Honor 9X Hands-On: Sleek, Budget-Friendly Smartphone
November 11, 2019 Andrew Cheng

Affordable smartphones aren’t usually very sleek-looking devices, but the same doesn’t apply to the Honor 9X. Thanks to its use of a pop-up camera module, there’s no need for a cutout on the front of the phone to fit in the selfie camera. The result? A smartphone with a sleek, all-screen design.

If Honor Malaysia prices the Honor 9X right for our market, this may be the ideal device for those who want a handsome-looking smartphone that doesn’t break the bank – other aspects of the phone are reasonably good too.

Since design is one of the Honor 9X’s strongest suits, let’s start with that. As mentioned, the phone’s 6.59-inch 2340 x 1080 IPS FullView display is free of any notch or hole-punch cutout, giving it a sleek, modern aesthetic. That being said, the bezels surrounding the screen are a little bit too thick for my liking, especially right below the display.

Besides that, the quality of the 6.59-inch 1080p display itself is quite alright. While it’s not a fancy AMOLED panel, the IPS screen is good enough for a device at this price point. It can get reasonably bright, it has good colour reproduction, and the viewing angles are decent.

Build quality of the Honor 9X is surprisingly solid for an affordable device. Not only does the curved glass back feels great to the touch, it also improves the ergonomics of the phone. I can’t quite discern if the frame is made out of plastic or metal (I suspect it’s the former), but it certainly doesn’t feel cheap at all.

Unlike most smartphones in the market now, the Honor 9X is still sticking with a conventional capacitive fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. While it doesn’t sound quite as impressive on paper, I’m sure there are folks that still prefer this kind of sensor over an in-screen one. I certainly do, especially at this price point.

See, even though in-screen fingerprint sensors are becoming increasingly common in more affordable smartphones, they’re not particularly…fast or accurate. With that in mind, I’d gladly settle for the rear fingerprint sensor of the 9X. It is fast, accurate, and I can even slide down on it to pull down the notification shade.

Another hardware that’s worth a mention is the battery capacity of the Honor 9X. Featuring a generous 4,000mAh battery, I’m positive this phone can return at the very least a full day of use. After all, the 1080p display shouldn’t consume too much power.

Given Huawei’s ongoing debacle with the US government – which also affects Honor, given the relationship between the two brands – the Honor 9X still ships with Google’s full suite of apps and services. These include the all-important Google Play Store, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, and so on.

Part of the reason why the Honor 9X still has access to Google’s services is simple: it’s actually…an upgraded version of Huawei’s existing smartphone. It carries the model number STK-LX3, which is shared with the Huawei Y9 Prime 2019. In retrospect, this is very similar to the relationship between the Huawei Nova 5T and Honor 20 – these two are one and the same phone.

As for the software experience itself, it’s decent. The Honor 9X runs on EMUI 9.1 based on Android 9 Pie out of the box, and it feels lightweight and responsive.

And then we’ve got the triple camera system of the Honor 9X. Unlike the Y9 Prime 2019, the 9X swaps out the 16MP f/1.8 main sensor for a more sophisticated 48MP f/1.8 shooter, which uses pixel binning for improved camera performance. As a result, this phone outputs 12MP images with the primary sensor.

As for the other two camera sensors, they are unchanged. There’s still an 8MP f/2.4 ultra-wide angle shooter, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor to simulate bokeh effects. The pop-up motorised selfie camera, on the other hand, is a 16MP f/2.2 unit.

So how is the camera performance of the Honor 9X? Well, it’s…decent. The camera interface is relatively responsive, autofocus speeds aren’t too bad, and it can adjust for proper exposure pretty quickly. However, detail preservation isn’t very good; even more so for the 8MP ultra-wide angle camera.

Then again, I’ve only spent a brief time photographing with the Honor 9X. It’s only fair to reserve judgment until I’ve put the triple camera system of the phone through its paces in a full review. For what it’s worth, I reckon its camera performance is in line with other smartphones in this price range.

The Honor 9X is a handsome, affordable mid-range smartphone, though the pricing of the device for our market has not been revealed yet. Chances are, it should be priced below the RM1,000 mark. After all, the Huawei Y9 Prime 2019 only retailed at RM899 when it was launched here.

Local launch of the Honor 9X is said to be happening “very soon,” so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that the smartphone will be arriving in Malaysia sometime this month. Rest assured, we will keep a close eye on the availability of the Honor 9X here – it could be the mid-ranger to get if priced right.