It’s premium in many ways, but there’s always a catch.
- Premium design
- One of the best displays in its price range
- Decent gaming performance
- Great battery life
- Reasonably priced
- No expandable storage
- No 60 fps video recording
- Manually triggered night mode not available for ultra-wide camera
- Colors can be pale at times
- Ultra-wide camera is only average at most
HONOR has just introduced the newest addition to its X-Series lineup in the Philippines. The new HONOR X9a 5G offers a premium Curved OLED display and seems to be built to withstand quite a beating, as you may have seen on the numerous drop and smash tests going around on social media.
It packs a seemingly decent processing package, triple cameras, and a 5,100mAh battery with 40W wired fast-charging. Seems like a great all-around device. So, is this the mid-range phone to get in early 2023? let’s find out.
The HONOR X9a 5G takes inspiration from the brand’s flagship smartphone, the HONOR Magic4 Pro with its Matrix Star Ring Camera Design. It’s a breath of fresh air from the usual camera layout that we see with many other smartphones.
Additionally, it also seems to take inspiration from the Magic4 Pro’s screen. Having a curved display isn’t very common in this price range, more so, an OLED one. As such, you get deep blacks and vibrant colors that really pop out especially when you have the display set to Vivid.
Add a 120Hz refresh rate and 300Hz touch sampling rate to the mix, and you get perhaps one of the best displays in this price range. HONOR seems to be very proud of the durability, hence, drop and smash tests going online would tell you that that is true. There’s no ingress protection though, which would’ve sealed the better deal. The device allows for dynamic resolution and the refresh rate can also go down to 60Hz to save battery.
The screen offers 1920Hz Pulse Width Modulation Dimming, which HONOR claims reduces fluctuations in screen brightness and also reduces the chances of flickering, minimizing eye strain, and resulting to a more comfortable viewing experience even in low light.
Moving on to the rest of the design, all buttons are on the right side, while the dual SIM tray is located at the bottom, along with a speaker grille, microphone, and USB-C port. There’s no headphone jack, nor is there a microSD card slot.
HONOR X9a 5G packs a Snapdragon 695 5G processor, along with up to 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. While it does pack a hefty amount of storage, they could’ve put in something better.
Anyhow, day to day performance is snappy and smooth, with ample room for multi-tasking, and gaming performance is good for medium to high settings depending on the game.
Asphalt 9 for example, is very playable on its default settings, for Diablo Immortal, you can push it to High preset for Quality on Medium Resolution and 30 fps. For Genshin Impact, you can push it to medium with some granular tweaking at 30 fps, or actually use Low preset on 60.
Thermal performance was good – the phone did warm up, but not to an uncomfortable level.
HONOR X9a 5G has a 64MP main camera along with a 5MP ultra-wide unit, and a 2MP macro shooter. The quality of photos from the main camera are pretty decent, though the AI really likes to boost the blues for a more stylish shot. At times, colors can also be a bit pale.
As for the ultra-wide camera, it’s okay if you’re not going to go pixel peeping, but zooming in will show that it falls short on detail. Manually enabled Night Mode is also not available on the ultra-wide unit.
Night shots look great with a decent amount of detail, though some shots could use a bit more sharpness. Portrait shots show good edge detection as well.
The 16MP front camera works well in daytime, but struggles to deliver detail in low light, smudging the edges like crazy. Again, if you’re not going to zoom in, it should work. Otherwise, it’s average at most.
On the video side, it’s a letdown that the HONOR X9a 5G does not support 60 fps video recording at any resolution. On the other hand, it’s got EIS, which compensates well for more static shots, but struggles to keep up with more active movement, such as when walking.
HONOR X9a 5G runs Magic UI 6.1 on top of Android 12. As for pre-loaded apps, you get a couple of games and a couple of productivity apps. All of which, you can uninstall. There’s the default suite of HONOR apps. Most of which, except for a few, can also be uninstalled. Performance-wise, the UI runs smooth and snappy.
Of course, this UI still draws inspiration from an “old friend,” just with a different theme. You get the usual goodies like being able to set the color temperature for the display, an always-on-display, and the Multi-Window Dock, which lets you access your most used apps and open a floating window for multi-tasking.
I only have a bit of an implementation issue here, as there’s no way to initiate split screen without dragging apps from the Multi-Window Dock.
HONOR X9a also features HONOR Share, which lets you easily share files between a compatible device such as an HONOR/Huawei laptop and the HONOR X9a 5G wirelessly.
You can also use Multi-Screen Collaboration to control the smartphone directly from a compatible laptop – take calls, send messages, share files, open apps, etc.
On a combination of being connected to Wi-Fi and for a significant amount of time, on mobile data, I was able to get around 7 hours of screen time on the HONOR X9a 5G in a single charge, which is pretty good considering I put in several hours of Asphalt 9, almost on Spotify most of the time and connected to a pair of TWS Earbuds, some YouTube in there, took photos and videos, and a lot of social media, I’d say this is a good phone battery-wise.
Using the 40W power brick that came with the box, a full charge took just a few minutes past an hour.
HONOR X9a 5G offers a breath of fresh air with its premium looks – emphasis on its curved OLED display, the camera module, and excellent durability. Performance-wise, it does the job, though I will maintain that there are better equipped devices at the same or almost similar price range. The battery life is excellent, plus it charges pretty fast.
As for its cameras, they’re decent, but the ultra-wide unit falls short in comparison to its main shooter. If you plan to shoot video, you’re also stuck at 30 fps, no manually triggered night mode on the ultra-wide unit, and with no OIS, even walking while taking a video can introduce a lot of jitters, almost making the footage unusable. In addition, you don’t get provisions for adding more storage, which can be a deal-breaker for some.
Would I recommend the HONOR X9a 5G for its PHP 16,990 price tag? If having an OLED screen means a lot to you and you’re not planning on taking a lot of videos, especially in low light, yes. Then yes, this phone is worth considering. Get it here.
Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.