Unlike previous years, the Xiaomi is no more an automatic choice in mid-range as the competition from other brands especially Realme is quite fierce.
- Great design, Good cameras, epic battery life
- Overloaded software with bloatware, Dim display
Xiaomi's Redmi Note line of phones have been pretty much India’s most prominent smartphone line ever since the category-defining Redmi Note 3 in 2016. And here we are in 2020, but like clockwork, Xiaomi is also back with a new version of its banker — the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max.
One has to shell out Rs 14,999 for 6GB RAM + 64GB storage option, Rs 16,999 for 6GB RAM + 128GB storage option and Rs 18,999 for 8GB RAM + 128GB of internal storage. Here we present to the review of Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro Max and help you decide which phone is the best sub 20K smartphone in India.
Is Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Pro Max best camera phone for less than Rs 20,000
With its 64-megapixel Sony IMX 686 primary camera coupled with an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 2megapixel depth sensor and 5-megapixel macro lens, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max has a formidable package for shutterbugs in terms of specs on the paper in the price range. By the way, 64MP camera isn’t active by default and one has to enable it before taking a picture.
The camera app is feature-rich and it has a Pro Colour mode that enhances the contrast and colours in teh pictures when activated. It is quite similar to Dazzle Color and Chroma Boost filters on Oppo and Realme smartphones, respectively. The Macro camera toggle is placed in a sub-menu and it is a bit difficult to locate it. Having said that, macro shots are well captured if the lighting on the subject is good.
Daylight shots taken with the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max came out well, but the artificial sharpening of pictures is quite evident. Detailing is good and if one zoom a bit, some amount of grains are visible. Portrait shots and selfies come out well with smooth Bokeh effect. AI can recognise the subject and does what it is meant to do.
In low light shots capture the essence well, but again noise is quite visible. The wide-angle camera negates the barrel effect but compromised on detailing though the area captured is good.
As far as competition is concerned Poco X2, which is its brethren has the same hardware. This means, both the phones match each other in terms of features like 4K video at 30 frames per second, shoot wide-angle photos, macro shots and so on. Also, if we talk about the challenge from Realme, Realme 6 Pro also comes with a 64-megapixel camera system but it has an older Samsung sensor but the quality of teh pictures will not disappoint you.
How is the display?
The Xiaomi is a little weak in the display department. Don’t get me wrong — it has a usable 6.67-inch IPS screen with a Full HD resolution and a peak brightness level of 450 nits, but this isn’t just a step back from the Redmi Note 8 Pro which had higher brightness levels.
Even phones like Realme 6 and Realme 6 Pro that offers a 90Hz refresh rate and slightly higher brightness levels score extra brownie points. Another issue with the display of 9 Pro Max is that readability in bright sunlight is a bit tough.
On the other hand, Poco X2 goes one step further with 500 nits of brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate which makes everything on the phone feel silky smooth. The Redmi certainly doesn’t have the best screen in the segment.
Is it comfortable to use?
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is certainly a looker but it is difficult to reach the top of the 6.67-inch display with one hand. It has has a side-mounted fingerprint scanner embedded into the power button which is slightly recessed and easy to feel while touching it. It is prompt and responsive. Having said that its positioning is such that one has to change the natural grip of the hand to access it.
Another issue we faced was the placement of the volume rocker, which is placed above the fingerprint scanner and is almost difficult to reach without involving the second hand. Xiaomi has provided an IR blaster in this phone which a welcome move as users can use there smartphone as a remote control to manage other devices.
Note 9 Pro Max is slightly curved from the back while having straight lines on the side railings. Its all done very neatly in glass and metal which feels very premium coupled with rich colours. It feels quite substantial thanks to its 8.8mm thick frame, but it is on the heavier side of things at 209 grams. But then again, if you look at its competition in the Realme 6 Pro, then it is almost as heavy at 202 grams and thicker at 8.9mm — it is also not made out of glass and metal with a lot of plastic inserts. People should also look at the Nokia 8.1, which is lighter than both these phones at 180 grams and is just 8mm thick. It can be argued that it looks classier than these two phones and perhaps has a more loved brand.
What about teh user interface?
The Nokia 8.1 may be old, but then again it was a more high-end phone when it was launched in 2018. And even today with the Snapdragon 710 processor it will give a fluid experience to most users. Apart from that its Android One credentials make it the cleanest Android experience that you can get on a budget, even more so than Xiaomi’s Mi A3 which they haven’t serviced well.
The Realme 6 Pro also is a great option as their Colour OS UI is now very close to stock Android and very responsive. They will soon also have a beta for Android 11, which is reassuring for people interested in the latest and greatest on the platform. It also isn’t as intrusive as MiUI on Xiaomi phones with bloatware and intrusive ads. This is why both the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max and Poco X2 become hard to recommend.
I want the best specs and performance for gaming and multitasking
Technically speaking — the Poco X2 will provide the specs — it has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor which is almost as fast as Snapdragon 845 chip. It also comes armed with up to 8GB RAM and has a 120Hz panel alongside a graphite-based cooling system for great gaming. Poco’s phones also don’t come with the ads like Redmi phones.ith. Through and through, it is the best experience on the phone right now if your budget is south of 20k.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max scores highly on specs — but its user experience isn’t the supple one than one gets on a Poco. This is strange as the Snapdragon 720G processor is supposed to be close to the Snapdragon 730G in performance. It just doesn’t feel as responsive. The Realme 6 Pro also feels more responsive than the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max thanks to its smoother Android skin and 90Hz refresh rate.
The Nokia 8.1 also is a better bet than the Redmi Note 9 Pro max as it runs pure unadulterated Android, will be eligible for the latest updates and still has a pretty impressive Snapdragon 710 processor.
Does it have a killer battery life?
The Redmi Note line has been known for their battery life — and the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is not different from its massive 5,020mAh battery. One can expect a 2-day battery life. We managed to get upwards of 9 hours of screen on time this phone and Xiaomi has also sweetened the deal with the charging situation as it comes with a 30-watt fast charger. The Poco X2 isn’t far behind with its 4,500mAh battery but what pulls down the battery is its faster processor and 120Hz refresh rate. It comes packaged with a 27-watt sonic charger. It also has great battery life regularly delivering upwards of 7 hours of screen on time and around 20 hours of use on a single charge. MiUI is also aggressive at battery management which helps its cause.
The Realme 6 Pro can’t compete with the Xiaomi phones as it has not only a relatively smaller 4,300mAh battery but also a 90Hz refresh rate though it also gets 30-watt VOOC charging. The Nokia 8.1 has the weakest battery life with a screen on time of around 5.5 hours but it also has the smallest screen of the lot and an older processor.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max excels in battery life, camera and build quality. The display is below par if we compare it with competition and performance is decent. Unlike previous years, the Xiaomi is no more an automatic choice in mid-range as the competition from other brands especially Realme is quite fierce.
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