These days, the standard slab designs of smartphones makes it hard to tell the difference between one and another. Of course, there are clamshell and foldable forms as well, but these are few and far between – not to mention it burns a huge hole in your pocket to own one of these bad boys.
How, then, does Honor intend to stand out from the crowd with its newly launched X9 5G? Simple: through the clever use of material, and an unorthodox rear camera layout that pays homage to its early days.
Design and display
From the front, the X9 5G is a modern-looking albeit ordinary mid-range handset. There is a tear-drop notch selfie camera located right at the top, while the rest of the bezels are slim enough to deliver an immersive viewing experience.
Flip it over and you’d be surprised: the way colours dance and change in a chameleon-like manner based on the viewing angle of the Titanium Silver chassis is rather charming.
The entire build feels solid, and the lack of a glass back means this is no fingerprint magnet.
The volume rocker is on the right of the handset, with the power button – doubling up as a fingerprint reader – located just below it. A single speaker rests at the bottom of the device, which means whenever you hold the smartphone horizontally to engage with media, your hand would cover the speaker, leading to a slight drop in audio quality. There is no 3.5mm audio jack.
Right beside the speaker is the USB-C port that supports the 66W SuperCharge standard (more on this below). At the opposite end, on the same plane, lies the dual-SIM tray.
Either slot can be assigned as the primary SIM and both support the 5G network standard, which makes it ready to embrace the next step in mobile communications when Malaysia’s infrastructure is finally up and running.
The 6.81-inch (17.3cm) Full HD+ LCD display is sufficient for everyday use. It is nice to see the 120Hz refresh rate implemented here, allowing you to choose from 60Hz, a variable 120Hz, and a permanent 120Hz option, depending on how much you want to maximise the battery life.
Do temper your expectations in terms of visual quality, however, due to the LCD display installed instead of Amoled technology.
Under the hood, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G SoC runs the show, mated to 8GB RAM with another 2GB of virtual memory to aid it in processor-intensive tasks. In terms of internal memory, 128GB is all you get, and there is no microSD memory card slot for expansion purposes.
The Snapdragon 695 SoC is adequate for everyday tasks. Launching the usual suspects – Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, MySejahtera and other relevant apps – feels zippy, and switching between applications is seamless even when many are opened simultaneously.
Running 3D Benchmark tests in quick succession, there is no obvious overheating and the frame rates do not show any drastic drops, which indicates temperature management is properly handled.
Chances are, the handset will not overheat when you play games for long periods, although you might want to dial down the graphics quality due to the mid-range tier processor.
The X9 5G runs on Honor’s very own Magic UI 4.2 skin on top of Android 11. As at press time, there is no word on when Android 12 will be released for this model, although it does have the February 2022 Android security patch and March 2022 Google Play system update.
The circular bump that houses the rear cameras and flash are similar to the layout of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro, harkening back to Honor’s early days. There are three cameras on the X9 5G: a 48MP main camera, 2MP macro camera, and 2MP depth camera.
Without an ultra wide-angle and telephoto lens, you will have to learn to maximise the 48MP camera creatively.
Daytime shots turn out well, with bright enough colours to showcase its capabilities. Night shots tend to have a higher degree of noise, which is expected from a camera in the mid-range smartphone tier.
Still, social media posts will be well served by these cameras, and the 16MP selfie camera will do an adequate job of keeping your legion of followers happy.
Both rear and front cameras are also able to capture video in Full HD resolution, and you can even capture two-way video using both cameras simultaneously.
When it comes to battery life, usage context is important. The X9 5G lasted from morning to night with approximately 20% battery life remaining.
Leaving the display refresh rate at 120 Hertz all the time – why not make use of it if it is already there? – the daily usage pattern included enabling GPS to track a 30-minute morning run, watching YouTube for an hour with another couple of hours on Netflix, receiving and replying an average number of messages, plus approximately half an hour on Facebook and Instagram.
Voice calls were minimal, with most of them being made over WhatsApp while connected to Wi-Fi.
Charging with the 66W SuperCharge adapter proved extremely nifty, although it does require you to change your daily routine. Most people leave their phones plugged in overnight, but the advent of fast charging has certainly turned that notion upside down – the X9 5G juiced up from 9% to 100% in just 45 minutes!
This kind of flexibility allows you to charge the 4,800 mAh battery when you wake up and prepare for the day ahead, knowing that just 30 minutes delivers up to an 80% charge. It is also nice to see Honor include the charger and cable in the box, unlike most major smartphone manufacturers these days.
All in all, the Honor X9 5G is a solid, dependable workhorse for everyday use, though hardcore gamers and performance enthusiasts would likely not have it on their radar for obvious reasons.
Still, for those on the lookout for a new handset to tide them over the next few years with the possibility of 5G networks being launched nationwide, it is certainly worth checking out, especially with the X9 5G’s rather attractive price point of RM1,299.
Edwin Kee dreamt of being a pro-gamer only to have circumstances mould him into a programmer in a past life. He has since moved on to write about consumer electronics and other topics. Check out his blog at manatau.com.