When I was testing the previous HONOR X9a earlier this year, I thought that it was strong enough to withstand a direct impact on the screen. It turned out to be true, anyway. But the toughness is merely on its screen, not entirely on its body. It seems that HONOR did not stop there. The new HONOR X9b was launched yesterday on 1st November 2023 and from my rigorous testing, I can safely say that the new HONOR X9b is probably the toughest smartphone we have at this price point today.
During the media briefing in early October, I had the chance to shoot an HONOR X9b with a paintball. If this paintball hits any part of your body, it will be called as painball instead. The hard impact it produces can shatter bottles, tin cans, and sometimes even break windows. But after more than ten thousand shots made to the HONOR X9b, it shows no sign of breaking, not even a tiny scratch. We (the media) even took turns to break 4-5 layers of wood using the phone. All of us managed to break the woods without damaging the HONOR X9b, at all.
So, I had the honour to review the new HONOR X9b for a few weeks and these are my thoughts.
First Look and Design
The first thing that I thought to myself as soon as I took the HONOR X9b out of the box was how thin it is. It felt thinner than the previous HONOR X9a but I could be wrong. But it does feel thinner in my hand. And the first time I held it, it didn’t feel tough. It doesn’t even look tough, in my opinion. The HONOR X9b has an elegant design while looking similar to its predecessor. But it does come with some upgraded internal bells and whistles.
For starters, the screen is using an AMOLED display, which is rather astonishing at this price point. The superb AMOLED will produce deep blacks while the colours are vibrant and bright. The display measures at 6.78” in size and also comes with 120Hz refresh rate, which is another plus point for a device at this price point. You’re getting a nice 2652 x 1220 resolution to compliment the gorgeous AMOLED display.
Underneath the gorgeous AMOLED display is a fingerprint sensor which enables the quick unlocking feature. It is very responsive, as it has been improved over the years and it is also very accurate. And near the top of the display, lies the 16MP front facing selfie camera which is not bad in my opinion.
Around the right side, there’s the volume rocker and the power button which feels very sturdy. I know for sure that these buttons are well constructed and almost indestructible based on the harsh test it went through during the media briefing event. You won’t find anything much on the left side and the top side of the phone. At the bottom, there’s the USB-C charging/data port, a SIM tray and a bottom firing speaker. Alas, the Honor X9b doesn’t come with a stereo speaker. I seriously think all mid-range phones should have a stereo speaker setup by now.
At the back, you will see the prominent circle where three cameras are located and an LED light at the lower circle. The main camera is located on the left side of the circle, while the macro camera is at the top and the ultra wide camera is on the right side. This type of camera enclosure or rather, “housing”, is very similar to the previous Honor X9a and some of the other Honor and Huawei devices. It is sort of their trademark, I would say. I may not appeal to some but it worked for them.
The back panel has a slight texturised feel to it, making it feels grippy. The Sunrise Orange colour variant of the Honor X9b has a faux leather back, making it look and feels more premium. I would have preferred to review that one instead but the Titanium Silver colourway that is my possession has the premium feel as well. So basically, it is a matter of preferences.
Performance and Daily Use
The Honor X9b has been upgraded in the hardware department when compared to the previous Honor X9a. First, the Honor X9b is powered by the new Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 with 12GB of RAM plus another 8GB virtual RAM from the available storage space known as the Honor RAM Turbo. So that comes up to a total of 20GB of RAM on this device.
As for the storage, the Honor X9b comes at 256GB, which is on the one in my possession. Companies should start making 512GB as an option for mid-range devices already, as most of the new generations of smartphone users love making video contents. That will give some extra space in their devices.
With all that power, it does need to have a good power supply as well. The Honor X9b comes with a huge 5800mAh Li-Po battery that actually survived 2 full days of normal use for me. I kid you not. I did a test on it. I had it charged up to 100% one morning and continued to use the phone throughout the day and by the time I went to bed, I still had 60%+ battery left. When I woke up the next morning, the digit barely dropped. So I went on another full day with the Honor X9b.
I remember that I only had to plug in the charger late at night on the second day when it finally went down below 10%. Charging it back up to 100% took less than an hour on its Honor SuperCharge adapter. After 15 minutes of plugging it in, the battery percentage went over 50% already. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the battery life on the Honor X9b.
Android 13 runs right out-of-the-box with Honor’s own MagicOS 7.2, which is a neat and gorgeous launcher (or skin), in my opinion. It is a highly customisable launcher with tons of themes available and ready to download. Most importantly, it is very stable and intuitive. Best of all, you will get all the Google services available. Many of my friends kept asking me whether Honor comes with Google Mobile Services or not. The answer is yes. GMS has been on Honor devices for a few years already. Now you don’t have to worry about not being able to use Google on any Honor devices.
Multitasking on the Honor X9b is just as good on any other flagship devices out there, all thanks to the whopping 20GB of RAM (after adding in the Honor Turbo RAM feature). You will be able to swipe, browse, open multiple apps at the same time, all without breaking a sweat. Apps will open instantaneously and the screen is highly responsive to your touches. For a device at this price range, it is an amazing device.
