The year is 2019 and the average size of the diagonals of smartphones is constantly growing. It is a problem on the market to find smartphones with a diagonal below 6 "and especially smartphones that could be conveniently controlled with one hand.
Of course, we don't mean older models with outdated hardware. Hardware is the second problem - when a more compact smartphone is found, most of the equipment is very fragmented and belongs to the lower class.
Here, however, comes the Chinese Xiaomi with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE model - a lightweight version of the flagship Mi 9. Xiaomi has finally created a smartphone that we have all been waiting for so long.
We tested the 9 SE for several weeks and in our detailed review we will show what makes this piece so special nowadays.
The package is not surprising
Smartphone, charging adapter, USB Type-C cable, protective rubber cover and English manual. The package contains only the necessary accessories, which have already become a standard for Xiaomi in this composition.
We would look in vain for headphones here, but most users still use their favorites. If you don't have any yet, we and hundreds of other satisfied Slovak and Czech users recommend you Redmi AirDots.
A great reason for the great success of the Mi 9 SE
Let's start gradually, from the outside. It is the design side of the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE smartphone that is an absolute attraction and the reason why it is destined for success. The Mi 9 SE finally solves the problem with oversized displays or smartphone designs.
Yes, at first glance, you may be saying that the 5.97 "display is not small at all. You are right. However, it is admirable how Xiaomi was able to squeeze it into a structure with dimensions of 147.5 x 70.5 x 7.5 mm. The weight of 155 grams is also very comfortable.
Dimensions up to 150 mm in height and 70 mm in width are a measure of comfortable smartphone operation with one hand. This is exactly what Mi 9 SE meets. Xiaomi claims that the dimensions of the Mi 9 SE are the same as smartphones with 5,1 ″ displays.
Engineers at Xiaomi have reduced the frames around the display to a bare minimum, and the smartphone looks frameless from the sides and top. The lower chin remained in this case, but it is only a few mm. The display makes up more than 90% of the area of the entire front.
One-handed operation of the smartphone is really convenient. In the editorial office, we are used to last year's Mi 8s with a 6,21 "display, and when we first grabbed the Mi 9 SE in the palm of our hand, we felt a huge difference in size. The smartphone falls into the hand like a glove and the user with an average-sized palm reaches almost anywhere on the screen.
Another aspect that contributes to comfortable use, but especially excellent feeling, is a well-processed glass construction. The quality belongs to the category of the most expensive flagships, while the price is at the level of the middle class.
So the glass is also on the back and in addition, in the blue color that we had available, it looks very attractive. The rear panel is protected by durable Gorilla Glass 5, the side frames are made of polished metal.
An unmissable element of the back is the camera, which stands out significantly. According to our measurements, it is up to 1,9 mm. It is not completely covered by the enclosed protective cover. The camera protrudes more than both Mi 8 and Mi 9, mainly due to its slim construction. Fortunately, the lenses are protected by a durable sapphire crystal, which resists even harder objects. Under the three cameras we find dual LED backlight diodes.
The luxurious glass construction and the polished metal frame literally attract fingerprints around the perimeter. You will need to polish your phone from time to time. However, it fits well in the hand, but with a little sweat or fluid on the palm, it may tend to slip out.
There are several components in the polished metal frame. In the upper part it is an infrared port and next to it there is an opening for an ambient sound sensor - a microphone. At the top of the display above the front camera is a thin hole for the earpiece speaker.
On the right side we find two buttons. It is a traditional power button and a connected volume control button. There is a SIM card slot on the left side.
In the lower part of the frame there are two identical perforated cutouts on the sides. However, the Mi 9 SE has only one speaker and it is located in the right section. Below the left is a hidden microphone for communication. There is a USB C connector between the cutouts.
