Realme 9i 5G review: a capable, future-ready mid-ranger

The Realme 9i 5G comes with Vintage CD design, 90Hz 6.6-inch display, MediaTek Dimensity 810 SoC, and more

Review Summary

Expert Rating3.5/5

Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★

Pros

  • Good design
  • Capable performance
  • Impressive battery life
  • Decent primary camera

Cons

  • Selfie camera could have been better
  • Slow 18W charging
  • Macro sensor serves little purpose

Realme, which recently climbed to the second spot as the largest smartphone selling vendor in India, has introduced a new smartphone called the Realme 9i 5G. For the uninitiated, the device is, among other things, a 5G-ready version of the Realme 9i (review), which was launched earlier this year. The key specs of the phone include a 5G-capable MediaTek chipset, a 6.6-inch 90Hz refresh rate screen, 50MP triple rear cameras, a 5,000mAh battery, and a new ‘Vintage CD design’, which is said to be inspired by MET Gala 2022. On paper, the device seems enticing enough so, let’s see if the Realme 9i makes for a quality mid-range/ affordable 5G phone in this review:

Verdict

The Realme 9i 5G is a fusion of Realme 9i 4G and Realme 9 5G. The handset offers the best of both worlds in a refreshingly new design and is, therefore, a worthy contender in the budget space. 

