In a somewhat strange move, in the middle of May 2020, Honor has brought to Spain its Honor 9X Pro, a premium mid-range device presented in China in July 2019. Thus, it is configured as one of its main bets to compete in value for money against brands like Xiaomi or Realme, although it has an added difficulty: the non-presence of Google Mobile Services.
How does it work in the day to day? What experience does it offer? In Xataka we have tried it to get out of doubt, so without further delay, here is the Honor 9X Pro review.
Honor 9X Pro Datasheet
|HONOR 9X PRO|
|DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT||163.1 x 77.2 x 8.8mm
|SCREEN||6.59-inch IPS / LCD
FullHD + resolution (2,340 x 1,080 pixels)
GPU Mali G-52
|INTERNAL STORAGE||256 GB expandable with microSD cards|
|REAR CAMERA||48 MP f / 1.8 AIS
8 MP wide angle (120º) f / 2.4
2 MP depth f / 2.4
|FRONT CAMERA||16 MP f / 2.2
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9.1|
|OTHERS||Side fingerprint reader
Design: too big, maybe too much
We begin by reviewing the aesthetic section, which can be summarized in three words: is very large. We are talking about a device whose front is nothing more and nothing less than a 6.59-inch LCD panel, and that means that it is quite difficult to use with one hand. Reach the notification bar with your thumb as you normally would it is simply impossible. Something I have had to learn during these days has been to use the mobile with both hands.
It weighs 206 grams, which a priori could imply that it is heavy, but the truth is that nothing is further from reality. I mean, it is by definition, but Honor has made an excellent work balancing it. Although it is big and heavy, in hand it feels really good. For the sake of understanding, it doesn’t feel like a brick, if I may say so. The problem is when interacting with one hand, but in terms of construction, it shows that a good job has been done.
The back has a glass finish that shows an “X” when the light hits it at a certain angle. The glass feels good and does not slip, but as always happens in this type of finish, the prints are quite marked. Other design elements to highlight are the camera module, located in the upper left corner, which protrudes slightly, but not so much that the device wobbles, and the jack port in the lower area, which allows you to use the headphones of a lifetime. Mini point for Honor.
As for the screen, it is a 6.59-inch LCD panel with FullHD + resolution It occupies the entire front, although it has small frames on all sides. There is no notch or anything like that since the front camera has been placed on a pop-up mechanism. We will talk about its performance later.
The display looks good indoors and in low light conditions, though I would have appreciated a more dot of maximum brightness to improve visibility in broad daylight outdoors. There are no problems with viewing angles or colors, which are vivid without being garish. In short, it is a correct screen, without more. It’s a 2019 mid-range device display that works but isn’t surprising.
We ended up talking about the sound. The mobile can be heard well enough, without standing out. It lacks punch in the bass and when we turn the volume to maximum it tends to sound more canned than necessary. The sweet spot is between 50% and 70%, which is enough to listen to podcasts or music in the background while we do something. Fortunately, it has a headphone jack and Bluetooth, so you can always wear headphones and get a better experience.
Another point to value is the speaker location, which is located in the lower right area and is very, very, very easy to cover it by hand when holding the phone horizontally.
Experience: good autonomy for half software
From a few years ago until now rare is the mid-range / premium mid-range that is not solvent in all everyday scenarios, and the Honor 9X Pro was not going to be less. The Kirin 810 with the Mali-G62 GPU is more than enough to play heavy games Like ‘PUBG Mobile’, ‘Legends of Runeterra’, or ‘Asphalt 9’ without giving problems. Needless to say, the same applies to day-to-day applications such as WhatsApp or Instagram. There are no jerks or lag of any kind, on the contrary, everything moves smoothly and the experience is very pleasant.
It has 6 GB of RAM, which is not the highest number on the market, but it is enough to keep apps in the background for a long time and return to them without having to fully recharge. The internal storage, meanwhile, is 256 GB and can be expanded with microSD cards, so unless we plan to store Wikipedia offline several times, it will be very difficult for us to fill it completely. In this section there are no complaints of any kind, it is a solvent terminal.
The biometrics section consists of a fingerprint sensor placed on the right side, specifically on the “Home” button. Access is comfortable with both the right hand (thumb) and the left hand (index), and unlocking is surprisingly fast. Literally, just touch it to unlock the phone. It works very well and has left us with a very pleasant taste in the mouth, to the point that we have not missed that it does not have a facial unlock.
Before going on to talk about software, which is undoubtedly its most negative point, it is worth noting the battery. This has a capacity of 4,000 mAh and is capable of offering between nine and ten hours of the active screen doing normal use. Not bad for a day of heavy use and up to two days of moderate use. Charging, however, is somewhat slow, about two hours.
