It has been a while since I review an HONOR phone. They have been making better phones in the last 2 years and I kept my eyes on them all these time. They have evolved to be an entity away from their main brand HUAWEI and that works really well for HONOR. This time, I had the privilege to test and play around with their newest entry level device, the HONOR 9A.
Since it has been a while that I have reviewed an HONOR phone, I ran a full test on it and did a full daily use for this device. There are some things that I liked about this phone and some that I don’t quite like. So this will be my honest review on the new HONOR 9A for your reading pleasure.
First Look & Design
The unit that I reviewed is the blue version of the HONOR 9A. The colour caught my attention as I opened the box. It is bright blue with shiny finish on it. This tells me that the surface is a fingerprint magnet so I was expecting to do a lot of wiping and cleaning while using it.
Come to think of it, the HONOR 9A feels great in my hand. It has a flat surface on the front and back with little to almost flushed camera bump at the back. The camera actually has very little bump that I was really impressed by. I don’t like phones that has thick camera bump, it becomes wobbly when placed on a flat surface. And the sides of the HONOR 9A is rounded nicely, really comfortable to hold. It also feels really light, which is great.
The HONOR 9A has a large 6.3″ screen and a U-shape notch at the top, and the display is quite vibrant. It only comes in 720×1600 pixels resolution and it doesn’t look too bad. Most of the basic phones comes with a lower resolution display. But with that, you can be sure the battery can last a very long time. The earpiece can also be seen at the top of the display, right above the U-shape notch.
Flipping to the rear, the camera module is located on the upper left of the device while there is a fingerprint sensor right at the top half middle area. The HONOR 9A comes in a triple camera setup while the LED flash is also nested in the “platform”. Like I said earlier, the back of the phone is flat and the camera module is pretty flushed. I like this very much.
On the right side of the phone is the volume rocker at the top and the power button below it. This layout is pretty familiar and it applies to many smartphones out there. So obviously when you look at the left side of the phone, there is the SIM/MicroSD slot. You will be able to use dual SIM simultaneously + a MicroSD card on this device, unlike the hybrid SIM slots that you find in most older HONOR phones.
At the top you can only see a single tiny mic hole while at the bottom you can find the micro USB port, audio jack and the bottom firing speaker. There is another tiny mic hole at the bottom here. Dual mic means stereo video recording is possible. I don’t know why the HONOR 9A didn’t come with a USB type-C but being at this price point, I guess I know why.
The overall look and feel of the HONOR 9A is good. I like that it is light to hold on one hand and it feels good in my hand. The screen can be considered as “tall” so the grip feel a little narrow on the sides, which is good. So far it exceeds my expectations as a basic entry level device.
Here is the tech specifications of the new HONOR 9A:
- SoC: Mediatek MT6762R Helio P22 (12nm), Octa-core (4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.5 GHz Cortex-A53)
- GPU: PowerVR GE8320
- OS: Android 10, Magic UI 3.1, no Google Play Services
- Memory: 64GB 3GB RAM
- Build: Glass front, plastic back, plastic frame
IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
6.3 inches, 95.8 cm2 (~81.3% screen-to-body ratio)
720 x 1600 pixels, 20:9 ratio (~278 ppi density)
- Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 5000 mAh battery
13 MP, f/1.8, (wide), PDAF
5 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide)
2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)
- Selfie Camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, (wide)
- Sensors: Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, proximity
- Colours: Black, Blue, Green
Performance & Usage
First of all, let me tell you that the HONOR 9A does not come with Google Services. Therefore, you won’t be able to install many of your usual apps that are available on the Play Store. The usual ones like Facebook and Instagram are not available to download. So that will be huge turn off for many.
I was quite disappointed that I am not able to install some of my favourite apps that I usually use. Heck, they don’t even have PUBG Mobile in the HUAWEI App Market. Luckily, PUBG has a downloadable APK file from their official website. *phew*
Noted, I won’t be able to download most of my favourite apps. But there is a way to be able to download those apps without using HUAWEI App Market or Google Play Store. I won’t share it here but a little Googling here and there will bring you to that specific app APK file. Download it, install it and you’re good to go.
Using the HONOR 9A is quite pleasant. I had the chance of using it as my daily driver for two whole weeks and there are some love and hate relationships between me and the phone.
Normal social media tasks works like a charm. Emails works well too but it’s a bummer that I can’t use to check my Gmail on it. Luckily my main email is on an IMAP server so the native email app for HONOR is able to connect and sync my emails properly.
The fingerprint sensor works smoothly and very quick. Setting it up takes very little time. It was just so easy. And unlocking the phone with my fingerprint is very quick. Just tap on it and you’re in. I tried this many times. I even tried tapping it real quick, like tap and lift quickly. A few times it worked. Many times it didn’t have enough time to sense the fingerprint. And again, I prefer to have a fingerprint sensor at the back rather than anywhere else.
I managed to last the whole day of full use with the HONOR 9A. The large 5000mAh battery with a low resolution display works well to preserve the battery power. i can use it the whole day today, and plug it in to charge tomorrow afternoon. Since this phone don’t have a quick charging function, it took a little while for the battery to be full. It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes or so to get to full charge.
