Xiaomi Mi 9T review: Pushing mid-range value to the maximum

Xiaomi's Mi 9T could be the perfect mid-range smartphone choice

The Xiaomi Mi 9T is aimed at targeting the mid-range segment of the market, as opposed to the flagship Mi 9 launched a few months ago. With competition so fierce in this highly saturated market segment, the phone has to deliver on a lot of fronts.

Design and build

With current smartphones adopting a bezel-less design, it is not surprising to see it on the Xiaomi Mi 9T. Even in its arguably less impressive Carbon Black finish, the phone still retains a solid look. There is a carbon fibre-like pattern underneath the glass back and the phone is complemented by red accents all around. The glass design alongside the metal edges makes for an extremely premium look. But the slight curve at the back of the device makes it rather slippery to hold. With this in mind, using a case would be a good call, not only to avoid unexpected falls but also so that the phone doesn’t contract fingerprints during use, which happens very easily otherwise.

The carbon fibre design on the back of the phone gives it a mean look

On the whole, the gorgeous and smooth finish of the phone is also aided by the absence of a hardware fingerprint scanner on the body of the device. Instead, the Mi 9T opts for an in-screen scanner akin to Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 9, with good scanning performance and reliability, though the it doesn’t always function when you press your finger lightly. There are tactile power and volume buttons off to the right side of the phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. Here, you will also find the pop-up style front camera, which further contributes to the clean profile of the phone. The bottom of the phone is where you find the USB-C port for recharging as well as the tinny speaker unit.

Display

Xiaomi’s Mi 9T sports a 6.39-inch Full HD+ display with a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution. The 19.5:9 aspect ratio AMOLED panel allows for deep blacks, good contrast levels and vivid colours. The added Gorilla Glass 5 protection is also much appreciated. But aside from the screen’s specifications, its design makes it more impressive. It comes with no notch or cut-out and makes the display truly edge-to-edge, which we normally don’t see on many smartphones at this price range.

The 6.39-inch display is vivid and ideal for multimedia consumption

Most notably, even the bottom chin bezel is a lot smaller than the conventional and little things like these do make a significant difference. Furthermore, the display has a 400 nit specification for good brightness in indoor conditions, but in direct sunlight you may need to find some shade. However, this does not take away from the phone in any way, as a lot of smartphone displays struggle in such situations.

Performance and battery

Deep down, I wish this smartphone had the full-fledged Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core processor like the Mi 9. However, with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730, it is not bad by any means. The big difference with flagship processors comes on paper with most of the the daily operations remaining smooth and quick.

Expect to see smooth performance with minimal hiccups

Despite the processor’s limitations, you can easily play some of the more popular resource-intensive titles such as PUBG or Minecraft, facing only minor hiccups. Where the phone struggles, much like the Mi 9, is with RAM management. Maintaining applications in memory is hard for a phone with 6GB of RAM, making for a less-than-ideal multitasking experience. And a lot of that may have to do with the software running on the phone.

Recharging via the USB-C port is quick thanks to Xiaomi’s 18W technology

But because of this aggressive software management, the phone’s battery benefits. You get a 4,000mAh cell in the phone, which is plenty for a day’s worth of usage. There should not be any problems with the phone getting through heavy browsing or usage. The other added advantage to the phone’s batter is its 18W fast-charging top up, giving you a quick boost in battery in a very short amount of time.

Software

Running on Android 9.0 Pie, Xiaomi’s MIUI is one of the most hotly debated software operating systems of the Android world. It comes without an application drawer, a whole host of bloatware and is a complete departure from the usual clean look for stock Android.

MIUI 10 can be a bit difficult to grasp

MIUI 10 on the Xiaomi Mi 9T is not a buggy experience but it is far from the most fluid and polished. With you being easily able to change launchers on Android, the aesthetics can definitely be altered. But because this does not avoid duplicate applications such as Mi Calculator, the extra bloatware can get in the way. Of course, some of the in-built applications like the mobile security app and native screen recorder could serve as helpful additions.

Primary camera

The triple-camera setup on the Xiaomi Mi 9T has all the bells and whistles. A 48MP primary lens, an 8MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and a 13MP wide-angle lens. In combination, the photos it takes have good sharpness especially of static objects in plenty of light. One thing that I like is the phone’s ability to capture colour tones to a great degree of accuracy and keep them true to life.

The Xiaomi Mi 9T has all bases covered when it comes to the camera

One thing that also stands out on the phone is its 2x optical zoom lens, and its quality is commendable even at the full 10x zoom level the phone supports. There is also an AI mode just like how we see on the Xiaomi Mi9 and while useful, I did not find myself using it often. Furthermore, the versatility of the wide-angle lens comes in extremely handy. Unlike many other mid-range wide-angle lens options, this one maintains both colours and sharpness and a lot of it may also be because of Xiaomi’s good software optimization. Check out the samples from the phone here.

As light levels drop though, the images come out softer than what I prefer. They lose out on detail and this is a big drawback when it comes to capturing images during sunset or sunrise. But once night settles in fully, you can use the phone’s night mode. Compared to its regular photos, night mode is an enhancement however even using it requires ample light around, with photos struggling with detail in the situations where there is little to no light. Another feature I tested out was the camera’s video capabilities. While there is no optical image stabilization (OIS), the camera does well to keep Full HD footage relatively smooth. However, when it comes to 4K footage, there is a noticeable drop in quality and an abrupt jerk motion to video footage. Sometimes, hints of stoppages and lag also show up when using certain modes in the camera application.

Pop-up selfie camera

Aside from the main camera, the Xiaomi Mi 9T features a pop-up 20MP sensor. This is accompanied by fun little sounds and a cool light effect when the unit pops out. But in terms of performance, it does an adequate job.

Having a pop-up selfie in a mid-range smartphone is a commendable achievement

Selfies have a good level of HDR to them, keeping the overall picture natural. However, when portrait mode is enabled, the picture loses out on a lot of detail by overexposing the background. For a phone at this price, you cannot expect much more though as both edge detection and skin tones are still portrayed well. When used at night, selfies are much softer however still are far from the worst, bettering even some smartphones from a higher-end lineup.

Conclusion

By far, the Xiaomi Mi 9T stands out in the mid-range smartphone category. It offers the versatility of a triple-camera setup, a gorgeous design and good battery backup. While on paper, its specifications may not beat high-end flagships. But in real world usage, the phone remains extremely usable with both light as well as resource heavy applications. And starting at Dh1,059, this thing is a real steal.