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Realme 9 Pro Plus review close up of realme logo
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Realme 9 Pro Plus review: Compromises galore

Price ain't everything.
By
February 21, 2022

Realme 9 Pro Plus

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is a minor step forward, but not the daring leap the brand needed. A heavy slathering of bloatware and underpowered specs leave the Realme 9 Pro Plus as an average budget phone without any standout qualities to put it ahead of the competition.

What we like

Refreshed design with no gaudy branding
Impressive speakers
Decent battery life
Fast charging

What we don't like

Not the best performance for the price
Lots of bloatware
Inconsistent cameras
No IP rating
No long-term update promise

Realme 9 Pro Plus

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is a minor step forward, but not the daring leap the brand needed. A heavy slathering of bloatware and underpowered specs leave the Realme 9 Pro Plus as an average budget phone without any standout qualities to put it ahead of the competition.

It’s a constant battle of one-upmanship in the race to offer value. Xiaomi and Realme have long been trading blows in the mid-range segment, and with Xiaomi starting to show its hand already, that meant that a new lineup of Realme devices had to be on the cards. Right on cue, the Realme 9 Pro Plus is here, but can it deliver? Find out in the Android Authority Realme 9 Pro Plus review.

Realme 9 Pro Plus
£349.00 at Realme

What you need to know about the Realme 9 Pro Plus

Realme 9 Pro Plus review top down view of screen
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
  • Realme 9 Pro Plus (6GB RAM/128GB): Rs. 24,999 (~$332)
  • Realme 9 Pro Plus (8GB RAM/128GB): €379 / Rs. 26,999 (~$359)
  • Realme 9 Pro Plus (8GB RAM/256GB): £349 / €429 / Rs. 28,999 (~$385)

The Realme 9 Pro Plus sits at the very top of the Shenzhen company’s numbered line-up. In the UK, Realme is only fielding the highest spec’d version with 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage. In other European regions, there’s an additional variant with half the storage, while India gets both as well as an entry-level model with 6GB RAM.

No matter the RAM and storage, the phone is powered by the Mediatek Dimensity 920 processor. It ships with Realme UI 3.0 on Android 12 out of the box, but Realme hasn’t made any firm commitments for future updates as of the time of writing.

Check out: The best phones under £500

The successor to last year’s lackluster Realme 8 Pro, the Realme 9 Pro Plus takes on phones like the Samsung Galaxy A52s and the OnePlus Nord CE 2 in Europe, and the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge in India.

The Realme 9 Pro Plus is available in three colors — Midnight Black, Aurora Green, and Sunrise Blue. It’s available to buy from Realme’s online store and Flipkart at launch.

What’s good?

Realme 9 Pro Plus review in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Realme 9 Pro Plus sits a tier above 2021’s premium model, and the fit and finish get an equivalent update. Gone is the abrasive “Dare to Leap” branding and, instead, you get a high gloss finish on the glass back, which itself folds comfortably into a polycarbonate mid-frame. Of course, this being Realme, there has to be some take on an innovative design. For the Realme 9 Pro Plus, it means a glitter pattern under the glass.

Avid media consumers will also appreciate the presence of stereo speakers on the phone. The speakers get plenty loud with vocals that cut through the mix while listening to music. There is a noticeable skew towards the bottom-firing speaker but that’s par for the course. There’s also a headphone jack and support for all popular codecs including aptX HD and aptX adaptive audio. You might have to wait a bit to binge your favorite TV shows on Netflix though, as the app remained incompatible with our unit over the course of the review period — we’ve reached out to Realme to see if this is an isolated issue.

Realme's garish slogans are gone. Instead, you get a sprinkling of pixie dust on the Realme 9 Pro Plus' back panel.

Battery life was also pretty satisfactory and a full day of active use is well within reach. The 4,500mAh cell remains unchanged from last year’s model and powered through six hours with mixed-use. Gaming will, of course, put a bigger dent in battery life. Charging speeds aren’t the fastest in class, but Realme’s proprietary 60W charging is no slouch either. The phone took roughly 47 minutes for a full charge.

What’s not so good?

Realme 9 Pro Plus review showing about page outdoors under sunlight
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Realme 9 Pro Plus’ display sounds impressive on paper — a 6.4-inch AMOLED display up front with Gorilla Glass 5 for protection — but there are some compromises. For starters, there’s no escaping the gigantic chin along the bottom edge. The company’s cost-cutting measures are also reflected in the adaptive 90Hz panel, instead of the increasingly common 120Hz displays. This is on point for the brand that placed a 60Hz panel in the Realme 8 Pro at a time when every brand was moving to 90Hz as the default. Regardless, the color calibration is pretty good. The default setting errs a bit towards blue tones, but this is easily corrected when on the natural color profile. Elsewhere, the 430nits of maximum brightness can make viewing the display under direct sunlight rather hard.

