While foldable smartphones continue to be a novelty that is gaining mainstream acceptance, the standard slab form factor is the most popular form factor that is set to stay. Honor’s latest foray into the mid-range market is marked by the brand new Honor X9a 5G. It sets itself apart from the rest by relying on a unique rear camera configuration that has echoes of Huawei, its original parent company.
Design & Display
At first glance from the front, the Honor X9a 5G does not stand out at all. You get a a tear-drop notch selfie camera that is located right at the top. The bezels remain slim enough to deliver an immersive viewing experience.
Be prepared to be surprised when you flip it over. Depending on how the light hits the back, the colours will change accordingly. It is not tacky at all, and does carry a certain sense of charm. The entire Honor X9a 5G feels solid to the touch, and since the company has decided to ditch the use of a glass back, you can rest in the knowledge that this is not going to be a fingerprint magnet.
There is a volume rocker on the right side of the handset with the power button located right below it. The power button also has the dual functionality of a fingerprint reader. Forget about having stereo speakers here – this is a mid-range handset, after all, so the solitary speaker is located at the bottom. It is highly recommended you consume games and media content while wearing a pair of wireless earbuds, otherwise viewing it in landscape format would mean covering the speaker grille with your hand.
Oh yes, why do I recommend using a pair of wireless earbuds? The answer is simple: the 3.5mm audio jack is missing as usual.
The USB-C port resides beside the speaker, supporting the speedy 66W SuperCharge standard. At the opposite end of the speaker is the dual-SIM tray. You can use either slot to hold the primary SIM, and both of them support the 5G network standard which is fantastic. Now, if only Malaysia’s 5G infrastructure is more widespread to take advantage of this.
There is a 6.81-inch Full HD+ LCD display. Don’t turn your nose at this display despite not carrying the AMOLED status – it still comes with a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate, although you can always set it at 60Hz if you want to conserve battery life. For best case scenarios, a variable 120Hz refresh rate makes perfect sense.
The display comes with a protective film, and Honor claims that this is one hardy screen that you can abuse. In fact, I took it out for a test run and actually crushed a couple of macadamia nuts. Lo and behold, it emerged unscathed, much to my early consternation. After all, what if I had actually ruined the display?
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G SoC powers the device from underneath the hood, accompanied by 8GB RAM. If you feel that it lacks any punch, there is another 2GB of virtual memory available when required. Do make sure you use the 128GB internal memory well, since there is no microSD memory card slot for expansion purposes.
The Snapdragon 695 SoC is more than enough for everyday tasks. Malaysians who love to do online shopping, hang out on TikTok and Instagram, while binging on the latest K-drama on Netflix will find the Honor X9 5G more than adequate. I did not experience any lag when switching between apps, even when there are numerous apps opened simultaneously.
Having put the Honor X9a 5G through 3D Benchmark tests, it showed no signs of extreme overheating, and neither were there any drastic drops in the framerate. Bear in mind that this is a mid-range handset, so you can’t really turn on all the graphics settings to the maximum, but there is proper temperature management when it is pushed.
The Honor X9a 5G is powered by its very own Magic UI 4.2 skin on top of Android 11. At the time of publishing, there is no word on when Android 12 will be released for the Honor X9 5G. It does feature the February 2022 Android security patch and March 2022 Google Play system update though.
A trio of cameras are located behind the Honor X9a 5G. You get a 48MP main camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth camera. There is no ultra wide-angle or telephoto lens to play with, so it is best you rely on the 48MP main camera as your go-to tool. Doing well during the day with bright sunlight, night shots suffer with far more noise than expected. I found the 2MP macro camera to be pretty much useless since it is better to use the main camera and crop the object of your choice later.
All in all, the Honor X9a 5G works great for social media posts. Anything more than that, and you will have to look elsewhere, namely the flagship tier. Can’t get enough selfies to show the world? Narcissus would be proud of the 16MP selfie camera.
For those who prefer to be visual storytellers via video, you can use both front and rear cameras to capture video in Full HD resolution.
It is all about context when it comes to battery life. When I used the Honor X9a 5G, it was connected to my home and office WiFi most of the time, and it lasted all the way from morning till I hit the bed while sporting 20% of battery life left. I set the display’s refresh rate to 120 Hertz all the time.
My daily usage pattern included enabling GPS to track a 30-minute morning run thrice a week, watching YouTube for an hour with another couple of hours spent on Netflix, while receiving and replying an average number of messages. Facebook and Instagram take up around half an hour of my time. I did not dabble too much with voice calls.
Thankfully, Honor does not subscribe to the greenwashing ideals of Apple and Samsung by including the 66W SuperCharge adapter. It is fast, and if you are used to slower chargers, the Honor X9a 5G will surprise you. Fancy hitting 100% from 9% in just 45 minutes? The 4,800 mAh battery fills up at a speedy rate, so you might want to change your charging pattern when getting this handset.
Overall, the Honor X9a 5G is a solid, dependable workhorse that excels in everyday use. Forget about using this as a gaming handset if you are competitive. If you are about to jump aboard the 5G bandwagon, then the Honor X9a 5G is a decent entry point at RM1,299 a pop. You can choose from Midnight Black, Ocean Blue, and Titanium Silver shades.