Honor 9X Pro is a smartphone that is aimed at an audience with good knowledge of Android, able to better manage HMS.
The smartphone market is a boundless world, in which there are myriad types of users. Just to mention some classic situations, there are those who buy their device looking only at autonomy, those who aim at the quality / price ratio and those who want maximum brute force. Usage habits are very different from person to person and the choice also depends on the degree of knowledge you have of the Android world.
Honor 9X Pro is aimed primarily at users who know how to juggle alternative stores and manual configurations, since it is not equipped with Google services but use Huawei Mobile Services and the AppGallery store.
Definitely a limit, but this smartphone is sold for € 249.90 on the official website (6 / 256GB). Until May 31, 2020, a coupon of 50 euros can also be requested through the HiHonor portal. This means that you can take it home with you a final cost of 199.90 euros. In short, the price is intriguing, but will it be enough to place a convincing product on the market?
Design and unboxing
Let’s start from a premise: in the second half of 2019 we reviewed Honor 9X, which arrived in Italy at that time. As can be seen from the name, what we have tested in recent weeks is its Pro variant, an enhanced model. The first similarities with the device of last year are in the content of the sales package, in which we find a 5V / 2A (10W) charger, a comfortable transparent silicone cover, the USB Type-C cable for charging, the discreet headphones with jack cable and the pin for removing the dual nanoSIM compartment.
In short, the equipment is the classic one that the Chinese company has accustomed us to with many devices in this price range.
The sense of déjà vu becomes even stronger when we consider the design of the smartphone. The dimensions and weight are identical to Honor 9X: 163.1 x 77.2 x 8.8 mm and 206 grams. The latter are felt when you hold the device in your hand and Honor 9X Pro certainly does not stand out for its “lightness”.
The materials used are “premium” (metal frame and glass back) and the constructive solidity is good: Honor hardly misses a hit in this field. On the back of the smartphone, we find a triple camera and a LED flash arranged vertically in the upper left, while the Honor logo peeps out at the bottom. Praise to the Chinese company for the Phantom Purple colouring, which creates an “X” when exposed to light. Very nice to look at and certainly able to make the back cover stand out better than the classic Midnight Black (which is, however, also on sale for this model). In short, the back of Honor 9X Pro is appreciated and we hope that it will be taken up also in the future.
The most attentive of you will surely have noticed that the fingerprint sensor is not present on the back of the device, as was the case with the original Honor 9X. In fact, the Chinese company moved it to the right side, by integrating it into the power button. Here comes the taste factor: we appreciate both positions and we have now learned to use them without any kind of problem, but we know that there are users who prefer one or the other solution, so it is good to report it. In any case, unlocking by fingerprint has always proved to be fast and precise.
Among other things, there is no facial recognition, since it would have been uncomfortable because of the all-screen design. An understandable choice, but it would probably have been better to have given the user the choice.
In any case, staying on the right side of the device, we also find the volume rocker. At the top are the SIM trolley (dual nanoSIM or nanoSIM + microSD), the second microphone and the mechanism for the pop-up camera. The left side is completely empty, while at the bottom we find the 3.5 mm audio jack for headphones, the second microphone, the speakers and the USB Type-C port.
The front of the device consists of a 6.59-inch all-screen display with high screen-to-body ratio. The smartphone comes with a pre-applied protective film, which as usual we removed after a few days to better test the quality of the display. Generally speaking, the design is very reminiscent of the original Honor 9X and there are very few novelties.
The real differences are all in the datasheet. In fact, the “historic” Kirin 710F processor is finally abandoned in favour of the more performing Kirin 810, operating at the maximum frequency of 2.27 GHz (2 x 2.27 GHz + 6 x 1.88 GHz). The SoC is also flanked by a Mali-G52 MP6 GPU, 6GB of RAM and 256GB of internal memory (expandable via microSD up to 512GB). In addition to the doubled ROM, the performance jump offered by the new processor is remarkable and places this Honor 9X Pro among the most powerful devices in its price range.
