Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Incredible camera, satisfactory performance; but is that really enough?
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: The smartphone comes at a starting price of Rs 16,499 putting it against the likes of Realme 6 Pro, Honor 9X Pro and Poco X2. And, since there are no major upgrades, the buying decision could easily come down between the Note 9 Pro and the Pro Max models as well.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: The Note series has been the most important one for Xiaomi in the Indian market over the years. It has been instrumental in company’s success and with increasing competition from brands like Realme, Vivo and Samsung, Xiaomi would have been hoping for a major push from its Redmi Note 9 line-up of smartphones. The Chinese phone maker launched the series in mid-March, comprising of the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Note 9 Pro Max, with minor differences between the devices.
Things haven’t gone the way Xiaomi would have desired since the phone was first launched. We had a Janta curfew a week after the Note 9 series was launched, followed by different phases of nation-wide lockdown, disruption in delivery chains and most importantly, a GST hike on mobile phones. While the coronavirus crisis stopped Xiaomi from selling the smartphone, the last factor has led to a price hike.
After almost two months, things seem to have returned to normal with e-commerce platforms resuming their services and as a result, Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is finally selling in India. The smartphone comes at a starting price of Rs 16,499 putting it against the likes of Realme 6 Pro, Honor 9X Pro and Poco X2. And, since there are no major upgrades, the buying decision could easily come down between the Note 9 Pro and the Pro Max models as well.
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To clear the confusion and make the buying decision easier for you, let’s look at the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max in detail in our full review of the smartphone.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Stunning but not Exceptional
There is no doubt that the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is a beautifully crafted smartphone with some impressive colour options, curved edges and a refreshing camera module. It looks stunning in sunlight with a shiny back but there is nothing exceptional about the device. We have seen a similar finish on other mid-range smartphones in the past.
In fact, even though I have not got the chance to use the Redmi Note 9 Pro, the two smartphones look exactly the same from behind, at least in the images. The back panel is a fingerprint magnet and the only way out of it is the cover you get inside the retail box. What’s disappointing is that the cover is of sub-standard quality, or at least it feels so.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is offered in three colour variants: Glacier White, Interstellar Black, and Aurora Blue. We had the Interstellar Black colour variant for review purposes which is a huge saviour for Xiaomi as far as the overall design of the phone goes. However, it does not look anywhere close to black and appears Blue when light falls on it.
People around me have been critical about the unusual camera module. Personally, I appreciate if a company tries to do something new and offer a refreshing design. The only concern here is that the lenses are quite bumped up which could damage the phone if roughly placed over a surface. But, this is something I can assess better after using the phone for a longer period.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max sports a fingerprint scanner on the right side, similar to what we saw on this year’s Poco X2. The phone is tall, thanks to its relatively larger screen which also makes it tough to reach out to the fingerprint sensor. But, you are likely to get used to the positioning of button after a day or two. The problem, however, is for the left-handed users, who will need to register their index finger to unlock the phone.
The other design elements include an IR emitter which is common on Xiaomi smartphones,. It is placed on top of the phone along with the secondary mic. At the bottom, you get a USB Type-C port, a speaker, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the primary microphone. The smartphone has a dual-SIM slot card with a dedicated microSD card slot for storage expansion.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Let’s Call It a Portable TV
I know a major part of internet users in India prefer their smartphones to stream content or play games these days. But then, there are idealists like me who prefer to watch their movies on the biggest screen possible at home connected to the finest audio device. For this purpose, the best thing on which I would use a smartphone for is to probably, play a movie trailer, largely because of that uncontrollable urge to see it, only to end up playing it again on TV or laptop, later.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is one of the few smartphones with the potential to change that habit. It comes with a big 6.67-inch display with a full-HD+ resolution. Now, while this is not the ideal screen size for a single-hand use, I can make that compromise for the viewing experience on offer.
The display is quite punchy and a tiny hole punch further helps in achieving the ideal streaming experience. This is again a feature which you don’t find on many Xiaomi smartphones and is likely to be appreciated by a lot of smartphone users. Xiaomi has also managed to keep the bezels thin with a slightly broad chin.
