HONOR 9A Review

The Chinese tech giant Huawei’s subsidiary Honor recently took the stage in the UK to wrap off the covers from their latest mid-range offering Honor 9A. Being the mid-range phone it won’t be a powerhouse in terms of performance or camera capabilities. However, it brings all the goodies on board what you can expect from a new mid-range phone. Like most of the Honor phones, it comes with a gigantic battery. Under the hood, it packs solid entry-level hardware to perform the daily driven tasks smoothly.

Honor 9A’ first glance
PRODUCT INFO
Honor 9A Smartphone
ManufactureHuawei
Available atView at Amazon UK

One thing to note is that if you are looking for a powerhouse the Honor 9A is certainly not the best option for you. However, if you are looking for a budget phone the Honor 9A is worth considering. The company claims that the Honor 9A brings better hardware and battery than most of the phones in this price range. Undoubtedly Huawei is facing issues due to US Sanctions but the company is confident they will overcome these issues soon. Today we are doing an in-depth review of the Honor 9A to find out whether the new Honor phone is worth buying or not. Without any further delay, let’s find out what Honor 9A is bringing in the box.

In the Box

  •         Phone
  •         3.5mm Earphones
  •         SIM Tray Ejector
  •         Micro-USB USB cable
  •         10W Charger
Box Contents

Price and Availability

The Honor 9A bearing model number MOA-LX9N is currently up for sale for the UK and European customers since July 1st. You can get the device via HiHonor and Amazon at £129.99 (at the time of this review) thanks to special launch sales. The company is also offering free HONOR Mini Speaker worth £ 24.99 value. The deal is valid till the 31st of this month, So better act hurry before its too late. It was announced at £154.99 or €154.90 respectively. For the Chinese market, It was announced in April at RM549.

Considering the US sanctions the chances are quite low for the availability of Honor 9A in the US. The good thing is it is significantly cheaper than its predecessor and also its key rival Samsung’s Galaxy A21s which is £40 expensive. So if you are looking for a cheaper budget phone then the Honor 9A emerges as a good option in this price bracket.

Display

Like most of the latest phones, it comes with a Full front-facing display with a U-notch at the top of the display. The FullView IPS LCD is of 6.3-inches with a screen resolution of 720 x 1600 pixels. The display aspect ratio is 20:9 with the screen-to-body ratio of 88.4% and the pixels density is 278 pixels-per-inches.

Like most of the premium IPS phones, it isn’t a completely bezel-less phone. Alongside the display the black border is quite thin, the only prominent bezel is at the bottom. It is understandable considering it isn’t a flagship offering.

The higher screen to body ratio provides a large screen for the usage, the good thing is you can easily access all corners single handily. The display touch accuracy is good, you won’t find any lag in it. In terms of resolution, you will find it lower quality due to HD+ resolution. It isn’t as sharper and crispier like the Full HD+ and Quad HD+ panels but still it is optimal for normal usages like web and social media surfing.

IPS LCD Display

The good thing is despite having HD+ display the colors of the Honor 9A display are vibrant. The brightness level is pretty good not just in the room but also in direct sunlight. We witnessed even in direct sunlight the brightness is optimal. The Honor 9A display is vibrant and brighter than most of the phones of this category.

Being the LCD it isn’t as vibrant as OLED, however, the brightness level and contrast ratio are pretty good. Despite having U-notch at the top, you will find thin bezel at the bottom. Like most of the LCD panels, the Honor 9A reds are over-saturated. The color temperature control is available to adjust the display warmness. The eye comfort mode is quite helpful in restricting the blue light effect. It turns on the warmer color tones to restrict the blue light effect. This mode can be scheduled as well, you can set time and it will kick on automatically. For those who want to read blogs or books on Honor 9A, they can use ebook mode which is quite beneficial. It also reduces the color strain, so that you can enjoy reading.

Design, Specs & Build Quality

It isn’t surprising to see Honor compromised on many aspects of the design department to reduce the cost. Considering the price range one shouldn’t expect the glass and metal-clad design. The chassis is made up of metal with glossy plastic covering the rear side. The front-facing side is covered with a full view display with a prominent bezel around the display. Especially the bezel below the display is quite visible.

The volume rockers and the power button is on the right edge. On the rear side, you will get triple cameras setup enclosed in a rectangular shape black portion with dual LED flashlight at the top left corner. Fortunately, the cameras hump is not bumpy at all.

The Honor 9A is definitely a looker

The Honor branding is in the center on the bottom side. The edges around the corner are roundish. The circular shape fingerprint scanner is right next to the cameras set up in the center. The scanner position on the rear is quite comfortable to access. The moment you hold your phone the right index finger reaches easily. It also works quite quickly and efficiently.

Apart from the rear fingerprint scanner the Honor 9A also comes with facial recognition as a secondary option for a security lock. It works efficiently and no intruder can bypass it easily. However, it takes some time to identify before unlocking the phone.

