Honor’s first foray in the 18:9 aspect ratio marathon might also be your first.
Looking for a smartphone with all the latest trending features? You’re in luck. The Honor 9i has got the 18:9 aspect ratio with barely-there bezels and two dual camera setups. It clearly ticks the right boxes on the 2017 checklist.
It’s definitely joining the ranks of good smartphones under sub-₹20K but is it enough to make you splurge cash over shredded bezels and four cameras? We put it through Stuff India’s gruelling tests to find out.
Honor 9i: Design and build
We were absolutely amazed by the build quality of this phone. The first time you hold it, it feels premium. The full metal unibody looks gorgeous and feels even better. Sporting a 18:9 screen aspect ratio, the screen spreads edge-to-edge on the sides. Whereas the forehead and chin are bare minimum. Almost like what the Samsung Galaxy S8 did, minus the curvy edges.
The thin forehead on the front houses two front facing cameras and a soft flash. The rear dual cameras are a treat too. They protrude out a bit but the metal frame around keeps them safe. The dual cameras are directly above the fingerprint scanner. Again, the fingerprint scanner is perfectly placed and easy to reach. The overall design and build quality of the Honor 9i make it an attractive smartphone. We had got the Graphite Black colour review unit which looks good but we really love the Aurora Blue. You can even pick it up in Prestige Gold as well.
Holding the phone feels remarkably comfortable. The soft round edges give it a good grip and will make you think twice before plonking it in a case. You would want to hold it, unlike your ex.
Honor 9i: Screen and sound
Bigger and better, that’s the mantra for smartphones screens this year. Honor has cut down the sides to make way for more screen and less black bars. The 9i is the first phone by Honor in India to do that. It has 1080 x 2160 pixels spread over the 5.9 inch display.
18:9 aspect ratio means that the screen is longer and thanks to near minimum bezels you spend more time looking at the screen and less at those black borders. Netflix sessions during commuting to work were amazing. Colour saturation of the screen is a little washed out but that’s only noticeable once you really poke your eyelashes into the screen. Still, the colours are on the warmer side of the spectrum.
However, 18:9 is fresh in the market. So fresh that most apps ain’t optimised for it. The phone will prompt with a ‘fit’ option that resizes the apps to fit the 9i’s aspect ratio. So far none of the apps have crashed or struggled to fit in. Quite literally.
The sound quality isn’t all that great. It’s decent but only in a quiet environment. Don’t expect to watch Netflix on the train without headphones. Even while talking, the microphone suffers a bit. Most noticeable in apps like Snapchat where the audio doesn’t pick up very well. Putting filters and imitating Jay-Z using voice modulators on the app was only met by disappointingly low audio. My rap career suffered. That’s not saying that the call quality is bad. It works perfectly but just couldn’t satiate my singing obsessions.
Honor 9i: Software
The Honor 9i comes with Android Nougat out of the box with Honor’s own EMUI skin. Honor has made heaps of changes in its Android skin. It’s cleaner this time. I really enjoyed the added features and tweaking prowess the software offered and this is coming from an Android purist. There’s no denying the feel of stock Android, but Honor phones are made for tinker heads.
The fingerprint scanner can be used in more ways than just unlocking your phone. Multiple sliding and gesture options are at your disposal to make your everyday functions a bit smoother. Best one is sliding down the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notification panel and slide up to put it back up. It solves the issue of struggling to reach your notification panel on this long smartphone.
Cloning select apps to have two logins lets you take advantage of that dual SIM. You can adjust the screen temperature as well. Let’s hope the phone is not too late on the Android Oreo bandwagon.
Honor 9i: Performance and battery life
Honor makes its own processors. So you can expect this phone to be very much optimised in terms of battery life and performance. The HiSilicon Kirin 659 processor with 4GB of RAM handles almost every task with speed. There were no hiccups in browsing through apps too.
For a budget handset at ₹17,999, the phone performs smoothly. Casual gaming might not drain as much but bigger titles like Asphalt 8 can put the phone to task. There’s a bit of in-game lag on these graphically demanding titles but other smaller arcade games don’t really trouble the battery at plug visit levels.
On a full charge, the Honor 9i lasted me one full work day. That’s including a streaming session along with a game escape during commutes. Even social media browsing and intense Twitter mashing for a few hours kept it alive. At least from 9am to 7pm that is. However, expect the battery to drain faster on intense gaming and steaming hours.
The only drawback was the lack of fast charge and USB Type-C. Both of which are necessary in day to day life. The 3340 mAh battery is large enough to take a while to juice up. Specially because it has a micro USB for charging.
Honor 9i: Camera
Two cameras? Pfft. The Honor 9i has four. Take that, Google Pixel. Seriously, it has two cameras at the front and two at the back. That’s a lot of bokeh power at your disposal. The front 13MP + 2MP camera is made for selfie addicts. Combined with a soft front facing flash, the bokeh effects of the Honor’s dual front facing camera set up is amazing. It does a good job of separating the subject from the background. Rarely do you see such quality on a budget smartphone with a front camera.
The rear 16MP + 2MP dual camera setup takes brilliant bokeh shots given that it's in a perfectly lit environment. The wide aperture mode is amazing too. The rear camera has good abilities and by that we mean Honor’s photo modes. There are different photo modes to choose from to make your shots as perfect as they can get. The photos from the camera are sharpened and the colours are vivid. Over sharpening of images and loss of details is very noticeable. While the low light images were decent for this budget. The HDR mode fixes a few things that went wrong with low light.
Simply speaking, the photos will come out perfect if you take it using the right mode and in a well lit space. There’s a drastic loss of quality when zoomed in. The photos and videos tend to look like oil paintings in any zoomed situation. Avoid zooming. You can check out the photo samples below.
Honor 9i: Verdict
The Honor 9i is a great smartphone and is aggressively priced. At ₹17,999 you get 64GB of storage and a hybrid SIM slot for either two SIMs or one SIM and one memory card.
Stock Android geeks can opt for the Moto G5S but if you’re looking for snapping prowess along with a good screen, the Honor 9i makes a tough contender to top your Diwali wish list. The lack of USB Type-C and fast charge is disappointing but the 3340 mAh battery will last you long enough if your use is not over and above an average working person.
For a sub-₹20K smartphone it’s definitely worth buying if you can deal without using fast charge and Honor’s EMUI OS.