Realme 9 Pro+ Review: Night photography champ!
Realme and cameras! Over the last few years, we had grown tired of seeing some of Realme's great phones losing out to the competition as soon as we brought up photography. No amount of optimisation could overcome the sub-par image sensors Realme used on its midrange and flagships – case in point is the Realme GT Master Edition that struggled even in well-lit situations too. It seems Realme grew tired of the same and finally came up with a phone that uses a bespoke Sony sensor to show what it can do when it goes all serious. Meet the Realme 9 Pro+.
This is less of a Realme 9 Pro variant and more of a Realme GT Master Edition replacement. Hence, at a starting price of Rs. 24,999, it is pricey but has some top-grade midrange specs. It has a new image sensor that allows Realme to make some tall claims – claims that put its camera performance on par with the iPhone 13! Hmm, interesting!
Has Realme pulled it off then? Do we finally have a Realme phone whose cameras we approve of? And, does it compromise the rest of the smartphone experience?
Realme 9 Pro+ Design
Realme comes up with a mildly updated design every year and then grabs on to it for the entire year. Hence, the Realme 9 Pro+ won't look any different to the Realme GT Neo 2, or the rest of the Realme 9 series. Not an issue though if you opt for the Sunrise Blue colour variant, which has a colour changing rear! Similar to the Vivo V23 Pro's colour changing rear, the Realme 9 Pro+ makes use of a Photochromic layer on the rear that turns a shimmery light blue 9 Pro+ into a shimmery red 9 Pro+ when exposed to the sun. Fancy to the Y!
Not only does that rear look ravishing, it feels nice to hold as well, since it uses glass instead of glossy plastic or vegan leather. I also like the 3D-camera hump that has the same kind of presence as the iPhone 13 Pro Max's camera hump. In typical Realme fashion, the sides are made of good quality plastics, consisting of tactile buttons. Sadly, the front still has a stubby chin, a feature that looks out of place on a phone starting at Rs. 25,000.
Realme pre-applies the screen protector on the phone, and bundles a plastic case in the box. You also get the 65W charger in the box.
Realme 9 Pro+ Display
As with most phones at this price range, Realme sticks to a high refresh rate 6.4-inch AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution. Sadly, the refresh rate is limited to 90Hz instead of the norm that is 120Hz. That said, it supports the HDR10+ and HLG formats. The Xiaomi 11 Lite NE still has the superior display in this segment.
Similar to most AMOLED panels, the one here looks bright and vivid with a punchy colour profile. Viewing angles are wide and under the direct sun, it gets plenty bright. The screen responds fast as well. The in-display fingerprint sensor is fast and it now has a party trick up its sleeves – a heart rate monitoring function.
The feature is available under the Realme Lab and lets you take heart rate readings by scanning your finger on the sensor patch. I found the accuracy of the data to be on par with affordable fitness trackers but you should still not take this to a doctor (not a medical grade device).
Realme 9 Pro+ Performance
As a phone made to take on the Xiaomi 11i, seeing the MediaTek Dimensity 920 chip here is no surprise. And similar to its rival, this phone is no slouch! Whether it is gaming or doing mundane smartphone tasks, the Realme 9 Pro+ is a fast midrange phone.
Taking care of the phone stuff is Realme's nicely optimised Realme UI 3.0, which is based on Android 12. It is great to see Realme offering Android 12 as standard while Xiaomi still sticks to an Android 11 based MIUI 12.5 on the Xiaomi 11i. Realme UI in its latest avatar looks refreshing with more of that stock Android influence across its notifications and menus. It looks polished visually and is eager too – no lags or jitter in the animations.
Sadly, Realme continues to dump bloatware and adware in the UI. The Internet browser app keeps throwing disturbing notifications all day, while the vast amount of pre-loaded apps and adware make the app drawer messy. Realme could have offered a clean experience on the 9 Pro+ considering its price.
That said, minor tweaks such as tasteful haptic feedback on UI interactions makes using Realme UI 3 an interesting affair. Additionally, I am glad to see Realme tuning the software well for the Dimensity 920 chip. Games such as Call of Duty Mobile and BGMI can now run on High graphics preset with “Very High” settings. The phone can game for an hour easily without heating up, or showing signs of struggle. Overall, the performance is on par with the Snapdragon 778G powered Realme GT ME.
Helping with the gaming experience is the stereo speaker setup, which performs nicely. The speakers lack the volume and low-end emphasis of the Xiaomi 11i's dedicated speakers but it does the job. The 3.5mm headphone jack is present as well, if you rock a pair of wired headphones.
