Review

Redmi Note 9S: 5.020 mAh battery & 48 MP camera from $206.44

In the top 10 best-selling smartphones worldwide, you can actually find Xiaomi, or more precisely Redmi, in addition to “iPhone” and “Samsung”. The Redmi Note 7 and 8 led Xiaomi’s most popular smartphone series in 2019, the Redmi Note 9S is now one of the successors in 2020, but Xiaomi also releases the Redmi Note 9 and Redmi Note 9 Pro. Is the Note 9S the golden middle?

Technical data of the Redmi Note 9 series

Redmi Note 9S
Display 6,67″ IPS LC display with 2400 x 1080p, Gorilla Glas 5
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G Octa-Core @2,3 GHz
Graphics chip Qualcomm Adreno 618
RAM 4/6
Internal memory 64/128 GB, expandable by 512 GB via microSD
Main camera 48 MP with ƒ/1.79 aperture + 8 MP wide angle + 2 MP depth sensor + 5 MP makro camera
Front kamera 16 MP
Battery 5.020 mAh mit Quick Charge 3.0 18W, 22,5W charger included
Connectivity LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8,20, WLAN AC, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Bluetooth 5, Dual SIM
Features Fingerprint sensor | USB Typ-C | Face Unlock | Headphone jack | IR-Blaster
Operating System MIUI 11, Android 10
Measurements / Weight 165.75 x 76.68 x 8.8 mm / 209 g

Redmi Note 9S, Redmi Note 9 or Redmi Note 9 Pro?

Actually, the Redmi Note 9S is the Redmi Note 9 Pro presented in India, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max from India appears with us as Redmi Note 9 Pro. However, the suffix S is somewhat confusing here. But with a look at Xiaomi’s Indian smartphone portfolio, this confusion is at least somewhat cleared up. There, the Redmi Note 7 known in this country is also called Redmi Note 7S. The Indian Redmi Note 7 has not been released in this form for the European or Chinese market. In addition there is the “normal” Redmi Note 9 for Europe, which is the cheapest model.

Redmi Note 9 Redmi Note 9S Redmi Note 9 Pro
Display 6,52″ IPS LC display with 2340 x 1080p 6,67″ IPS LC display with 2400 x 1080p, gorilla glass 5 6,67″ IPS LC display with 2400 x 1080p, gorilla glass 5
Processor MediaTek Helio G85 Octa-Core @2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G Octa-Core @2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G Octa-Core @2.3 GHz
Graphics chip ARM Mali-G52 MC2 GPU Qualcomm Adreno 618 Qualcomm Adreno 618
Working memory 3/4 GB 4/6 GB 6 GB
Internal memory 64/128 GB 64/128 GB, expandable by microSD by 512 64/128 GB, expandable by microSD by 512 GB
Main camera 48 MP with ƒ/1.79 aperture + 8 MP wide angle + 2 MP depth sensor + 2 MP macro camera 48 MP with ƒ/1.79 aperture + 8 MP wide angle + 2 MP depth sensor + 5 MP macro camera 64 MP + 8 MP wide angle + 2 MP depth sensor + 5 MP macro camera
Front camera 13 MP 16 MP 16 MP
Battery 5,020 mAh with 18W quick charge 5,020 mAh with Quick Charge 3.0 18W, 22.5W charger included 5,020 mAh with Quick Charge 3.0 30W, 33W charger included
Connectivity LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8,20,WLAN AC, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Bluetooth, Dual SIM LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8,20,WLAN AC, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Bluetooth 5, Dual SIM LTE Band 1,3,5,7,8,20,WLAN AC, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Bluetooth 5, Dual SIM, NFC
Features Fingerprint Sensor | USB Type-C | Face Unlock | Headphone Jack | IR-Blaster Fingerprint Sensor | USB Type-C | Face Unlock | Headphone Jack | IR-Blaster Fingerprint Sensor | USB Type-C | Face Unlock | Headphone Jack | IR-Blaster
Operating system MIUI 11, Android 10 MIUI 11, Android 10 MIUI 11, Android 10
Dimensions / Weight 165.75 x 76.68 x 8.8 mm / 209 g 165.75 x 76.68 x 8.8 mm / 209 g

A mix of Samsung and Huawei

Just like the Redmi Note 9 Pro, the Redmi Note 9S has a 6.67 inch display, making it about the same size as the Xiaomi Mi 10. Like Samsung, Redmi uses a punch-hole design here, in which the front camera is centrally located at the upper edge of the screen. Xiaomi calls this “Tiny Dot Display“, but it’s not really tiny. The recess is a bit larger than on the Mi 10.

