Honor X9a Review – Ultra tough midrange workhorse phone tested
The newly launched Honor X9a 5G is a midrange phone that features what is arguably the toughest glass display in the market with the ability to smash open almost everything from crabs to walnuts. Ahead of its official launch, we managed to get a retail sample for review. Here’s our Honor X9a review where we put it to the test!
Honor X9a review – Build and Design
Also referred to as the Honor X9a 5G in official literature to highlight its 5G connectivity to consumers, the Honor X9a is intended as a more refined successor to last year’s Honor X9.
Compared to its predecessor the X9, the Honor X9a has, as mentioned earlier, 5G connectivity by default versus the X9 which had 5G and 4G LTE only enabled variants and notably features their latest toughened glass that has been formulated to be highly resistant to direct impact and drops.
In live tests, Honor has demonstrated that their new toughened glass is able to crack open walnuts, crush macadamia nuts, smash open a crab and even survive a direct hit from a shuttlecock served by a professional athlete.
Needless to say, this vastly increases its survivability versus drops to the floor and vastly reduces the potential cost of having to repair it due to misadventure. Unfortunately, the phone has no water and dust resistance so some care still needs to be taken to protect it from the elements.
Closer inspection of our Honor X9a review sample reveals that it is slightly lighter than the older X9 while having a larger 5,000mAh battery though it has slightly slower 40W charging, features a slightly smaller 6.7-inch but higher quality 120Hz OLED display and has a modestly improved triple camera array on the rear. That aside, it retains the same 16MP front selfie camera and Snapdragon 695 processor with 8GB RAM but doubles the prior 128GB of non-expandable storage to 256GB.
Aesthetically speaking, the Honor X9a features a premium looking silhouette with curved edges that have the 6.7-inch FHD+ 120Hz OLED gently bent on the sides to meet the aluminium frame.
Unlike its predecessor the X9, the X9a has an in-display fingerprint reader in the lower quadrant of the display while retaining the same fixed-focus 16MP selfie camera up front. Oddly enough, Honor has pre applied a screen protector to the display despite its rated toughness; it’s a quaint gesture but a welcome one nonetheless.
The polycarbonate backplate of our Honor X9a review unit is done up in a shade of what they refer to as Titanium Silver which has a semi-matte finish that verges on blue when seen at certain angles. It’s also highly resistant to fingerprints while being slightly grippy which makes it easier to hold.
Taking pride of place on the backplate is a large rounded housing for what they refer to as the Matrix AI Vision camera with the LED flash and cameras placed at each cardinal point of the compass. Unfortunately, its large size detracts from what is otherwise an elegantly clean design. The base features a USB-C port, a grille for the mono speaker and a dual nano SIM card tray.
Also bundled with our Honor X9a review sample is a free soft transparent TPU casing, a 40W fast charger with USB-C cable, the obligatory SIM eject pin and, interestingly enough, a 3.5mm headphone along with a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle which makes for an unexpected bonus.
At the time of writing, Honor hasn’t furnished us with details on how much the X9a will cost but seeing its predecessor’s price point at RM1,199, it’ll likely not wander far beyond that.
Within a sub-RM1,500 price range, the Honor X9a makes for a very well built phone, more so for the fact that it’s the first midrange phone in production to have armoured glass this tough and the bundled extras are exceptionally generous indeed.
Honor X9a review – Performance
In terms of hardware, the Honor X9a is a 5G capable phone with a midrange Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 octacore processor paired with 8GB RAM augmented by 5GB of virtual RAM for a grand total of 13GB RAM as well as 256GB of non-expandable storage. You can’t modify the amount of vRAM available and, in the case of MagicUI, is permanently allocated from the phone’s onboard storage.
Under the hood, the phone runs Android 12 overlaid with the aforementioned Magic UI 6.1 user interface that has Google Play store access.
As a user interface overlay, MagicUI is relatively clean though it is still rife with bloatware like a pre installed copy of Lords Mobile and Game of Sultans song with apps of dubious utility like Booking.com and Trip though the WPS Office app has some utility for word processing in lieu of Microsoft Office or Google Docs.
On the bright side, it does have their MyHONOR app that makes phone maintenance a bit easier with a built-in diagnostic mode and a means to get easy firmware updates as well as checking your warranty status.
On paper, our Huawei X9a review sample for the Malaysia market comes with the following specifications:
|Display||6.7-inch FHD+ 1080 x 2400 pixels curved OLED, 1,920Hz PWM dimming, 120Hz, 800 nits, 394ppi|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 2.2GHz octacore processor|
|OS||Android 12 w/ Magic UI 6.1|
|Memory||8GB RAM +5GB vRAM / 256GB storage|
|Camera||64MP F/1.8 w/ autofocus + 5MP F/2.2 ultrawide angle camera + 2MP F/2.4 macro camera [rear]/ 16MP F/2.45 [front]|
|Battery||5,000mAh w/ 40W SuperCharge|
|Size/Weight||161.6 x 73.9 x 7.9mm / 175g|
In terms of performance, the Honor X9a and its Snapdragon 695 CPU in tandem with its 8GB RAM plus 5GB vRAM isn’t going to win speed records but the combination of a proven midrange processor with the generous amounts of RAM help it to stay relatively nimble. For general usage like web browsing across multiple tabs, texts, videos and even gaming too like, PUBG and Call of Duty Mobile on low settings, the X9a will handle it without issue.
