Lumia 950 XL vs a surprising 2021 counterpart - the Redmi Note 9T

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It's uncanny in some ways. Look at the similarities. Plastic body, large battery, oversampled camera sensor (with no telephoto backup), card expansion, 3.5mm jack. And coming it at (now) amazingly cheap prices - the Redmi Note 9T is just £179* inc VAT in the UK. Yet the two match up pretty well, with the usual caveat about the Lumia being five years old and out of support(!)

* This is the price all last week. In fact, as I write this, it's £199 £229 and does tend to bounce around daily, through a £50 window!!! So pick your moment if you want it for £179 - that's the 'right' price, as I see it! Seriously - the price changes DAILY!

950 XL and Redmi Note 9T

Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T

As usual, just for fun and curiosity, I've shaded in green an obvious 'win' for either device. Any row where a winner would be totally subjective is left uncoloured. Or, where all devices are utterly excellent but in different ways, I've given each a 'green'(!)

[By the way, if you're viewing this feature on a phone then the table may well cause you problems. Try viewing in landscape mode? Failing that, go view this on a laptop or tablet!]

  Microsoft Lumia 950 XL Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T
Date first available November 2015 January 2021 
Current price, availability No longer officially for sale, though it's often on clearance prices if you're lucky and at outrageous profiteering prices due to rarity (if you're not!) £179* (see above)
Dimensions, form factor, weight 152 x 78 x 8mm, plastic chassis and replaceable backs (plastic/leather/wood etc, from Mozo, as modelled here, though you'll have to look on the clearance market and eBay at this stage), 165g, bezels are comparatively small.  161 x 77 x 9mm, 199g, slightly taller and significantly heavier

No specific durability metrics, though the fact that the back comes off will help enormously for water damage, i.e. taking out battery and cards immediately, drying out the internals, even unscrewing the motherboard from the guts of the phone. I'm old-school here! All damage to the back or corners is trivial through replacement of the rear, but the screen's exposed, of course. The plastics used should absorb shock and, anecdotally, I've never bothered putting a case on any Lumia. Just saying. I think that fact is significant.

Mind you, the Lumia's parts aren't always available anymore, which also has to be taken into consideration in any verdict here.

'Water-repellent coating' on internals, plus tough and textured plastic unibody.  Corners are protected, so you'd have to be unlucky enough to drop the phone on its front for any damage. Can be used without a case, especially at the price. Though Xiaomi ship a case in the box as well, so you're doubly covered!
Operating system, interface Windows 10 Mobile, (dismissable) virtual controls, as needed, now officially updated to W10 Fall Creators Update (Redstone 3, Autumn 2017) with security to 'January 2020'.

Android 10, Mi UI 12, December 2020 security, gesture controls available, or navigation buttons on-screen (the default).

Display  5.7" AMOLED (1440p at 16:9 aspect ratio, matching most video media), Gorilla Glass 4, ClearBlack Display polarisers help with outdoor contrast, excellent viewing angles. Screen area is approximately 88 cm2

Glance screen available (in various colours) for always-on time, day and notification icons, plus some detailed info from a specified app.

6.53" 1080p LCD display, 19.5:9 ratio, Gorilla glass 5, screen area is roughly 105cm2

Excellent screen, though there's not quite the 'pop' of the Lumia's AMOLED. But you have to be very picky to find fault in a 2021 LCD panel, even at this price. I'd point to the poorer viewing angles compared to AMOLED.

Plus there's no Always on 'glance' screen, though you can mimic it with third party apps.

Connectivity LTE, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 4.2 (all uses).

Continuum connectivity to use a wide range of first and third party UWP apps on external displays as secondary screen, independent of the phone display. Includes the NexDock 2, transforming the Lumia into a Windows 10 S laptop, effectively. Though a workaround is needed for the newer NexDock Touch!

LTE, 5G, NFC (all uses), Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, integral wifi tethering, Bluetooth 5.1 (all uses). Does 5G future-proofing beat Continuum? Possibly, given the latter's stagnation.
Processor, performance Snapdragon 810 chipset, 3GB RAM, faster than it's ever been now on the Fall Creators Update though still slower for almost everything than on the Android phone. Multi tasking and app resumption is excellent though, at least with all the modern UWP apps
MediaTek Dimensity 800U, 4GB RAM, pretty fast at everything - well, faster than the Lumia, anyway!
Capacity 32GB internal storage, expandable via (cheap) microSD to extra 256GB 64/128GB internal storage, plus microSD card expansion to 512GB
Imaging (stills) 20MP PureView f/1.9 1/2.4" sensor. Phase Detection auto-focus, dedicated camera shutter button and launch key, 1.5x lossless digital zoom (in 8MP oversampled mode, and lossy digital after that), OIS. 'Rich Capture' produces customisable HDR shots and 'dynamic flash', with triple LED illumination. Outstanding shots in most light conditions, with just focussing issues in low light as an Achilles heel.