The edges around the display are averagely large for the price range, only the lower screen border is slightly thicker than the rest. Considering the Redmi Note 8 as a predecessor, we can be glad that Xiaomi has said goodbye to the “Redmi branding” on the screen border again. The front is of course completely black, in all three Colorways: Aurora Blue, Glacier White and Interstellar Grey.

On the back side, one orientates oneself a little on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. There, the quad camera jumps into the eye that is arranged centrally at the top. In the camera module there is also the LED flash. But one has to distinguish here. The square camera module protrudes a little from the backside, but the flash and the reference to the 48 MP camera are practically only printed on it. At the very bottom there is the Redmi writing.

Our test device is the Aurora Blue Colorway, which is shinier in nature than one would initially expect from the product pictures. There it looks like a more matte design to my impression. Xiaomi also dispenses with a “twilight” effect here, although the color changes slightly depending on the incidence of light. With this look I feel more like manufacturers like Ulefone or DOOGEE.

Handling & Processing

Due to its size alone, one immediately notices that the Redmi Note 9 is more similar to the Redmi Note 8 Pro than to the Redmi Note 8T, whereby it is even a little larger. Also new is the fingerprint sensor, which now moves to the right side, as we know it for example from the Honor 9X Pro. In my opinion, it’s a little too high on the side, which also causes the volume rocker to move further up. All three keys should still be reachable with smaller hands, but for the “volume +” key you have to stretch your finger a little.

Despite the large battery capacity, the phone is still pleasantly thin with 8.8 mm and also lies well in the hand overall. This is due to the sides, which are rounded to the side, and the case frame, which is curved outwards. Thus, the Redmi Note 9 feels much more high-end than one might expect from a glance at the price.

Nevertheless, there are fussy points of criticism, especially because we know that Xiaomi has always placed great emphasis on quality workmanship. Both the fingerprint sensor and the USB-C port on the underside are a bit sharp-edged, but of course you can’t cut yourself. Xiaomi would have done well to slightly round off the sides of the Powerbutton aka fingerprint sensor.

LC displays are still good

The once so luxurious AMOLED display technology is increasingly finding its way into the middle class, but not yet into the current Redmi Note devices – and that’s a good thing. So Redmi understandably relies here on an IPS LCD panel, which offers a Full HD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. This results in a pixel density of 394 ppi. The panel was even certified by TÜV Rheinland. The panel is protected by Gorilla Glas 5, but this also applies to the back.

For this price class, Xiaomi implements an absolutely average display here, which is not meant negatively at all. The standard of display quality is now quite high. A nice sharpness, rich colors, good viewing angles from all directions and an absolutely sufficient maximum brightness. In contrast to typical Chinese manufacturers, the brightness distribution here is exemplary, in the office or at home, 25% brightness of the maximum setting is enough for me. However, this changes abruptly when you come to daylight. You either have to manually increase the brightness to 75% or let the automatic brightness adjust.

Redmi Note 9S Smartphone in Hand Display

There is also nothing to criticise in terms of functionality. We couldn’t identify any pixel errors and the LCD panel is also responsive. Xiaomi has also almost got a grip on the shadows that we could partly see at the edges of the display in the previous models. Nevertheless, there are still dark spots on the underside, but in my opinion, to speak of backlight bleeding here would be going too far.

Display settings in MIUI

Xiaomi’s great strength was and remains the strong combination of software and hardware. With an AMOLED panel you have even more technical possibilities in the MIUI operating system, but also with the Redmi Note 9 you can adjust a lot. Beside the brightness, a dark mode can be activated, the text size can be adjusted, a reading mode can be activated and also the color scheme can be adjusted individually via color palette. However, most should get along with one of the three presets.

