Meet what might just be the Under 21s side of the Honor smartphone line-up.

The 9X might not be in the same division as proper flagships, but it's eager to impress - and you just know one or two of its features will make it into the main team in a year or two. Say, a pop-up camera instead of a notch or hole punch. Not something you'll find in many sub-£250 phones.

It was also the last phone to make it out of the factory before the whole US-China trade war thing, which means it gets the all-crucial access to the Google Play Store. Throw in three rear cameras and it's beginning to look like a bona fide bargain. Is it really true good to be true?

DISPLAY & SOUND: FULL EFFECT

91%. That's how much of the front of the front of the 9X is comprised of screen. By using a mechanical pop-up selfie camera, Honor has made sure there's nothing to get between you and your movies, games or photos.

At 6.59in, you get a whole lot of screen for your money, too. At 2340x1080 it's essentially Full HD-and-a-bit, with enough pixels for crisp text and reasonably detailed photos.

It's LCD tech underneath, which is to be expected at this price. Colours and contrast aren't a patch on more expensive OLED handsets, but they can still do justice to YouTube clips and Instagram feeds. Honor gives you plenty of control over the colour temperature, too, so you can customise the screen to suit your own tastes.

Brightness isn't the greatest, so you might struggle in strong sunlight, but viewing angles are otherwise fine, and with no notch to get in the way 21:9 content looks impressively cinematic for something that'll slip into a pocket.

Sound is restricted to a mono speaker at the bottom of the phone, which is easily muffled depending on your grip. It gets loud enough, but the audio is tinny and lacks any real precision. You'll want headphones for any serious listening, and thankfully there's a 3.5mm headphone port to make that easier.

DESIGN & FEATURES: LOOKS THE PART

Look beyond that palm-filling screen and you'll start to notice the 9X's budget roots.

It might appear to be glass on the back, but you'll instantly recognise it as plastic once you pick the phone up. And sure, the fingerprint sensor is super-quick to detect your digits, but it's found on the back, not lurking underneath the display.

There's still glass up front, though, and it's sandwiched into a metal frame, so it's not like we're talking proper bargain basement materials. The trifecta of cameras on the back all sit in a line, just like an iPhone XS, while the smooth lines and minimal branding are easy on the eye. The black colour scheme is decidedly more businesslike than a lot of Honor's recent phones, too.

The selfie camera hides on top of the phone, popping out automatically when you open the camera app and retreating back inside with a satisfying whir when you're done. Each direction takes about two seconds. It automatically hides if it detects the phone is falling, but anything closer than a chest-height drop wouldn't give it enough time to completely retract.

That mechanism makes for a somewhat chunky phone, at 8.8mm, and gives it some real heft, too. It might be made from plastic, but you won't forget you've got a 9X in your pocket.

CAMERA: THREE NOT OUT

There are three lenses on the back of the 9X, but only two of them take photos. The third sensor is a 2MP jobbie dedicated to depth effects, which really doesn't make a lot of sense in a budget phone. Surely that money could have been spent elsewhere, and software used to fake bokeh blur instead?

At least the main snapper is the real deal, using pixel-binning to turn 48MP raw images into detailed 12MP ones - although because it doesn't use the same sensor as the more premium Honor 20 Pro, you can't expect the same level of clarity.

Fed with enough light and the 9X is better than most affordable phone cameras, but only just. Exposure is usually on point, and with HDR hiding away in a menu and proving somewhat ineffective once you find it, that's rather helpful. Colours get given a helping hand with the AI scene recognition, helping balance things out but also oversharpening and postprocessing your shots. Still, they look better than the originals, which vary from oversaturated to washed out.

Night mode is surprisingly good for the money, though not a patch on more expensive phones like Google's Pixel 3a. Hold it steady and the larger sensor compensates for a lack of light with decent amounts of definition.

The 8MP wide-angle shooter is exactly that - wide. There's noticeable lens distortion in every shot, with processing failing to disguise the fact yet adding unwanted artifacts and blurry details at the edges of each picture. Detail in general is a major step down from the main sensor.

Pop up the selfie camera and you'll get alright results when you step outside, albeit with some exposure and skin tone issues that look less than natural. Once the lights get low, though, it struggles to take a crisp image - expect lots of blurry shots.

