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Huawei's Honor 9 wants to take out the OnePlus 5

A portrait mode for selfies gives the midprice Honor 9 a little something extra.

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With the Honor 9, Huawei throws down the gauntlet against the OnePlus 5 ($699.99 at Amazon.com). Both are dual-camera Android phones you can buy for a smaller chunk of change than a premium flagship like the Galaxy S8 ($649.99 at Amazon.com).

The Honor 9 is going after the same sweet spots as the OnePlus 5 -- good photos, a top-of-the-line processor, and amenities like lots of onboard storage and a second SIM card slot.

Huawei is the world's third-largest phone maker, but it's failed to become the global household name that Samsung and Apple have, and cedes some ground to phones by the likes of OnePlus, whose OnePlus 5 was good enough to earn CNET's Editor's Choice Award for its high value. The Honor line gives Huawei an important opportunity to get its phones in front of buyers who could be interested in the OnePlus 5.

The Honor 9 I got to play with was fast, with a seriously speedy fingerprint reader and a glorious deep blue finish (it also comes in grey and black). The phone felt smooth in my hand, and much smaller and more manageable than a hulk like the iPhone 7 Plus ($1,299.11 at Amazon.com) or Google Pixel XL ($499.00 at Amazon.com). Its glossiness makes it a little slip-prone without a case.

Its dual rear cameras are a talking point: You get a 12-megapixel RGB lens for full color, and an additional 20-megapixel monochrome lens. That's mainly there to add depth and nuance to photos. It's worked well in previous Huawei phones, but we'll still need to thoroughly test it before we can say just how good these photos are. 

You will find plenty of settings, including a digital portrait mode for both front and rear cameras (that's right, you can get the Bokeh bur effect on your selfies). There are also manual settings for photos and videos, and support for RAW files (with pro mode).

One difference between last year's wonderful Honor 8 ($336.00 at Amazon.com) and this year's Honor 9 is that the fingerprint reader moved. It used to be on the phone's rear and corresponded to a programmable button you could set to, for example, launch the screen. Now it's on the phone face beneath the screen, is static, and doesn't have a custom button. Long press this new home button to pull up Google search -- strangely, my test model didn't have Google Assistant incorporated. 

The Honor 9 is already on sale in China and will sell in select markets globally. It's up for preorder in the UK today on Amazon for £380, and will be available exclusively on the Three network for £16 per month on a 24-month contract.

Don't expect to see an Honor 9 for the US, at least not yet. But there's a good chance that will change down the line. After all, the Honor 8 was launched in San Francisco last year, and sells through Huawei's site HiHonor.com. And Huawei sort-of-not-really hints as much. "Later this year, you can expect to hear more about new devices that will be available in the US," the company said in a statement. 

See how the Honor 9's specs compare to the OnePlus 5 in the chart below.

Honor 9 specs versus OnePlus 5


Huawei Honor 9 OnePlus 5
Display size, resolution 5.15-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels
Pixel density 428 ppi 401ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.8x2.8x0.3 inches 6.1x2.92x0.29 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 147.3x71x7.5mm 154.2x74.1x7.3 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.5 oz; 155g 5.4 oz; 153 g
Mobile software Android Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Camera 12-megapixel, 20-megapixel monochrome 16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 16-megapixel
Video capture 2160p 4K
Processor Huawei Kirin 960, Octa-Core (4x2.4 GHz+4x1.8 GHz) 2.45GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Storage 64GB 64GB, 128GB
RAM 4GB or 6GB (varies by region) 6GB, 8GB
Expandable storage Up to 256GB None
Battery 3,200mAh 3,300mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Home button
Connector USB-C USB-C
Special features Dual-camera, dual-SIM (varies by region) Portrait mode, notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging
Price off-contract (USD) Converts to $397 (from Chinese yuan) $479 (64GB), $539 (128GB)
Price (GBP) Converts to £314 (from Chinese yuan) £449 (64GB), £499 (128GB)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$527 (from Chinese yuan) Converts to AU$636 (64GB), AU$715 (128GB)

Where to Buy

Huawei Honor 9

Visit manufacturer site for details.

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