Right out of the gate, the HONOR 9X looks beautiful – everything about holding this phone in your hand screams premium device, which makes you want to double check the price all over again. The Sapphire Blue colour option in particular is a standout, with the '3D glass' back and its subtle X-shapes that glisten in the light giving this a uniquely pleasing vibe.
The screen itself is also first rate, pushing those bezels right out to the edge of the body (the specs put it at 91% screen-to-body ratio), and you'll also immediately see there's no notch on this device. Honestly, it's great to think that maybe, just maybe, the notch era could be heading into the rear-view mirror thanks to some clever designs on how to hide the front-facing camera – more on that shortly.
The screen is a 6.59-inch 2340x1080 pixel display, which pegs the density at a very sharp 391 PPI. The responsiveness and image quality pop nicely.
A big 4,000mAh battery also ensures you'll be able to comfortably push through a long day without running out of juice. And, of course, this isn't the dark ages so we're on a USB-C charging port here too, and storage can be expanded up to 512GB so you shouldn't have to worry about running out of room.
One more great feature is dubbed the AI Signal Enhancer, which is all about being faster and smarter about recovering a network connection if you're travelling through patchy 4G areas or your Wi-Fi connection drops out. If you've been stuck with a device that seems to need a Flight Mode reset to find a connection again when things drop out, you know how helpful this could be.
Cameras both secret and smart
Phones these days live or die by the quality of the camera experience. There's just nothing more important to users anymore. And thankfully the HONOR 9X delivers some smart and unique features both front and back.
So, remember that missing notch? The HONOR 9X has managed to hide that front camera in a clever pop-up mechanism hidden in the chassis. As soon as you open the front camera app, the 16MP pops out and is ready for action, and then disappears again when you're done. No-fuss, no fingers needed, just there when you need it and gone when you don't.
Around the back, you'll see a triple camera array to give you good options for getting the picture you need. The main lens is a whopping 48MP camera that is backed by a 1/2-inch sensor and an F/1.8 aperture lens, and it performs very nicely under plenty of different conditions. This is supported by a depth-assist camera to pick out your subject nicely for beautiful portrait mode images. Add some stylish bokeh features that let you play with the blurring of background lights (do you want stars or love hearts?) and you get a lot of fun options to enjoy without needing to kick the images into other apps for editing.
The third lens is an 8MP super wide camera, with a 120-degree field of view that gets software support to ensure distortion is nicely managed. In the recent battle over whether telephoto or wide-angle lenses are the better 'second' lens on a phone, wide-angle feels like the winner. This lens can make simple moments suddenly feel epic in scope.
The camera also has a strong AIS Super Night Mode to lift those darker images and capture more detail without the flash. This is fast becoming one of those 'must-have' features for quality smartphones, so it's great to see it here – yet another point on the 'how is this premium phone so cheap?' hit list.
One more great feature is a fantastic video stabilisation system for those times when you just know you're going to be shooting on the move or chasing fast action.
Band 5: stylish fitness companion
It's worth an extra shout out to the HONOR Band 5, a slim and stylish smart band slash fitness tracker that matches the HONOR 9X perfectly. The watch faces on the Band 5's AMOLED screen look gorgeous – there are lots to choose from, with elegant watch faces to sportier designs with tracking information displayed – and the slim design makes this sit on the wrist more like a subtle fitness band than a larger watch design.
The stellar feature is the battery life – up to 14 days – which means this can be a serious life companion, tracking not just steps and exercise but also your sleep patterns. You also get 24/7 heart rate tracking as well as an SpO2 tracker to monitor blood oxygen levels, an especially powerful feature for more serious training conditions. Together with your HONOR 9X you can use your Band 5 to plan serious training schedules, whether it be running, cycling, swimming or gym activities like running, cycling and rowing machines.
As we said at the top up, the HONOR 9X is one of those prime examples of hitting the sweet spot where the price is such a surprise you wonder what's wrong. But there's little to worry about. The HONOR 9X is a fantastic option, whether you're buying it as a gift for a teen in the family or you've decided to just treat yourself instead.