Honor 9 Review – The best sub-$500 phone in the world !

Honor 9 Review – The best Smartphone below 500$ !

Ten months after the release of the Honor 8, Honor is now back with its new flagship, the Honor 9. I was one of the 500 lucky journalists who could travel to Berlin and checkout the new smartphone. The phone looks beautiful, has similar hardware as the Huawei P10 and is priced at only around 430€. But does it have what it takes to keep up with the P10 and offer a even better price to performance ratio ? Let’s find it out in this one Week after review on the Volt Festival 2017.

The perfect Festivalcompanion !

At the press conference Honor said atleast a hundred times that this phone is for the young people and for the young lifestyle. Sounds to me pretty much like the average marketing slogan, but well, they said it’s great battery life, sick design, great camera and sound quality are important for young people. So i thought, lets do this review on a festival and also combine it with a camera test. I travelled to my favourite Festival, the Volt Festival : http://voltfestival.com/

The Volt Festival takes place every year in Sopron Hungary and it’s one of my favourite festivals because its very close to vienna and also it’s a beautiful 5 days festival with great acts like martin garrix, clean bandit, linkin park and many more. So I grabbed my bike and went for a 1-day trip to the Volt festival. Too bad that the weather was not really good and it started and stopped raining all the time.

I left my home with almost 100% battery at 11am in the morning and then arrived 2 hours later at the fesitval and grabbed my press ticket. Another benefit you have as a youtuber. Too bad that it started raining again 30minutes after i arrived at the festival, but it gave me some time to have a closer look at the smartphone.

Boring design but great quality !

Now to be honest, the phone really feels like a Huawei P10, The form factor, the UI, the speed almost everything is the same. But i really like the honor 9 design more than the P10. They called it the light catcher, and yes it really reflects and breaks the light in such a beautiful way, that it just looks stunning. The front looks kinda boring and nothing like the big flagships out there, but still the phone looks good to me. The fingerprint scanner is now integrated again in the home button and is really fast and accurate. There is also a tiny multicolor notification LED hidden in the speaker grill.

At the back, you’ll find the dual camera module on the top left. You can see and feel that it doesn’t protrude. There is also a dual LED flash and laser autofocus. The USB Type-C port is located between the headphone jack and mono speaker at the bottom. Also the back is slightly curved and gives the phone a nice feeling in my hand and is not slippery.

Great looking display, but “only” full HD.

The Honor 9 differs from the flagship competition with a smaller screen and resolution.  The Honor 9 has a 5.15-inch IPS LCD display with Full HD resolution, DCI-P3 color space and 428 ppi, covered by 2.5D glass. To be honest, Full HD is all i need and qhd on the honor8 pro was not really something i needed, because im not a mobile VR user anyway. The display offers an olephobic coating, good viewing angles and brightness. Also it comes with a blue light filter and color temperature tweaks in the settings. Atleast sticking with Full HD contributes to better battery life becase the GPU does not need to work that hard.

The screen is much brighter than the panel that was included in the Honor 8. It’s color reproduction is also really better and the colortemperature is a bit warmer than on the old one. I actually really like the smaller display because the form has a really nice single hand grip form factor. When it comes to watching video, you may also find the phone’s screen is a little too small for your tastes. However for daily use and using facebook its really okay for me.

EMUI 5.1 Hate it or Love it !

The Honor 9 ships with Android 7.0 Nougat and EMUI 5.1, with all the features that are already available on the Huawei P10 and Mate 9. So there is no need to switch from any of these devices and also not from the Honor 8 pro. I really like that EMUI gives you the choice to activate the app drawer and that it feels very fast and clean. Pre-installed apps include TripAdvisor, Booking, eBay and some brand apps like Vmall. The pre-installed apps will vary by region, but all in all, EMUI is fast and reliable.

To be honest, the UI looks very different to stock android, but also customization is really easy and you can always dive into the Themes app to try a different look. It also includes a bunch of useful features which you cant find on stock android like the built in screen recorder.

 Yay the Headphone jack is still here !