Furthermore, there is the possibility to adjust the notch & status bar and thus deactivate the punch-hole design. It’s nice to have this option, even if it looks a bit strange.

Somewhat hidden, under “lock screen”, the tap-to-wake function can also be activated, whereby you have to touch the display twice to get it out of standby. Alternatively, this can also be achieved by lifting the phone.

Not as strong as hoped for despite Snapdragon 720G

The special feature of the Redmi Note 9S is in the device, the “S” could well stand for speed. The brand-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G Octa-Core processor works in the new middle class smartphone. In fact, the Pro version also uses the same CPU, so there is no difference in terms of performance. The eight-core processor consists of a dual-core cluster with a 2.3 GHz clock frequency and a 1.8 GHz six-core cluster. This means that the AI performance in particular is significantly better. In addition, there is a choice of 4/64 GB or 6 GB RAM and 128 GB memory, which can be expanded with a microSD card (max. 512 GB).

Either it’s because of the many flagships I’ve tested lately or I don’t like the Redmi Note 9S in terms of speed as much as I’d hoped. Our test device is the 4/64 GB version, 4 GB RAM is currently the minimum amount of RAM. You’ll notice this when you have many apps open at the same time, in which case the opening of an app can be delayed by half a second.

The Snapdragon 720G is more oriented towards the 710 and not so much towards the 730 in terms of performance. In a direct comparison, it even has a disadvantage against the MediaTek Helio G90T from the Redmi Note 8 Pro, especially since the MediaTek processor has a somewhat higher clock rate and can manage higher clocked RAM.

The fact that Redmi Note 9S is by no means a slow smartphone shouldn’t be misunderstood, though. On paper, however, the Redmi Note 8 Pro and the Mi Note 10 Lite, for example, give a slightly better performance. Really noticeable differences are probably only noticeable in direct comparison. You can also edit pictures with the Redmi Note 9S, you can gamble and with WhatsApp & Co. you shouldn’t even notice anything. However, we would recommend the 6/128 GB version, if your budget allows it.

Benchmark results

This assessment is also more or less confirmed by our benchmark results. In contrast to the Redmi Note 8, a clear difference in performance is noticeable, but not necessarily in comparison to the Redmi Note 8 Pro. The current generation, for example, clearly lags behind in the PCMark benchmark, whereas AnTuTu turns out somewhat better with the Snapdragon 720G.

Powerful 48 megapixel camera

The fact that it is a quad camera on the rear side seems innovative for the first time. After all, Xiaomi has a 48 megapixel main sensor with ƒ/1.79 aperture (the Samsung ISOCELL GM-2) as well as an 8 megapixel ultra-wide angle camera with 119° wide angle, a 5 megapixel macro camera with 2 cm close-up limit and a 2 MP portrait sensor for additional image information. The front camera offers a resolution of 16 megapixels. The main sensor is the successor of the 48 MP Samsung GM-1, which was in the predecessor and already in the Redmi Note 7.

Even if the difference to the predecessor is marginal on paper, the camera is perhaps the biggest surprise on the Redmi Note 9S for me. Because of the colors and the dynamic range I am quite taken with most of the photos. Also the skin tones usually come across well with people, the white balance is successful and the autofocus hasn’t let me down yet.

Only in terms of sharpness does the 48 megapixel sensor reach its limits somewhat, whereby the focus range is sufficiently large. The bokeh looks quite natural, in fact more natural than with the large 108 MP sensor of a Xiaomi Mi 10. Even in backlight, the camera can hardly get the lens flares under control, which is something you should keep in mind when taking pictures.

Ultra wide angle

The 8 megapixel resolution of the ultra wide angle camera is an absolute standard in its price range, so you have to live with mediocre quality. Under ideal conditions, however, the results are quite impressive. Strong colors make the photo lively and for a second you even forget that it is the ultra wide angle camera, until you look at the edges of the picture where you can see the noise.

In worse conditions the sensor has problems with the dynamic range, for example the sky burns out completely.

Macro shots

In contrast to the previous generation, there is a better sensor for macro photography, which achieves more useful results with 5 MP than the old 2 MP sensor. The Samsung S5KE9 sensor allows you to get relatively close to the subject and can score with sufficient sharpness and relatively accurate colors.