It's rare that an Honor phone doesn't outperform its direct rivals when it comes to camera quality, so to see it turn in a sub-par performance here is pretty disappointing.

Honor 9X sample shots

PERFORMANCE: KEPT YOU WAITING

Only after a phone for the basics - email, Facebook, web browsing and the rest? Then the 9X will do just fine. Its Kirin 710F CPU won't break benchmark records, but its eight cores can run the usual set of apps without any real hiccups. It's paired with 6GB of RAM, so it doesn't pause for breath when toggling between open apps, either.

It is very much a budget chip, though, so push it hard and the cracks begin to show, with gaming being the biggest culprit. High-end titles like Player Unknown's Battlegrounds Mobile usually default to low or medium detail settings, where other sub-£250 phones can often handle high presets. Expect frame rate dips and stuttering when playing online games, too.

At least there's a huge 128GB of storage, plus a microSD card slot, so you're unlikely to run out of room, but the entry-level CPU just doesn't have the grunt to keep gamers happy. Call of Duty: Mobile is a stuttery mess, and PUBG Mobile fares only slightly better.

It's a big shame that there's no NFC here, so using the 9X for contactless payments is out of the question.

BATTERY LIFE: SIZE MATTERS

It's taken long enough, but Honor finally got the memo that even budget phones should be saying goodbye to microUSB in 2019. That's why the 9X is finally rocking a USB-C port, but don't go expecting any kind of fast charging. Even with a capable adaptor, it'll still take over two hours to fully top up the battery.

That's because it's a whopping 4000mAh, which is about a third larger than the ones you'll find in most budget phones. The good news is that once it's full, you won't need to revisit a plug socket for at least another 24 hours. The 9X can cope with daily tasks just fine and make it from breakfast to bedtime, and beyond.

It does get a bit thirsty when you switch from social scrolling to insurgent shooting in Call of Duty Mobile, though. Gaming and media streaming can really hammer the battery, so you'll want to ration them out to last a full working day.

OS & SOFTWARE: SAME OLD EMOTION

Strictly speaking, it's an achievement that the 9X shipped with Google's apps at all, so it can be forgiven for not running the latest and greatest version of Android.

You still get Android 9 Pie, with the familiar EMUI interface running on top. Honor's custom skin, shared with Huawei, isn't nearly as overbearing as it used to be, and while there are still plenty of duplicate apps competing with Google's superior defaults for space on the homescreen, they're easy enough to hide.

It's not like they're taking up masses of storage space, either: you get 128GB of on-board memory, plus a microSD card slot for adding more later.

Extras like gesture navigation, the ability to run two versions of a messenger app at once and some customisable power modes are all welcome inclusions, too.

HONOR 9X VERDICT

Do you like to stand out from the crowd every time you pull your phone out of a pocket? The 9X is an inexpensive oddball that does a great impression of a pricier phone.

It doesn't have the same performance as close rivals like the Motorola Moto G8 Plus, and while its triple camera is flexible, there's no escaping its sensors were picked to stick to a budget. But that's the price of admission for a phone with a pop-up selfie camera.

More well-rounded alternatives won't get you noticed as much, but for everyday use, they'll probably be the better buy.

Tech Specs 
SCREEN
6.59in, 2340x1080 LCD w/ 19.5:9 aspect ratio
CPU
HiSilicon Kirin 710F octa-core
MEMORY
6GB RAM
CAMERA
48MP, f/1.8 main, 8MP, f/2.4 ultrawide, 2MP, f/2.4 depth-sensing rear w/ LED flash. Pop-up 16MP, f/2.2 front
STORAGE
128GB on-board, microSD card expansion
OPERATING SYSTEM
Android 9 w/ EMUI 9
BATTERY
4000mAh
DIMENSIONS
164x77x8.8mm, 197g
Stuff says... 

Honor 9X review

This fashionista phone is dressed to impress, but what's underneath can't keep up the pace with similarly-priced rivals
£250
Good Stuff 
Pop-up camera means no notch or hole punch
Flagship-style looks
Loads of storage
Bad Stuff 
Performance only average for a cut-price handset
Ultrawide camera a big step down from main snapper
Rivals do more for the same cash