Joy to watch
As already mentioned, the display makes up 90,47% of the front of the phone. This is an AMOLED panel from the Samsung workshop with a diagonal of 5,97 inches. The display resolution is 2340 × 1080 px in a 19: 9 aspect ratio. The pixel density of 432 ppi is based on these parameters. Normal brightness is at the level of 430 rivets and the maximum brightness reaches up to 600 rivets. The contrast is 60000: 1 and the color gamut is NTSC 103.8%.
The display has a wide range of settings, ranging from standard mode to color temperature, read mode or night mode.
It supports HDR display and Always on display, which is called Ambiette Display in the Slovak menu. This feature has a wide range of settings. In addition to the clock and date, the ambient display also displays event notifications, replacing the missing notification LED.
As is well known with AMOLED displays, their color rendering is top notch. Above all, black is really black, and this also applies to the display in the Mi 9 SE. Even when looking at the display from a side angle, the colors and the overall display are not significantly distorted. This is also proved by the range of colors in the color space - gamut - which is at the level of up to 103,8%.
The color settings have three modes, “warm”, “cold” and “default”, where the user can choose any color range of the display. Contrast setting is limited by enabled or disabled read mode.
A separate chapter is the integrated fingerprint reader. It is functional, but its accuracy and speed is not yet perfect. Many times it is necessary to put your finger several times, especially with low finger moisture or even with little dirt. Although we have configured the thumbprint on a hand-held phone, unlocking in one hand is difficult.
The fingerprint unlocking function has been considerably impaired after the application of the purchased non-branded protective glass. Slight improvement occurred after configuring the same fingers after glass application. However, you can still use Face Unlock, which works lightly and flawlessly even in low light.
We also recommend storing one finger more times to improve unlocking accuracy. The durable Gorilla Glass 5 ensures external protection and durability.
Plenty of exercise in a small body
The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE is equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 chipset. It is built on a 10 nm processor and a sophisticated, multi-core Qualcomm AI Engine consisting of Kryo 360 cores and an Adreno 616 graphics chip.
Snapdragon 712 is equipped with artificial intelligence elements, as well as support for QuickCharge 4.0+. Artificial intelligence is one of the most powerful weapons of the Snapdragon 712. It improves the playability of games, and is responsible for the flawless operation of demanding applications.
When testing the processor in Geekbench 4, we measured a value of 5993 points in the multi-core test. In the single core test, a score of 1914 points was measured. The processor is seconded by a 4-channel LPDDR1866x (6 MHz) RAM with a capacity of 64 GB. Our version of the phone has an internal memory of 177 GB. These parameters are sufficient to achieve a score in the AnTuTu test of approximately 000 points.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE does not heat up, but does not disappoint. Multitasking handles without the slightest problems and you will play on it and graphically more challenging game. In addition, the Mi 9 SE features a special gaming mode where your smartphone will maximize its performance. It also provides various tools for players, such as screen capture.
Given the dimensions of a relatively small phone, the performance results achieved are extremely satisfactory.
Surely all Xiaomi fans know that their favorite phones use the Android operating system and most of them have their own MIUI. This is also the case here and our Xiaomi Mi 9 SE runs on Android 9 Pie. At the time of writing, we have version 10.2.9.0 in the machine.
This phone is scheduled to update the Android operating system to version Q, as well as MIUI upgrades to version 11 in the future.
We will not introduce MIUI as such, everyone knows it well. The advantages of this superstructure are traditionally simplicity and clarity, while low demands on hardware and energy. In the past, the global version of MIUI contained untranslated items, especially the deeper bowels of the menu.
It also often contained some bug or pre-installed and unnecessary Chinese applications that could not be removed. These times are gone, and the global version of MIUI is now full-featured and hassle-free software for the pervasive.
But we should have a few remorse, but maybe they are only subjective. The first is the occasional disobedience of automatic brightness. The brightness of the display is reduced to a minimum, especially in low outdoor lighting.
There would be nothing if the minimum was not so low that it is difficult to read information from the display. We repeatedly had to manually add brightness after pulling the blind. Rather, it is a software problem that may be fixed in the future.
