Review

Redmi Note 9T: Who is Xiaomi’s cheapest 5G smartphone for?

Shortly before the presentation, Xiaomi announced that over 20 million devices of the Redmi Note series have already been shipped. Therefore, Xiaomi (Germany) has now unveiled another offshoot. The brand-new Redmi Note 9T is the cheapest 5G smartphone on the market and promises 100% performance. But with eight Redmi smartphones in the meantime, do we not slowly lose focus? And who is the Redmi Note 9T aimed at?

Redmi Note 9T smartphone

  • Redmi Note 9T (4/64 GB)
    • at AliExpress
    • (Early Bird price on Amazon & Mi.com | 25. & 26. January)
  • Redmi Note 9T (4/128 GB)

Specs: Redmi Note 9T 5G

Redmi Note 9T 5G
Display6,53 Zoll FullHD+ (2340 x 1080 Pixel) Hz LC display
ProcessorMediaTek Dimensity 800U @ 2,4 GHz
Graphic chipARM Mali G57
RAM4 GB LPDDR4X
Internal memory64 GB UFS 2.1/128 GB UFS 2.2
Main Camera48 megapixel + 2 MP depth sensor + 2 MP macro
Front Camera13 megapixel with ƒ/2.25
Battery 5,000 mAh with 18W charging
ConnectivityAC WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0,USB Type-C, GPS/GLONASS/BDS, Dual-SIM, NFC, 5G, microSD slot
Featuresside fingerprint sensor, 3.5 mm jack, stereo speaker
Operating SystemMIUI 12 based on Android 10
Dimensions/ Weight161.96 x 77.25 x 9.05 mm / 199 g

Mix of Note series and T series

Unlike the Redmi 9T, the Note variant has a punch-hole design, which means the front-facing camera is located in the upper left corner. Thus, the affiliation to the “normal” Redmi Note 9 is recognizable. It also remains true to the Note series in terms of diagonal. Like the Redmi 9T, the Note is equipped with a 6.53″ display diagonal and is thus slightly smaller than the Redmi Note 9S & Pro. The fingerprint sensor on the side is another similarity to the other Redmi Note devices of this generation. The screen bezels turn out to be average in size for the price range and attest to the current mid-range device’s status.

Redmi Note 9T Punch-Hole Display

The back has surprisingly little to do with the rest of the Redmi Note series. Although the triple camera is also in the center, the round camera bump makes the back more reminiscent of the Mi 10T Lite. The ring around the camera is a nice accent, but unlike the Mi 10T Lite, it is even with the rest of the back. Apart from that, the back is quite plain, and the Redmi logo is also much more discreet than on the Redmi 9T. Quite important is also the note. on 5G, which is located at the very bottom. At least it offers protection against splashing water, but still no official IP rating. When buying, you have the choice between the Redmi Note 9T in Nightfall Black or Daybreak Purple.

Redmi Note 9T back

By the way, the fingerprint sensor on the side works very well and Xiaomi feels that it has improved the speed a bit. Unlocking is actually always instantaneous and very reliable.

Redmi Note 9T fingerprint sensor

Workmanship & Handling

However, the material is more exciting than the color. Although we are dealing with a plastic unibody, the back is made in such a way that it is virtually not susceptible to fingerprints. Thus, the aesthetics can be maintained even without a case, and it also provides a slightly more pleasant grip than glass. Despite a thickness of 9.05 mm, the camera module protrudes slightly from the casing, but much less than in other Xiaomi models. In addition, the device benefits from the central positioning here, which means it does not wobble particularly on the table.

Redmi Note 9T build quality

Sure, plastic is not the highest quality material, but we still consider it better than its reputation. After all, it does not break as quickly as glass. The casing including the bezel looks like it was cast in one piece and is comfortable to hold thanks to the slightly curved bezel. However, there is the potential risk of quick scratches that can accumulate without a case. However, Xiaomi provides a transparent silicone case for those who want it.

Redmi Note 9T back full

Unlike the Mi 10T Lite, you do not get a glass sandwich and the theoretically inferior build. However, it is still very solid and can score points thanks to the low fingerprint susceptibility.

