The Realme 9 Pro+ is Realme’s new mid-range flagship that positions itself as a direct competitor to the OnePlus Nord 2. The Realme 9 Pro+ claims to offer a high-end photo experience for a price of under 400 euros (~$455). In this full review, I will tell you all about the latest Realme smartphone!
- Lightweight and more compact form factor (for a Realme)
- The efficient Sony IMX766 main photo sensor
- Good night photos
- Stable performance
- Excellent battery life
- Smooth and bright 90 Hz Amoled screen
- Effective 60-watt fast charging
- 256 GB storage minimum and not 128
- 3.5 mm jack
- AI photo mode too artificial
- Concessions to be made for a smooth gaming experience
- The update policy is limited
- No IP rating
My opinion on the Realme 9 Pro+ in a nutshell
In the Realme catalog of 2022, we can distinguish three main ranges of smartphones. The top of the range with the Realme GT, the mid-range with the Realme numbered line, and the entry-level with the Realme C. Thus, the Realme 9 Pro+ is a flagship, but mid-range, sold from 379.99 euros (~$432) for the version with 6/256 GB and 429.99 euros (~$488) for the 8/256 GB variant.
Unfortunately, as with all Realme devices, you will not be able to find the Realme 9 Pro + in the US from an official seller. But the device may become available through other importers.
Available from February 23, 2022, the Realme 9 Pro+ is a direct competitor to the OnePlus Nord 2 and OnePlus Nord CE. The manufacturer touts a great camera experience with the integration of a Sony IMX766 sensor for the main lens, which is currently only found on a handful of Android flagships.
After testing it, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the camera module. Even though the Realme 9 Pro+ can’t be fully described as a flagship killer, the price/performance ratio is good. The device also comes in the middle of the high-end model season and the Realme 9 Pro+ is clearly a smartphone to consider in your buying intentions if you can find it for a good price in your market.
Design and screen: Color-changing glass back and 90 Hz AMOLED display.
The Realme 9 Pro+ sports a color that’s supposed to change in sunlight and a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with a variable refresh rate of 90 Hz.
What I liked:
- Fairly thin (7.9 mm) and light (182 g) design for a Realme
- 3.5 mm jack
- Bright screen
- The glass back gives a premium feel (a matter of taste)
What I disliked:
- The Light Shift technology for the back coating is not very convincing
- The touch sampling rate of 180 Hz only
- The photo module stands out quite a bit in the back
Let’s start with the design. Realme has opted for a coating that reacts to sunlight. This technology, called Light Shift, is based on three layers on the back of the smartphone, the last of which is made of photochromic glass (like on some glasses). I found the effects quite nice on the press images and with the Dawn Blue color, I was absolutely not convinced by my Aurora Green variant.
The color reminds me of the varnished resin of a bowling ball. Yet, even though I brought it directly under the sun by raising my hands to the sky as if I was doing a Genki Dama, the color did not change. But the fact remains: apart from the color, I liked the quite thin and light design for a Realme smartphone. The manufacturer is also very proud to have reached the 7.99 mm thickness. The contained weight of 182g makes the phone easy to hold.
Moving on to the screen, the Realme 9 Pro+ has a 6.4-inch AMOLED panel with a Full HD+ 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution, that is to say, a density of 401 dpi. The proposal of Realme is quite classic. We also find an adaptive refresh rate of 90 Hz and a sampling rate of 180 Hz which have almost become a minimum for a smartphone in 2022.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to perform the colorimetric and brightness measurements of the Realme 9 Pro+’s screen, but I’ll commit to updating this review very soon as soon as I can get to the office and run the tests. In any case, in practice, I found the Realme 9 Pro+’s screen to be quite bright even though the manufacturer promises “only” 430 nits in typical and 600 nits in peak.
The screen is also very fluid and I don’t think that the refresh rate of 90 instead of 120 Hz can be considered as a real flaw. The difference is hardly noticeable. As for colorimetry, it’s hard to judge with the naked eye, but with the Cinematic color mode and the Video color enhancer function, I found the Realme 9 Pro+’s panel convincing.
Software: RealmeUI 3.0 based on Android 12
The Realme 9 Pro+ runs on the RealmeUI 3.0 overlay based on Android 12 and benefits from a slightly too classic update policy.
What I liked:
- Ergonomic interface
- Gadgety but interesting functions
- The multitasking and customization of ColorOS are there
What I disliked
- Bloatware (TikTok, PUBG, Joom, Booking, etc)
- “Only” 2 Android version updates guaranteed
- No official promise on security updates, probably quarterly
This is the part I always spend more time on than I should but this time I promise, I will make it quick. If you’re familiar with Oppo’s ColorOS, you’re familiar with RealmeUI. The Realme overlay in version 3.0 based on Android 12 is fully featured.
The multitasking features of ColorOS with the floating windows and the new customization options are based on the Material You design of Android 12. In short, the contributions of the new Google OS (Privacy Dashboard, etc.) have been well implemented by Realme.
