[test] Xiaomi Mi 9 Se : a Few Wolves, but Also a Lot of Qualities

[test] Xiaomi Mi 9 Se : a Few Wolves, but Also a Lot of Qualities


We like

  • The Snapdragon 712 is a nice surprise.
  • Design and handling
  • The price
  • Autonomy

We don’t like

  • Saturated color photos and night shooting
  • The environment (but again, it’s just a matter of taste, some would say)

Verdict:

A lighter version of the Mi 9, the Mi 9 SE finally delivers a good compromise between power and reduced price. We were impressed by its range management, despite a small battery capacity. Xiaomi still needs to make some more efforts on the photo part, although the software update that delivers less “blurred” photos in full light, as was the case on the Mi 9, is to be welcomed (the problem must also be fixed on this model since our test last March).

plus

Last February, Xiaomi announced its new flagship, the Mi 9. At the same time, the manufacturer unveiled another telephone, accessible to the more modest purses, but reserved primarily for the Chinese market. After a few weeks of waiting, the Mi 9 SE is finally available in France. Sold for 130 € less, the device displays smaller than its big brother, but opts for a less powerfulprocessor. On the other hand, in terms of design, it is identical to the Mi 9 and offers the same photographic performance as. So, is this a good deal or a bad deal? Which model to choose? We tested Xiaomi’s new smartphone for two weeks and we’re happy to share our findings with you.

Also read: [Test] Xiaomi Mi 9: we tested the first smartphone equipped with a Snapdragon 855

Always yes for its design

The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE inherits the look of the Mi 9: here we are dealing with a pleasantly designed camera, with its rounded (but not curved) edges, its control buttons located on the right side, its notch designed to accommodate the photo sensor on the front… The camera benefits from a sober and trendy look. There’s not much to reproach this smartphone with, with the possible exception of 3 points: the absence of a 3.5 jack plug, the absence of a microSD port and the protrusion of its triple rear photo sensor, which prevents the device from being used flat on a table. A detail that is quickly solved by the use of a protective shell, which is provided by the manufacturer. On the second point (jack plug), you will have to think of keeping the USB-C adapter nearby. As for the third point (microSD port), it will be necessary to do some cleaning on the camera when you tend to store all your photos and accumulate storage-intensive applications. Unless you opt for the 128GB edition from the outset, which sells for only €30 more than the 128GB edition. Which may seem like the wisest choice, all things considered.


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Let’s go back to pure design. However, there are some differences between the Mi 9 and the Mi 9 SE. The dimensions of the device have been reduced from a screen size of 6,39″ to 5,97″. As a result, the phone is smaller: 14.75 x 7.05 x 0.75 cm, compared to 15.75 x 7.47 x 0.76 for the Mi 9. This doesn’t mean that we’re losing definition, since we’re keeping 2340 x 1080 pixels on the Super AMOLED screen. Finally, the aircraft is lighter, weighing “only” 155 grams, whereas the Mi 9 weighs 173 grams.

In short, the phone impresses with its finishes and its apparent robustness. The Mi 9 SE comes in a fairly compact design, designed for those who would be put off by a phone more than 6″. It’s fun to handle and use it with one hand, although when it comes to compactness, you may prefer the Samsung S10e that we recently tested, provided you can afford it, of course.

The Mi 9 SE and its "ocean blue" back.

The Mi 9 SE and its “ocean blue” back.

Yes for its performance

Unlike the Mi 9, which is equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855, the Mi 9 SE has a lower power processor. Rest assured, this is not an old CPU that is 2 or 3 years old, or a newer entry-level model. No, Xiaomi has done it right and offers the all-new Snapdragon 712, a processor model that you won’t find anywhere else at the moment. The processor is supported by 6 GB of RAM. With its 64 or 128 GB of storage, Xiaomi has not cut back on the components of its device. On paper, the Mi 9 SE offers a solid configuration. To ensure this, we subjected the device to our traditional benchmark applications such as Geekbench, 3DMark, Antutu and PCMark.

3D Mark, Geekbenck and PCMark.

From left to right: 3D Mark, Geekbenck and PCMark.

Is there a real gain compared to the Snapdragon 710 released a few months ago and which equips, among others, Oppo’s RX17 Pro? The answer is yes. The gain is certainly not insane, but it is there. In use, you don’t really feel it, either in classic applications (Web, SVoD service, etc.) or in games. Of course, games that consume a lot of 3D resources sometimes have a hard time getting through (especially Fortnite and other PUBGs), but almost all of the titles we’ve been able to submit have been displayed without the slightest slowdown.