The second remedy is to hide the percentage of the remaining battery power in the battery icon. Obviously this is a fad of developers to save space in the top bar. This space is slim thanks to the cut-out. When Xiaomi was still making phones with no-cut displays (fortunately this time is coming back), percentages were displayed next to the battery icon. A much more convenient solution.
However, both our remorse can be removed or repaired under domestic conditions. There are plenty of alternative applications or tutorials on the Internet.
Enough frflania, let's praise. After switching on the phone and a few initial settings, the phone is ready for use. We appreciate the manufacturer's commitment to privacy, if the phone has been reset without the previous user logging out of the Mi account. In that case, you can't just unlock the phone so easily - if at all.
Already in the initial settings, the phone will ask if you will use the MIUI in the traditional mode with three lower digital buttons (menu, home and back), or in an innovative way - gestures. In this case, the step back will be the gesture of pulling your finger from any edge towards the center. Swipe up from the bottom edge to return to the home screen.
To invoke recent apps, just drag your finger from the bottom to the top and stop your finger on the screen. If possible, click the graphical menu icon to bring up the menu for that application. The advantage of gesture control is the larger display area, as the buttons do not take up space on the display.
You will not find the application menu itself in MIUI. The system uses one home screen and the other needs are located by sliding it to the side. The number of additional screens depends on the number of installed applications, games, or links on desktops or organized into folders. It is gratifying to be able to set the grid for the layout of icons on desktops. We use a 5 × 6 layout.
We need to highlight the rich options for setting up alerts. Whether it's the general notification settings and the display of individual parameters in the top bar, but also managing application-specific alerts. The possibilities are almost unlimited, and the user can embellish application notifications in the smallest detail.
Speaking of the notifications, we also highlight the roller shutter icons. They also have different setting options. Adding or removing specific icons is a breeze or even sort their order as needed. Simply MIUI.
An extensive menu of button settings can also be found only in MIUI and their setting is one of our activities whenever a new phone is switched on. A large number of different key combinations will also help you to make your phone more comfortable to use. Combining various buttons and the length of their hold, you can, for example, launch the camera, flashlight, Google now and many others.
Here are two popular features that we use at MIUI. One of them is the application lock, in which we can choose any application and lock it with a chosen password, pin or pattern from unwanted use.
We also love to use call recording because sometimes there is no free space in the human memory to store information and pen and paper are not always at hand. Call recording also has a variety of settings, and it has no disturbance or annoyance at all.
You'll charge frequently, but at least quickly
The Li-Polymer battery is a part that has been saved, especially because of the size and weight of the device. Nowadays almost 3070 mAh is very low. Unfortunately, this also applies to smaller phones and, on average, smaller displays.
When using the phone gently, without any demanding operations, it can work approximately 24 to 30 hours. Our testing showed a display on time of 4 hours, which is an average result.
The lack of wireless charging is a bit of annoyance, especially when more and more high-power wireless chargers are on the market. But what pleased and pleasantly surprised is the support of fast charging at 18 W. From 10% to 50% the phone is charged in 21 minutes. In the next 21 minutes we reached 80%. In the end, charging will slow down somewhat. The total charging time from 10 to 100% was 80 minutes.
The camera will not surprise or disappoint
The Mi 9 SE has four cameras.
There are three sensors on the back of the smartphone. The primary is the Sony IMX586 Exmor RS with a resolution of 48 MPx. It has a wide-angle lens with focal aperture of f / 1,75. The pixel size in this case is 0.800 µm and the ISO range is from 100 to 3200.
The second sensor is the Omnivision OV8856 with a resolution of 8 Mpx and it is a telephoto lens with double optical zoom. The focal aperture is f / 2.4 and the pixel size is 1.120 µm. The trio is complemented by the Samsung S5K3L6 sensor with a resolution of 13 MPx. The pixel size is 1.12μm and the focal aperture is f / 2.4. This sensor has an ultra wide angle lens with an image range of up to 123 degrees.
