Review: Honor 9i is the new mid-range Android phone ace
Front cameras have become an integral part of smartphones these days—phonemakers are incorporating the selfie flash, dual cameras, and high-quality sensors. Huawei has always been ahead of rivals when it comes to smartphone cameras, and the Honor 9i, priced at Rs17,999, is the company’s first smartphone to feature two front cameras and two rear cameras.
Camera: impressive front and rear cameras with Bokeh effect
The key talking point is the dual camera set-up on both sides.
The front panel includes a 13-megapixel and 2-megapixel camera, while the back packs a 16-megapixel and 2-megapixel camera. The dual cameras work on the same lines as Huawei smartphones such as the P9 and Honor 6x. One camera captures the picture and the other gathers depth information. This allows it to create a Bokeh effect and enhance focus on the object you want to highlight by blurring out the rest of the background. This works in both the front and rear cameras.
In terms of picture quality, the rear camera takes sharp and clear pictures and low-light shots look surprisingly clear too. Even in landscape shots, it was able to pull out a lot of detail. Colour reproduction is average and the darker colours do not really stand out.
The front camera is a treat for selfie fans. It can click wide and clear-looking selfies even in rooms with limited light. The Bokeh effect is quite fun. The front camera also offers time lapse, audio note, beautification and filters.
Design: classy looks, ergonomic design
The smartphone stands out for the thin bezel front panel and its matte metal body. The flat back design and the slight curve around the edges mean it’s comfortable to hold despite the big screen. The phone is 156.2mm long, 75.2mm wide and weighs 164g.
The 5.9-inch screen covers most of the front panel (with a screen-to-body ratio of 83%), while the size of the front bezels has been cut significantly. The Honor logo that usually occupies the front bezel under the screen is placed on the back.
The fingerprint sensor also sits on the back. It’s accurate and unlocks your phone quickly. It can also be used to capture a photo, take a call or turn off the alarm. The only niggle in the design is the back camera module that juts out, making the camera glass prone to scratches.
Software: a custom UI that doesn’t feel complex
The Honor 9i runs the Android 7.0 with its proprietary Emotion UI, also known as EMUI (5.1), which offers some of the best customization options for mainstream users. You can adjust the size of the content on the screen, alter the position of on-screen navigation keys according to your convenience, switch to app drawer mode as you would in stock Android phones, and customize the look and feel with new themes. Despite so many features, the EMUI looks neat.
Display: big and sharp screen
The screen has a resolution of 2,160x1,080p and a rare aspect ratio of 18:9. It is a good-looking display offering crisp visuals (at 480ppi) and good wide-viewing angles.
The colours in the videos and games look rich, while the darker colours stand out well. This makes watching movies a treat. Visibility in bright light is impressive too. The big screen makes it a treat for gamers, the 18:9 aspect ratio offers an immersive movie playback and gaming experience, and the reading mode gives the screen a warm tone so users can read for hours without straining their eyes.
Performance: cool customer
Like Samsung, Huawei likes to use its own processor in most of its phones. The Honor 9i is powered by a mid-range Kirin 659 processor. Paired with 4 GB RAM, this little-known processor was able to wade through almost everything we threw at it with ease. Barring an occasional pause while switching between apps, the phone delivers steady performance. We didn’t notice any lags or heating issues with games such as PES 2017.
The Honor 9i offers 64 GB internal storage and accepts microSD cards of up to 128 GB. The card slot is built on one of the SIM trays, so you can’t use all three simultaneously.
Battery backup is average. The 3,340 mAh battery was barely able to eke out a whole day’s backup on modest use.
How it compares
Its closest rival, the Xiaomi Mi Max 2 (Rs16,999), offers an even bigger and brighter 6.4-inch screen but has a resolution of just 1,920x1,080p. It has a metal body too and looks quite a stunner, but is a bit unwieldy due to its bigger (174mm long and 88.7mm wide) size. It weighs 211g. It runs on an equally powerful and dependable Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor paired with 4 GB RAM. It offers 64 GB storage and takes microSD cards. What gives it an edge over the Honor 9i is the bigger (5,300 mAh) battery, which lasts about a day and a half comfortably. It has a single but impressive 12-megapixel camera powered by the Sony IMX386 sensor.
The Honor 9i hits the right notes in most areas that matter. It is a steady performer, has an impressive pair of front and rear cameras, offers a bigger than usual screen and looks stylish. At this price point, there are very few smartphones that can match this.