Honor ushered in the Honor 9X in India in 2020, along with the Honor Magic Watch 2 Smartwatch and the Honor Band 5i. The Honor 9X is the successor to the Honor 8X and brings some notable improvements, such as a faster SoC, a full-screen display, better cameras and a larger battery, to name just a few. From Rs. With 13,999, the Honor 9X offers a convincing package in terms of hardware and design. However, it does encounter some well-received competitors from Xiaomi, Realme, Nokia and Vivo. Does the Honor 9X have what it takes to highlight and disrupt the segment? Read our in-depth review of the pros and cons of the phone to find out.
Honor 9X design and build quality
Design is one of the main selling points of the Honor 9X. The geometric 3D pattern on the sapphire blue tester that we have looks like an X when light falls on it. Each adjacent line appears to have a different shade of blue that creates a depth effect, and it looks unique compared to the gradient patterns on a variety of phones. A closer look reveals small diamond-shaped blocks on the entire back wall that shimmer under the light. While the aesthetics are undoubtedly striking, this gives the Honor 9X its own identity. The company also offers the Honor 9X in a sleek Midnight Black finish.
The back wall is made of plastic and is painted glossy. Needless to say, the entire back can easily get dirty and our device left fingerprints everywhere in no time. The sides are curved and merge seamlessly into the edge, which is also glossy lacquered in a matching color. Fortunately, the phone is not too slippery. The three camera lenses are housed in a vertical stripe, and the entire module protrudes slightly.
The fingerprint sensor is within easy reach and was pleasantly quick when unlocking the phone. The USB Type-C port, speaker, and 3.5mm jack are on the bottom, while the SIM tray is on the top. The volume buttons feel clicked, but the power button is a bit too small and feels a bit mushy.
On the front is the 6.59-inch full HD display, which has a notch-free design. In this price range, the Honor 9X is one of the few phones that offer a full-screen experience, and we definitely don't complain. Honor announced Gadgets 360 that the display is protected by a material developed by Huawei that is used in its cell phones without revealing the name. The phone comes with a screen protector already attached, but it was scratched and soiled very quickly. We also found it difficult to reach all parts of the screen with one hand.
Observe the 9X specifications and software
The Honor 9X suffers from a kind of identity crisis, which is due to the Huawei Honor relationship and some confusing marketing decisions. As we highlighted in our first impressions of the phone, the Honor 9X is almost identical to the Huawei Y9 Prime (2019) that launched in India last August. The only difference is the resolution of the rear view cameras and even has the same model number.
It also shares hardware similarities to the Huawei P Smart Z sold in China and even has exactly the same dimensions. To make things even more complicated, the Honor 9X sold in India is the global variant of the phone and has completely different specifications than the device sold in China with the same name.
The Honor 9X is equipped with a 6.59-inch full HD display (1080 x 2340 pixels) and offers a unique full-screen design. This is an IPS-LCD panel certified by TÜV Rheinland to reduce blue light pollution. The phone is powered by Huawei's own Kirin 710F processor and has up to 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage that can be expanded by up to 512 GB using a microSD card. The basic version with 4 GB and 128 GB costs Rs. 13,999 in India, while the 6 GB 128 GB configuration will reset buyers by Rs. 16,999.
The camera on the back contains a 48-megapixel main shooter with an aperture of 1: 1.8. There's also an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view and a 2-megapixel depth sensor for portraits. There is a 16 megapixel camera on the front, which is housed in a pop-up module. The juice is supplied by a 4,000 mAh battery, and the charging process is supported with 10 W.
On the software side, the Honor 9X EMUI 9.1 runs on Android Pie. Honor has told Gadgets 360 that an Android 10 update will be released soon, "maybe by next month." It is interesting to note that this phone does not report the software name as Magic UI. This is the renamed version of EMUI, which is usually run by Honor models. The user interface is similar to what we saw in our Honor 20 test. First of all, there is no app drawer. Swiping left will open the Google feed, and swiping right will show more pages with app icons.
Some of the pre-installed apps like Ride Mode, Downloads and Optimizer for file management are useful. However, there is far too much bloatware. First-party apps like App Gallery, Honor Club, Honor Store and iTips are hardly useful. When it comes to third-party apps, not all of them are addressed by Opera News, Booking.com, Wego Flights & Hotels and Helo.
Luckily, third-party apps can be uninstalled, but in-house apps can't. The navigation gestures worked perfectly for us, and there is an app twin function for creating two instances of an app.
Honor 9X performance
Performance is an area where the Honor 9X has proven to be a mixed bag. Switching applications went smoothly even when 10-15 applications were running in the background. Apps also loaded quickly, but there was some jitter when the games ran in the background. The user interface was generally lag-free, but RAM management sometimes turned out to be too aggressive.
The Kirin 710F feels underwhelmed in terms of graphics. PUBG Mobile used the medium graphics default by default, but the graphics looked choppy, and jitter and stutters were easy to notice. Call of Duty: Mobile was set to the low graphics settings by default, and while the experience was better than PUBG Mobile, we found better performance on other phones in this price range. We wish Huawei had driven a more powerful SoC.