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE can handle 4K video at 30 fps or slow motion video up to 960 fps.
FullHD video preview:
As far as the camera application is concerned, it is already the standard we know from Xiaomi. It offers basic functions such as mode change, including portrait mode, manual mode, panorama, night mode or slow motion video.
The user can take advantage of optical zoom or ultra-wide-angle sensor features. Also, when shooting macro images, it is not necessary to change the mode or settings. Just bring your smartphone closer to the subject and autofocus will do the job.
Of course there is no support for HDR shooting and the backlight will take care of dual LED flash, which is located under the three cameras. We tested the camera under different conditions. In normal daylight, it produces truly beautiful shots with a very good dynamic range. The colors of the photos are vivid, sometimes too embellished, but just turn off artificial intelligence.
As the light diminishes, photo quality deteriorates. Night shots are of lower quality, but at least Night mode is the advantage, making the most out of the camera. Night mode makes night photos usable anyway.
Editorial note: Photos in review have been reduced, all photos in original resolution can be viewed in this reference.
48 MPx photo
More 48 MPx photos in original resolution you will find in this reference.
In front, it is a selfie camera in the viewport. This is a 20 MPx sensor SONY IMX576 Exmor RS. The focal aperture is f / 2.0 and the pixel size is 1.0 µm. When capturing images, the selfie camera uses elements of artificial intelligence. Depending on the environment in which the photo is taken, it adjusts the settings to get the best result.
Of course, there is no HDR support, and in low light, the selfie camera uses backlight brightness. When creating a selfie photo, the user has the option to use one of the filters to create a photo of their own. The front camera in the Mi 9 SE has a beautification mode in which it automatically enhances the subject.
Group selfie is also available. With the front camera it is possible to capture video in H.264 but also H.265 codec. The frame rate is 30 per second for 1080p video as well as 720p HD video.
No stereo speaker or jack
Although there are identical cut-outs at the bottom resembling speakers' output, the sound is transmitted from only one of them. The speaker is located to the right of the USB C connector. There is a microphone hole on the left. A second speaker and stereo sound are missing. Still, the sound quality is high.
The volume is surprising and there is no resonance or other adverse effects even at the highest levels. The heights are clean, the bass effect is surprisingly good. You won't find a 3.5mm jack in your phone, and you'll need to use the included adapter or Bluetooth wireless to use the headphones. It is in version 5.0.
Speaking of Bluetooth in version 5.0, it has the attribute LE - low energy and therefore low power consumption. In addition, the SE is equipped with an infrared port and the popular NFC module. We tested it with a supported Google Pay application. Payments went smoothly without having to enter a pin code on the terminals.
In terms of navigation, the smartphone has broad spectrum support for A-GPS, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, Beidou navigation systems. WiFi can be used in 802.11a / b / g / n / ac. The phone supports dual band WiFi, ie 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
Mobile networks in our global version of the phone are fully available. There is no support for LTE band B20 and therefore there is no problem to operate in the LTE network of all Slovak mobile operators. In the orange operator network we measured the data flow in LTE and 3G as well as the speed of the WiFi connection.
Compact smartphone with good equipment and price
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE is a specific phone for a specific customer. He lacks some details for the flagship equipment. What makes it special is its size and weight. Due to its dimensions, the equipment Mi 9 SE to above average. If you are looking for a smaller phone with really good equipment, the Mi 9 SE is the perfect choice.
From the very first glance and grip of the phone, it is clear to the user that it is not a cheap Chinese toy. Glass and polished metal complete the feeling of luxury. However, the relatively low price, especially with global dealers, does not indicate that you have a real gem in your hand. Summing up all the parameters, appearance and dimensions together with a great price, we would like to say that Mi 9 SE has no competition on the market.