Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Perfect, like you’d expect it to be

Is it worth the extra price?



There’s no doubt that Xiaomi has become a leader in the smartphone industry, thanks to affordable phones. The Redmi Note lineup is extremely special because it delivered more for an affordable price. Bigger screen, better cameras, top-notch performance, and great battery life. What more can one ask for?

If you’re looking for an affordable “pro,” Xiaomi’s got a new offering that promises to offer “max” features. However, with rising competition from brands like Realme, can Xiaomi continue dictating the market? Furthermore, POCO X2 is also a fantastic offering. So, what makes the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max so unique?

For the first time, Redmi has stretched the existing lineup and offered a “Max” option. The company wants to cover more and more price bands, but is that it? We can consider this phone to be a premium offering that comes with an affordable price tag. When compared to the Redmi Note 9 Pro, it has a better camera and faster charging. But how does this add to the overall experience, and is it worth the upgrade?

A refined and practical design

I’ve got the Aurora Blue color variant, and that’s the first thing you’ll notice about the phone. The back is sometimes sky blue, sometimes greenish, and often grey. Due to the reflective surface, it’ll change its exterior like a chameleon depending on the surrounding lighting.

While we’ve seen a ton of reflective phones, this one is different because it doesn’t have fixed patterns or letters. Fair to say, I loved the phone’s design the moment it was out of the box.

The back panel is shielded by Gorilla Glass 5, and the first thing you’ll notice is the colossal squircle camera module. It houses a quad-camera setup, but the protrusion is significantly high. The bump is easily visible, and you can feel it making the phone clumsy when kept down on a flat surface.

I would have preferred a smaller bump, but it didn’t hamper the user experience. Thankfully, a case is provided and it perfectly covers up the bump.

The phone does feel thick and heavy to hold, and a case further amplifies this. One-handed use is difficult, and I think the fingerprint scanner/power button is located a tad-bit too high on the right side. My friend has small hands, and she struggled to reach it in one go seamlessly. The volume rockers are located above the power button.

I’m glad Redmi opted for a side-mounted fingerprint scanner instead of the weird rear scanner on the Redmi Note 8 Pro. It’s quick to unlock the phone and, when coupled with face unlock, does an excellent job.

The SIM slot is located on the left, and the top gets an IR blaster. On the bottom are the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C port, and the speaker grill. The speaker is sufficiently loud. A tiny earpiece is located on the top for calls and performs flawlessly.

An excellent screen but with something missing

When you first switch on the phone, you might think it’s an AMOLED panel due to the high saturation. The lineup has always sported top-notch LCDs that continuously push the ceiling higher in terms of output. This is the biggest screen we’ve seen in the Note-series, measuring 6.67-inches with Full HD+ resolution. Obviously, blacks are far from being black and occasionally look greyish. But honestly, these are minor drawbacks that you’ll barely notice in daily life. The viewing angles are perfect, and color reproduction is spot-on.

The brightness is sufficient but often gives up in front of direct sunlight. On the flip side, the summer was pretty intense, and the screen was hard to view just a handful of times. The punch-hole cut-out houses the front camera, and it looks considerably larger. It is even more noticeable when you compare its size to the nearby notification app icons.

Keep in mind, the display is also protected by Gorilla Glass 5. Unlike the POCO X2, it misses out on a higher refresh rate panel. The standard 60Hz panel may sound non-exciting, but I’m okay with it.

Most games have yet to support a higher refresh rate, the screen consumers more power, and the UI needs to be well optimized. With the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, the overall experience is smooth, and I didn’t miss having a better refresh rate.

“Pro” performance

Like the Redmi Note 9 Pro, the Max variant is powered by a Snapdragon 720G chipset. This phone is among the world’s first to house the brand new processor. Just like all other midrange phones these days, day-to-day tasks get done smoothly without a glitch. It comprises of two high-performance Kryo Gold cores and six high-efficiency Kryo Silver cores.

The base option comes with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. My unit has 6GB+128GB configuration, and multitasking has always been effortless. The 6GB RAM option has perfectly fulfilled my needs, including gaming. If you’re looking for a future proof phone that can last for a couple of years, I’d recommend going with the 8GB option.

While there’s a massive demand for gaming phones, Xiaomi and chip makers are trying their best to offer a similar experience on as many phones as possible. Hence, while there’s no reduction in overall raw performance, the new chip strikes a perfect balance between execution and battery life. MIUI is deeply optimized, and hopping between apps was never a problem for the phone.

PUBG ran smoothly all along, and the chipset was able to churn out more than 40 FPS at any given time. It’s worth mentioning that the predecessor, Redmi Note 98 Pro, was slightly better and could touch 60 FPS due to a more powerful GPU. However, these are just technicalities and don’t hinder the user experience.

