Huawei’s sub-brand Honor was dishing out some great phones lately. The Honor 8 Pro (Review) which started earlier this year went head-to-head with the OnePlus 5 (Review) stealing its thunder to some extent. We had been impressed with all the specs and features it offered for the price. With the industry slowly pivoting towards 18:9 displays, Honor has made that movement in the form of the Honor 9i. The screen isn’t the only interesting thing about this brand new phone. It also sports four cameras making it quite unique. While the specifications look great on paper, do they translate into a good real-world experience? We’ve got the answer.
Honor 9i design
If you have been tempted by phones with enormous displays and thin bezels, the Honor 9i will pique your interest. It packs a huge 5.9-inch display with slim borders all around. Don’t allow the screen size set you off, since the 18:9 aspect ratio implies that the phone overall is approximately the same size as most current 5.5-inch phones. The big display means that the metal earpiece, detectors, and front cameras are pushed right to the top border. The fingerprint scanner is in the back and you receive a clean front face.
Pick the phone up, and the curved sides and borders feel comfortable in your hand. The Honor 9i feels solid too, due to its metal unibody. While the black finish on the review unit looks gorgeous, it is a fingerprint magnet. The phone is also a little slippery if you’re not careful when holding it. The double camera module onto the back protrudes by a couple of millimeters but has a metallic rim surrounding it, which should help prevent scratches. We found that we had to extend our fingers a little to get to the fingerprint scanner and that a slightly lower positioning could have been better.
The Honor 9i has a Micro-USB port for charging and data moves, with a 3.5mm headphone jack and the loudspeaker on either side.
Honor 9i specifications and software
The first thing to grab your attention on the Honor 9i will be its big display. Viewing angles are great but we would have liked a little more vividness in the colors. You can alter the color temperature but we couldn’t find a way to boost contrast. The display is bright enough indoors however you might battle with it when outdoors. There is absolutely no mention of any sort of protective glass, but you get a plastic scrape prevention film pre-installed.
The upcoming things you’ll notice are its four cameras. Honor has used dual camera setups on both sides. The primary rear and front cameras have 16-megapixel camera along with 13-megapixel sensors respectively, and both are paired with 2-megapixel secondary sensors which are utilized to capture depth information and also to allow portrait mode. You get a single LED flash in the back and a soft selfie flash on the front.
In terms of hardware, the Honor 9i is powered by a Huawei Kirin 659 SoC, which has eight ARM Cortex-A53 cores – four cores are clocked at 1.7GHz and the other four cores at 2.36GHz. There is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage which is expandable thanks to its hybrid dual-SIM slot. This is a dual-SIM device with just two Nano-SIM slots, but you can swap the next SIM for a microSD card of up to 128GB. Honor has also packaged in a 3340mAh battery which is a little bigger than average.
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Honor has employed its tried and tested custom interface named EMUI on the Honor 9i. You receive EMUI 5.1 on top of Android Nougat. Huawei uses its own visual style and has rearranged several options in the Settings program, but it will not take much time to become used to. There are gestures which simplify taking screenshots and launching apps. Honor calls for these knuckle gestures, and they operate by knocking on the monitor. You can double-knock to take a screenshot or do a two-knuckle tap to start display recording. You also have the option to launch programs and input split-screen manner by tracing letters onto the screen. We found some of them quite useful during our review period.
Even the FullView display isn’t very convenient for one-handed usage, and also the top corners are difficult to reach. Honor has also integrated a single-hand manner that shrinks the display down to one corner of the display. You need to swipe across the navigation buttons to enable it. One other issue with the 18:9 display is that most of apps aren’t ready for it however. While you can run these programs with a black bar at the bottom, Honor also gives you the option to scale them to fit the screen. You obtain a simple instant to allow this or you can do it in the display settings.
There’s also quite a bit of bloatware. The Honor 9i includes a few custom apps including HiCare – a service support app; HiGame – a gaming app store; plus Hi Honor and Honor Community which are Internet shortcuts. EMUI has support for themes which gives you the ability to change the look of the device.
Honor 9i performance, battery life, and cameras
The performance of the Honor 9i is in the same range as that of different devices at this price point. The phone managed to clock 60,550 in AnTuTu, and 914 and 3460 in Geekbench 4’s single-core and multi-core test respectively. The phone does not heat up when running day-to-day tasks but it will get warm after gaming for a while. While Actual Racing 3 and Prime Peaks functioned normally, Clash Royale ran zoomed in, resulting in the sides getting cropped. We couldn’t find a way to run the match letterboxed to 16:9 and had to get used to it.
We also detected a higher speed of battery drain when gaming so you might want to keep an eye on the fee level. Whenever you aren’t running processor-intensive tasks the phone manages power quite nicely. In our HD video loop evaluation, the phone lasted for 8 hours and 54 minutes which isn’t great compared to other smartphones. You can use the power saver mode which aggressively shuts down background processes and cuts off background syncing, but there is not any support for rapid charging, which is disappointing.
The biggest feature for the Honor 9i is its cameras. Launch the camera app and you get a simple interface with the photo/ video selector on one side and quick toggles on the opposite. You get controls to the flash, aperture style, moving picture mode, and portrait style. Moving pictures are similar to live photos on iOS, in which a short clip is recorded along with a still frame. You can swipe right from the default screen to access the different shooting modes. Aside from HDR, panorama, and video, you get pro modes for the two photos and videos, slow-mo, filters, effects and a couple of others. You also have the option to download more modes if you wish to. Pro mode enables you to adjust different parameters like ISO, shutter speed, exposure, focus and white balance. In addition you have the option to shoot in RAW.
The default auto mode for photos is good enough and sets the cameras up nicely. The 16-megapixel primary rear camera captures adequate quantity of detail in landscapes and macros. The secondary 2-megapixel camera does help separate the subject and background to some degree in portrait and wide aperture manners, but it is largely software doing the blurring which is evident in a couple of shots. Selfies possess the bokeh effect as well, and we discovered that the front cameras did a slightly better job compared to the back ones. You get beautification style too, which smoothens skin.
Low-light camera performance is typical. The Honor 9i manages to maintain noise under control but oversharpens photos causing them to lose out on detail. Low-light selfies turn out better thanks to the diffused selfie flash. The Honor 9i can record video at 1080p, both in front and in the back. You can even utilize beautification when recording video with the front camera, but then the output is restricted to 720p.
We can observe that manufacturers are moving towards the 18:9 aspect ratio and this attribute isn’t restricted to expensive flagships anymore. With the Honor 9i, buyers have one more option to get an affordable yet futuristic-looking phone.
The Honor 9i strikes a balance between features and cost. You get a fingerprint scanner which has been missing on the LG Q6 (Review) along with a 1080p display compared to the 720p panel on the Vivo V7+ (Review). The processor is good enough for most people’s daily grinds, as well as the software is easy to use. But this phone still had a couple of improvements when it comes to the cameras and battery performance.
If you prioritise looks over performance then the Honor 9i does offer more bang for the dollar than other smartphones. On the flip side, if you would like a steady all-rounder instead, the Xiaomi Mi A1 (Review) along with the Moto G5S Plus (Review) are good alternatives.