The lowdown

  • The Realme 9i 5G offers a refreshing take on smartphone design. To wit, the handset comes with a Vintage CD design, which comprises a reflective back panel that exhibits colours akin to a CD when light falls on it. While the hues aren’t as dynamic as reflected by a CD, the phone still looks quite appealing. Additionally, you will notice that the device has no camera platform and the Realme 9i 5G’s triple rear camera sensors sit flush with the chassis. The concoction looks quite elegant and I must credit Realme’s design choices here. Be that as it may, the phone is a fingerprint magnet and attracts smudges willy-nilly, which spoils the party.
  • In terms of weight, the handset tips the scale at 187 grams, which I found distributed evenly across the device. The phone also measures just 8.1mm in thickness and has flat edges, with curved corners that don’t dig into your palms, making it easy to hold and comfortable to use single-handedly. The right spine of the phone holds a fingerprint scanner-cum power button, while the left fascia houses the volume rocker. The USB Type-C port along with speaker grille, 3.5mm headphone jack, and microphones are all on the bottom edge.
  • The Realme 9i 5G sports a 6.6-inch display of the LCD variety that bears FHD+ (2,400×1,080p) resolution, up to 90Hz refresh rate, and a touch sampling rate of 180Hz. While the refresh rate can stay locked in at 90Hz, Realme offers a variable refresh rate option as well. The latter switches the screen refresh rate from 90Hz to 60Hz depending on the nature of the app to save some battery. Furthermore, the screen supports 400 nits of brightness, making the Realme 9i 5G’s panel good to look at and consume content, both indoors and outdoors. The viewing angles and bezels are also quite reasonable, so no complaints here either.
Realme 9i 5G benchmark
  • On the performance front, the Realme 9i 5G is powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 810 SoC, which can be found fueling phones like the Realme 9 5G (review), the Infinix Note 12 Pro 5G (review), and the Redmi Note 11T 5G (review). The Dimensity 810 SoC comes with a 6nm manufacturing process, octa-cores that offer up to 2.4GHz clock speed, Arm Mali-G57 MC2 GPU, and a built-in 5G modem. Overall, it is a capable mid-range chipset that offers snappy performance while multitasking and running resource-hungry apps such as Chrome on the phone.
  • The chipset can even run graphically-demanding games such as Asphalt 9 and New State Mobile, but not at the optimum level. In fact, there were occasional frame freezes and drops while playing the aforementioned titles on the trot. You should also know that the handset comes in a couple of RAM and storage options including 4GB + 64GB and 6GB + 128GB variants. The storage is further expandable up to 1TB using a microSD card – the phone has a dedicated slot for that, while the RAM is virtually expandable up to 5GB using the handset’s internal storage.
  • For photography, the Realme 9i 5G features triple rear cameras, comprising an f/1.8 aperture 50MP primary lens, a 2MP portrait sensor and a 2MP macro sensor. The setup is quick to focus on the subjects and overturns good images with fine details, at least in favourable lighting conditions. The 50MP primary sensor’s colour science looks mostly accurate too, which is great. But, you don’t just have to take my word for it – in fact, take a look at the rainbow umbrella photo from the gallery (below) wherein, you’ll notice that the colours look vivid and punchy. The HDR mode also does well not to oversaturate colours or over-sharpen the image. That being said, the sensor struggles to reciprocate the colours in images properly in lowlight scenarios wherein, the subject appears washed out and lacks adequate detail as well. The dedicated night mode feature does manage to mitigate some of these problems, but the overall output still leaves something to be desired. 
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  • The 2MP depth/portrait sensor is not too shabby either and the unit blurs the background admirably and offers sound edge detection too. However, it is worth mentioning that the sensor doesn’t work all that well on inanimate objects. The 2MP macro sensor, on the other hand, can only click passable closeups when the sun is out. Consequently, I feel that the device would’ve benefitted immensely from a more usable ultra-wide lens instead of a macro sensor. For selfies and video calling, the Realme 9i sports an 8MP camera, which tends to oversharpen the images. Furthermore, the subject’s skin tones are rendered incorrectly too. Lastly, while the phone ships with a portrait selfie feature, the quality of images snapped with the mode enabled is average at best.
  • The Realme 9i 5G is driven by a 5,000mAh battery, which netted around 16 hours on the PC Mark test. The real-world performance wasn’t far from that either, mind you. To wit, the handset lasted me a full day with my usage comprising watching videos online, social media browsing, checking emails, and a bit of gaming, between charges. While all that’s good and dandy, the phone’s 18W fast charging tech leaves something to be desired as it can take around 2.5 hours to refuel the Realme 9i 5G from 0-100 percent completely. 
  • While the handset supports as many as nine 5G bands, I couldn’t test the same as the 5G network is yet to make its debut in India. Be that as it may, I didn’t face any network issues while running Airtel’s 4G SIM on the smartphone. As for the phone’s side-mounted fingerprint scanner, it recognised my touch at once and unlocked the device in a jiffy. The phone also ships with a mono speaker at the bottom, which gets quite loud although sounds average at best. Last but not the least, the Realme 9i 5G runs Android 12-based Realme UI 3.0 out of the box. While the software is mostly clean, there is some bloatware that you will have to get rid of after setting up the device. Good thing though, the interface is quite user-friendly and comes with a handful of customisation options, screen and call recording options, and app recommendations, among other things.

Final verdict

For the asking price of Rs 14,999, the Realme 9i 5G is not the most feature-rich smartphone out there. Some of the similarly priced phones such as the Samsung Galaxy F23 5G are available with a 120Hz refresh rate screen and 25W fast charging solution, while the Infinix Note 12 5G sports an AMOLED panel and 33W fast charging tech.

That said, the Realme 9i 5G looks the part of a stylish product and the device offers good performance, impressive battery life as well as a decent set of cameras. All said and done, while not the best in its segment, the Realme 9i 5G warrants a second look. 

Expert’s rating: 3.5/5

Pros

  • Good design
  • Capable performance
  • Impressive battery life
  • Decent primary camera

Cons

  • Selfie camera could have been better
  • Slow 18W charging
  • Macro sensor serves little purpose

Key Specs

Realme 9i 5G
RAM4 GB
ProcessorMediaTek Dimensity 810 MT6833
Rear Camera50 MP + 2 MP + 2 MP
Front Camera8 MP
Battery5000 mAh
Display6.6 inches (16.76 cm)
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Realme 9i 5G Price
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Rs. 14,899.00
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Rs. 14,999.00
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