The bottom side of the Honor 9A

For connectivity, the Honor 9A comes with Micro-USB port alongside the bottom-firing speakers.  In terms of size, the Honor 9A measures at 159.07 x 74.06 x 9.04mm and weighs 185g. It supports the Nano SIM card and MicroSD card for memory expansion. The device is available in three attractive colors including Ice Green, Midnight Black, and Phantom Blue.

Despite having a plastic shell the device doesn’t look cheap at all, In fact, the build quality is quite good. Thanks to the plastic rear it doesn’t slip at all. Unlike the premium phones with a glass rear, you don’t have to worry about the accidental drops. The device rear won’t crack on accidental drops, however, you will have to take care of the front panel. Being the plastic rear it attracts fingerprint smudges and dust. To ensure your device rear side remains as neat as the new phone you should keep the phone in the protective case.

Audio Output

The earpiece is embedded under the display but fortunately, the voice quality and call reception isn’t compromised at all. You will get crystal clear voice on calls. On the bottom side, you will get a single bottom-firing speaker alongside the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB port. The 3.5mm headphone jack is certainly a treat for many as not many new phones have the traditional jack instead the companies are shifting towards the Type-C headphones.

The bottom-firing speaker quality is average like most of the devices in this category. The clarity, bass level, and pitch aren’t as high as the premium phones. However the sound quality is good, you can listen to music and watch movies without headphones. In some scenarios, the bottom-firing speaker may get blocked while holding the phone horizontally while watching movies or playing games.

Hardware

As mentioned above the Honor 9A is a mid-range phone, So you can’t expect it to be amongst the fastest in the market. Under the hood, the MediaTek Helio P22 SoC is powering the phone with 3 Gigs of RAM. The built-in native storage is 64GB which is further expandable up to 512GB using MicroSD card.

Honor 9A

The Helio P22 is built on the 12nm FinFET process. Those who are unaware of the P22 SoC isn’t amongst the newest in the market. It is the powering number of mid-rangers in the market. The IMG PowerVR GE8320 is on board as GPU. It can be a good secondary device but not meant to run HIFI tasks and games.

As expected being the entry-level phone the Honor 9A doesn’t stand out amongst the fastest in the AnTuTu benchmark test. The device achieved 9241 points which are somewhat similar to most of the phones of this category. The Helio P22 is an Octa-core chipset, the power-efficient first two ARM A53 cores are clocking at 1314Mhz whereas the performance cores A53 duo are clocking at 1500Mhz.

Due to mediocre hardware, the device isn’t the best option to handle the high-end games. It isn’t recommended to play games like PUBG and other battlefield games on this phone, however, you can play games with toned down graphics and lesser hardware usage. We ran the AnTuTu benchmark test only because the Geekbench 5 isn’t available on the  Honor’s AppGallery. That’s why we have to rely on AnTuTu results to know the hardware prowess.

Software

As most of you are already aware the Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei technologies. Due to recent tensions between the US and China the company is stopped initially from using Android OS and later on the company is bound not to use Google Mobile Services.  This means if you have an Honor phone you won’t be getting the access of Play Services as well as key Google Apps. You will have to rely on the Huawei AppGallery. It isn’t mature as of yet that’s why the number of apps is quite limited. The device is pre-installed with Android 10 based on Magic 3.1 straight out of the box.

Unfortunately, key social apps like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, and many more are not available on Huawei’s App Store. This certainly will be a major blow which certainly affects the customers’ interest in the Honor 9A. Those who are avid social media users can access sites through the browser. There is always an option of manual installation of Play Services but it isn’t recommended as you can brick your phone during the process. Overall the Magic UI runs smoothly without any glitch.

A new searching tool “Petal Search” is available on AppGallery to further enhance the search experience. All the apps on AppGallery are integrated into Petal Search that allows users to find the relevant app instantly without any delay. If you want to transfer files, photos, and other data from your older phone to your Honor 9A, you can use the Phone Clone app. Once Petal Search is installed you can download the Find Apps widget for your home screen. This widget not only showcases apps but also news and important stuff, it’s a kind of alternative of Google Search widget. If you miss the Google Assistant, you don’t have to worry because the Honor 9A comes with Huawei Assistant.

Triple Cameras

The camera section is usually the key area where the manufacturer’s cuts feature to reduce the price tag. The Honor 9A is no exception but still, it is offering great variety in terms of the camera on the rear side. The primary snapper on the rear is 13MP with f/1.8 aperture. It is accompanied by a secondary wide-angle snapper of 5MP with f/2.2 aperture and 120 degrees field of view. To capture the bokeh shots, the device sports a 2MP depth sensor with f/2.4 aperture. You can also adjust the Aperture manually using “Aperture” Mode.