When subjected to synthetic benchmarks, our Honor X9a review sample scored the following which is on par with other smartphones with a Snapdragon 695 SoC in the market:
|3DMark Wild Life||1,203|
|3DMark Wild Life Unlimited||1,192|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme||357|
|3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited||351|
|Geekbench 5 Single core||669|
|Geekbench 5 Multi core||1,930|
|Geekbench 5 Vulkan||1,211|
|Geekbench 5 OpenCL||N/A|
|PCMark Work 3.0||10,422|
|PCMark Battery Life||13 hours 57 minutes|
In synthetic benchmarks, it doesn’t wander all too far from its predecessor the Honor X9 but it does have marginal improvements on account of its additional vRAM and the slightly larger 5,100mAh battery though it wasn’t able to run Geekbench 5’s OpenCL test.
The provided 6.7-inch 120Hz FHD+ OLED display is one of the better panels on test with a rated 100 DCI-P3 colour gamut and a 120Hz refresh rate. Even with the toughened glass sheathing the display, the panel still maintains good colour rendition and clarity with smooth 120Hz animations onscreen.
Perhaps the only quibble here is that the whole affair relies on a mono speaker for sound. Granted, it’s loud and serviceable for watching the odd TikTok clip or two but isn’t exactly something you’d rely on to go through an entire season of Wednesday on Netflix with.
Fortunately, you can swap over to the provided 3.5mm headphones and its USB-C dongle for a more private listening session. Granted, it’s not audiophile grade but it does the job and it’s a rare sight these days to see a free pair of headphones bundled with a phone which adds to the X9a’s value even more.
The provided 5,000mAh battery in tandem with its relatively efficient CPU lends the Honor X9a excellent endurance. With moderate use the Honor X9a was able to comfortably last two days of normal usage with data or WiFi on with a bit of light gaming in between though it needed a top up near sundown on day two.
In PCMark’s battery life test, it managed to last a whopping 13 hours and 57 minutes. The 40W SuperCharge charging isn’t as fast as its predecessor the X9’s 66W charging but it managed to get to 72% in an hour and 20 minutes.
Honor X9a review – Cameras
The Honor X9a has a more powerful triple camera array than the X9 with a 64MP F/1.8 phone with autofocus, a 5MP ultra wide angle camera and a 2MP depth sensor.
While a super macro camera mode exists in the camera UI, it still relies on the primary 64MP camera to handle the grunt work. Up front, the phone has a fixed focus 16MP camera. Combined, the rear camera is able to offer 2x lossless digital zoom and up to 8x digital zoom as well as 1080p@30fps video. The front selfie camera also captures 1080p@30fps video though there is no digital zoom on offer.
Overall camera performance for the Honor X9a is modestly improved over results from the older X9 with slightly better detail retention and colours in daylight conditions on account of the larger 64MP primary camera sensor.
Results from the ultra wide angle camera need bright light to yield decent outcomes but shots still end up somewhat softer with slightly different, more muted colour rendition compared to results from the main 64MP camera. In dimly lit conditions, but the primary and ultrawide angle camera struggle to capture decent shots though a Night mode does exist that helps to save a measure of detail and dynamic range in captured stills.
The front selfie camera delivers best results in brightly lit conditions and can use the display as an ad-hoc fill light with results sufficient for social media use and the odd TIkTok video or two but results in dimly lit conditions are underwhelming at best. In general, you’ll yield the best results with the Honor X9a’s cameras in daytime or bright light conditions.
Unfortunately, videos are not the Honor X9a’s strong point and the modest 1080p@30fps on both the front and rear cameras mean that you’ll get serviceable footage in bright daylight conditions with a steady hand or a tripod.
Should you buy the Honor X9a 5G?
The Honor X9a has a number of unique strengths as a midrange phone. You get a high quality OLED display sheathed in toughened glass, 5G connectivity along with excellent battery life and fair performance for general use.
Unfortunately the phone lacks water resistance and has middling camera performance. On the bright side, the phone does offer quite a bit of value with the array of goodies they’ve bundled in the box that include a casing, charger and wired earbuds too.
At the time of writing, Honor Malaysia hasn’t furnished the exact price of the Honor X9a but it should be under RM1,500 and slightly north of its predecessors RM1,199 price tag. If the Honor X9a’s official price between these two extremes, it makes for relatively fair value. Once Honor has announced the official price of the Honor X9a in Malaysia, we’ll update our review accordingly with a final score.
HONOR Malaysia has finally released the official price of the Honor X9a which is close to our original estimate at RM1,499. At this price point, the Honor X9a is solid value as you get an inordinately tough midrange phone with an excellent display and solid performance along with all the accoutrements expected for a complete phone experience including a casing and charger bundled with the phone. With perks like this, it is highly deserving of our Value award.
Honor X9a review sample courtesy of Honor Malaysia. For more details please visit www.hihonor.com/my
Honor X9a 5G
Honor X9a 5G
An extremely sturdy midrange phone with a toughened OLED display, excellent battery life, a slew of generous extras bundled with it and decent performance to boot, making it ideal for general users.
Insanely tough display Sleek and stylish design Excellent battery life Lots of goodies bundled with the box
Huge and chunky camera array No water and dust resistance Middling camera performance