Huawei’s sub-brand Honor was dishing out some great phones recently. The Honor 8 Guru (Review) which started earlier this season 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 market slowly pivoting towards 18:9 displays, Honor has made this move in the form of the Honor 9i. The screen isn’t the only interesting thing about this new phone. While the specifications appear good on paper, do they translate into a fantastic real-world experience? We have got the answer.
Honor 9i design
If you were tempted by phones with huge displays and thin bezels, the Honor 9i will pique your interest. It packs a huge 5.9-inch display with slim borders all around. Do not allow the screen size put you off, since the 18:9 aspect ratio implies that the phone overall is roughly the same size as most present 5.5-inch phones. The big display means that the metal earpiece, detectors, and front cameras have been pushed right to the top border. The fingerprint scanner is in the back and you receive a clean entrance face.
Pick the phone up, and the curved sides and edges feel comfortable in your hand. The Honor 9i feels solid too, thanks to its alloy unibody. While the black finish on our review unit looks gorgeous, it is a fingerprint magnet. The phone is also a little slippery if you aren’t careful when holding it. The double camera module onto the back protrudes by a couple of millimeters but includes a metallic rim surrounding it, which ought to help prevent scratches. We discovered that we had to stretch our fingers a little to get to the fingerprint scanner and that a slightly lower positioning would have been better.
The Honor 9i includes a Micro-USB port for charging and data moves, with a 3.5millimeter headphone jack and the loudspeaker on either side. Honor ships the phone with a 10W charger in the box, a pair of earphones, along with a plastic case to utilize the phone with.
The first thing to grab your attention on the Honor 9i will be its big display. Viewing angles are good but we would have liked a little more vividness in the colors. It is possible to change the colour temperature but we could not find a means to improve 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 receive a plastic scrape prevention film pre-installed.
Honor has used double 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 detectors which are utilized to capture depth information and to allow portrait style. You get a single LED flash in the back and a soft selfie flash on the front.
This is a dual-SIM device with two Nano-SIM slots, but you can swap the second SIM for a microSD card of up to 128GB. Honor has also packed in a 3340mAh battery which is a little bigger than ordinary.
Honor has employed its tried and tested custom interface called EMUI on the Honor 9i. You receive EMUI 5.1 on top of Android Nougat. Huawei utilizes its own visual style and has rearranged several options in the Settings program, but it won’t take much time to get accustomed to. There are gestures that simplify taking screenshots and launching apps. Honor calls 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. In addition you have the option to launch programs and input split-screen mode by tracing letters on the monitor. We discovered some of these quite useful during our review period.
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 mode that shrinks the display down to one corner of this display. You need to swipe throughout the navigation buttons to empower it. One other issue with the 18:9 display is that most of apps are not prepared for it yet. While you may run these programs with a black bar in the bottom, Honor also gives you the option to scale them to fit the display. You obtain a simple prompt to allow this or you can certainly 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 program; HiGame – a gaming app store; plus Hi Honor and Honor Community which are Web shortcuts. EMUI provides support for topics which gives you the ability to alter the appearance of the device.
Honor 9i performance, battery life, and cameras
The performance of the Honor 9i is in the same range as that of other devices at this price point. The phone doesn’t heat up when running day-to-day tasks but it does get warm after gaming for a while. You will delight in playing games and watching movies on the big screen. We played Real Racing 3, Prime Peaks, and Clash Royale to check the way the Honor 9i fares. While Real Racing 3 and Prime Peaks functioned normally, Clash Royale ran zoomed in, resulting in the sides getting cropped. We could not find a way to run the game letterboxed to 16:9 and needed to get used to it.
We also detected a higher speed of battery drain when gaming so that you might want to keep your eye on the fee level. When you aren’t running processor-intensive tasks the phone handles power quite well. In our HD video loop test, the phone lasted for 2 hours and 54 minutes which isn’t good compared to other smartphones. You can use the power saver mode which aggressively melts down background processes and cuts off background syncing, however there is not any support for rapid charging, which is disappointing.
The biggest feature for your Honor 9i is its own cameras. Launch the camera app and you get a simple interface with the photo/ video selector on one side and quick toggles on the other. You get controls for your flash, aperture style, moving picture style, and portrait style. Moving pictures are similar to live photos on iOS, in which a brief clip is captured along with a still frame. You can swipe right in the default display to get the different shooting modes. Aside from HDR, panorama, and video, you get professional manners for the two photos and videos, slow-mo, filters, effects and a couple of others. You also have the option to obtain more modes if you wish to. Pro mode lets you 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 up the cameras nicely. The 16-megapixel primary rear camera captures decent amount of detail in landscapes and macros. The secondary 2-megapixel camera will help separate the topic and background to some extent in portrait along with wide aperture manners, but it is mostly software doing the blurring which is evident in a couple of shots. Selfies possess the bokeh impact as well, and we discovered that the front cameras did a slightly better job in contrast to the rear ones. You get beautification style as well, 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 capture video at 1080p, both in front and at the back. You can even use beautification when recording video with the front camera, but then the output is restricted to 720p.
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We can see that producers 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 for an affordable yet futuristic-looking phone.
The Honor 9i strikes a balance between features and cost. You get a fingerprint scanner that was missing on the LG Q6 (Review) along with a 1080p display in contrast to the 720p panel to the Vivo V7+ (Review). The processor is good enough for most people’s daily grinds, and the software is simple to use. But this phone still needed a few improvements when it comes to the cameras and battery life performance.
If you prioritise looks over performance afterward the Honor 9i does offer more bang for the dollar than other smartphones. On the flip side, if you want a steady all-rounder instead, the Xiaomi Mi A1 (Review) and the Moto G5S Plus (Review) are great alternatives.