Realme 9i 5G Review
The race in the budget 5G market is getting super hot. And with Realme launching its 9i 5G, it gets even more packed. The phone looks like a decent buy and well-specced but hows the performance in day to day life.
The phone packs the same display and battery as the non-5G variant. So what makes it different from the vanilla version? The Realme 9i 5G stands out from the crowd due to its unique look and design.
However, is the cosmetic change enough to win over the market? Is it as good as the 9i or fails to stand against the tough competition? We’ll see that in this Realme 9i 5G review.
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Realme 9i 5G Price in India and Variants
The Realme 9i 5G comes available in two variants in India. The base variant costs Rs. 14,999 for 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, whereas the other variant costs Rs.16,999 for 6GB RAM and 128GB storage.
The phone is available in three colour options: Rocking Black, Soulful Blue and Metallica Gold. You can buy the phone inline directly from Realme’s official website or Flipkart.
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Realme 9i 5G Box Contents
The Realme 9i 5G packs the following items indie the box:
- USB Type-C Cable
- 18W Fast Charger
- TPU Case
- Sim Card Tool
- Screen Protect Film
Realme 9i 5G Specs at a glance
Before we talk in detail about the device, let’s see what the on-paper specs look like:
- Display: 6.6 inches IPS LCD
- Chipset: MediaTek Dimensity 810
- RAM & ROM: 4GB RAM 64GB Storage, 6GB RAM 128GB Storage
- Software: Android v12
- Rear camera: 50MP + 2MP + 2MP
- Selfie camera: 8 MP
- Battery: 5000 mAh
- Weight: 187 grams
- Dimensions: 164.4 x 75.1 x 8.1 mm
Realme 9i 5G Design and Build
The Realme 9i 5G will catch our eyes from far away. Just by taking a glance at the phone, you can tell how unique and premium it looks. The Realme 9i 5G features a fresh Laser Light Design on the back.
The back’s reflective, shiny surface reminds you of the back of old CDs, but it’s covered in glitter instead. The phone is available in three different colour options – Soulful Blue, Rocking Black and Metallica Gold. I have the Gold variant for the review, which is my favourite now.
The back is made of plastic and attracts a lot of smudges and fingerprints when on my gold colour variant, which sometimes takes away the shine from the overall look.
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Another notable aspect is the absence of a camera unit. The three rear lenses are simply placed on the back panel. The Realme 9i 5G weigh about 187 grams making it quite lightweight and is only 8.1 mm thick. You get to see curved corners with flat edges which does not dig into the hands while using the phone for a longer duration.
You will find the power button on the right side which doubles as a fingerprint scanner. While the left side houses the volume buttons along with a SIM card tray. The bottom side holds a 3.5mm audio jack, type-C port, speakers and microphone.
All things considered, the Realme 9i 5G seems like a solid upgrade in the design department. The phone is lightweight, easy to carry and use with one hand.
Realme 9i 5G Camera
The Realme 9i 5G features a triple camera setup on the back. This includes a 50MP primary camera, a 2MP portrait lens and a 2MP macro sensor. The front side has an 8MP camera for taking selfies.
The camera app is fairly simple, with modes like 50MP mode, portrait, night, street, photo, pro, panorama, ultra-macro, slow-mo, and text scanner.
The primary camera captures a lot of detail in its daytime shots. The lens focuses quickly on the subject and results in good images. It captured good images with pretty natural colour in daylight conditions. However, in some cases, it increases the contrast, making the images appear unnatural.
Overall, it did an excellent job of delivering vibrant and punchy colours. The HDR mode enhances the images even more without oversharpening them.
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Nevertheless, the primary camera struggles in low light or at night, and occasionally it also loses details. Night mode comes in handy here, preserving the colours by minimising exposure and noise to some extent. However, the shots captured with the Night mode still lacked details.
The new SOC has significantly increased processing speed, but sadly there is not much change in the resulting images.
The 2MP portrait lens was not so bad either. It did a good job in edge detection and creating a background blur effect. The 2MP macro lens is the weakest of all. The sensor takes poor macro photos that lack details. You can only take some usable shots in broad daylight with super steady hands.
The 8-megapixel sensor took good selfies. Although it seems like a downgrade from the 16MP camera seen on Realme 9i, the selfies were acceptable. The skin tones were close to accurate in selfies and the portrait selfie was also decent with good edge detection.
The phone can record 1080p video at 30fps from both front and back cameras. The video quality was pretty decent for casual use but I won’t recommend it for content creators. The mic captures good and crisp audio.
Realme 9i 5G Battery and Charging
The Realme 9i 5G packs a big 5000mAh battery with 18W fast charging support. The battery backup will easily survive a whole day of use and can even leave some juice for the next day if you are a light user.
I got about 6 hours of screen on time with my casual use which is good. This included some Instagram scrolling, making calls, playing some games and watching videos on YouTube.