48 MP, f/1.8, 1/2.0", PDAF
2 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)

A fairly standard 2021 Quad-Bayer main camera, backed up by excellent image processing. I'll include the Redmi in an upcoming shootout, so that you can see the quality. The macro is fixed focus and of limited use.

Imaging article coming very soon!

5MP front camera 3MP, f/2.3, 1/3.1" front camera, similar to the Lumia's.
Imaging (video) Up to 4K, optically (and optionally digitally) stabilised, with 'Best photo' 8MP grabbing built-in, plus Rich Recording and HAAC microphones for high quality, gig-level stereo capture. Up to 4K/30fps stabilised video capture and high quality stereo audio capture. 
Music and Multimedia
A tinny mono speaker by modern standards, though as ever you can trade volume for fidelity in a simple tweak on Lumias. Stereo speakers, imbalanced physically, but tuned pretty well. Components aren't top notch, so fidelity isn't up with flagships, but they still knock the 950 XL's tinny mono into a cocked hat!
3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP+AptX, plus a decent internal DAC, so great wired and wireless headphone audio too.  3.5mm headphone jack, A2DP via Bluetooth. The internal DAC is pretty good, right up with the Lumia's.
Navigation  Windows 10 Maps is now pretty mature and impressive, especially once you've learned the live traffic routine trick! Offline maps save a lot of data bandwidth for those on tight contracts or anyone in a low signal (data) area. But it's all looking a little neglected in 2020 compared to the bells and whistles in Google Maps. And even live traffic is now becoming erratic.
Google Maps is now the gold standard in phone navigation, tied in with many other Google services and offering true real time navigation around traffic issues, even at local level, along with offline maps that auto-update.
Cortana/Voice Cortana was in theory now mature and well integrated, though functionality has been falling away and most attempts to rouse her end in failure in 2020. Google Assistant is available via voice or swipe, and works well, far superior to the dying Cortana in 2020, due to the investment that Google has put in over the last few years. Note also that the 'Google Feed' is present and correct, off to the left of the main home screens.
Battery, life  Removable 3000mAh battery, and the ability to change cells are a positive here (and you CAN still buy decent spare batteries), plus USB Type C Power Delivery (up to 3A, so 15W) and 1A Qi wireless charging built-in also helps. However, a Lumia running Windows 10 Mobile will now discharge in 24 hours even if you don't use it much, so it's a win here with caveats!

Sealed 5000mAh battery, gets easily through a day, maybe even two if needed. Type C port supports 15W wired charging. No Qi wireless option though.

Does the larger capacity win out? Not sure. Let's call this one a score draw!

Cloud aids Windows Photos syncs at full resolution and quality across all signed-in devices, subject to your OneDrive tariff (stingy, unless you have Office 365 - most of us do, hence the 'win' here), should you have thousands of images in the system. Plus Windows 10 backs all your media, application data and settings to a separate backup folder system, tariff-free on OneDrive, for easy restoration on a new or factory reset phone. Google Photos does a great job of organising photos and syncing them across all signed-in phones and tablets, albeit at 'reduced' quality (re-compression server-side). Plus there's a local Gallery application with its own editing facilities and with a link to OneDrive, in case you want to go all Microsoft and not use Google's services.
File compatibility As with all Windows phones, plugging into a Windows PC gives full drag and drop to the phone's user file system. Plugging into a Mac is more problematic, though seems to work under Catalina. Plugging into any PC gives immediate MTP file access, plus this works on a Mac on all OS versions, with Google's Android File Transfer utility, for drag and drop of all user files. Seamless and lightning fast.
Biometrics  Iris recognition ('Windows Hello') works well unless you wear varifocals(!), but takes a couple of seconds (including an animation!) in real world use. There's also no official way of paying in shops using this. The capacitive fingerprint sensor in the power button works perfectly and instantly. Very impressed. One touch and you're in. Unlocking and working to authenticate transactions too, as you'd expect, with Google Pay or in the Play Store.
Applications and ecosystem  Windows 10 Mobile had most (though not all) mainstream apps and services covered, though some are dropping away now - see my guide! Often third party clients are involved, mind you, there are companies who hate Microsoft so much that they simply refuse to write for Windows, it seems. And 'long tail' niche/boutique apps are hard to find for real world companies and shops. The might of Google and Android's app ecosystem - everything is available and almost always in first party form. 


Upgrades and future Windows 10 Mobile is now effectively out of support. From now on, it will be useable but with more and more service caveats applying. Still, 'January 2020' was well over four years since the Lumia 950 XL was launched, so it's hard to complain in terms of longevity. Xiaomi has a fair track record at supporting its phones, often on a quarterly rather than monthly cycle. I'm guessing updates will stop in 2023.

950 XL and Redmi Note 9T


Adding up the green 'wins' (for fun?!) gives a significant 17-6 win to the much newer device, unsurprisingly, though as you can see above, there's a more than usual amount of common ground when comparing a 2015 Lumia to a modestly-priced Android handset. Mainly because manufacturers keep stripping away features from their flagships and leaving them in the budget phones. Go figure!

950 XL and Redmi Note 9T