Realme 9 5G Speed Edition review: The Need for Speed
Realme 9 5G Speed Edition is, as its name suggests, a more powerful version of the Realme 9 5G. While these smartphones may look similar at first, there are slight differences in their design and some major changes to their hardware. That’s not all, the Realme 9 5G Speed Edition also requires a higher price than the regular version. So, is it worth the premium, or would you be better off with an alternative at this price? I put it to the test to find out.
Realme 9 5G Speed Edition Price in India
The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition, or SE as we’ll refer to it for the rest of this review, starts at Rs. 19,999 in India for the base variant with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The other variant has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage priced at Rs. 22999. The Realme 9 5G SE is available in Starry Glow and Azure Glow colors and I had the first for this review.
Realme 9 5G Speed Edition Design
The Realme 9 5G SE looks very similar to the Realme 9 5G (Review), which I reviewed recently. The only way to differentiate these two smartphones is from the back, as the camera modules are different. Realme 9 5G SE has a rectangular triple camera module that protrudes slightly. Just like the Realme 9 5G, this phone is made of plastic and has the power button on the right side while the volume buttons are on the left. Realme has integrated a fingerprint scanner into the power button which makes it easy to unlock the phone.
The screen size of Realme 9 5G SE is 6.6 inches and has a camera hole in the upper left corner. It has thin edges on the top and sides while the chin is slightly larger. Realme 9 5G SE is slightly longer and wider than Realme 9 5G and weighs 199 grams, which can be seen in the hand.
At the bottom, the Realme 9 5G SE has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a primary microphone, a USB Type-C port, and a speaker. The top of the frame contains only a secondary microphone. Realme has curved the frame and the edges of the back panel which makes this phone comfortable to hold. The Starry Glow Variant back panel features a color-changing pattern in shades of orange, yellow and purple when seen under the light. This hides fingerprints well.
Realme 9 5G SE Specifications and Software
Realme 9 5G SE has completely different internal components compared to Realme 9 5G. For starters, the larger 6.6-inch screen features Full HD+ resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch sampling rate. The adaptive refresh rate can range between 30Hz and 144Hz depending on what you are doing on the device. The peak brightness of this panel is 600 nits which is enough when using the phone outdoors and under sunlight.
Realme 9 5G SE is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC. The 5G SoC offers very good performance as can also be found in the Motorola Edge 20 (Review). Realme 9 5G SE has a 5000 mAh battery and supports 30W fast charging. Realme also bundles a 30W charger in the box.
Other connectivity options with the Realme 9 5G SE include Bluetooth 5.2, dual-band Wi-Fi, five satellite navigation systems, and 5G support. It also offers Dual-4G VoLTE technology. Realme 9 5G SE has two Nano-SIM slots and a dedicated microSD slot for storage expansion that accepts cards up to 1TB.
You get Realme UI 2.0 running on top of Android 11, along with the March 2022 Android security patch. I found the interface (UI) to be easy to use, and the options I needed in the Settings app were just a quick search. Other software features are similar to those of Realme 9 5G.
Unfortunately, Realme 9 5G SE suffers from the same bloatware situation as its brother. My unit had about fifteen pre-installed apps, in addition to the usual apps from Google. Some Realme apps pushed notifications regularly which I felt were unwanted. You can uninstall most of these apps to de-clutter the phone.
Realme UI also features Game Space that brings all your installed games together in one place, and Game Assistant that can automatically mute incoming calls and notifications while you play. You can adjust touch sensitivity and swipe for each game. I will talk about performance in the next section
Realme 9 5G SE Performance and Battery Life
Realme 9 5G SE performed well with daily use. My review unit had 8GB of RAM and multitasking was a breeze. Realme also offers a RAM expansion feature, and 3GB of storage is allocated as default RAM by default. It can be extended up to 5GB on this variant, but I haven’t tampered with it. The Snapdragon 778G helped even heavy games load at an acceptable speed, keeping gamers happy.
