41|
|Sound and audio||Stereo speakers 24-bit/192 kHz, 3.5 mm jack|
|Sensors and features||Fingerprint scanner (side), accelerometer, proximity, compass|
|Battery||Li-Po 5000 mAh, non-removable, fast charging 33 W, 100% in 70 min (advertised)|
|materials||Dragontrail Pro glass front, plastic bezel, plastic back|
|Dimensions and weight||164.4×75.7×8.4mm, 190g|
|Price||Starts form ₹13,999|
Design and appearance
At first glance, you can see that Realme has significantly improved the look of its new low-end smartphone compared to its predecessor.
The back of the Realme 9i, although made of shiny plastic (polycarbonate), looks much better than before. It doesn’t look so cheap anymore, and you might even like the vertical stripes in the form of one of the layers.
It’s a pity that I got a fairly common version of black for testing, which looks worse than blue, although this is a matter of taste.
However, the case collects fingerprints, so to keep the 9i clean, I recommend using a special silicone case. It will also protect the back panel from scratches, although I did not notice them during the testing period.
The frame is made of plastic, and the screen, which covers about 90% of the front panel, is protected by Dragontrail Pro glass. Ahead is progress compared to its predecessor, the manufacturer has reduced all frames, including the chin.
The device has become longer, wider and thicker than its predecessor: 164.4 × 75.7 × 8.4 mm versus 164.1 × 75.5 × 8.5 mm.
With a weight of 190 grams, there are no problems with use. In addition, the plastic frame is rounded and the back is slightly curved for a better grip. On the right side of the side frame is the power button, which is also a physical fingerprint scanner.
I didn’t have any problems with touch recognition. The scanner here is fast, and a slight vibration informs about the correct reading. On the left side are the volume keys and a traditional tray with three slots – two for nano-SIM cards and one for microSD.
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Below is standard: a USB Type-C port, a multimedia speaker, a microphone and headphone jack. On the other hand, at the top there is an additional microphone responsible for noise reduction.
The speaker for calls is located above the display, it is also the second multimedia. This is a big advantage as the previous generation offered mono audio.
It’s nice that Realme decided to modernize the cutout reserved for the cameras. And although it still looks worse than some of its competitors, it’s actually not bad, given its predecessor counterpart.
The Realme 9i uses a 6.6-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2412×1080 pixels.
The aspect ratio parameters are 20:9, and the pixel density per inch is 400 ppi. Despite the fact that we have almost the same panel as the Realme 8i , we can see a certain regression, as the refresh rate has decreased from 120 Hz to 90 Hz.
By default, the Realme smartphone offers a screen refresh rate of 60Hz, you should upgrade to a higher level (90Hz) or choose the automatic mode that adapts to the content. I always choose the maximum value, although I know that this negatively affects power consumption.
The selfie camera is located in the upper left corner of the screen, in a special hole, and the entire panel is protected by a factory film. The webcam is not very large, so it does not interfere with everyday use.
The maximum brightness does not raise concerns, so the screen is well readable in sunlight. The built-in sensor works correctly and correctly selects the lighting for the environmental conditions. The minimum backlight is not satisfactory. In addition, you can use the dark mode as well as eye protection.
Technically, the 9i’s display is good, the colors generated are pleasing to the eye, and readability is at a very high level. In addition, the screen is set to a neutral color by default, although you can warm it up a little or choose cooler shades.
There are no dedicated display modes, as is the case with more expensive Realme smartphones.
The Realme 9i smartphone is equipped with a set of three cameras: a main 50 MP f/1.8 (26.79 mm, 1/2.76″, pixel size 0.64 microns, PDAF) and two additional 2 MP f/1.8 apertures. 2.4.
The macro lens is OmniVision OV02B10 and the depth sensor is Galaxycore GC02M1. In this regard, Realme has not changed anything compared to the previous model, and the lens with a wide field of view is missing here. A 16-megapixel camera with a pixel size of 1.0 microns and an aperture of f/2.1 is responsible for selfies.
The main camera performs fairly well in daylight and captures most colors correctly. But it offers medium dynamic range, and zoomed-in photos show a lack of shadow detail. There were a few scenes where the lens also had color rendering issues.
The dedicated 50-megapixel mode slightly improves image detail, but doesn’t make much of a difference to the quality of the final image. The main camera also performed decently indoors and in low-light conditions, although there were problems in certain situations.
For example, in very low light conditions, images with the 9i look slightly grainy with little loss of detail. When shooting in bright conditions, the phone automatically turned on HDR and managed the exposure quite well.