So far everything is correct. The most important problem is in the software, and that is that the Honor 9X Pro, like all the mobiles recently launched by Honor and Huawei, does not have Google services. What does this translate into? In that, we do not have access to the Google Play Store, Google Maps, the YouTube app, and any application that requires Google Play services (such as Twitch). It is also not compatible with Netflix, so the huge screen on the front can be used halfway.
Applications must be downloaded from AppGallery, the Huawei app store, or in APK format from third-party stores, AppSearch or the AppGallery itself. How? Yes, when we search for a commonly used app that is not in the AppGallery (all of Facebook, for example), the store returns a link that takes us to the official website or another app store for download installation files.
This system works with almost all apps and saves the ballot, but the problem is in the updates, since it forces us to be aware of when there is a new version of all apps to download it manually. Frankly, it takes less time installing a third-party store like APKMirror or APKPure.
Another problem derived from not having Google services is that everything you have synchronized with Google will not appear on your smartphone. On a personal basis, I have all my contacts uploaded to my Google account, so when I change my mobile I can access them just by entering it during configuration. This does not happen in the new Honor or Huawei mobiles, so it is not possible to access the contacts, neither us nor the apps. For example, WhatsApp will not show us the name of the contacts in the groups, but the phone number.
Solution? Take the contacts on the SIM card (something that, personally, I do not recommend, because if something happens to the SIM, goodbye to the contacts) or export them from the Google account in .csv format, transfer the file to the mobile and import it to the Huawei phone app.
It is, in a nutshell, half software. Because if, EMUI 9.1 works really well it has no jerks and offers a very smooth experience, but it cannot be fully exploited due to the lack of Google Mobile Services. And now that we mention EMUI 9.1, we can’t overlook the fact that the Honor 9X Pro arrives with the Android 9 Pie factory and the promise of receiving EMUI 10 with Android 10 soon. The promise is fine, but the reality is that it is old software.
Camera: mixed feelings
We end up talking about the photographic section. The Honor 9X Pro features three rear cameras whose main sensor has a resolution of 48 megapixels. However, the effective photos and the ones we will take by default will have a resolution of 12 megapixels thanks to the pixel combination technology. The other two sensors are a wide-angle and a sensor for running depth measurements. There is no telephoto, so when zooming what we are really doing is cropping.
As for the camera app, it is the same that we have on other devices of the Chinese manufacturer. It is comfortable to use, intuitive and fast when switching between modes, except for one detail. When we go to the inner chamber to do a selfie, the app has to wait until the pop-up mechanism in the upper area opens, and, being clear, it is somewhat slow. Fully unfolding takes about a second.
The results are mixed. The main sensor performs very well during the day, but the wide-angle shows that it is of lower quality. When zooming, as we said, we do cropping and on more than a few occasions the photos come out brighter from the account. At night more of the same, but the differences between the wide-angle and the main sensor are more evident if possible. Regarding the selfie, enough in general lines, but with room for improvement in portrait mode and night shots.
Let’s assume that, although the sensor is 48 megapixels, the default automatic photos are 12 megapixels thanks to the combination of pixels. Thus, the result is quite good, with a correct level of detail in the closest areas and good conservation of the farthest elements. White balance and colors are well interpreted and HDR is capable of recovering highlights and dimmer shadows. Is a photo more than correct for a mid-range terminal?
And if we liked the main sensor a lot, the wide-angle not so much. It is true that the image per se It is striking for the enormous amount of scene it captures, but you can see that the sensor has less resolution. The image comes out much more washed and the processing applies a kind of “watercolor effect” that blurs the details. It lacks a lot of sharpness, although as a plus point the exposure is good and the HDR does its job.
In another context, we would now talk about the optical zoom, but the Honor 9X Pro does not have. The zoom depends on the main 48-megapixel sensor and, when we stay at more or less normal levels of magnification, say two magnifications, the image turns out well. Note that it is not an optical zoom, but the sharpness is preserved. In summary: by day the rear camera meets, although without standing out among other devices in its price range.
Daytime photo with 48-megapixel mode
The camera allows us to force the 48 megapixels and apply an “intelligent ultra-resolution”. What does this translate to? In that we will have to shoot and leave the mobile in the same position for five seconds while the terminal analyzes the scene and processes it.
Outcome? A photo that yes, has more detail on the far elements, but that sacrifices exposure and noise level. The problem, if it can be considered a problem, is that the 12-megapixel model works so well that there really is no reason to shoot at 48 megapixels. Photos have poorer lighting and differences in detail do not compensate for the time it takes to take a photo.
