HONOR X9a 5G Hands-On: Tough and capable
Strong 2023 start for HONOR?
HONOR is determined to make some serious noise in the smartphone space in 2023. In the Philippines, they’re looking to start strong with the release of the HONOR X9a 5G.
If you follow any tech publications and some influencers and endorsers online, you likely saw the drop test videos the company had literally everyone do. That includes GadgetMatch.
For what it’s worth, the thing is really tough. During our quick shoot, we dropped it around 3 times on concrete. No major damages suffered. The 0.65mm ‘Deeply Reinforced Glass’ on the display is, for the most part, not just a gimmick. Still, don’t go dropping the phone carelessly if you do decide to get it.
We’re already talking about the display anyway, so let’s dig into it a little more.
Pleasant to the eyes
The HONOR X9a 5G sports a 6.67-inch OLED Curved Display. It has a 394 pixels per inch count with a 2400 x 1900 resolution and 800 nits of peak brightness. Marketing materials also tout its 1.07 billion colors and TUV Rheinland Low Blue Light Certification.
For the most part, the phone is everything it says it is on paper. The curved display affects more how the phone feels on-hand than it does for your eyes. It makes the phone’s profile feel slimmer than it actually is. And it’s not too curved to the point that it distracts from whatever you’re watching.
Colors also look great. We can confidently say that you’ll have a good time watching videos on the HONOR X9a 5G. Whether that’s one of our YouTube videos, mindlessly scrolling on TikTok, or catching up on your favorite series.
It also delivers a buttery-smooth feel, it has a 120Hz refresh rate and a 300Hz touch sampling rate.
Going over to how the rest of the phone looks, it gives off a Magic-ish, Mate-ish vibe. The circular camera module on the back plays a huge part in that. We’ll get to the camera details later on. For now, let’s focus on the look.
One glance and you could mistake it as an HONOR Magic or even a HUAWEI Mate phone. After all, they share a similar design language.
All the buttons (power and volume) are on the right.
And at the bottom, you’ll find the SIM Card tray, USB-C port, and speaker-grille. Pretty standard stuff.
Globally, the phone comes in three colors: Titanium Silver, Emerald Green and Midnight Black. In the Philippines, it appears only the first two colors will be available at launch.
Overall, it’s your standard slab with a signature look. That camera module is certainly doing a lot to separate it from the pack.
Now onto the cameras. Here they are by the numbers:
- Main (Wide): 64MP, f/1.8, PDAF
- Ultrawide: 5MP, f/2.2,
- Macro: 2MP, f/2.4, (macro)
- Front (wide): 16MP, f/2.5
And since video taking seems to be all the rage these days, you might be pleased to know that both the front and back cameras can take 1080P at 30fps footage.
Again, these are pretty standard numbers for midrangers. The same is true for the actual output. There’s nothing here that’s mind blowing. But for posting on socials and just capturing stuff on the daily, it’s more than serviceable.
Take a look at these samples:
The HONOR X9a 5G is powered by the Qualcomm SM6375 Snapdragon 695 5G processor. In the Philippines, it comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. It also has a massive 5,100mAh battery. Software-wise, it’s running Magic UI 6.1 based on Android 12.
In practice, all these components come together to deliver a steady performer of a smartphone. The HONOR X9a 5G is reliable in all the ways that matter. The processor, while not new by 2023 standard, still does what you expect it to do. That is to keep the stuff you need running in the background as needed.
It also has a decent power efficiency, which, paired with the massive battery, delivers an overall battery life that won’t have you running to the nearest power outlet as the day winds down.
We didn’t do much gaming on the phone, but given that it’s the same processor that was equipped on mobile gaming-inclined phones in the past, we’re confident it can steadily run plenty of the most-played games on mobile.
Solid start for HONOR
The HONOR X9a 5G is a tough, capable smartphone that’s easy on the eyes. It’s the quintessential midrange smartphone. Everything we’ve come to expect from midrangers is present on this phone while also being extra tough and lasting extra long.
With this being HONOR’s first offering in 2023 in the Philippines, the company is off to a solid start.
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HONOR Magic Vs Hands-on: Disruptor in the making
Looks like Samsung is about to have a decent rival
Foldable smartphones aren’t going away. In fact, more and more smartphone brands are coming up with unique form factors that they can brag about.
While I’m never the target market of a foldable smartphone, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good design when I see one.
Such is the case for the Honor Magic Vs, which was launched last November 2022.
Cracked the code
At a glance, the Honor Magic Vs looks inconspicuously familiar. The rear design looks like your tall, boxy slate. You wouldn’t realize it’s a foldable smartphone unless you’ve taken a peek on the side or if you’ve seen someone unfold it.
When folded, it doesn’t look thick since it’s eerily familiar to most bulky smartphones. The fingerprint scanner sits below the volume rockers, although both features are placed on different edges when opened.
