The Redmi Note series is Xiaomi's bread and butter. Xiaomi is now the world's third-largest smartphone manufacturer, and its meteoric rise over the last five years is directly attributable to strong sales in the Redmi Note series. To date, the brand has sold over 140 million phones in the Redmi Note series, with the Redmi Note 8 Pro becoming the best-selling Android phone globally in Q1 2020 and racking up 30 million sales.
With the Redmi Note series, Xiaomi has commoditized features that have traditionally been limited to the mid-range or premium categories. When 4G was gaining momentum in emerging markets back in 2014, Xiaomi was at the forefront of delivering value. It has led the way for high-res cameras, multi-day battery life, and sleek designs on budget phones.
In 2021, Xiaomi is continuing that push with the Redmi Note 9T. The phone debuted in China as the Redmi Note 9 5G, and is now available in the UK and other European markets under the Redmi Note 9T monitor. The key highlight of the phone is that it offers 5G connectivity for just £229 ($310), making it the most affordable 5G phone yet.
There's no question that Xiaomi makes some of the best cheap Android phones available today, and the Redmi Note 9T epitomizes Xiaomi's strengths as a budget phone maker. So let's take a look at what the Redmi Note 9T has to offer, and whether you should consider picking it up if you're in the market for a budget 5G phone in 2021.
Redmi Note 9T
Bottom line: The Redmi Note 9T has the distinction of being the most affordable 5G phone right now. The phone delivers stellar performance, the 5000mAh battery lasts more than a day, and the 48MP module takes great shots in most lighting conditions. The sheer value you're getting here makes the Note 9T a fantastic budget phone in 2021.
- Excellent value
- 5G connectivity on a budget
- Multi-day battery life
- Reliable hardware
- 48MP camera takes great photos
- Screen limited to 60Hz
- Runs Android 10 out of the box
- Not available in India yet
Redmi Note 9T Price and availability
The Redmi Note 9T is now up for sale in the UK for £229 ($310), making it the most affordable 5G phone in the country. Xiaomi is incentivizing the launch by giving users the chance to pick up the device for just £179 ($245) for a limited time.
Xiaomi is selling the Redmi Note 9T in two configurations: the base model that retails for £229 has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and there's also a £249 variant that has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Both storage variants are sold in black and purple color options.
For now, the Redmi Note 9T is limited to the UK and select European markets where Xiaomi has a presence, and as of now there's no word on whether the device will debut in India.
Redmi Note 9T Design and screen
The Redmi Note 9T has no resemblance to earlier launches in the Redmi Note 9 series. The Redmi Note 9 and 9 Pro were available in vibrant hues that made them stand out, but with the Note 9T, Xiaomi is playing it decidedly safe in terms of the design.
The Redmi Note 9T nails the basics; you're getting a lot of value for your money here.
Xiaomi made an effort to mask the fact that the Note 9 and Note 9 Pro were made out of plastic, but that is not the case with the Note 9T. It's immediately evident from the moment you start using the phone that the back and mid-frame are made out of plastic, but the textured finish at the back makes it easier to hold and use the phone.
The Daybreak Purple version of the Redmi Note 9T is more interesting than the regular Nightfall Black model, and the circular camera housing along with a chrome trim around the edge gives it a little bit of flair. The upside is that even though the phone weighs 199g, you don't feel that heft at all; Xiaomi nailed the weight distribution here.
Continuing with the design, the Redmi Note 9T has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that's baked into the power button on the right, with the volume rocker sitting above. You'll find a 3.5mm jack at the bottom next to the USB-C port, and the primary speaker is located to the right of the charging port. Up top you'll find an IR blaster.
The SIM card tray is located on the left side, and Xiaomi offers a full-width slot that houses two 5G SIM cards — with dual 5G standby — as well as a microSD slot that can hold up to a 512GB card. So while the design itself may not turn heads, Xiaomi has outfitted the Redmi Note 9T with all the essentials, and you don't miss out on any of the basics here.
Dominating the front of the phone is a 6.53-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080) IPS LCD panel. There are thin bezels on all sides, and the front camera is housed in a hole-punch cutout that's located to the left. The screen is identical to the one on the regular Redmi Note 9, so that means you will notice some LCD glare around the camera cutout. It is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 5, but you should invest in a case.
