- Beautiful Display
- Dated, however a practical design
- 108MP does take good images worth sharing
- 5800mAh Battery is nuts and can go for 2 days straight
- The tough part of it is real, however, not one to be abused
- Wish HONOR used MediaTek Dimensity for better performance
- Mono Firing Speaker is a huge letdown
- Macro Camera is an odd inclusion in 2023
… but that doesn’t mean you should abuse it. However, that’s not how HONOR Malaysia marketed their toughest smartphone – in fact, recently they even invited us for a preview session where this phone was getting shot at, smashed at and so on. However, after using it for a good few while, the HONOR X9b takes quite the damage but does that mean, this is a phone for those butter fingers?
HONOR X9b Review
Look and Finish
Since the brand became an independent entity, the brand’s design seems to be a little stagnant. It still retains the big camera bump on the back, and the curve display on the front and on our unit, we have this “mystical” glittery finish, which makes it look pretty. However, there’s a vegan leather variant of this, which I do think is much more elegant. The HONOR X9b isn’t going to blow your minds away with its design choices, however, I’d pick a safe design like this which has the philosophy of “if-it-isnt-broke-don’t-fix-it”.
But that said, the huge HONOR X9b is a nice phone to hold in your hands and it isn’t a one-hand friendly phone – so, expect to use both your hands from time to time. It is without a doubt the lightest phone I’ve ever reviewed this year and it’s tough too – which is not a common thing to say. Focusing a little more on the toughness, the display is the main highlight here.
On the front of the HONOR X9b, we find a 6.78” AMOLED Display with 120Hz refresh rate and hitting upto 1200 nits peak brightness. The resolution of this display is similar to what we saw with the OnePlus Nord 3 5G – which is a 1.5K AMOLED display. I have to say, it’s a pretty beautiful display to lay your eyes on and the colours on the X9b just pop with vibrance. If you are solely getting it for media consumption, oh boy, it’s a nice display to let your eyes ogle at.
The viewing angles were good with no issues and the bezels on the top and bottom are in acceptable dimensions. However, curve displays are more fragile prone. However, HONOR’s display features the Ultra-bounce Anti-Drop Display which can take hits and drops. Basically, it has a wraparound cushioning to act as a shock absorber and an extra layer of protection which they call it the “Deep Seal Protection” and “Single Point Reinforcement Protection”.
It works – however, that doesn’t mean you should abuse the phone. We have already seen posts in the HONOR Malaysia group where users have broken the display to such an extent that there’s an impact on the component and it voided the warranty. So, remember – there’s a limit, just don’t push it.
Specification and Performance
Since this is a mid-tier smartphone, the hardware under the hood is centred around that: We get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 with 12GB RAM and 256GB Internal storage. This is the only configuration the HONOR X9b is available in – and that’s good. Experience-wise, the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is a very mid-tier processor, and it was okay for daily tasks. Try to push it any further with games that require quite the firepower, it really does struggle. We did try playing games like Grid Motorsport, which is – without a doubt, intense for this phone.
So, scaling down to games like F1 Mobile Racing, it did struggle a little albeit playable to a certain extent. If you try games that require minimal resources such as Marvel Snap!, it has no issues with it. Other than that, the phone does drop-in frame rates when you try to multitask a lot – and do keep in mind that the 6 Gen 1 isn’t a powerhouse. So, once again, I’ll repeat that the processor is okay at best for daily tasks and anything beyond that might be a tad bit “too much to ask”.
This makes me wonder why they didn’t take the MediaTek route since their recent Dimensity processors have been knocking every ball out of the park.
The HONOR X9b has a triple camera setup – with a 108MP Primary Shooter, 5MP Ultra Wide and a 2MP Macro. The primary 108MP sensor is a decent camera under well-lit conditions and takes very crisp images with a little bit of colder tones in its images (which can be corrected post). And the details are well retained – which you can check in the shots below. However, the moment you move on to low light situations – the camera does take a good few seconds to snap something. Once it does, and thanks to the post-processing, the image becomes quite right.
But expect to miss moments regardless of which camera you use as the native processing, which is handled by the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is a bit lackluster. At least the images look okay. Until you switch to the Ultrawide camera, which feels like shooting from a phone of yesteryear. Colours get washed out and have a strong magenta tint under low light, a bit darker in contrast under well-lit surroundings and lack details.
If you do get this phone, and just hope to use the 108MP camera with the optional 5MP Ultrawide, you will be fine. The 2MP on the other hand is as non-functional as always.
Under the hood of the HONOR X9b, features a whopping 5800mAh battery which in my use case, lasted for two days straight and I loved it. It was the phone I could go to sleep with 60% and wake up with 55% and continue my day without even needing a power bank, making it back home right on time to connect to the charger. It does come with a fast charging adapter rated at 35W which is quite alright.
Other things to Note
Mono Firing Speakers
With more and more brands offering stereo speakers in mid-tier smartphones, the HONOR X9b has a mono-firing speaker, which was quite a letdown.
Magic UI gives a love-hate experience
I have used and experienced Magic UI in the past and it has some thoughtful improvements like lighting up the display to use face recognition unlock and so on. It even has one of the best fonts on a phone, which looks pleasing to the eyes. The same UI still gives you frustrations like splitting the Notification Area and Control Center into two separate areas. As Marie Kondo would say, “This does not spark joy.” In my case, at times. But UI can be fixed and I hope HONOR looks into this.
But hey, it has GMS – which is an absolute relief, as this is the first HONOR phone we have reviewed with GMS since the non-GMS days.
At RM 1499, and knowing at this price point, we have seen so many other smartphones to do so many things better – the HONOR X9b is a tough phone to recommend if toughness is all that matters to you and your butter fingers. However, we feel like there are better phones, even in HONOR’s own arsenal to look for, like the HONOR 90 for instance which uses a better Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 and you’d just have to top up a few hundred ringgit.
At least the HONOR X9b is one tough cookie. Just might be the phone for your kids to show their tantrums at. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