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Earlier this month, Realme released another smartphone along with its Realme 9 5G SE (Speed Edition) – Realme 9 5G (normal edition). And we don’t really blame you for not noticing this budget smartphone. Not only it was overshadowed by multiple sub-Rs. 15,000 smartphone launches like Poco M4 Pro and Oppo K10, it was the neglected child in its own launch event, thanks to its star-studded Speed edition model. The fault was not of the smartphone but the intense competition in the budget segment.
However, after using the smartphone for more than two weeks, we feel that the world may have overlooked a gem. While there are many arguments we can make to back that statement, the most important of them all is that the Realme 9 5G packs a powerful punch even when compared with the spotlight stealing Realme 9 5G SE, while being Rs. 5,000 cheaper. Now, I don’t mean to say it’s a better smartphone than the SE model or that it has no flaws. But in its price range, it comes out as a more than adequate smartphone that more or less fulfills the needs of all kinds of smartphone users. In short, it’s an all-rounder. So, what exactly impressed us about this smartphone? Read the full review to find out.
While Realme designs can be a hit or a miss depending on whether you like flamboyant designs or prefer a minimalist look, one thing you cannot deny is that the company knows how to make their smartphones stand out. Realme 9 5G is no exception either. The rear of the Realme 9 5G has a gradient matte finish with a ripple holographic design which gives it a nice sparkling effect under bright light. The smartphone is quite slim and surprisingly lightweight at 188 grams. The touch and feel of that smartphone is comfortable and the form factor allows for single handed use for most parts.
There is a side mounted fingerprint sensor on the power button that is placed just right so your thumb never has to struggle to unlock the device. The touch sensor is quite fast as well. The front has a punch hole design for the selfie camera, placed on the left corner of the display. The punch hole was slightly larger than what I would have preferred. Summing it up, there is a lot to like about the Realme 9 5G.
Also read: Realme 9 5G Photo Gallery, check out how the smartphone looks.
At 6.5-inches, the smartphone has an average height and leaner width compared to other smartphones in the market which makes it easy to use with just one hand. But at the same time, it is not so narrow that viewing videos in landscape mode becomes a challenge. It comes with an FHD+ LCD display, which offers good viewing angles and decent color production. There is no AMOLED display and the lack of richness can be an issue for some users. But AMOLED is pretty rare in this price segment and it does not really affect the viewing experience. But if AMOLED matters to you, you can check out Redmi Note 11, Poco M4 Pro or Samsung Galaxy F22.
However, Realme 9 5G needed more brightness. Even at full brightness, the device fades out under sunlight and I struggled to read text or look at pictures. At 600 nits, the smartphone needed more, especially since even in this price range you get to see smartphones with 1000 nits of brightness.
Unlike Realme 9 5G SE, it does not have 144Hz refresh rate but its 90Hz display works just fine and even heavy scrolling on Twitter was a smooth experience. The screen was also very responsive and it does feel quite fast. Even when I was using the SE model, the Realme 9 5G never felt slower to me, which was quite surprising.
Realme 9 5G is equipped with the MediaTek Dimensity 810 SoC, which we have also seen in the Realme 8s 5G launched in 2021. But now, the chipset is available at a lower price point and the company claims that it has optimized it further for better performance output. In my experience, the performance of the smartphone was very visible. It handled most apps with ease and there were no lags, jitters or glitches on moving from one app to another.
But just because it handles most everyday apps without breaking a sweat does not mean it is a gaming smartphone. I was able to play BGMI and FIFA mobile at medium to high settings and it was able to maintain a consistent frame rate at 60 FPS. However, you cannot play online multiplayers at ultra settings. I even tried to play Genshin Impact, but the graphics were quite bad and although there still was no lag, the smartphone did heat up quite a bit. But the fact that it was able to run it with normal gameplay at all highlights the capabilities of the chipset, another rarity at this price range.
Essentially, the smartphone is pretty powerful as long as you do not intend to use it for gaming or video editing purposes. If heavy performance is your concern, we would recommend you to go for Realme 9 5G SE instead.
The smartphone has Widevine L1 support and for an LCD panel, the multimedia viewing experience is quite decent. However, there are no stereo speakers and the audio quality is just above average.
It runs on Realme UI 2.0 which is based on Android 11. I would have preferred Android 12 and Realme UI 3.0 out of the box as was seen in Realme 9 Pro+, and it was a slight let down. There are pre-installed apps which bombard you with notifications but that is quite common with the Realme UI and most apps can be uninstalled or at least disabled so the notifications do not become an issue. But you do not get the stock android experience, if that is what you’re looking for.
Considering its price, the Realme 9 5G definitely punches above its weight. As long as you can keep your expectations realistic of what a sub-Rs. 15,000 smartphone can do, it will surprise you over and over again.
Just like the SE model, Realme 9 5G also has a triple rear camera setup. with a 48MP primary camera, a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro lens. Now, the cameras are more or less similar to what you get on the Realme 9 5G SE which I found to be quite underwhelming. But now, in this price segment, the same cameras become quite serviceable. The primary camera takes snappy shots in bright light with great dynamic range. The colour reproduction is on the punchier side and it really makes the photos pop out.
The macro lens, however, is average and just not very usable. I would have preferred an ultra-wide lens instead of it as that would have improved the versatility of the camera a lot.
My main qualm was with the night photography of the smartphone. This is where I felt Realme 9 5G SE shined better. The shots appear quite hazy and even with street lights, the auto focus was non-existent and the detailing was also low. This is not the device to go for if you plan on going for night-time photo walks.
Check out some sample shots from the smartphone here.
But even with some obvious shortcomings, the camera performance was quite satisfactory and it has a dynamic range which made the images pop out a bit.
The Realme 9 5G is backed by a 5,000 mAh battery which comfortably goes on for more than a day on moderate usage. On the days I extensively used the smartphone, it still had about 20 percent charge left at the end of the day. And if even that does not reassure you, the 30W fast charger takes Realme 9 5G SE from 0-100 in 90 mins even if your charge goes out in the middle of the day.
The battery optimization is also pretty good. I played FIFA mobile for over an hour at high settings and only lost about 15 percent of battery which is more than decent performance.
Realme 9 5G does a lot of things well, and most things above average considering the price range. And with its more optimized Dimensity 810 SoC, performance has never remained the question. The smartphone has gone under the radar for many, but we believe it truly is a hidden gem which could be just perfect for your everyday smartphone usage. And even if you go for an occasional BGMI game or download some heavy apps temporarily, the smartphone can handle it, although at the cost of heating up.
So, if you are looking for a sub-Rs. 15,000 smartphones which can do it all and with consistency, you will be hard pressed to find a better smartphone. It is definitely not a specialist smartphone with an AMOLED display like Poco M4 Pro, great camera like Realme 8i or a gaming focus like Vivo U20, but that is a good thing as people rarely want a one trick pony in the budget segment, and such amazing features cannot be availed without some significant cost-cutting in other areas. Our verdict, this smartphone is truly the underrated budget king.
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