The panel itself is a regular 60Hz offering, and you miss out on 90 or 120Hz refresh rate here. There's also no HDR or any of the extras you'll find in the mid-range segment, but for what it's worth the panel itself is decent enough for what you're paying for the phone. It has decent brightness and contrast levels, and holds up well during gaming. You can adjust the color balance from the settings, and I found that switching from the Standard to the Saturated mode delivers better colors.
Redmi Note 9T Hardware
Erstwhile Redmi Note designs have stood out because of the hardware on offer, and that's still the case with the Redmi Note 9T. The phone is one of the first to be powered by MediaTek's new Dimensity 800U platform, which is built on a 7nm node.
|Specs||Redmi Note 9T|
|Software||Android 10, MIUI 12|
|Display||6.53-inch 60Hz LCD|
|Chipset||2.40GHz Dimensity 800U|
|Rear Camera 1||48MP ƒ/1.79 (primary)|
|Rear Camera 2||2MP ƒ/2.4 (macro)|
|Rear Camera 3||2MP ƒ/2.4 (portrait)|
|Front Camera||13MP ƒ/2.2|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi ac, BT 5.1, NFC|
|Battery||5000mAh, 18W charging|
|Colors||Nightfall Black, Daybreak Purple|
|Dimensions||161.2 x 77.3 x 9.1mm|
The Dimensity 800U goes up directly against the Snapdragon 765G, and like Qualcomm's chipset, you get eight cores here. You'll find two Cortex A76 cores that go up to 2.40GHz and six energy-efficient Cortex A55 cores that can go up to 2.0GHz.
Astute readers will notice that these cores are clocked higher than their Qualcomm counterpart, and this gives the Redmi Note 9T an edge over just about every phone in this category.
As for the GPU, the Dimensity 800U features a Mali-G57 design with three cores, and the Redmi Note 9T delivers lag-free gaming. I didn't notice any issues in day-to-day use or while gaming, and the phone delivers one of the best hardware packages in the budget segment today.
The Redmi Note 9T is available with 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and you can pick it up with 64GB or 128GB of storage. The 64GB model uses a UFS 2.1 storage module while the 128GB version comes with UFS 2.2.
The marquee feature on the Redmi Note 9T is 5G connectivity. The Dimensity 800U has an integrated 5G modem with bands n1/n3/n5/n7/n8/n20/n28/n38/n41/n77/n78/n79, ensuring 5G connectivity across all carriers in the UK. A particularly great addition here is the vibration motor; Xiaomi has done a fantastic job with haptics on not just its flagships, but also its budget phones.
This is the most affordable 5G phone you'll find today.
The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is reliable to use and fast to authenticate, and the Redmi Note 9T has Wi-Fi ac connectivity along with Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC. You'll also find FM radio, and like most recent Redmi phones there is a splash-proof coating that makes it less prone to damage in inclement weather.
As for battery life, Xiaomi has outfitted the Redmi Note 9T with a 5000mAh battery that easily delivers over a day's worth of use. The phone delivers well over eight hours of screen-on-time over a full charge, and there are no issues in this particular area. And when you do need to charge it, the phone has 18W wired charging, and you'll find a 22.5W charger in the box.
Redmi Note 9T Cameras
The Redmi Note 9T has three cameras at the back: a 48MP primary camera that's joined by a 2MP macro and 2MP portrait lens. Up front you'll find a 13MP lens with 1.12µm pixels that takes decent selfies.
The 48MP camera takes decent photos for what it costs, but there's no ultra-wide lens here.
The lack of an ultra-wide sensor is immediately evident here, and Xiaomi could have included it instead of the two 2MP modules. But you can't have a phone in 2021 with just two cameras at the back, so the phone has auxiliary sensors that you wouldn't end up using anyway.
You won't find any changes with the camera UI itself; the shooting modes are easily accessible from a ribbon interface at the bottom, and there are toggles for HDR, AI features, timer, flash, and Google Lens. The overflow menu lets you access more settings, and set up timed burst shots.
The 48MP camera takes vibrant photos in daylight conditions, and it holds up astonishingly well in low-light scenarios as well. The obvious caveat is that you get what you pay for, and these photos wouldn't hold up against mid-range phones. That said, if all you're interested in doing is taking photos to share on social media, you will like what the phone has to offer.
The only issue on the camera side of things is the lack of an ultra-wide lens, but aside from the missing versatility, the primary 48MP module by itself is a reliable shooter.