When it comes to entertainment like gaming or watching movies, the 120hz refresh rate does make a difference when viewing on a supported app. Coupled with the AMOLED display, everything looks gorgeous. I always enjoy playing games on any device that comes with an AMOLED display. Colours are punchier and the deeper blacks add depth and contrast. That is why I have to try and play games on the Honor X9b.
The game that I choose for this is New State, which is another version of the popular PUBG Mobile. This game is a very graphic demanding game. Same can be said about Genshin Impact. Both games look great on an AMOLED display. But to have a smooth and enjoyable gameplay, we need a powerful SoC. The Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 on the Honor X9b is a mid-range SoC. It is a capable chipset that can play some graphic demanding games but I still have to put the Honor X9b to the test.
After installing New State and with some adjustments to the settings, I am ready to play. Surprisingly, I am able to set the graphics to its maximum setting, including the high FPS and texture. Another feature that I would like to highlight is the Game Panel, which is available on any recent Honor devices on default. When you start any game, you will see a small handle on the top left of the display. When you swipe the handle to the centre of the screen, you can see the Game Panel. Here you can select the Game Boost feature, or play around with the other settings. It does make a difference when I select the game mode.
Gaming on the Honor X9b feels awesome. The graphics render really quick and the movements are smooth, even at this high graphic settings. I was actually surprised that the Honor X9b with Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is able to handle this game smoothly. If you’re on a budget, and looking for a gaming enabled smartphone, you should consider this Honor X9b. It is sort of like an underdog here. On paper, it is meant for normal use with simple gaming. But in reality, it can do so much more.
When I run Antutu 3D Benchmark on this device, the results are below my expectations. I can’t even have it run the newer graphic benchmark. It can only run the older version of the graphic rendering program that is made for lower end devices. Still, it managed to score 474559 points on Antutu. That is a benchmark result from 4 years ago by a flagship device. Most flagship devices nowadays have crossed the 1M points. So I was expecting to see the Honor X9b to at least cross the 600k points. However, the actual gaming experience proved otherwise. Bottom line is, gaming is good, benchmarking is not so good. I don’t know what happened there.
The camera performance on the Honor X9b is good. Not great, but good. It comes with a triple camera setup with the main camera can shoot up to 108MP high resolution photos. It also comes with a 5MP ultrawide camera and a 2MP macro camera. I mostly use the main shooter on this Honor X9b, as it is the most versatile and able to capture some great photos. It is probably the most classic style of point-and-shoot camera that is available on a smartphone. While that being simple, the results are quite good.
In the camera app, you will get the basic Photo and Video mode. Alongside it, there is also Night mode, Portrait, Multi-video (or director’s view), and more such as Pro, Slo-mo, Panorama, Timelapse, Super Macro, High-res, Story and HDR Photos. You can also scan a document which can be saved as PDF on the device. But my go-to mode is of course, the normal main shooter.
I shall let the photos speak for themselves. So have a look at some of the shots taken with the Honor X9b in the gallery below:
Outdoor shots are generally okay. The HDR is so-so when there’s enough light and the clarity of the images are not bad. There should be no problem for outdoor shots, especially during a hot sunny day.
When moving indoors, photos are still good when there’s enough light. In this case, the inside of this mall looks great, with all the details can be seen nicely. Zooming in up to 3x can still capture a clear shot with the Honor X9b.
Here is where it tends to lose out on the colour balance. The colourful balls above look a little washed out, even when taken with the main camera. Somehow the colours are not on point, which is rather obvious. Perhaps some software updates can rectify this matter?
It doesn’t stop there. When shooting in a colourful place, the colour is not so accurate. Again, it does need some adjustments from a software update. While the photos look good with all the good details, it just can’t process the colour balance properly.
Alas, the same can be said about food photography. The washed out colours made the food look, meh. Like I said, details and focus is there, colours are…hmmm.
For plants, or fake plant, is not bad. Colours are okay here while the focus is good. Image clarity is also good with minimal noise when shooting in a low light area.
Since there is also a mode for “Super Macro”, here is a photo of my wireless mouse up close.
While there are some hits and misses when it comes to the camera performance, it still managed to capture some good shots especially when you’re outdoor. The Honor X9b is made tough, for rough people, but can still capture decent Grammable photos. From the samples above, you can tell that it performed well when used outdoors, but falls short when shooting indoors or in low light areas.
Fret not. It is still an awesome device in my book.
The new Honor X9b is one tough phone. So tough that it can break a few layers of wood without leaving a scratch. And the battery life is amazing. It is a great daily driver especially when you’re always out and about without a powerbank in your bag. And you will be surprised at its performance too.
Gaming is a good option to relieve stress. The Honor X9b is great for gaming, which surprises me. The Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is a new budget gaming breed that longed to be played with. Plus, you will get a total of 20GB of RAM (including Honor’s RAM Turbo) to push its limit for gaming. No lags, no delays, and just a good few hours of gaming.
So if you’re looking for a new budget mid-entry level smartphone, you can consider the new Honor X9b in your list. For only RM1,499.00, you will get a tough smartphone that will last you a very long time. Get it now at Honor’s official online retailer at HiHonor.