Honor 9X review: Offers good looks, average performance

Honor 9X review: Offers good looks, average performanceCritic Rating3/5
User Rating3/5
Top Features

* Elegant design

* Full day battery life

* Competent camera

Huawei’s sub-brand Honor’s first budget handset of the year — Honor 9X — faces stiff competition. When on one hand we have players like Xiaomi and Realme that are in their own race with new handsets every quarter at super competitive prices, it could be possible that a buyer is looking for a more than competent handset under Rs 15,000 which doesn’t belong to either of the brands.

Here is where Honor as a brand may find itself and where Honor 9X may appear to be a potential choice. But does it have all that it needs to become your next handset? We find out in our review:

Design
If you like your smartphone to sport a gradient look then you will like the design of the Honor 9X. The handset has a geometric back panel design that reflects light in the shape of the letter X when exposed to light. Among all the gradient back designs we have in the recent past, this design definitely seems unique and at the same time is quite subtle. The Honor 9X comes in Sapphire Blue and Midnight Black colour options and we got the former as our review unit. The Midnight Black colour option is the more subtle of the two as it has a completely plain back panel.

This back houses a triple camera setup on the top left corner that only slightly protrudes. There is an LED flashlight at the bottom of the camera setup. In the centre, you get a fingerprint sensor on the top and the Honor branding at the bottom. In our experience, we felt the back to be highly prone to fingerprints all over and therefore you feel the need to clean it up sooner than that you’d like.


Moving on to the front, the Honor 9X — unlike the most other handsets in this price range — doesn’t come with a waterdrop notch and opts for a pop-up selfie camera setup.

On the bottom edge of the Honor 9X, you get a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm audio jack and the speaker grille. The right edge of the device houses the power button and the volume control keys. At the to id where the SIM card tray is placed, which offers dual SIM support and a microSD card.

Display

The Honor 9X offers a 6.59-inch full HD display with 2340x1080p resolution and 391ppi. While there is nothing glaringly wrong with the viewing experience of the Honor 9X, we do have other handsets choosing AMOLED display panels in this price range.

As far as the viewing experience goes, the Honor 9X is able to offer punchy colours at the peak brightness levels, however, we do wish that the sunlight legibility was better.




As mentioned, Honor 9X offers a pop-up selfie camera design. Most of the apps come with full-screen support making it one of the rare handsets in the sub-Rs 15,000 budget to offer full-screen support.

Under the display settings, you get the usual customisations such as font, font size, display size, etc. You also get to choose the colour temperature of the display, Blue light filter option among other things.

Performance
The Honor 9X comes powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 710F SoC, which we last saw on Honor 20i that was launched last year. While we didn’t face any issues with the processor, we do wish Honor had gone for a more recent processor for the longevity of the handset.

Buyers get up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. For those who may feel that they need more storage, they can install microSD cards up to 512GB.

As we mentioned above, we had no complaints in the day-to-day functioning of the handset as it managed to deliver an overall more than average performance. The handset handled multi-tasking of random apps smoothly. Both the call quality and audio quality are also satisfactory. As part of security features, the Honor 9X only offers fingerprint recognition and were quite surprised to see that it does not offer face unlock support.

In terms of software, the Honor 9X runs EMUI 9.1.0 based on Android 9.0 Pie operating system out-of-the-box, however it has started receiving the latest Android 10 update. Like all other custom UIs, EMUI too offers too many customisations. As part of the custom UI, users get to change themes, icons, set motions and gestures and more. You also get a bunch of Huawei apps such as HiCare, Honor app store, Tips app and more.


The Honor 9X handset also comes preinstalled with third-party apps such as Helo, Bookings.com, Opera among others that can be uninstalled. You also get Digital Balance, which is basically what Google calls the Digital Wellbeing in Android Pie. You get to set time limits for apps, check usage hours and select the bedtime mode as well that will turn your screen grey.

Since the handset runs on Android 9.0 Pie, you get a host of Google-powered apps — Play Store, Google Chrome, Maps and others — running on the Honor 9X. However, this could be one of the last ones to support Google apps as Honor’s parent company Huawei has already started working on its own Huawei Mobile Services.

Camera

One of the main talking points of the Honor 9X is its camera specifications. The smartphone offers a 48-megapixel sensor and an f/1.8 aperture. This camera — by default — captures images in 12-megapixel resolution and if you do want to click and image in the 48MP resolution you have to manually select the 48-megapixel mode from the aspect ratio option. Next, there is an 8-megapixel super-wide-angle camera with an f/2.4 aperture and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.




The camera app on the Honor 9X is very similar to the ones we have seen on other Honor smartphones. There is an AI mode that is said to help in making the colours brighter by adjusting the camera settings on the basis of the subject. Under the Portrait mode, you get to blur the background as per your liking.


When it comes to the image quality of the pictures captured by the Honor 9X, the primary camera does a decent job for both daylight and standard in-house lighting in the default 12MP. When opting for the images in the 48MP mode, you get slightly over sharp images with punchy colours.

When it comes to the super wide-angle camera, it does let down a bit when it comes to colour reproduction especially when compared to the primary sensor. Switching between the primary sensor and the ultra-wide-angle sensor is quite simple with a toggle button present on the home screen. When it comes to the low-light shots, the handset struggles to capture detail, even though the Night Mode does make the image quality slightly better.




Coming to the front camera, you get a 16-megapixel pop-up selfie camera that is a little too slow to be called a pop-up. We found that the images turn out to be a little beautified even when the AI filter was set to zero, which some users will really love. When using the front camera to click portrait shots, we found that even though the images did not lack detail, they didn’t get an appropriate difference in the background and the foreground.





Battery

The Honor 9X comes backed by a 4000mAh battery. In our day-to-day activities, the Honor 9X lasted us almost a day when used for routine tasks such as calling, internet browsing as well as GPS tracking, watching online videos and more.

The device, however, does lack the support for fast charging and naturally doesn’t pack a fast charger inside the box. This is one of the major drawbacks of the device as most other handsets at this price range come at least fast charge support even if they don’t necessarily pack a fast charger.

Verdict
The Honor 9X is certainly among the good-looking devices launched recently. It also offers a pleasant viewing experience and to offers reasonable performance in day-to-day use. The handset comes at an MRP of Rs 15,999, however, you may find it cheaper online.

Having said this, where the Honor 9X falls short is the processor. The handset is powered by Huawei’s in-house Kirin 710F processor, which puts this handset a little behind the competition. The lack of fast charge support can be termed another pain point in today’s time. Devices like
Realme 6 (starting at Rs 12,999) and
Poco X2 (priced at Rs 14,999 onwards) have much more to offer on specs front.