Review, Smartphone

Honor 9X Quick Review: Decidedly Average

Honor’s mid-range smartphones are really quite popular among consumers, thanks to their affordable pricing and sleek designs. The new Honor 9X, for the most part, fulfill these two criteria. In a vacuum, it’s a reasonably good mid-ranger.

But competition in the mid-range segment is a lot tougher now. Next to these devices, the Honor 9X doesn’t stand out quite as much. Is it a good smartphone? Yes, but you can also do better at this price point.

What It Is

Display6.59-inch FHD+ IPS (2340 x 1080)
ChipsetKirin 710F 2.2GHz octa-core
Storage128GB, expandable
Camera (rear)48MP f/1.8 (primary)
8MP f/2.4 (ultra-wide angle)
2MP f/2.4 (depth)
Camera (front)16MP f/2.2

Dimensions163.5 x 77.3 x 8.8 mm

OSEMUI 9.1 based on Android 9 Pie
Bluetooth 4.2
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz)
USB Type-C
3.5mm headphone jack

Looking at this list of hardware, the Honor 9X sits comfortably in the mid-range segment. The Kirin 710F chipset is reasonably quick, the 6.59-inch 1080p display is big and vibrant, and the 4,000mAh battery can return very good battery life.

In fact, that is one of the best reasons to get the Honor 9X: it’s a really long-lasting smartphone. Unfortunately, other aspects of the phone leave much to be desired, especially the camera performance.

The Good Stuff

But let’s talk about what I do like about the Honor 9X first, starting with battery life. On average, I get about seven to eight hours of screen on time with the phone’s 4,000mAh cell, which is very impressive. Not many smartphones with a similar battery capacity can deliver this kind of battery life.

Unfortunately, the charging rate isn’t quite as good. Within 30 minutes of charging, the phone only got up to 30% from empty.

Nonetheless, I do like the design of the Honor 9X. The all-screen design free of any notch or hole-punch cutout lends to a very modern-looking smartphone, and the curved back panel is ergonomically-friendly. That being said, I do wish the bottom bezel was smaller.

What about the display quality? It’s actually quite good. The 6.59-inch 1080p IPS display is pleasant to look at, with vibrant colours and good brightness level. Sure, the display does get darker when viewed at an angle, but the same can be said of most smartphones’ screens in this price range. Well, unless they use OLED panels.

Performance of the Honor 9X is relatively good too. While the Kirin 710F isn’t an awfully powerful chipset, it can provide a pleasant user experience. It doesn’t take too long to switch between different apps, there’s no noticeable stuttering, and its gaming performance is perfectly acceptable too.

Of course, there are frame rate drops in certain games like PUBG Mobile – especially when I’m moving the camera quickly – but tweaking the graphics settings do make the game run better. Basically, don’t expect amazing performance out of the Kirin 710F, and you won’t be disappointed.

The Bad Stuff

I’ll start with my biggest complaint about the Honor 9X: the triple camera system. It’s made up of a 48MP f/1.8 main shooter, an 8MP f/2.4 ultra-wide angle sensor, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth camera. While it performs admirably in daytime, the camera performance takes a dive in low light conditions.

This is very evident with the 8MP wide angle shooter. Detail preservation is bad (most shots look smudged), noise level is high, and forget about accurate colour reproduction. Things do improve with the primary 48MP sensor, but not exactly by a huge margin. Take a look at the sample shots below.

Besides that, there’s also a noticeable whirring sound whenever the Honor 9X’s front camera activates, so you can forget about taking selfie shots discretely. If there’s any consolation, at least the camera mechanism pops up pretty quickly.

My last gripe with the Honor 9X is its value proposition. Retailing at RM999, it’s not the most affordable mid-range smartphone, and you can get better bang for your buck with other devices at the same price point. To put things into context, let’s look at another smartphone in this price range, the Redmi Note 8 Pro.

Although the 128GB variant of the Note 8 Pro with 6GB of RAM officially retails at RM1,199 – that’s the same storage and RAM capacities as the Honor 9X – you can get it for as low as RM1,070 now. That’s only RM71 more for the Redmi phone, and you’re getting so much more for your money.

For one, the Redmi Note 8 Pro has a much faster MediaTek Helio G90T chipset. Now, don’t be quick to judge the G90T processor; it’s said to be up to 26% faster than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730 SoC. In comparison, the Kirin 710F doesn’t even belong in the same league as either one of these two chips.

And then there’s the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s more sophisticated quad camera configuration. Headlined by a 64MP main shooter, this phone also has an 8MP ultra-wide angle camera, a 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. In short, you can expect better camera performance from the Note 8 Pro.

Given that you get all of these upgrades for only RM71 more, the Honor 9X pales in comparison when it comes to value for money. Granted, the 9X is the sleeker-looking device with its all-screen design, but I’d happily live with the Redmi Note 8 Pro’s notched display for all of the extra upgrades.

Is It Worth It?

For RM999, the Honor 9X is not an easy phone to recommend. That’s not an exorbitant asking price, but the fact that other smartphones in this price range offers so much more for the money…the 9X doesn’t seem all that attractive.

Is the Honor 9X a bad smartphone? Not at all; it’s just eclipsed by other superior smartphones. It may offer long battery life and a sleek design, but its value proposition isn’t as good as other mid-rangers.

And value for money is more often than not the deciding factor in this highly competitive segment.

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