With the 5G launch in India right around the corner, Realme is betting big on affordability with the Realme 9i 5G. But is that enough to lure the buyers? Find out in our review.
Realme 9i 5G’s pitch to the consumers is very simple – the most affordable 5G smartphone money could buy. It’s an important launch for the company, but its announcement comes as a surprise, because Realme CEO Madhav Sheth earlier this year denied the speculations of bringing it to India.
But it’s clear now why Realme has played the ultimate reverse card – the launch of 5G is right around the corner, with the service expected to be rolled out within two or three months from now. With this, buyers are expected to search for affordable 5G phones, and Realme would definitely like its latest smartphone to top the list.
On paper, the device looks decent with the highlights being a Mediatek Dimensity 810 processor, 90Hz FHD+ display, 5000mAh battery with 18W charging and a 50-megapixel triple rear camera setup. All this for a starting price of Rs 14,999, which makes it compete against the POCO M4 Pro 5G and Samsung Galaxy M13 5G.
The company has also played with its design to make it stand out from the crowd. So, can affordability mixed with 5G capabilities and a shiny design be enough to lure the customers to invest their money in the Realme 9i 5G? Read in our review.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Design and Build
The Realme 9i 5G does not resemble other budget phones. If you thought POCO M4 Pro 5G had a unique design, think again. The Realme 9i 5G dons a new Laser Light Design. The reflective, shiny surface on the back gives you a hark back to the rear side of begone DVDs, except it is topped up with glittery particles. To be honest, we aren’t big fans of this reflective panel, but because design is subjective, we’ll leave it up to you to decide if you dig it or not.
Nevertheless, this seems to be a good attempt from Realme to refresh the segment with a new design. The phone is available in three colours – Black, Blue and Gold. We received the Gold variant and strangely enough, it looks dull. So, we recommend you check out the Black or Blue variant instead.
On the back are the three individual camera lenses on the top left corner along with an LED flash, so there’s no dedicated camera island here. We feel that this can put the camera lens in danger if the device falls directly from the back. Also, the phone wobbles when you try to press on it while it is resting flat on a surface. On the bottom left corner of the phone, you’ll find the Realme, completing the rear design.
Speaking of ports and grilles, there is a full-sized SIM tray and volume rockers on the left side, and a power button that can double up as a fingerprint sensor on the right. At the bottom we have a USB Type-C port, speaker grille, microphone and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Realme 9i 5G sides
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Due to the slippery back, it tends to slide away even when it’s slightly tilted. For a better grip in hand, you might want to use a case. Its glossy back is made of plastic and catches smudges and fingerprints quickly but because of its shiny surface, they are almost invisible.
It has flat frames with rounded corners that make the phone easy to hold. However, due to its huge size, the phone is not comfortable for one hand usage.
With a weight of 187 grams and a thickness of 8.1mm, the phone feels sleek and lightweight. You can carry it around anywhere comfortably within your jeans pocket.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Display and Audio
The Realme 9i 5G stands tall with a 6.6-inch display with a Full HD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080. It’s an IPS LCD panel, so colours aren’t all that vibrant but it is fine for casual usage. Text appears sharp on the screen and the colour tone is on the cooler side. You can change the colour tone from display settings, we found it good for our daily usage.
Moving on, it’s a 90Hz panel that makes the scrolling experience smooth. The 180Hz touch sampling rate makes the panel quick to respond while playing games or in general usage. Our touch experience was smooth with no jitter being observed. Further, you can set the refresh rate to 60Hz, 90Hz, or adaptive settings which will change based on the app usage.
The Realme 9i 5G has thick bezels around the display and the chin is thicker. The V-shaped water drop notch that houses a front camera looks a little dated. We would have preferred the punch hole camera cutout which is more trendy and occupies less space.
The handset’s display is capped at 400 nits of peak brightness which is less than that of the Poco M4 Pro 5G’s 450 nits. The screen was bright enough to view content on a cloudy day in Delhi but struggles when put under bright sunlight.
The Realme 9i 5G comes with a single bottom firing speaker that is just okayish to watch movies or web series. It is loud and becomes slightly crisp when the Ultra volume mode is turned on. Without the Ultra mode, it sounds a bit hazy. But if you are going to listen to songs, we recommend you plug in your earphones for a better experience.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Battery and Charging
The Realme 9i 5G packs a beefy 5,000mAh battery unit that could last a day or sometimes a day and a half depending on how hard we used it. So, the battery backup is pretty decent. We were getting a screen-on time of about six and a half hours with brightness set to 70% and refresh rate to 90Hz.
Our general usage included one and a half hours of media viewing, an hour of playing YouTube videos, half an hour of watching Instagram Reels, web scrolling, another half hour of gaming sessions and some other miscellaneous tasks.
The Realme 9i 5G comes with 18W charging support and we do get a charging adapter inside the box. It takes a long two hours and thirty minutes to charge it entirely from 1% to 100%. We could notice some heat on the rear panel after a few minutes of plugging it in.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Performance and Software
The Realme 9i 5G is powered by a Mediatek Dimensity 810 SoC that is paired with up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Realme’s decision to go with this processor was because of its optimisation which we could observe while using the device.
The Dimensity 810 has been around for a quite long time now and can be spotted in several smartphones. Moreover, developers have made their app optimised for this processor. While using the device, we felt that the device has been properly optimised to provide stable performance. The RAM management was also pretty impressive with apps opening at the same state after a couple of hours.
