A well-documented ban on the Huawei debacle in mid-2019 called into question the future of Huawei, but a relatively forgotten victim of Google’s ban on using its apps was Honor, a young secondary brand of the Chinese company.
Future phones of this brand, including its main range, as well as the Honor V and Honor X series, will no longer have Google applications.
The last Honor phone to be confirmed to have Google Mobile Services (GMS) is the Honor 9X, from the affordable X phone offering, a phone that handled the Honor 8X.
The name of the game here is affordable, with a modest range of cameras (well, at least compared to something like the Honor 20), and a mid-range chipset and screen.
Although the designers of the Honor 9X probably don’t know it, the phone may be the latest Honor (outside of China, where Google apps aren’t used anyway). Is this a decent final offer and a reason to board a Huawei ship before it crashes, or should you decline this last chance?
Prices and availability
In the UK and many parts of Europe, you can now buy the Honor 9X for $249.99 (around $320, AU $ 470). It’s a reasonable price for an economical phone, although it doesn’t qualify for our list of the best cheap phones now because the price is lower.
The Honor 8X could be purchased in the UK for $229.99 (around $ 310, AU $ 435), although it isn’t available in many other regions. The Honor 9X is a little more expensive, especially since the 8X has seen a price drop during its existence.
Design and display
For an affordable smartphone, the Honor 9X has a large screen. It’s a 6.6-inch screen, which is a bit large for a smartphone, so if you don’t have big hands, it can be not easy to use the device properly.
The screen resolution is 1080 x 2340, which makes it a fairly crisp display, but the fact that it is an LCD screen that may discourage some people.
LCD screens are generally considered to be of poorer quality than more popular OLED screens because they have relatively poor black and flat color reproduction. As a result, the Honor 9X has one of the highest quality LCD screens we’ve seen, with colors that seem “more” than the competition. However, the maximum brightness is not too high.
Thanks to the Honor 9X front camera (which we’ll see in a second), there are no slits or “holes” that occupy precious screen space. Sure, there is a fairly visible chin at the bottom of the screen, but overall, the 91% screen-to-body ratio is commendable.
The phone has a fairly conventional design – it’s big enough, as mentioned above, and looks a bit heavy at 197g. The front has Gorilla Glass, and what Gorilla Glass seems like with a plastic frame, Honor, hasn’t confirmed its body materials.
There is a pretty well-built fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, which we can easily find, but that, of course, depends on the size of your hand, so if you have a small hand, you may be out of touch.
We used the British product Honor 9X, but the device in China had a side-fingerprint, so if you import the device from Asia, it might be a little different.
Next to the fingerprint sensor is a series of cameras with three lenses. It is located in a bump, but it is a small bump compared to similar media on other phones, and as a result, it was not so uncomfortable.
Going back to this front camera, that’s fine, with a reasonably standard square design like pop-ups. The integrated fall detection system automatically picks up the pop-up camera when the phone falls, so there is no risk of damage.
Still, the pop-up window takes a little longer than the others to fully extend so that it could damage the camera if it were dropped from a small height.
On the right edge of the Honor 9X, you will find a volume and power control button at the bottom of a USB-C port. This type of port is the industry standard, but some budget phones still use micro USB ports, so the presence of USB-C is a pleasure, as charging becomes much faster.
There is also a 3.5mm headphone jack. These are appearing on fewer phones, so if you still want to use wired headphones, this is one of the few.
The Honor 9X has a 4000mAh battery, pretty decent like a smartphone battery, and you never have to worry about running out of power in the middle of the day.
We have found that no matter how we use the phone, whether we check Instagram from time to time or download music and play games, it can easily take a whole day of use.
In fact, with light use, we could spend up to two days without turning it on overnight; however, to achieve this, it is necessary to turn off Bluetooth and avoid playing media.
When we passed the Honor 9X through a battery test, which consisted of playing a 90-minute video in full brightness with Wi-Fi enabled and invoices synchronized in the background, the charge went from 82% in total, so a pretty big drop of 18%
It’s not the most significant drop in the battery we’ve seen on a smartphone, but it’s more than the average, so the device is not optimized for long transmission intervals. Many competitors of the Honor 9X, which you can read later in this review, did not lose as much battery in the same test.