It is a curious function to try when taking photos of landscapes or wide scenes, but on a personal basis, I recommend 12 megapixels for speed and practicality. Another matter is that we want to print the images in large formats, in which case it may be worth it, but to save memories or share photos on social networks, the 12 megapixels are more than adequate.
When it is night, photos tend to “watercolor” to reduce the noise level. The effect works with the naked eye, but when we expand we see that the edges are more blurred and that the level of detail suffers. Be that as it may, we cannot forget that it is a mid-range and that we cannot ask the elm for pears, so, in summary, we can say that, without being the best night photography of its range, the main sensor saves the scene.
Wide-angle is better not to use it, directly. It is a much less bright sensor and the night images are too dim. If the differences were noticeable during the day, at night they are much more accentuated. In dark areas, all information is lost and light areas have little detail. As a general rule, the wide-angle is usually the worst performer at night on almost all smartphones, and the Honor 9X Pro is no exception.
As for the zoom, at night it is much more noticeable that we are cropping. The result is sufficient in general terms, but the watercolor effect becomes very evident by enlarging a little and the lines are less defined. The conclusion is that it may be worth to capture a specific scene if we are aware that we are going to sacrifice detail and sharpness.
And what is a 2019-2020 mobile without its corresponding night mode? The Honor 9X Pro has its own and works like all smartphones: we activate it and leave the phone still for a few seconds while the sensor collects light. Outcome? A photo with raised shadows, more accent colors, and a little more clarity and detail.
Little by little, Huawei and Honor have been improving this mode so that the result is more natural and, although the image without night mode is more faithful to what we see with our own eyes, the result offered by this terminal is correct. It still seems somewhat artificial to me (mainly because of how the high beams are enhanced and the shadows are raised), but I recognize that the night mode has been improving over time.
Selfie and portrait mode
We go to selfie and portrait mode, where there are more than notable differences between day and night. The daytime selfie is pretty good, since the details of the subject are preserved and the HDR is able to recover the high lights. The colors are well preserved and, unless we enlarge, we will not notice the image processing. The front camera is very much enjoyed during the day, unless we activate portrait mode.
The portrait mode is activated by default when we go to the internal camera, but does not apply the filter. For this, the user must manually choose one of the many that are in the app, that is, the portrait mode without filter is a lifelong selfie. It seems to me a completely unnecessary step as it seemed to me in the Huawei P40.
But going to the photo, it is rather regular. The subject comes out well, but edge trimming is unnatural and image looks too artificial. Also, unlike selfie, HDR doesn’t rescue high beams, so backgrounds tend to get burnt out.
At night, the front camera loses points. The level of detail suffers and the scene is more washed out. The camera saves the ballot because the exposure is good and the colors are well preserved, but the final photo leaves something to be desired. In addition, in less light situations, the noise does not take long to appear. The skin is not well treated and all the bottom comes out plastered. The front camera, plain and simple, does not convince when it is night.
Even more serious is with the portrait. We could repeat the words from the wide angle: at night, better not to use it. The level of detail of the subject is poor, and while the crop is relatively accurate for a night scene, the overall picture is poor.
The video has a lot of room for improvement. Theoretically, the device uses artificial intelligence to stabilize the clip, but it shows that we don’t have a properly functioning stabilization system. The level of detail is sufficient and the lights are well managed during the day, while noise is greatly appreciated at night and sharpness suffers. The end result is a video in which the jumps are too noticeable and that does not finish convincing.
The two test videos that we leave below have been recorded walking at a normal pace holding the device with two hands. The resolution is FullHD at 60 FPS, the maximum that the device allows us.
Honor 9X Pro, the opinion and note of Xataka
At this point, it is time to conclude and assess the Honor 9X Pro. It is a device that, although it performs correctly and has good autonomy, does not offer a homogeneous photographic experience and complete software. In addition, it does not bring anything new to the mid-range segment and does not have a differential element that makes it more striking. The final feeling is that we are facing one more mid-range.
The problem is that the Honor 9X Pro has another point to consider: it does not have the services of Google. And yes, it is something that can be solved with patience, APK files and web versions of certain services, but it is undeniable that the experience is worse than that offered by terminals of other brands that compete in price and specifications with this model. Will it satisfy those who want an affordable terminal to use WhatsApp and little else? Certainly, but you have to be aware that certain sacrifices have to be assumed.
- The battery, capable of offering us sufficient autonomy to last two days
- Good performance even in heavy games.
- The fingerprint reader works really well.
- The cameras do not convince, especially at night.
- Not having Google services is still a barrier to entry.
- Charging is quite slow.
The terminal has been loaned for analysis by Honor. Can inquire about our policy of relationships with enterprises.