Redmi Note 9T Software
While the Redmi Note 9T holds its own in terms of the hardware, the software is lacking in a few areas. The phone comes with MIUI 12 based on Android 10 out of the box, and that simply isn't good enough for a phone that's launching at the end of January 2021 — four months after Google released Android 11.
The Redmi Note 9T runs Android 10 out of the box — and that's inexcusable.
To make matters worse, Xiaomi doesn't mention a timeline for when the Redmi Note 9T will get the Android 11 update. Xiaomi hasn't cared about platform updates in the past — instead prioritizing its own MIUI updates — but that stance is now holding back its devices.
This isn't an issue that is limited to Xiaomi in the budget segment, but the Chinese manufacturer is in a position to lead the charge for timely platform updates in this category, much like what it did with hardware. But for now, it looks like that is not a priority for Xiaomi.
The software itself has gotten considerably better with MIUI 12. There's now an app drawer out of the box — even though it isn't enabled by default and you have to go into the settings to toggle it. MIUI 12 also has better privacy and security controls, a cleaner font, and much-needed visual updates throughout the UI.
However, all of that is undone by the sheer amount of bloatware on the phone. I said the same in my Mi 10i review, but the MIUI bloatware situation has gotten out of hand, and Xiaomi needs to address this problem.
Redmi Note 9T The competition
The obvious alternative to the Redmi Note 9T is the Realme 7 5G. It is available for £279 ($380) — or £50 more than the Redmi Note 9T — but you get a 120Hz screen, 30W fast charging, and the same 5000mAh battery. It is also powered by the same Dimensity 800U platform, so if you want a high refresh rate screen and faster wired charging, the Realme 7 is a great choice in this category.
Then there's the OnePlus Nord, which is available for £379 ($520) for the 8GB/128GB model. That's double the memory and storage that's on offer with the Redmi Note 9T, and the Nord also has a 90Hz AMOLED panel, stellar hardware, a great 48MP camera, 30W fast charging, and cleaner software. Sure, the Nord costs a lot more than the Redmi Note 9T, but you are also getting more for your money.
Redmi Note 9T Should you buy?
You should buy this if ...
You want 5G connectivity on a budget
Right now, the Redmi Note 9T is the most affordable option if you're looking to make the switch to 5G. There isn't any other phone that delivers quite the same value in the 5G-enabled segment.
You need a phone with reliable hardware
The Dimensity 800U delivers incredible performance, and the Redmi Note 9T demolishes its rivals in this category. You should not have any issues with day-to-day performance on this phone whatsoever. You also get dual 5G SIM card slots, a 3.5mm jack, and an IR blaster.
You want two-day battery life
The 5000mAh battery lasts up to two days on a full charge thanks to MIUI's memory optimizations and the 7nm Dimensity 800U chipset. You don't have to worry about the battery running out even under heavy use or when connected to a 5G network throughout the day.
You should not buy this if ...
You want a UI without any bloatware
MIUI 12 delivers a modern UI that brings a lot of polish to Xiaomi's phones, but there's still a lot of bloatware here. From cringe-inducing games to office utilities you've never heard of, the Redmi Note 9T has a lot of crud out of the box.
You need the latest version of Android
The Redmi Note 9T runs MIUI 12 based on Android 10 out of the box, with Xiaomi continuing to ignore the latest version of Android. There's no telling when the phone will make the switch to Android 11, so if you care about timely updates, look elsewhere.
With the Redmi Note 9T, Xiaomi is once again staking its claim on the value crown. The phone delivers 5G connectivity on a budget, and you're getting robust hardware along with decent cameras along the way. There really isn't much that's missing in terms of the hardware, and when you factor in just how much you're paying for the phone, it is a standout value.
Sure, there are a few issues with the phone. It runs Android 10 out of the box, and the UI still has a lot of bloatware. But for the price, the Redmi Note 9T gets a lot right. The value that you're getting here makes it a stellar option, particularly if you're looking for a budget phone with 5G connectivity.
Redmi Note 9T
Bottom line: The Redmi Note 9T lowers the barrier to entry for 5G connectivity. The phone ticks all the right boxes in terms of hardware, featuring a large 6.53-inch screen, outstanding performance, and a 48MP module at the back that takes great photos. If you don't mind the fact that it's still based on Android 10, the Redmi Note 9T is a great overall package.
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