Hands on: Honor 9N Review

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Huawei has been offering competent, affordable phones in India for a few years now but it got its first big break recently with the Honor 9 Lite, which was also the first Honor phone to sell more than 1 million units. Playing by the same rules, Huawei today launched the Honor 9N – a good looking phone that comes in several unique and attractive colors. One that will try to outgun the likes of Redmi Note 5 Pro, Realme 1, and Zenfone Max Pro M1.

Is it up to the daunting task? We have jotted down what we think in our Honor 9N hands-on review below. Let’s proceed.

Huawei Honor 9N Detailed Specs

Model Honor 9N
Display 5.84-inch Full HD+ full vision display
Processor Octa-Core Kirin 659 processor
Internal Storage 32GB/64GB/128GB, expandable up to 256GB
Software Android 8.0 (Oreo) with EMUI 5.1
Primary Camera 13MP + 2MP sensor with dual-tone LED, CMOS sensor, PDAF, and digital zoom
Secondary Camera 16MP
Dimensions 149.2 x 71.8 x 7.7 mm; Weight: 152g
Battery 3000mAh battery, no fast charging
Others 4G VoLTE support, hybrid dual-sim, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a 3.5mm audio jack, and other standard features
Price Rs. 11,990 / Rs. 13,990 / Rs. 17,990

Honor 9N Design and Build

Glass body phones aren’t uncommon these days, but they are still quite rare in the under 15K price bracket. Just like the Honor 9 Lite, the Honor 9N has glass on the front and rear and a (metal-finish) plastic side frame. Compared to the phones it will go against, the Honor 9N is pleasantly compact, light, and attractive.

Unlike the Honor 9 Lite that it succeeds, it has a notch on the front. The fascia isn’t quite bezel-less, though. The notch at the top is not very wide but is deep (and the phone looks odd when you hide the notch). The chin below the display is big enough to house honor branding.

Apart from the regular mid-night black and Sapphire Blue that we had for the 9 lite, Honor has also added two new attractive colors – Lavender purple and Robin Egg Blue – that are really fascinating.

  • The design is the biggest talking point of Honor 9N. It’s one of the rare few (or the only?) glass body phones in its class, one that’s compact light and easy to wield.
  • In our opinion, it looks better than existing alternatives like Redmi Note 5 Pro, Realme 1, and Zenfone Max Pro.
  • The regular micro USB port, speaker grill, and audio jack are present at the bottom.
  • The SIM tray is Hybrid. You can either add two SIM cards or One SIM card and a microSD card slot.
  • Honor bundles a hard transparent case in the box. No headphones, though.
  • Honor 9N has both fingerprint sensor and face unlock.

Honor 9N Display

The 5.8-inch IPS LCD display on the 9N has full HD+ resolution and about 79.5% screen-to-body ratio. The Notch at the top isn’t very wide but it seems to protrude quite deep. The software has the option to tweak display colors. During our hands-on time, we only tested it indoors under artificial lighting so it’s hard to comment on the display brightness. Color calibration felt similar to what we have seen on Honor 9 Lite. Whites slightly lean towards colder tones.

  • The 5.85-inch screen has a 79.5% screen-to-body ratio.
  • You can tweak color temperature or hide the notch from the display settings.
  • Honor doesn’t mention the use of Gorilla Glass on the screen. Probably some other ion-strengthened glass is present on the phone.

Honor 9N Performance, Software, and Battery

Performance is where Honor 9N is cutting some corners. The phone employs the Kirin 659 mobile platform, which is the same chipset you will find on all affordable honor phones in the last year. Which would have been ok if the SoC were competent enough to take on modern Qualcomm alternatives like Snapdragon 636, Snapdragon 450 or Snapdragon 625.

The 2.36GHz octa-core Kirin 659 should still be good enough for the basic users, but we aren’t very optimistic about the top model that retails for 17,999 INR.  To compensate for the same, Huawei will bring in GPU Boost technology that should help improve gaming performance. This is, however, a postdated cheque. Huawei didn’t talk much about the technology from the launch stage but did mention that it will push it to Honor 9N via an OTA update sometime later.

Also Read: Honor 9 Lite, Redmi Note 5 Pro Don’t Stream HD Content On Netflix

The EMUI 8.0 software, which is based on Android 8.0 oreo, adds some new features like Paytm payments. It’s a feature rich UI and has progressively improved over the years. It’s a mature and stable ROM but, going by our past experience with EMUI, the software handles resources heavy-handedly.

The 3000mAh battery doesn’t sound like much but taking into account our experience with Honor 9 Lite, the battery mileage should be manageable.

  • Kirin 659 is a bit dated as of today. We’ve had a better experience with Qualcomm options like Snapdragon 636 and even Snapdragon 625.
  • Since the card slot is hybrid, it’s hard for us to recommend the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage model. The 4GB RAM and 64GB storage model makes the most sense.
  • The software running on the phone is EMUI 8.0 that’s based on Android 8.0 Oreo. Ou of the box, June security patch is installed.
  • Honor 9N has a 3000mAh battery. Fast charging isn’t supported.

Honor 9N Camera Expectations

The Honor 9N replaces the front dual cameras on Honor 9 Lite with a single 16MP selfie camera. The selfies we took indoors looked good on the phone screen, but of course, we can’t say much till we spend some quality time with the phone in our own space.  The images on the Honor 9 Lite looked much better on the phone screen than they did when expanded on a bigger screen, so this is something we’d like to cross check later.

On the rear, there is the usual 13MP+2MP combination, where the extra shooter is used for depth sensing. The Honor 9N has portrait mode for both the front and the rear cameras. Phones like Redmi Note 5 Pro and Mi A1 have set the bar really high. It remains to be seen if the Honor 9N can match up.

Honor 9N first impressions – Is it better than Honor 9 Lite?

The Honor 9N has a lot in common with the Honor 9 Lite. Both phones have the same chipset, the same software, the same rear camera hardware and even the same 3000mAh battery. The only differences are the slightly bigger screen with a notch and the new selfie camera. Since it’s priced higher, we’d have liked to see a better chipset this time around.

Understandably, Huawei sticks to the winning formula and gives Design precedence over all else.

And since the design has always been the one week point of Xiaomi Redmi phones, it makes sense that the phones contesting them do not falter in this one key area.

It won’t be fair to write off the Honor 9N just yet but, at the same time, we aren’t all that excited about the new Honor phone.

As mentioned above, the 3GB RAM and 32GB storage model is hard to recommend and so is the top model with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. The 4GB RAM and 64GB storage model is the best fit. It’s priced at Rs. 13,999 and will directly lock horns with Redmi Note 5 Pro and Zenfone Max Pro M1 , both of which can be really tough to beat.

Also Read: Honor 9 Lite Review – For basic consumers who prioritize design

Deepak SinghDeepak Singh
Deepak has more than 8 years of experience in covering technology for several eminent publications in India. He currently leads an enthusiastic team of young writers at Smartprix and tries to uphold the highest quality standards.

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