If you think curved displays are so yesterday, think again. Not only does it look good, it elevates the premium feel to any smartphone. Pairing the curved display with an AMOLED panel, and you will get a really good looking phone in your hand. But what about the durability? HONOR has an answer to that.
The newly launched HONOR X9a 5G is one heck of a tough cookie to break, so to speak. It is made to withstand hard impact on its body and display. Some of the tech reviewers even ran the HONOR X9a 5G over with their car without a scratch. It is possibly the strongest curved screen that I have ever encountered thus far. And they (HONOR) even gave me some walnuts to smash using the phone. That is how confident they are. No joke.
And so the HONOR X9a 5G was officially launched on the 5th Jan 2023 and officially on sale in Malaysia the day after. I am honoured to receive a review unit and give it a go prior to the launch and this is what I think of it.
The “A” in the name HONOR X9a 5G stands for “Advanced”, as what was told during the launch event. From the previously reviewed HONOR X9, I can vouch for the advancements. The new HONOR X9a 5G comes with a better display and the best thing about it, the glass is curved towards the side edges. With this curved glass, the whole look and feel about the HONOR X9a 5G is premium. It is also so much thinner than the X9. And the main plus point is the screen durability.
It is tough. It is very tough. My level of confidence with screen durability has just increased with the HONOR X9a 5G. Did I crack the walnuts? Yes I did. I placed the walnuts on the table and wham! Smashed them with the HONOR X9a’s display without hesitation and leaving zero scratch on the display. I was worried at first. But when I saw that it held up well, WHAM! I hit another walnut.
I was amazed. It was a tough nut, but the HONOR X9a’s display is tougher. I also did a drop test. The whole phone held up well and no visible scratches could be seen. Soon after that, I slap on the silicone case on the phone so that I don’t do any damage to it. Silly of me but that’s that.
You will receive the clear silicone case in the box along with a 40W charging brick and a USB-C cable. Good thing they gave a full set in the box. The HONOR X9a 5G that I received is the gorgeous Emerald Green colourway, which is also their signature colour for the HONOR X9a 5G. This is probably the best colour among the lot. Others are Titanium Silver and Midnight Black.
Around the back, you will see the prominent camera ring. It is a large ring with all the camera modules inside it. The main shooter has been bumped up from 48-megapixels to 64-megapixels. On the new HONOR X9a 5G, there is also a 5-megapixels ultra-wide angle camera which is absent on the HONOR X9. The other two modules are the 2-megapixels macro camera and an LED flash at the bottom of the ring.
What do I think about the camera ring? It looks rather unique. It may not appeal to some people but it kinda grew on me. Placing the phone on the table feels okay. It doesn’t wobble on one side because the ring is located right smack on the top middle of the back panel. And having the silicone case on, it is well balanced.
The volume rocker and the power button are located on the right side of the phone. I feel that the power button is placed a little too low towards the middle. I would accidentally lock the screen when I handle the phone with one hand. It is annoying at times but I learn to adapt to its location after a while. It would be nice to have it located elsewhere, like having a new layout or something. Having said that, the good thing is that the HONOR X9a 5G has a large display.
Having a large, in this case, taller display, means that the power button is close to the middle, but still nearer to the top. I know that I’m being a little confusing here but you’ll get what I mean. The display is a little smaller than the X9 but thanks to the curved display, it feels larger with less bezels along the sides. It has close to 93% screen to body ratio and I can hardly see the edges. It definitely has a gorgeous display, thanks to the AMOLED panel. It is also good to note that the HONOR X9a 5G supports 120hz screen refresh rate for that extra smooth scrolling and screen transition.
There is also a punch hole camera located right at the top in the middle. The front camera is a 16-megapixel wide angle camera system and I have taken a few selfies with it. My exact words were, “not bad”. It is bright and not too over processed on the “beauty” setup. I honestly don’t quite like using the beauty features because it tends to make a selfie look unnatural. But the selfie camera on the HONOR X9a 5G is not bad. More on that later.
The HONOR X9a 5G is supplied with a large 5100mAh battery and it can go on two full days before needing to charge again. I actually managed to push it close to 3 days before needing to juice up. That is pretty impressive if you ask me given that I use the HONOR X9a 5G as my daily driver during the review. And using it as my daily driver is a complete joy.
