Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes

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Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes

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  • Realme 9i 5G Starts at ₹14,999
  • The smartphone is powered by MediaTek Dimensity 810 5G SOC
  • Realme 9i 5G packs in a 5000 mAh battery with 18W flash charging
Realme launched the 9i 5G - the 5G ready variant for the existing budget smartphone Realme 9i . The brand's success with its numeric line-up is strong in its portfolio. After all, it’s the under ₹20,000 price bracket where you see the most action. The 9i 5G is an attempt to reintroduce a successful product with better SoC and other cosmetic changes. But is it enough to garner your attention? I tell you that in my in-depth review.

Price & Availability
The Realme 9i 5G is available in 2 variants. A base variant with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage is available for a price ₹14,999. Then there is another variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage available for ₹16,999. You can buy the Realme 9i 5G from Flipkart & Realme’s D2C website.

Design
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Realme 9i 5G has a premium in-hand feel

Realme 9i 5G doesn’t take a leap from the original 9i’s design, but there are some cosmetic changes that differentiate it from its predecessor and make it stand out. Like the flat-edged sandwich design. The curves are gone that we saw on the original 9i, and the 5G variant looks more premium. I personally like flat-edged designs, not only does it provide a better grip, but looks better as well. The 9i 5G is also fairly lightweight at 187 grams, and despite its big size, the phone is easy to carry. It’s also very slim at 8.1mm, given it packs in a 5000 mAh battery.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
The 9i 5G sports a flat edged design which makes it easy to hold

Realme is playing on the colour treatment on the 9i 5G. This new CD design is inspired by the theme of this year's MET Gala. Fashion is not my strong suit; maybe that’s why I am not a big fan of this Metallica Gold colour. It’s a bit over the top for my taste. But as they say, looks are subjective, so I took an opinion from my peers. It was a 50-50, with half of them liking it, and the rest were not very impressed. The back is plastic and registers a serious amount of smudges combined with the gold colour scheme that sometimes spoils the look of the smartphone. 9i 5G is also available in a soulful blue and rocking black colour, which I found to be much more subtle and appealing. That will be my suggestion if you are planning to get this device.
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Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Metallica Gold color retains noticeable smudges

Where the brand has truly succeeded is in the treatment of the camera modules. There is no protruding camera bump here, instead, it’s a clean and minimalistic layout with the three sensors.

Other design characteristics check all the boxes you expect from a device in this price range. On the right side of the device, you will find the power button doubling up as a fingerprint sensor. It’s worth mentioning that it is very snappy for a budget phone, as it registers and unlocks the phone in a jiffy. So far, I haven’t found a need to press the power button to unlock the device, a simple tap does the job. On the left side, you will find the volume rockers.

Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on the device

On the bottom, you will find a USB Type-C charging port, a speaker grill, and a microphone. Right next to them is a headphone jack. Yes, the beauty of this price segment is the having these endangered features. On the top left, you will also find the SIM card slot. This is a 3-in-1 unit that supports 2 Nano SIMS and a Micro SD card.

Unfortunately, the device has no official IP rating, which is not surprising given the price point. So yes, you need to be careful with the device around water.

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Display
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
There is a 6.6-inch FHD+ display on the 9i 5G

Realme 9i 5G features a 6.6-inch display with FHD+ resolution (2400x1080p). While the display is big, I am not a big fan of the teardrop notch. More so because we get a punch-hole treatment on the regular Realme 9i. This is a bit of a downgrade, in my opinion

Apart from this, the display performs like a standard LCD panel, as one might expect.

It is adequately bright with 400 nits of peak brightness, but viewing the display outdoors can be a struggle, especially with text.

Otherwise, it’s a good screen if you like to watch videos on your smartphone as it produces vivid colours and ample details - a favourable setting for watching movies on it.

It’s worth noting that it doesn’t support HDR content on streaming applications. Yet, I would say that this is a good display at its price and will not disappoint you. Unfortunately, there is no always-on display option here.
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Where Realme truly surprised me was the refresh rate on the panel. It peaks at 90Hz, but that’s not it; it features an auto-select feature. This feature allows the smartphone to switch refresh rates between 60 and 90Hz as per what’s happening on the screen. I switched between gaming, web browsing, and social media apps and did not feel any sudden shift in visuals like animations.

Realme UI software
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
9i 5G runs on Android 12 with Realme UI skin

The Realme 9i 5G edition runs on Android 12 with Realme UI skin out of the box. My previous experience with Realme UI had prepared me for what to expect. Yes, the bloatware. The usual suspects like MX TakaTak, Josh, and ShareChat are here. These apps can be uninstalled, but removing them is just one extra step you need to do when you boot up a brand-new device.

After getting rid of them, the actual user experience is intuitive. Realme UI is one of the better skins in the market today. The colours and app icon designs pop out and should pander to a minimal and flashy audience.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
bloatware on the UI stands out like a sore thumb

There are basic options, like switching to dark-colour themes. You can also go full custom by choosing from the set of themes available on board. There is a buffet of options from cookie dough to a party. For me, however, the default skin did the job.

Then there are other usual features like multi-window that comes in handy on the 6.5-inch panel. Additionally, there are also flexi-windows on the phone, which are basically floating windows. You can pin an application on the display while working on another application. I often pounded the calculator and calendar on the floating window, which added to my productivity.
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There is also a smart sidebar, giving you a shortcut for apps. This is also customisable.