Front camera

Also the Selfie-Cam on the front side was revised. Instead of 13, there are now 16 million pixels in resolution, which provides enough detail and also offers natural skin tones. Unfortunately, only the Beatuy-mode, which is activated at the beginning, is annoying, once it’s turned off, but fortunately the soft focus also remains off. For this price range this is a remarkable selfie quality, here you can definitely compete with current top smartphones, even if the pictures could be a bit more contrasty.

Battery life exemplary

Battery life has always been one, if not the strength of the Redmi Note devices. The 4.000 mAh limit was already cracked with the Redmi Note 4 – oh, the good old days – and has been consistently continued since then. With a capacity of 5.020 mAh the battery now turns out even bigger. Compared to the previous generation, there are even 500 or even 1000 mAh added. Especially in combination with the energy-efficient CPU and the good energy management of the MIUI 11 operating system, the capacity ensures a runtime of at least 2 days, in tendency even almost 3, as it also proves benchmark.

The battery can be recharged relatively quickly with a power of 18W. “Relatively” fast, because the battery is so big with over 5.000 mAh, nevertheless a complete charge needs only about 1 hour and a good 40 minutes. The charger in the scope of delivery even offers a maximum output power of 22.5W.

Redmi Note 9S with WLAN problem

Of course, there is a USB type C port and a 3.5 mm jack connector on the bottom side. In addition, there is an IR blaster on top as well as a dual SIM slot with the possibility of inserting two Nano-SIMS plus a memory card. Both SIM slots support LTE and VoLTE, but whether you can use VoLTE depends on your provider. You have to enter the code *#*#86583#*#* in the phone app. There is also a loudspeaker on the bottom side, which unfortunately is not extended to a stereo speaker by the earpiece.

It is the Global version with all necessary LTE bands. The Redmi Note 9S is also equipped with Dual Band ac-WiFi, Bluetooth 5, GPS, A-GPS and GLONASS. The Redmi Note 9S does without NFC, which is only integrated in the more expensive Redmi Note 9 Pro.

Many users have reported a WLAN bug after the sales start, but this has been fixed by the MIUI update 11.0.8.0. So if you have problems with the WLAN, make sure you have the latest MIUI version installed.

We can’t complain much about the mobile connection in the D2 network and the voice quality in the test. Consistent 4G and good download speeds and no problems with video or music streaming. The loudspeaker quality is also average, the sound isn’t as spatial due to the missing second speaker and seems a bit tinny in the high volume range. All in all, the sound is quite sufficient, but I wouldn’t watch a movie like this on Netflix.

MIUI still runs smoothly

The Redmi Note 9S is delivered directly with Android 10, which of course includes Xiaomi’s own MIUI interface in version 11. After the first updates, the current version is MIUI 11.0.7, which Xiaomi uses to try to fix the WLAN problem. The security patch is from April, all Google services are pre-installed, the operating system can be set to multiple languages and thanks to Widevine Level 1, video streaming content can also be viewed in Full HD resolution.

Redmi Note 9S MIUI 11 Update

In case you don’t know MIUI: This is Xiaomi’s own user interface, which is based on Android and has very little to do with pure Android. MIUI was actually Xiaomi’s first product and offers an overall good user experience. Although the phone comes with some bloatware when unpacked (Netflix, Facebook, WPS Office and a few games), it also relies on many of its own services like the Mi Cloud, Mi Mover, ShareMe or the Mi Community App.

The MIUI 11 operating system of the Redmi Note 9S runs smoothly as usual and has finally got a grip on teething troubles from the past. In spite of the central punch-hole, the notifications are displayed reasonably. It is now also possible to hide the notch or punch hole. However, I still lack the possibility to activate an app-drawer, which has long been the case in the Chinese version.

You can watch Netflix videos in Full HD!

Actually, Xiaomi’s update policy is very exemplary and one of the, if not the best, in the Android world. And even during the test period, there were two software updates directly, both with the attempt to fix the WLAN bug. However, the predecessor, thus the Redmi Note 8 and Redmi Note 8 Pro, hasn’t even been updated to Android 10.