“Max” battery life

I usually mention the battery life at the end of the review. However, it’s essential to break the usual flow and mention it right after the performance. As I said, the processor strikes a perfect balance between performance and battery life. The Snapdragon 720G is built with an 8nm process, delivering an inherently better battery life.

It packs a massive 5,020mAh battery. When paired with a battery-friendly processor and 60Hz display, it delivers the best battery life we’ve ever seen at this price point. After a day of heavy usage, it’ll always have at least 35-40% battery left in the end. The screen on time is consistently above 10 hours, and gaming also doesn’t drain it.

It supports 33W fast charging and takes almost two hours to charge from single-digit capacity to 100 percent. The quick charging technology works till 60 percent and then gradually slows down. However, I’d consider this to be an ideal setup. Charge the phone at night and do whatever you want during the day without carrying a charger or power bank.

How about the cameras?

It has a 64-megapixel camera on the rear and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 5-megapixel macro lens, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The primary sensor is made by Samsung and takes 16-megapixel pictures in auto-mode. Using pixel binning technology, the sensor can retain details and automatically reduce the resolution. This method comes extremely handy when shooting in low-light surroundings.

The Redmi Note 8 Pro also had a 64-megapixel sensor. However, this phone has a radically improved one. The photos aren’t oversaturated and retain details perfectly. Urban landscapes are perfectly sharp with apt white balance. Switching to the Night Mode will deliver brighter pictures with smartly enhanced areas. I say smartly because many phones aren’t able to locate the subject and randomly brighten up dark areas.

When compared to the Redmi Note 9 Pro, this one has a much better dynamic range. Thus, videos shot on this phone look more natural. Yes, it can record 4K at 30 FPS. Is it worth paying more for a better 64-megapixel sensor over the Redmi Note 9 Pro? In a nutshell, yes. The overall experience is far better, and in many cases, it’ll feel like a flagship phone has shot these pictures.

On the front is a 32-megapixel camera that clicks extremely sharp selfies. Colors and details are accurately captured, and even low-light performance is better. MIUI has many customizable options available as beauty mode, and you can switch it off with one touch.

Love-hate relationship with MIUI

The phone ships with MIUI 11 out-of-the-box, and there’s no doubt the skin has played an essential role in boosting Xiaomi’s sales. It lets you tweak everything, right from gestures, themes, and other shortcuts. Their pre-installed apps offer robust functionality like an easy to use file manager and file sharer. I’ve started to like the skin, and its made for every kind of user out there.

However, the number of third-party bloatware and ads are becoming hard to ignore. The number of these pre-loaded apps is consistently rising, and I spent the first half an hour, just getting rid of them from the home screen. Furthermore, the ads in the notification tray have gradually become impossible to handle. It’s not even like they’re relevant ads.

Xiaomi has built an unbroken skin that works for everyone and barely has a learning curve. In pursuit of ad revenues and aggressive pricing, it’s letting down the software. Many have argued that the end-user doesn’t care about this, and the sales numbers prove it. That’s correct. But we can’t ignore that these drawbacks of Xiaomi could become a unique selling point for someone else.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The base variant of the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max starts at INR 16,499 (US$ 218). In the Philippines, this is simply called the Redmi Note 9 Pro and retails for PhP 13,990. This segment is exceedingly aggressive, with alternatives available from Realme as well as POCO. What makes this phone so unique?

It’s practicality. There are no fancy shenanigans like an in-display fingerprint scanner, a pop-up camera, a 120Hz display, or a spectacular design. But, it gets the basics right. The design is flawless, the cameras are excellent, and the battery life is unmatchable. Performance is average, and we’ve got nothing negative or positive to say about it. In the end, this phone is a perfect match for a majority of users out there.

This phone continues the Note legacy. It isn’t perfect and has a lot of minor drawbacks like a huge camera bump, standard screen, and uneventful processor. But this won’t stop you from buying the phone and are ignorable factors. If you’re looking for an alternative, the POCO X2, and Realme 6 Pro are made for you.


Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 review: Affordable, but far from perfect

Xiaomi’s premium TWS offering



The truly wireless earphones market is filled with a plethora of options today, ranging from entry-level offerings like the Redmi Earbuds S to the premium Sony WF-1000XM3. However, the most popular TWS earphones are from Apple — the AirPods.

AirPods kickstarted the TWS trend, and since then, pretty much every brand has jumped onboard. Xiaomi is known for its reliable yet affordable products, and it has launched a few options previously, but it was limited to its home market of China.

Now, the brand has finally launched the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 in India, and it’s pretty much half the price of Apple’s AirPods.

The Redmi Earbuds S is an entry-level offering while Mi branding is now used for the company’s premium offerings. TWS earphones are incredibly convenient to use, and their demand is consistently rising. Can the Mi TWS 2 offer maximum features for the price and go against the competition?

Do they look like the AirPods?


