review

Honor 9X Review: Betting on the Display

All eggs in the display basket

Honor is trying to make a comeback into the segment it was once popular in — the ever-so-crowded mid-range smartphone market in India. And the device it has chosen to do so is the Honor 9X. While the phone was launched in China about six months back, it’s a new entrant in India competing against brands like Xiaomi and Realme who have been dominating this segment by launching smartphone after smartphone every few months. However, the Honor 9X does come with its own set of USPs like the all-screen front with no notch or cutouts and a pop-up selfie camera. But, is the Honor 9X worth purchasing based on just these two factors or is there more to the overall package? Let’s find out.

Unique Design

While the Honor 9X on first look would resemble any other modern-day mid-range smartphone with its glossy back and blue color scheme, you will see the finer details under direct lighting. The back from multiple patterns of “X” when the light gets reflected which gives it a cool look rather than having a plain and simple gradient finish. The sides also get the same glossy blue treatment. Given that the back is glossy, it does attract a lot of fingerprints and smudges.

The back, while looking like glass, is actually polycarbonate but still feels good in the hand, especially due to the curved sides which help you grip the phone better. However, you just cannot use the Honor 9X one-handed due to its large size. The phone also feels slightly top-heavy. The fingerprint scanner is placed where your finger naturally rests which is good. The positioning of buttons and ports is also ideal – The power and volume buttons are to the right, and the USB-C port for charging along with the headphone jack is located at the bottom.

The X Factor – That Display

The large form factor of the phone can be attributed to the huge 6.6-inch Full HD+ IPS bezel-less display. There’s no notch, no punched hole, no distractions. The front-facing camera has been shifted up top into a pop-up mechanism which makes way for an immersive display. The big size means you can really enjoy watching content on the device. Given that it is an IPS panel, the colors are not as vibrant and blacks aren’t as deep as an AMOLED display, but it’s totally acceptable at this price range. The Honor 9X, at the time of writing, is the most affordable phone with a pop-up camera. If you want to flaunt the all-screen front, the 9X will surely not disappoint you.

Adequate Performance

One area where the Honor 9X falls slightly behind in terms of the competition is performance. This is where the fact that the Honor 9X being a 6-month-old phone hurts it the most. The Kirin 710F powering the Honor 9X seems underpowered compared to phones running chipsets like the Snapdragon 710 or 675, or even the MediaTek Helio G90T.

While you will not face any sort of issues in day-to-day activities like browsing the web, using social media, watching or streaming videos or movies, etc., this chipset will struggle to handle high-end games or other resource-intensive tasks. For example, 9X can’t play PUBG at the smoothest setting. PUBG does run fine on the “Smooth + High” settings but that’s the maximum graphics you can go to, which clocks 30fps.

There are small frame-drops here and there, but the game is certainly playable. Not to forget, you won’t face any issues playing lighter games that are not so demanding. If you are a serious PUBG player, then the Honor 9X is not for you. For most other tasks, you will not face any issues. Honor should have gone with a more powerful chipset or should have launched the Pro variant with the Kirin 810 SoC.

The phone runs on EMUI 9 based on the top of Android 9. Honor says the 9X will continue to receive software updates and is unaffected by the entire Huawei-Android issue. We just wished Honor had launched the 9X with Android 10 out of the box which would give us some certainty.

Impressive Cameras

While the performance of the Honor 9X isn’t the best, it hits right back with its cameras. The array of three cameras on the rear includes the primary 48MP shooter, an 8MP wide-angle lens and an accompanying depth sensor. While most phones perform very similar in broad daylight and under good lighting conditions, the real test is when the sun sets and that’s where the Honor 9X performed better than our expectations. The in-built night mode does a good job in conserving a decent amount of details and while the colors and saturation are boosted, that’s the kind of look we personally prefer. There’s also a hint of over-sharpening that you may not like.

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The wide-angle lens is average and has some distortion on the edges. You lose out on a lot of details as expected. Also, you cannot use the night mode for the wide-angle lens and the output without night mode isn’t very usable.

The 16MP pop-up camera for selfies does not do too well with regards to skin tones. Images look unnatural with a hint of over-sharpening here too which tries to make up for the lack of details. It’s good for the occasional selfie in good lighting, but if you are a selfie enthusiast, this isn’t the best option for you.

All-day Battery

The Honor 9X has a 4000mAh battery which is quite the norm these days in mid-range smartphones. The phone can get you through an entire day’s usage without any problem despite the huge display. However, if you are not someone who charges your phone overnight and relies on quick bursts of charging throughout the day, you will be disappointed to know that the Honor 9X does not have support for any sort of fast charging and comes with a 10W charger in the box, which takes upwards of 2.5 hours to charge the phone completely. The battery can get you till the end of the day though, with about 5 hours of screen-on time, so you can plug it in overnight and you are good to go.

Verdict

So, the most important question, is should you buy the Honor 9X? The simple answer is that if you are not a heavy gamer and consume a lot of content in the form of YouTube videos, streaming TV shows, movies and want a good viewing experience, the Honor 9X will suffice for your needs. Not to forget, the rear camera performs well, and the battery gets you through a full day. However, if performance is highest on your priority list and you play a lot of games, the Honor 9X isn’t the best option for you. For Rs. 13,999, you are getting the flaunt factor of the all-screen front and the pop-up camera, and if that interests you, the Honor 9X is a good buy.

Buy Honor 9X on Flipkart

Pros
  • Bezel-less, notch-less display
  • Good rear camera
  • Very good battery life
Cons
  • Middling performance
  • Ordinary design
  • Slightly overpriced
Review Overview
Build & design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

Honor is making a comeback of sorts in the highly competitive Indian mid-range smartphone market with the Honor 9X which was launched in China almost 6 months back. It comes with its own set of USPs like the all-screen front with no notch or cutouts and a pop-up selfie camera. But, is the Honor 9X worth purchasing based on just these two factors or is there more to the overall package? Let’s find out.

3.6