After a very successful Honor 8, the Huawei subsidiary decided to advance its calendar to launch the Honor 9 before the summer. Sold 429 euros in its version equipped with a Kirin 960 clocked at 2.4 GHz (4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of expandable storage), the device displays a configuration almost identical to that of the Huawei P10. Like the latter, it has a dual photo sensor (colors and black and white), this time without the partnership with Leica. Note that the version we reviewed two versions, equipped with 4 GB and 6 GB of RAM.
Tunes from Xiaomi
Last year, the Honor 8 benefited from an almost total cosmetic overhaul. It is therefore not surprising that the brand wanted to capitalize on this very successful design. The materials remain the same, with thin layers of glass which give us beautiful iridescent reflections. This time, the back is slightly rounded at the front of the edges, like at Samsung or Xiaomi. Previously placed on the back of the Honor 8, the fingerprint sensor is now confused with the main button, which appears under the screen.
This evolution is not only aesthetic. It will satisfy those who do not like having to put their finger on the back of the smartphone to unlock it. It also removes virtual buttons from the screen, saving display space. Honor’s ergonomic choices are relevant. With a 5.15 inch screen diagonal (occupying 70% of the front panel), the grip is slippery, but comfortable. Without big risk-taking, the Honor 9 is a very nice smartphone that takes the lines of its elder, combining them with those of a Xiaomi Mi6.
Like the Mi6, the Honor 9 has a 5.15 inch IPS Full HD screen, for a high resolution of 428 ppi. With a brightness of 430 cd / m² and a contrast ratio of 1303: 1, the display quality is sufficient for most situations … but a little fair in direct sunlight. For its part, the Xiaomi climbs to 585 cd / m² and 1827: 1. Figures that show that Honor still has a good room for improvement. We appreciate however the possibility of adjusting the color temperature according to his preferences.
Software: good ideas from P10
Personalization is one of the strengths of Honor’s software overlay, which we have already seen with the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. The most interesting feature for us is the integration of a “smart” main button, which acts as back and multitasking buttons. To go back, a short press is enough. Flicking it horizontally gives access to all open applications. A long press returns to the main screen.
This mode of operation requires a short adaptation period but is formidable over time. As an added bonus, the device can be easily operated with one hand. In order not to confuse its users, Honor still offers the possibility of switching to more conventional navigation. Capacitive buttons symbolized by small light-emitting diodes then activate around the main button.
Always with the goal of satisfying the greareview number, Honor can display all the icons – as on iOS – or an application drawer. An offer that is not superfluous given the amount of unnecessary applications present at startup, which you will be unable to uninstall.
The Honor / Huawei overlay also benefits from the good configuration of the device. The Kirin 960 is probably no stranger to the excellent fluidity of navigation, which approaches what is best in the Android universe. Finally, let’s recall the lightning fast speed of Huawei’s fingerprint recognition system. As on the Honor 8 or P10, the Honor 9 takes advantage of what is in our view the best fingerprint sensor on the market.
Powerful … but warm
Clocked at 2.40 GHz, the Kirin 960 allows you to enjoy all the most resource-intensive games, without reaching the performance level of the Snapdragon 835. A gap that can be seen on reading the benchmarks – which however have their limits – but also after a few parts of titles like Riptide GP: Renegade, which pushes the processor to its limits. Between the 4 GB version and the 6 GB version, the benchmark results were very close, if not identical.
We increased the level of graphic details as well as the resolution to the maximum, which was not fatal to the gameplay. This however penalized the fluidity, less good than on a Samsung Galaxy S8 and much less good than on a OnePlus 5. Above all, we faced a heating problem with the 4 GB version as with the 6 GB version. In benchmarks , this problem materialized by a drop in results of around 10% during the third review. After about twenty minutes of play, the back and edges of the smartphone reached frankly unpleasant temperatures.
Despite this tendency to overheat, the Honor 9 offers decent autonomy. It lasted almost ten hours in our versatile autonomy review, which mixes many types of uses. A performance far removed from that of the OnePlus 5 – capable of lasting more than 14 hours, but which logically approaches that of the Huawei P10. Like last year, endurance is not the strong point of the brand, but it manages not to make it a weak point.
Very good in color, good in black and white
As we mentioned above, the Honor 9 is an almost exact copy of the Huawei P10. To justify this price difference of almost 200 euros, Huawei deprives the cheapest device of the partnership with Leica, which allows in particular to obtain very beautiful pictures in black and white. However, the Honor 9 knows how to take advantage of the monochrome sensor by exploiting the images captured natively in black and white.
See photos taken with the Honor 9 in high definition
The differences with the P10 results are significant, with images adopting two different styles. The photos of the Honor 9 are brighter and more contrasted, which may appeal to those who are not followers of black and white Leica. The quality of the sharpness is however much lower than that of the P10. We also encountered problems with slow autofocus – which was not the case in color mode.
On a computer screen, we found that one in two images out of three were blurred, and therefore unusable. We can hope that a future software update will improve the performance of the device in the field. In the meantime, we can only advise to focus “manually” – by touching the screen where you want it – before shooting.
In color mode, the Honor 9 retains the same strength as the Huawei P10. In good light conditions, the colorimetry is close to what the iPhone 6s offers, one of the most faithful to reality. The images are there as well contrasted, with an excellent sharpness and detailed textures. There are options already seen on the Honor 8 and Huawei P10, such as portrait mode, with background blur. Without a sensor equipped with a tighter focal length – as on the iPhone 7 Plus or the OnePlus 5, the devices of the Chinese brand do not make their specialty.
In low light, the level of detail remains very acceptable, despite a loss of sharpness. We used the Honor 9 early in the evening and in concert. Each time, the pictures were not only usable but pleasant to look at. Video quality is also there, thanks to excellent stabilization.