At first sight, you’d think they are the AirPods for a quick second. But it’s soon clear that they aren’t. This is something I appreciate about the Mi TWS 2. In a market filled with AirPods knockoffs, it’s nice to see a different design. However, don’t set your expectations too high.

The earbud’s stem is exceptionally thick, and this is easily noticeable from the side. Thankfully, it doesn’t look that thick from the front view and is oval. The stem is also considerably long, giving the earbud a very bulky look.

The polycarbonate build has a matte finish on the stem while the driver is smooth and shiny. I feel the earphones were designed with utility and features in mind, and aesthetics took a back seat.

If the bulkier design can add more battery life and better drivers, I’m okay with it. This may not be the case with many since they tend to look like cheap AirPods knockoffs.

Each earbud weighs just 4 grams, and they slide in your ears very smoothly. Putting them on is a quick task, and for calls, while driving, these are exceedingly convenient to wear single-handedly. The semi-open design is supposed to be fit-for-all. But, this is where my primary concern lies.

How’s the overall user experience?

The earbuds fit perfectly and are rather stable. But the satisfaction of wearing an earbud is utterly absent because of reduced noise isolation. Even though they’ve never automatically snuggled out, I’m always afraid of losing them while walking. The confidence to wear them outdoors is low.

These too sport gesture-based controls, and the result is below satisfaction. I’d have to try a few times before they actively receive the command. Even play/pause function is rather cumbersome and paired with the loose fit; I’m afraid they don’t fall off.

Thankfully, they have an optical sensor that automatically plays/pauses a song when the earbud is worn or removed. Most times, I’d simply remove them from my ear instead of relying on the gesture buttons.

Lastly, the case is quite basic from a design point of view but gets the job done properly. The plastic build is solid, the lid has magnetic detection, and the earbuds aren’t finicky when plugged for charging. A small LED light on the front will show you the case’s battery status. A USB-C port is located on the bottom.

Pairing them is a straightforward task, and Xiaomi phones will automatically pop-up the status menu just like it’s on iOS. It’ll show you each earbud’s battery percentage along with the case.

But do they sound good?

The brand has added a lot of features on the audio side to make the product look premium. It has support for multiple codecs like SBC, AAC, and LHDC. The last one allows high-resolution audio streaming via Bluetooth. I used the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max to test the Mi TWS 2 and it automatically leveraged the AAC band.

Each earbud houses a 14.2mm audio driver, which isn’t the biggest. But, much of the audio output relies on tuning. Sound testing is also very subjective, so I’ll try to address everyone’s choice.

To start with, the output is very crisp and clear, and the vocals are perfectly heard. If you’re into Bollywood songs or even pop, these should be ideal for you.

Unlike the usual tuning, we see in Indian products; the bass here is well managed. It isn’t too much and ultimately does justice for every user. I’d say these are your GadgetMatch if you listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

The drivers are massively let down by non-existent noise isolation. The design of the earbuds inherently means you can hear pretty much everything happening around you. Even at maximum volume, it just didn’t feel enough.

Lastly, they have “Environment Noise Cancellation” that automatically kicks in when you’re on a call. Background noise is reduced drastically, and everyone I called could feel the change. The overall voice clarity is immensely improved, and high-winds too couldn’t deter them.

How long can they last?

Xiaomi claimed the earbuds can last up to four hours on a single charge and it’s on-point. I was able to get almost four hours with volume at 80 percent.

The case is capable of providing 10 hours of backup, taking the total to fourteen. Thankfully, the case takes just an hour to charge.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re an audiophile, the simple answer is no. The Mi TWS 2 will disappoint you in many ways. However, if you’re looking for work-related earphones, these are perfect.

Calls are ultra-clear, and the overall experience is better thanks to a loose fit. Keep them on, and get through a full day’s work. On the audio side, hip-hop or bass-intensive genre may not suit well here. However, all other vocal-centric songs shall swing by without a hitch.

With a price of INR 4,499, the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 is a solid competitor. When compared to the realme Buds Air, these lose out on aesthetics. But, the minor additions from a function point of view are worth the slight bump in price.

Continue Reading


LG Velvet Review: New breed of flagship killer?



Over the years, LG was once a pioneer in the smartphone industry with their G and V smartphone series. These phones are packed with a lot of punch and boast new and exciting features.

But LG has forgotten one thing, and that is how to fix their unexciting phone designs. From the G7 ThinQ all the way to V50 ThinQ 5G, those phones almost look unchanged. They might have been minor changes with the newer V60 ThinQ 5G, but it’s still not as eye-catching as other contenders.

The LG Velvet isn’t a replacement to their ever-existing flagship series. Instead, LG tries to reimagine things by making sure they produce products that cater the needs of not just tech nerds, but other types of consumers as well.

Here’s our in-depth review of the LG Velvet.

