Smartphones keep on getting more and more expensive. Price tags of around $1,000 have become a standard for mainstream flagship smartphones. Many people are not ready to pay that, however. Many people don't even want nor need flagship phones. Okay, what about phones at $500-600? Well, some people are not willing to go that high either, and some are not able to even if they wanted to. That's why we have budget phones in play, and HONOR has been one of the main brands in the low and mid-range category for years now.
HONOR's newest phones come without Google services, though, so keep that in mind. More on that later. We're here to talk about one of the company's budget phones, the HONOR 9X Pro. If you're not willing to pay over $300 / €300 for a smartphone, this device may be right for you. The HONOR 9X Pro is now available in a number of markets with a price tag of around €250. It doesn't really get lower than that if you want a truly capable smartphone, and want to save as much cash as possible. In this article / review, we'll take a closer look at the HONOR 9X Pro, to see what it has to offer.
No display notch / hole + thin bezels = a win
The design of this phone is what struck me the most, having its price tag in mind. This phone does not have a display camera hole nor display notch, while it retains thin bezels. Its bottom bezel is thicker than all the others, but not by much. How can it achieve that without having a display notch or hole? Well, it includes a pop-up selfie camera. This is a setup we've seen on a number of phones, but you wouldn't expect it on such an affordable device. The rest of this phone's design does not disappoint either.
The phone is made out of metal and glass. One would expect polycarbonate build at this price tag, but HONOR disagrees. There are two color variants, Midnight Black and Phantom Purple. We, luckily, received the latter for our review unit. This variant is far more striking. Its back side reflects light in a really interesting way. We've included some images in the gallery down below for you to see for yourself. The phone fits really well in the hand, though it's not small, it can't be with such a large display.
It is curved on the back, and it's quite ergonomic. The HONOR 9X Pro is not exactly light, though. It weighs 206 grams. That is to be expected considering its size and build materials, this weight is actually a good thing. There are three cameras on the back of this phone. All three are placed inside the same camera module, and are vertically aligned. That camera module sits in the top-left corner of the phone's back side. A capacitive fingerprint scanner is a part of this phone as well, and it's located on the right side. The device even includes a 3.5mm headphone jack, believe it or not. All in all, HONOR did a great job designing the HONOR 9X Pro. I'd be happy with this design even if the phone cost way more, so… color me impressed.
It includes an IPS LCD panel, but the display is not bad at all
The HONOR 9X Pro features a 6.67-inch fullHD+ (2340 x 1080) LTPS IPS LCD display. This display offers a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and it is flat. Is it any good, though? Well yes, it is. Do not expect flagship-grade quality, or OLED blacks, and you'll be perfectly fine with it. The display is quite bright, and the colors are good. They're not extremely vivid or anything of the sort, but they're good enough. Blacks are not as deep as on OLED panels, and we've seen better representations on LCD panels as well, but not by much.
HONOR basically included the best possible display to balance quality and price tag here. This is a really capable display, and nothing to scoff at, and it was quite affordable. During the duration of this review, please keep in mind this phone's price tag, you can't really expect a better display here. This panel was used in higher-end phones for a long time, and you won't have any issues with it unless you turn to nitpicking. It's quite sharp, and you won't notice any pixelation on it.
The performance is excellent, amongst the best in this class
So, is the performance any good? Many people would say not, due to this phone's price tag. Well, you may be surprised. Now, the HONOR 9X Pro actually performs really well. The Kirin 810 is still a really good chip, while the phone's other specs are nothing to scoff at. Throw in HONOR's EMUI 10 and its optimizations to the table, and you have a really good-performing device. Do not expect apps to load as fast as they would on a flagship smartphone. Also, some games may not run at full power, but this phone is more than capable of running games as well.
Multitasking is really fast, while we did not notice any significant lag either. The phone did skip a bit from time to time, but that was to be expected. For the most part, the performance was great, and for the vast majority of people, this is all the power they need, really. We were able to do everything with this phone, well, everything as far as performance goes. Everything we would do on any other smartphone.
