Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review

GSMArena team, 03 July 2019.

MIUI 10 on top of Android 9.0

The Xiaomi Mi 9 SE runs on Android Pie with Xiaomi's own comprehensively customized MIUI overlay on top. The version on the SE we had for review was 10.2, a notch behind what the 9T was running, which mostly meant minor differences in the camera app, and little else. In any case, MIUI updates typically arrive promptly and reach the majority of Xiaomi devices, so we have no reason to doubt the Mi 9 SE's software future.

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review

A recent addition to MIUI is the always on display feature, and the Mi 9 SE has that too. You get the usual options to schedule it or leave it on/off all the time. There are various themes you can choose from and make it yours.

You can unlock the screen via the improved under-display fingerprint scanner. Improved it is, indeed and after the easy setup it works quickly and reliably, making it our preferred option for unlocking the phone. You can also set up face unlock in addition to it - it's equally fast, though not as secure. Note that the face unlock option may not be available in all regions.

Always-on display - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review fingerprint reader setup - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review fingerprint reader setup - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review fingerprint reader setup - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review fingerprint reader setup - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Always-on display • fingerprint reader setup

Introduced on the Mi 9, Dark mode is present on the Mi 9 SE as well - it will switch all system colors from white to black helping you save precious milliamps of power draw. Not all apps support the dark mode, but the majority do.

Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Dark mode - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Dark mode

The Mi 9 SE also comes with various live wallpapers including the cool 24-hour wallpaper - it changes depending on the time of day. Perhaps having a few other scenes to choose from would be even nicer.

Themes are supported too, but the app appears only when the phone is set to a supported region. Otherwise, it's a very limited selection available from the settings menu with no option to download more.

Wallpapers - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Themes - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Themes - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Themes - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Themes - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Themes - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Wallpapers • Themes

There is no app drawer in MIUI, so all your apps are just sitting there on your homescreen, but you can still add them to folders to get things organized. Of course, the option to install a third-party launcher to get an app drawer is always there.

On the Mi 9 SE's default homescreen is a weather widget in the upper right corner across from a large clock widget. There is a Quick Card pane, to the left of the leftmost home screen. It contains different cards with relevant information - recent apps, step counter, notes, calendar events, the weather, and favorites, among others. You can configure what shows up here, or you can disable this altogether.

Lockscreen - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Homescreen - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Folder view - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Tools - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Quick Card - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Settings - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Lockscreen • Homescreen • Folder view • Tools • Quick Card • Settings

MIUI comes with one of the nicer implementations of gesture navigation around. Swiping from the bottom takes you to the homescreen, swiping and holding brings up the task switcher, and swiping in from either edge is a universal back action. That last one does clash with the side drawers of some apps, and you may need to make a point of swiping in higher than usual to get the drawer as lower swipes will trigger the back command.

Gesture navigation - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Gesture navigation - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Gesture navigation - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Gesture navigation - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Gesture navigation - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Gesture navigation

SGetting used to the MIUI task switcher takes some time, but you'll soon start to appreciate it. Or we did, at least. It shows all of your recent apps in two columns. Tap and hold on a card for the split-screen shortcut, or just swipe it left or right to close it.

The notification shade is very sleek and all, but the fact that you can't just tap anywhere on the brightness slider but to grab it and drag it is irritating - you'll learn to live with it, but it's not ideal. Same with the one-way dismissal of notifications - to the right for making it go away, to the left for settings. Another one of the MIUI quirks that you either love or hate but get used to.

Recents - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Task options - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Split-screen - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Notifications - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Notifications - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Recents • Task options • Split-screen • Notifications

MIUI also offers a Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your blacklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, and free up some RAM. It can also manage the permissions of your installed apps and allows you to define the battery behavior of selected apps and applies restrictions only to the apps you choose.

MIUI also offers proprietary Gallery, Music, and Video player. In some regions, the music and video app include paid streaming options. With the Mi 9 SE's IR blaster, you can also control your choice of appliances, old and new, thanks to the Mi Remote app.