Unfortunately, the news stops here. In fact, in the front, we find one 6.59-inch IPS LCD screen with Full HD + resolution (2340 x 1080 pixels) and high screen-to-body ratio. It is a panel that does not stand out particularly since it sins in terms of colour balance. More “geek” users can correct the shot a little through the temperature and colour settings accessible from the settings.
Unfortunately, there are no Widevine L1 DRMs and therefore you can forget the HD content on streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video (downloadable from the Amazon AppStore) and Netflix (accessible only through an old APK that is online). As of this writing, Disney + doesn’t really want to know it works.
Furthermore, given the absence of Google services, YouTube can be seen practically only through a browser, in case you do not want to go beyond the official solutions. This means that it is not possible to zoom and therefore a lot of content does not go to cover the whole screen, which goes a little to frustrate the all-screen design.
The more experienced will solve the problem with stores like F-Droid and clients like Newpipe, but the average user often does not know these possibilities and struggles to enter this world. In short, on the multimedia content and display side, Honor 9X Pro cannot convince and there is still a long way to go to make it attractive from this point of view. Paradoxically, the original Honor 9X is able to better exploit its screen, since it has Google services and can, therefore, access more content.
Of course, on AppGallery, the Huawei / Honor proprietary store, there are Rai Play and VVVVID, but you understand well that it is not the same thing. There is also Huawei Video, but its catalogue is far from those of the most famous services. Furthermore, always remaining in the display area, any always-on mode is missing.
We also find very little news in the photographic sector: in front there is a 16MP pop-up camera (f / 2.2), while on the back we find a triple 48MP camera (f / 1.8) + 8MP (f / 2.4, wide-angle, 120 degrees) + 2MP (f / 2.4, for bokeh). The three rear sensors record video at 1080p / 60fps, while the front one reaches 1080p / 30fps. For the rest, we know the modes offered by the Camera app: Aperture, Night, Portrait, Pro, Slow motion, Panorama, Light painting, HDR, Time-Lapse, Moving image and Stickers.
In short, even here the user who has previously used some Honor smartphone will find himself at home.
The quality of the shots of the triple rear camera is average: the photos are good in contexts with good brightness, while in low light the noise is noticeable. The Night mode implemented on Honor 9X Pro works all in all well, but don’t expect higher-end results. The front camera convinced us more, able to take advantage of artificial intelligence to make good selfies. The Chinese company has worked well and the end result is convincing.
As for videos, you always have to go down to 1080p / 30fps to have a stabilization that can be called such. It is an aspect common to many mid/low-end smartphones, so it is nothing transcendental. Always very nice is the slow-motion mode at 480 fps at 720p, which among other things starts recording as soon as it detects a movement, making it easier to make videos of this type. Summing up, the photographic sector of the smartphone is not bad, but more could probably be done. If you want to deepen the topic, find some uncompressed photos in our Drive folder dedicated to Honor 9X Pro.
Arriving to autonomy, we find the classic 4000 mAh battery with 10W charging support. We often arrived in the evening with 30/35% of remaining charge: the Honor / Huawei group is a guarantee in this field. However, there is the limit of charging: by now we are reaching much higher speeds even in this price range and a 10W charger starts to be a bit limiting in mid-2020.
As for the connectivity department, Honor had bad luck: a criticism made to the original Honor 9X concerned the absence of the NFC chip and therefore the Chinese company has rightly implemented it in this Pro version. However, the absence of Google services involves the lack of various contactless payment systems and therefore there is very little to do. Then we find support for 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac and Bluetooth 5.0. Not bad the audio sector, which despite being composed of a mono speaker manages to guarantee a discrete quality and a good maximum volume (our tests showed 78 dBA, a value in the norm).
The operating system is Android 9 Pie with EMUI 9.1.1, which at the time of writing has the security patches of January 1, 2020. Not exactly the best of the presentations. We all know the main limitation: Google services are absent. It is useless to stay here to discuss all the problems that this entails, from the difficulties in finding the apps to some software that do not work: find everything in our detailed guide to HMS, in which we also explained how to best use this type of products.
