Smartphones are becoming more expensive with gas, electricity and ice cream sponsors. Apple now charges a hefty premium for the iPhone 14, and once upon a time, “cheap” smartphone manufacturers released devices that crossed the $1,000 mark. Mid-ranger handsets offer more features than the flagships at a fraction of the cost, making them an attractive proposition for those looking for value-for-money devices. For example, if you get a good discount, the Realme 9 5G costs only $200. Read on to see if it’s worth buying in this NextPit review!
- Beautiful back design
- Good photo in good light conditions
- Very long battery life
- 120 Hz refresh rate
- There is almost no improvement compared to its predecessor.
- The triple camera is very, very versatile.
- Fill slowly and quickly
- LCD display
Realme 9 5G in a nutshell
Overall, the Realme 9 5G is a slight improvement over its predecessor. Primarily, a display with a higher refresh rate offers real advantages in everyday use. Apart from that, when it comes to Realme 9 5G, you get a mid-range smartphone that falls in the sub-$300 price range. It’s also annoying that Realme relies on 18-watt fast charging despite the technology available.
If that doesn’t throw you off, that means you’re set to shell out around $200 for the Realme 9 5G, which comes equipped with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, based on its current MSRP. If you’re looking to double the storage, $280 isn’t much of a bargain. But this smartphone has experienced a price drop since its release, so if you’re willing to shop around, you might find some great deals along the way.
Display and design
The Realme 9 5G features a 6.6-inch LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The display has no bezels and is housed in a 164.3 x 75.6 x 8.5 millimeter case with a punch-hole camera on the front. With the fingerprint sensor located in the power button on the right side of the case, you’ll have to do authentication without IP.
What I liked:
- Beautiful color behind
- High refresh rate of the LCD panel
Beautiful and thin
What I don’t like:
With a 120Hz refresh rate, the Realme 9 5G display is twice as fast as the one on the $799 iPhone 14. The displayed content is still smooth, but that doesn’t automatically make the display better. Apart from what you can see in the technical specifications, the LCD panel offers pale colors, mediocre brightness levels and a bad shadow around the punch-hole camera on the top left edge of the screen.
Of course, the new iPhone and Realme 9 5G are in different categories, but one thing is clear: Realme has to rely on slow OLED panels for its mid-range smartphones, although the 120Hz refresh rate looks good on the box and in the spec sheet.
Apart from the display, Realme has also updated the design of its 5G smartphones. The rear camera is inspired by modern smartphone trends by featuring an asymmetrical arrangement, and the multi-colored back is a cool gimmick. However, playing a YouTube video naturally draws your attention to the poor sound system. At the bottom is a mono speaker that blasts out very faint sound and doesn’t get loud even at high volume.
Another problem with this handset is the lack of IP certification, so the smartphone is not protected from being used in the rain or accidentally dropped in water. While the fingerprint sensor on the power button is very responsive and quick to recognize my print, any successful unlock is accompanied by a really annoying vibration.
After the release of Realme 8 5G (read review) powered by MediaTek processor, Realme returns to Qualcomm again for 9 5G. The Snapdragon 695 5G SoC is paired with 4GB of RAM. As a 5G model, you can get fast internet in metropolitan areas, but the average smartphone device is otherwise mediocre.
What I liked:
- UFS 2.2 as fast storage standard (UFS 2.1 in its predecessor)
- No overheating during gaming.
What I don’t like:
None better than its predecessor in terms of performance.
- No separate microSD slot (instead it’s bundled with the second SIM card)
The history of Realme 5G models is a bit curious. For example, the Realme 7 5G offered better performance than its successor two years ago – and the Realme 9 5G doesn’t exactly reverse this trend. The included Snapdragon 695 chipset, despite having a more modern 6-nanometer manufacturing process from Qualcomm, offers the same performance level as the MediaTek hardware in all benchmark tests.
However, Realme offers solid performance in everyday use. Apps open after a short load and I was able to play FPS “Call of Duty: Mobile” with all high graphics settings enabled. However, this impression is based on a few days of testing, and like many intermediate rangers, I consider performance critical after a year or two. I would have liked to see a performance boost for the 2002 release.
Realme 9 5G benchmark comparison
|Benchmark||Geekbench 5 CPU (Single / Multiple)||3D Mark Slingshot||3D Mark WildLife||3D Mark Wildlife Stress Test|
|Realme 9 5G||609 / 1,710||4,100||1,184||1,213 / 1,165|
|Realme 8 5G||573 / 1,769||3,321||1,100||1,109 / 1,090|
|Realme 7 5G||581 / 1,801||4,271||1,585||1,594 / 1,583|
|Realme 8 Pro||568 / 1,685||3,671||1,050||1,050 / 1,045|
The microSD card slot is organized differently in the Realme 9 5G. In the former, you can use two SIM cards and one storage expansion. In contrast, the 9 model relies on a combined SIM card slot. So, you have to choose between two SIMs and one SIM and one microSD card.
