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Xiaomi Mi 9T review: Probably the best mid-ranger right now
Xiaomi Mi 9T
What we like
What we don't like
Xiaomi’s Mi 9, which launched four months ago, was a great phone that lacked aesthetics and perceived quality, areas in which its competitors were focusing. The Mi 9T makes up for those cosmetic shortcomings, but at what cost? Is it worth buying over the Mi 9?
Well, in Android Authority’s Xiaomi Mi 9T review, we find out!
Xiaomi Mi 9T review: The big picture
The Mi 9T is a very close relative to the Redmi K20. In fact, by most accounts, the 9T is simply a rebrand of the K20. That means this device targets the mid-range sector of the market. With competitors such as the Realme X, Asus Zenfone 6, and Galaxy A50, the Xiaomi is under pressure to create something unique and special.
What’s in the box
- Xiaomi Mi 9T
- USB-A to USB-C cable
- 18W fast charger
- SIM ejector tool
- Quick start guide
- Soft-touch case
The box of the Mi 9T contains the basics. There’s nothing extra to help you migrate data from another device, nor are earphones in the box. I don’t mind this approach, but the included case does leave a lot to be desired. It’s a hard case that covers the back of the device. It leaves areas at the top and bottom exposed for ports instead of designating cutouts for the pop-up camera and ports.
- 156.7 x 74.3 x 8.8mm
- Glass and metal build
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- Pop-up selfie camera
- USB-C port, headphone jack
I liked the design of the Mi 9, but as more phones across all price ranges become bezel-less, I fully expected Xiaomi to take this approach with the Mi 9T. Even in the, arguably, “dullest” colorway, this phone looks fantastic. I have the Carbon Black version; Red Flame and Glacier Blue are also available. The phone shows a carbon-fiber pattern from beneath its smooth glass back, and adds a sharp-looking red power button for accent.
The comfortably curved back, along with the glossy metal rails, create a smooth yet rather slippery surface. This thing looks gorgeous, but as soon as you pick it up, two things will happen: Fingerprints will quickly appear on the back, and you may lose grip because the glass is so slick.
The in-display fingerprint scanner feels plenty quick and very rarely had problems registering my thumb. In fact, this is probably one of the most reliable units I’ve ever used. Together with the off-center pop-up selfie camera, it allows for the incredibly clean design. It’s a huge improvement over the Mi 9.
The same-side buttons are solid and tactile. The volume rocker sits just above the colored power button, and since the Mi 9T drops the Google Assistant button, the left side is bare. The headphone port being on the top is going to force some users to switch phone orientation in their pocket, but having a headphone port at all is much appreciated. Unfortunately, that SIM card slot at the bottom doesn’t support a microSD card. This is something we’d have liked to have seen on a phone aimed at the mid-range sector.
The black and red color scheme here is subtle, from the color around the rear camera, to the LEDs in the pop-up camera module, to the accented power button. It’s been tastefully done here, remaining classy despite its small, bright features. It reminds me of a well-spec’d German automobile. A classy and executive exterior, with hints of a playful and interesting side.
As an overall package, the Mi 9T feels and looks stunning; for what it lacks internally, it more than makes up for externally.
- 6.39-in. Full HD+ display
- 2,340 x 1,080 resolution
- 19.5:9 aspect ratio
- AMOLED panel
- Gorilla Glass 5
I rather liked the original Mi 9’s display, and the 9T’s additions only make it better. The screen is large and sharp with plenty of pixels. It’s an AMOLED panel, which allows for deeper blacks, infinite contrast levels, brighter highlights, and more vivid colors. But wait, there’s more.
The best bit is the Xiaomi Mi 9T happens to lack a notch or cutout, making the display effectively “edge-to-edge.” Aside from the small chin at the bottom of the panel, we get thin bezels and heaps of immersion. I really like the way this display looks. Whilst from a technological standpoint it’s not massively ahead of the Mi 9, from a usability standpoint it soars above its predecessor.
The best bit is that the display is effectively “edge-to-edge.”
The Mi 9T’s 400 nit display gets bright enough to view outdoors in most conditions. Direct sunlight can certainly be an issue, as this panel isn’t the brightest in its class, though many phones in this market suffer from the same issue.