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Now talking about the 18W fast charging – it’s not so fast, rather slow charging. It takes about two hours and thirty minutes to fully charge the phone from 0 to 100 per cent.
The 4G variant came with 33W fast charging, so it would have been nice to see the same here. But for some reason, Realme has cut corners in the charging department as well.
Realme 9i 5G Display
The Realme 9i 5G packs an FHD+ 6.6-inch IPS LCD display. The LCD panel comes with a 90Hz refresh rate and 400 nits of peak brightness. The screen gets bright enough to use indoors but struggles outdoors under direct sunlight.
Though the colours aren’t particularly vibrant due to the IPS LCD panel, they are still suitable for everyday use. The text on the browser is sharp, and the colour tone of the display is on the cool side. You also get the option to change the colour tone inside the display settings; I thought the default setting was good enough for my daily use.
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Moving on, the 90Hz panel ensures a smooth scrolling experience. The 180Hz touch sampling rate allows the panel to respond quickly while playing your favourite battle royal games. My display experience was smooth and free of jitter.
You can also manually set the refresh rate to 60Hz or 90Hz, or even the adaptive settings that changes the refresh rate based on app usage. The phone also supports Widevine L1, so you can stream FHD+ content on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.
The Realme 9i 5G is surrounded by thick bezels with a slightly thicker chin at the bottom. The front camera is housed in a water drop notch which looks outdated. I would have liked it if the brand had gone for a more trendy punch-hole cutout.
Realme 9i 5G Performance
The Realme 9i 5G features a Mediatek Dimensity 810 chipset which is paired with up to 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. It is a decent mid-range chipset that offers good performance for casual use and even multitasking. You can also expand the RAM by 5GB by using the internal storage.
The RAM management was also quite impressive, with apps opening right where I left them even after hours. The phone performs well for casual use. I ram multiple apps simultaneously and didn’t notice any jitter or lags. The app opening time was also quick.
Now moving forward to resource-hungry tasks like gaming, I tried a couple of heavy games like COD Mobile, Apex Legends Mobile, and Asphalt 9. All the games ran well in low to medium settings except Apex Legends Mobile.
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COD Mobile could go up to Medium graphic settings and High frame rates. The game was smooth to play, with small jitters here and there. On the other hand, Apex Legends was not so smooth even after lowering the graphic settings. Whereas Asphalt 9 ran well with good graphics but the performance was still nothing great.
After an hour of gaming, I could feel the phone getting hot on the backside and frame drops were more noticeable, which was expected.
Overall, Realme 9i 5G is a decent performer and suitable for light gaming. However, it might not be the perfect fit if you are an intensive gamer.
Realme 9i 5G Software and UI
Talking about the software, the Realme 9i 5G runs on Realme UI 3.0 skin which is based on Android 12. The Realme UI is loaded with features and customisation options. The interface, on the other hand, is very user-friendly.
The Smart Slider is one of my favourite features on the phone. This gives you some shortcuts just by swiping on the edge of the display. Other UI features include a split screen option, flexible windows, and a number of customisation options in the wallpaper and home screen settings.
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You also see basic features, such as switching to dark-coloured themes. Then there are the common features, such as multi-window, which is a useful feature to have on the big 6.5-inch display.
Now let’s talk about the flexible windows feature, which is also known as floating windows. This lets you pin one app on the screen while you are using the other app.
There are a bunch of third-party apps pre-installed on the phone like Josh, HeyFun, Moj, Byju’s, Sharechat and some more. The good thing is that you can uninstall these from the settings.
Realme promises two years of major Android updates along with three years of security updates for the Realme 9i 5G.
Realme 9i 5G Audio, Connectivity, Biometrics
The Realme 9i 5G has a single bottom-firing speaker that is sufficient for watching movies or listening to music. You can enable the Ultra volume mode in the settings to get more crispy and loud audio. I would suggest using the 3.5mm headphone jack for a better audio experience.
The phone comes with 5G connectivity as the name suggests with support for 8 5G bands. These include n1, n5, n8, n28A, n41, n77, and n78. Other connectivity options are WiFi, Bluetooth v5.1 and GPS.
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Talking about biometrics, the phone comes with a side-mounted fingerprint scanner which is both reliable and snappy. You can also use the face unlock feature, which works equally well.
Let me get this straight, the Realme 9i 5G does not bring a lot of improvements or upgrades over the non-5G version. Realme is just putting its bet on the design factor, which is not the preference of everyone.
The performance is decent paired with the 90Hz display. The battery backup is good which adds to the overall user experience. However, Realme has cut many corners just to make an affordable 5G phone.
I cannot overlook the slow charging speeds, the lack of AMOLED display and underwhelming camera performance. Honestly, I wouldn’t say that the Realme 9i 5G is the best deal under 15K. There are many more options that you can consider in this price range like the POCO M4 Pro 5G.