Huawei’s sub-brand Honor has announced that the Honor 9X is coming to Europe, after launching in China back in July. The handset comes equipped with a pop-up selfie camera and, surprisingly, given the ongoing US sanctions against Huawei, a full suite of Google apps. Honor declined to share pricing or availability information with us prior to the phone’s announcement today, but it said that it expects the 9X to retail for the equivalent of under £300 (around €348 / $386)
I’ve had a chance to use the Honor 9X over the past week, and it’s generally been a pleasant experience, thanks to the phone’s big 6.59-inch notchless display and solid battery life. The phone doesn’t have the greatest cameras around, and Huawei’s EMUI software occasionally feels like it’s getting in the way. But these could be worthwhile compromises at this entry-level price point.
Since the pop-up selfie camera is likely to be a big factor for most people who pick up this device, I think it makes sense to start there. The mechanism is going to invite obvious comparisons to the OnePlus 7T Pro, which was announced earlier this month. But considering the Honor 9X is less than half the price of the OnePlus flagship, it’s hard to complain about Honor’s implementation. Yes, the mechanism raises and lowers a little slower than the 7T Pro’s, but you’re still getting a 16-megapixel selfie camera. The phone is also capable of automatically retracting the sensor when it thinks it’s in danger of getting broken.
Continuing on with the phone’s cameras, around the back, you’ll find three sensors: a 48-megapixel f/1.8 main camera, an 8-megapixel f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide angle camera, and a 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth assist camera. They’re all contained within a small bump next to the phone’s rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
You can find a collection of the shots I took with this phone below, but it’s nothing that’s going to blow you away. The level of detail isn’t great, especially when you zoom out to use the ultra-wide angle lens, and the phone’s software also tends to lag slightly as you switch between cameras. That said, I found the shutter button to be nice and responsive, so you shouldn’t find that the 9X gets in the way of you snapping a quick shot.
Internally, the Honor 9X is powered by a Kirin 710F chipset, a 4,000mAh battery, 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. (I’ve been using the 6GB / 128GB model.) From a hardware perspective, I’ve got little to complain about considering the entry-level price. App switching is fast and painless, and the battery easily lasted me through the day with charge left to spare. It charges using USB-C and also includes a headphone jack.
The Honor 9X’s IPS LCD display is generally fine with day-to-day use, but Honor has included a feature it calls “Enhanced Dynamic Range,” which adds post-processing to video content to make it look more saturated and contrasty. But to my eyes, it went a little bit too far: skin tones looked overexposed, and all that extra punch just ended up looking artificial. You also can’t turn the feature off, which is a bit of a bummer.
In terms of software, Huawei’s EMUI (in this case, a skinned version of Android 9) can still be a frustrating experience. You can mitigate this to a certain extent by tweaking your settings (I’ll be having my app drawer back, thank you very much), but you’ll have to put up with other UI elements, like Huawei’s share menu, not to mention its numerous preinstalled apps.
Speaking of apps, I was a little surprised to find that the Honor 9X will ship with the Google Play Store, and it comes with a full suite of Google’s apps. When I asked about this, Honor told me that the device has been in the works for quite some time, so it was certified by Google before its license to use Android software was revoked. Honor didn’t give any specific details on future software updates, but it said that it plans to support the Honor 9X going forward.
From the limited about of time I’ve spent with the Honor 9X, it feels like another solid, affordable phone from the sub-brand. It makes some obvious compromises, but it never drops the ball in any crucial areas. We’ll be sure to update this piece when Honor announces full pricing and release information for the phone.
Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge
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