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Reviews

HONOR X9 5G Review: Great smartphone, but it fails to impress

By Roland Udvarlaki May 14, 2022, 4:00 am
HONOR X9 5G back Source: Pocketnow

The HONOR X9 5G is nearly identical to the HONOR Magic 4 Lite and HONOR X30 devices, and they all feature almost identical specifications. They all have the same 6.81-inch IPS LCD 120Hz display, Snapdragon 695 5G, and 8GB memory with 128GB storage configurations. They all feature the same camera setup, the same battery capacity, and even the same charging speeds.

I still can’t quite get my head around why this is necessary, but marketing probably knows best, but this is at the cost of confusing their customers and even us, reviewers. Releasing the same device with slight modifications doesn’t add up, especially since the only difference between the three devices are the CPU speeds, and screen-to-body ratios.

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HONOR is only making it even more confusing to understand its devices. If an average user goes on the internet to find the information about one of these devices, there will likely be another paragraph explaining that they’re all basically the same, but slightly different, adding to the confusion. With that small rant out of the way, this review is about the HONOR X9 5G smartphone.

HONOR X9 5G

HONOR X9 5G

It fails to impress

The HONOR X9 5G has a beautiful design, 5G, and respectable specifications for the price. It packs an excellent two-day battery, and it also comes with a super-fast 66W fast charger. However, that's just about where all the good things end as it fails to impress with the display, camera, and speaker quality.

Rating: 3/5

Pros

  • 6.8-inch high refresh rate 120Hz display
  • Thin, light, and great build quality
  • Excellent two-day battery life
  • 66W fast charging
  • Great performance

Cons

  • LCD display is not color accurate and bright enough
  • Camera is unimpressive
  • Disappointing speaker performance
  • Still ships with Android 11
CONTENTS CLOSE

HONOR X9 Price & Availability

HONOR X9 5G back Source: Pocketnow

The HONOR X9 5G retails for around €240, or 1,099 RM. It’s also available in other regions, but it’s often sold as the HONOR Magic 4 Lite. The HONOR X9 5G is currently available in two regions.

It’s available in the following Asia Pacific countries:

  • Malaysia

Europe:

  • Bulgaria
  • Czech
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Spain

What's in the box

HONOR X9 5G box contents Source: Pocketnow

The HONOR X9 5G comes with standard packaging. The front of the box houses a picture of the device itself, although the color is different from the physical device – this may be because it’s a review unit. Aside from that, the rest of the box contents are fairly minimal and straightforward, like most other smartphones.

Opening the box reveals the phone and another package that contains the included transparent silicone phone case. Given that the device costs less than €300, it’s certainly great to see an accessory included by default, especially in a world where chargers are no longer bundled.

Speaking of the charger, digging deeper in the box, we find a USB-C to USB-A cable and a 66W fast charger. HONOR not only includes a transparent case but a fast wall adapter with a device that costs a third of thousand-dollar flagship devices. Color me impressed and satisfied.

HONOR X9: Design

  • Looks premium
  • No camera wobble
  • Slim and lightweight

The HONOR X9 5G is reminiscent of the HONOR Magic 4 series and the HUAWEI Mate 40 lineup due to its rear circular camera setup. The device looks premium, and I’m happy to tell you that the device doesn’t wobble on a table with the large camera island on the back.

It’s a large device by all means, but I found it easy to manage and reach the sides without any significant problem, even while I was using the included transparent phone case. Speaking of the case, you’ll likely want to use it as I managed to scratch the slippery back panel in the first few days of using the phone. HONOR shipped us the Midnight Black variant, which is prone to fingerprints, so if you’re like me, and your OCD gets easily triggered, I’d strongly recommend using the provided case. Once I installed the case, I never looked back, and it never wanted to slip out of my hands again.

The button placement was a little inconvenient at first, especially the fingerprint sensor. The side-mounted sensor didn’t require the power button to be pressed, which caused the sensor to scan even while I put my hands in my pocket. This often locked up the phone, forcing me to enter my pin. The volume rocker is placed just above the fingerprint sensor, and it took more than a week to get used to it. I still find it too high to easily and comfortably reach it while using the phone.

HONOR X9: Specifications

The HONOR X9 5G comes with the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 chipset. Our review unit packs 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The device supports 5G, and the chip is built on the 6nm process, making it more efficient than other chips in the same category.

The specifications are nothing to brag about, but it demonstrates that you can get really good hardware at very affordable prices that seemingly packs everything an average user would ask for and need.