Performance and Usage
The HONOR X9a 5G is powered by the same Snapdragon 695 SoC as the HONOR X9. It also comes with an 8GB of RAM but it is also able to go up another 5GB of RAM via the HONOR RAM Turbo feature. This can significantly increase its performance in the long run. It also comes with 256GB of internal storage, opting out the 128GB variant. It may be similar to its predecessor, but I feel that it is snappier by a mile.
This is probably because the HONOR X9a 5G is based on newer Android 12 with Magic UI 6.1 as opposed to Android 11 with Magic UI 4.2 on the X9 right out-of-the-box. I do feel the difference in performance and somehow, it just worked better. I can multitask faster and leave most apps open to run in the background. Most of us Android users tend to swipe off unwanted apps thinking that it hogs up the memory but that is not the case with newer Android 12 systems. My tip for you guys, just leave them there. Android 12 manages the apps better and will put an app to sleep when idle for a long time.
On the HONOR X9a 5G, I feel that an app is being managed well. I can leave it on in the multitasking panel and it still does not slow down the phone. And thanks to the additional RAM from the RAM Turbo feature, it feels snappier. Checking emails, chatting, browsing social media networks and photo editing are done quickly. I like that it doesn’t lag while I edit a video on CapCut. It can render quickly even when I’m scrolling on TikTok. So performance wise, the HONOR X9a 5G is awesome.
As the name suggests, it does come with 5G ready. However, I don’t have any 5G enabled SIM to try the speed. Most of the service providers here are not ready to deploy their 5G packages just yet but it has been a long wait for most of us. But to fully test it, I shall wait when it’s ready. I will test the 5G speed on this HONOR X9a 5G when the time comes. That’s a promise.
When it comes to entertainment, the HONOR X9a 5G does not disappoint. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a stereo speaker. I do wish most of the newer mid-range phones to come with stereo speakers because this will separate them from the rest. And it will elevate the standard of the mid-rangers. Imagine binge watching some Netflix movies on the HONOR X9a 5G on its gorgeous AMOLED display, only to be put off by its mediocre mono speaker. It is such a waste of an awesome device if you ask me. And it doesn’t come with a 3.5mm audio jack either.
But having said that, HONOR also introduced their new HONOR CHOICE Earbuds X3 along with the HONOR X9a 5G during the recent launch event. So technically when you buy the new HONOR X9a 5G, you will also get the new Earbuds X3 for free. There you go. Now you can binge watch any movies with immersive audio experience. You may miss out on the stereo speaker, but you gain awesome earbuds to go with it.
Now that same earbuds can be used to play games as well. Gaming on the HONOR X9a 5G is awesome. Although it is powered by an aged Snapdragon 695 SoC, the whole gaming experience is still good. It is not great, but very much playable especially when it comes to graphic demanding games like PUBG New State and Genshin Impact. Playing PUBG New State on the HONOR X9a 5G is good. I can set the graphics to the maximum HD and FPS settings without any hiccups. It renders graphics quickly and does not lag at all. Screen is very responsive to all the touches and I face zero stutter overall.
All in all, gaming on the HONOR X9a 5G is fun. So if you’re into gaming and want something new on the table, you should give the HONOR X9a 5G a go. It has a tough display, gorgeous AMOLED to go with it and good performance. Among the mid-range devices that I’ve tried recently, I liked this one in particular. Solid build and amazingly snappy.
Testing the overall performance with the Antutu benchmark, the HONOR X9a 5G hit a score of 403122 on my test. It managed to pip the previous score on the X9 by more than 10k so that is always better in my book. A 400k benchmark score is not bad for a device in this class. Gaming is possible and it has proven its worth through my daily gameplay. So in terms of performance, the HONOR X9a 5G is capable of many things. Big thumbs up from me.
When it comes to security, you can assign your fingerprints to keep your device secure. The HONOR X9a 5G comes with an under-display fingerprint sensor and the responsiveness of the sensor is fast and accurate. I don’t need to touch it a few times to unlock the phone. Just a soft quick touch will do. You can also use the fingerprint sensor to quickly log-in to your account with any compatible apps like BigPay or Touch n Go.
Camera and Photography
Now to point out the main feature of any smartphone, the camera. As I said earlier, the HONOR X9a 5G comes with a huge 64-megapixel sensor this time and it is time to see whether it shines through or fails badly.
Lets recap on the HONOR X9a 5G camera setup.