The Realme 9 Pro+ also offers two features that are a bit gimmicky, but that I found interesting. The first one is a function to measure your heart rate with the fingerprint reader. This function is still experimental (in the Realme Lab menu) but it gives you an approximate number of heartbeats per minute (bpm) with a follow-up of your different measurements. The second gadget function is a haptic feedback system synchronized to the sound of music or a video launched on the Realme 9 Pro+.
Finally, Realme promises at least 2 Android versions for its Realme 9 Pro+, so it will be upgraded to Android 14. When I asked the product manager about security patches, he just told me that it would probably be quarterly updates, based on what is done on Android One, which is for 3 years.
Nothing too crazy when you see what Samsung is doing and especially when you know that such commitments might make more sense on a mid-range device than a flagship. My colleague Ben talks about this in a post about Android update policies that I recommend you read.
The Realme 9 Pro+ packs MediaTek’s Dimensity 920 SoC, which is 5G compatible and paired with a Mali-G68 GPU.
What I liked:
- Stable performance
- No overheating or thermal throttling
What I disliked:
- You have to limit your graphical ambitions in games
MediaTek’s Dimensity 920 SoC is an incremental iteration of the Dimensity 900 launched in August 2021 and is clearly a mid-range SoC. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to test any other smartphones with this processor yet. I would say that its equivalent at Qualcomm could be the Snapdragon 778G that equips the Realme GT Master Edition or the Samsung Galaxy A52s, for example, and that we have not tested either.
So, in the absence of a better solution, I took the most telling example possible under the circumstances and opted to compare the Realme 9 Pro+ to the OnePlus Nord 2, equipped with the Dimensity 1200 SoC from MediaTek. An unfair comparison but one that I put into perspective in my test anyway.
|Realme 9 Pro+||OnePlus Nord 2|
|3D Mark Wild Life||2285||4175|
|3DMark Wild Life Stress Test (best/worst pass)||2311/2300||4181/2515|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Stress Test (best/worst pass)||641/635||1284/854|
In terms of benchmark scores, we can logically note a clear difference in favor of the higher-end SoC of the OnePlus Nord 2. But what interests us most are the scores of the benchmark Wild Life Stress Test and Extreme Stress Test of 3DMark. We can note that the gap between the best and worst test loop is very thin. This reflects a stable performance throughout the test and therefore thermals that remain quite controlled and contained.
This can be verified via the curves that illustrate the framerate (the FPS rate) during each benchmark, one simulating gaming use and the other intensive multitasking use, both for 20 minutes. For each test, the temperature does not exceed 30°C and the framerate is maintained at a level, admittedly low but stable.
In daily use, you’ll have to make choices for gaming between graphics and fluidity. By default, Call of Duty Mobile launches with the graphics set to “medium” and the framerate set to “high” (notch 4 out of 5). But as soon as I increase the graphics quality, the framerate is automatically set to “low”. The same goes for the game Lost Light, which is less optimized than Call of Duty. So with the Realme 9 Pro+, it will be up to you to choose between graphics quality or FPS rate to find the right balance.
Audio: Dual stereo speakers and 3.5 mm jack
The Realme 9 Pro+ has two stereo speakers and a 3.5mm jack.
I didn’t find the Dolby Atmos sound particularly rich and the bass lacked presence, as is often the case on many other smartphones, even more expensive ones. But if we put aside this somewhat misplaced audiophile snobbery (who listens to music or watches movies without headphones in 2022?), the sound of the Realme 9 Pro+ is quite decent.
The volume level allows you to consume audio or video content comfortably, without having to strain your ears. Voices (and midrange in general) are clearly reproduced. I also welcome the presence of a 3.5mm jack to connect wired headphones.
Camera: Quality worthy of a flagship?
The Realme 9 Pro+ packs a triple camera module on the back equipped with a Sony IMX766 main sensor that’s supposed to offer a flagship-like photo experience, according to the manufacturer.
What I liked:
- The level of detail with the 50 MP main lens
- The efficient night mode
- The x2 digital zoom
What I disliked:
- No 4K at 60 FPS and selfie videos locked at 1080p/30 FPS
- The ultra-wide-angle lens is disappointing
- The AI mode makes photos too artificial
The photo module, and in particular its main lens, are the central elements of the Realme 9 Pro+. The manufacturer has emphasized its ProLight imaging technology. This is based on three elements: the Sony IMX766 sensor, an AI engine to reduce digital noise, and a dual stabilization system, optical (OIS) and Electronic (EIS).
And it is true that the Sony IMX766 sensor can be found on much more expensive smartphones, even within the BBK group to which Realme belongs. We can mention the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro or the Oppo Find X3 Pro. But enough about specs, let’s move on to the photo quality of the Realme 9 Pro+.
Realme 9 Pro+ wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle photos
During the day, the main lens does very well to offer a good level of detail. The photos are not lacking in sharpness at all. The rendering is very natural, even a bit too much as long as you don’t activate the AI mode, which works like a scene recognizer.
Without this mode activated, I sometimes had the impression that my photos were too dull. But with AI mode on, I found Realme’s image processing often too aggressive, especially on color saturation. For the rest, you get sharp, detailed shots in most cases, both with the wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle.
