The Mi 9 SE is the smallest of the Mi 9s - with a screen diagonal of 5.97 inches it is, in fact, a remarkably pocket-friendly handset. While the Mi 9 and Mi 9T with their 6.39-inch displays pretty much require both hands most of the time, the SE is a lot better suited to single-handed use.
But don't go thinking that just because it's fun-size, the Mi 9 SE doesn't mean business - it's got a proper triple camera on its back like its more space-consuming brethren and unlike any other phone in its segment.
The three modules are stacked vertically in the top left corner and stick out by a good 2mm - place the phone on a table and it tends to wobble. We'd take wobbling phones if that means big image sensors, which is the case here.
Mind you, we're seeing a particular resemblance in the Mi 9 SE's design to a certain iPhone X/XS, particularly when it comes to the camera assembly. Let's just say that the extra module and the flash being outside of the shared window make the Xiaomi phone unique and we'll put the copycat theme to rest.
Over on the front, the Mi 9 SE doesn't have the obnoxious notch of said iPhones, and it's just a waterdrop-style cutout for the selfie camera instead. It resembles the Mi 9 in this respect, while on the Mi 9T Xiaomi went with the more elegant pop-up camera solution. There's no room on the Mi 9 SE for that, probably.
The SE gets a Super AMOLED display like the Mi 9 proper and the Mi 9T. It has relatively thin bezels on the sides and top, with a bit more material below it, though it's certainly one of the slimmer chins we've seen.
Having the OLED panel has enabled Xiaomi to install an under-display fingerprint reader, so that's another area where the SE is playing with the big boys - you could say that capacitive sensors are still the norm in the midrange, but the Mi 9 SE is no ordinary midranger. The flipside is that, like on most top-tier devices, the headphone jack has gone missing - you can't have it all, apparently.
On a positive note, the Mi 9 SE does feature an infrared blaster, which paired with Xiaomi's excellent remote app turns the phone into a universal remote for all things not smart enough to communicate over Wi-Fi/Bluetooth.
Continuing the tour of the polished aluminum frame, we arrive at the buttons on the right. The power button is a centimeter above the midpoint, with the volume rocker above it. Both are generously sized, easy to operate with either hand and click nicely. Opposite the volume rocker, on the left side of the phone, you'll find the card slot - it takes two nano SIMs, but not a single microSD, sadly.
We've been on about how compact the Mi 9 SE is, but how compact is it, precisely? It measures 147.5x70.5x7.5mm and weighs 155g. The Pixel 3a which could potentially be on your shortlist if you're after a pocketable midranger is 0.4mm narrower, but 3.8mm taller and 0.7mm thicker, while also having all the bezels in the world around its smaller 5.6-inch display. The Pixel is admittedly lighter at 147g. The Huawei P30 lite is indeed more efficient with its use of space, but thanks to a larger 6.15-inch display, it is taller, wider and heavier than the Xiaomi.