Xiaomi Mi 9 first impressions: rough around the edges, but still quite good


Sometimes it’s hard to see the light through the stack of glass sandwiches on offer when it comes to smartphones in 2019 and then along comes one phone that makes you reminisce about the good old days of Mobile. When buying a mobile felt like you were giving your friend money to start their own business because you were fully supportive of them and their ideas. Well along comes Xiaomi, for a long time not even on my radar as a smartphone manufacturer. I’d always associate them with cheap smart home products I could find on Aliexpress.

I was lucky enough to sit in on the Launch event at MWC 2019 and even before the presentation began I was immediately at ease whilst I watch the comedic rolling ads advertising their line of (over 2000) smart appliances. The presentation was warm and fuzzy and first and foremost the Mi Fans had the initial shout out of the day. The whole event made me feel like I was at an HTC event circa 2013. That family feeling was in full flow.

Now that I was suitably drunk in love with Xiaomi as a company – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Mi 9 in the demo area. That’s where things started to fall apart. The demo area was packed, and the people were unforgiving so I plumped for a few photos and decided to grab some face time the next day. That was today and I’m glad I waited.

The phone is a beautifully packed glass sandwich with little flourishes in the right areas, the software is reminiscent of a stock android wannabe and I didn’t “hate” the custom icons for the apps.

The camera is quick and literally “snappy” with images filling up the gallery instantly. The AI portrait modes are clunky but they work and the video seems to be quite smooth. There was very little delay in switching between modes and colour representation seems pretty spot on. Look out for a post and video of sample shots from my quick 20 min hands-on session.

Almost all handsets at MWC are locked into some kind of Demo mode or another so I couldn’t experience all features as if it was right out the box. Regardless, I was really impressed. There was little to no lag when opening and switching apps, which you’d come to expect in 2019 – Chrome booted up and didn’t stutter while scrolling the online news. But I only had one tab open (we all know how that story goes).

It didn’t feel heavy or too big for my small hands and even though it was tethered to the table my fingers didn’t get any dents or fatigue from using it heavily for 20 mins or so.

Xiaomi’s message at MWC was one of universal appeal and attention to detail. The holographic halo around the rear camera is even endorsed by Gaudi himself. Joking aside, it’s been a long time since I seen and held a smartphone that wasn’t an HTC or Pixel that made me feel like I wouldn’t mind owning one. But maybe I’m just a fool in love. (Hopefully, someone at Xiaomi will send one through so I can give it a good test over a month or so.)

Based on first impressions alone and being completely honest, I’d say that the Xiaomi Mi 9 kind of stole the show in terms of launch presentation, looks and overall message.

I’d like to hear your thoughts, is Xiaomi a brand you use or have been considering? Or are they, just another manufacturer is a sea of same?

Darren Millar
30 something, ex-nightclub DJ. Currently loving technology. Smart home builder, Small Japanese car fan. Never owned an iPhone. Cat person.

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