The Realme 9 Pro+ zoom photos
On the zoom side, the Realme lacks a dedicated telephoto lens, which is not surprising for its price range and cannot be considered a flaw. So it does not offer optical zoom. However, I found the image quality quite good with the x2 digital magnification. Things get worse at x5 and x10, the pictures are flat and too smooth (to limit digital noise and mask the loss of details). The x20 zoom is unusable.
Realme 9 Pro+ photos in portrait mode
The portrait mode of the Realme 9 Pro+ is also alright. The cropping is not always clean and some areas at the edge of the subject in the foreground are not always well blurred. But the rendering is, most of the time, quite acceptable whether with the rear photo module or the selfie camera.
The Realme 9 Pro+ selfies
I would call the Realme 9 Pro+’s 16MP selfie camera utilitarian. You can’t switch to ultra-wide-angle for group selfies (how will I deal with my imaginary friends, huh?!), the lens isn’t stabilized and video is limited to 1080p at 30 FPS. But it offers a lot of filters that I didn’t test out of respect for my self-esteem but that will obviously please the target audience. The smoothing is a bit too pronounced on indoor photos, but apart from that, I don’t have much else to say about it.
The Realme 9 Pro+ night shots
At night, the Realme behaves differently depending on whether you have AI mode enabled or not. The latter will identify that you are in low light conditions and will adjust the exposure accordingly. It’s not as pronounced as the real night mode, but you can already see a difference. And in fact, I found myself preferring the rendering without night mode but with the automatic AI settings.
In any case, in night mode, I often found that the pictures were too yellowed. But the rest of the time, the night mode manages to make the pictures more readable. Strong light sources are blurred and don’t burn out the image or produce flare, and textures are sharper, giving more details to the shots.
Battery: 4500 mAh battery and 60 Watts fast charging
The Realme 9 Pro+ packs a 4500 mAh battery that supports 60-watt wired fast charging but no wireless charging.
What I liked:
- Excellent battery life
- Fast 60 watt wired charging
- Charger included in the box
What I disliked:
The 4500 mAh charging capacity of the Realme 9 Pro+’s battery is quite respectable although you can find up to 5000 mAh in this price range. But the manufacturer explains that it did not want to sacrifice the thickness of the smartphone for a larger battery. In any case, when you know that the Samsung Galaxy S22 offers only 3700 mAh, Realme’s proposal becomes even more credible.
Especially since the autonomy of the Realme 9 Pro+ is excellent. I put it through the PCMark benchmark, which isn’t the most realistic, with the screen set to an adaptive 90Hz refresh rate and the brightness set to 200 cd/m2 (or 200 lux). It lasted nearly 14 hours before dropping below 20% remaining battery life.
This is an excellent result that allows the Realme 9 Pro+ to last more than a full day of use (12 hours, in theory) without having to worry about running out of juice. If you have moderate, non-gaming use, you can easily go two days without recharging.
As for charging, the Realme accepts SuperDart wired charging in 60 watts but also Dart in 30 watts and the universal Power Delivery 3.0 standard in 18 watts (if you don’t have a compatible charger, for example). The 60-watt charger is included in the box. However, the Realme 9 Pro+ does not support wireless charging.
Realme 9 Pro+
|Colors||Dawn Blue, Dawn Green, Midnight|
|Dimensions & Weight||
160.2 x 73.3 x 7.99 mm / 182 g
6.4 inch AMOLED / Full HD+ 1080 x 2400p / 90 Hz refresh rate / 180 Hz touch rate / 430/600 nits brightness (typ/max)
|Memory||6/256 GB / 8/256 GB (UFS 2.2 / LPDDR4X)|
|SoC & GPU||MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G / Mali G-68|
|OS||RealmeUI 3.0 based on Android 12|
|Audio||Dual stereo speakers / Dolby Atmos / 3.5 mm jack|
|Battery||4500 mAh / 60 watt SuperDart wired charging / No wireless charging|
Conclusion: Do I approve the Realme 9 Pro+ or not?
The Realme 9 Pro+ convinced me. The quality/price ratio is coherent and Realme’s focus on photo quality has paid off. The 50 MP main lens and its Sony IMX766 sensor are very efficient. No, I wouldn’t say the Realme 9 Pro+ is a flagship camera, but I found it better at night than my OnePlus Nord 2, for example.
The MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G SoC didn’t exactly blow my mind when it came to gaming, but I didn’t push it to its limits during my test either. For casual use, it will do the job without any problem and for gaming, you will have to find the right balance between graphics and framerate. In any case, the performance is stable thanks to very good temperature control, among others.
The battery autonomy of the Realme 9 Pro+ is simply excellent. The manufacturer is generally very strong on this point and the fact of benefiting from the fast charging in 60 watts is not to be forgotten. In short, at the asking price for the basic version that offers 256 GB of storage and not 128, I find the Realme 9 Pro+ quite relevant.
However, if I were to buy a smartphone for less than $400, the OnePlus Nord 2 and its more powerful SoC and its more extensive upgrade policy remain quite unbeatable. I had given 4.5 stars to the Nord 2, so I give 4 stars to the Realme 9 Pro+.
* This article first appeared here