Further, it features 5GB of Virtual RAM that reserves some part of the internal storage to use as RAM.
The handset performs fine for general usage. We didn’t notice any major stutter while using it for web scrolling, video watching or playing songs. However, we could see social media apps like Instagram and Twitter struggling.
To test if the device could handle multitasking, we played a YouTube video and opened Instagram, Google Chrome, and Amazon as floating windows. The device started to choke while running these apps simultaneously.
We ran benchmark tests on the Realme 9i 5G, on which it scored 3,98,539 in AnTuTu v9. This is a good score for a budget phone in this range. On Geekbench, it achieved a single-core score of 602 and a multi-core score of 1793.
The Realme 9i 5G boots Android 12 based Realme UI 3.0 out of the box which is identical to the ColorOS 12 for obvious reasons. The UI is filled with a lot of pre-installed bloatware including apps like Byju’s, HeyFun, Moj, Josh, Sharechat among others. Thankfully, these can be uninstalled within a couple of seconds. However, the features of the UI compensate for bloatware.
One of our favourites was the ‘Smart Sidebar’ which allows you to summon a few selected shortcuts with a simple swipe gesture. Moreover, it shows you some new options based on the app.
For example, on YouTube, it shows an option called ‘Background Stream’ which allows you to play sound in the background. This is a YouTube Premium feature but it’s really cool that we get to see this with the Smart Sidebar.
Other features in the UI are flexible windows, tons of customisations options in the home screen and wallpaper settings and split screen.
In terms of biometrics, we get to use fingerprint and face recognition as the two options to unlock the phone. They were quick to register inputs and unlocked the phone reliably.
Our gaming experience was mediocre on the Realme 9i 5G. Call of Duty: Mobile was capped at maximum Medium graphics at High frame rate. Although the game ran smoothly without stuttering, many phones in this price segment have ‘Very High’ graphics unlocked.
Because BGMI isn’t available on the Google Play Store anymore, we played PUBG: New State instead. The game could be set at maximum Ultra graphics at Max frame rate but the gameplay was choppy in these settings. The phone started to heat after an intense match of PUBG: New State.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Camera
Realme, following the trend of 2022, has put a 50-megapixel triple camera setup on the back. The 50-megapixel primary sensor is accompanied by two 2-megapixel macro and depth sensors. If you ask us, we would have liked an 8-megapixel ultrawide camera instead of the macro and depth sensors just like it is in the POCO M4 Pro 5G. At the front, it features an 8-megapixel selfie shooter.
The camera app is pretty basic with modes such as street, portrait, night, photo, a 50MP mode, panorama, slow-mo, ultra-macro, pro, and text scanner. We captured many shots on the Realme 9i 5G and here’s what we think about its camera.
- Selfies captured by the 8-megapixel sensor were good. The beauty mode was turned on by default, so we had to turn it off to get a more realistic view. The skin tone was accurate in most of the samples with a good amount of detail. However, portrait mode messes with the details and makes the image soft. Further, it makes the skin colour tone a bit fairer. The edge detection also failed to detect the main subject in many pictures and included the background as well. However, selfies in low light were unusable.
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Poor subject detection in portrait mode
Without Night Mode
With Night Mode
- The 2-megapixel depth sensor has one simple job to do in which it messes up a lot. The sensor doesn’t measure subjects properly and either blurs the subject’s edges or leaves the surroundings blurred. Check out the blur around the head of the subject in the image below.
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Without Portait Mode
- The 2-megapixel macro sensor struggles to focus on a subject at a close distance. It produces blurred photos with unnatural colour tones.
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- Low-light pictures were okayish with fewer details and it tends to overexpose the frame. Night mode comes to the rescue here and preserves the colours by reducing the exposure and noise. However, the details were still less in the Night mode.
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With Night Mode
Without Night Mode
Without Night Mode
With Night Mode
- The 50-megapixel primary camera clicks crisp pictures with a good amount of details in it. In daylight conditions, it captured good pictures with fairly natural colour. However, in some situations, it increases the contrast due to which the pictures look unnatural.
- Videos can be shot at max 1080p @30fps on the Realme 9i 5G on both rear and front. Although the videos were not stable, they were fine enough to use. The mic captures crisp sound with good clarity.
Realme 9i 5G Review: Verdict
Realme is playing on the 9i 5G with its design and the 5G affordability. Because the design is a subjective topic, we leave it up to you to decide. The 5G affordability is perhaps the biggest highlight of the phone, as it is the most affordable 5G smartphone the company makes at the moment. It includes the n78 band which is expected to be the most popular one among network operators.
The Realme 9i 5G competes against the POCO M4 Pro 5G, out of which the latter takes the lead thanks to a faster charging speed, more RAM, an ultrawide sensor, and a higher touch sampling rate. The Realme 9i 5G, on the other hand has a nice and smooth display, decent battery life, and a good selfie camera. The Samsung Galaxy M13 5G also falls in the same category.
However, we cannot ignore the slow charging speeds, average rear camera setup, bloated UI, and the outdated design camera notch on the front display. We also hope Realme fixes the issue with the Portrait mode in the next OTA update.
Realme 9i 5G
DESIGN & BUILD
DAY TO DAY USE
VALUE FOR MONEY
What Is Good?
- Unique design
- Decent performance
- Smooth display
- Feature rich UI
- Good selfie camera
What Is Bad?
- Slow charging
- Rear camera could have been better