I’d call the display on the Xiaomi Mi 9T one of its best features. The immersion from the AMOLED panel combined with the thin bezels are something that I’ll miss when I return to my phone with a punch hole.
- Snapdragon 730
- 2 x 2.2GHz Kyro 470 Gold + 6 x 1.8GHz Kyro 470 Silver
- Adreno 618
- 6GB RAM
- 64/128GB ROM
- No microSD card
The most controversial part of the Xiaomi Mi 9T has to be its step down from the flagship Snapdragon 855 to a mid-range chip. Xiaomi did this to reach its targeted price point. Sacrificing the top-tier chip won’t matter to the majority of users. The Redmi K20 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9, which both feature the 855, are more squarely aimed at the flagship space.
The Snapdragon 730 from Qualcomm is an excellent chip that achieves some pretty respectable numbers. On paper, sure, it’s not as quick as the Snapdragon 855. Reality is another story: I found the Mi 9T to be just as quick in everyday tasks as its bigger brother, the Mi 9.
The 9T shines in all respects. I played a fair few games on the Mi 9T, including PUBG Mobile, Minecraft Pocket Edition, Project Offroad, and Asphalt 9. All the games ran like a charm, without so much as a hiccup. Despite what the spec sheet says, this is quite a capable gaming device.
The Mi 9T continues to drive home the message that specs don’t matter to most people, and that a mid-range chip like the Snapdragon 730 is enough even for mobile gamers.
- 18W fast charging
The benchmark for a good phone battery these days is 4,000mAh and Xiaomi has matched that with the Mi 9T. It’s a little more than 20 percent bigger than the Mi 9’s battery and the increase in capacity makes a massive difference. The Mi 9T lasted me all day without a hitch for the full six days that I reviewed the phone. In fact, I never finished the day with less than 30 percent left in the tank.
MIUI, known for its aggressive task management, certainly does the job with battery life.
In our battery tests, this phone lasted well over 11 hours of mixed-use. MIUI is well known for its aggressive task management and certainly does the job here with the 9T. The OS kills apps that it knows don’t need to be active, resulting in a long-lasting phone.
Top-ups with the included charger are quick and easy. Unfortunately, however, wireless charging is unavailable. This is a real shame because the feature was available on the Mi 9.
- Android 9 Pie
- MIUI 10
To call MIUI controversial would be a gross understatement. Xiaomi’s software skin is one that many have criticized in the past, and for good reason. There are too many pre-installed applications that you cannot remove, there isn’t an app drawer as part of this specific device’s launcher, and the aesthetics of the UI feel unnaturally close to iOS.
The reskin is radically different from stock, with new animations, icons, and even a theme selector. Whilst MIUI 10 is a far cry from the buggy, bloated versions of yesteryear, it still won’t sit right with everyone. Xiaomi implemented ads into its OS for markets such as India. In Europe, thankfully, we’re free of such rubbish.
Duplicate apps, where the phone manufacturer decides to make its own version of preloaded Google apps, are not exclusive to Xiaomi, but “Mi Calculator”… seriously? There are some more useful examples, however, including a mobile security app, barcode scanner, and screen recorder.
MIUI is far more usable than it once was, and the Mi 9T shows this. If you don’t mind its oddities, it’s a stable, reliable, and powerful skin atop Android. It’s certainly grown on me whilst I’ve been using the Mi 9T, but it’s still not my first choice!
- 48MP primary, at f/1.75 (IMX582)
- 8MP telephoto at f/2.4
- 13MP wide-angle at f/2.4
- 20MP pop-up at f/2.2
The Mi 9T’s camera setup is as complete as any phone in 2019, with wide-angle and telephoto cameras to back its main shooter. I’m a sucker for wide-angle lenses, so I really did use and abuse that particular setup. The hardware is certainly there. Many more affordable smartphones skimp on software. This is not the case with the Mi 9T.
The two main characteristics of the photos that I took with the device were natural and lifelike. It’s quite rare for a cheaper smartphone to sport a color-accurate camera, and this one is a true gem. Images didn’t necessarily come out insanely sharp or with incredible dynamic range. What they did do was accurately represent the tone, feeling, and atmosphere of the scene being captured.
