Realme 9 5G review: More average than classy

Along with gas, electricity, and ice cream scoops, smartphones are also becoming more and more expensive. Apple now charges a hefty premium for its iPhone 14 and even once “cheap” smartphone manufacturers have already rolled out devices that cross the mythical $1,000 mark. Mid-ranger handsets offer many features from the flagship level at a fraction of the cost, making them an attractive proposition for those who are on the lookout for value-for-money devices. The Realme 9 5G, for instance, costs a mere $200 if you find a good offer. Continue reading on whether it is worth buying in this NextPit review!

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Good

  • Pretty rear design
  • Good photo under in good lighting conditions
  • Very long battery life
  • 120 hertz refresh rate

Bad

  • Hardly any improvements compared to its predecessor
  • Triple camera is very, very inflexible
  • Slow fast charging
  • LCD display

The Realme 9 5G in a nutshell

Overall, the Realme 9 5G is a rather negligible improvement compared to its predecessor. Primarily, the display with a higher refresh rate offers actual advantages in everyday use. Apart from that, you end up with a mediocre smartphone that falls under the sub-$300 price rangewhen it comes to the Realme 9 5G. It is also rather annoying that Realme relies on 18-watt Fast Charging despite the available technologies.

If that has not turned you off, then this means you are prepared to fork out around $200 for the Realme 9 5G that comes armed with 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM based on the existing MSRP. If you would like to double the storage, there is not much more to pay with a $280 asking price. However, this smartphone has experienced price drops since it was released, so if you were to search around, you might find some good deals along the way.

Display & Design

Realme’s “9 5G” offers a 6.6-inch LCD display with a refresh rate of 120 hertz. The display has no bezels and is embedded in the 164.3 x 75.6 x 8.5 millimeter case with a punch hole camera in front. You will have to make do without an IP certification, while the fingerprint sensor is located within the power button on the right side of the case.

Rückseite des Realme 9 5G.
The back of the Realme 9 5G is nicely colored! / © NextPit

What I liked:

  • Pretty color gradient at the back
  • High refresh rate of the LCD panel
  • Nice and thin

What I disliked:

With a refresh rate of 120 hertz, the display of the Realme 9 5G is twice as fast as the display in the $799 iPhone 14. Displayed content is thus far smoother, but this does not automatically make the display any better. Apart from what you see in the technical specifications, the LCD panel offers pale colors, mediocre brightness levels, and a nasty shadow around the punch hole camera that is located on the upper left edge of the screen.

Of course, the new iPhone and the Realme 9 5G are in different categories, but one thing remains clear: Realme should rely on slower OLED panels for its mid-range smartphones, even though a 120 hertz refresh rate look good on the box and in the specifications sheet.

Das Realme 9 5G in der Hand.
The display has grown by 0.1-inches compared to its predecessor. / © NextPit

Apart from the display, Realme was able to modernize the design of its 5G smartphone once again. The camera at the back was inspired by current smartphone trends by featuring an asymmetrical arrangement, while the multi-colored back is a nice gimmick. However, playing a YouTube video will naturally draw your attention to the miserable sound system. There is a mono speaker located at the bottom that blasts out really weak audio, and does not really get loud even on maximum volume.

Another drawback of this handset is the lack of IP certification, so the smartphone is not protected for use in the rain or accidental falls into the water. While the fingerprint sensor on the power button is highly responsive and fast to recognize my print, any successful unlocking is accompanied by a really miserable vibration.

Performance

After the Realme 8 5G (read review) was released, powered by a MediaTek processor, Realme returns to Qualcomm once again for the 9 5G. The Snapdragon 695 5G SoC is mated to 4 GB of RAM. As a 5G model, you can have access to fast Internet in metropolitan areas, but the mid-range smartphone’s equipment is otherwise mediocre.

What I liked:

  • 5G-compatible
  • UFS 2.2 as a faster storage standard (UFS 2.1 in the predecessor)
  • No thermal throttling during gaming

What I disliked:

  • No better in performance than its predecessor
  • No dedicated microSD slot anymore (combined instead with the second SIM card)

The history of Realme’s 5G models is a bit curious. For example, the Realme 7 5G offered more performance than its successor two years ago – and the Realme 9 5G does not really reverse this trend. The included Snapdragon 695 chipset from Qualcomm offers a similar performance level as the MediaTek hardware in the predecessor in all benchmarks tests, despite having the advantage of a more modern 6-nanometer manufacturing process.

Realme 9 5G Punch Hole in der Nahaufnahme
There is a slight shadow around the punch hole camera due to the LCD display. / © NextPit

However, the Realme offers solid performance in everyday use. Apps open after a short loading time and I was able to play the FPS “Call of Duty: Mobile” smoothly with all high graphics settings enabled. However, this impression is based on just a few days of testing, and as with many mid-rangers, I consider the performance critical after one or two years. I would have liked to see an increase in performance for a 2002 release.

