Last May, Xiaomi outed the Mi 9 SE in the Philippines. This P15, 990 phone follows its bigger and higher-spec sibling the Xiaomi Mi 9, and offers a feature-filled device to the budget-conscious consumers.
In the few days we spent testing the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE, the device displayed a commendable performance, making it a great choice as your daily tech driver. Read on for the full review of the Mi 9 SE smartphone.
Design & Construction
The thing we love the most: the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE is a pocketable device. It’s relatively small compared with many devices available today. The handset measures 147.5mm in height, 70.5mm in width, and 7.5mm in thickness, and weighs only 155g. Despite touting a relatively small form factor, this smartphone does not skimp on the features and tech it offers. In fact, the Mi 9 SE was able to fit a display measuring 5.97 inches thanks to the slim bezels around the screen. The handset also comes tiny dot drop notch design, which houses the front camera and the call speaker. The notch blends flawlessly to the rest of the screen, inconspicuous and unnoticeable, providing an almost full screen experience and viewing.
The Mi 9 SE features a round aluminum frame and glass construction, giving it a solid feel and allowing users to hold it comfortably with one hand. Again, the small body makes it easy and balance to hold and use the Mi 9 SE with just one hand, even for people who have small hands. Overall, this device looks and feels premium; the quality build ensures you that this device is truly rigid and can survive your daily grind.
The button placement are at the usual spots, like in most smartphones. On the right side of the device you’ll find the volume rocker and the power button. The dual nano SIM card tray is on the left side of the device–yes, you read that right, the tray only accommodates SIM cards, meaning there is no option to expand the internal storage.
The IR blaster and noise-canceling microphone sits at the top of the device, while at the bottom part you’ll find the downward-firing speaker, another noise-canceling microphone, and a USB-C port. If you’re a loyal 3.5mm audio jack user, sad news for you: Xiaomi decided to remove the 3.5mm port on the Mi 9 SE. Don’t worry though because a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter is available in the box–a little hassle to have to bring it around and it’s prone to gettong lost because of its small size.
The glass back of the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE is flawless, the color gradient on the blue variant (the Mi 9 SE is also available in black) that we reviewed is beautiful. A rainbow gradient/reflection appears whenever the light hits the rear cover. Keep in mind, however, that the glass back attracts fingerprints and smudges–a lot! Quick fix for this is the jelly case that comes with the device or always bring a handy microfiber cloth in your purse or pouch. The rear also features the triple rear cameras, which are positioned at the top left–a common layout in most smartphones now. We didn’t like that the cameras protrude, causing the phone to wobble when placed on top of a flat surface. This design is also prone to dents and dings. The bundled jelly case, again, is the solution to this issue.
Display & Multimedia
The display on the MI 9 SE measures 5.97 inches with a Dot Drop notch; it comes protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The Super AMOLED panel boasts a FHD+ screen resolution (2340 x 1080), 432ppi pixel density, and 19.5:9 screen aspect ratio. The viewing angles on this device are a delight. Even its visibility under harsh lighting or direct sunlight is great. The vivid display provides good contrast and saturation on the images; the text and icons on the screen are crisp and clear, too. As expected, the AMOLED panel produces deep blacks.
To complement the display, the single downward-firing speaker produces great sound. It’s not loud but the clarity on it is superb unlike other phones that already have distortions and are muffled when on high volume.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE touts a triple-rear camera setup. There’s a 48MP main shooter with f/1.8 aperture; a 13MP ultra-wide lens with f/2.4 aperture; and an 8MP telephoto sensor with f/2.4 aperture. The triple-lens shooter comes with a Dual LED flash for brighter images in low-lit settings. The resulting images from the rear cameras are extremely detailed and comes with colors close to real life. The auto-focus is fast, too, allowing you to shoot moving images with less blur on the out put photo. Bokeh shots look natural, ultra-wide shots are not too distorted, and portraits are great as well.
On the front, the Mi 9 SE boasts a huge 20MP selfie shooter with f/2.0 aperture. Like the rear cameras, the front cam also provides detailed pictures with real-life colors. On Beauty Mode, the Mi 9 SE applies subtle modification on your selfies. The smoothening and slimming of your face in the picture looks natural most of the time.
For videos, this Xiaomi phone can capture 2160p, 1080p, and 720p at 30fps recording. It uses the main 48MP camera or the 13MP ultra-wide camera to take video. 4K video output are detailed and has great colors. At 1080p, while there’s a slight drop in resolution, the details and colors are pretty much the same.
The 2.3GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 processor and the Adreno 616 GPU, paired with 6GB of RAM, is a good–nay, powerful–combination. It’s not that snappy compared with higher-spec phones but it does the job–pretty well, if we may say. The phone handles basic smartphones task–like browsing, watching videos, and using social media apps and opening multiple applications–well. We encountered no lags at all throughout our review of this device. A caveat for some, maybe, is the fixed internal storage for the device. The Mi 9 SE we reviewed comes with 64GB internal storage and no support for expansion via microSD. Still, the 64GB is large enough to take care of all your memory space needs.
Playing games on the Xiaomi MI 9 SE is smooth. We were able to play PUBG without experiencing any issue at all. The MIUI 10 operating system, based on Android 9 Pie, boasts a clean and intuitive user interface. The minimalist look and opertaion of the MIUI 10 makes it easy for first-time users to learn. The Mi 9 SE also provides various security options for users. Aside from the usual PIN and pattern options, this handset also has an in-display fingerprint scanner and face unlock. Both unlock in just a few seconds. We also ran several benchmark apps on the device, and here are the results:
The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE also offers dual nano sim support; the phone comes with common connectivity features such as 4G LTE, GPS, WiFi, and NFC. Sensors such as GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo are also available. The battery on this device comes with 3070mAh capacity. Yes, its small compared with what’s on the other midrange phones, which pack around 3,500mAh and above. However, the 3070mAh battery can last you a whole day of basic use and a little video watching and playing. Charging only takes a little over an hour especially when using the fast-charging cable and charger.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 shows that size isn’t all the matters. Xiaomi was able to squeeze in a large vivid screen, triple rear cameras, large sensor front camera, reliable processors, and huge memory and storage capacities into the sleek and slim form factor of the Mi 9 SE. For its price, too, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE already offers most of the latest technologies that are also available in higher-end smartphones. Some considerations, however, is the small battery capacity and the lack of storage expansion of the Mi 9 SE. Overall, it’s worth the buy.