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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Xiaomi Mi 9T / K20 Review

It’s amazing how fast technology advances. One segment where you can enjoy these benefits is in the mobile phone market. It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, you would have to spend an arm and a leg to get some of the features available on the Mi 9T (also called the Redmi K20 in other markets). 
After using Xiaomi phones for the last two years, I truly believe that brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, Viv0, and Huawei have given Samsung and Apple a cause to worry. Now let’s take a look at this phone and see what the big names in the industry have to worry about. 
  • 6.39" inches AMOLEDFHD+ Full Screen Display
  • 6GB RAM and 64 GB or 128GB Version
  • Sony 48MP ultra high-resolution wide camera + 8MP telephoto camera + 13MP ultra wide-angle camera 20MP Pop-up selfie camera
  • Fast in-screen fingerprint sensor
  • 4000mAh High-capacity battery+ 18W Fast charge
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon 730 up to 2.2GHz
  • Price Php 15,990 (US$305) 64GB. Php 17,990 (US$345) 128GB 

The Good
  • Price The great full-screen AMOLED display
  • The very useful wide-angle camera
  • Fast Snapdragon 730 processor
  • Great Battery life 
  • NFC
  • Design and build quality
  • Price

The Bad
  • Camera quality looks over-processed
  • No expandable storage
  • Included case not very useful
  • Fingerprint sensor not very accurate  

Design and Features
The first thing you’ll notice when you unbox the device is the design and build quality. Xiaomi leveled up and I have to say it’s stunning. The model comes in black, blue, and red. I chose the blue after seriously considering the red one, but no matter the color, anyone can be happy with either. The finish is just stunning, and while the glass back gives it some heft, it’s the good kind with a solid feeling in the hand. Turning it around and you’ll be greeted with a “notchless” bright AMOLED screen. It’s quite refreshing not to see a notch especially after using the Pocophone for about a year. It made me realize how much I missed AMOLED displays. I was a Samsung user from the S2 to the S8, and I missed those deep blacks. The rest of the phone is nice and slim, and considering the large 4000mha battery, it’s pretty easy to hold with one hard. 

The Mi 9T is the very first device to use the new Snapdragon 730 processor. It’s one of Qualcomm's upper mid-range chip, and it feels very fast and snappy for everyday use. Coming from the Pocophone, I can’t tell any performance difference. That’s quite an achievement since technically, the Pocophone has a faster 845 chip. Even playing graphically-demanding games is no problem for this processor. 

The camera, on the other hand, is a mixed bag for me. Photos in bright light come out okay but I noticed some over-processing when you zoom into the image. I decided to use the Google Camera APK mod, and there was a significant improvement in the quality of the photos. The good thing is that Xiaomi can fix this in a software update and I have a feeling they will address this in future firmware rollouts. What I really enjoyed was the wide-angle camera. If there’s one thing I missed from having an old digital camera was the ability to shoot in wide. It just gives you so much shooting options that you wonder how you ever managed without it. 

Photo from the stock camera, it looks okay but..

If you zoom in, you'll see over processing

Using the Google Pixel camera app, photo looks much better

Zooming in, you can see more detail

Video is also very good. You get EIS, and you can also use the wide-angle lens for video. Resolution tops out at 4k, 30FPS. There’s no option for 4K, 60FPS. 
Lastly, the in-display fingerprint scanner is not as accurate compared to the old capacitive ones. Sometimes it would work consistently, while at other times, it would just refuse to register. Again, I’m hoping this is something that can be fixed with a software update. 


By now you can tell that I really like this phone. More so since I was able to purchase it during a Lazada sale and together with a credit card promo, I only paid Php 13,900 (US$265) for the 128GB model. Considering its retail price of Php 17,990, that’s “bang for your buck” pricing if I ever saw one. And at that price, I’m willing to accept some of its shortcomings. Some of which can be improved with software updates, anyway. I think the days of the Php 50,000 (US$1000) flagship phones are numbered. Of course, some people will still want those, but the good news is that you don’t have to. You no longer need to pay through the roof for a phone that does 99 percent of what expensive flagship devices can do. Apple and Samsung, it’s time to level up!

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