CategoryHONOR X9 5G
Operating SystemMagic UI 4.2, based on Android 11
Display6.8", 2,388 x 1,080 (385 ppi), 120Hz refresh rate, LCD
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 695 (6nm)
Octa-core 2xA78 2.2GHz, 6xA55 1.8GHz
Adreno 619
Memory6/8GB
Storage128/256GB
Expandable StorageNo
Rear Primary Camera48MP, ƒ/1.8
Rear Macro Camera2MP, ƒ/2.4
Rear Portrait Camera2MP, ƒ/2.4
Front Camera 116MP, ƒ/2.45
SecuritySide-mounted fingerprint sensor
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
PortsUSB-C 2.0
Battery4,800 mAh, 66W fast wired charging
Water ResistanceN/A
MaterialsPlastic
Dimensions6.54 x 2.98 x 0.32 inches (166.1 x 75.8 x 8.1 mm)
Weight6.67 oz (189 g)
ColorsTitanium Silver, Midnight Black, Ocean Blue
Release Date29 March 2022
Price€240 (~$250)

HONOR X9: Display

HONOR X9 5G front Source: Pocketnow
  • 6.8-inch display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Colors aren’t accurate
  • Display could be brighter in direct sunlight

When it comes to the resolution and refresh rate, the display was spot on and enjoyable to use throughout the day. The 120Hz refresh rate was nice to see at this price point, and although I would’ve preferred an AMOLED panel, the IPS LCD display was acceptable. Given the price, I lowered my expectations, but videos on YouTube and movies on Disney were still more than enjoyable. It’s worth noting that a lot of budget devices in this price category now come with AMOLED panels, and that would’ve been welcome here.

However, my main concern wasn’t the display quality and the deep blacks, but the colors. The display caused a little bit of headache due to its inaccurate colors. The Normal mode felt pleasant most of the time, but turned the whites into a pink-ish tone color, that felt unusable when watching videos on YouTube or playing games. Changing the color temperature in settings didn’t ease my pain, and I switched to the Vivid mode for the rest of the review period, which was oversaturated and too much to my liking.

The brightness was also not the brightest, and I found it challenging to use it in direct sunlight on a lovely sunny day. I often had to find some shades to hide from the sun just to be able to look at the contents on the screen. Even when I used this method, the contents would often be hard to see. Reading content also appeared to be a difficult task in direct sunlight, but it gets plenty dark in low-light conditions.

HONOR X9: Cameras

HONOR X9 5G back and camera Source: Pocketnow
  • Unimpressive camera quality
  • Selfie camera is great in well-lit environments
  • Low-light photography should be avoided

HUAWEI is regarded as one of the best manufacturers with some of the best camera smartphones, so it’s fair to assume that I expected the HONOR X9’s camera to be somewhat impressive. After all, HONOR hasn’t been on the solo mission for that long.

The images during the daytime were unimpressive, and the colors were washed out. The pictures have plenty of detail, but they lack dynamic range, and the edges are too soft. I also noticed some weird vignette effects on some images, even though they were shot on a bright, sunny day.

I tried enabling the AI toggle that lives on the top of the camera layout, but it did not affect how the image looks. The feature showed the scenes and objects it could detect, but it didn’t improve, nor did it worsen the image quality based on the environment.

The selfie images turned out to be more than usable, but this requires you to be in well-lit environments; otherwise, it will result in poor photos. The image looks a bit too soft to my liking, but some tweaking can make this social media ready in just a few minutes.

The macro shots were just as unimpressive as the primary camera. It lacks detail due to the 2MP sensor; the colors are washed out, the highlights are blown out, the contrast is low, and there’s also a lot of noise.

The low-light shots ended up blurry and washed out. There is a lot of noise in dim environments. The story changes once you enable the dedicated night mode. The feature improves the camera performance by a lot, and it results in decent nighttime images with plenty of detail and sharpness.

HONOR X9: Camera samples

Daytime

Selfie

Portrait & Macro

HONOR X9: Software

  • Outdated software
  • Excellent performance while multitasking and gaming

The HONOR X9 is running Magic UI 4.2, based on Android 11. It’s May when publishing this review, and the phone comes with February 1 security patch, which is at least three months outdated. It’s worrying to see a phone launch with Android 11 in 2022, especially since Android 13 is expected to be officially announced sometime in August or September.Android version and support aside, the phone is lightning fast and smooth. I’ve only ever experienced throttling and sluggish behavior when I attempted to update multiple apps on the Google Play Store. It doesn’t handle downloading multiple items well, but once you give it a few minutes to do its thing, it’ll come back and be snappy again.