Photo editing with Snapseed or Canva works well. It is snappy without any obvious lags. It does took a while to export a large photo in Snapseed, about 9 seconds as opposed to 5 seconds on a flagship device. But that’s okay. The whole process works well.
As for gaming, I did managed to install the APK file for PUBG Mobile from their official website. After I’m done with the installation, I gave it a go. Graphics has to be set to medium-low on the HONOR 9A. This is an entry level phone with basic power. So it is understood that I won’t expect much from it.
Is the game playable on the HONOR 9A? Yes it is!
Surprisingly the game works well although I had to use a low graphic setup. The lags only happened at the beginning of the game. After it has rendered all the elements, it is quite smooth. The touches are responsive and the overall gameplay experience is acceptable. I didn’t have high expectations for this device but this is a good surprise for me. I have experienced a slightly higher spec device that performs poorly when it comes to PUBG. But this HONOR 9A is not bad.
The sounds are loud and clear from the bottom firing speaker. But most of the times I use my earphones. That too sounded good. Listening to music is enjoyable with the speaker and even better with an earphone. If you like watching movies on your phone, this HONOR 9A is not bad. Colours are a little washed out at higher brightness but other than that, it handled HD 1080p movies with ease. Be sure to use a headphone/earphone for your movie binge. It sounds way better.
Camera & Photography
Now the HONOR 9A comes with a triple camera setup. Be mindful that the third camera is actually a depth sensor camera so it doesn’t actually take any photos. It is used to calculate the depth of a focal point to emulate the aperture size of a camera lens to give a bokeh like effect.
The two main cameras comes with 13 MP, f/1.8, (wide) and 5 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide) setup. The low megapixel count quickly tells you that this is just a basic setup. So the question is, can this basic setup produce good quality photos for your IG or social media shares? We shall see from the photos that I took below:
With the normal zoom lens, the result is simple and good. The auto HDR tends to overdo the contrast.
Whereby by ultrawide angle shot is very blurry around the corners. The image looks a little darker too.
On closer shots with the normal wide angle camera, I can see good details in the shot. Image is bright and details are good.
And again with the ultrawide angle shot, the image gets darker and with obvious distortion around the corners.
Again the same thing can be found in the series above. I tend to get better shots with the normal wide angle as opposed to the ultrawide angle camera.
Now this is a comparison for HDR. The image on the left is without HDR and the one on the right is with HDR turned on. Notice anything different? The HDR image is a little too weird looking.
Capturing the image on the grass is okay with the details but a little washed out on the colours. But this is forgivable and can be corrected with an image editor.
Getting a little closer to a subject is okay. Details are good but needs more balance with the colours.
Indoor shots are not bad when there is good light. No obvious noise or distortion can be seen here. I actually like this photo and the cakes looks yummy too.
With the inclusion of my son in the image above, the overall image looks a little dark and couldn’t get the details out.
But a close up on the food looks okay to me. It can use a better post processing functions like correcting the contrast and colour balance.
Night shots are surprisingly good with the help of the night mode. The clarity is excellent with little noise. I’m quite impressed with this shot.
As for the front camera selfie shots, it is good enough for a decent photo. Left is wide angle and on the right is normal angle. Colours are okay too. Can be better.
There are a lot of hits and misses with the camera setup on the HONOR 9A. Sometimes I can get a good photo with the camera but sometimes it looks weird especially with the ultrawide angle camera. Photos are blurry around the edges and corners when using the ultrawide angle camera. This happens a lot. But the normal wide angle camera works well most of the time.
This all depends on how you take the shots. In good lighting areas, you can get good shots 90% of the time but when it gets dark, you will lose the details. The time if took to snap the photo is greatly increased too. From the moment you hit the button, it took about 2 seconds before the photo is snapped. In bright areas, it works much quicker.
As for the front camera, it is good enough to take some decent photos. At least you will still get some good shots for your social media posts and not be disappointed by it.
The HONOR 9A is really a capable low end device depending on how you wish to use it. The overall design is lovely. I love the flat surface at the back and it feels narrow in my hand. That enables me to grip the phone firmly while texting or making a call. But since it has a shiny surface, it is prone to leave fingerprints on it.
For daily use, I don’t have much problems using it. My social media use is smooth and photo editing works well. The only downside of it that really bothers me is the lack of Google Services. The ban only effects HUAWEI, the main brand. But HONOR is trying to be supportive alongside its big brother by ditching Google Services in this device and went with HUAWEI’s App Market instead.
Oh, another thing I don’t like with the HUAWEI App Market is that it loads really slow. It lags at times too. So if I want to install something from the App Market, I have to be slightly patient with the loading time. But the installation works well though. There are still many things that they need to improve with the App Market. But they are getting there.
The battery life is great. I can’t emphasize enough on this. Long battery life is important for many of us nowadays because we are always out and about for work or study. Yes, we can have a powerbank to bring along with us but if the phone’s battery capacity is big, we don’t need that extra weight in our bag. Right?
If you’re looking for a basic phone or a second phone, get it. If you’re looking for your child’s first phone, it’s worth it. But if you’re a gamer or need the phone to do some heavy lifting (like video editing), then it’s not suitable for you.
Having said that, the HONOR 9A is now available for purchase at a very reasonable price. It is retailed for RM549 at HiHonor’s official website. I think they are having a promotion right now and cost a little cheaper than that. Go check it out.