With HDR enabled (something that is not on by default), the 9T shone in harsh conditions such as looking up at a building in direct sunlight. Similarly, there was a lot of detail to be had with the telephoto camera, something that, again, is rare at a phone of this price.
Low-light performance was a bit of a struggle for the 9T. Results looked a tad too soft for my liking; however, there were instances where it kept up well. Overall, low-light is a bit hit or miss.
Portrait mode on the Mi 9T is fantastic, far better than I first expected it to be. Edge detection is great, the depth itself is believable, and the images pop. The blur drop-off is a little harsh, but this is at a pretty wide fake aperture at “f/1.4″. Xiaomi allows you to change the aperture of the effect in the app and it works really well.
When given enough light, the selfie camera can produce some good images. However, as soon as you dip below the required amount of light, the camera tends to open the shutter for too long, creating a lot of motion blur.
At 4K, 30fps, the Mi 9T actually downgrades its video-capturing capabilities from the Mi 9 thanks to the use of a mid-range SoC. Because of this, video is naturally worse than the Mi 9 which features better camera hardware on top of that flagship processor. I found video to look pretty smooth thanks to its electronic stabilization; however, there were artifacts in the video where you could see the camera correcting for the shaky handling.
Want to see full-resolution camera samples? Click here!
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Bluetooth 5
One of the best usability improvements of the 9T over the 9 is the inclusion of a headphone port. There are plenty of options that allow you to tune the sound signature to best fit your ears. My favorite setting was “Hip Hop” as it added more clarity and character to the sound coming through my headphones.
I had a tolerable, but underwhelming audio experience from the 9T.
The single bottom-firing speaker on the Mi 9T is pretty poor. Whilst it gets plenty loud, it’s tinny and rather distorted. The sound signature makes it a chore to listen to and I’d much rather hook it up to a pair of speakers via Bluetooth.
Xiaomi Mi 9T specs
|Xiaomi Mi 9T|
6.39-inch, FHD+ AMOLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
86.1% screen-to-body ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 730
Up to 2.2GHz
Fast battery charging (18W charging)
Video: UHD4K at 30fps, 1080p at 240fps
Dual nano-SIM slots
Dual SIMs dual VoLTE 4G
WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5GHz
Positioning system: GPS, aGPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BDS
Supports Bluetooth 5.0 connections
Supports aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC
In-display fingerprint sensor
MIUI 10, Android 9 Pie
Carbon black, Red flame, Glacier blue
156 x 74.3 x 8.8mm
Value for the money
- Xiaomi Mi 9T: 6GB RAM, 64GB ROM — 270 pounds / 300 euros
- Xiaomi Mi 9T: 6GB RAM, 128GB ROM — 300 pounds / 350 euros
Starting at 300 euros, the Mi 9T is not a budget phone, nor is it a flagship killer. What it is, is a fantastic combination of hardware and software for the money. With flexible cameras, great performance, an AMOLED display, a bezel-less design, and a big battery, the Mi 9T shines in ways that aren’t just skin deep.
Compared to its competitors, which seem to specialize in one area or another, the Mi 9T shines in most, if not all, areas. The Realme X seems to beat everyone in design, the Galaxy A50 wins thanks to its display, and the Pixel 3a bests everyone with its camera. “Jack of all trades” is what I’d label the Mi 9T, given its pricing.
With the Realme X priced at $249, the Mi 9T at ~$350, the Galaxy A50 ~$350, and the Pixel 3a at $399, the Mi 9T sits well in the mid-range pricing. Considering its SoC choice, feature list, and cameras, it packs in a lot of high quality tech for the money. None of its competitors match its level of sophistication.
Xiaomi Mi 9T review: The verdict
The Xiaomi Mi 9T is the phone to combat the stigma that 300 euro phones have to sacrifice in design, battery life, camera, performance, and display. It is the one phone that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a well-rounded, reasonably-priced smartphone.
Would you buy the Mi 9T over the Mi 9? Let us know your thoughts!