HONOR’s latest smartphone, the HONOR X9a 5G, has been making the rounds online for being dropped to the ground, thrown onto tile, and even being run over by a car — all while seemingly leaving without a scratch.
But, while the phone’s build looks solid, we’re curious to find out whether the HONOR X9a 5G, as a smartphone, is just as good as its durable display.
This is our review of the HONOR X9a 5G.
Table of Contents
HONOR X9a 5G Review
Design and Construction
To start, we wanna clarify something we mentioned in our earlier hands-on with the HONOR X9a 5G. In our hands-on, we mentioned that this sensor on top of the X9a 5G was an IR Blaster. Turns out, the sensor we see here is an ambient light sensor instead, as confirmed with our friends from HONOR.
With that out of the way, let’s start out with design and construction.
For design, we have to give HONOR major props. The X9a 5G looks and feels super-premium with its frosted glass design, metal frame, and curved screen edges. We wouldn’t blame you if you thought the X9a 5G was a flagship device.
On the hand, the HONOR X9a 5G has some good weight to it, with the curved screen also making it look like an S22-Ultra or a Xiaomi 12 — two smartphones that are much more expensive than this one.
As mentioned earlier, the HONOR X9a’s highlight feature is its super tough curved display. HONOR says that the X9a 5G’s display is the strongest smartphone screen yet, with deeply reinforced glass that can supposedly withstand over 900 megapascals of pressure.
While I personally wondered how useful the durable display is in everyday use — I really enjoyed being able to use the X9a 5G without worrying about getting scratched when I laid it down on a table, for example. The X9a 5G was the first phone I could actually see myself using without a case.
From our testing, the X9a can easily survive drops from 5 feet on wooden, tiled, and even concrete surfaces, without getting a single scuff on the screen. We do have to note, however, the reinforced glass only applies to the screen itself and not the other parts of the phone.
After a few days of use, we noticed that there was a small dent at the bottom of the X9a’s aluminum frame. So you may want to be a bit careful if you want to test out the X9a 5G’s durability yourself.
The model we have here is the beautiful Emerald Green color, which has a nice gradient and frosted glass effect that definitely adds to the premium vibe of the X9a 5G.
Aside from Emerald Green, the X9a 5G also comes in Titanium Silver and Midnight Black.
Display and Multimedia
For display, the X9a 5G sports an absolutely massive 6.67-inch FHD+ curved OLED display with a 120 Hz refresh rate and 300 Hz touch sampling rate. It’s an incredibly sharp screen that produces vibrant colors and provides respectable brightness with good visibility outdoors.
While some may dislike the curved-screen edges on the X9a 5G, we can definitely appreciate HONOR including it here, especially since the X9a is coming at a mid-range price. We’re also happy to report that the X9a 5G does a good job of rejecting accidental touches when using its curved screen edges.
The X9a 5G’s 120 Hz refresh rate is fast and smooth, making navigation and scrolling in apps a really fluid experience. We also love the fact that the X9a 5G’s high refresh rate screen can dynamically shift between 120 and 60 Hz, which is probably a big reason for the X9a 5G’s battery performance that we’ll get into in a bit.
For audio, the X9a has a single downward-firing speaker at the bottom that produces clear sound, good clarity, and can reach a respectable amount of volume without distortion.
It is a shame, however, that the X9a 5G doesn’t have an earpiece speaker at the top, especially since the bottom-firing speaker grill can easily be muted with your finger or palm.
It’s probably one of the corners HONOR had to cut to get to the X9a 5G’s price, so we can’t really knock them for that.
Otherwise, watching movies, YouTube, and TikTok on the HONOR X9a 5G is a really good experience.
For the camera, we’re greeted with what HONOR calls its Matrix Star Ring camera system, which houses the phone’s triple-camera setup. And, it’s definitely a stand-out feature of the phone.
Personally, I love the symmetrical design that the Matrix camera setup provides. It’s a refreshing change to all the generic camera setups found in most smartphones these days.
Inside the ring, you’ll find the X9a’s three rear cameras: a 65MP F/1.8 main, a 5MP F/2.2 ultrawide, and a 2MP F/2.4 macro. We also have an LED flash at the bottom of the matrix ring.
In terms of photo quality, this is probably where the X9a 5G falls a bit flat. In good lighting, the X9a can produce decent to good images. However, we observed that the X9a 5G’s camera tends to overexpose and bump the saturation a bit too much to our liking.
You can take a look at our photo samples here:
The same is true for the X9a’s video quality, which shoots good enough footage provided you have enough light.
For low light, the X9a 5G struggles as it has a hard time capturing detail without good lighting and produces pretty grainy photos in challenging conditions.
The selfie camera is pretty serviceable too, producing good photos with enough light.
If you like taking photos or consider yourself a hobby photographer, the X9a 5G probably isn’t for you. But, for the occasional photo and video to post online or to capture memories, the X9a 5G will serve you just fine.
Apps, OS and UI
For software, the X9a 5G comes with HONOR’s Magic UI 6.1 based on Android 12.
Magic UI features a design that is reminiscent of iOS, with its boxy and larger-than-usual icons and loud color scheme. HONOR does preload the X9a 5G with a bit of bloatware, such as its HONOR Store, HONOR health app, and Game Center. These apps, however, can easily be uninstalled, which is a plus.