The phone struggles to maintain a stable 30fps in heavier games like Genshin Impact, even at the lowest graphics settings.

Performance too is a bit of a mixed bag. For general everyday use, the MediaTek Dimensity 920 poses no issues. Realme UI on Android 12 is well matched to the hardware and the interface usually maintains a stable 90Hz frame rate. However, I did notice a few intermittent drops while juggling apps. You’ll also hit the limits of the GPU when playing heavier 3D games like Genshin Impact. Even at the lowest graphics setting, the phone struggled to maintain a stable 30fps, and texture pop-in was common.

While Realme UI is pretty light on customizations and performs well on the hardware, the same can’t be said for the bloatware situation. I counted at least 13 apps over and above Realme’s own app suite pre-installed on the phone. Additionally, you’ll also find ample ads in the notification shade as well as the pre-installed glance screen.

There’s also the question of software support. Realme hasn’t provided any guarantees regarding long-term updates and security patches. This isn’t uncommon for Realme devices, but it is a knock against its appeal when you can now buy phones with solid update commitments even in the budget tier. We’ve asked Realme to confirm what its plans are and will update accordingly.

Realme 9 Pro Plus review close up of camera
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

On the camera side of things, the Realme 9 Pro Plus proved to be a flaky performer. The phone is capable of some decent shots but they are often marred by very strong sharpening algorithms. The primary 50MP IMX766 sensor is able to capture excellent shots, but Realme’s lackluster HDR optimization resulted in highlights that were often blown out. The 8MP ultrawide camera has noticeable softening around the edges and just doesn’t have enough resolution for cropping in. Similarly, the 2MP macro camera is passable at best and proves to be utterly useless in low-light situations. You can take a look at our full resolution samples for the Realme 9 Pro Plus over at this Google Drive link.

See also: The best budget camera phones you can buy

Finally, returning to that glittery design. It’s certainly better than the Realme 8 Pro series’ slogan-laden aesthetic, and in the right light, it can look quite fetching. But to me, more often than not, it just looked like a layer of dust.

Realme 9 Pro Plus camera samples

Realme 9 Pro Plus macro shot
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
Macro shot of a watch

Realme 9 Pro Plus specs

Realme 9 Pro Plus
Display
6.4-inch AMOLED
20:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz
Full HD+
600nits peak brightness
Processor
MediaTek Dimensity 920
Memory
6GB/8GB LPDDR4X RAM
Storage
256GB UFS 2.2
microSD expansion
Battery
4,500mAh
60W Super Dart
30W Dart
18W PD 3.0
Camera
Rear:
Main: 50MP, f/1.8, 1/1.56-inch Sony IMX766 sensor,
Ultra-Wide: 8MP, f/2.2, 120-degree FoV
Macro: 2MP, f/2.4

Front:
Selfie: 16MP, f/2.4
Video:
4K @30fps, 1080p @60fps, 720p @120fps
Dimensions
160.2 x 73.3 x 7.99mm
Weight
182g
Audio
Headphone jack
Stereo speakers
IP Rating
No
Colors
Midnight Black, Aurora Green, Sunrise Blue

Realme 9 Pro Plus review: Should I buy it?

Realme 9 Pro Plus review back panel outdoors
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Realme 9 Pro is a classic case of a company making too many compromises to undercut the competition. Unfortunately for Realme, those compromises are significant enough to degrade the user experience, be it the sheer amount of pre-loaded apps and ads, the iffy performance, or even the lackluster HDR performance from an otherwise stellar sensor. The secondary cameras don’t really shine either, and the lack of a long-term update guarantee raises eyebrows. Overall, the Realme 9 Pro Plus comes across as a strictly average phone without any standout qualities that put it ahead of the competition.

Also read: The best phones under 30,000 rupees

In fact, Realme’s own hardware like the Realme GT Master Edition (£329/Rs. 25,999) offers a more consistent experience for just a little more money, while the Samsung Galaxy A52s (£409) is a more well-rounded phone with a long-term software support guarantee. Meanwhile, the India-only Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge (Rs. 26,999) handily outpaces the Realme 9 Pro Plus with a brighter display, faster charging, and, arguably, a better design. You’d also be well served by waiting for OnePlus Nord CE 2 which hits the market in late February/early March.

Realme 9 Pro Plus review in hand
Realme 9 Pro Plus
The Realme 9 Pro Plus combines a fresh design with a flagship camera sensor and improved charging speeds.

Top Realme 9 Pro Plus questions and answers

Q: Does the Realme 9 Pro Plus have an IP rating?

A: No, there’s no claimed water or dust protection available on the Realme 9 Pro Plus.

Q. Is the Realme 9 Pro Plus 5G capable?

A: Yes, the Realme 9 Pro Plus supports sub-6GHz 5G on both SIM card slots.