Honor 9 Review
Even without Leica branding, this dual-camera system holds its own against Huawei's best
Huawei (and correspondingly, Honor) has been on a big dual-camera kick lately, and that's not changing any for the Honor 9. Like the Honor 8, the phone's equipped with a pair of sensors, set tastefully flush and tucked away up in the corner of the handset's back. On the surface, things look a lot like they did on the Honor 8 – the only indication anything's changed at all is a 90-degree rotation to the camera's flash and laser-focus sensor.
But whereas the Honor 8 featured a pair of 12MP cameras – one full-color, one monochrome – the Honor 9 instead bumps the resolution of that black-and-white camera to 20MP, while keeping the color at 12MP. That's similar to the sort of arrangement we've seen from 2017 Huawei phones like the P10 and P10 Plus – absent any fancy Leica branding.
To little surprise, the camera setup on the Honor 9 performs much in the same league as the cameras on the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. That means some strong low-light performance, as well as decent-looking shots in more favorable environments.
Once again, the software is packed with features, but the implementation could use a little work. Most everything's tucked away on a separate page of the camera's interface, which users must swipe to access; for common things like HDR or B&W mode, it might have been more successful to place more easily reachable toggles right on the main screen.
Recording video with the Honor 9 is a mix of success and failures. On the plus side, the phone's microphones work great, easily capturing audio even in noisy environments, and refocus times are fast. But on the flip side of that latter point, the camera's often a little too aggressive when hunting for something to focus on, and we often found it losing focus during pans.
Electronic stabilization works decently, but like so many other phones, its functionality is limited – here to shooting at 1080p (30fps) or lower.
3D audio gimmicks distract form otherwise solid headphone output
The Honor 9 pumps its audio out through a single bottom-edge-mounted speaker. The quality's not bad, and the volume's there when you need it, but we noticed a bit more of a going-through-a-tunnel-sounding reverb than we'd like to hear. That effect is most pronounced at higher volume levels.
However, it's not really the speakers being emphasized here, so much as the headphone experience: something being called Huawei Histen. Yes, Histen with an H – that's not a typo. The mode toggles on when you plug in a pair of headphones, and promises virtual 3D surround sound. While it definitely expands the soundscape of what you're listening to, there's an inescapable fake-ness to how it sounds – and we definitely prefer turning the surround sound mode off. Luckily, there's a standard Histen mode that offers a basic EQ and output tailored to specific headset types – and this one's much more successful.