The smartphone market has been moving at a rather rapid pace and it doesn’t take long for a trend to be replaced by a new one. Surprisingly, that isn’t the case with Xiaomi. The company has been very consistent in offering value for money devices, especially when it comes to its Note series under the Redmi brand.
It has been a while ever since the first Redmi Note was launched, and over the years, it has become only more premium than before. Earlier this year, the company introduced the new Redmi Note 9 Pro series with two variants, the Note 9 Pro and a Note 9 Pro ‘Max’ variant. While both the handsets share similar specs there are minor differences including a higher resolution camera and memory configurations on the Max variant. The Note 9 Pro Max sells at a starting price of Rs 16,999 going up to Rs 19,999.
Now the design language of the Note 9 Pro Max is pretty much the same as last year adhering to Xiaomi’s ‘Aura’ philosophy. There is glass at the back and front with a metal frame in the middle. Some of the noticeable changes include the square camera module that fits four cameras while a dual LED flash is placed outside. Also, the display notch has been replaced in favour of a punch hole sitting in the top center. This is very similar to some of the recent Samsung phones, and I somehow like it.
The Note 9 Pro Max is definitely not the most compact phone around and feels bigger than most handsets in its range. It is hefty at about 209gms and chunky at 8.8mm. This means there is a big display as well as a big battery. What I did like was the overall weight distribution.
The company has used the same fingerprint embedded power button like the Poxo X2, placed on the right edge. It is recessed making it easier to locate but somehow it doesn’t feel very natural as it is placed a tad bit higher where your thumb rests. Another thing that might be a concern is the bulging camera module. Now this issue can be solved if you use a case, but if you like your phones to be bare, you might want to be a little careful.
Other than that you get the standard USB Type-C port at the bottom along with the mono-speaker and headphone jack, an infrared blaster and secondary microphone up top, the SIM and microSD combo tray on the left and the volume rocker keys with the fingerprint scanner equipped power button on the right.
The display features a punch-hole design which is a first for a Redmi device, although it isn’t the first in its segment. The hole has been placed in the center and I seem to prefer this more than some of the other smartphones that have one in the corner. It just feels a bit more balanced and less distracting.
The display measures 6.67-inches and the LCD panel offers a 2400×1080 pixel resolution with a peak brightness of 450 nits. It is fairly bright with relatively cooler colours and good levels of saturation. Having a faster refresh rate does bring in a smoother experience, but the regular 60Hz panel on the Note 9 Pro Max is not bad at all. The company has probably taken the decision to keep the price in check. In comparison the Poco X2 offers a faster refresh rate at 120Hz and a slightly higher 500 nits of brightness. On the other hand there is the Realme 6 series which comes with a more fluid 90Hz refresh rate panel. I am not saying that you shouldn’t go for the Note 9 Pro Max, it’s just that there are other options in the market to choose from.
Last year Xiaomi brought in a MediaTek processor for the Note 8 Pro, but this year we are going back to Qualcomm with the Snapdragon 720G. This makes it the first Redmi Note device to make use of a 700-series processor from the chip maker and is also one of the most affordable ones on the market. The handset is available with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and the combination of the three makes for a solid experience.
Overall performance for day-to-day tasks like opening multiple apps, switching between them, checking mails, listening to music, are all handled quite well. It runs on Android 10 along with Xiaomi’s MIUI 11 UI, which I feel is a bit on the heavier side but hopefully once MIUI 12 arrives, things should feel even more fluid. I’ve already addressed the issue of unwanted ads, bloatware and inbuilt app notifications, so I am not going to rant about it again.
Gaming seems to be very good with bare minimum frame drops in games like Mortal Kombat and Real Racing 3, it does struggle to push out the maximum graphics settings on PUBG Mobile.
The Redmi Note 9 Pro Max is loaded with five cameras, one on the front and four at the back. There’s a 64-megapixel primary camera with an f/1.89 aperture lens, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with a 119-degree field-of-view, a 5-megapixel macro camera, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. At the front here is a 32-megapixel selfie camera. Now the configuration lowers down if you go for the regular Note 9 Pro where the primary camera goes down to a 48-megapixel sensor while the front camera comes with a 16-megapixel sensor.
There are loads of features on the camera app including pro-colour mode that boosts the overall colour saturation, something which is seen on a lot of other smartphones. There is a dedicated 64-megapixel mode which means that by default you get 16-megapixel photos. You also get dedicated night and portrait modes along with panorama and a Pro mode for manual controls.
Photos taken in daylight look good and there is an auto-HDR and AI enhancement mode that you can turn off or on depending on what kind of results you prefer. I was quite satisfied with the depth of field and the overall look and feel of the photos. The wide angle once again offers comparatively lower quality when compared to the primary sensor, and the macro camera is just decent, and slightly better than most phones that continue to offer a 2-megapixel macro sensors. Low light shots are enhanced with AI but there is a noticeable loss in details.
For videos, you get up to 4K resolution at 30fps which looks decent however if you want stabilised footage you will have to resort to 1080p. There are also manual controls for video recording if you care for fine tuning your footage. Lastly, the front camera is decent along with a portrait mode, although the AI can smoothen your skin too much.
The Redmi Note series made the 4,000mAh battery a very common trend. This year, the Note 9 Pro series features a 5,020mAh battery which is the largest battery on any of the Redmi Note smartphones. In fact the same battery is being used on the regular Note 9 Pro as well as the newly announced Redmi Note 9. Sure this isn’t the biggest one out there as Samsung is offering 6,000mAh battery units on some of the M-series phones, this one is great for all day usage and if you happen to be a moderate user, you can easily have some charge left for the next day as well.
I managed to get over 7 hours of screen time which is pretty good. As for charging, the battery supports 33W fast charging and the bundled charger takes about half an hour to recharge the battery from 0 to 50 percent. To fully charge the phone, it takes about one hour and 20 minutes.
Xiaomi is moving up the ladder with its Redmi Note series. It started off with the Note, then the Note Pro and now the Max. While the company seems to be offering more choices for the consumers under the series, there are just minor upgrades that you get for paying more money. But in the end, I have to say, I was mostly impressed with what the Note 9 Pro Max has to offer. Go for this phone if you are looking for a fuss-free experience especially if you care for a long battery life, a large screen and excellent day-to-day performance.