The Honor 9 comes also with NFC and an IR blaster but there is no FM-Radio support. Something thats really important for me is the audio quality. The mono speaker on the bottom left, which was created in collaboration with monster sounds very clear and compared to the P10 it’s also loud enough.Honor has also kept the headphone jack, despite a lot of rumors suggesting the 3.5mm legacy tech would be dropped for the Honor 9. So that means you can plug in headsets on the bottom edge of the device or use bluetooth headphones.

Huawei Dual Camera quality but no Leica lens.

After the rain stopped, it was time to get out the camera and take some pictures.The Honor 9 features a dual main camera, made up of a 20MP monochrome sensor and a 12MP RGB sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. The two lenses capture information and combine it into a single, more detailed shot. It also comes with phase detection auto-focus, 2x hybrid zoom, and dual LED flash. There is no Leica branding or optical image stabilization. The hybrid zoom is a almost “losless” zoom, but no optical zoom. It basically takes the information out of the 20mp monochrome sensor which can capture more details and combines it with the RGB sensor, but yea its still a crop on the image sensor. The selfie camera has 8MP and an f/2.0 aperture. The Honor 9 can shoot video in 4K and Full HD at 60 fps. Stabilization only works in FullHD 30fps and there is no optical stabilization. Video quality is quite okay and colors look good , but without stabilization it can get shaky. 4k records again in the H.265 Standard which could cause issues with youtube.The smartphone is able to take good photos in high contrast scenes, but it shows its limits when the contrast is high and the environment is dimly lit. Most of the high end phones are definitly providing better images in terms of details and noise, but well for the price its okay. In badly lit scenes or night shots, the images retain a good amount of color and detail without too much noise, so noise reduction works fine, but I’ve definitly seen better pictures.

The camera app is the same like also on the P10 and i love it. Loads of settings which you only see on DSLR cameras like RAW mode and Pro mode. Also the front facing camera is able to produce good looking pictures under daylight conditions. However when it gets dim, you may need several shots to get a sharp picture. The LCD flash helps here alot and also gets you a good looking skintone, without it, pictures tend to be blurry and noisy. The front camera also allows video recording up to 1080p, there is also stabilization but it distorts the picture alot and is absolutely useless for faster movements. Portrait mode on the phone also needs some work, since the software does not always recognize the edges properly.

No battery monster but good battery life.

Another important thing to survive a festival is the battery. My battery drained quite fast because i took alot of pictures and videos and had the display at maximum brightness,but i think with a bit over 5 hours of screen on time you will make it trough the day. Recharging is quite fast due to huaweis Quickcharge technology,so it drains up to 18Watts from the powersocket and charges from 0 to 41% in around 30minutes. Connectivtiy is also great, good signal, good sounding earpiece and microphone and also GPS performance was good. No issues while using it for navigation.

The Kirin 960 is the same chip as in the Huawei Mate 9 or Huawei P10 and it’s definitly not the fastest chip on the market, but its performance is good enough for all kind of high-performance duties. It’s an octa-core chip with four ARM Cortex-A73 cores for high-performance paired with four efficient Cortex-A53 cores for lighter tasks. The GPU,he Mali-G71 , with support for the Vulkan graphics API, ensures there’s plenty of power for all kind of games like Asphalt 8, Nova, Modern combat and more.

You won’t find a much better phone for this price !

All in all, a good phone and it looks stunning. A bunch of people asked me on the festival what phone that is because the back looked so cool in the lights. There’s no eye catching feature here, but a great design, good performance and nice camera make this phone a all-round impressive and affordable phone. Too bad thats its not waterproof, which would have been a good feature on the festival.To sum it up, the phone comes in a box with the charger and a transparent cover that has the worst plastic quality I’ve ever seen.The Honor 9 offers a lot of what the high-end flagship phones do right now, but for a much lower price. For around 450€  I think its a very good allround phone, that can’t keep up with the midrange flagships like the not even 100€ more expensive oneplus 5. Also the midrange market is really saturated and i think honor will have a hard time with the Honor 9, but well lets see.