Honor, the online sub-brand of the Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, has been aggressively pushing its new smartphones in India. As a result, the company recently becamme one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in the country, according to the Counterpoint research. A new addition to the company’s budget smartphone portfolio, the Honor 9N, sports a notch-based screen, a first for the company’s budget profile. However, there is more to the phone than just the new screen format.
The Honor 9N sports a premium glass design, dual rear cameras and a modern 19:9 aspect ratio notch-based screen. Importantly, the phone comes in three RAM and storage configurations – 3GB/32GB, 4GB/64GB and 4GB/128GB. It shares its technical specifications with other Honor budget smartphones, but in terms of design and features, it offers a refreshing new experience.
Design and display
The Honor 9N takes design cues from its flagship sibling, the Honor 10. The phone’s front and back are covered with glass, with subtle curved sides that move into a metallic chassis. The back glass is reflective in nature and takes some of the colour-changing properties from the Honor 10. However, it is not as profound as seen in the premium sibling.
The front of the smartphone is dominated by a 5.84-inch notch-based fullHD+ screen. However, even with a big screen, the phone’s form factor is compact and it feels light in hand and comfortable to carry in pocket. The phone’s back has a fingerprint scanner at the upper centre and dual cameras, with an LED flash, on the extreme top left. Interestingly, the camera unit does not bulge out much – it did in the Honor View10 – and fits right inside the frame, improving the phone’s design quotient.
Speaking of the screen, it produces sharp colours and ample brightness to stay legible under direct sunlight. The touch response is good and there seems to be no issue with calibration. The screen contrast also remains sharp which makes it suitable for multimedia content consumption.
The Honor 9N is powered by Kirin 659 system-on-chip, which is a default choice of processor in most Honor budget smartphones. The processor seems to have aged now but still has the potential to keep things going the right way. It manages to run day-to-day tasks with ease, and manages to get along well with processor-intensive apps and games. However, the phone seems to have heating issues, especially while playing games or streaming high-definition videos. It manages to run graphic-intensive games but at lower graphic settings.
The smartphone boots Android Oreo 8.0 covered under Huawei’s EMUI 8.0. It is not the latest version of the operating system but runs optimally without any major hiccups. The phone comes preloaded with lots of bloatware, especially games and Huawei services. The theme-based add-ons are good, but not everyone would appreciate it.
The Honor 9N sports a 13-megapixel lens, mated with a 2MP secondary lens on the back, and a 16MP selfie camera on the front. The camera interface is loaded with features like the bokeh mode, portrait mode, beauty mode, night photo mode, live photo mode, etc, that enhance the output.
The rear camera output is more or less how it was in Honor’s other budget smartphones, such as the Honor 9 Lite, Honor 7X, etc. But the front camera has an improvement with modes like portrait and Apple iPhone X-like 3D light that give a lot to explore and experiment.
The rear camera also features a portrait mode. The mode is easy to use, but the object and background segmentation are not up to the mark, so the output looks artificial sometimes. The rear cameras’ daylight shots look good. The focus is swift and the background blurring effect is optimal. However, the focus speed slows down during low-light conditions and the background blurring takes a hit. Overall, considering the budget factor, the camera performance is satisfactory but nothing extraordinary.
The Honor 9N houses a 3,000 mAh battery that keeps the show going for almost one full day. Even after heavy usage with multimedia playback, online audio streaming, gaming and camera usage, the phone manages to go on for 8 hours without asking for battery juices to be replenished.
Starting at Rs 11,999 for the base model with 32 GB internal storage and 3 GB RAM, the Honor 9N is an improvement over the Honor 9 Lite. It has its downside, but considering the price segment it targets, the phone seems to be a balanced proposition in the midrange smartphone segment.