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Honor Pad X9 hands-on review: a big screen bargain?

Honor Pad X9 stuff website

Entertainment addicts on a modest budget don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to big-screen tablets. Apple wants four figures for its most sizeable slates, and Samsung isn’t far behind. Honor is out to change that with the new Honor Pad X9 – a sub-£200 tab that’ll fill your vision like little else for the cash.

Amazon’s closest rival, the Fire Tablet Max, costs a fair bit more yet has less on-board storage – and ships with a locked-down OS. The Lenovo Tab P11 is only slightly easier on the wallet, and can’t compete with the Honor Pad X9’s six speakers. Does that make it a must-have for clearing your streaming service watch lists? We went hands-on with it at Honor’s launch event to find out.

Design & build: one skinny slab

The Honor Pad X9 is a sizeable slab – it had to be to fit such a large display panel inside, and is noticeably bigger than last year’s Honor Pad X8 – but the relatively skinny screen bezels help keep the overall dimensions in check. Not counting the modest camera bump around back, the whole thing is a mere 6.9mm thick, and at 495g is something of a lightweight given its size.

The camera bump isn’t quite as distinctive as the double lens array seen on the new Honor 90 smartphone, and only contains a single sensor – although it’s clearly trying to give the impression of there being more.

It looks and feels like a pricier device, with an aluminium body that’s flex-resistant and doesn’t collect fingerprint smudges, thanks to the matte finish. A gunmetal grey colour scheme is easy on the eye, and branding is kept to a minimum with just a small Honor logo in the centre.

You’ve got to be paying attention to spot the Pad X9’s other stand-out feature. Extra speaker grilles cut into the bottom edge of the slate reveal it’s packing six drivers – four at the sides and two down-firing drivers underneath.

Screen & sound: size matters

The 11.5in display is undoubtedly the star of the show. In tablet terms it’s huge, with only super-expensive rivals from Apple and Samsung really going any bigger. It has a 2000×1200 resolution that’ll happily have Full HD videos looking their best, and looked plenty sharp to us at arm’s length; even small text was perfectly legible, and images were nicely crisp.

It’s an LCD panel, so you shouldn’t expect impeccable contrast or shadow detail on par with a pricier OLED tablet, and the harsh overhead lighting of Honor’s launch event meant reflections were a bit troublesome. Still, film trailers still had a great amount of colour pop. The firm claims 100% sRGB colour coverage, and there’s the usual calibration options within the Settings menus to set things up to your personal preference.

It’s great to see a 120Hz refresh rate make the cut, ensuring scrolling stays smooth and visible stuttering is all but eliminated. A 400 nit peak brightness isn’t too shabby for a sensibly-priced tablet either; it won’t blind you at night and will likely struggle outdoors in bright sunshine (though we couldn’t test the theory during our hands-on session), but should do just fine for kicking back on the sofa for a quick Netflix catch-up.

We didn’t get to properly blast the Pad X9’s sextet of speakers during our demo, so can’t judge what impact the directional down-firing drivers make on movies and music. Honor says it supports Hi Res Audio playback, and uses Histen 3D audio tech to trick your ears into hearing more than simple stereo, which could save you reaching for a pair of headphones.

Performance & software: double up

With a Snapdragon 685 CPU and 4GB of RAM at its heart, the Honor Pad X9 should be a welcome step up from the outgoing Pad X8. It’s not the most muscle you’ll find in a budget tablet, but is as potent as they come if screen size is your top priority.

The Pad X9 felt responsive enough in our limited testing, opening apps quickly enough and scrolling through websites smoothly. You definitely get what you pay for here, so should expect more demanding apps to chug more than they might on a costlier alternative, but there was none of the sluggishness we used to associate with budget Android devices.

That bodes well for multitasking, which Honor’s MagicOS 7.1 interface caters well for. A toolbar pops out from the right side of the screen with a swipe, letting you drag a second app into view for side-by-side use. Most of the baked-in apps we tried supported it, and there was no delay when swapping between each one, so web browsing and note-taking or image editing and instagram scrolling should be no problem. That said, we much prefer the smart taskbar seen on the Google Pixel Tablet and Samsung’s more recent slates, which is generally slicker to use.

With no time to log into a Google account and peruse the Play Store we weren’t able to try more demanding apps, or get an idea how the Pad X9 handles games. In other devices we’ve tested the Snapdragon 685 can handle 2D games just fine, but we’re expecting to have to dial detail settings right back on most 3D titles.

Even without powerhouse components, that big screen is still going to suck down power, so Honor has slapped a generous 7250mAh battery inside the Pad X9. The firm isn’t saying how many hours you should expect from a full charge, but given the outgoing Pad X8 could manage around ten to twelve hours with a smaller 5100mAh, we’re expecting similar results here.

Cameras: video call capable

The Honor Pad X9 has a pair of cameras – one front-facer for video calling, and one at the rear for photos. Both have modest 5MP sensors and f/2.2 apertures, with no fancy extras like optical image stabilisation. Honor doesn’t even say if they have autofocus, so they are basic at best.

We didn’t get the chance to take any test shots away with us, but even a quick look onscreen suggests still image quality will be distinctly average. That’s not unusual for a budget tablet: the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus also has a 5MP rear cam but makes do with a 2MP front webcam, and while Lenovo’s rival Tab P11 has a 13MP rear snapper and 8MP selfie cam, pixel count isn’t everything.

Honor does have pedigree in the phone world when it comes to image processing algorithms, so we’d need to compare it directly to its close rivals before declaring a winner. The front-facer should cope just fine with a Zoom call, at any rate – and you should really use your smartphone if you care at all about photo picture quality.

Honor Pad X9 initial verdict

Honor Pad X9 homescreen

If you’re after the biggest screen going for under £200, the Honor Pad X9 looks hard to beat. It might not be the most potent tablet around, but it’s packing plenty of on-board storage, and the expansive display is bright, colourful and plenty sharp enough to do justice to Full HD video.

Unlike the smaller, more affordable Fire HD alternatives, you aren’t tied in to Amazon’s take on Android, and there’s nothing with a Samsung or Apple badge on it that can compete on size for similar cash. The ageing Lenovo Tab P11 looks like the strongest competition; we’ll have to wait until we get one in for a full review to see whether the Honor can come out victorious.

Honor Pad X9 tech specs

Screen11.5in, 2000×1200 LCD w/ 120Hz
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 685
Memory4GB RAM
Cameras5MP, f/2.2 rear
5MP, f.2.2 front
Storage128GB on-board
Operating systemAndroid 13 w/ MagiOS 7.1
Dimensions267x167x6.9mm, 495g
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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