In this HONOR X9a 5G review, we’ll take a look at the latest addition to the X series from the former Huawei sub brand. It offers a lot of exciting features including 5G capability, a pretty decent OLED screen, and high durability. In most aspects, it’s almost the perfect phone for everyday carry.
What’s inside the box?
Aside from the phone itself, we’ll get the usual paperwork included in most gadgets nowadays, a sim-ejector tool, silicone case, a USB Type-C to Type-A cable that handles both data and charging, and finally a 40w HONOR SuperCharge brick.
A closer look
Taking a closer look at the phone you can see that the phone has a sleek design and really thin form factor. The camera module screams for attention. It houses a triple-camera setup including a 64MP Ultra-clear camera, 5MP Wide-angle camera, and a 2MP macro cam.
On the front, the phone is sporting a 6.67” 120Hz OLED screen with a resolution of 2400×1800. It’s a fast and decent display that measured up to 800 nits and the 120Hz refresh rate gives the phone a perceived snappiness making the phone satisfying to use in android games that support 60FPS and above. The image quality is also superb giving out vibrant colors and true black images thanks to the OLED nature of the screen. It also features a fingerprint scanner under the phone.
The top of the screen houses a fairly decent 18MP front-facing camera that allows for pretty selfies and would fare pretty well with the multi-video feature of the camera software allowing you to record with the front and back camera simultaneously.
On the sides of the phone you have the power/lock and volume rocker buttons on the left, USB-C port, bottom firing speaker, microphone and sim-tray right under. Noticeably, a headphone jack is missing which can be a deal breaker for some people. Oh, also it is not waterproof in any way so make sure to keep your phone out of the rain.
Let’s talk about durability. HONOR asked tech reviewers to showcase the durability of the phone by dropping it at least 1-2m height to see if the screen will survive. We were even asked to smash it over some fruits and nuts. I did a drop test around 2-3m height on a staircase and I even smashed the phone face-flat on the table, and I am pleased to report that the phone’s screen survived without any cracks or damage. Some other reviewers even had a car run over their HONOR X9a 5g surviving without noticeable damage.
The phone’s body is mostly made of plastic and the curved OLED screen is similar to the screens you would find on the recent Huawei Mate smartphones that exhibited the same durability.
The HONOR X9a 5G uses the Magic UI 6.1 OS, which is based on Android 12. Unlike its Huawei counterparts, this iteration of Android 12 comes with Google apps preinstalled and even has Google Play Store. I am pleased to see that the basic default apps are from Google. On the bloatware side of things you have a few things installed such as the HONOR App Market, My Honor App, Tiktok, Booking.com, Trip.com, WPS Office, and pre installed games like Lords Mobile and Lord of Sultans. These bloatware can be uninstalled easily but it’s really annoying to have to go through this with almost every phone or computer manufacturer.
Under the hood, the HONOR X9a 5G Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC, packing two 2.2GHz Cortex-A78 and six Corex-A55 CPUs and an Adreno 619 GPU. For memory and storage, the X9a 5G is going to be available in both 6GB RAM + 128GB storage, and 8GB RAM + 128/256GB storage. Finally, powering the device is a 5100Ah battery which should give you enough juice for everyday use.
Thanks to the 120Hz OLED screen, the phone feels fast and snappy which gives it a satisfying perceived performance. Scrolling through different apps and windows feels fluid and responsive without any noticeable lags. Games even run great especially when they can go above 60FPS (frames per second) and can really utilize the 120Hz refresh rate. We’ve tested Call of Duty Mobile and the game ran smoothly with medium settings and max frate rates. Genshin Impact on the other hand still struggled to get a consistent 60FPS even on medium graphical settings but given the RPG nature of the game, it should still be a satisfying experience (depends on who’s playing).
Running the HONOR X9a 5G on synthetic benchmark software to easily compare it with similar spec phones shows a different outlook, however. The benchmark scores indicate that this phone falls short in terms of raw performance compared to other phones equipped with the Snapdragon 695 processor.
But looking at the bigger picture, numbers and scores don’t contribute much to the overall experience of the phone. The HONOR X9a 5G compensates from this in many other ways. The underwhelming scores versus similar phones with Snapdragon 695 indicates that HONOR deliberately nerfed its performance in exchange for a longer battery life; and our test confirms this as our battery stress test drained the phone from 100% to 10% in under 12 hours under full load. Aside from that, we are still getting a snappy experience thanks to its 120Hz OLED screen. We win some, we lose some, as they say.
As expected from a phone of this caliber, photos taken with the HONOR X9a 5G are pretty decent. The camera software offers a lot of tweaking options for photography nerds using the pro mode. Options include adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and even manual focus. The only underwhelming thing about the camera system is the 2MP macro camera. No matter how much light I put in the photos taken with the 2MP maco cam, the results are just not usable for me. It’s not just HONOR who are putting such macro camera modules on their phones and it’s such a waste that they insist on putting a low megapixel macro camera as if it’s such a sought after feature.
So, taking photos is great. How about video? Well, that’s one aspect this phone falls short as well. For some reason, almost all of the phones with Snapdragon 695 are limited to 1080p 30FPS maximum which may be a deal breaker for a lot of people who will be using this for content creation. It’s most likely the limitation of the 6nm process of the CPU as 4K 30FPS recording generates more heat. But still, it’s disappointing as older SoC’s like the Snapdragon 800 (11nm process) from 2013 is capable of 4K 30FPS recording.
Aside from that, you get some neat features like the multi-video recording mode where you use the front and back camera simultaneously to capture special moments.
Verdict in this HONOR X9a 5G review
There is much to like about as we do this HONOR X9a 5G review and I can easily write off its shortcomings.
WIth the price tag of PHP 16,990, the HONOR X9a 5G in this review is almost the perfect phone for everyday carry. It has a lot going for it like the 120Hz OLED display, decent Snapdragon 695 processor, a solid camera system for taking photos, and a highly durable screen that doesn’t crack even if you inflict serious physical impact on the phone itself. Let’s also include the long battery life in the positives as well.
Performance is quite decent for a mid-range phone giving you a fluid and snappy experience despite that internal hardware’s shortcomings. It may not have a headphone jack, but I would see myself wanting to have this phone for everyday use.
Gaming performance doesn’t really matter to me as much, and I’m sure a lot of people won’t care about it either. Either way, games that support high frame rates will benefit from the 120Hz screen and just make sure to run them within reasonable graphical settings.
Additionally, the fact that I can drop my phone 2-3 meters (intentionally or by accident) on the ground and still have the screen intact is a huge deal for me. I have cracked a few phone screens in my lifetime and it really sucks when it happens.
With the HONOR X9a 5G, I can be confident that my phone will have enough battery to last me throughout the day, and still have a pretty phone even if I had an unfortunate accident. With that said, HONOR X9a 5G is our first smartphone review of the year and we are pleasantly surprised on what it has to offer that we are giving it the Great Value award.
- Beautiful OLED Screen running on 120Hz
- Extraordinary Durability
- Long battery life
- Great at snapping photos
- 1080p only video recording
- No headphone jack
This review was first published and was the banner story for Sunday and Business I.T.