ROG Zephyrus G14 x Alan Walker

The all-new HONOR 9X Pro. We did have a hands-on with the device not long ago, and it’s the first HONOR available in Malaysia to be using the Huawei Mobile Services, or HMS for short. This means there are no Google apps pre-installed, which severely affects the user experience.

So how does the new HONOR 9X Pro stands out in the dense market of smartphones? Let’s find out.

ASUS ExpertBook B5 Flip

Unboxing

The box itself is pretty standard. We have the phone itself at the front and the only color we Malaysians will get is as shown on the box.

HONOR 9X Pro

Inside the box, we get:

  • The HONOR 9X Pro
  • Clear TPU case
  • USB-A to USB-C cable
  • 10W charger
  • Wired earphones

Quite rare to see mid-range smartphones to include earphones nowadays.

HONOR 9X Pro

Design

The design is a pretty weird one. First off, I like the color. HONOR has a history of smartphones with beautiful backs, and even the new mid-ranged HONOR 9X Pro is no excluded. It has this gradient that changes from purple on the left to pink on the right. To add an extra layer of effect, there is an X pattern that converges at the center of the phone, too.

HONOR 9X Pro

That’s how HONOR really tells us that this is an X series of smartphone.

The overall size of the phone is… a tad bit chonkier. The phone has a 6.59-inch screen – which isn’t that big when compared to other smartphones in the market. However, the aspect ratio is 19.5:9 instead of the more commonly-found 20:9. So, it’s wider instead of taller.

HONOR 9X Pro

Connectivity & Ports

Let’s quickly run it through. For us Malaysians, we got the short end of the stick here. Not by much but still, it’s noticeable.

HONOR 9X Pro

Firstly, there is no support for 5GHz WiFi. Secondly, there is no NFC. These two things go hand-in-hand as the new HONOR MagicBook that we had our hands on supports something called Magic Link. It’s technically the same as the Huawei’s OneTap, which requires NFC. That 5GHz WiFi will enable much faster transfer speed compared to the omnipresent 2.4GHz WiFi.

HONOR 9X Pro

Even the HONOR 9X Pro has moved to side-mounted fingerprint scanners. I guess they want to keep the beautiful aesthetics at the back of the phone.

HONOR 9X Pro

And hey – USB-C!

Display

As what we have mentioned, the HONOR 9X Pro comes with a 6.59-inch LTPS IPS LCD screen with 2340×1080 pixels in resolution. It’s a bit wider since it’s using a 19.5:9 aspect ratio instead.

HONOR 9X Pro

There is no notch or punch holes on the display as HONOR opted for a popup selfie camera, which makes the screen clean and immersive to use.

It’s a nice display with good colors and brightness – and I love it. There’s something about not having any notch that elevates the viewing experience even further.

HONOR 9X Pro

Cameras

Let’s now talk about the cameras – it’s one of the most important aspects of a smartphone after all. The new HONOR 9X comes with:

  • Triple rear-facing cameras
    • Main: 48MP f/1.8, PDAF
    • Ultra-wide: 8MP f/2.4
    • Depth sensor
  • 16MP f/2.2 pop-up selfie camera

To look at the camera quality of this phone, do watch our video at the top of this review.

HONOR 9X Pro

Main camera

Overall camera quality is okay. Its clarity and overall detail are okay though the white balance is all over the place. From my test, the indoor shots are mostly cold whereby outdoor shots are mostly warm.

The night shots are somewhat lackluster. It has severe blurring – which makes the picture look smudged.

Ultra-wide angle camera

The ultra-wide angle camera is… quite blurry. There are no details but yet it’s oversharpened. Everything looks like blobs of colors.

Software – Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.1.1 without Google Mobile Services

It’s quite weird that HONOR still releases a phone with an old version of Android. All new smartphones that we have been using now come with Android 10. The HONOR 9X Pro does not even have Dark Mode – which is quite surprising.

We have talked about the limitations and frustrations that are found on EMUI 9.1.1 in our previous HONOR smartphone reviews (here and here).