Continue Reading


Redmi Earbuds S review: Affordable TWS without compromises

Making TWS earphones more accessible



Truly wireless (TWS) earphones have been around for a while. Apple kick-started the hype with the launch of the AirPods and numerous brands have released alternatives since. However, they’ve always been very expensive.

With brands keen on ditching the headphone jack, users are often left with no option but to find wireless options. Redmi phones continue to have a headphone jack, but the brand also wants to remain focused on its target — deliver quality products at an affordable price.

The Redmi Earbuds S is the first TWS offering in India under the Redmi brand. While the brand stands strong in the smartphone segment, it has some cut-throat competition from realme. With a price tag of INR 1,799 (US$ 24), does it have enough firepower to take on the competition? If you’re looking for an entry-level TWS solution, can you trust the Earbuds S? Let’s find out!

Not AirPods knock-offs

If you’ve been following the TWS market, the Earbuds S will look familiar. These are sold as the AirDots S in China and many have ordered them previously via international marketplaces. In India, Redmi is calling them the Earbuds S and these could land in more south-east Asian markets soon.

While the trend is to follow Apple’s design language, the Earbuds S is going against the flow. It has its own distinctive design that looks nothing like a cheap knock-off.

The pill-shaped case is compact, feels solid in hand, and has a subtle curve on the bottom. The case size is perfect and it’ll always slide into your pocket smoothly.

Each earbud weighs just 4g and the in-ear design is immensely comfortable. I’ve worn them pretty much all day long and never felt any irritation, pain, or slightest of inconvenience. The snug fit also ensures adequate noise isolation and wearing them while driving for calls is seamless.

There’s not much to talk about with the design since it’s basic and gets the job done. They’re built out of plastic and its clearly evident at first sight.

I won’t count this as a drawback since it helps reduce overall weight and I wouldn’t expect metal or premium construction at this price.

Easy to use, fairly straightforward

The lid is very basic but has a satisfying feel to it when closing. Unlike the popular AirPods, these sit in your ears at a 45-degree angle. Paired along are two earbud tips to suit your ear canal. I didn’t have to use them and the standard size that comes along worked fine.

Using them is a very straightforward process. Open the lid, remove the earbuds, and wear them.

They’ll connect to your phone as soon as they’re disconnected from the case. I’ve never faced any connection issues so far. Each earbud has a button for quick controls such as music playback options and calling up Google Assistant.

On the flip side, you can’t rely on the earbuds to change the volume level or play a previous song. That can only be managed via your phone.

Pressing the button thrice will trigger the low-latency gaming mode. A feature that’ll be very handy while playing online multiplayer games like PUBG Mobile or Mobile Legends.

Each earbud has an indicator light that shows the status. Red means they’re charging while white means successful connection establishment. Lastly, they’re IPX4 certified, meaning sweat resistance. This obviously translates to a perfect workout session.

Punchy bass, relatively good audio

This is where I was surprised the most. Considering the nifty features it already has, I expected some kind of compromise in this department. And, I was wrong.

It has 7.2mm drivers and delivers punchy bass — a must-have for Bollywood music. Mainstream genres like pop sound amazing and if you’re not an audiophile, you won’t have any complaints.

The maximum volume is sufficiently loud and coupled with good isolation, even a busy market street is easily navigable.

However, if you’re looking for top-notch audio, these aren’t meant for you. The low frequency takes over while the mids are flat. You can use an equalizer to change the settings but the inherent tuning is in favor of bass-heavy music.

Furthermore, these connect via the SBC codec and there’s no support for aptX. I wouldn’t call this a drawback because the brand has to cut corners to make them accessible to a wider audience.

Adequate playback duration

Xiaomi claims the earbuds can deliver up to four hours of playback on a single charge and I’ve reached 3 hours 45 minutes in one go. So, their claims aren’t farfetched.

The case can charge the earbuds fully twice, delivering a total of 12 hours of playback in one go. If you’re going to use them for conference calls, music, and other work-related activities, they’ll easily get you through a working day.

The case takes almost two hours to charge fully. For frequent travelers, this can be a major drawback. Furthermore, the case charges via a microUSB port instead of the now-standard USB-C. Don’t forget to carry that extra charging cord along!

Can this be your GadgetMatch?

Yes. It definitely can. While there are a lot of minor additions I’d want to see, the price brings me back to reality.

In a nutshell, they’re designed aptly, deliver ordinarily better audio, and have 12 hours of playback. For US$ 25, there’s no better deal available. Keep in mind, the Redmi Earbuds S are making TWS earphones more accessible to everyone.

If you’re looking for top-notch audio quality, there are premium offerings like the OPPO Enco Free, Galaxy Buds, and 1More Truly Stylish. On the affordable side, realme Buds Air Neo and OPPO Enco W31 can be alternatives but are still priced considerably high.

Continue Reading