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Realme 9 5G Speed Edition First Impressions: Balancing Performance and Price?

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The Realme 9 5G and Realme 9 5G Speed Edition have just been launched in India. The Realme 9 5G is priced at Rs. 14,999 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (introductory offer) and Rs. 17,499 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in India. The more powerful Realme 9 5G Speed Edition is priced starting at Rs. 19,999 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and goes up to Rs. 22,999 for 8GB of RAM and the same 128GB of storage. SBI and ICICI Bank cardholders can get instant discounts of Rs. 1,500 on the former and Rs. 2,000 on the latter model. Both will go on sale starting at 12:00 noon on March 14.

Realme’s lineup of smartphones in India has become quite confusing, and several models from different series overlap in terms of price. The company’s numbered models are meant to be mainstream all-rounders but again, we have multiple options. The two new models slot in above the Realme 9i (Review) and below the recently launched Realme 9 Pro 5G and Realme 9 Pro+ 5G (Review). However, there’s some overlap with the Realme 9 Pro 5G.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Realme 9 Speed Edition, or SE, which is the more premium of the two new models. Does it offer as good value as its predecessors, and can it take on its own sibling, plus heavy hitters such as the new Redmi Note 11 Pro and the Moto G71 (Review)? I’ve been able to get my hands on a unit, so here are my first impressions.

realme 9 speed edition screen ndtv realme 9

You get a 6.6-inch full-HD+ 144Hz display

 

Starting with design, there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. Realme has gone with a fairly simple plastic body with a slightly rounded frame and curved sides for the back panel. The only real bit of design flair is the protruding metal rectangle on the rear that houses the phone’s three cameras and flash. Realme offers the 9 5G Speed Edition in Azure Glow and Starry Glow colour options – the former, which I have with me, is pearlescent with lilac-mauve accents that appear as you move the rear panel under the light. The latter seems to be a solid purplish-blue.

No major design flair has been applied here, and thankfully no huge brand slogan across the rear. Judging by Realme’s previous models and even colour choices, the 9 5G Speed Edition seems quite bland and even a bit dated. This phone is also relatively chunky at 8.5mm thick and 199g in weight. Realme says it has reinforced this phone’s corners and edges to reduce chances of the display shattering on impact, but there’s no mention of reinforced glass. Similarly, the design is said to be able to withstand spills but there’s no IP rating.

You get a 6.6-inch 144Hz full-HD+ (1080×2412 pixel) display on the front with a fairly large camera hole in the top-left corner. The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition gets its name because of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC, while its less expensive sibling is powered by a lower-end MediaTek SoC. The battery capacity is 5000mAh and you get a 30W charger in the box. As this phone’s name suggests, 5G is supported. There are two Nano-SIM slots and a separate microSD card slot. A fingerprint sensor is integrated into the power button on the right.

realme 9 speed edition rear ndtv realme 9

The design of the Realme 9 5G Speed Edition isn’t particularly innovative and its rear panel is made of plastic

 

The camera specifications are somewhat disappointing – you only get a 48-megapixel primary camera, 2-megapixel macro camera, and what Realme calls a “B&W portrait lens”. There’s no ultra-wide-angle camera. For selfies, there’s a 16-megapixel front camera. Competitors at this price level including the Realme 9 Pro do seem to have more substantial camera specifications, but we’ll see what photo and video quality the Realme 9 5G Speed Edition can deliver when we conduct our full review.

On the software front, you get Realme UI 2.0 running on top of Android 11. The box contains a plastic case, 30W charger, USB Type-C cable, and SIM eject pin. An adhesive screen protector was pre-applied to my unit.

The ‘speed’ in Realme 9 5G Speed Edition comes from the powerful SoC, 5G support, 144Hz refresh rate, and fast charging capability. It looks as though this phone will appeal to gamers and anyone who prioritises performance over all else. However, the camera specifications are disappointing, and this isn’t the best-looking phone in its segment. Gamers might also want stereo sound, which is missing here.

There are plenty of options that offer different balances of specifications for under Rs. 20,000, and if you’re considering the higher-end variant with more RAM, competition is even fiercer. It should be interesting to see whether the performance, battery life, and camera quality are compelling enough to attract buyers, so do stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for a full review, coming up soon.


Realme India CEO Madhav Sheth joins Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast for an exclusive wide-ranging interview, as he talks about the 5G push, Make in India, Realme GT series and Book Slim, and how stores can improve their standing. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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