Camera Shot 1

The shots’ brightness and sharpness level in daylight conditions are way better than low-light conditions. If you capture using the main snapper with HDR mode the detail level and vibrancy are good, however, if you use wide-angle snapper the results are not quite satisfying. Let’s have a look at the shot captured during the stable light condition. You can easily notice the grass looks shadier even on a slight zoom. The statue in the center lags clarity which indicates the normal snapper focusing capability isn’t up to the mark.  The captured shot colors are quite closer to the original color scheme.

Camera Shot 2

Due to the lack of the telephoto sensor, you will have to rely on the 4x digital zoom only which provides shaky results. The Ultra wide-angle sensor certainly won’t disappoint you at all as it captures shot without compromising the quality of the pixels.

Video

As far as the video capturing is concerned, the device rear cameras can capture Full HD videos at 30fps. This means you can rely on it for everyday videos but not for some HIFI shots with slow-mo and other effects. It comes with HDR support but lags the optical image stabilization that’s why the results are blurry on the move. So it isn’t recommended to capture video during movement.

Low Light Shots

Low light Shot 1

Due to larger aperture, the cameras struggle in low-light conditions that’s why shots captured in dark look shadier. The depth sensor works well in blurring the background.  The device struggles in capturing the entire shot.

Low light Shot 2

Our low-lit shot showcases different colors of tree in one shot, you can checkout different shades of tree bottom. The left side of the photo shows a few prominent colors whereas the right side lags in accuracy, detail level, and color saturation.

Camera Shot 3

The wide-angle sensor is certainly best amongst all. It doesn’t lose sharpness and details in daylight conditions. In our sample shots, the device captures the entire scene quite efficiently without losing much detail. The lush green grass looks quite lively and even on slight zoom, the results remain the same. The good thing is the statue detail isn’t compromised.

Camera Shot 4

Overall the cameras experience is good in daylight scenarios but lags in low-light conditions. Considering the price tag, the Honor 9A is offering good entry-level cameras setup but if you are a camera geek, we won’t recommend you the Honor 9A.

Camera Shot 5
Selfie

Selfie Camera

Unlike the latest pop-up selfie cameras, you will get the camera in the U-shaped notch. Fortunately, the front-facing selfie snapper on the Honor 9A works pretty well. Upfront you will get an 8MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture. To further enhance the capturing experience you can utilize its “beauty mode”.  One thing is important once again the lighting condition, if you capture in stable lighting conditions the results are worth sharing. In low-light conditions, the results may not be as good.

Our camera sample shots confirm that the device front-facing camera captures great detail with good color accuracy. The captured shot gives a good blend of background as well as the main subject. The daylight shot detail, color tone, and background of the shot are quite close to the original colors whereas in the low-light shot the detail level is disturbed and also it dulls the color tone.  Overall the Honor 9A cameras setup is led by its selfie snapper.

Battery

Battery Stats

Undoubtedly one of the key selling aspects of the Honor 9A is its gigantic battery life. The device is fueled up by a 5,000mAh battery cell, it certainly will attract those who are looking for a secondary phone with a long-lasting battery. Not many phones in the market come with such a whopping battery.

On heavy usage including social media scrolling, watching video content, and long voice calls the Honor 9A can easily last two days on a single charge. If your usage is between heavy to normal the device can give you even three days. In our brief testing, the device consumes 5% in video playback for an hour which means the device will last more than 20 hours during video playback. For Web surfing, the consumption of battery is even lesser.

It supports up to 10W fast charging but still requires more than two hours to complete charge from 0 to 100. From 0 to 80% the Honor 9A took 1 hour and 38 minutes and 32 minutes for the last 20%. For connectivity and charging the device comes with Micro-USB port. It lags support for Wireless and Fast Charging which is understandable considering the price tag.

Last but not least one of the surprising aspects of the Honor 9A is its ability to reverse charge other devices. All you need is an OTG cable to recharge your phone or any other gadget using the Honor 9A colossal battery prowess. This feature is quite beneficial for those who will use the Honor 9A as their secondary phone.

Conclusion

The purchase decision of Honor 9A is certainly dependent on your usage and budget. For those who are looking for a new mid-range phone at an affordable price tag, decent cameras, and long-lasting battery the Honor 9A could become your next companion. However, you will have to compromise on the Google Mobile Services support.

Honor 9A

The Best Budget Honor Phone

  • Long Lasting Battery
  • Reverse Recharge using OTG
  • U-notch display
  • Affordable Price
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Average Wide-angle camera
  • Average Low-light Photos
  • Lacks Google Mobile Services

Display: 6.3-inches, 720 x 1600 pixels | Chipset: Helio P22, 3GB RAM | Rear cameras: 13MP+5MP+2MP | Dimensions: 159.1 x 74.1 x 9 mm | Battery: 5000mAh

VERDICT:The Honor 9A does everything right at the aforementioned price tag. It is a great balanced phone with amazing battery life for anyone out there who is on a budget

Fahad Mushtaq


Fahad Mushtaq is an avid Android developer with over 5 years experience working on Google Cloud AI and Tensor flow in conjunction with BPM line of products.