The Honor 9 is official: high-end specs at a reasonable price
In a special event held today, Honor, Huawei's budget-friendly sub-brand, has officially unveiled its latest flagship product, the Honor 9. As is tradition for the brand, the Honor 9 follows in the footsteps of Huawei's high-end devices, namely the latest P10 line, but cuts some corners to position it in a lower price range.
Plus, unlike most of Huawei's devices, Honor-branded smartphones regularly make their way to the States, and we have little doubt this is the case with the Honor 9 as well. So if you live in the U.S., there's a fair chance you might actually be able to buy it at some point.
And while the phone itself is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, that isn't to say that it is bad by any means – in fact, there's some stellar hardware hiding under the hood, plus it's easy on the eye as well. But enough small talk, let's dig right into the specifics:
Similarly to the Honor 8, the Honor 9 sports a glass and metal design that makes it a definite eye-catcher, though some people may find it a bit too garish for their taste. But nevermind that: let's address the elephant in the room first. If this design looks familiar to you, that's because it is – the Honor 9 looks almost identical to another recent Chinese flagship, the Xiaomi Mi 6. Whether this is the result of one company copying another, or if it is simply a coincidence caused by both devices adhering to the same design trends is a discussion for another time, however.
Comparing the Honor 9 with its predecessors, the biggest difference one will notice is Huawei's decision to move the fingerprint scanner to the front of the device, just like it did with the Huawei P10. Whether this is a good or bad decision depends entirely on individual user preference, but it's more than likely the Honor 9 will make use of the same fingerprint scanner gestures the P10 debuted a couple of months ago.
But apart from that, the phone looks pretty much like its predecessor, with the aforementioned shiny glass exterior, the rear-facing dual camera module, the button placement, and – thankfully – the headphone jack on the bottom. It's about the same size, too, with the exact same thickness and nearly the same width and height.
Fans of high-resolution screens might be disappointed to find out Huawei has once again opted to put a full HD LCD panel in its latest Honor flagship. But this should be fine, really – if we're judging by last year's Honor 8, the display quality should be just fine: nothing groundbreaking, but still perfectly serviceable.
What is new, however, is support for a high color gamut: the Honor 9's display covers the DCI-P3 standard to deliver better color reproduction, which is a welcome addition for the otherwise unimpressive-sounding 5.15-inch panel.
The Honor 9 features a dual camera configuration similar to the one found in the Huawei P10: a combination of a 20 MP black-and-white sensor and a 12 MP one that shoots in color. The F2.2 aperture, too, is the same,but as one might expect the Leica branding is nowhere to be seen (this is a budget phone, after all). There is also support for so-called Hybrid Zoom, which makes use of the dual-sensor configuration to deliver zooming quality Huawei claims to be indistinguishable from optical. As for the front camera, it's an 8 MP, F2.0 shooter, which should be just fine for all but the most hardcore selfie fans.
The cameras support pretty much everything you'd expect from them: apart from the digital zoom, there's also a black-and-white mode that makes use of the monochrome rear sensor, HDR, panorama, as well as the now-ubiquitous beauty shot mode.
The Honor 9 is equipped with the very same Kirin 960 SoC found in the Huawei P10, as well as the Honor 8 Pro, which means you should expect more than good enough performance for pretty much all of your needs. As for RAM and internal storage, things become a bit trickier: there's actually three separate versions of the device with their own configurations. There's a 4 GB RAM/64 GB storage combo, a 6 GB/64 GB one, and a 6 GB/128 GB one – and to make things more confusing, they're all named the same way.
The battery found inside the device is a non-removable one, rated at 3,200 mAh – good enough, but not as good as, say, the Honor 8 Pro's 4,000 mAh. The phone also supports Huawei's own fast charging technology, which has historically proven itself to be particularly good.
Audiophiles will also be happy to know the device is equipped with a Hi-Fi chip, which has apparently been hand-tuned by Grammy-winning recording engineer Rainer Maillard
Running inside the Honor 9 is the latest version of Huawei's home-grown Android fork, EMUI 5.1. This means what you're getting is as far away from stock Android as possible, with a huge number of features ranging from the essential to the entirely superficial. What most people would appreciate, though, is the ROM's focus on good performance, utilizing machine learning to learn the customer's usage patterns and allocate system resources accordingly.
Price and release date
You should note, however, that at this point the Honor 9 has only been officially announced for the Chinese market. Still, judging from Honor's past, it's more than likely we'll be seeing the device get released in the international market as well, including the United States. The phone will be made available for purchase this Friday, June 16, simultaneously across six different Chinese retailers.
As for the price, Honor once again proves it can produce devices with great specs and still sell them on the cheap. The 4 GB/64 GB combo is listed at 2,200 yuan ($323), the 6 GB/64 GB one is 2,700 yuan ($398), while the 6 GB/128 GB one will net you 3,000 yuan ($441). Still, those prices are for the Chinese market only, so expect some adjustments if and when the device comes to your region.