Magic UI is fast and responsive and provides a good variety of customization options, such as being able to change your home screen transitions and some really cool looking Always-On-Displays.
My one gripe with Magic UI is that you can’t swipe down from the home screen to bring down your notification panel. As far as we know, swiping down will only open HONOR’s built-in Search app and there is no current way to change it.
This makes it a bit difficult to check your notifications with the X9a 5G’s large screen. Otherwise, Magic UI is a good Android 12 skin that is more than usable in 2023.
Performance and Benchmarks
For performance, the HONOR X9a 5G is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 695 chipset and an Adreno 619 GPU. It can come with 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage or 8GB RAM, with either 128 or 256GBs of internal storage.
Even if the Snapdragon 695 isn’t the highest-end chip from Qualcomm, it’s still a pretty solid performer. Using the X9a 5G felt smooth and snappy for the most part. There were occasional hiccups here and there, but the X9a 5G’s 120 Hz display definitely helps.
For gaming, the X9a performed surprisingly well.
It was able to run games such as Call of Duty Mobile and Mobile Legends without any issues. It could even play Genshin Impact, one of the most graphically intensive games out right now, with a stable framerate provided you play on low settings.
Here’s how the HONOR X9a 5G fared in benchmarks:
• PCMark – 10,437 (Work 3.0)
• 3D Mark – 1,214 (Wild Life), 364 (WildLife Extreme)
• Geekbench 5 – 664 (Single-core), 1,858 (Multi-core)
The X9a doesn’t have the most eye-catching benchmark results but in real-world usage, it does just fine. We do have to point out though that when you play games in landscape mode, the speaker grill at the bottom, as we mentioned earlier, can easily be muted.
So you might want to keep a set of Bluetooth earphones on deck when you play games. And no, the X9a 5G, unfortunately, doesn’t have a headphone jack.
Connectivity and Battery Life
For connectivity, the HONOR X9a has 5G, LTE, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, NFC, and a USB Type-C port.
It has an under-display fingerprint sensor for biometrics and can house two sim slots at the same time. The fingerprint sensor is good and can read my finger 8/10 times.
For battery, the HONOR X9a 5G is an absolute champ.
It has a 5100 mAh battery that’s capable of being charged with an included 40-watt fast charger (a definite plus, if you ask me).
I actually had the HONOR X9a 5G with me on the way to and during HONOR’s grand launch event of the phone at Tagaytay City. I had a 3-hour-long bus ride on the way to the event and I had both my personal phone and the HONOR X9a 5G.
I was getting a bit battery anxious as my personal phone’s battery was draining fast and the power bank I brought with me didn’t have the compatible ports to charge my device.
After an hour and a half, my personal phone eventually died. Luckily, I had a sim card removal tool in my bag and thought it was time to fully switch to the HONOR X9a 5G.
And, the HONOR X9a 5G’s battery fared amazingly.
It lasted the whole trip to Tagaytay and more with 5G on the whole time. I used it to stream music, browse social media, check email, play some games, and use my messaging apps.
All of this was with the high refresh-rate screen turned on and the brightness turned up to 70-80% while being in transit and the network antenna working harder than usual since it had to get a signal while I was on the bus.
Not only that but during the event, my personal phone suddenly couldn’t use any mobile data, which was supposed to be my main tool to cover the launch.
So, I ended up using the HONOR X9a 5G as a mobile hotspot for 3 straight hours, and the battery didn’t even break a sweat. After the event, the HONOR X9a 5G only lost around 10% with a whole night of being my mobile hotspot. We’re also glad to note that the phone didn’t overheat or experience any battery drain during standby.
Safe to say, my battery anxiety had completely faded away as HONOR X9a 5G soldiered on with no problem.
In addition, my regular testing of the phone saw the HONOR X9a 5G easily last a good day and a half of moderate to heavy use. Not to mention the fact that the HONOR X9a 5G includes a 40-watt charger that quickly topped up the device in an hour or less.
The X9a 5G also garnered a good 11 hours and 3 minutes on PCMark’s Work3.0 Battery Life Benchmark, reflecting the real-world usage we experienced with the device.
The X9a 5G is definitely a great choice for those who want to get rid of battery anxiety and want a device that could last a whole full day of heavy usage.
Price and Conclusion
To conclude, the HONOR X9a 5G’s durable display, amazing design, and 5100 mAh battery make it an undeniably solid phone.
However, we strongly believe that the HONOR X9a 5G’s best feature is its price. Retailing for only Php 16,990 for the 8GB and 256GB models, the X9a 5G is simply in a class of its own.
While it doesn’t have the best camera quality out there or the best speaker experience, you simply cannot find a better package than what the HONOR X9a 5G has to offer, especially at this price. Personally, if I didn’t love taking photos, I could easily see myself happily daily driving the X9a 5G without any problem.
We highly recommend it.
HONOR X9a 5G specs:
6.67-inch FHD+ (2400 x 1080) 45° Curved AMOLED display
120Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sampling rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 SoC
6GB, 8GB RAM
128GB, 256GB storage
Triple rear cameras:
• 64MP f/1.8 main
• 5MP f/2.2 ultrawide/depth
• 2MP f/2.4 macro
16MP f/2.45 front
5G, 4G LTE
Under-display fingerprint sensor
MagicUI 6.1 (Android 12)
5100mAh, 40W charging rate
161.6 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm
Emerald Green, Titanium Silver