The icons and text are sharp but peak brightness could have been slightly brighter.
The smartphone comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 for protection. The company also claims to have used an anti-oil and anti-fingerprint coating on the top – a feature I have been waiting for a long time. It just saves your from all the trouble of cleaning the phone again and again.
Two display features that this device lacks are – a Super AMOLED panel and a higher screen refresh rate. The Poco X2 offers you 120Hz display at the same price point while the Realme 6 Pro comes with a 90Hz screen refresh rate. However, both of them also have an IPS LCD screen.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Satisfactory Performance
The ‘Mad Max’ or as I have been calling it, the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 720 processor which was also used on the Realme 6 Pro. It is one of the most effective chipsets at this price point and delivers a satisfactory performance when it comes to basic gaming and multi-tasking. The processor is assisted by up to 8GB of RAM which is enough for almost all tasks.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max has been launched in three variants – 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage priced at Rs 16,499; 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage priced at Rs 17,999 and the 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage variant which would cost you Rs 19,999.
Unlike what we see these days, there is a significant difference in the pricing of base and top-end models. Ideally, you will be best suited with the 6GB+128GB variant which offers a balance of cost and performance.
I have been playing a few games on the devices lately. Of course, we can’t do much in this lockdown anyway. And, the graphics were running perfectly fine, frame rate was near-perfect and I didn’t face any heating issues either.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max runs MIUI 11 on top of Android 10. This is one thing you should consider seriously before buying the phone. Xiaomi’s UI is not the cleanest for sure. It comes with several pre-installed apps and games, most of them Xiaomi’s own. And then, you will also be exposed to ads and notifications. While you can always choose to ignore them, it does make a difference in your overall experience.
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On the positive side, you get a massive 5020mAh battery which lasts long. Also, the phone ships with a 33W charger – a major upgrade on its younger sibling which comes with a 1*W charger. The phone charges quickly but the battery capacity adds to the overall weight, making the phone a bit heavy.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Adding Life to Images
Coming to most exciting part of the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, it has one of the best camera performances in this segment. The smartphone boasts of a quad-camera setup at the back consisting of a 64-megapixel primary shooter, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, a 5-megapixel Macro camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
Before we talk about the camera performance, let me take a moment to appreciate Xiaomi’s camera app which offers more than what you could ask for. The app is full of options and lets you unleash the photographer inside you. There are several modes that you can use to capture images and create content.
I had my limitations while testing the camera as there is a limited space I could have explored. Yet, tried to capture different subjects and surroundings to give you a better idea about what’s on offer.
The primary camera, of course, stands out capturing finest of details across conditions. The colours remain true while clicking objects but the skin tone is slightly over-saturated, in almost all the images. The portrait mode is highly effective with perfect edge detection. Every strand of my hair was well detected and highlighted from the background.
The ultra-wide angle is decent and does its job even though a few details are lost. The macro lens probably needs some improvement going ahead as a lot of images clicked by it ended up blur.
It is the front camera which has me divided. The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is equipped with a 32-megapixel selfie shooter in hole punch design. While there’s nothing to criticise about it, I find it slightly underwhelming against the front camera of Poco X2, which kept the images more natural.
On the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, selfies looked a bit artificial or painting-like every once in a while. The portrait mode is equally effective here as well.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Should you buy?
Here comes the tough part! I have been getting a lot of queries around the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max with most buyers confused between it and the Poco X2 and Realme 6 Pro. From what I hear, the overall performance is also similar to the Redmi Note 9 Pro, sans camera. But probably not using the standard Pro model, makes me appreciate the ‘Mad Max’ more.
On this smartphone, you get a refreshing design, proven processor, incredible camera capabilities and fast charging support. If that’s enough for you, go ahead and spend on the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max. However, if you need a better screen refresh rate for high-end gaming, then Poco X2 and Realme 6 Pro will serve you better.
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