The bottom line is, if you're worried about the HONOR 9X Pro performance, don't be. This phone could be a great option for you if you don't want to spend more than €250. It could also be a great option for your kid, your parents, or whoever else is not too demanding when it comes to technology.
The HONOR 9X Pro provides a truly excellent battery life
Battery life is one of the strongest aspects of the HONOR 9X Pro. This phone offers excellent battery life, to say the least. It comes with a 4,000mAh battery on the inside, which is more than enough for its large 60Hz display. HONOR's EMUI optimizations, plus the Kirin 810 work great and don't drain the battery at all. Google services are not included here, so that's probably yet another benefit for the overall battery life.
In my testing, this phone is great even for heavy use during the day. I'm a power user, and in terms of performance and battery life, this phone hasn't let me down once. I was constantly getting over 8 hours of screen-on-time, even in a 2-day period. So if you use your phone around 4-5 hours a day, chances are this will be a 2-day phone for you. For me, it's a one day phone, as I almost always go above 6 hours of screen-on-time on a given day. Regardless, I always ended up with plenty of juice left in the tank. I'm not big on gaming, but I did play some games just for this review. You can check out some battery stats down below.
Now, in terms of charging, this phone offers 10W wired charging. That is not exactly fast, but you can't really ask for much more at this price tag. This phone's battery life is so good, that you'll be able to charge it over night without a problem, even during most hectic days. The phone does not support wireless charging, nor reverse wireless charging, so keep that in mind.
Cameras are not great in low light, but they're good enough otherwise
Cameras on €250 smartphones are not that good, usually. Well, you'd be glad to hear that the HONOR 9X Pro is above average in that regard, though not great overall. Do not expect a flagship-grade performance out of this smartphone, but it can take some good looking photos. In good lighting, this phone's images can look good. That 48-megapixel camera sensor on the back can capture enough detail, while it also does a decent job with the dynamic range as well. The camera tends to oversaturate pictures, though, especially red colors, as you can see below… but for the most part, the phone does a good job in daylight.
Low light scenarios are where the HONOR 9X Pro struggles
In low light, however, things are not as great. The HONOR 9X Pro is capable of capturing a good shot, but it all depends on the scene. The phone tends to lose a lot of detail in low light, and it also sometimes struggles with street lights, it overblows them… but interestingly enough, not always. Another issue is with noise, there's lots of it in low light. Luckily, HONOR included a night mode in this camera, which can help immensely in low light conditions. Images still won't look great, but they will at least look better than in auto mode, and will be brighter as well, as long as the scene is not too dark. If it ends up being too dark, the HONOR 9X Pro tends to struggle with focusing on objects. The phone can shoot fullHD video at 30fps, so don't count on 60fps video here, nor 4K. That is to be expected considering its price, however.
If you're into selfies, well, you'll be glad to know that the camera on the front is not bad. It can take okay-looking selfies. It's not the best around, but it's one of the best in this price range, that's for sure. There are quite a few software additions that you can play around with, in the camera app. Even if you leave things on default settings, you'll be able to get a good shot more often than not. The video is good enough. it's quite stable, though not the most stable we've seen, not even close. It does a good job in terms of image quality, though.
This camera is more than good enough for video chatting as well. It's a 26mm wide-angle lens, and even though we'd wish for it to be even wider, this will do the trick. I've seen a lot worse-performing selfie cameras in phones at this price range. So, all in all, the HONOR 9X Pro may not have stellar cameras, but it does have plenty to offer for the price.
Audio is good in general, though the earpiece is a bit muffled
Let's touch on the call quality first, shall we. I've tested out the phone's earpiece and microphone with several people during the review period. Each of them said that I sound muffled. That could indicate an issue with the microphone on the phone. They could hear me fine, but the sound was more muffled than what they're used to. it is possible that is the issue with my phone specifically, but it's worth noting. I've wanted to experience it for myself, so I decided to be on the receiving end of it, and it does sound a bit muffled. As I said, it's perfectly usable, but… just note it.
