Two weeks after its official global release, Shenzhen-based smartphone brand Honor is finally bringing the midrange Honor X9a 5G-powered handset to local shores, boasting its high durability build and display, as well as its two-day battery life.
The Honor X9a is an upgraded successor of last year’s Honor X9, with this year’s version donning a more elegant look with minimalistic tones, a more subdued but playful paint job, a more immersive-looking screen with smoother animations, and a larger battery life.
Because of the “X” signifier, Honor fans can correctly assume that the Honor X9a is a midrange level smartphone. Even back to when Honor was a sub-brand of Huawei, the Honor X series have always carried the mid-premium models of the Honor brand.
Taking in its overall look, the Honor X9a is an attractive phone – it looks like a flagship that is an amalgamation of metal and glass, but as tough as a ruggedized outdoor smartphone.
Versus the previous model, the X9a is lighter, has a brighter display, is packed with more pixels, comes with larger storage space, and ditches the physical fingerprint sensor for a more advanced under-display optical sensor for authentication.
Despite the 3D curved AMOLED, users can still see a hint of the side bezels which can affect its immersive quality, while the forehead and chin bezels give the illusion that they are as slim as the side bezels.
The performance of the Honor X9a is a mixed bag. Although the device excels in multi-tasking or rendering long-form videos, it does exhibit a few hiccups and slowdowns when running resource-intensive applications and platforms.
The user interface provides users with a lot of room for customization, unfortunately the options are not plenty. All three icon packs appear outdated, the choices for the always-on display is a little restricting, and the stock wallpapers do not look unique to the Honor brand.
The Honor X9a is a contradiction: the circular camera island is an eye-catcher because of how unique it looks compared to what’s currently in the market, but it falls short of what users have come to expect from the pricier midrange smartphone products.
First, the stock camera application’s simplistic approach only hides the fact that the cameras have no redeeming strengths.
The AI photography algorithm struggles to deliver its promise of automatically adjusting settings based on each subject, the color reproduction lacks vibrancy and contrast, busy scenes lose a lot of details, and night photography is leaps behind smartphones with cheaper price tags.
The Honor X9a has the makings of a remarkable midrange smartphone that can beat its rivals with aplomb. Unfortunately, its noteworthy features come with unusual tradeoffs — wielding an undeniably tough screen without ingress protection, a considerable battery life without wireless charging, and a capable processor paired with an underperforming graphics processing unit.
The intent behind the X9a’s design, however, still makes sense. Without these compromises, the line between Honor’ midrange and flagship offerings will start to blur. Versus smartphones in its price category, the Honor X9a presents a unique selling point when it comes to durability. However, mobile photography enthusiasts should look around for better options.
Update: Honor Philippines announced on Thursday, Jan. 19, that the Honor X9a will retail for P16,990.