For the rest, now the EMUI 9.1.1 we know it very well, from the excellent gestures to the Digital Management screen, passing through all the other classic features.
Too bad for the absence of clear information about the update to Android 10: we cannot give you certain details relating to the timing.
Performance and benchmarks
As previously described, Honor 9X Pro is a smartphone that manages to compete very well in this price range in terms of performance. In fact, it is a device capable of offering a good experience both in the daily environment and in more “heavy” contexts such as gaming (an aspect that we will analyze later).
For benchmark lovers, Honor 9X Pro has achieved a total of 269494 points on AnTuTu. On Geekbench, however, it reached 582 points in single-core and 1856 points in multi-core. Numbers above the average of the price range.
To give you a concrete example, Realme 5 Pro, one of the devices considered more powerful under 200 euros, stops at 221482 points on AnTuTu. In short, the adoption of the Kirin 810 has certainly brought significant advantages and this is also noticeable during daily life.
To test Honor 9X Pro in the gaming field we have chosen four titles: Fortnite, Asphalt 9: Legends, Call of Duty Mobile and ARK: Survival Evolved. In short, we are talking about games that can put a smartphone of this range to the test.
Fortnite is an emblematic example of what can happen without Google services. In fact, the Epic Games title can be downloaded from the AppGallery but, once the launcher is installed, the latter warns the user that the game is not compatible with Honor 9X Pro. To solve this problem, you can rely on APK Pure and download Fortnite from there. In this way, the game will install and warn the user that his device would not be compatible.
However, once you have skipped the message and loaded the title (it may take several seconds), you can play with details set to “Reduced” and 30 FPS. The title works all in all well thanks to the good hardware sector (consider that Fortnite usually does not run on low-end devices), but for the average user having to carry out these steps may not be very simple.
Fortunately, the story is different with Asphalt 9: Legends. In fact, the latter can be downloaded from the AppGallery and works as it should even with “High quality” presets, net of some small lag in the most excited situations. For a better experience, we recommend keeping it on the default preset. The case of Call of Duty Mobile is very interesting: once downloaded from Pure APK, the game runs smoothly and without lag with details and FPS on “Very high”. We remind you that the original Honor 9X stopped at details on “Basso” and FPS on “Medio”.
Finally, the classic “heavy” test is what happens with ARK: Survival Evolved. In this case, the title turns discreetly only with details on “Basso”, but it is already a sort of “miracle” the fact that a device that is sold under 200 euros succeeds in this endeavor. Going up to “Medium” you begin to notice all the limits of the hardware sector of a low cost smartphone. It should be noted that the game shows an error message during the start-up phase, since GMS are absent. However, skipping it still manages to start a game.
Honor 9X Pro is a smartphone for users who are familiar with the possibilities offered by the Android world. It is in fact a device that has obvious limitations: the absence of Google services involves various difficulties in accessing certain apps and the lack of Widewine L1 DRM brings with it the impossibility of seeing HD content on streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix (which, by the way, only works with an old APK). To this must be added the fact that Honor 9X Pro is a “conservative” smartphone: the design and part of the technical sheet closely resemble the original Honor 9X. However, important steps have been taken: the implementation of the Kirin 810 processor guarantees above-average performance, the excellent amount of internal memory is sufficient for all types of use and the front camera is able to take excellent selfie, thanks also to the use of artificial intelligence. Added to this are the excellent autonomy and the splendid design of the backcover. Despite this, there are other different flaws, from the weight not exactly “feather” to the screen that is not the most convincing (only discreet color balance and lack of always-on), passing through the recharge only at 10W and for an out-of-date software and with all the drawbacks deriving from the lack of GMS.
Ultimately, it is a smartphone that could appeal to more “geek” users because of the price / performance ratio, given the excellent initial promotion that allows you to take Honor 9X Pro home for less than 200 euros.