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Honor 9X review

Pros

  • Very low price
  • Excellent camera for the price
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Can feel unwieldy
  • No face recognition
  • Auto-brightness often too dim

Despite the uncertainty stemming from the Huawei Android ban, Honor has added a new device to its line-up of affordable, and always very colourful, smartphones.

Aimed at a younger audience and set to retail at around £250, the Honor 9X sports another version of the 3D multilayered glass back, a large 6.6” screen and a pop-up selfie camera.


First impression and design

Honor 9X box Here is the Honor 9X out of the box. The kaleidoscopic effect of the glass back is built so that it forms a shifting “X” shape as the light hits it.

Honor 9X box content Not surprising for a budget phone, accessories are the bare minimum. No earphones included but you get a simple transparent case.

The Honor 9X can be pretty dazzling but don’t let this put you off. The effect is actually quite understated most of the time and you barely notice it unless you’re in direct sunlight.

The back of the device curves slightly towards the rounded frame. It’s not a dainty device but still pleasant to hold.

Honor 9X front Thanks to the retractable selfie cam, the screen is clean of notches or camera holes.

Unsurprisingly for a budget device, the screen uses LCD technology rather than AMOLED. The IPS-LCD displays used in most of Honor phones deliver great colours, sharp images and deep blacks. The downside is that they require a thicker frame but most importantly, they are usually dimmer than the equivalent AMOLED used in more expensive phones. Testing the Honor 9X under some rare autumn sunshine has shown that this is less of an issue than it used to be, but when you’re using your phone outdoors you may find yourself reaching for the brightness slider.

The pop-up selfie camera, first seen on the excellent OnePlus 7 Pro, is becoming increasingly popular on new smartphones. It means the screen can be notch free, which is always a plus. And the pop-up mechanism adds a touch of novelty.

At the bottom you’ll find a USB-C, speaker grill and an audio jack. The speaker on the right is easy to obstruct with your finger, worth remembering next time you wonder why your phone has gone so quiet while you’re playing a game. The Honor 9X audio output doesn't use the earpiece at the top for a stereo effect. Phone calls on speaker and audio playing will only use the loudspeaker at the bottom. Quality is generally poor even for background music.

Honor 9X fingerprint To avoid taking up valuable screen space, Honor has moved the fingerprint reader to the back of the 9X. Fingerprint unlocking works well but there’s no face recognition and the only other unlocking option is a 6-digit pin.

Overall, the Honor 9X is another great looking phone that will wow you at first glance. A more detailed examination, however, reveals the mid-range nature of the device. The plastic frame, slightly awkward ergonomics and thick screen bezels mean this is not quite a premium device.

Build Reinforced glass and plastic frame
Weight 206g
Dimensions 163 x 77 x 8.8 mm
Screen size 6.6 inches
Water-resistant Not water resistant

Camera

Honor 9X camera lenses Honor was quick to point out how the camera specs on this reasonably-priced phone match the ones seen on Huawei devices that retail for almost three times the price. A 48MP main camera, wide angle lens and a dedicated depth sensor for beautiful portraits give, on paper, an impressive camera set up.

What we have in the Honor 9X is a good main camera with solid performance and the same AI-colour exposure software seen on more expensive Huawei models. The wide-angle option, is easily available from the camera interface but images sometimes come out with distortion around the edges. Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to 48MP resolution images. While it delivers pictures that can be enlarged more if required, it offers little advantages over the standard 12MP format. What’s more, you will lose the AI scene detection and all the software trickery that makes photos shot with modern phones look a lot better than they actually are.

It’s no surprise then that the 48MP option is off by default and has to be triggered manually. Use it in cases where the level of detail needs to be more resistant to magnification, but you may end up with overly dark or blurred shot if the light conditions are poor.

Honor 9X selfie camera front The motorised pop-up selfie camera slides up gently when summoned via the camera interface. Slowly but surely it slides up with a gentle whirr and takes good selfies. Things can get a bit meh in dimmer conditions, where the 16MP front shooter trades detail for improved brightness.

Honor 9X selfie camera back The selfie camera will retract automatically if the phone is accidentally dropped.

Rear Camera 12MP/48MP, f/1.8 with Depth sensor
Selfie Camera 16MP, f/2.2
Video Resolution 1080p@30fps
Optical Image Stabilisation No

Performance and battery life

What it lacks in build quality and camera prowess, Honor usually makes up with performance. The Honor 9X packs one of the fastest processors for phones in this price range as well as 4GB of RAM so rest assured you’ll get smooth performance and be able to run all the latest games without a hitch.

Storage space is a more than adequate 128GB and if you need more, there is an SD-card slot that can bump you up an extra 512GB.

The Honor 9X packs a 4,000mAh battery that easily delivers a full days worth of use, just go easy with the screen brightness.

Honor 9X optimization Honor and Huawei phones for that matter, have some of the best optimisation tools out there. Honor 9X battery Like all Huawei and Honor devices the EMUI Android interface comes with an excellent battery management tool. Not only do you have the usual power-saving mode but it also adds “Ultra Power Saving mode” which turns the 9X into a call-and-messages only phone by locking all the apps.

Honor 9x movie trailer Not the best device for watching movies but still a bargain for the size and resolution of the display. Very impressed by the viewing angle too.

Honor 9x game playing We had no problems playing a bunch of casual games with the Honor 9X. The only negative is the overly rounded screen corners that can often crop out some of the game interface.

RAM 4GB
Storage 128GB
Battery capacity 4,000 mAh
OS and Version Android 9 (Pie)

Value and verdict

The Honor 9X doesn’t break new ground in the budget smartphone market. It looks great, it has a powerful platform and a very good camera for the price. The screen is sharp and unhindered by notches offering a great experience for casual gaming. If it wasn’t for the overly rounded corners of the display, this could easily be one of the best LCD screens at this price.

Honor 9X screen What you get with the Honor 9X is plenty of phone for the money. A powerful platform, large screen and excellent battery power management are the redeeming qualities of this device.

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