Features

The fingerprint sensor on the side is one of my favorite features of the Honor 9X Pro. It’s not quite as fast as the competition on the Redmi Note 9S, but it’s fast enough and minimally faster than a good fingerprint sensor on the display. Only the MIUI start animation makes a slightly slower impression here

Alternatively, you can also use Face Unlock, although the speed here is not as pronounced as in current flagships. Moreover, Face Unlock is less secure than the fingerprint sensor or a pattern/password, but it is quite practical in everyday life. Unfortunately, only a 2D photo is taken here and no 3D scan is made.

Xiaomi has also integrated a notification LED in the Redmi Note 9S. This is located at the top of the screen and is quite inconspicuous for my taste. The LED only glows white, flashes when notifications come in and is permanently lit when the device is charging. The LED can be deactivated under Settings -> More Settings -> Notification Light.

Conclusion: Is the Redmi Note 9S the golden middle?

As stated in the launch event, the Redmi Note series is the fourth best-selling smartphone series in the world. Its predecessor, the Redmi Note 8, is the best-selling Android phone in the fourth quarter of 2019. The Redmi Note 9S takes a consequent step forward and emphasizes the most important features: performance and battery life. And if you see the Note 9S as the successor of the Redmi Note 8(T), you get a quite noticeable improvement. BUT: The Redmi Note 9S is not the direct successor, after all Xiaomi has released a Redmi Note 9 afterwards.

On the one hand, the Redmi Note 9S is very easy to recommend, for a good $200 you can get more hardware than with almost any other smartphone at the moment. A surprisingly good camera, a performance more than sufficient for everyday use, a huge battery, memory expansion and good workmanship. However, the Note 9S suffers from Xiaomi’s release strategy. Why it comes on the market without NFC remains a mystery to me.

Anyone who needs NFC for contactless payment (in times of contactless payment due to the Corona Pandemic certainly even more people than usual) should then rather go for the Redmi Note 9 Pro, which can be charged a bit faster in addition to NFC and offers a 64 MP main sensor. But you can also get the camera sensor and NFC in the now inexpensive Redmi Note 8 Pro, which is only 6 months on the market. Especially since the Helio G90T is even better suited for gaming than the Snapdragon 720G. Only the better battery life & energy efficiency speak in my opinion for the Redmi Note 9 Pro.

Which Redmi Note 9 is superfluous?

You can certainly criticize Xiaomi’s release strategy here. The fact that the almost identical Redmi Note 9 Pro is released about 3 weeks after various offers for the Redmi Note 9S is unfair to customers who have already ordered the Redmi Note 9S at that time. Why not release all three products at the same time?

When I unpacked the device, I was already relatively sure that one of the current Redmi Note 9 devices is superfluous. Currently I tend to the Redmi Note 9S, because it is too close to the Redmi Note 9 Pro, which in turn is already relatively close to the Redmi Note 8 Pro. With the cheapest Redmi Note 9 you position yourself one more level below the two devices, which makes it easier to justify the price.

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Profile picture from Thorben

Thorben

My special interests are smartphones from China and I am always keen to discover new smartphone accessories like smartwatches and headphones. 

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Comments (6)

  • Profile picture from The Ferreira
    02.04.20 um 11:06

    The Ferreira

    Will this be waterproof??

    • Profile picture from Thorben
      02.04.20 um 12:48

      Thorben CG team

      Unfortunately, no Xiaomi smartphone is certified as waterproof.

      • Profile picture from The Ferreira
        07.04.20 um 21:41

        The Ferreira

        just worried about being about to take rain when on bike mount cycling on english uk weather 🤔

        • Profile picture from Thorben
          08.04.20 um 10:50

          Thorben CG team

          @The Ferreira: I dont think so, it will probably be some kind of splashproof but not resistant to continous rain.

        • Profile picture from LeFleur
          21.04.20 um 03:50

          LeFleur

          just get a case

  • Profile picture from emilch83
    03.06.20 um 14:26

    emilch83

    I need smaller smartphone. Which smartphone up to 6"inch to buy? Samsung S10e and iPhone se2 are expensive but compact for everyday use. I must exchange my old Xiaomi redmi note 5 for something. Any suggestions?

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