Realme is shaking up its number series by introducing new members of the family. There’s now a Plus model and an SE variant. But today, we want to focus on the ones we already know. So while we’re waiting for the vanilla Realme 9, first let’s take a look at the Realme 9 Pro.

This device is spaced well enough from the Plus variant. Despite being Php7,000 cheaper at only Php16,990, it still has features like a fast display and 5G connectivity. That said, are you better off saving money and going with this cheaper, non-Plus option? How it is as a daily driver in general? We find out in our Realme 9 Pro review.

Realme 9 Pro Specs

  • Android 12, Realme UI 3.0
  • Dual SIM, Dual Standby
  • 6.6-inch FHD+ IPS display, 2412 x 1080 pixel resolution, 400ppi
  • 120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling
  • 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 octa-core processor
  • Adreno 619 GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.2 internal storage, expandable via microSD
  • 16-megapixel front camera
  • 64-megapixel (f/1.8) + 8-megapixel (ultra-wide) + 2-megapixel (macro) rear cameras, LED flash
  • Side-mounted fingerprint scanner
  • Single speaker
  • Headphone jack, Hi-Res audio
  • HSPA+, 4G LTE, 5G
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
  • USB Type-C
  • Dimensions: 164.3 x 75.6 x 8.5mm
  • Weight: 195g
  • Colors: Sunrise Blue, Aurora Green, Midnight Black
  • 5,000mAh non-removable battery, 33W fast charging

Design and Build Quality

The Realme 9 Pro and Pro Plus have identical designs and layouts. There’s the distinct camera island in the bank with a substantial camera bump, curved corners for better ergonomics, and more importantly, identical color options.

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Like the phones from its sister companies OPPO and Vivo, the Realme 9 Pro series come with a Sunrise Blue variant, which changes in color when exposed to sunlight or UV.

However, both the Realme 9 Pro and Pro Plus units that we got are in Aurora Green, so we can’t show those off to you. Still, this Aurora Green variant we got looks clean, subtle, and elegant.

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While they look the same, you can easily tell them apart when you hold them. Due to the difference in components, the Realme 9 Pro is heavier at 195g (vs 182g), thicker at 8.5mm (vs 7.22mm), and taller with its 6.6-inch screen (vs 6.4-inch).

That doesn’t mean that it’s bulky. For a device that has a large 6.6-inch screen and 5,000mAh battery, the non-Plus variant still feels sleek and premium — albeit still quite heavy— all thanks to the curved and glass-like back panel.

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Oh, and that’s another difference. This one has a plastic back, while the Plus model has glass. But that shouldn’t matter since they look the same, especially when they get bombarded with fingerprint smudges. You have to examine closely the material and hold it to tell the difference.

You might have to use the free clear case to prevent accidental hairline scratches, though. But don’t worry, the free protection has a dark tint and ultra-thin profile so it doesn’t add too much bulk.

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Since the Realme 9 Pro has a standard IPS panel instead of OLED, it has thicker bezels all around. It still looks clean, though, since Realme went with a punch-hole cutout for a higher screen-to-body ratio. The top bezels have a wide grill for the earpiece.

Like most Android phones, the display comes with a film protector pre-applied — quite fitting since the glass used was not mentioned.

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On the left side, there are the volume controls, which are separated and don’t use a single piece of metal like everyone else.

The SIM tray is on top of it. Unfortunately, it’s a hybrid setup. So you can either go with a second SIM, or a microSD card. Still better than the Plus model, which doesn’t come with a microSD card slot at all.

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The right side only has the lock/power button. Since it doesn’t have an in-display fingerprint scanner, we have the sensor here.

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On the top, we have a secondary mic, while at the bottom there’s the USB Type-C port, primary microphone, loudspeaker, and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Like its predecessors, the Realme 9 Pro and its bigger brother treat us with a fresh new design. It has a sleek look and feels sturdy. The best part is since they look very identical, no one would know that you went with the cheaper option if ever you do.

Display and Sound Quality

While the Realme 9 Pro settles for an IPS screen, it does come with a higher 120Hz refresh rate that’s faster than the Plus’ 90Hz. And as said earlier, it’s display is slightly larger at 6.6-inches.

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The overall display quality is fine, especially with the high refresh rate, clean colors, and acceptable brightness. However, unless you have a really powerful processor, the difference between a 120Hz refresh to a 90Hz is barely noticeable.

We wish Realme toned it down to 90Hz to make room for an OLED panel, but I guess it will now look a lot like the Plus model, which beats the purpose of going with the more expensive option.

For some reason, it looks like Netflix is not compatible with the phone as it doesn’t show up in the Play Store. It will probably get fixed in the future, though.

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For audio, the Realme 9 Pro only has a single bottom-firing speaker, while the Plus gets two. But from what it looks like, this device only needs one as it doesn’t lack volume despite the speaker difference.

While it lacks a bit of clarity on the highs/treble and the immersiveness of a stereo setup, the surprisingly-loud volume and audible bass make up for it.

Hardware and Performance

The Realme 9 Pro 5G is one of the first to use the 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G processor, which offers a more powerful CPU and GPU than the Snapdragon 690. In addition, it now has mmWave 5G.

Realme 9 Pro 5G benchmarks

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It boasts two Kyro 560 Gold performance cores and six Kyro 560 Silver efficiency cores. There’s also the Adreno 619L GPU, 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, and 128GB of storage which you can further expand with a microSD card slot.

Paired with its fast display, performance is a breeze on this thing, both in the daily use and the hardcore usage. All basic tasks can be done without a hitch: video meetings, streaming videos, social media browsing, taking pictures, and more. Overheating is no issue either.