Security app - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Security app - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Gallery - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Music - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review Mi Remote - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review File Manager - Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review
Security app • Security app • Gallery • Music • Mi Remote • File Manager

Synthetic benchmarks

Powering the Mi 9 SE is the Snapdragon 712 chipset - essentially a 710 with minor tweaks, among them a whopping 0.1GHz higher potential clock speed on the high-performance cores. Those would be Cortex-A75-based Kryo 360-branded cores, two of them, ticking at up to 2.3GHz. The other six cores are Cortex-A55 derivatives, clocked at up to 1.7GHz. There's been no upgrade to the GPU for the 710-to-712 transition, and it's still the Adreno 616, if those numbers really mean anything.

Xiaomi Mi 9 SE review

With that premise, it's no surprise that the Mi 9 SE puts out very similar results to the 710-based Mi 8 SE, for example. In GeekBench, the Mi 9 SE is right on par with the phone it replaces in single-core tasks and marginally ahead in multi-core. The Realme X and 3 Pro which both have the same chipset score noticeably lower in the single-core test, while mostly matching the 9 SE in multi-core. Snapdragon 675 devices like the Moto Z4 and Galaxy A70 offer significant improvement under single core-load and some improvement in multi-core. The Mi 9T and Galaxy A80, a Snapdragon 730 in each, are another step up the CPU performance ladder.

GeekBench 4.1 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    3503
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    2537
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    2516
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    2431
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    2404
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    2391
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    2371
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    1905
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    1890
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    1835
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    1715
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    1534
  • Realme X
    1475
  • Realme 3 Pro
    1471

GeekBench 4.1 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    11181
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    8494
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    6934
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    6863
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    6620
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    6584
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    6515
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    6017
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    5944
  • Realme X
    5915
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    5908
  • Realme 3 Pro
    5881
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    5523
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    5396

In Antutu, the Mi 9 SE shows a small improvement over the Mi 8 SE, with the 9T being a more significant distance ahead. The Moto Z4 and the Galaxy A70 are a little behind the latest SE, with the Realme 3 Pro further down.

AnTuTu 7

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    372006
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    217298
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    211915
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    207502
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    180754
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    180057
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    173234
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    170218
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    167750
  • Realme 3 Pro
    155647
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    154861
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    144574
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    129887

The Snapdragon 712's Adreno 616 GPU is the same as the one that's part of the 710, but the Adreno 618 in the Snapdragon 730 isn't any more powerful, at least not in the Mi 9T's implementation - the 9 SE and the 9T post virtually identical scores. The Galaxy A80 does have an extra 1 or 2 frames per second in the GFXBench benchmarks, but it's anything but a night and day difference. For a true step up in the graphics department, last year's Mi 8 is still a good idea, and the Snapdragon 855-powered Mi 9 is the obvious choice - at a price premium, of course.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    70
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    53
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    30
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    27
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    26
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    23
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    23
  • Realme 3 Pro
    23
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    15
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    15
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    14
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    14

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    56
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    50
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    26
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    24
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    24
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    22
  • Realme 3 Pro
    20
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    19
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    15
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    14
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    13

GFX 3.1 Car scene (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    42
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    33
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    17
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    16
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    15
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    13
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    13
  • Realme 3 Pro
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    9.2
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    8.7
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    8
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    7.7
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    7.2

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 9
    35
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    33
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
    14
  • Samsung Galaxy A80
    14
  • Xiaomi Mi 9T
    13
  • Xiaomi Mi 8 SE
    12
  • Oppo RX17 Pro
    11
  • Realme 3 Pro
    11
  • Motorola Moto Z4
    8
  • Samsung Galaxy A50
    8
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
    7.9
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    7
  • Samsung Galaxy A70
    7

We've been really happy with the Snapdragon 710 in the past and the 712 in the Mi 9 SE, being practically identical, has also left us feeling positive. The Mi 9 SE has more than enough potential for both day-to-day tasks and gaming and going for the 730-powered Mi 9T on the grounds of performance alone doesn't seem warranted.

Reader comments

  • Fox

Still loving this phone after 1,5 years and never had any problems with it. I don't know what to do when it eventually becomes obsolete because apparently there are no compact phones anymore apart from the Pixels.

  • Se owner

Disappointed with this phone. Headline stats are impressive and good value, and it's camera, speed, and screen quality are undeniably good. But it's such a frustrating phone to use! The skin is awful and obtuse. You don't always have c...

  • Anonymous

With MIUI 12 you can record 1080p @ 60fps.