The Realme 9 5G SE display had decent viewing angles and the color profile was set to Vivid by default. I was able to adjust the color temperature of the board to my liking. The colors are not as strong as you get from an AMOLED panel but the high refresh rate of 144Hz helps this phone stand out from the competition. The refresh rate is set to Auto Select by default which switches between different values based on the content being viewed. It was 90Hz when simply browsing through the phone’s user interface, but in some apps like Photos, the refresh rate went up to 144Hz. Alternatively, you can lock it at 144Hz, but at the cost of battery life. The Realme 9 5G SE has a single low-end speaker that is sufficiently loud, but the stereo setup would have sweetened the deal.
I found the side-mounted fingerprint scanner to be quite responsive and never failed to authenticate during the review period. Facial recognition was also quick to unlock the device.
Realme 9 5G SE fared well in our benchmark tests. In AnTuTu, it scored 541547 points, while it scored 12115 points in PCMark Work 3.0. In the GFXBench T-Rex and Car Chase graphics tests, it scored 115 fps and 28 fps, respectively. These scores were in the same range as the Motorola Edge 20, which uses the exact same SoC.
You can play the most popular games on Realme 9 5G SE without any problems. I played Call of Duty: Mobile which was defaulting to ‘very high’ graphics and ‘high’ frame rate settings. I raised the frame rate setting to ‘very high’ and I could still play without any issues. I played for 23 minutes which resulted in an 8% drop in battery level, which is a bit high. The phone was not very warm after that period. Those who are looking for a gaming smartphone can consider the Realme 9 5G SE.
Given the battery life, the 5000mAh unit lasted about a day and a half with my use. If you are a regular user, you may be able to go a little longer before you need to charge this phone. In the HD video loop test, the Realme 9 5G SE managed to last for 21 hours and 51 minutes. Realme provides a 30W charger in the box which was able to charge the phone to 47 percent in 30 minutes and up to 85 percent in an hour.
Realme 9 5G SE Cameras
The Realme 9 5G SE features a triple camera setup on the back that consists of a 48MP primary camera with f/1.8 aperture, a black and white portrait camera, and a macro camera. For selfies, it is equipped with a 16-megapixel front camera. These specifications are similar to what the Realme 9 5G has. There’s an ultra-wide angle camera missing which will help make this device even more versatile.
The daytime camera performed well, and the phone managed to capture a decent dynamic range. Objects at a distance had poor detail which was evident in the enlarged images. The AI toggle switch enhances contrast in photos, which looks good on the phone’s screen, but gets overrun when examined closely.
Close-ups are detailed and the edges of the elements are well defined. The colors were accurate and so was the background opacity, as long as you kept an appropriate distance from the object. Selfie shots have good edge detection and this phone manages to separate well from the background. I can also adjust the blur level before taking the photo. The macro camera did not offer very good quality.
Low-light photos had good color but lacked detail in the darker areas. Examining them closely, I found some handicrafts. Using the Night mode made a noticeable difference, and the images came out brighter with better detail in the shadows. It takes a few seconds to finish capturing the image, during which you need to be completely still to avoid blurring.
The selfies taken with the Realme 9 5G SE were good in daylight as well as in low light conditions. It was saved with 16MP resolution and good detail. Selfies have good edge detection.
The maximum video recording is 4K for the primary camera and 1080p for the selfie camera. The camera app does its best to stabilize the footage, which resulted in some skews in some parts of the clips as I was walking around. Stirring while staying still was smooth. Low light shots were very average.
The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition is definitely more attractive than the standard Realme 9 5G (Review) but there is a significant difference in price. This model has a powerful SoC, a very high refresh rate display, and a large 5000mAh battery. It also supports 30W fast charging, which is convenient.
In my opinion, the basic variant of Realme 9 5G SE, priced at Rs. 19999, is the one to get. This variant does not have many direct competitors and offers maximum bang for your buck if you are looking for good performance.
If you are considering the higher alternative for extra RAM, the iQoo Z5 (Review) would be a better choice. It uses the same Snapdragon 778G SoC, but also has stereo speakers and faster 44W charging, for a small price hike. On the other hand, if camera performance is a priority, you can consider spending a little extra on Realme 9 Pro + 5G (Review).