Realme 9 Series Gets Its Fastest Smartphone Yet

Following a tepid response to last year's Realme 8 series, which couldn't really match up to Xiaomi's Redmi Note 10 series, the BBK-owned Oppo sub-brand Realme is on an aggressive phone launching spree of late. In February, we saw the global launch of the Realme 9 series that included two smartphones — the Realme 9 Pro and the Realme 9 Pro+. Today, on March 10, 2021, Realme added two more 9 series devices to its portfolio with the launch of the Realme 9, and the Realme 9 SE.

While the Realme 9 is clearly positioned below the existing Realme 9 Pro lineup, the second handset launched today – the Realme 9 SE – does make for an interesting proposition.

Contrary to what you might have on your mind, the 'SE' tag in its name does not mean it is a scaled-down Realme 9. Instead, its pricing and hardware specs actually put it on par with the more expensive Realme 9 Pro+ and slightly above the Realme 9 Pro. In fact, it is actually faster than the Realme 9 Pro+ in several aspects. And in case you haven't guessed it yet, the SE in Realme 9 SE is short for 'Speed Edition.'

Realme 9 SE: The fastest Realme 9 yet

The Realme 9 Speed Edition gets its name for two main reasons. First, the phone gets the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC chipset, which is quite a bit faster than the Snapdragon 695 used on the Realme 9 Pro. Secondly, the Realme 9 SE gets a 6.6-inch, 144Hz panel that supports a 240 Hz touch sampling rate — a combination hitherto unheard of in this price segment (more on that later). The display resolution – at 1,080 x 2,412 pixels – is slightly higher than usual to account for the slight increase in display size. Realme has opted to use an IPS LCD panel on the Realme 9 Speed Edition to keep costs down – a trade-off that Realme thinks most consumers in this price segment may not mind.

The rest of the specs don't look bad either, with the phone coming in two RAM options – 4GB and 6GB – along with 128GB of onboard storage. Typical of phones in this category, users get the option to use microSD cards (it's a triple slot!) for memory expansion.

The larger size of the Realme 9 SE seems to have enabled Realme to use a larger 5,000 mAh battery on the device, and a 30W charger is included in the box with the phone. 

From the images shared by Realme at launch, it is clear that the Realme 9 SE gets three rear-facing cameras. This is another area where the SE seems to fall short of its stablemates. Apart from the 48MP primary camera – which will take care of the bulk of imaging – the phone gets a macro camera and a depth sensor — and misses out on an ultra-wide-angle camera. Rounding off the camera department is a 16MP selfie camera housed within a hole punch on the top left corner of the display.

In terms of connectivity, the phone is 5G ready – although most of the markets it will launch – do not have 5G coverage yet. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

While Realme seems to have taken care of the hardware, the Realme 9 SE seems to be somewhat lacking when it comes to software. The phone still runs the older version of Realme's custom UI called Realme UI 2.0, based on Android 11.

Realme 9 5G: The cheaper option

The Realme 9 doesn't have headline-grabbing features like the 9 SE. However, a quick look at the spec sheet – and it doesn't seem like a slouch either. Sure, it misses out on a 144 Hz panel from its 'Special Edition' sibling — but Realme has still managed to equip the Realme 9 with a 90 Hz panel with 180Hz touch sampling rate — which isn't too bad.

This display – at 6.5-inches – is slightly smaller than that of the Realme 9 SE and supports FHD+ resolution but  at 600 nits, this panel is as bright as the one on Realme 9 SE.

Powering the Realme 9 is the MediaTek Dimensity 810 SoC, a 6nm chip part of MediaTek's budget lineup. Unlike its cousin, which only comes in a 128GB configuration, the Realme 9 offers two different storage options; a 64GB base variant that gets 4GB of RAM and a 128GB option that can be bought in 4GB and 6GB configurations.

The camera setup on the Realme 9 – even though it looks different – is near-identical to the one you saw on the Realme 9 SE and includes a 48MP primary camera and two sensors for macro and depth. Even the 16MP selfie camera is carried forward.

The battery capacity of the Realme 9 – at 5,000 mAh – is identical to that of the Realme 9 SE. However, this one only supports 18W fast charging with the supplied charger.

Like the Realme 9 SE, this phone still runs a slightly dated version of Realme UI — which is based on Android 11.

Pricing and availability

Both these phones are only available in India as of now, and there is no word if they will make it to Europe. The pricing for the base variant of the Realme 9 SE starts at Rs 19,999 ($262), going up to Rs 22,999 ($300) for the top variant. The color options on offer are Starry Glow and Azure Glow.

As for the Realme 9, this phone comes in two simple color options: Black or White. The prices for the base 4/64GB option starts at Rs 14,999 ($200), ging up to Rs 17,499 ($230) for the 6/128GB option.

Both the phones will go on sale in India starting March 14, 2021, via Flipkart and the Realme India online store.