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The Realme 9 Pro+ is as pretty as the photos it takes

This is the first time Realme has used the Pro+ name on one of its smartphones, rather than just Pro. So is it all just a marketing trick to convince us to pay a little more for one of its mid-range phones, or is there more value here?

The good news is, the Realme 9 Pro+ does deserve its new name, and although it’s the most expensive of the new Realme 9-series phones, it’s still an excellent value. I’ve used the phone for a few days, and this is what it has been like.

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The Realme 9 Pro+’s looks

The Realme 9 Pro+ doesn’t have the most exciting design, but there are some stunning colors to choose from. You can see Aurora Green in our photos, and you can also get a Midnight Black model, plus one in a special Sunrise Blue color. It’s this version that uses a process called Light Shift Design, where the color changes from blue to red when exposed to sunlight. The effect lasts for a few minutes. It sounds like those ’80s-tastic Hypercolor t-shirts that would change color with body heat, just applied to your phone instead.

Realme 9 Pro+ in Aurora Green color.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

When the Aurora Green version catches the light, the dark green color shifts to metallic green, and you can immediately see a sparking layer beneath it. It really does look great, and it reminds me of how in years past, Honor often experimented with eye-catching colors. I like the raised but transparent camera module, as it disguises the additional height well. The phone is thin at 7.99mm and modestly weighted at 184 grams, but the slab-like sides aren’t especially pleasant to grip. The chassis is made from metal.

On the front is a flat, 6.4-inch AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate. It comes with a pre-installed screen protector, which quickly becomes a smudgy mess, so be prepared to wipe it quite often. Considering this is a mid-range phone, the screen is colorful, and watching video is enjoyable, but it does lack some detail, and as soon as you look at it from an angle, the tone changes quite dramatically, and in a negative fashion. There’s also a large chin bezel at the bottom of the screen, which stands out more due to the other bezels being quite thin.

Realme 9 Pro+ screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I haven’t seen the Sunrise Blue color in person, but it certainly sounds intriguing, and I do think the Aurora Green color looks excellent. However, the overall design and shape of the Realme 9 Pro+ is rather ordinary, and while the screen’s specifications are very good, the tight viewing angle and the way it quickly gets messy do ruin its appeal.

Taking photos with the Realme 9 Pro+

The main camera on the Realme 9 Pro+ is a 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 with optical and electronic image stabilization, plus there’s a wide-angle camera and a basic macro camera. Oppo used the Sony IMX766 to great effect on the Find X3 Pro, making it a true flagship-level sensor. It has since been found on a wide variety of other devices noted for having good cameras, including the Vivo X70 Pro, the Oppo Find N, and the OnePlus Nord 2.

Realme 9 Pro+ side view of camera module.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It comes with considerable expectation, and Realme hasn’t let the side down, as shooting with the main camera produces some very attractive results, with one proviso. The Realme camera app has an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) mode, and I found this was essential if you want your photos to pop. It’s not active by default, and colors are rather washed out with it switched off. Everything is much brighter, more vibrant, and more exciting when it’s switched on.

You sacrifice some realism when A.I. mode is active, though, and if you don’t like HDR-style effects in your photos, the results probably won’t appeal. However, if your primary aim is to share photos on Instagram or another social network, the Realme 9 Pro+ takes photos you probably won’t feel the need to edit, and that’s a big selling point for many.

It’s not all good news; the wide-angle camera isn’t great. The photos lack detail due to some heavy-handed smoothing, although the color balance is quite good. The camera app gives you quick access to a 2x digital zoom feature, but photos taken with it can’t match an optical zoom for detail and clarity. The macro camera and associated macro mode require good lighting to work well, and while it has autofocus, there’s no stabilization, so it’s easy to introduce blur. Noise spoils macro photos on the Realme 9 Pro+ in anything other than ideal circumstances.

There’s an odd Street mode in the camera too, which is a halfway-house between auto and Pro mode, with quick access to some long exposure modes and some unique filters, plus the chance to shoot photos in RAW format. The phone’s camera does have a few downsides, but nothing more than you’d expect at this price, and if you concentrate mostly on taking photos with the main camera you’ll be pleased with it.

Using the Realme 9 Pro+

The 5G Realme 9 Pro+ has a MediaTek Dimensity 920 processor with 8GB RAM and the option to have 2GB, 3GB, or 5GB of the 128GB internal storage used for virtual RAM. The phone runs Android 12 with Realme 3.0. The battery has a 4,500mAh capacity and comes with a 60W wired fast charger. I found the battery recharged from 2% to 100% in about 45 minutes.

Realme’s decision to use MediaTek’s Dimensity 920 processor helps keep the price of the phone reasonable, and while it’s fine for everyday use, including social networking and web browsing, it’s not the best at gaming. It doesn’t get hot, but Asphalt 9: Legends isn’t as smooth as it should be. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it’s not as polished as I’d want, even when considering the price. Unusually, there’s no gaming mode to max out performance either.

Realme 3.0 has both good and bad points. It does take many of Android 12’s Material You features and make them a little better, including the chance to select which area of your wallpaper you want to use for icon colors, rather than just letting the phone select for you. It shows when the phone is using the camera using an indicator light too. The floating window multi-tasking mode doesn’t tax the system, and it’s easy to use through the open app screen. However, dark mode can mess around with how text looks, for example, text being too dark to read comfortably in the notification shade.

Good value smartphone

The Realme 9 Pro+ is a strong smartphone for general, everyday use. Stick to the main camera, and it can take some really fantastic-looking photos, I found there’s enough speed and performance to happily watch video, play casual games, and handle multitasking using several windows.

Realme 9 Pro+ held in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Provided you don’t expect it to be a gaming monster, or for every aspect of the camera to impress, it’ll do everything you ask it to without a fuss. Add in the attractive colors to give it some personality, and you’ve got a phone that represents very good value with a degree of desirability too.

Realme muddies the waters a little with the Realme 9 Pro, though. The non-Plus model comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor, a 120Hz refresh rate screen, a larger 5,000mAh battery but slower charging, and a 64MP main camera. It’s a little cheaper, but because the specification is broadly similar, deciding between them is quite difficult. This is not very helpful, as the cheaper option often wins over anything else at this level.

The Realme 9 Pro+ costs 349 British pounds, or about $473, and will be available to buy from March 4 in the U.K. If you’re quick and order between March 4 and March 6, you can get it for 299 pounds, or about $405, and this is a particularly good deal. Realme does not sell its smartphones officially in the U.S., but you could import one.

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