A display like any other

The increased refresh rate has not yet reached the popular Note series; the Redmi Note 9T works with 60 Hz like all other Redmi smartphones. However, you get a FullHD+ resolution of 2340 x 1080p in return. That results in a pixel density of 395 ppi for the 6.53″ diagonal – standard. The fifth generation of Corning’s Gorilla Glass protects the display, which has an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. This is, of course, an IPS display But TÜV Rheinland also certifies a screen with low blue light content here, which is generally better for the eyes.

Redmi Note 9T smartphone in hand

The spec sheet certifies a brightness of 450 nits for the display panel. The panel meets the expectations and is even slightly ahead of the Redmi Note 9 Pro especially in sharp viewing angles. In general, the display panels of both devices offer the same quality, but the Redmi Note 9T tends to be a bit cooler. You can still manage well even at 50% brightness, and there is not much to criticize about the functionality, either. Although an LCD offers fewer technical options, MIUI still serves a few setting options: Dark Mode, Reading Mode, Sunlight Mode, and adjusting the color scheme & color temperature via color palette.

Redmi Note 9T smartphone display

If you are looking for a smartphone with an AMOLED screen, you should take a look at Xiaomi’s portfolio, for example the Mi 10 Lite 5G. You will also get features like an in-display fingerprint sensor or an always-on mode, which you will not find here.

Xiaomi with dimensity processor for the first time

A look at the Redmi Note 9T’s innards reveals a surprise. While the cheaper Redmi 9T gets a Qualcomm processor, a MediaTek chip is now on the board of the Redmi Note 9T. However, it is the MediaTek Dimensity 800U processor with a clock rate of up to 2.4 GHz that works together with the Mali G57 graphics unit. We already know the CPU from the Realme 7 5G, where we liked it very much in the test. You can choose between 64 GB UFS 2.1 storage and 128 GB UFS 2.2 storage, which is expandable. In both cases, you get 4 GB of LPDDR4X working memory.

Thanks to the powerful CPU, you get an above-average performance in this price segment. If the Note 9T settles at $200, the device will secure a place on the podium. In a direct speed comparison with the Redmi Note 9 Pro (with the Snapdragon 720G), the Note 9T is usually ahead, even if only just. The CPU is also actually well suited for playing games, but you will notice the disadvantages of a MediaTek chip in specific cases. In the example of Call of Duty: Mobile, you have fewer settings options for the graphics than with the Snapdragon 765G from the Mi 10 Lite 5G, for example. We already noticed that with the Realme 7 5G. Casual gamers should still get their money’s worth with the Note 9T, though.

Especially in comparison with the China version of this phone, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G, but also with the Redmi Note 9 Pro, the 4 GB RAM in particular is surprising. At least 6 GB of working memory would do the device good since you feel lags in some multitasking situations. That is not serious, but it would be more future-proof, especially for a 5G smartphone.

Benchmark results

The benchmark results confirm our impression and show that MediaTek has really developed a powerful chip here. Compared to the Snapdragon 720G in the Note 9S & Note 9 Pro, the Note 9T achieves almost 50,000 points more. However, this difference is much smaller in the Geekbench benchmark. The Note 9T also wins the comparison with the Snapdragon 732G from the POXO 3 NFC. In combination with the practical experience, we would already claim that the Dimensity 800U is currently probably the strongest CPU that you can get in this price range!

Redmi Note 9T benchmarks

Battery life

The Redmi Note series has always been known for a strong runtime, and they already established the 4,000 mAh battery with the Note 4 back then. In the meantime, the Redmi devices are equipped with 5,000 mAh or more capacity, and the new T addition is no exception. The Redmi Note 9T also achieves a value of around 17 hours in 4G use in the benchmark, which translates into a usage of a good two days. If you use 5G, the runtime will of course be much shorter.

Redmi Note 9T battery benchmark

When the battery is empty, it can be fully recharged with 18W, and a 22.5W charger is even included. This takes approximately one hour and 45 minutes, which is absolutely acceptable. However, the similarly priced Redmi Note 9 Pro, for example, has a charging power of 30W. Wireless charging is not possible in either case.

Redmi Note 9T charging

“Only” with triple camera

We are somewhat surprised by the camera setup. It is a triple camera consisting of a 48 MP main sensor with ƒ/1.79 aperture, a 2 MP macro camera and a 2 MP depth sensor. The 48 MP camera is probably Samsung’s GM1 sensor, which is known from the Note 8. The Note 9S, for example, has the revised second generation of this sensor on board. Unlike the cheaper Redmi 9T, the Note 9T does not have an ultra-wide-angle camera, which is probably much more popular than the macro or portrait camera. Instead, the front-facing camera has been upgraded and features a higher-resolution 13-megapixel sensor with a ƒ/2.25 aperture.