Realme has also promised two years of Android updates and three years of security updates on the 9i 5G. This actually does add to the longevity of the phone.

Performance
Realme 9i is powered by MediaTek Dimensity 810 5G chipset. This is what differentiates this device from its 4G avatar. The 5G variant definitely outperforms the 4G sibling powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 chipset.

If we strictly go by the Geekbench (benchmarking software) numbers, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 SOC’s single-core score is 372, while the multi-core score is 1552. The performance in the 5G variant is increased, with a single-core score of 601 and a multi-core score of 1781. This is not a substantial increase with respect to performance but it does put things in perspective.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Geek bench score for Realme 9i 5G

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Coming to my user experience now. In my four days of usage, the 9i has been satisfactory. The device has cut through almost all the tasks I have thrown at it. Starting with everyday duties like emails, calls, and social media - this device can handle most of it. Since my unit is still fresh and not loaded with tons of files, there are no lags, but these devices tend to lose the freshness after a few months of usage, especially if you are an aggressive user. The variant with me packs in 6GB of RAM, which is more than enough to handle all the tasks if you are a light user.

Coming to performance-hungry tasks, the phone takes a soft blow. Case in point gaming - you can’t expect a device of this nature to give you blown-out performance in gaming. And it does not. During my sessions of call of duty, the game was set on a respectable - HD setting for the best performance. There were no serious frame drops, and the device does its job well for a fun half-hour gaming session. But if you are a serious gamer who spends at least an hour, you will notice heating and, eventually, frame drops.

To churn out better performance, you can tap on the RAM expansion. 9i 5G lets you expand the internal RAM by 5GB. There is a notable performance boost for gaming memory, but the graphic capabilities remain the same.

The internal storage on my review variant is 128GB which is enough for most consumers. I strongly recommend this variant if you plan to go for the 9i 5G. It offers you more internal storage and better RAM.

Battery performance on the 9i 5G is satisfactory. The 5000 mAh battery should last a day and a half if you are a light user. On working days, when I wasn’t on Youtube or watching short videos, the phone would not die. As expected, the battery life drops with constant content consumption. In this situation, you would have to plug the device in by the end of the day.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
9i 5G supports 18W flash charging

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With the 18W fast charge support 9i 5G takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to go from 0 to 100%. This is with active internet connection. This might feel like a long time, but then devices in this price bracket usually don’t go beyond 18W fast charging.

Camera

There is no on-paper change in the camera setup for the Realme 9i 5G from the original 9i. A 50MP primary camera with phase detection autofocus is paired with a 2MP macro sensor and a 2MP depth sensor.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
primary camera performs decently under natural lighting conditions

The camera output has not substantially changed, but the processing speed has a significant bump thanks to the new SOC.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
HDR in images is well maintained for brighter frames

The daylight shots from the camera retain great amounts of detail, and it does tone down on the post-processing I noticed on other Realme offerings. Like the Realme 9 Speed edition.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Lack of an ultra-wide sensor pains when trying to cover a bigger room

I noticed some over-saturation in images, especially when clicked in low or artificial lighting conditions. But nothing that would spoil your picture.
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The night mode on the camera puts out better results than regular clicks. It retains a tad bit better details and makes the images less grainy.

Unfortunately, there is no ultra-wide sensor on the 9i 5G. Which I feel would have added some serious value to the device. What we get in its place is a 2MP depth sensor. Portrait shots on the smartphone are decent, with satisfactory edge detection. They don’t feel super crisp, though, something we see on Samsung Galaxy F23 available in the same price range.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
The dedicated depth sensor provides neat edge detection

Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Night mode increases the brightness of the frame but loses out on details

The 2MP macro sensor is the weakest link. Macro shots from the sensor are bad, failing to retain detail. So it feels more like a gimmick of having this. If you are patient with it, this might get some usable photos in daylight.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Macro shots lose detail and there is a change in color tone

In terms of video performance, the 9i 5G can record 1080P & 720P videos. It holds up well for casual videos, but if you are a content creator, then the quality might not suit your requirement. Here I would like to mention that the audio recorded on the video feed is crisp.

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In the front, we get an 8MP AI selfie camera. This is not the 16MP sensor we get on the regular 9i. The performance was in-line, though. Images were under-saturated, and skin tone was a miss. As expected here as well, you get multiple filters. The AI beauty selfie retains its classic features. It lets you retouch your facial features. From nose size to cheeks. So if you like such features, you are in for a treat.
Realme 9i 5G Review - 5G Upgrade With Cosmetic Changes
Portrait selfies have decent edge detection but the shadows are off

Verdict
Realme 9i 5G does not come with substantial changes compared to the regular 9i. However, if I look at it strictly as a 5G device, it is a solid choice in this price bracket. It’s priced lower than its siblings, the Realme 9 Speed Edition and regular Realme 9, yet offers a similar experience. If you are on a tight budget and want a future-proof device with 5G compatibility, then you can consider the 9i 5G. You will get a device with a premium build, a catchy eye design, stable everyday performance and enough power for some light gaming or prolonged instagram sessions.



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