Honor 9 review: Hands on with Honor’s OnePlus 5 challenger


Honor’s latest phone is an interesting one. We loved the Honor 8 – in fact, it took us by complete surprise last year, offering a beautiful (and cheaper) alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 flagship. Performance issues aside, it was a cracking mid-range smartphone, but this year’s Honor 9 dials it up to 11.

The caveat though, is the Honor 9’s timing is a bit off. Launching in a time saturated by these ‘flagship killers’ that is: mid-range smartphones with the same performance and good looks as their £600+ industry-leading flagships, It needs to have a killer feature, something that’ll make it stand out from, say, the excellent box-fresh OnePlus 5. Does the Honor 9 have anything eye-catching up its metaphorical sleeves?

Honor 9 review

The Honor 9 is generously well-specced. Considering you can pick one up for just £380 come launch, there’s an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 960 chip buried inside, the same speedy chipset found in Huawei’s P10. Aside from that, there’s a choice of either 4 or 6GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of storage. It’s a looker too – and looks top-dollar next to those handsets with twice the asking price.

Honor 9 review: Specs, UK price and release date

Display 5.15in, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS
CPU HiSilicon Kirin 960 (quad-core 2.4GHz / quad-core 1.8GHz)
Storage 64/128GB
Rear camera 20MP, f/2.2 monochrome wide-angle; 12MP, f/2.2 RGB telephoto (2x)
UK Price £380
UK release date Expected July

Honor 9 review: Design and first impressions

The Honor 9 is in a class of its own – when it boils down to aesthetics that is. For the price, there’s the OnePlus 5, but the Honor 9 is a far more attractive purchase; with its curved 2.5D trim on the front, and 3D glass edging on the back. This looks like something you’ve paid twice the price for.

It’s quite iPhone 7-like in its design, borrowing its good looks from its Huawei P10 cousin, which in turn copied Apple’s trademark minimalism. There’s the dual-camera setup on the rear left-hand corner (more on that later), and those bold, rounded corners for a softer fit in the hand. If you don’t like your phone looking like every other handheld rectangle – this isn’t for you. Why not spend a little extra and go for HTC’s squeezy U11 flagship in Solar Red, instead? Shiny.

Back to the P10, the Honor 9 is – essentially – its cheaper twin. Its 5.15in display might be a touch smaller, but the Full HD resolution is identical, and its innards are indistinguishable. In fact, there’s not a jot of difference between the two. The Honor 9 has the same HiSilicon Kirin 960 chipset, 4- or 6GB or RAM, and runs the same software version (Android 7 and EMUI 5.1).

The Honor 9 even has the same 3,200 mAh battery. I’m yet to properly put it through its paces – but I expect the Honor 9’s performance and battery life to be near-identical to its pricier P10 cousin. For an idea on what to expect, here’s how the P10 stacks up against the OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8.

The Honor 9’s dual-camera setup on the back has been tweaked slightly from last year’s Honor 8. There’s still the 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, working in tandem with a 12-megapixel RGB sensor, but focal length has been altered – with the RGB camera providing a telephoto lens, while the monochrome camera provides a wide-angle lens.

It still works exactly the same – that is, you press the shutter button and both sensors work hand-in-hand: grabbing detail from the monochrome sensor and colour from the RGB. What you get, just like with the P10, is an image with plenty of detail compared with those bog-standard single sensor smartphones, and greater low-light performance.

Honor 9 review: Early verdict

Just last week, I called the OnePlus 5 the best mid-range smartphone ever made. It’s a phenomenal handset, yes, but perhaps I should have held off on that lofty claim for a few days. The Honor 9 looks set to swipe the crown right off the OnePlus 5’s newly-formed head.

As far as first impressions go, the Honor 9 is the complete flagship-killing package. Crucially, it’s cheap – launching for just £380 – but its innards aren’t being scrimped on, and there’s a fantastic rear camera to boot. This’ll be the phone to get come that likely July launch date. Or, I don’t know, I’ll eat my hat or something.

Processor Octa-core 2.4Ghz Kirin 960
Screen size 5.15in
Screen resolution 1,920 x 1,080
Screen type IPS
Front camera 8-megapixel
Rear camera 20-megapixel, 12-megapixel
Flash Dual-LED
Compass Yes
Storage (free) 64GB, 128GB
Memory card slot (supplied) microSD
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.2
Wireless data 4G
Dimensions 147 x 70.9 x 7.5mm
Weight 155g
Operating system Android 7.0
Battery size 3,200mAh

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