Realme 9 5G benchmark comparison

Benchmark Geekbench 5 CPU (Single / Multi) 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

What Realme also organized differently in the 9 5G is the placement of the microSD card. You could use two SIM cards and one storage expansion in its predecessor. In contrast, the 9 model relies on a combined SIM card slot. Thus, you end up having to choose between two SIMs as well as one SIM and one microSD card.

Anschlüsse des Realme 9 5G.
Besides a USB-C port, there is also a 3.5mm jack on the bottom. / © NextPit

Here is another striking thing about the Realme 9 5G: I had a hard time finding a position where I did not cover the mono speaker while gaming. You either have to use Bluetooth 5.1 with the latency-reduced AptX codec or wired headphones via the 3.5 millimeter jack.

Camera: Effectively having only one focal length

Although you can see three lenses on the back of the Realme 9 5G, you only have one focal length at your disposal. Apart from the 50-megapixel main camera, Realme installed a macro camera and a monochrome camera at 2 megapixels apiece. The smartphone takes 16 MP selfies.

Kameras des Realme 9 5G
The primary camera of the Realme 9 5G has a 50 MP resolution. / © NextPit

What I liked:

  • Creative picture modes (filter, tilt & shift, and more)
  • Interesting street mode

What I disliked:

  • Two gimmicky lenses at the back
  • Overall image quality is mediocre
  • Too much post-processing

There are really good camera phones in the mid-range smartphone market that the Realme 9 5G has to compete with. Unfortunately, the manufacturer still did not integrate an ultra-wide angle camera in 2022. You can only digitally zoom in on your subjects, but you cannot select a larger image section indoors. Since the digital zoom is disappointing in terms of quality, the camera is very inflexible in this respect.

Instead, Realme offers many picture modes that will appeal to beginners in particular. In addition to creative filters, there is a tilt & shift mode and a street mode that I have never seen before in a smartphone. Here, you are able to adjust focus and exposure via a control pad, while the smartphone itself works in a kind of semi-automatic mode. It’s fun to play around with, but the handset doesn’t really produce better results.

The picture quality of the 48-megapixel main camera is surprisingly good overall, though. During the day, pictures look crisp and natural in many situations, but HDR scenes look a bit unnatural. In low-light conditions, the Realme 9 5G reliably brightens subjects, but details end up heavily blurry and the overall quality decreases a bit too much for my liking.

If you like to record videos with the phone, the Realme 9 5G can do so in Full HD with 30 frames per second or in 720p with either 30 or 60 frames per second. Here, the Realme 9 5G falls behind the current standards that even relatively affordable smartphones achieve.

Battery: Charges up slowly

Despite the thin chassis that measures just 8.5mm thin, the Realme 9 5G houses a 5,000 mAh battery that ensures very long battery runtimes. However, the charging times are too long with slow Fast Charging at 18 watts.

What I liked:

  • Very solid battery runtime
  • Charger is included

What I disliked:

The Realme 9 5G offered a solid 2-day battery life throughout my time spent with it. However, this is not uncommon among mid-range handsets, where manufacturers like to use large batteries rated at 5,000 mAh or higher. The PC Mark benchmark for measuring the battery life confirmed this with a very good result of a screen-on-time of about 14 hours.

Anschlüsse des Realme 9 5G.
Besides a USB-C port, there is also a 3.5mm port at the bottom. / © NextPit.

However, it is disappointing that Realme’s 5G smartphone charges at a mere 18 watts. Realme is one of the companies that regularly break records for fast charging. Even though I would not have expected a 150-watt Fast Charging feature in the $250 Realme 9 5G, 50 or even 80 watts would be more favorable for the large capacity battery. However, Apple defectors or smartphone newcomers can be happy about having a charger in the box when you open it.

Realme 9 5G technical specifications

  Technical specifications
Device

Realme 9 5G

Image Das Realme 9 5G auf einem Bild.
Screen 6.6-inch LC display, FHD+, 120 hertz refresh rate
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G
Memory
(varies depending on 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
Audio Mono speaker
Battery 5,000 mAh
Charging via cable Max. 18 watts
Wireless charging (Qi) No
UWB No

Conclusion

Although manufacturers always emphasize how important the sub-$300 market is, Realme paid rather little attention to its mid-range base model this time around. The Realme 9 5G is a very tepid rehash of its predecessor, which in turn was a tepid rehash of its predecessor. The improvements here were mainly cosmetic in nature, sporting a pretty back and a more modern triple camera configuration.

The display now manages to display content at 120 hertz again, as it did two generations ago. However, Realme relies on an LCD panel this time around, while Redmi, for instance, already offers OLED displays at this price range. The performance is reasonable enough for everyday use and mobile games. The camera quality worked surprisingly well in daylight, but sharpness and clarity drop a bit too much at night.

In short: There are smartphones under $300 in 2022 that offer more – and you can even find more powerful models than the Realme 9 5G in the category of best smartphones under $200. We will share with you which budget smartphones are recommended in the linked list.

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