Honor 9 full review
The Honor 9 is the latest flagship from the Huawei sub-brand, and it liberally borrows from the Huawei P10’s specs while sticking to the Honor aesthetic and aiming for a much friendlier price point.
The Honor 9 is angling to be one of the best mid-range phones on the market this year, but can it deliver? Find out in our Honor 9 review.
Note: Honor is launching a new phone on 5 December, so check out the rumoured specs before you buy an Honor 9.
Price and Availability
The Honor 9 is available straight away so the release date is 27 June.
You’ll can buy it from vMall, Honor’s official online store, for £379.99.
That’s almost £200 less than the very similarly specced Huawei P10, and even undercuts the OnePlus 5T by £70, making this one of the most affordable top-end Android phones in the UK by a decent margin.
If you’d rather pick it up on contract or PAYG, the Honor 9 is a Three exclusive in the UK, with contracts starting from £19 a month with £29 up front.
Design and build
In terms of looks, the Honor 9 is a blend of the Honor 8 and the Huawei P10.
It’s available in three colours - Glacier Grey, Sapphire Blue, and Midnight Black - and our review unit is the brand’s signature blue, which is the only colour available in the UK from launch - though the grey version is arriving from 4 August.
The blue is shown off to maximum effect by the glass body - built, like the Honor 8, out of 15 curved layers - which leaves the phone with an almost impossibly glossy finish (with the inevitable downside of being a bit of a fingerprint magnet).
Honor has intensified the effect this time around by rounding the edge’s of the glass rear like the Galaxy S7, which helps the phone catch and reflect the light in even more hues, while also making it a bit more comfortable to hold.
At 7.5mm and 155g it’s comfortable enough to hold and use one-handed without too much of a stretch, though the glass finish is about as slippy as you might expect - especially on smooth, flat surfaces. Even the camera lenses are totally flush with the body, so there's no friction at all.
The sides of the body are made of sandblasted metal in the same hue as the front and back, though the finish is less durable than you might hope. Ours had already picked up a (tiny) chip within the first day of fairly careful use - combine that with the slippy finish and you’ll definitely want a case for this one.
The right-hand side has the power button and volume rocker, with a the dual-SIM (or single-SIM and microSD) slot on the left. At the bottom you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging port, and speaker.
The front of the phone is almost directly lifted from the P10 - including the fingerprint scanner built into the oval home button below the screen - while the dual lens camera layout on the back is also identical other than the removal of the Leica branding.
There is one downside borrowed from the P10 too though - like that phone, this doesn't feature any sort of waterproofing, so you'll have to follow Gremlins rules about keeping it dry.
It may sound like a bit of a hodge podge of design choices from other phones, but the good news is that it comes together into one very attractive whole.
You don’t get the stunning bezel-less front that’s oh-so-2017, but the glass finish and simple design leave the Honor 9 undeniably striking - and do yourself a favour and opt for the blue model which really shows it off the best.
Specs and hardware
If you thought the phone’s exterior borrowed generously from the Huawei P10, just wait until you see what’s inside.
The screen at least is slightly different from the P10 - though not by too much. The Honor 9 has a 5.15in Full HD display with a pixel density of 428ppi, compared to a 5.1in screen in its big brother.
In action, it’s bright and glossy, with a great colour range that’s enough to make sure it isn’t going to get outshone by its (admittedly very shiny) body.
Processor, memory and storage
Just like its older (and substantially more expensive) brother, the Honor 9 is packing a Kirin 960 octa-core processor, with four cores at 2.4GHz and another four at 1.8GHz.
That’s backed by 4GB of RAM, 64 GB of built-in storage, and a microSD card slot that supports up to 256GB. Again, exactly like the P10.
That translates to rock solid performance, with tiny load times, and never a hint of lag no matter what we threw at it during our time using the phone.
It's just as comfortable when it comes to our formal benchmarks, with results that put it in grasping distance of some of the year’s top flagships.
Note: Our review unit came with 6GB of RAM, a spec which isn’t available in the UK. The units are otherwise identical, but the extra 2GB will have helped it perform slightly better in these benchmarks.
Battery life boasts some improvements from the P10. Despite using the same 3,200mAh battery, there have clearly been some optimisation tweaks, as the Honor 9 has comfortably lasted a day or two between charges.
A 90-minute video call was enough to dent it by 20 percent or so in one go, but otherwise battery ticked down very gradually - and thanks to USB-C fast charging, it’s quick to top back up too.
Finally, the camera setup is one of the most impressive features of the P10, and we’re pleased to see it arrive in the Honor phone pretty much unscathed. The hardware isn’t Leica-branded this time, but otherwise the set-up is identical.
The rear camera is dual lens, with a 12Mp colour sensor and 20Mp monochrome one, which helps the camera perform better in challenging light conditions by combining the results from each, along with offering up to 2x hybrid zoom.
Photographs are consistently clear and vivid, and the camera does a great job of picking up on varied lighting within the frame without losing any detail.
Also borrowed from the P10 is the increasingly popular portrait mode, which uses the dual lens setup and facial recognition software to subtly blur backgrounds (aka the bokeh effect) and enhance facial detail in portrait shots, mostly to impressive effect.
You also get the usual selection of other photo modes, including moving pictures (essentially a two-second video), panorama, time-lapse, light trails, and a special night mode that's optimised for low light.
As for the front-facing camera, it’s 8Mp (though single lens) and has the same software support as the rear.
The front camera can capture HD video, while the rear is capable of full 4K.
Software and Apps
Software is arguably the biggest letdown of the Honor 9.
It runs Android Nougat 7.0 out of the box, but it’s customised with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 skin, which has a tendency to bring a lot of unwelcome clutter with it.
That’s most evident in things like the Quick Settings drop-down, which is by default packed with features you probably don't need immediate access to, and extends to minor annoyances like not offering an App Drawer by default.
You’ll also have to contend with a fair few of Huawei’s own basic apps being installed instead of Google’s own - though you can of course install the big G's alternatives - and an assortment of bloatware that you’ll probably want to uninstall after you first turn it on, including a surprising number of games.
Still, there are some nice touches. Like a few other phones this year, the Honor 9 builds the Android on-screen navigation buttons into the fingerprint sensor, freeing up some screen space. If you prefer, you can also use the capacitive buttons hidden in the body to the side of the sensor.
There are also features like the 'Eye comfort' mode which reduces blue light from the screen to make it more comfortable to look at in the dark, as well as the custom camera app mentioned above.
You also get plenty of customisation, so you can tweak the phone to suit your needs more closely - it just takes a little patience.
Honor 9: Specs
- Android Nougat 7.0 with EMUI 5.1
- 5.15in 1920x1080 touchscreen, 428ppi
- Kirin 960 octa-core processor (4x2.4GHz, 4x1.8GHz)
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB storage
- Dual lens rear camera - 12Mp colour, 20Mp monochrome, support for 4K video at 30fps
- 8Mp front camera
- Fingerprint sensor
- 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.2 4G LTE
- Dual nano-SIM
- 3200mAh non-removable battery