Now, in terms of audio in general. The HONOR 9X Pro comes with a single speaker on the bottom. That speaker is not half bad, but it's not as good as some single-speakers on flagship phones, while it cannot hold a candle to stereo speakers. Truth be said, for what you're paying for the device, the speaker is more than serviceable. I did notice some distortion on higher volumes, while it's not as crisp as I'd like it to be, but as I said, I'm used to far more expensive devices, so… that's no indication. The speaker is more than fine.
In terms of audio through headphones, well, it's good. It's not great, it's excellent, it's good. You'll be getting good sound across the spectrum, that goes for lows, mids, and highs. I wasn't overly impressed with either, but wasn't disappointed either. I did notice a bit of bass in there, which is a good thing.
EMUI 10 runs great on this phone, though the lack of apps could be an issue for some
When it comes to software, there's plenty to say. Most of it has to do with app availability, and the whole Google situation. Before we get into it, though, let's first talk about EMUI as a separate entity. The HONOR 9X Pro runs EMUI 10, the latest version of Huawei's Android OS / skin. EMUI 10 is better than ever, it's easily the best iteration ever. It's fast, it's smooth, the animations are spot on, and it looks good. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but in combination with the Kirin 810, and Android 10, it worked great on the phone. Considering the price of this phone, not many people would expect such performance, but the HONOR 9X Pro delivers. There are still some kinks in EMUI in regards to app management in the background, but they're far less noticeable than before, and quite frankly, many of you won't even notice anything.
Google's apps are not included
That being said, let's talk more about the apps situation, shall we. As many of you already know, Huawei has been banned by the US from doing business with companies from the US, well, not all of them… the situation is quite complicated. The point is, Huawei is not allowed to use Google services on its smartphones, and that includes HONOR as well, the Huawei's sub-brand. You won't find a single Google app on this phone, and that includes the Google Play Store. You'll have to rely on Huawei's AppGallery, which grew immensely, but it's not nearly ready to compete with the Play Store.
You won't find many apps that you may be used to on the AppGallery, even though you'll probably find some replacements. Many companies did push their apps to the AppGallery already, so you can use Opera instead of Chrome, for example, Blue Mail instead of Gmail, and so on. There are options, but not many of them. That brings me to my next point, Phone Clone. Phone Clone is an app that comes pre-installed on the HONOR 9X Pro, and it's supposed to help you switch phones, and take your apps with you. So, if you have some apps that are not available in the AppGallery, and you want to use, while you have them on your current phone, you can switch them over to the HONOR 9X Pro, in theory.
Phone Clone is good, but not perfect
This app works really well in general, but for some reason, it did not transfer quite a few of my apps. Do note that the app transfers messages as well, and various other data that you may be interested in. It will also transfer your apps along with their data. To give you some examples. Phone Clone did not transfer Amazfit, Bolt, eBay, Facebook Messenger, McDonald's, and a number of other apps that I wanted to transfer. It did not have an issue with Microsoft Excel, Joey, Instagram, Monefy, and so on. All in all, I've managed to transfer around 40-percent of apps I have on my phone.
Do note that you can manually install APKs from let's say APK Mirror, and the vast majority of them will work fine. 95% of Google apps, however, will not work on the HONOR 9X Pro. It doesn't matter if you try to transfer them using Phone Clone, or sideload them, the point is, you won't be able to use them. if that's a problem for you, then this is not the device for you, unless you want to install Google Play Services manually, of course. That is also an option, but many people won't be willing to do that.
The HONOR 9X Pro is great value for money, there's not denying that
So, what's the bottom line here? Well, if Google apps are something you need, and you don't want to mess with forcefully installing Play Services, then maybe this is not a device for you. If you don't use many apps in general, and don't need Google apps, the HONOR 9X Pro is a great choice. For its price tag, this phone offers a lot, it really does. It offers excellent performance, great hardware in general, it looks really sleek, and the camera is not half bad at that price point either. The display is also really good, while the audio won't win any awards, but it's okay. For many people, this phone will be more than they need, just have in mind the app situation before you buy it. See if that is an issue for you, or not, if it's not, the HONOR 9X Pro is easy to recommend.