HONOR 9X Pro

HONOR needs to get the new update for Android 10 – or at least EMUI 10 – for the 9X Pro as soon as possible. The current software status is just too outdated for a new smartphone for today’s use.

Moreover, the HONOR 9X Pro does not have Google Mobile Services and it’s using Huawei Mobile Services instead. I find that to be a huge hassle that I not looking forward to dealing with. It’s just too annoying to deal with.

Basic apps like Telegram and Facebook Messenger are not available for download via Huawei’s App Gallery. Even the McDonald’s app is not available. Other essential apps like Grab are unavailable. There is no free navigational GPS app too.

Some might argue that sideloading APK from APK Pure can solve the issue – but remember, apps like Grab, Google Maps, Mario Kart, and many others – will not work. They rely on Google’s suite of services. There is more than just the APK of that app itself.

HONOR 9X Pro

It’s a nuisance and I can’t get anything done while using the HONOR 9X Pro. I ended up using other smartphones more because of the lack of apps.

By the way, for every time we open the Huawei App Gallery, we’re slapped with an ad. It’s annoying! Why do we deal with ads?!

Performance & Gaming

Let’s run through the specs first:

  • 6.59-inch LTPS IPS LCD screen with 2340×1080 pixels in resolution
    • Waterdrop notch
  • HiSilicon Kirin 810 chipset
  • 6GB RAM
  • 256GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD)
  • 4,000mAh battery
  • Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.1.1 without Google Mobile Services

That Kirin 810 chipset is rather powerful! It can compete against the MediaTek G90T chipset – which isย much better than the Snapdragon 720G in terms of performance. That’s not surprising since the Snapdragon 720G is quite a trashy chipset in comparison.

HONOR 9X Pro 3DMark benchmark HONOR 9X Pro VRMark average frame rate benchmark HONOR 9X Pro Geekbench 4 benchmark HONOR 9X Pro Antutu 7 benchmark

Gaming

Assuming that youย know how to sideload games, the Kirin 810 chipset is somewhat okay when it comes to games. The benchmarks did show that the Kirin 810 chipset is better than its Snapdragon rival, there isn’t any noticeable difference in terms of usage and gaming experience.

PUBG Mobile can only run at either HD graphics at “high” frame rates or “smooth” graphics at “ultra” frame rates.

We downloaded COD Mobile from APK Pure but it won’t work. So, we gave up because it was too much hassle.

Battery & Charger

Now, I’m not sure if it’s the lack of Google services or the Kirin 810 chipset itself is power-efficient – but this is the best the HONOR 9X Pro has the best battery life for a 4,000mAh battery smartphone.

HONOR 9X Pro battery life benchmark

Charger

The HONOR 9X Pro does come with a charger that outputs 10W max. It’s going to take a long time to charge the HONOR 9X Pro, and we’re right.

HONOR 9X Pro

It took about 110 minutes to charge from 15% to 100% – which is a long time. But at least its battery can last for an even longer time.

HONOR 9X Pro fast charging benchmark

Wrapping up the HONOR 9X Pro

This is a fantastic smartphone. I absolutely love the core specs. The Kirin 810 chipset is powerful yet efficient at the same time, defeating its Snapdragon and MediaTek chipsets at the same time.

However, its software is a big problem for me. It comes with the outdated Android 9 with EMUI 9.1.1 while many of HONOR’s older phones are already running EMUI 10 – maybe even on Android 10.

HONOR 9X Pro

Another big issue I have with the HONOR 9X Pro is the lack of Google apps and services. I know, this is not HONOR’s fault – but it certainly hindered my user experience. The process of installing some of the most of the commonly-used apps is now the most annoying process that I have to go through.

Installing 3rd party app stores like APK Pure isn’t going to fix the issue entirely too, as many other apps are not found on APK Pure. For example, Maybank and COD Mobile.

For the price of RM999, the HONOR 9X Pro is a highly-recommended smartphone. But, only but the HONOR 9X Pro if you know what you’re getting into.

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