The Honor 9N is the re-badged version of the Honor 9i (2018) which was launched in China recently.
The phone is priced at Rs 11,999 in India and is available to buy on Flipkart.
The Honor 9N improves on the design of the Honor 9 Lite, but is otherwise very similar.
While the Huawei brand in India is yet to taste significant success, the Honor sub-brand is doing particularly well for the Chinese smartphone maker. On the back of strong sales by Honor, the combined Huawei-Honor presence in India now sits at 5th place in terms of smartphone shipments in India. A lot of that success can be credited to the Honor 9 Lite, one of the company’s most successful models in the country.
Sitting in the sub-Rs 15,000 category, the Honor 9 Lite has mounted a serious challenge to the dominance of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Note 5 Pro over the space. And while that phone certainly isn’t entirely dated yet, Honor already have a successor – more like a ‘Pro’ version, to be fair – out already. The Honor 9N is priced from Rs 11,999 and brings some changes, most notably when it comes to design. Here’s our review of the new Honor 9N.
WATCH: Honor 9N First Look
Honor 9N Design and Display
The ‘N’ in the phone’s model number may as well stand for Notch, because that’s essentially the key change in the new device. The Honor 9N features a 5.84-inch full-HD+ 19:9 aspect ratio IPS LCD screen, which stretches all the way to the top edge of the phone, barring a slim bezel. The earpiece, sensor and 16-megapixel front camera find their place on the notch, while the bottom sees a slim chin where the Honor logo is present.
Notably, Honor has changed another key design aspect with the Honor 9N; the non-screen space at the front is now black, rather than being the same color as the sides and rear of the phone. Now this is entirely a matter of taste and a lot of people will prefer the single-tone color scheme, but I do prefer the black front, since this has the phone look better when the screen is off. The overall result is a phone that has a larger screen and looks much more appealing than the Honor 9 Lite.
The rest of the phone is much the same as the Honor 9 Lite. The dual-camera setup, fingerprint sensor and logo are at the same place, and the glass back keeps the phone looking sharp. The frame of the phone is plastic and the same color as the back. The hybrid dual-SIM tray is on the left, the power and volume buttons are on the right, and the speaker grille, 3.5mm jack and micro-USB port at the bottom. By today’s standards, the Honor 9N feels compact as well.
The phone launches with two color options – Black and Sapphire Blue – and is slated to get an additional two colors in the coming weeks: Robin Blue and Lavender. The third and fourth color options are admittedly much catchier, and will appeal to some users purely for their uniqueness. If you prefer things understated, the black and blue options will be fine for you.
Honor 9N Specifications and Software
When it comes to core specifications, the Honor 9N is practically the same as the Honor 9 Lite. You get the same HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage on the top-end model, and the phone also runs on Android 8.0 Oreo with EMUI 8.0 on top. The phone also sports the same 3,000mAh battery. The only realistic changes here come in the screen and the front camera, which is a 16-megapixel single-camera setup because of the space issue created by the notch.
Huawei and Honor’s user interface has seen some improvements over the years, and EMUI 8.0 is significantly better than earlier iterations as a result. However, it is a bit disappointing that the phone doesn’t come with EMUI 8.1 based on Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box. Nonetheless, you do get the June 2018 Android security patch straight away.
My personal favorite features on EMUI 8.0 are the ability to switch between the dual-layered and single-layered UI, and the magazine lock screen. The focus of EMUI 8.0 is to a strong extent on the visual element of the phone, and keeping things looking interesting. This goes well with the general focus on looks and design. Interestingly, you also get face unlock on the Honor 9N, which works well.
Honor 9N Performance and Battery Life
The Honor 9N sports the HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC, which is the company’s current top-end mid-range chipset, at least till the Kirin 710 rolls out widely on devices. The same chipset is found on the Honor 9 Lite, which essentially means that the Honor 9N boasts similar levels of performance to its predecessor without the notch. While the chipset itself may not be as capable as its counterparts from Qualcomm, Honor does have the advantage of being able to build its devices and chipsets to work optimally with each other.
As such, you get capable and reliable performance out of the box with the Honor 9N. While multi-tasking and graphically-intensive tasks might be better on competing devices in this price range, the Honor 9N does offer a satisfactory mid-range experience, and you won’t have trouble with most tasks. Graphically intensive games such as Riptide GP did show a few frame drops and didn’t quite run as smoothly on Qualcomm Snapdragon 636-based devices, but the experience was not poor by any means. To put it simply, performance is good enough for a mid-range device, and is certainly helped along by better chipset-OS optimization.
Another aspect that isn’t often talked about is the quality of the antenna. Honor and Huawei phones do benefit from the company’s expertise in network equipment, and you get a notably better communication experience on the Honor 9N as a result. This isn’t exactly quantifiable and provable since network and connectivity varies based on place and time, but I did perceive a better voice-call and data connectivity experience during my time with the Honor 9N.
Honor 9N Camera
The similarities between the Honor 9N and Honor 9 Lite continue when it comes to the rear camera setup of the devices. The Honor 9N uses the same 13-megapixel + 2-megapixel rear camera setup, and the use of the Kirin 659 SoC means that processing is also identical. The dual-camera setup enables portrait mode through depth-sensing abilities, and allows video recording at up to full-HD resolution. You can also have the camera shoot at 18:9 aspect ratio in order to use all of the screen area below the notch as a viewfinder.
The camera itself doesn’t improve much over the Honor 9 Lite, which itself had a camera that wasn’t particularly good. Once again, images that look good on the phone itself won’t look quite as good on a larger screen, where the lack of detail is visible. Grain, a distinct ‘painting’ effect and colors that are a bit too dull are the general issues with the camera. While images taken in daylight look good enough, even a slightly dull scene will look lackluster.
Where the camera of the Honor 9N does succeed is portrait mode, whether you’re using the dual-camera setup at the back or the AI-based portrait effect at the front. Background detection is impressive for a budget phone, and the blur effect looks good when you’ve taken a bit of effort to frame the shot correctly. On the whole, the Honor 9N seems better geared to take picture of individuals in isolation rather than most other scenes.
The Honor 9N and the Honor 9 Lite have a lot in common. This includes the chipset, RAM and storage configurations, much of the design and the camera. You might therefore think that the Honor 9N isn’t much of an update, and you’d be right on most counts. However, the changes come in the screen, and the Honor 9N is therefore one of the most affordable devices available today to sport this otherwise premium-grade design.
The notched screen stretching all the way to the top is a first for this price segment, and that’s where this phone’s appeal lies. While it may be just another mid-range device with a fairly ordinary camera, visually, the Honor 9N is beautiful. Its big screen fits well into a compact form factor, and the glass back and beautiful color options give the device a lot of character.
On the whole, the Honor 9N may not be the best device in its price range when it comes to performance, but it’s definitely a good smartphone with a great aesthetic sense. It’s worth it if you’re looking for a smart-looking phone, or you want a great screen experience without having a phone that is too big for your hands and pockets.