Redmi Note 9T camera

Main camera

The setup alone should make you realize that the camera is not the focus of the Redmi Note 9T. At this point, you can theoretically repeat what we have always said about the sensor: it needs (above-average) light! Then you can take solid pictures with the Note 9T, in nice, natural light the colors are okay, but a bit too flat for my eye in places. The photos often look as if they are covered by a gray veil, but that is also partly a matter of preference. The camera has problems especially in backlight. The dynamic range quickly leaves much to be desired and manual focusing does not help much.

Redmi Note 9T test photo main camera dynamic range Redmi Note 9T main camera test photo colors Redmi Note 9T main camera colors 2 Redmi Note 9T main camera dynamic

I am also still not a fan of the skin tones that Xiaomi’s camera software spits out here. Especially when taking pictures indoors, it is really borderline what the Note 9T produces here. In general, I also have the feeling that Xiaomi smartphones achieve relatively inconsistent results. Sometimes the shots are solid even indoors, sometimes they are just bad.

Redmi Note 9T main camera colors poorly

The camera can shine when objects are brought close. Then the camera conjures up a nice bokeh and the focused object is beautifully sharp and rich in detail. You can determine how much detail you want by clicking on the 48 MP mode. Because in normal mode, the camera uses 4-in-1 pixel binning, so you get 12 megapixel results as four pixels are combined into one. However, I don’t see a significant advantage in image quality, which is why the memory loss caused by the larger image files is not worth it.

Redmi Note 9T main camera test photo sharpness

If the light is almost completely absent, you can use the night mode of the Redmi Note 9T. In my test situation, however, the mode was not quite as helpful as expected due to the high shutter speed. Because I actually like the photos in the normal photo mode better, even though they are a bit darker, they offer a bit more details. Especially since the longer shutter speed causes slight blur.

Redmi Note 9T test photo night mode comparison

Portrait camera

As mentioned, Xiaomi does without the ultra-wide-angle camera here, which has been present in every Redmi Note smartphone since the Redmi Note 8. This puts the focus a bit more on the 2 MP portrait sensor, which also serves its purpose here. As in every Xiaomi smartphone review, we can also attest to the Redmi Note 9T’s excellent portrait mode, which is unparalleled especially in the price segment. The edge detection is again strong, the bokeh very natural and I generally like the skin tones a bit better.

Redmi Note 9T test photo portrait mode

Macro camera

Is a macro camera really so important and good that it belongs in every smartphone by now? In the case of the 2 MP macro camera in the Redmi Note 9T, I would answer “no” because you can hardly take usable macro pictures due to the low resolution and the high closest focusing distance. It is a nice gimmick, but nothing more. The Poco F2 Pro with the 5 MP telephoto macro camera would be an example of a “good” macro camera, but it is otherwise only used in the Mi 11.

Redmi Note 9T macro mode Redmi Note 9T macro camera test photo

Front camera

First, I wanted to point out the front-facing camera as a small highlight of the Redmi Note 9T. Selfies in natural light look really good, the sharpness in particular is impressive, but the colors are also pleasant. However, after taking a few more pictures indoors, the front-facing camera disappoints especially in terms of colors. Selfies look very pale, but the sharpness is convincing. That is just surprising since a Redmi Note 9 Pro with the same software (MIUI 12.0.1) achieves completely different results and clearly warmer skin tones. I doubt that the difference is only due to the different sensors. You should at least get a similar picture with software optimization.

Redmi Note 9T front camera colors Redmi Note 9T vs Note 9 Pro front camera comparison

Focus on 5G

However, the focus is clearly on 5G in the Redmi Note 9T. Even as the cheapest 5G smartphone in the product portfolio, it supports the bands n1, n3, n5, n7, n8, n20, n28, n38, n41, n77, n78 and n79. In return, Redmi also installs a dual-SIM slot here that supports 5G on both slots and additionally leaves room for a microSD card. However, you can of course use mobile Internet without a 5G contract. The important LTE bands are also integrated. We could not determine any problems in the O2 network in this regard, and the voice quality during calls was always satisfactory as well. Unfortunately, we could not currently test 5G due to a lack of a contract and availability.