- 64 MP, f/1.8, (wide), PDAF
- 5 MP, f/2.2, (ultrawide)
- 2 MP, f/2.4, (macro)
- LED flash, panorama, HDR
- 16 MP, f/2.5, (wide)
The hi-res photo is turned off by default on the camera app. When you toggle the hi-res photo on, it will shoot the full 64-megapixel image resolution. At any other given time, it will only shoot at a lower resolution, probably around 24-megapixel. I have noticed this on other Android phones and the purpose for this is to be able to capture and save photos quicker. This doesn’t bother me that much as I do need to save photos quickly sometimes. I will only toggle it on when I’m taking full landscape scenery shots so that I can capture more details in the photo.
In the camera app, there are several modes that we can choose. The usual one being the normal capture, followed by Portrait, Night, Macro, Aperture, Pro mode and few others. I simply stick to the normal mode 90% of the time. In normal mode, I know it will be using the main 64-megapixel camera to get the best out of every shot. And most of the photos I’ve taken are on point, with great colour balance and nice contrast.
On some of the older mid-range cameras, I do tend to get washed out photos when it comes to candid or portrait shots. The “beautification” feature went overboard with the post-processing optimization and I don’t like it. I don’t get the details that I want nor am I getting a well balanced colour vibrancy. But with the HONOR X9a 5G, I am pleased with the results all the time. The same can be said about the front facing selfie camera. The front camera is the usual culprit for over processed photos but the HONOR X9a 5G front camera keeps everything under control. It is a good selfie camera in my opinion.
Colours are very well balanced, noise is kept to a minimum in lowlights and I can still see good details in every portrait shot. Like the skin tone is more natural and the facial details are there. Not like it smoothes everything out making someone’s face look fake. I’m sure many of us have come across this many times. And the ultra-wide angle camera worked well without any obvious image warping around the edges.
Getting closer to a subject with the macro camera is okay. Details are captured nicely and I get to go as near as 4 cm away from the subject. But I do need extra light to capture noiseless close-up photos. When the light is less, you can see obvious noise all over the photo. This is pretty normal when using the macro camera mode. Hence why I stay away from this as much as possible. But it is handy when needed.
For any camera phone setup, I would prefer it to have a normal wide angle camera paired with an ultra-wide angle and a telephoto camera. That would be a good camera setup combination for any phone to have, don’t you agree? Normal angle for everyday use, ultra-wide for outdoor landscape photos or group photos and a telephoto camera for awesome portrait shots. So let this be a point of consideration to all phone makers out there.
As for videos, both front and main rear shooters are capable of shooting 1080p videos with 30 fps only. To be able to shoot a 2K or 4K video will be a bonus, but alas, we don’t get to see it on the HONOR X9a 5G. I can still accept 1080p with 60 fps but to be stuck at 30 fps, it’s kinda sad.
There is also a directors’ view mode in the camera app where you can capture videos of a subject along with your own reaction video that is captured on the selfie camera. This is great for capturing multiple videos at one time. There are other modes in the dual lens mode as well but is mainly used to capture your own reaction. It’s just a fun additional novelty feature to have anyway.
Let’s move on to some of the sample photos that I managed to capture with the HONOR X9a 5G.
Having a highly durable smartphone will keep me feeling safe knowing that I will not break the screen when it drops. Of course, I will also leave the original screen protector on for that extra layer of protection. I don’t need the extra protection on the HONOR X9a 5G but I’ll just leave it there so that I can sleep soundly at night.
What I like most about the new HONOR X9a 5G is the gorgeous AMOLED display and knowing it being tough, I have one less thing to worry about. The performance is better than I expected while the camera worked surprisingly well. It has one of the best camera systems in its class. It is something that I can work with when needed. And it is good enough for that Instagram shot.
For gaming, the HONOR X9a 5G performed really well. To get a better overall gaming experience, you can pair it with the new HONOR CHOICE Earbuds X3 so that you can keep the Bluetooth connection latency as low as possible for that seamless audio sync. I foresee the HONOR X9a 5G to be a hit with the younger Malaysians, thanks to its unique design and features. I personally like it as It is tough, slim and performs well during my full test.
So if you’re thinking of getting one for yourself, it is now on sale nationwide and you can get a free HONOR CHOICE Earbuds X3 for free too. Head over to HiHonor website now to purchase. The new HONOR X9a 5G is retailing for RM1,499.00