Realme has been expanding its 9 series in India. The smartphone maker already has six devices in the Realme 9 series in India, which include the Realme 9i, Realme 9 5G, Realme 9 5G Speed Edition, Realme 9 Pro, Realme 9 Pro+, and the latest Realme 9.
Like the Realme 9i, the Realme 9 also comes without 5G support. Instead, Realme has decided to up the camera ante by giving the 4G version of the Realme 9 a 108 MP triple-camera setup. Realme is calling it the 108 MP ProLight Camera. However, unlike the Realme 9 Pro+ (Review), which sits firmly in the mid-range segment, the new Realme 9 maintains a sub-20K price despite the new camera hardware. But is the new camera enough to earn the Realme 9 a recommendation? Well, let’s find out.
Design and Build
The design of the Realme 9 doesn’t deviate too far from the Realme 9 Pro series. On the back, the Realme 9 has a small rectangular shaped camera island with three modules and an LED flash. There’s a Realme logo on the bottom, while the back panel is available in Sunburst Gold, Stargaze White, and Meteor Black colours. The phone has a new “Ripple Holographic Design”, which tends to shimmer when placed directly under a light. The overall design is clean and minimalistic, although the back panel does have somewhat of a gradient finish that attracts a few smudges.
While there’s Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front, the rest of the phone is made of plastic, which didn’t come as a surprise at this price. The Realme 9 has a power button on the right and two volume buttons on the left. You get a speaker grille, headphone jack, and USB Type-C port on the bottom. The phone also has an ultra-slim and light form factor, weighing 178 grams and measuring 7.99mm thick.
On the front, the Realme 9 opts for a 6.4-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display. The screen gets plenty bright under direct sunlight and has good viewing angles. Additionally, the phone has a 90Hz refresh rate and a touch sampling rate up to 360Hz. There are three refresh rate modes that can be toggled, including standard, high, and auto.
The screen is WideVine L1 certified for viewing HD content on OTT platforms. The AMOLED panel here is far from the best but is pretty solid for the price. Overall, the display has good viewing angles and pushes out vibrant colours. On the downside, there’s no HDR support here. Despite that, the Realme 9 4G has one of the best screens in the segment.
For performance, the Realme 9 opts for a 4G Snapdragon 680 SoC paired with up to 8GB of LPDD4x RAM. You also get 128GB of UFS 2.2 storage by default that can be expanded up to 256GB through a microSD card slot. Additionally, the Dynamic RAM Expansion technology enables an additional 5GB of virtual RAM through unused storage. So, what does this mean in terms of real-world performance; let’s find out.
In AnTuTu, the smartphone managed a multi-core score of 1590 points and a single-core score of 381 points. In AnTuTu, we got an overall score of 292117 points. To be honest, these scores were particularly unimpressive. The phone runs smooth enough to notice the high 90Hz refresh rate while navigating the interface. However, going above 30fps in games proved to be difficult. The MediaTek Helio G95 chip on the Realme 8 (Review) managed slightly better scores than its Snapdragon counterpart.
I also tested BGMI and Call of Duty: Mobile on the Realme 9. Both games worked well with graphics and frame rates set to Medium. The phone also got warm after playing Call of Duty: Mobile for 30 minutes straight but that didn’t really hamper gameplay. While the Snapdragon 680 is a very reliable chipset, I wouldn’t recommend it for gaming. It doesn’t come quite close to the Snapdragon 695 SoC, which we’ve seen on similarly priced phones like the iQOO Z6 5G, Poco X4 Pro 5G, and even the Realme 9 Pro.
One of the key highlights of the Realme 9 is its 108 MP Samsung ISOCELL HM6 camera sensor, which sits at the helm of a triple-camera setup. The other two camera sensors in the setup include an 8 MP ultrawide shooter and a 2 MP macro lens. You also get a 16 MP selfie camera upfront.
The main camera here takes good photos in daylight with natural-looking colours. Dynamic range was also on point and overexposure was a rear occurrence. Additionally, shots taken in daylight were sharp and crisp details. However, the phone didn’t quite handle more complex lighting, like indoor or late evening scenes, very well. Photos taken in complex lighting saw softness around the edges and loss of detail. There is an AI mode that bumps up saturation if needed, but it can overdo it at times.
The main camera also did surprisingly well in low light with night mode coming in to bring more light into scenes while doing a good job of suppressing noise. Night mode didn’t overexpose images, although details are lost in background images. The main camera also has a 3x zoom and a high resolution 108 MP mode. The camera can also take good portrait shots in daylight with accurate edge detection. Overall, the main camera was really good in daylight but just about average in low light and indoor scenarios.
The ultrawide camera on the Realme 9 4G was fairly average. While colours look natural for the most part, images look visibly soft with quite a bit of noise. In low light, the ultrawide camera isn’t much use at all. The 2 MP macro unit also does a good job in daylight but like the ultrawide, falls apart in lower light or with the slightest bit of movement.
The 16 MP selfie camera is very reliable, taking photos with good dynamic range and contrast. You do see some overprocessing when it comes to skin tones. Additionally, you lose a bit of detail and noise creeps in when taking selfies indoors. In low light or at night, selfie camera performance is strictly average.
Video quality was also underwhelming, with the phone incapable of shooting 4K video, although you do get a Super Steady mode. While the Realme 9 4G does offer fairly good camera performance on the main 108 MP sensor, the other cameras are strictly average, something we’ve gotten used to in the sub-20K segment.
The Realme 9 4G packs a large 5,000 mAh battery that supports 33W fast-charging support. I found the battery more than sufficient to last a full day on a single charge under heavy usage. The Snapdragon chip here may not be the best performer, but it is quite efficient as it doesn’t require a lot of power. I found myself recharging the charger a good one or two hours into the next day.
And considering Realme is offering a 33W adapter in the box, you’ll get a full charge in a little over an hour. There’s no doubt that you’ll find faster charging in the segment. But as things stand, charging and battery life are pretty impressive on the Realme 9 4G, even if they aren’t segment-leading.
It is nice to see that the Realme 9 4G comes with Android 12 out of the box as we have seen sub-20K phones that have come with Android 11 this year. However, Realme UI 3.0 does have its own set of issues, the first of which is the ton of pre-installed bloatware. But most of this bloatware can be uninstalled, I removed at least 15 apps from the phone.
Realme also retains the best features of Android 12, while also bringing its own custom features. You can also change the look and feel of the device with custom themes and animations. The overall software experience here isn’t bad, Realme UI is clean for the most part and rather convenient to use.
The Realme 9 4G fetches a starting price of Rs 17,999 for the base model and Rs 18,999 for the top-end variant. These prices are higher than that of the Realme 9 5G, which has a faster chip and offers 5G connectivity. However, the 4G version of the Realme 9 takes a more balanced approach than its 5G counterpart. It may not be the best performer, but it does offer solid camera performance, a vibrant OLED display, a large battery with fast charging, ad reliable software.