The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition, as the name suggests, is a more powerful version of the Realme 9 5G. While these smartphones may look similar at first glance, there are small differences in their design and some key changes in their hardware. That’s not all, the Realme 9 5G Speed Edition also has a higher price than the regular version. So is it worth the extra cost, or would you be better off with an alternative at that price point? I tested it to find out.
Realme 9 5G Speed Edition price in India
The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition, or SE as we’ll call it for the rest of this review, starts at Rs. 19,999 in India for the base variant with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. The other variant with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage costs Rs. 22,999. The Realme 9 5G SE comes in Starry Glow and Azure Glow colors and I had the former for this review.
Realme 9 5G Speed Edition theme
The Realme 9 5G SE looks very similar to the Realme 9 5G (review) that I recently reviewed. The two smartphones can only be distinguished from the back, since the camera modules are different. The Realme 9 5G SE has a rectangular triple camera module that protrudes slightly. Just like the Realme 9 5G, this phone is made out 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 unlocking the phone easier.
The Realme 9 5G SE’s display measures 6.6 inches and has a camera hole in the upper left corner. It has thin bezels at the top and sides, while the chin is slightly larger. The Realme 9 5G SE is slightly taller and wider than the Realme 9 5G and weighs 199g, which is noticeable in the hand.
On 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 only has the secondary microphone. Realme has curved the frame and edges of the back, making this phone comfortable to hold. The back of the Starry Glow variant has a color shift pattern of shades of orange, yellow and purple when viewed under light. It conceals fingerprints quite well.
Realme 9 5G SE specifications and software
The Realme 9 5G SE has completely different internals compared to the Realme 9 5G. For starters, the larger 6.6-inch display offers a Full HD+ resolution, a 144Hz peak refresh rate, and a 240Hz touch sample rate. The adaptive refresh rate can scale between 30Hz and 144Hz, depending on what you do on the device. This panel has a peak brightness of 600 nits, which is sufficient when using the phone outdoors in sunlight.
The Realme 9 5G SE is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G SoC. This 5G-capable SoC offers very good performance, as can also be found in the Motorola Edge 20 (review). The Realme 9 5G SE packs a 5,000mAh battery and supports 30W fast charging. Realme also bundles a 30W charger in the box.
Other connectivity options of the Realme 9 5G SE include Bluetooth 5.2, dual-band WiFi, five satellite navigation systems and support for 5G. It also offers dual 4G VoLTE. The Realme 9 5G SE features 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 Android 11 along with the March 2022 Android security patch. I found the user interface (UI) easy to use and the options I needed in the Settings app were just a short search away. Other software features are similar to those offered on the Realme 9 5G.
Unfortunately, the Realme 9 5G SE suffers from the same bloatware situation as its brother. My device came with almost fifteen preinstalled apps, in addition to the usual ones from Google. Some Realme apps regularly sent notifications that felt like spam. You can uninstall most of these apps to declutter your phone.
The Realme UI also offers Game Space, which groups all your installed games in one place, and a game assistant, which automatically mutes incoming calls and notifications when you play. You can tweak the touch and swipe sensitivity for each game. I’ll talk about performance in the next section
Realme 9 5G SE performance and battery life
The Realme 9 5G SE performed well in everyday use. My review unit had 8GB of RAM and multitasking was a breeze. Realme also offers a RAM expansion feature, and by default, 3GB of storage is allocated as virtual RAM. It can be expanded up to 5GB on this variant, but I haven’t messed with it. The Snapdragon 778G helped load even heavy games acceptably fast, which should keep gamers happy.
The Realme 9 5G SE’s 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 panel to my liking. Colors weren’t as punchy as an AMOLED panel, but the high 144Hz refresh rate helps this phone stand out from the competition. By default, the refresh rate is set to Auto Select, which alternates between different values depending on the content you’re viewing. It was 90Hz when simply browsing the phone’s interface, but in certain apps like Photos the refresh rate jumped to 144Hz. Alternatively, you can lock it at 144Hz, but at the expense of battery life. The Realme 9 5G SE has a single bottom-firing speaker that’s sufficiently loud, but a stereo setup would have sweetened the deal.