Redmi Note 9T 5G

Otherwise, it is equipped with Bluetooth 5.1 and a/b/g WiFi. It is a pity that ac Wi-Fi, which has become standard in the meantime, is not integrated. Since even the cheaper Redmi Note 9 has it, it could also be an error on the spec sheet. At least in practice, we could not determine any problems with the local network.

There is a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, a 3.5 mm jack and a stereo speaker like in the POCO X3 NFC. It is nice that the dual speaker is also becoming more and more established in cheaper smartphones! It can really be heard and cannot be distinguished from the one in the POCO in the practical test. Thus, music and even watching videos sound more spacious and richer.

Redmi Note 9T SIM slot
5G is supported on both slots & a memory expansion is also still possible!

Unlike the Redmi 9T, the Note 9T even has NFC! Thus, you can use the Redmi Note 9T to make contactless payments in stores via Google Pay. There is also an IR blaster on the top, which you can use to control your TV with the Mi Remote, for example. It is nice that Xiaomi still sticks to this.

MIUI in the standard version

Like almost every Xiaomi smartphone, the Redmi Note 9T runs with the in-house MIUI operating system, in this case the twelfth iteration. This is based on Android 10. MIUI 12.0.1 is just before the 12.5 update, which was announced big with the Mi 11. Of course, the OS is completely available in diferent languages on the inexpensive 5G phone, it is equipped with all relevant Google services, and the security patch is from November 2020. Xiaomi usually has a good update policy, which is why we also expect long-term software support for the Redmi Note 9T. After all, 5G is also a future-proof standard.

Redmi Note 9T MIUI

MIUI appeals to many users due to its extensive functionality, even if it gets confusing from time to time. Some of Xiaomi’s own services, such as Mi Cloud, replace other cloud services, and Mi Share or Mi Mover offer additional useful features. Meanwhile, the app drawer is also available as a setting option, but you still have the option to use another launcher thanks to Android.

Redmi Note 9T MIUI bloatware

However, where there is light, there is also shadow. Because in order to finance such a cheap smartphone, you also depend on advertising, which is more present on cheap Xiaomi devices than on expensive ones. For example, the travel app Agoda has now displaced the booking app from Xiaomi’s standard bloatware package. In addition, Netflix, Facebook, LinkedIn and more are pre-installed. While you might have installed them anyway, the five preloaded games in particular leave a bad taste. Fortunately, these can all be uninstalled easily.

Conclusion: Who is the Redmi Note 9T for?

The Redmi Note series is Xiaomi’s most popular series – and quite rightly so. Hardly any smartphone series embodies a good price-performance ratio as much as the Redmi Notes. However, with four Redmi Note smartphones in the 9th generation by now, it is easy to lose track, and in fact, we have a hard time reasonably classifying the Redmi Note 9T. The Redmi Note 9T raises more questions than it provides answers.

Because on the one hand, it is theoretically the strongest device in the Redmi Note lineup thanks to the processor and would therefore be above the Note 9 Pro. At the same time, however, it offers the “inferior” build quality, slower charging, inferior camera, and less RAM than the Note 9 Pro. Thus, it might be positioned between the Note 9S and Note 9 Pro, but it also has a worse camera than the Note 9S and less RAM depending on the version. In return, the Note 9T is 5G-capable, which is THE highlight of the phone. Besides the stereo speaker, the 9T’s unique selling points are already gone.

However, Xiaomi has to be credited for offering the cheapest 5G smartphone on the market. That is the headline and thanks to the lure offer…. er, early-bird price, you can even get the Note 9T for 199€ ($242.24). However, I wonder how big the market is for the phone. After all, people who already value 5G technology are probably more interested in technology in general and also value an AMOLED, faster charging or a better camera, for example. Especially since a 5G-capable contract also has its price and you will probably automatically get a better smartphone for hardly any extra charge in such rates.

The Redmi Note 9T is a nice smartphone and it is amazing at what price Xiaomi offers 5G. However, those who can do without 5G will clearly get a better overall package for the same money with the POCO X3 NFC, and those who really need 5G should rather look for a good price for the Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite 5G in my opinion and accept the slight surcharge of a maximum of $50.

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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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