Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera

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Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan
  • Realme launched two new smartphones today, aimed at the budget and mid-range segments.
  • Realme 9 Speed Edition features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset and a 144Hz display, which is a first in the sub-₹20,000 price segment.
  • Here is our review for the Realme 9 Speed Edition, find out if it is an option worth considering for your next smartphone upgrade.
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Realme today launched two brand new smartphones in the market – the Realme 9 and a slightly more powerful Realme 9 Speed Edition. Aimed at the value for money buyers, Realme’s latest mid-range offering promises to pack a punch and then some – after all, the sub-₹20,000 price segment is getting more crowded than ever before, especially with the launch of the Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G.

Realme is no stranger to the value for money audience – it is now the second-largest smartphone brand in India with a 17% market share. Unlike other companies, Realme is yet to touch the ultra-expensive price bracket and is doing fairly well in the sub-₹20,000 category – the new Realme 9 series is a continuation of the same philosophy.

I have spent almost a week with the Realme 9 Speed Edition and here’s what I found out.

Price and availability

Realme 9 Speed Edition starts at a price of ₹19,999 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage variant. There is another high-end variant that is priced at ₹22,999 and packs in 8GB of RAM and similar storage. It is available on Flipkart and Realme’s own D2C website.

Design and build quality

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At 199 grams, there is a certain heft to the Realme 9 Speed Edition that I felt after taking the phone out of the box for the first time. That being said the in-hand feel was quite satisfactory and holding it was not a difficult task at least for someone with relatively bigger hands. But if you are someone with small hands, then you might take some time to adjust for comfortable one-handed usage.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition sports a polycarbonate back. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan

The variant with me is in a starry glow colourway which is a combination of blue and pink depending on the angle you are looking from. The matte finish gives it a premium look.

The rest of the physical characteristics are what we see on classic Realme mid-rangers. There are volume rockers with satisfactory build quality, a power lock and unlock button incorporating the fingerprint sensor, which is very snappy, and a SIM card slot. The SIM card slot also has space for a microSD card (upto 1TB), alongside two SIM cards.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition has a bottom firing loud speaker, USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan

There is a camera bump on the back that houses three cameras along with an LED flash.

You also get a prominent feature on the Realme 9 Speed Edition which has become endangered lately, a 3.5mm audio jack. This is a welcome feature at a time when the audio jack has been disappearing from smartphones at an alarming rate.

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Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition runs on Android 11. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan

Software Experience– bloatware alert
Quickly touching upon the software, the Realme 9-Speed Edition runs on Android 11 with Realme UI skin out of the box. My initial experience with the smartphone was smooth and fairly responsive. Do note, that this was a brand new unit, which is expected to feel fast and responsive, but usually, these phones tend to get slower with extensive usage.

As I used the phone longer, the amount of bloatware stuck out like a sore thumb. Mixed between Google and Realme’s proprietary apps, there are some bad apples, like MX TakaTak and Josh, an image editing app Soloop, and even ShareChat.


Thankfully all of the above can be uninstalled, but booting up the device and seeing them first hand was a turn-off for me. Also, I am still adjusting to ads. spamming my notifications.

After getting rid of them, the actual user experience is intuitive, with plenty of options to customize including useful widgets to add intuitiveness to the experience, and the usual themes and fonts.

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Display – bright and smooth

This is my first time using a Realme device at a stretch and the screen quality has amazed me. The Realme 9 Speed Edition features a 6.6-inch LCD display with a punch-hole notch. The display is adequately bright and produces vivid colours, which makes it a good device to watch content on.

Even though it uses an LCD panel, the black levels are fairly good, having watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League on it.

The maximum refresh rate on the Realme 9 Speed Edition is 144Hz. Be it browsing on the internet or playing video games, the experience is buttery smooth, as expected.

Complimenting the display is a bottom-firing loudspeaker, which produces high levels of volume but underwhelms in terms of details. Also, if you use the phone in landscape mode, your palm tends to cover the speaker blocking the sound which is annoying for a mono loudspeaker.

Performance

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Realme 9 Speed Edition is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G chipset. In my four days of usage so far, the phone stands out with its smooth and fast performance. It boots up in a jiffy, with zero lags, and handles heavy games like Battlegrounds Mobile India smoothly, even at Ultra HD settings.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition runs BGMI on UHD settings.


My review unit has 8GB RAM which is ample to hold applications in memory for longer periods of time. Rarely did the phone miss a beat and I would usually jump straight to the point where I left off in a particular app. Internal storage is 128GB which should be sufficient for most users.

Battery life and management is where the Realme 9 Speed Edition should get your attention. Packing in a decent 5,000mAh cell, I had to charge the smartphone once in two days. It is worth noting that your mileage in this regard might vary based on your usage patterns.

This is incredible, given that the screen refresh rate and audio profiles were maxed out. When I had to put it on charge, the 30W Dart Charge fast charging came in handy, with the Realme 9 Speed Edition going from 0 to 100% in about 50 minutes.

Now, it is a 5G smartphone but I can’t test that performance just yet because of the absence of infrastructure. What I can tell you is that on 4G LTE the performance was quite satisfactory, I used it with my Vi sim and there were no call drops. Data connectivity was also stable and 4G internet speeds were decent. Yet again, it is worth noting that your mileage may vary based on network conditions in your area.
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Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition has a triple rear camera set-up. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan

Camera performance
Realme 9 Speed Edition features a triple camera array, housed in the camera island on the back. The primary camera is a 48MP sensor which is snappy to click pictures but the end results are not very pleasing. The colour tones do not look natural, and the pictures have a milk tint to them. The AI retouching does help, but the execution is not perfect yet, and it’s a little obvious that the picture has been enhanced post-capture.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition features a 48MP primary camera. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan
Then there is a dedicated 2MP monochrome portrait lens, which at first sounds like marketing lingo, but the results are good and worthy of your Instagram feed.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Ultra-Wide angle shot from Realme 9 Speed Edition. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan
The 2MP macro sensor produces rich images in perfect lighting conditions, but I won't suggest keeping your hopes high with this one either.
Realme 9 Speed Edition review – Great performance for price but underwhelming camera
Realme 9 Speed Edition portrait selfie. Business Insider India/Dhruv Mohan

The front camera is a 16MP shooter which performs decently by itself. But it's with AI retouching that things get interesting. The AI beauty selfie feature lets you fiddle around with everything on your face. You can change the size of your nose, eyes, and cheeks, and of course, the classic option to change your skin tone. It’s like giving yourself an AI plastic surgery. Maybe some users will find it amusing, I am not a big fan.

After that experience, it’s the video mode that surprised me. With electronic image stabilization (EIS) enabled, you can document whatever is in front of the sensor without losing the meaning. Audio is also crisp and goes well with the visual outcome. There are classic features onboard as well like dual video mode which might come in handy.

Verdict
The Realme 9 Speed Edition has the potential to stand out and carve its own name in the mid-range smartphone category. It seems like a safe bet for buyers looking for powerful performance without shelling premium. To be more specific, gamers and aggressive users don’t mind compromising on the camera.
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In its price bracket of under ₹20,000, we only have a handful of choices from Xiaomi and Samsung both of which are now repeating the same recipe with multiple devices. In that situation, Realme 9 Speed Edition can be considered a value choice liberating the buyers from the obvious. But if you need an overall package with a better camera, display and can do with decent performance, you can explore other options like the Samsung A52 5G, Redmi Note 11T or Nord CE 2 5G.

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