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Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review: low on price, big on features
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE Hardware Smartphone Review 9 min read No comments

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review: low on price, big on features

Xiaomi repeats the strategy it has already implemented with the Mi 8 with the launch of this Mi 9 SE. It's a reduced version of the Mi 9 in all respects. The more compact size and reduced features, while quite noticeable, are not so deal-breaking. Is this Mi 9 'special edition' worth it?

Rating

Good

  • Good display
  • Compact size
  • Camera
  • Performance

Bad

  • Slightly limited battery
  • No audio jack
  • No IP68

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE release date and price

Xiaomi has released its Mi 9 SE in only two versions, in which only its internal storage is different. The first one, with 64 GB of storage, for 349 euros ($390), and one with 128 GB for a price of 399 euros ($450). This places this Special Edition version 100 euros below the standard Mi 9. For now, it is only available in black.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se front
Typical high-end 2019 design. / © AndroidPIT

A high-end design

A dewdrop notch, further reduced bezels, triple rear camera, a fingerprint reader under the screen... Considering its design, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a high-end smartphone!

During the days I was testing the Mi 9 SE I had my doubts. My previous model was the Huawei P30, and sometimes I left the Xiaomi phone sitting next to the new Huawei. Well, when I went to pick up the Mi 9 SE, I had to think twice so as not to make a mistake! You may think I'm exaggerating, but I am not. Obviously, if we analyze the phones closely they are not so similar, and the quality of the construction of the P30 is clearly superior too.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se back
Elegant on the back and on the front. / © AndroidPIT

This Xiaomi will please those who are tired of big smartphones: a screen of smaller than 6 inches is becoming a rarity nowadays. It's very comfortable in the hand, and even if it slips a little, you don't have to be afraid of dropping it. The latter is due to its elegant glass back, with  the classic drawback: it is a magnet for fingerprints, so we recommend using the cover included in the box.

The mid-range can also enjoy an OLED display

The display on the Mi 9 SE is one of the strong points of this phone. This panel almost completely occupies the front of the Mi 9 SE, due to reduced bezels offering a high screen-to-body ratio of 90%, and a reduced notch in the form of a drop of water.

The Mi 9 SE has a 5.97-inch panel with an FHD+ resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels which is more than good enough. In addition, it is an OLED panel manufactured by Samsung, which is usually synonymous with quality, and has Gorilla Glass 5 certification, which offers extra protection.

Realistic colors, satisfactory automatic brightness management, and good viewing angles... In short, a screen that without being as excellent as that of the Mi 9, delivers remarkable results.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se notch
How nice is an OLED screen? / © AndroidPIT

A quick fingerprint reader under the display

I'm not much of a fan of under-display fingerprint readers, but I have to admit that the Mi 9 SE has surprised me, both in terms of its effectiveness and speed. On other phones that I have reviewed, this sensor has tested my patience and I have ended up missing a fingerprint reader on the back. Recommendation: even if it's a bit of a long and boring process, take your time to set up your fingerprints in an optimal way, you'll appreciate it later.

In addition, this in-display fingerprint reader is not the only unlocking method, as it is complemented by facial unlock, which works well, although you will need to have a little patience here too.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se side
The fingerprint reader is under the display! / © AndroidPIT

MIUI 10

To talk about a Xiaomi device is to talk about MIUI , the customization layer that the Chinese manufacturer includes with its smartphones. This time it's version 10.2, running on Android Pie.

Although the design is nice, if you've ever used MIUI you'll already know what you're up against: a lot of bloatware, or preinstalled applications. Xiaomi loves to offer us its own applications: a browser of its own, a translator, access to the company's shop, even a store for its own apps... You won't be able to uninstall any of these if you're not interested in them. And if that's not enough for you, Xiaomi also incorporates the Microsoft Office apps, as well as Facebook, Amazon, AliExpress...

There may be some who don't care, but for me, it is a negative point of the Mi 9 SE (and of all Xiaomi smartphones).

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se chin
The MIUI 10 application drawer. / © AndroidPIT

A Snapdragon 712 with 6 GB of RAM: not bad!

The Snapdragon 712 processor makes its world debut on this Mi 9 SE. While not among the manufacturer's top-of-the-range SoC, this is Qualcomm's best second string processor.

Coupled with 6 GB of RAM, it offers smooth, uninterrupted performance . Unless you squeeze the most out of your smartphone and put it through long gaming sessions, you won't miss a top-class processor. Its storage capacity is more than sufficient, as it comes with either 64 or 128 GB. And if that's not enough, I'm sorry, since you won't be able to expand it with a microSD card.

