Honor has been churning out competent, price friendly and feature-rich phones for a while now, and generally, we have liked most of them.
Heck, the 8X was in our Top 10 Smartphones list for a pretty long time. And now Honor has come out with its successor. Let’s find out if Honor’s latest is still relevant in 2020.
Design And Build
The Honor 9X is the first Honor device to have a pop-up selfie camera that allows the screen to go right up to the edges without embellishing it with notches or punch holes.
The black variant that we got for review had an overall unassuming and subtle look, but if you are in the market for something jazzy, you might want to try out the Sapphire Blue variant that shimmers to form an X in the centre under the correct lighting conditions. It’s actually quite nice and does not feel too over the top, very unlike other Chinese smartphones.
On the build front, the 9X feels quite tough and ready to take on some rough use, but it does not feel too premium. Don’t get me wrong, the build quality is very respectable and seems well put together, but the glass back just does not feel special. Honor could do with taking a leaf out of the Nokia build quality handbook.
Powering the Honor 9X is the Kirin 710F and it does a good enough job of handling day to day tasks and navigating through the software. It’ll also perform decently while playing light games, but some heavy-duty games like PUBG on medium or high settings may be too much to ask for. It won’t win any races in terms of how fast it can open new apps, but at this price, it’s not exactly a deal-breaker.
It might be a bit underpowered when it comes to performance, but that results in an extremely long battery life. The frugal and efficient processor milks the most out of the 4000mAh battery and squeezes an easy battery life of a whole day even with heavy use – more than a day and a half if you don’t use your device as frequently as we do.
What the 9X excels at is media consumption thanks to that 6.6 inch, 1080x2340 display. And thanks to the lack of notches or punch holes taking up precious screen real-estate, binging on shows while commuting makes for a decently immersive experience. The display itself is quite colour accurate and bright enough to have no problems in direct sunlight as well.
Overall, things look pretty good in terms of performance. The Honor 9X does everything well enough; the only problem is it does not do it as well as the best smartphones in the same budget.
Honor has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to camera performance. The gap was quite wide between cameras from Honor and others in the same budget. In fact, to a point that if good pictures were something you were not willing to compromise on with a small-ish budget, a phone from Honor was a no brainer. However, the competition has caught up now and we get pretty amazing cameras in the same price range. So, does Honor still cut it in that department in 2020?
In a word, yes. But not at all by a big margin. Let’s start with the pros first. The 9X camera has probably the best colour accuracy of any camera in this price range. It does have decent contrast and saturation as well. Shooting in the 48MP mode results in retaining the colour accuracy and also boosts the details and the ability to zoom in by a substantial margin. But if you are not shooting with the 48MP main sensor, it does miss out on a few details. Low light performance is pretty good as well, thanks to a night mode.
What the camera could improve on with future updates is the wide-angle mode. While shooting in this mode, the colours tend to get slightly washed out, making the image look a bit dull. Honestly, it's a minor issue and not too noticeable. What is noticeable, though, is the hit or miss nature of the portrait mode. Most of the time it will take passable shots with good background blur and minor distortions, but sometimes it tends to drop the ball completely and you can end up with a blurred ear or two.
Like most smartphones these days, the biggest problem that any smartphone has is the competition. Let’s face it, the competition is the benchmark for how good or bad a new device is.
And that’s where the Honor 9X runs into one of its biggest problems. It has some severe competition in the form of the Redmi Note 8 Pro. And the problem is not that the Honor 9X is a bad phone; the problem is that the Redmi Note 8 Pro is just too good at that price.