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Gaming was also seamless, albeit the 120Hz refresh rate barely supports any titles in the Play Store.

Call of Duty: Mobile, under High graphics settings and Max frame rates, ran very smooth without any noticeable overheating after about half an hour of playing.

Software and User Interface

Like the Plus model, the Realme 9 Pro ships with the latest Android 12-based Realme UI 3.0. This means that it looks the same as Realme UI 2.0, but now with more customizations, smoother transitions, and more. Realme took where they left off and improved from it, which is how it should be.

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Some new inclusions are the Privacy Dashboard, which is standard for all Android 12 devices. It shows you all of the permissions you have given in a single setting.

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Realme 9 Pro still has tons of customizable settings that let you configure things like the overall color theme, icons, and more.

Since it has an IPS panel instead of AMOLED, it lacks the always-on display (AOD) settings that we liked on the Plus model. Still, there’s a dark mode feature that’s also heavily customizable.

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Floating window | Split screen

Multitasking features can be found on the recent apps tab. Here you can enable floating windows, where supported apps can stay open on a smaller window while you use something else. Or, you can use the split-screen mode so both apps run side-by-side.

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Probably my only gripe about the UI is something to do with the Google Keyboard. By default, the ñ letter was featured prominently on the layout, resulting in a lot of mistypes. While we Filipinos appreciate the easy access to ñ, we immediately disabled it in the settings menu.

Overall, we’re satisfied with the Realme UI 3.0. In its fourth iteration, we wish the brand will just use this same base and continue upgrading it instead of releasing a new one and starting from scratch.

Camera

One of the main downgrades over the Plus model is seen in the camera department. It now has a standard 64-megapixel camera, versus the former’s Sony IMX766 sensor with OIS. Still, it has an 8-megapixel ultra-wide and a 2-megapixel macro.

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The camera quality may not be the best but it sure is up there and can even outshine most of the competition. Contrast is good, dynamic range is wide, and the details are sharp, although they may have to tone down the oversharpening in post-process. Colors are not the most accurate, but a software update could easily fix that.

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64-megapixel | Outdoors
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64-megapixel w/ Portrait Mode | Outdoors

What’s great here is the low-light shots. Like the Plus variant, it comes with different night mode shots like the neon light trail, which takes impressive long exposure shots despite the lack of OIS or even a tripod (just make sure you have steady hands).

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64-megapixel w/ Neon Light Trail

It seems like the Realme 9 Pro shares the same 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera that a lot of midrange phones already have. That said, it only provides decent image quality.

On the upside, it gets the job done of cramming large subjects in a single frame. The edge distortion you’d normally see on ultra-wide cameras is also gone thanks to the polished algorithm.

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8-megapixel ultra-wide | Indoors
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8-megapixel ultra-wide w/ Night Mode

The 2-megapixel macro camera takes fine photos when you need to, but you have to get used to its 4cm focusing distance limitation. A sharper sensor could make it more usable, but we’d still take it rather than the depth sensor.

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For selfies, there’s the 16-megapixel front-facing camera. While it takes decent images, we’re hoping we’d get more from what we’re able to get. It’s more than enough for TikTok videos, online learning, and more.

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16-megapixel front camera | Outdoors
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16-megapixel front camera | Indoors

Still, all in all, the cameras on the Realme 9 Pro are some of the best in its class.

Connectivity

One of the main highlights of the Realme 9 Pro is its 5G connectivity — the first in the series that have one. In our tests, it was only able to provide decent speeds of up to 70Mbps, probably because we have poor 5G signal in our area. But if you’re blessed enough to live near a 5G tower, you’d definitely enjoy this one.

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It lacks NFC and WiFi 6, but it still has dual-band WiFi 5. Also onboard are Bluetooth 5.1 and USB Type-C — all worked fine during our testing.

Battery

The 5,000mAh battery from the Realme 9 Pro was able to pull impressive screen-on-time during our tests. PCMark’s battery loop test gave it a score of 17 hours and 58 minutes before the battery dropped to 20% from 100%.

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That means that the device can last for an entire day before it requires charging, considering that you’re a conservative 5G user or just a casual gamer.

If you’re a power user, the device may not make it to the end of the day. But that shouldn’t be a problem since it has 33W fast charging.

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The charging speed is about half of what the Plus model has, but still speedy than what others have. We timed it out and you can check the figures below.

Realme 9 Pro charging times (from 0%)

  • 15mins: 16%
  • 30mins: 37%
  • 45mins: 57%
  • 60mins: 78%
  • 75mins: 95%
  • ~90mins: 100%

Verdict

The Realme 9 Pro is easily one of the most complete Android phones you can get for the price. It has a stunning and comfortable design, a roomy and smooth display, outstanding performance, a good set of cameras, long battery life, and of course, 5G connectivity.

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We still wish Realme went with a more vibrant OLED panel. So if that’s important to you, and you want an even better camera, stereo speakers, and faster charging, then spending more on the Realme 9 Pro Plus (read our full review) might suit you better.

Still, in its own right, the Realme 9 Pro is a competent device.

Realme 9 Pro price and availability in the Philippines

The Realme 9 Pro has an official price tag of Php16,990. It will be available with a Php2,000 discount from March 16 to 18 in Lazada. Both models will be up for pre-order from March 16 to 25 in offline stores with a free Realme Pocket Bluetooth Speaker, Realme Type-C SuperDart Cable, and Realme Mobile Game Finger sleeves.

Pros

  • Sleek and attractive design
  • Large and fast 120Hz display
  • Reliable performance with 5G
  • Good cameras
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • IPS display
  • No stereo speakers
  • No official IP rating for water protection



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