The Realme 9i 5G is Realme’s most affordable 5G phone in India right now. While it follows the Realme 9i 4G which was launched earlier this year in India, there are enough cosmetic and internal changes to make it stand out in the sub-₹15,000 budget segment. It’s got a trendy design, a powerful processor and is 5G ready, which pits it directly against its closest competitors, the Poco M4 Pro 5G and the Redmi Note 11T 5G. So does it make any sense to buy the Realme 9i 5G at its asking price? That’s what I’ll be answering in this Realme 9i 5G review.
Realme 9i 5G review: In the box
The retail box contains the Realme 9i 5G, an 18W charging adapter, Type-C cable, TPU protective case, SIM card ejector pin, pre-applied screen protector and some paperwork including the warranty card.
Realme 9i 5G review: Key Specifications at a glance
Price: ₹14,999 (4GB+64GB) | ₹16,999 (6GB+128GB)
Display: 6.6-inch LCD, FHD+, 90Hz refresh rate, Panda Glass
Platform: MediaTek Dimensity 810
Built-in storage: 64GB/128GB UFS 2.2
Expandable storage: Yes, upto 1TB
5G support: n1/5/8/28A/41/77/78
3.5mm jack: Yes
OS: Realme UI 3.0 based on Android 12
Rear Camera: 50MP (f/1.8) + 2MP macro + 2MP depth sensor
Rear Camera Video: 1080p (30FPS)
Front Camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
Speakers: Single speaker
Battery and charging: 5,000mAh, 18W wired
Colours: Metallica Gold, Rocking Black
Realme 9i 5G review: Build and Design
The Realme 9i has an eye-catching design with a shiny and reflective finish that’s reminiscent of a CD. It comes in two colours: Rocking Black and Metallica Gold, which is what we received for this review. Realme says the design has been inspired by the Met Gala 2022 and has a shiny gradient that spreads out from the camera cutout. Realme hasn’t gone with a traditional camera island for the 9i 5G instead the phone has four individual cutouts, three for each camera and one for the LED flash.
The Realme 9i 5G is also one of the thinnest and most lightweight phones in this segment measuring 8.1mm and weighing in at 187 grams. It’s got flat edges on all sides that give it a boxy feel and if you are too bothered about this design you can always slap on a case which will give you better grip and ergonomics for daily use. The Realme 9i 5G doesn’t have any sort of an IP rating like its counterparts but it feels solid enough to take a beating or two.
Realme 9i 5G review: Display
The Realme 9i 5G features a 6.6-inch Full HD+ display that uses an LCD panel which supports a 90Hz refresh rate and has a layer of Panda Glass protection. The screen also has a rather dated waterdrop notch for the selfie camera and a slightly wide chin. However, you will be more focused on the large screen which is decent for daily use.
When it comes to watching videos on YouTube, the display offers crisp visuals but has a slightly bluish tint that makes visuals fall on the side of cooler colour tones. The display settings have a video colour enhancer option which boosts colours whenever a video is played on YouTube. Sadly though, the display doesn’t support HDR playback and neither does it support Netflix, yet.
During my use, I didn’t find the brightness of this display to be in line with Realme’s claims. The brand claims a minimum brightness of 360 nits and a typical brightness to be around 400 nits. In our testing, however, the Realme 9i 5G could only manage around 314-315 nits of maximum brightness while the minimum luminosity is 2 nits. While the 9i 5G is great for watching content indoors, sunlight legibility is also an issue with such low brightness levels.
Realme 9i 5G review: Performance
The MediaTek Dimensity 810 chip powering the Realme 9i 5G has stood the test of time and is more than sufficient for daily use for things like messaging, calling, watching videos, browsing social media feeds and playing casual games. This chip also brings 5G connectivity to the table and your phone won’t be left behind in the race for the 5G rollout which is set to happen later this year.
In our testing, the Realme 9i 5G raked in respectable scores in AnTuTu, Geekbench, PCMark and 3DMark benchmarks, performing equally well if not better than the Snapdragon 695 on the Poco X4 Pro or even the Dimensity 810 on the Redmi Note 11T. We stressed the CPU in the throttling test where the Realme 9i throttled to 87% of its maximum performance. The general gameplay performance in games like COD Mobile and Asphalt 9 remained decent with some minor frame drops here and there. As per the data recorded by Gamebench, the Realme 9i was able to run COD Mobile at 60FPS at 99% stability while Asphalt 9 ran at 30FPS at 88% stability.
Realme 9i 5G review: Battery Life
If you consider yourself to be a heavy phone user, you’ll most likely need to plug the Realme 9i 5G into the charger at the end of a hectic day. But if you’re a casual user and will rarely be watching videos or playing games, the 9i 5G will last you for more than a day easily. In our video loop test, the phone ran a local 1080p video over VLC for around 15 hours before fully discharging, which is a good score for a phone with a 5,000mAh battery. However, Realme supplies a rather slow 18W charging adapter with the 9i 5G which takes over 2 hours to fully charge from 0-100% which is a bummer since 33W fast charging is becoming commonplace in this price range.
Realme 9i 5G Camera review
For its asking price, the Realme 9i 5G takes good pictures in day-to-day use, both from the main and the selfie camera. However, I’ll advise buyers not to expect much from the Realme 9i 5G cameras as they are pretty good at producing colourful and detailed images in daylight but lack versatility. It doesn’t have an ultra-wide camera and instead, Realme has tried to compensate for it with a macro and depth sensor. However, neither of these sensors brings any kind of holistic improvements to the casual photography experience.
That being said, the main camera makes good-looking, Instagrammable pictures when the light is just right. The pictures have a likeness towards blue colours and the processing enhances it a bit more sometimes. The HDR processing is good too but the camera tends to easily overexpose highlights. The depth sensor helps in putting an artificial bokeh effect to pictures which isn’t half-bad but in my opinion, the main camera’s natural depth of field is better. Night-time is where the Realme 9i 5G’s camera lacks substance as the images lack sharpness, textures and most details. The night mode can only do so much here except blow up the exposure and control the highlights.
Realme 9i 5G review: Verdict
The Realme 9i 5G is virtually similar to the Realme 9i 4G but gets 5G and a big performance boost at the cost of features such as stereo speakers, fast charging and a better selfie camera. So, if 5G tops the feature list for you, the Realme 9i 5G makes sense in every way. It’s affordable, looks unique enough to grab attention, has a powerful processor that you can game on and has a good primary camera for your daily needs. Though if features like fast charging, stereo speakers and a better display make your cut, you should definitely look at phones such as the Poco M4 Pro 5G, Samsung Galaxy F23 and Infinix Note 12, to name a few.