If there is a downside to high battery capacity, it’s the charging speeds. There’s no fast charging technology here, like on other Honor phones, and the charger that came with the device doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to turn on the phone.
When we charged the phone from full to empty, it took just over two hours. It’s not a terrible time, and people who have phones with micro-USB or light ports can find it quickly, but current fast charging technology can run in half the time.
Since Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, we generally know that the company’s devices have fairly decent cameras; However, this is not the case with the Honor 9X, like the photos, we took obviously looked “good” and not as we expected from society.
Sure, the camera is a step ahead in terms of Honor 8X resolution, but it doesn’t have any major new features. The main rear camera is a 48MP camera, paired with an 8MP sensor with an ultra-wide-angle lens and a 2MP depth auxiliary camera for enhanced portrait photos.
Let’s start with the main camera. The photos taken with this model were mostly superb and were captured in detail. Autofocus was fast enough for close-up photos, but we found that some photos looked pretty blurry when taken with the main camera.
The following is an ultra-large snapper, with which we had some problems. First of all, there was a noticeable distortion on the sides of the ultra-wide images, which made it a bit strange.
Also, the ultra-wide photos we took were significantly darker than standard wide-angle photos, even if it was the same scene. It’s not exactly a bad thing because the ultra-wide images had more vibrant colors, but they led to inconsistent shots varying between lenses. If you shoot videos using both, you will find that the colors are always changing.
Finally, there is a 2 megapixel assisted depth camera that helps capture portraits to create a precise background blur. However, we are not convinced of the advantages of a portrait-oriented sensor when there is no slightly more standard telephoto lens with smartphone cameras.
Without a telephoto camera or periscope for enlarged images, there is no optical zoom and a fairly limited 6x digital zoom. The images taken with the zoom weren’t that great, but since it’s a reasonably low maximum zoom, we found it easier to take standard photos and crop them ourselves.
There are a few additional features and modes on the Honor 9X camera to enhance the photos that are taken – not a range of features as extensive as Huawei is known for, but it’s something.
The first is the “enhanced” night mode, which provides photos in low light with more detail and color. It works well, but the images taken in this mode seemed almost identical to the images taken by the main camera during the AI-optimized scene since it applied a similar effect without having to keep the phone silent for a long time.
This way of photographing AI is exciting, and it is the saving grace of the Honor 9X camera. Optimizes images based.
However, it is not recommended to use a wide-angle lens for any video shooting, because due to the mentioned color difference, the video looks surprisingly different when switching from one lens to another.
The front camera is 16 MP, and it’s not the best front camera we’ve seen, but it will be. The main problem is that the images are too pale, with faded colors and too much light. That said, most people don’t use enough phone cameras to notice this difference.
There are many effects available on the camera before that we’ve seen before, but it’s still fun to play here.
The stage lighting isolates you and gives you a dark background, perfect for artistic arrows, and some of the ways to manipulate the lights in the background to create patterns.
Sure, they’re pretty situational, but if you come across distant lights in the background, you can take great photos.
Interface and reliability
The Honor 9X runs on Android 9, which isn’t the latest version of Google’s operating system, but most smartphones still can’t be updated. EMUI, Huawei’s user interface, has its pros and cons.
The colors in EMUI are attractive, and the icons are different bright colors (some would call them attractive). The default background is a reasonably subtle blue color, unlike the Huawei P30 (which also has an EMUI), which had a clear background. As a result, the phone doesn’t seem too scary to look at, but it’s still far from “limiting.”
Many Chinese smartphone manufacturers pack their user interfaces full of software. While some like Oppo quickly learned that it doesn’t work well with Western phone users, Huawei is not one of those brands, so the Honor 9X comes with many preloaded apps that they feel are pretty useless.
There’s Huawei Health, which is handy only if you have a Huawei or Honor portable device (although its pedometer is fine), HiCare, which is a phone support app, and Honor Store, which lets you allows you to purchase Honor products including phones.
All of these apps are useful for some people but are not considered vital enough to be preinstalled on the phone. Overall, the Honor 9X is fun to use, and we had no problems calling or receiving, connecting to the Internet, or accessing our mobile data.
The GPS was a bit inaccurate, and the Bluetooth fell out from time to time, but none of these problems were common enough to be considered a significant problem with the device.