I used Chrome to browse the web, a few social media apps, and even did some light gaming, and I never once had any interruption by choppy behavior. The device's gaming and multitasking performance was excellent, and I never once experienced any delay or unresponsiveness. The 120Hz refresh rate dramatically improved the responsiveness, especially when browsing the web, or endlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram.

I drastically lowered my expectations at the beginning of this review, given that it costs a fraction of my flagship devices that I use daily, but it managed to surprise me. The animations were smooth, and I’m seriously impressed with how well it managed to perform and meet my forever-increasing demands. I’m not the most demanding phone user in the world, but I like to use multiple apps simultaneously and pass the time with some graphics-intensive games, and this HONOR X9 5G gets the job done.

Magic UI 4.2 has some cartoon-ish looks, but it doesn’t feel too bad, and it doesn’t try to push its design language on you, unlike some other OEMs. The rest of the user interface feels and works like stock Android.

I also want to point out that while HONOR is excellent at optimizing its devices, it’s way too aggressive at turning off unnecessary applications that attempt to run in the background. The phone barely drained at night, and it has an excellent standby time, but I sometimes received notifications and emails a few minutes later than on my other devices. On more than one occasion, I wished I could turn this feature off, but there are no options to customize the sensitivity of the power-saving modes.

Haptics

Phones at this price point usually don’t have a great haptics engine, and this is also the case for the HONOR X9 5G. It’s good enough to provide feedback while navigating the device, or typing on the on-screen keyboard, but it can easily go unnoticed when receiving a call.

Speakers

There’s a single bottom-firing speaker on the device. There aren’t many devices at this price tag with a stereo speaker setup, so I won’t complain too much about the single loudspeaker. On the other hand, the speaker quality lacks bass, the highs aren’t enjoyable, and it’s not loud enough. The speakers are enough to hear media, but I recommend using headphones and earbuds to play games, watch movies, and listen to music.

HONOR X9: Battery life

HONOR X9 5G charging Source: Pocketnow
  • You can easily go for two days on a single charge
  • 66W fast charging is convenient and fast
  • Going from 0-80% takes only 30 minutes

The HONOR X9 5G’s 4,800 mAh battery is fairly large for its size, and it proved to be large enough to provide a comfortable two days’ worth of battery life, that is, if you use it for social media and some light multi-tasking. You can certainly kill it in a single day if you increase the brightness to 80% or more, play some games, and use it more than a regular user to browse the web, keep up with friends, and talk to your colleagues.

The battery life, in my case, lasted a good day, and I never managed to drain it below 25%. Even when I did manage to go below that level, I was able to quickly juice it back up using the included 66W fast charger. HONOR promises that a quick 15-minute charge can provide up to 50% of charge, and I found that it can go from flat to about 80% in just 30 minutes. A full charge takes about an hour to prevent fast battery degradation. The X9 changed my habit of charging only in the morning.

I wish the X9 had wireless charging, even if it was a measly 5W basic one. It would’ve made it more convenient to keep it charged during working hours and while traveling in the car, but given the excellent battery life and price tag, it’s something that I can live without.

HONOR X9: Should I buy it?

HONOR X9 5G back Source: Pocketnow

Buy it if…

  • You want a slim, and lightweight device with a large 6.81-inch display with 120Hz
  • Long battery life and fast charging are what you’re looking for
  • Performance and gaming are important, and you want to multitask

Don't buy it if…

  • You want to take a lot of photos/videos, and the ultrawide sensor is important to you
  • A bright and color-accurate display is a priority
  • You want to consume a lot of media, as the loudspeaker quality is disappointing

The bottom line is this. If you’re looking for a budget smartphone between $250 and $350, the HONOR X9 5G nails the fundamentals with a large and high refresh rate display, excellent overall performance, and a long battery life with fast charging. However, the disappointing camera quality, lackluster speaker, and old software make us question whether this is worth choosing over other devices.

The Samsung Galaxy A53 costs $350, and although it doesn’t support 66W fast charging, it has a Super AMOLED display, great camera performance, and a similarly excellent battery life. Samsung has also been one of the best OEMs in the past few years when it gets to software updates and support, and it may be a better option.

Now, should you spend $100 more for the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G? It depends on your requirements, but if you don’t plan to take many photos, and listening to music isn’t a priority, the HONOR X9 5G will serve you well. It has plenty of power for all of your gaming and multitasking needs, and it will easily last you a full day of charge, or two days, depending on how heavily you use it.

HONOR X9 5G

HONOR X9 5G

It fails to impress

The HONOR X9 5G has a beautiful design, 5G, and respectable specifications for the price. It packs an excellent two-day battery, and it also comes with a super-fast 66W fast charger. However, that's just about where all the good things end as it fails to impress with the display, camera, and speaker quality.

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