Here’s another amazing thing about the Realme 9 5G: I had a hard time finding a spot where it didn’t cover the mono speaker during gaming. You’ll either have to use Bluetooth 5.1 with the latest AptX codec or wired headphones via the 3.5mm jack.
Camera: Effectively has only one focal length
Although you can see three lenses on the back of the Realme 9 5G, you only have one focal length to use. In addition to the 50-megapixel main camera, Realme also packs a macro camera and a monochrome camera of 2 megapixels each. The smartphone takes 16MP selfies.
What I liked:
- Creative drawing modes (filter, tilt and shift, and more)
- Interesting street mode
What I don’t like:
- Two gimmicky lenses at the back
Overall image quality is average.
- Too much post-processing.
There are some really good camera phones in the mid-range smartphone market that the Realme 9 5G has to compete with. Unfortunately, the manufacturer still hasn’t integrated an ultra-wide-angle camera in 2022. You can zoom in on your subjects digitally, but you can’t select a large portion of an image at home. Digital zoom is disappointing in terms of quality, so the camera is very flexible in this regard.
Instead, Realme offers several picture modes that are especially appealing to beginners. In addition to creative filters, there’s a tilt and shift mode and a street mode that I’ve never seen before on a smartphone. Here, you can adjust focus and exposure through the control pad, but the smartphone itself works in semi-automatic mode. It’s fun to play with, but the handset doesn’t really perform well.
The image quality of the 48-megapixel main camera is surprisingly good overall. During the day, pictures look clear and natural in many situations, but HDR scenes are a bit unnatural. In low-light conditions, the Realme 9 5G reliably illuminates subjects, but the details become too blurry and the overall quality drops a little too much for my liking.
If you want to record videos on the phone, Realme 9 5G can do it in Full HD at 30 frames per second or 720p at 30 or 60 frames per second. Here, the Realme 9 5G lags behind the current standards that even relatively affordable smartphones achieve.
Battery: Charges slowly
Despite its thin chassis measuring 8.5mm thin, the Realme 9 5G packs a 5,000 mAh battery that ensures a very long battery runtime. However, charging times are quite long with slow fast charging at 18 watts.
What I liked:
Very strong battery life
- Battery charger included.
What I don’t like:
The Realme 9 5G delivered a solid 2-day battery life throughout my time with it. However, this is not common among mid-range mobile phones, where manufacturers want to use large batteries rated at 5,000 mAh or more. PC Mark’s benchmark for battery life confirmed this with a good 14 hours of screen-on time.
However, it is unfortunate that the Realme 5G smartphone charges at just 18 watts. Realme is one of the record breaking companies for fast charging. Although I wouldn’t expect a 150-watt fast charging feature in the $250 Realme 9 5G, 50 or 80 watts would be more convenient for a larger capacity battery. However, Apple fanatics or smartphone newcomers may be glad that they have a charger in the box when they open it up.
Realme 9 5G technical specifications
Realme 9 5G
|Screen||6.6 inch LC display, FHD+, 120 Hz refresh rate|
|Soc||Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G|
(Varies by region)
|4 GB RAM
64 or 128 GB UFS 2.2 internal
|Software||Android 12 | Realme UI 3.0|
|Expandable memory||Yes, microSD|
|Main camera||50 MP | F/1.8 | 1/2.76″|
|BW portrait camera||2 MP | F/2.4|
|Macro camera||2 MP | F/2.4|
|Selfie||16 MP | F/2.05|
|Video||1,080p at 30 fps | 720p at 30 or 60 fps|
|Battery||5,000 per cent|
|Charging with cable||High. 18 watts|
|Wireless charging (Qi)||no|
Although manufacturers always emphasize how important the sub-$300 market is, Realme has not paid much attention to the mid-range model this time. Realme 9 5G is a very hot remake of its predecessor, which in turn is a kind of predecessor. The improvements here were mainly cosmetic in nature, with a sleeker back and a more modern triple camera setup.
The display is now able to display content again at 120 Hz, as it did two generations ago. However, Realme relies on an LCD panel this time around, while Redmi, for example, offers OLED displays in this price range. The performance is reasonable enough for daily use and mobile gaming. The camera’s resolution performs admirably in daylight, but sharpness and clarity drop off quite a bit at night.
In short: There are smartphones under $300 in 2022 that have a lot to offer — and you can find models more powerful than the Realme 9 5G in the best smartphones under $200 category. We share with you which budget smartphones are recommended in the linked list.