Unfolded, the fingerprint scanner will remain on the right while the volume rockers are accessible on the left side. On its top, you can find its speaker grilles and mic. Meanwhile, the bottom side houses the SIM tray and a USB-C port. Here you’ll also find another set of speaker grilles.
Unfolding the device feels smooth. I didn’t feel any resistance on its hinge yet it still felt durable enough. It also didn’t feel heavy on the hand when unfolded. The Honor Magic Vs weighs 261g, almost the same as the Galaxy Z Fold4 at 263g, yet it feels significantly lighter whether folded or unfolded.
And despite all the thin and lightweight feel, the Magic Vs felt it had a robust build, thanks to its magnesium alloy frame. It still looks delicate, though. All foldable phones do.
What sets the Magic Vs apart is how it really looks like a regular smartphone when folded. The cover display comes with a 6.45-inch OLED screen capable of 120Hz refresh rate, support for HDR10+, and reaches a maximum brightness of up to 1200 nits.
Since Honor’s independence from Huawei, the Magic Vs runs Magic UI 7 based on Android 12 and comes with Google Mobile Services. It really does look like your average slate, except it can still unfold and look bigger.
It extends its screen to 7.9 inches when unfolded, although the performance is a bit toned-down with only 90Hz refresh rate capability and a maximum brightness of up to 800 nits.
In a way, the Honor Magic Vs cracked the code when it comes to foldable design. It found a sweet spot that works with average users, not just tech-savvy individuals who want cutting-edge technology at their disposal.
A noteworthy rival?
Back in 2019, Samsung and Huawei went toe-to-toe in producing the best foldable smartphone. Samsung took the crown when Huawei lost Google Mobile Services due to former President Trump’s meltdown against the Chinese company.
Huawei continued to showcase its excellence in robust engineering and innovative design through its foldable lineup. However, it still struggled in marketing its devices due to the inaccessibility of Google Mobile Services.
Meanwhile, Honor’s foldable lineup seems to be unbothered — taking notes from the refinement of Huawei’s devices while following in the steps of Samsung’s legacy.
The Honor Magic Vs runs on Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 with a 4nm chip and an Adreno 730 GPU. On paper alone, the foldable lineup promises a flagship performance that might even rival the Galaxy Z Fold4.
However, let’s save that conversation for next time. For now, let’s see how the Honor Magic Vs fares against the current leading foldable smartphone.
Up front, the Galaxy Z Fold4 has a narrower cover display which we’ve mentioned a couple of times already in our previous stories and videos. The Honor Magic Vs looks similar to your average smartphone, which provides plenty of screen real estate apt for scrolling, watching videos, and playing games.
On the rear, the Galaxy Z Fold4 has a smooth, subtle design with graceful curves. Meanwhile, the Honor Magic Vs comes with a frosted and textured finish. Aside from their sizes, the differences in camera islands are easily distinguishable.
The Honor Magic Vs obviously comes with an insanely large camera bump. It houses a 54-megapixel main shooter, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 50-megapixel ultrawide camera.
Design-wise, surely, the Honor Magic Vs is winning. It’s thinner, easier to hold, and looks like your familiar slab phone even though it’s foldable. However, there are more things to consider especially in how Samsung still holds the crown in terms of software and display.
Nevertheless, the Honor Magic Vs’ entrance should make Samsung feel its presence. They can’t afford to be complacent when a dark horse is just around the corner, ready to run the course.
Just like the Galaxy Z Fold4 and even the Huawei Mate Xs 2, the Honor Magic Vs comes with different camera modes that suits any user’s preference and shooting style.
The Honor Magic Vs carries a punch-hole camera for its selfie shooter, as seen on its cover display and even when unfolded.
The front camera uses a 16-megapixel wide lens that’s appropriate for selfies.
On its rear, as mentioned before, carries a triple camera system inside a humongous camera bump.
It’s apt for shooting in different modes — suitable for mobile photographers since they’ll have a versatile set of cameras at their disposal.
The cover screen is also accessible so that your subject can have a preview of themselves when you’re taking their photos.
However, I’ve been using it differently. Using gestures, you can flip the foldable when unfolded, and have the rear cameras take your photos instead for a crisper and more vibrant shot.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
It’s too early to tell whether the Honor Magic Vs can be your GadgetMatch. With an RMB 7,499 price tag in China and its availability still coming to more regions before 2022 ends and in the 1st quarter of 2023, the asking price is still steep when converted.
However, it’s much cheaper when compared to other flagship foldable smartphones that retail at USD 2,000. If you’re still part of the crowd who love having cutting-edge technology and first-generation products, the Honor Magic Vs might be worth checking out.
For what it’s worth, the Honor Magic Vs offers a presence that Samsung should never take lightly. It has the potential to shake the foldable category if it continues to improve.
It continues Huawei’s legacy in terms of hardware, with Honor’s proprietary software features that take after Huawei and EMUI serving a smooth and seamless experience, combined with an elegant blend of engineering, technology, and design.
It’s like a dark horse waiting for its moment to take the crown. Eventually, we’ll be witness to it.
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