Review: The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G is amazing for how cheap it is

Newshub Tech Review: The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G is amazing for how cheap it is.
The Redmi Note 9T 5G comes in two colours - 'Daybreak Purple' (pictured) along with 'Nightfall Black'. Photo credit: Newshub.

The latest Xiaomi smartphone is out in New Zealand and is currently the cheapest on the market to offer 5G.

The Redmi Note 9T 5G has just launched with an RRP of $399.

While it's definitely not offering everything you'd get in a premium device, this is a lot of smartphone for a very low cost.

What have they not included to keep that price so low? How much does that matter?

I've been using the Redmi Note 9T 5G for the past week and here are my thoughts.

The good

This is a remarkably good package for what it costs.

Performance-wise the latest Redmi is no slouch - it packs a MediaTek Dimensity 800U chip and 4GB of RAM, with storage options of either 64GB or 128GB.

It's got an LCD display of 1080x2340 pixels on a 6.53-inch screen, offering a density of 395 ppi and with a typical brightness of 450 nits.

It's shipped with Android 10 and Xiaomi's MIUI 12 interface and boasts a 48MP triple-camera.

Then there's 5G.

If you're in an area of New Zealand and with a provider that offers 5G, this is the cheapest phone to access it with, by quite a large margin. Being able to access the fastest mobile internet on the planet with such a low-cost device is pretty sweet.

And it's just the start.

The Note 9T 5G also offers expandable microSD storage, dual SIM usage, an IR blaster, Gorilla Glass 5 protection, 18-watt fast charging, stereo speakers and a fingerprint scanner.

The box also includes a power charger - which is increasingly rare - and even a clear protector case, which is a nice little extra that more expensive phones don't bother to offer.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G unboxing - this budget phone ships with a charger and a protector screen cover.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The Redmi Note 9T 5G has a generous 5000 mAh battery which means you'll almost definitely always get a full day's use out of it, even if you're a heavy user.

I made the battery go way further - over two full days of use - by doing something I haven't done in years, which is turning Bluetooth off and using the glorious 3.5mm headphone jack. Oh, the nostalgia! The Bluetooth worked fine with my car and various sets of earbuds too, but it was weirdly lovely using a cord again.

The battery also charges quickly - I got it up to a third-full from flat in 30 minutes and back to 100 percent in a little over two hours.

That big battery life is really important if you are able to access 5G, as lightning fast internet speeds can drain your battery power pretty quick.

In general, I'm very impressed with how fast this phone is while using multiple apps. Occasionally there's a slight delay before an app opens, but it's only occasionally. 

It's pretty great that on a phone this cheap I was able to play PUBG Mobile locked at 30fps while in HD mode. Less graphically demanding games can of course be played at a higher framerate, too.

But what's more important than performance for a lot of smartphone users is how well a device takes pictures.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G camera UI in action.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The camera

While it's nowhere near as impressive in the camera department as much more expensive premium devices, you get a solid camera for how little this thing costs.

Its main camera is a triple comprised of a 48 MP sensor with autofocus (f/1.9), complimented by a 2MP depth sensor for portrait modes and a 2MP macro lens.

It can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second (fps) or 1080p at 60fps.

Those cameras combined default to shooting 12 MP photos (2992x4000 pixels), but the full resolution can also be used in '48M' mode.

The selfie camera has a single 13 MP lens and can shoot video in 1080p at 30fps.

You can easily turn on HDR or AI enhancing functions, or a number of other features like pro mode, time lapse and panorama.

What does that mean in practice? It means the Redmi Note 9T 5G takes photos that for most people and most uses will be just fine.

Not great, but just fine.

I've been using it for about a week alongside recent flagship models from Apple and Samsung which have insanely good camera tech in them and come with vastly higher price tags.

Below are some photo comparisons to give you an idea. View them with this enormous caveat - half are taken with a phone that was just released and costs $400, the other half are taken with phones released last year that will cost you at least $1900 if you bought one today.

They've also all been compressed down to appear on this website.

These first two photos were taken at Waihi Beach:

Waihi Beach photographed with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G.
Photo credit: Newshub.
Waihi Beach photographed with a Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G..
Photo credit: Newshub.

These photos of the Waikato River were taken near Ngaruawahia:

The Waikato River photographed near Ngaruawahia with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G.
Photo credit: Newshub.
The Waikato River photographed near Ngaruawahia with an Apple iPhone 12 Pro.
Photo credit: Newshub.

These photos were taken with the selfie camera using 'portrait mode' on the Apple and Xiaomi, and the similar 'live focus' on the Samsung:

Comparing selfie cameras: iPhone 12 Pro vs Redmi Note 9T 5G vs Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The bad

The worst thing about this phone is that it feels cheap.

Yes, a lot of the stats and the 5G capability puts it in the field of a much more expensive phone, but upon picking this up I was immediately reminded of how phones used to feel in the old Nokia and Alcatel days, before the smartphone revolution.

While it's nice getting the free cover in the box, I think if you buy a better, non-seethrough cover for this you could easily hide that cheap exterior, if you wanted.

A cheap feel is also very cosmetic - a lot of people won't care about that because just like with people, it's what's on the inside that counts, right?

Other than the materials used on it, the screen is also what would've been great in a flagship some years ago. I found it quite hard to see the screen on a bright, sunny day, but otherwise it wasn't bad. 

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G, reviewed by Daniel Rutledge at Newshub, New Zealand.
Photo credit: Newshub.

After the initial joy of getting so much in the box, there was a pang of annoyance as I set the phone up. Set-up is a breeze and transferral from another device is easy as, but there's a bunch of bloatware.

So instead of getting straight into all the fun stuff you do with a phone when you first use it, I had to spend a while deleting a bunch of weird games and apps that are pre-installed.

These included Netflix and Facebook, along with quite a few I didn't recognise - but this is my first use of a Xiaomi phone and maybe they'll be familiar to others. 

The MIUI Android skin has its fans and detractors. I found it easy to navigate and pick up, but there are some little quirks that require more tinkering before you can relax into normal phone use.

One of the worst is automatically putting a watermark on any photos taken with the device. Who would want that? Maybe some people, but it should default to being absent rather than forcing you to turn it off.

I also don't like that it defaults to having the screen's auto-rotate turned off, but others may prefer that.

MIUI is not as easy to use as some of the other smartphone systems out there, but it's easy enough. 

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T 5G review.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The verdict

For what this latest Redmi costs, you get an incredible amount of bang for your buck.

If you can handle its cheap look and feel - and go without some of the fancy trimmings of a flagship device - this is more than just a functional smartphone.

That it offers the blistering speed of a 5G connection, that you can shoot video in 4K and take 48MP photos, that you can play demanding games on it relatively smoothly... it all adds up to a fantastic budget smartphone.

It sets an exciting high bar for competitor products in the same price range.

If you have to get a new smartphone soon and don't fancy paying $1000 - $2000 for the privilege, definitely consider this latest from Xiaomi.

Newshub was supplied a set of Redmi Note 9T 5G for this review.