Redmi Note 9 Pro Max review: Maxed out?
The Redmi Note series from Xiaomi has, over the years, built up quite the reputation of solid performance and refinement at jaw-droppingly value-conscious prices, and has not only contributed strongly to several successive strong quarters in the sub-20000 segment for Xiaomi but also managed to stave off strong competition from the likes of Realme in this segment. This year, the Redmi Note 9 Pro and the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max take on the mantle of the Redmi Note lineup, and as I take a look at the beefier, more premium Pro Max variant, I’ll set it apart from the lower-priced Note 9 Pro so you can decide which one’s for you.
No matter which one of the two you pick up, they’re virtually indistinguishable from one another, often times leading to utter confusion when handling both at the same time. In the hand, they’re both large phones, and while the tall 20:9 aspect ratio allows some degree of purchase, they’re still too much of a handful for one-handed use. That aside, the phones are well built and feel good in the hand, and while the snappy side-mounted fingerprint scanner and headphone jack are welcome additions, the rest of the design is a bit ‘safe’, almost bordering on tame.
Under the hood, both the phones share the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G chip, and although you get more memory (up to 8GB on the Pro Max vs 6 on the Pro), performance in day-to-day use is largely similar, with the extra RAM coming in handy while keeping more apps loaded in memory. The Note 9 Pro duo don’t have high-refresh rate AMOLED screens unlike some of their competitors, which leads to a slight drop in perceived smoothness when navigating the phone’s interface. That said, the 6.67-inch FHD+ IPS LCD panel is plenty bright even when outdoors and is perfectly usable. Gaming on the graphics-boosted ‘G’ variant of the chip was expectedly good. Both phones run MIUI 11 on top of Android 10 with the usual amount of bloatware one has come to expect from budget Xiaomi models. You’ll need to either live with some amount of notification spam or aggressively uninstall or block apps, should this bother you.
Where the phones pull out all the stops is in the battery department, with both packing in a capacious 5020mAh battery which easily goes past the 1.5-day mark without breaking a sweat. The Pro Max comes with a 33W charger, which takes it from zero to full in just under two hours (0 to 50% is super speedy at 30 minutes), whereas the Pro takes over 2.5 hours with its slower-by-comparison 18W charger.
The cameras on the Pro Max are the other big bump up from the regular Pro - with the 64MP primary camera (with 1/1.7 inch CMOS sensor) and a 32MP selfie camera replacing the 48MP/16MP on the Pro – alongside the 8MP ultra-wide, a 5MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor. Does the upgrade to the bigger sensor matter? Absolutely. Images from the primary shooter pack in more detail, greater dynamic range and slightly warmer, more pleasing colors than the Pro, and the selfie camera showed up more details (and our flaws, if you turned the beautification feature off!) The wide-angle shooter helped get in more of the scene at the cost of detail, but the 5MP macro wowed in extreme close up shots provided the light was good. Good portrait mode and night mode shots too, with the latter turning up better levels of detail and lower noise than the regular Pro.
So, where does this leave the Redmi Note 9 Pro Max? The extra pennies you spend on the Pro Max essentially gets you more RAM, faster charging and a better camera, but the underlying hardware is near identical. Is it really as maxed out as the name would suggest? Perhaps not. And then there’s the price - Rs. 13,999 vs 16,499 is what separates the base variants on the 9 Pro and the 9 Pro Max, which could be a difference worth its while for someone on a tight budget. Make no mistakes, the 9 Pro Max is the better phone, but when you go into the Rs. 15,000+ territory, the terrific Poco X2 and the Realme 6 Pro are extremely viable options you can consider as well.
Redmi Note 9 Pro Max
Pros: Strong performance, fast charging, good cameras and stellar battery life, physical fingerprint scanner
Cons: Bulky design, bloatware,
Price: Rs 16,499 for 6GB/64GB onwards
Tushar Kanwar is a Bengaluru-based technology columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar