This is just £249.99 (at the time of writing) and, as usual with Honor, you get a lot for your money. My initial thoughts were consumed by the absolutely awesome rear-end. It reflects light and bounces it around beautifully on this Phantom Purple model – even with the supplied cover on. Check it out below. I very much doubt that the Midnight Black version looks as good.
Then there’s the specs, and they’re not what you expect for £249.99. You get 6GB RAM, a massive 256GB of storage – you can stick a microSD card in to grow that further. The CPU is a HiSilicon (Huawei) Kirin 810 octa-core chip which, although mid-range, still pumps out up to 2.27 GHz.
An “all-day” 4,000mAh battery certainly delivers that and there’s a 3.5mm audio port with free included 3.5mm headphones, although personally I’d use your own as they’re not brilliant.
That case you’ll see on the photos is provided in the box and means that the rather beautiful lines of the Honor 9X are kept in tip-top condition.
The screen is a rather lovely 6.59″ Panoramic Full-view display running at 391PPI (1080 x 2340 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio). There’s a rear triple 48 megapixel camera setup – that’s a main 48 megapixel f/1.8 (with Super Night mode and AI Video Stabilization), an 8 megapixel 120° wide-angle camera (f/2.4) and a 2 megapixel depth assist camera.
On the top, a 16 megapixel pop-up cam pop-up camera, which slides up and down like those posh drawers you get in modern kitchens. It’s proper swish..
We’ve all had in-display cameras and – although they don’t really get in the way -a totally uninterrupted screen is very cool.
While I’m here and talking about the camera, you should check out the optical image stabilization. It’s crazy smooth – like you’ve got a gimbal and you’re flying over the scenery…
How good is that?! The photos are good too. Here’s just an example of some shots I took with the camera…
The camera setup, just to remind you again, is a main 48 megapixel camera (f/1.8) with a large 1/2-inch sensor for excellent low-light shots, an 8 megapixel wide-angle lens and a 2 megapixel depth-assistant camera. This setup, complete with the AI algorithms on board, produces some really good shots and some professional-looking portrait shots with bokeh.
In addition to the AI, there’s a good range of filters plus that Bokeh / Aperture mode to blur the background of your shots. This can be adjusted after the event so that you get a beautiful shot that’s just right.
In addition, you can go “Pro” mode to tweak all the additional (and clever) camera options manually, engage slow-mo mode, panorama, HDR, time-lapse, light painting or moving picture.
You can even add a load of stickers. It’s a fully-featured camera experience..
So what do we have so far? A low price tag at £249.99. Lots of RAM (6GB), 256GB of storage which is expandable, a speedy octa-core 2.27 GHz CPU, a 4000mAh battery, great camera and a 6.59″ Panoramic 1080 x 2340 pixel screen running at 391PPI.
It’s all fantastic and it’s … well, I’ve written this so many times here at Coolsmartphone when I’m reviewing Huawei and Honor phones. It’s a really high-quality phone, built well, with great specs for the price, stunning design and fantastic looks.
However, lately Huawei – and therefore Honor – have had a bit of a punch in the stomach because the USA has stopped them working with American companies. This means that the Google apps you may have come to expect aren’t here. There’s no Gmail app, no YouTube app, no Google Maps app and you can’t just jump into Google Play.
I’ve written a lot about this in recent days and I actually held back the go-live date of this review. I’ve gone through a number of feelings about it all. Without Google Play you’re instead met with something called “AppGallery” and, it’s safe to say, I wasn’t too impressed with the availability of apps on there. However, in recent weeks Honor and Huawei have introduced an app called Petal Search which does a really good job of bridging the gaps.
The PR people tell me that Petal Search is now pre-installed in the top-end Huawei P40 Series, but on the Honor 9X Pro and Honor 9A I’ve been testing it wasn’t, but it takes seconds to do.
So, here’s what you need to know. Without Google Play things are a little different. You can’t just go to te website of your favourite local radio station and then click the link to download their app. It’ll try to send you to Google Play, as will lots of other links to apps on the internet. You’ll also need to use the Google Maps or YouTube website to get that experience – the corresponding apps aren’t available no matter what you do and you’ll be getting your Gmail via the on-board email client.
I can see and I can really appreciate the situation that Huawei and Honor are in. I’ve been to China to talk with them and, believe me, they’re a massive company that cares about each and every bit of the smartphone experience. They’re really pushing hard to ensure that the apps you want are there, so if you get one of these and you ever feel lost, head to our how-to and we’ll show you how to get missing apps on an Honor or Huawei. It’s pretty simple, but I need to ensure that everyone with one knows how to do it.
The experience is different, you need to be prepared for that. Apps may not auto-update and you’ll find that you can’t do some of the Googley-things like Chromecast to your TV or whatever. I need to make you aware of that, but for a lot of people – considering the price-point – you can still get nearly everything you need software-wise.
In review then, I’m kinda going to go over old ground. This is an utterly brilliant phone. Honor and Huawei have shipped some of the best smartphones over the years and this is yet another. However, their Google bits have been blocked, so you’ll need to switch gear a little.
The camera, the screen, the battery, the design, the fit and finish, the pop-up camera and the speed of the thing. All just brilliant. What I’m worried about now is that other smartphone manufacturers will produce similarly-brilliant smartphones which do have the Google components. This is a bit of a chink in the Huawei and Honor armour, but still – what a phone. The Honor 9X Pro is yet another quality example.
Head to the Honor website for more information.