Photos taken with 2x digital zoom are sharp and have good detail. Portrait photos with sharp edges, the phone allows you to select the level of background blur before shooting. Macro shots taken with the Realme 9i have decent detail, but overall low resolution.
Night mode works well and properly lights up the scene without much loss of detail or sharpness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always make photos brighter and offers the same as the main camera.
Realme’s 9i can shoot video at a maximum resolution of 1080p at up to 30 frames per second. Nevertheless, the quality of the clips is satisfactory, and electronic image stabilization does its job.
System and software
At first glance, Realme’s user interface may seem close to pure Android given the way the home screen and app drawer are laid out.
But this is a misconception, since Realme UI 2.0 based on Android 11 offers quite a lot of extra software (most of which can be removed). But the shell also offers some useful solutions, including: a side menu with shortcuts to functions, applications, and screen recording.
Another handy addition on the Realme 9i is the ability to launch apps in a floating window. There is, of course, a one-handed or simplified mode.
Once set up, the phone runs smoothly even with heavy apps running in the background, aside from a few frame drops here and there. In addition to all the duplicate apps, the Realme UI provides a lot of utility features like the app search gesture and the ability to stream audio to both wired and wireless headphones at the same time.
I do not hide the fact that I would like to see Android 12 on this model out of the box, but Realme has no plans for this yet. After launch, you need to download the over 3 GB update, which includes the January 2022 security patches and Android 11.1.
Realme often advertises its RAM expansion tool, which is why it is also available in the tested model. Support for DRE (Dynamic RAM Expansion) – a function that allows you to use part of the internal memory to expand the operating system. In the case of the 9i, this increases the RAM from 8 GB to 11 GB.
Realme 9i’s performance was even better than I expected. The phone is great for everyday social networking as well as gaming.
With Asphalt 9, the device coped without problems. Of course, don’t expect flagship-level visuals, but they’re pretty good. Please note that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor is not an upgrade of Snapdragon 678 as it uses older ARM Cortex-A73 and ARM Cortex-A53 cores (versus ARM Cortex-A76 and ARM Cortex-A56) along with Adreno 610 graphics.
Even the MediaTek Helio G96 chip in the 8i uses the newer Cortex A76 cores. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 680, however, has a significant advantage over the latter in the lithographic process it was made with – 6nm versus 12nm. It is definitely more energy efficient.
I’d like to add, the 128GB UFS 2.2 internal storage on this model is reserved for data and apps.
Sound and communication
While the Realme 8i only offers a single speaker at the bottom, the new Realme 9i has stereo speakers.
They provide a pleasant sound and volume. More importantly, both speakers sound at the same level, so we get true stereo.
The Snapdragon 680 is an SoC with an integrated 4G modem but no 5G support. Luckily, the phone offers 4G on both SIMs at the same time, and it also supports 4G aggregation so you can see LTE+ when connected.
Other connectivity options: dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 5.0, GPS + GLONASS. Added to this is NFC and USB OTG support, which allows you to connect peripherals.
Autonomy Realme 9i
The tested Realme smartphone is equipped with a 5000 mAh battery, which is the standard among the affordable segment.
Combined with the components used, including the energy-saving SoC system, the battery provides a very good battery life on a single charge – up to 2.5 days with moderate use and 1.5 days with heavy use. The maximum screen time was about 7 hours, which is also good.
The package includes a 33W charger capable of charging the battery from zero to 100% in approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.
After testing Realme 9i, I have rather mixed feelings, on the one hand, this is an improved model in comparison, on the other hand, it suffered from regression and stagnation is also noticeable.
The stereo speakers, which provide very good sound quality, are certainly an important addition. Runtime on a single charge with fast energy replenishment is another advantage of the 9i. But, the workmanship is the same as in Reralme 8i, although the design has been refreshed.
In the model, I also appreciated the work culture, which did not cause me concern. Although unnecessary applications have sometimes been a nuisance in the software, fortunately they can be removed or disabled.
But, I don’t understand at all why Realme decided to lower the screen refresh rate to 90Hz. I’m also sorry that there’s still no ultra wide-angle lens, and the main camera offers almost the same level of shooting as its predecessor.
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Is it worth buying
If you own an 8i, don’t upgrade to a 9i. On the other hand, if you are looking for something new and at the same time inexpensive, this smartphone can be a good choice.
Advantages and disadvantages
- Affordable price
- Screen with good colors
- Loud and clear stereo speakers
- Good performance without heating
- Fast and accurate fingerprint scanner
- Excellent battery life and charging speed
- 90Hz refresh rate instead of 120Hz
- Realme user interface with malware