realme 9i 5G Hands-On and First Impressions

realme has launched its latest smartphone under the realme 9 Series, this is the realme 9i 5G which is a 5G variant of the realme 9i which we saw in the Q1 this year. The 5G variant offers a faster 5G chipset, realme UI 3.0 based on the Android 12 operating system, and comes with a new design inspired by music CDs. Here’s our hands-on with the realme 9i 5G and our first impressions of this smartphone.

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realme 9i 5G Specifications

  • Display: 6.6-inch IPS display, Full HD+ resolution (1,080 x 2,408 pixels), 90 Hz refresh rate, 180 Hz touch-sampling rate 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Software: Android 12, realme UI 3.0
  • CPU: 6nm MediaTek Dimensity 810 5G SoC, up to 2.4 GHz octa-core processor
  • GPU: ARM Mali-G57 MC2
  • Memory: 4 GB or 6 GB LPDDR4x RAM
  • Storage: 64 GB or 128 GB UFS 2.2 internal storage, expands up to 1 TB via microSD card (dedicated)
  • Main Camera: Triple cameras (50 MP f/1.8 primary + 2 MP f/2.4 macro + 2 MP f/2.4 depth)
  • Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.0
  • Others: Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
  • Cellular: 5G LTE, dual SIM, dual standby
  • Battery: 5,000 mAh battery
  • Charging: 18W Dart Charge fast charging
  • Price: ₹14,999 (4 GB + 64 GB), ₹16,999 (6 GB + 128 GB)
  • Availability: 24th August 2022 on realme.com, Flipkart, and other offline retail outlets

As we can see, what has changed in the new 5G variant is mainly the chipset aside from its design, there’s a 6nm MediaTek Dimensity 810 5G SoC with a CPU clocked up to 2.4 GHz and a Mali-G57 MC2 GPU for gaming and graphics tasks. The CPU and GPU are slightly better in terms of performance as compared to that in its 4G variant i.e. the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680. The next is the design which we can see is better than that of its 4G variant.

One of the primary highlights of the realme 9i 5G is its design, the smartphone has a flat design with a sparkling back inspired by music CDs and no camera hump. Like its 4G variant, the backside also shines, but it has a glossy finish Laser Light Design to give you retro CD vibes, it glimmers around once you bring the phone into the light as you see on the old music CDs. You can clearly see its refined triple camera setup which doesn’t have any extra bumped-up surface, aside from the lenses that are slightly popped out, this looks neat in my opinion.

The realme 9i 5G comes in two color variants – Rocking Black, and Metallica Gold, all inspired by the music. The surface on the back isn’t glass, but rather polycarbonate, the sides are flat, the corners are round, and the overall build quality of the smartphone is good. The phone weighs around 187 grams and is 8.1 mm thin in design. No IP rating or water-resistant design is available on the phone.

On the front side, you get the same sized display you see on its 4G variant, the specs also look highly identical, the realme 9i 5G equips a 6.6-inch IPS screen with a Full HD+ resolution (1,080 x 2,408 pixels), 90.4% screen-to-body ratio, 20:9 aspect ratio, 400 nits brightness, and 90 Hz refresh rate with 180 Hz touch sampling rate. We didn’t see any change in the display specifications.

The camera specs are similar too, you get a 50 MP f/1.8 primary camera on the backside with two additional cameras, one is the 2 MP f/2.4 macro camera and another is the 2 MP f/2.4 depth. There’s now a 2 MP depth camera instead of the 2 MP B&W camera found on the realme 9i (4G). The selfie camera seems degraded on paper, instead of the 16 MP found on its 4G variant, here it’s 8 MP f/2.0 with AI Beautifying. You also get a side-mounted fingerprint scanner and stereo speakers for a better multimedia experience.

Moving to the sides, you get a power key on the right side with a fingerprint scanner mounted on it. The left side has a volume control with a SIM tray having dual slots for 5G SIM cards, a dedicated microSD card slot is available on the phone with up to a 1 TB of expansion. You get a USB Type-C port for fast charging (18W – 9V/2A) at the bottom, surprisingly a 3.5 mm port which is good, a microphone, and a loudspeaker (no stereo). The top side has nothing to boast about.

About the internals, the MediaTek Dimensity 810 5G is an octa-core CPU based on a 6nm process and supports a 5G modem. This midrange SoC is also paired with ARM Mali-G57 MC2 GPU for gaming and graphics-related tasks. The SoC consists of 2+6 core configurations, two high-performance ARM Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 2.4 GHz, and six power-efficient ARM Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz.

Speaking of the RAM and storage options, you will find two variants available for the smartphone i.e. 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage both with support for RAM expansion and a microSD card up to 1 TB. The realme’s RAM expansion can increase the RAM up to 5 GB additional making a total of 13 GB of extended RAM on the phone. The price for the 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage variant is ₹14,999 whereas the price for the 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage variant is ₹16,999 with a flat discount of ₹1,000 on ICICI Bank cards as an offer.

Moving to the performance of the processor, the Dimensity 810 5G is quite similar to the Helio G96 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G, in fact, it comes in between the Snapdragon 730G and Snapdragon 750G in terms of overall performance and is slightly better in processing when compared to the Helio G96 and Snapdragon 680 which are the 4G counterparts in this price range. As per our experience, this GPU can handle many games smoothly on the default graphics settings (Mali-G57 MC2 GPU), and hence, the gaming performance of the smartphone in this price range is fairly well and good for gamers.

Unlike the realme 9i 4G which comes with realme UI 2.0 out-of-the-box, the realme 9i 5G runs on the Android 12 with the latest realme UI 3.0 interface on top. The realme UI 3.0 was released last year and is loaded with features. The realme UI 3.0 brings a new look, smoother animations, UI personalizations, custom Always-On Display, new privacy features, and more. We got smoother performance on the realme UI 3.0 compared to its older version.

On the battery side, there’s no change, you can see the same 5,000 mAh battery, but with 18W Dart charging support and not the faster 33W Dart charging. Compared to the 4G variant, the charging speed is inferior; the realme 9i (4G) can be charged up to 50% in around just 31 minutes which is quite faster than the 5G variant with an 18W charging speed.

Early Verdict

The number of 5G smartphones in the midrange category is rising, the realme 9i 5G is among the latest affordable 5G smartphones with attractive design aesthetics, faster 6nm Dimensity 810 CPU, realme UI 3.0 that offers a bunch of features, smooth 90 Hz screen, and 18W fast charging. Things which we miss on this phone are the stereo speakers, and faster 33W charging both of which are available on its 4G variant (realme 9i). As for our initial impressions, we think, at the price of ₹14,999, the realme 9i 5G is recommended if you are looking for a 5G smartphone in this range with reasonable performance and looks, it has all the boxes checked.