Although it doesn't achieve high-end performance results, you're unlikely to find a mid-range smartphone that offers performance as good as this.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se iso
You won't be able to complain about its performance. / © AndroidPIT

 

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE: benchmark results

  3DMark Sling Shot Extreme 3DMark Sling Shot Vulkan 3DMark Sling Shot 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme Geekbench 4 (Single/Multi) PassMark memory

PassMark Disk

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE 2067 1987 2947 29201 1876/5964 12335 61350
Xiaomi Mi 9 5659 4762 7028 66907 3479/10921 28043 74126
Nokia 8.1 1830 1745 2688 28942 1837/5934 12509 51940
Redmi Note 7 1358 1303 2063 26386 1634/5904 12833 51462

Without a headphone jack, as is customary

Xiaomi has not made an exception with the Mi 9 SE and follows the same policy as with its older brother: it does not have a 3.5mm  jack for the headphones . At least in the box you will find a USB Type-C adapter if you still refuse to use headphones with a Bluetooth connection.

Regarding the sound, I'd say that the quality is what we should be demanding, even if we can only enjoy mono sound, not stereo. Finally, a curiosity: although on the lower part of the smartphone we see two loudspeaker grilles, only one of them works, the one on the right. I suppose it is a question of aesthetics and symmetry...

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se port
The grid on the left has no utility. / © AndroidPIT

A solid triple camera

The MI 9 SE is equipped with a triple camera, installed vertically at the rear:

  • 48 MP Sony IMX586 main camera with f/1.75 (same lens as the Mi 9)
  • 13 MP wide-angle camera with f/2.4
  • 8 MP and f/2.4 Telephoto Lens

Practice confirms what the data suggests: it is a high-quality camera that is much the same as that of its older brother. Its three lenses offer us a multitude of possible options (I'm a big fan of the wide-angle lens). By day, the results are remarkable, and the average user will be more than satisfied with this smartphone. When it comes to the use of Artificial Intelligence, you have to be careful. Although it sometimes serves to give more life to your captures, it is possible that sometimes it gets a little out of hand, resulting in some unrealistic photographs. That's why I recommend having the "AI" option deactivated and only activate it if necessary: it's as easy as giving it a quick click.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se camera detail
It must be said that the triple camera excels a little. / © AndroidPIT

When the sun goes down, the results are clearly worse, especially if you want to use the wide-angle or telephoto lens, which has a much smaller focal aperture. Despite having a night mode, it is not very successful, and is miles away from the results offered by Huawei with its latest phones.

Important: Xiaomi has the habit of offering us a nice watermark in our photographs. If you want to remove it, open the camera application, go to Settings and remove the Photo watermark option.

You can check the quality of the photographs taken with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE here.

Battery life is not the best... but it has fast charge

In this area, Xiaomi could have taken a little more care. On paper, 3,070 mAh looks like a somewhat limited battery, and so it proved to be. I don't mean to say you have to carry your cell phone charger everywhere. The Mi 9 SE ensures that you reach the end of your day with a little remaining battery, but not much further. And nowadays, one could demand a little more... At the very least, it comes with a fast 18W charger, which recharges your battery up to 50 percent in just over half an hour.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi 9 se buttons
Do not demand more than one day of autonomy. / © AndroidPIT

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE technical specifications

Dimensions: 147.5 x 70.5 x 7.5 mm
Weight: 155 g
Battery size: 3070 mAh
Screen size: 5.97 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 2340 x 1080 pixels (432 ppi)
Front camera: 20 megapixels
Rear camera: 48 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 9 - Pie
User interface: MIUI
RAM: 6 GB
Internal storage: 128 GB
64 GB
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 712
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.3 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Final verdict

The battle for the mid-range is more open than ever. More and more moderately priced models incorporate features that until recently were intended for the high-end, such as large screens. This Mi 9 SE is a little different...

This phone is designed for those who, although they like the standard Mi 9, are looking for a cheaper alternative in a compact size. Its performance is impeccable (keep in mind that this is not a Lite version of the Mi 9, which will probably come later, but a Special Edition) and its camera meets almost everything expectation. Leaving aside a battery that is not out of this world, I find few defects with this smartphone.

Is it worth paying more and getting an Mi 9? If you like big smartphones, no doubt. For 100 euros more you will have the best processor on the market, an even better camera, Gorilla Glass 6 and wireless charging. But if you're looking for a compact smartphone that performs well on a day-to-day basis, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE may be what you need.

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