I found the side-mounted fingerprint scanner to be fairly responsive and never failed to authenticate during the review period. Face ID was also fast when unlocking the device.
The Realme 9 5G SE did well in our benchmark tests. It scored 541,547 in AnTuTu, while it scored 12,115 in PCMark Work 3.0. In the GFXBench T-Rex and Car Chase graphics tests, it scored 115 fps and 28 fps, respectively. These results were in the same range as the Motorola Edge 20, which uses the exact same SoC.
You can easily run most of the popular games on the Realme 9 5G SE. I was playing Call of Duty: Mobile, which was set to “Very High” graphics and “High” frame rate settings by default. I increased the frame rate setting to Very High and was still able to play without any issues. I played for about 23 minutes, which resulted in an eight percent drop in battery level, which is a bit high. The phone didn’t get too warm after this time. Those looking for a smartphone to play with can consider the Realme 9 5G SE.
As for battery life, the 5,000mAh unit lasted about a day and a half on my usage. If you’re a casual user, you might be able to walk longer before needing to charge this phone. In our HD video loop test, the Realme 9 5G SE managed a runtime of 21 hours and 51 minutes. Realme supplies a 30W charger in the box, which was able to charge the phone up to 47 percent in 30 minutes and up to 85 percent in an hour.
Realme 9 5G SE cameras
The Realme 9 5G SE has a triple camera setup on the back consisting of a 48-megapixel main camera with an f/1.8 aperture, a black-and-white portrait camera, and a macro camera. For selfies, it has a 16-megapixel front shooter. These specifications are similar to those of the Realme 9 5G. It lacks an ultra-wide-angle camera, which would have helped make this device more versatile.
Daytime camera performance was good, and the phone was able to capture decent dynamic range. Objects in the distance had faint details that became apparent in enlarged photographs. The AI toggle increases contrast in photos, which looks good on the phone’s display but is overkill on closer inspection.
Close-ups were detailed and the edges of objects were well defined. The colors were accurate and so was the background blur as long as I kept a reasonable distance from the subject. Portrait shots had good edge detection and this phone managed good separation from the background. I could also set the level of blur before taking a picture. The macro camera did not offer very good quality.
Low-light photos had good colors but lacked detail in darker areas. Examining them closely, I found some artifacts. Using night mode made a noticeable difference, and images became brighter with better detail in the shadows. It takes a few seconds to complete a shot, during which you have to stand perfectly still to avoid camera shake.
Selfies taken with the Realme 9 5G SE were good in both daylight and low light conditions. These were saved at the full 16 megapixel resolution and had good detail. Portrait selfies had decent edge detection.
Video recording reaches a maximum of 4K for the main camera and 1080p for the selfie camera. The camera app is trying its best to stabilize the footage, which resulted in some parts of the clips being distorted as they walked around. Panning while still was smooth. Low-light shots were strictly average.
The Realme 9 5G Speed Edition is definitely more attractive than the standard Realme 9 5G (Review), but there is a significant price difference. This model has a powerful SoC, a display with a very high refresh rate and a large 5,000 mAh battery. It also supports 30W fast charging, which is convenient.
In my opinion, the base variant of Realme 9 5G SE priced at Rs. 19,999 is the one to get. This variant doesn’t have many direct competitors and offers the maximum bang for your buck if you’re looking for good performance.
If you consider the higher variant for the additional RAM, the iQoo Z5 (test report) would be the better option. It uses the same Snapdragon 778G SoC but also has stereo speakers and faster 44W charging for just a small bump in cost. On the other hand, if camera performance is a priority, you can spend a little more for the Realme 9 Pro+ 5G (Review).