This lack of firepower is also reflected in synthetic benchmarks. The Honor 9X scored 5,320 and 1,310 points in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests. This performance is comparable to that of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 and the MediaTek Helio P70. However, the Honor 9X only achieved 1,111 and 864 points in the graphics-intensive 3DMark Sling Shot and Sling Shot Extreme tests, which is significantly below that of the two chips mentioned above. The following diagram shows the Kirin 710F's benchmark performance:
In terms of display quality, the Honor 9X LCD display is one of the better phones we've seen in this price range. Due to the Full HD resolution, this panel is sufficiently sharp. Color rendering is in a nutshell, and viewing angles are also acceptable. The notchless design is great for watching videos and games.
The only drawback is a below-average brightness, which affects the visibility outdoors and makes the colors appear subdued in direct sunlight. In the display area of the Settings app, users can adjust the color profile and temperature. However, we have found that the Vivid mode gives whites and washed-out colors.
The Honor 9X is equipped with a sufficiently long-lasting 4,000 mAh battery. With our regular use, which included intermittent use of social media and messaging throughout the day, a few hours of music streaming and about an hour of gaming, the Honor 9x took an average of a day and a half. In conjunction with a smartwatch with Bluetooth and enabled location tracking, the phone's battery life decreased, but at the end of the day there were still around 20 to 25 percent left.
Its mileage depends on usage patterns, but even with heavy use, the Honor 9X can easily pass a day with every charge. In our HD video battery loop test, the Honor 9x took 12 hours and 37 minutes before the battery was completely discharged. The phone comes with a 10 W charger. It takes over two hours to fully charge the phone. We have seen that Xiaomi and Realme phones can be charged faster in the same price range.
Honor 9X cameras
On paper, the Honor 9X offers pretty impressive cameras for its price, but the actual issue is a mixed bag. The main camera with 48 megapixels takes photos with 12 megapixels as standard. These shots looked fine, with decent contrast and dynamic range, but at best average details. The camera app's AI mode tended to increase contrast and saturation, so we had to turn it off manually to capture accurate colors.
For real 48-megapixel photos, the details were better, but at the expense of noise. What we didn't like was the excessive sharpening of the photos, which made them appear noticeably soft. The color of photos taken in direct sunlight with a resolution of 48 megapixels is often boring. The autofocus was reliable in daylight, but we had to deal with some focusing errors in poor lighting conditions.
We noticed a significantly better color rendering, sharpness and dynamics of the 48 megapixel cameras of the Redmi Note 8 and Realme 5 Pro. Honor did not specify the brand of the sensor used.
The 8-megapixel wide-angle camera is practical for putting more objects in a frame. The pictures taken are again only average, but there was a noticeable difference between the color tone of the photos taken by the main camera and the wide-angle pictures of the same scene, especially when dealing with green and bright colors. Distortion was also a problem. Honor states that the Honor 9X uses distortion correction algorithms, but distortion has been detected in wide-angle photos. They were also less sharp.
The 2-megapixel depth sensor does a great job of providing a depth of field effect in photos. There is a special aperture mode in the camera app that allows users to adjust the intensity of the blur effect. Highlighting an object or a person in the foreground is a good thing, but edge detection is not always accurate. Other camera modes include slow motion, light painting, moving pictures, and stickers.
The biggest surprise for us was the dedicated night mode. Photos taken in night mode showed better detail and the colors were more emphasized. When enlarged, however, they look grainy and are soft in the corners. Depending on the ambient light, night mode takes up to four seconds to take multiple exposures at different levels and provides a final composite image that is significantly better than what you could take in standard photo mode.
The standard photo mode can also recognize scenarios with poor lighting conditions and increase the ISO value. However, this destroys the real colors. In fact, the Honor 9X's night mode is one of the better implementations of this feature in the Sub-Rs. 15,000 price range.
The 16 megapixel popup selfie camera is again just average. We noticed that the camera module pops up slower than Realme X and Redmi K20, although these models are more expensive. As far as image quality is concerned, selfies have a lot of details, but even with deactivated beautification and AI, the Honor 9X smoothes the skin structures. In portrait selfies, the camera sometimes blurs parts of our ears irregularly. Although portraits looked lively, they lacked depths and background elements were often blown out, especially those taken in sunlight.
The main camera can record videos up to 1080p at 60fps, while the wide-angle camera is limited to 30fps. Fortunately, the main camera has no problems with focusing, and the AIS ("AI Image Stabilization") does a good job negating motion. However, the dynamic range could have been better, and the colors appear slightly warmer than those of real objects. Again, the videos recorded with the main camera and the wide-angle camera showed a noticeable difference in the color profiles.
The Honor 9X's premium full HD display is a welcome feature at an affordable price, and the design of the phone also stands out. However, it is a bit bigger, which can mean a bit cumbersome for some people. The Honor 9X's performance is good for everyday tasks, but a better processor with more graphics performance would have improved the gaming experience.
Despite the packaging of three reversing cameras, the Honor 9X does not offer any noteworthy advantages in terms of photo quality or functions. The quality of the photos was only average, with the exception of those taken in poor lighting. This is where this phone rises above comparable competitors. Battery life is good, and users can easily get through a day of normal use.
The Honor 9X is a reasonably good phone and will appeal to those who value style, but it lacks the bare essentials to outperform its rivals, and even some models are a little cheaper. The Redmi Note 8 (test), Realme 5 Pro (test), Vivo U20 (test) and Nokia 7.2 (test) offer better all-rounders and a better price-performance ratio.