There's support for 5G connectivity here but at the moment, I could only test 4G performance. On Jio's network, the connection was strong, even in my basement parking. Call quality is decent as well.
Realme 9 Pro+ Cameras
This is why you spend Rs. 5,000 more over the Realme 9 Pro. I am cutting to the chase here – the main camera on the Realme 9 Pro+ is as good as the iPhone 13 Pro Max's cameras, if not better occasionally. That 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor is a gem of a sensor and Realme has made the most out of it.
The benefits of this sensor is visible at night, when the Realme 9 Pro+ takes brighter photos that hold more details and clarity than an iPhone 13 Pro Max's cameras! In absolute dark conditions, the Realme 9 Pro+ can see things that the human eyes can't. It brings out grass and shrubbery in the dark with some shade of green to suggest its colours – all the iPhone 13 Pro Max can manage is dark shapes bathed in a tint of yellow. The performance is neck-n-neck with the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE's night cameras, which we feel is one of the best camera systems on a phone under Rs. 60,000.
Realme's tuning and the brilliant sensor continue to impress in daylight as well. It is here, however, when the phone tends to go for an over-saturated colour profile. Photos tend to appear brighter than usual, and the limited dynamic range is obvious. The OIS is a massive luxury, keeping photos sharp. On the whole, for a phone of its class, this is one of the nicest camera systems we have seen so far. Realme can surely tune the colour profile nicely in future updates.
Sadly, the rest of the cameras leave a lot to be desired. The ultra-wide camera has a slightly cooler colour profile and lacks details but as long as the Sun is out, it performs well. The macro camera is for the namesake and you will be better off with a digital crop from the main camera.
The Realme 9 Pro+ redeems itself with the 16MP front camera, taking nice looking selfies with lots of details and a capable portrait mode. The subject separation is good. However, selfies tend to have limited colours and have a cooler colour temperature overall.
The video performance is commendable too, with good quality from the rear camera. It brightens up the footage in daylight but is at home during the night. You can record up to 4K videos at 30 fps.
Realme 9 Pro+ Battery
Considering its 4500mAh battery, a power efficient Dimensity 920 chip, and a miser Realme UI 3, the Realme 9 Pro+ can easily last an entire day with around 30 percent charge to spare. Note that this is with moderate usage that includes lots of calls, texting, social media browsing, and occasional photography sessions. If you game a lot, or shoot videos, the endurance figures take more hit.
Even though the phone gets a 65W charger in the box, the phone supports up to 60W of charging speeds only. In the real world, it takes around an hour to fully charge from 10-100 percent. Next to Xiaomi's 120W HyperCharge tech, this one feels as slow as a tortoise.
The Realme 9 Pro+ has left us vastly surprised! After years of sub-par cameras, Realme finally has a sub-Rs. 30,000 phone that absolutely dominates as far as camera performance is concerned. The night photography performance is splendid and even in daylight, it is going to make a lot of you happy. Obviously, Realme can still tune it better to get the colour science livelier, and maybe make the ultra-wide photos as well as selfies look more natural. Nonetheless, this is easily the best camera phone we have seen at this price in a long time!
Move beyond the cameras and the Realme 9 Pro+ is a capable mid range phone. It runs fast and smooth, has a good battery life, a decent display, and fast enough charging. However, Realme UI 3.0 is full of bloatware and adware, which is something it needs to pay attention to. Xiaomi's older MIUI 12.5 and MIUI 13 are a lot cleaner, and better organised in comparison.
And, when compared to the competition, the Realme 9 Pro+ isn't an easy pick. The Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge has its blisteringly fast 120W charging tech that alters the way you use a phone. The Samsung Galaxy A52 and Galaxy M52 5G are two solid alternatives that nail the overall user experience. Moreover, the occasional price drops of the Xiaomi Mi 11X still make it the phone to get for those seeking a flagship experience, especially with regards to performance. And all of them have faster 120Hz displays.
However, Realme positions the Realme 9 Pro+ as a solid camera phone that is high on its style quotient. And guess what? It does exactly as advertised, and then some. If you are seeking a fast phone with great cameras, stylish looks, reliable performance, and a good battery life, the Realme 9 Pro+ is the camera-focused all-rounder you should surely consider. Best phone in its segment now? Sure.
- Stellar main camera
- Runs fast
- Looks stylish
- Sub-par secondary cameras
- Messy Realme UI
Display6.4-inch FHD+ 90Hz AMOLED
OSRealme UI 3 based on Android 12
Battery & Charging4500mAh, 60W wired charging
Rear Cameras50MP + 8MP + 2MP