3DMark

(Sling Shot Extreme)

Geekbench

(Multi-core)

Antutu

Mi 9 SE

(Snapdragon 712)

2084

6028

178879

Oppo RX17 Pro

(Snapdragon 710 )

1855

5952

169161

Honor 8X

(Kirin 710)

1596

5645

139882

Redmi Note 7

(Snapdragon 660)

1259

4551

144590

Motorcycle G7 Plus

(Snapdragon 636)

946

4933

117754

Theautonomy, ensured by a battery of 3070 mAh is also very satisfactory. We subjected the phone to our usual series of tests: a lot of Web, one hour of telephony, one hour of streaming video on Netflix, one hour of music listening on Deezer and one hour of GPS usage. We performed the operation three times, each time of course recharging the device to 100% once it was completely discharged, which gave us a relevant average. Under such conditions, the camera manages to hold for a little over a day and a half, which places it in the high-medium range, despite its “small” battery.

The device is delivered with a black translucent shell.

The unit is delivered with a black translucent shell.

Yes and no for photo

As mentioned above, the camera benefits from the same triple back sensor as its big brother, the Mi 9. Thus, there is a 48 MP device (with an aperture of f/1.8), another 13 MP (aperture of f/2.4) for the ultra-wide-angle and a last 8 MP (aperture of f/2.4) as a telephoto lens. What results are we getting with this trio? The answer is right underneath.

In full light, the camera delivers sharp, fully usable photos. One of the flaws we had formulated with regard to the Mi 9, i.e. the slightly too obvious smoothing on some shots, seems to have been partially corrected, certainly via a software update. There is always a little smoothing to erase the noise that could be present in a photo, but it is now much less visible than on the tests we did last March on the Mi 9. On the other hand, the color balance is slightly saturated. Understand that greens are green, reds are red and blues are blue. The series of photos below, taken on a clear but not really sunny day, shows this. The advantage is that the pictures are automatically embellished, which should delight many. The disadvantage is that the color balance is not always well respected compared to reality. And it doesn’t matter if you disable AI mode: the result is always the same.

In low light conditions, the unit performs moderately well, provided you use the Night mode (which does not activate by default, unlike a Galaxy S10, for example). As shown in the few pictures below, the elements photographed are visible and can be zoomed at 1.5x without fear of a really noisy image. Beyond this value, the picture becomes difficult to use.

  • Without night mode
  • Without night mode

However, a word of advice: always have a small light source nearby. As soon as you really find yourself in the dark, the result is either too noisy or too blurry to be really exploitable.

  • In night mode and with a light source nearby
  • In night mode and with a light source nearby

Yes and no for MIUI

As we have already mentioned several times, MIUI still does not convince us. We regularly submit all smartphones to the entire editorial staff, and MIUI is often the least appreciated, without being totally ignored. This is probably just a matter of taste, as the environment and its settings imagined by Xiaomi offer some relevant features, such as setting the display temperatures, many settings per gest, etc. As we’ve already mentioned several times, those who know iOS will be the ones who will be the most familiar with it, as Xiaomi has been inspired by Apple’s environment to design its own system.

The lack of an application drawer may be deplored, but it’s finally a blow to take. And then, it is always possible to install a launcher to enjoy it. However, the notification system remains one of the black spots of the system: unless you’re continually taped to your smartphone screen, you tend to never see new emails, news related application alerts or, by extension, all those notifications that warn you when it’s your turn to play, to bid on a product that ends within 15 minutes (who said we use eBay a lot?), etc. Notifications will get lost in the front bar without ever appearing on the screen. You’ll need to keep up the pace: remember to scroll down the notification bar, otherwise you won’t see much of the alerts. The system is too much of a system to leave the user alone, and in the end it becomes too discreet.

Yes for its price, as always

Xiaomi has accustomed us to marketing products that are often cutting-edge and at prices that defy all competition. The Chinese manufacturer is doing it again with the Mi 9 SE, which has a wide range of features, yet at a relatively low price in relation to its performance. With its Amoled screen, its reduced size compared to the Mi 9, its 19.5:9 aspect ratio, its Snapdragon 712, its 6GB of RAM and its 64 or 128GB of storage, the device offers everything you would expect from a smartphone today for less than €400… Especially since if you look for the promos, you’re already starting to find it at around €300!

In the end, this is a good deal that Xiaomi is offering us here, a deal that should delight those (and they are more and more numerous to believe the comments left in our tests) who prefer to have a smartphone with less than 6″, even if it means losing a bit of power.

photo taken using the maximum zoom (8x)

picture taken using the maximum zoom (8x)

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