Huawei subsidiary Honor seems to be in no mood to settle. As it should not. The price segment that it usually likes to operate in is one with cut-throat competition.
If you’ve been closely following the brand, you’ll know that it is trying out all the permutations and combinations to crack the budget and lower mid-tier segment. Some have worked, some haven’t. But Honor hasn’t stopped trying. After launching the budget Honor 7A and Honor 7C, it has now launched the lower mid-tier Honor 9N.
Honor is fairly clear about the Honor 9N. It is meant for buyers looking for premium looks on a budget. It is meant for those buyers who will be happy to invest a couple of thousands more over phones like the Honor 7A and the Honor 7C on something that they will be able to flaunt. You can say it is all about the style, although I will also like to point out that the Honor 9N has lots of substance too.
The Honor 9N is one of the most beautiful smartphones in the Indian budget market right now. Although I like the Samsung Galaxy J6 for its suave and sophistication and the Xiaomi Redmi Y2 for its youthful, energetic look, the Honor 9N with its sleek mirror-like finish instantly stands out as a more premium, more expensive piece of hardware.
DESIGN AND BUILD QUALITY
The most striking aspect of the Honor 9N is its design. It builds on the stage set by the Honor 9 Lite but it also takes inspiration from the more expensive Honor 10. Although the Honor 9N uses copious amounts of plastic in its construction, Honor is using 12 layers of glass coating on the back that gives it a mirror-like finish. The outer frame, meanwhile, has a smooth matte finish that feels really nice in the hands. All-in-all, the Honor 9N looks and feels like an expensive phone.
Honor’s choice of colours for the Honor 9N, Lavender Purple, Sapphire Blue, Midnight Black and Robin Egg Blue means there’s a something for everyone. Only two of these colours — blue and black — will be initially available for buying. But purple and robin will come soon.
There is one big drawback to Honor’s design and build materials, though. The Honor 9N is as slippery as a fish. While you won’t notice it when the phone is in your hands — Honor has aced the grip and feel on this one — when you keep the phone down on a surface, even slightest angle will be enough to make it skid.
On the front, the Honor 9N comes with a notch up top, which you can also hide by changing the settings. There is a small chin at the bottom. The setup means this is a phone that can boast of a screen-to-body ratio of nearly 79 per cent.
Honor, while teasing its new phone before the launch, stressed the fact that the Honor 9N will be the most affordable phone with a notch in India. Now that it’s out, it is undeniably one of the most affordable phones with a notch in India. I am not really sure if that’s something to brag about though since the notch is a polarising thing among buyers. Some like it, many don’t. At least, the Honor 9N, looks good while at it so that should help in the decision making. Also, in case the notch doesn’t excite you, the company has an option in the name of the Honor 9 Lite that ships with more or less the same design and display credentials as the Honor 9N but sans a notch.
The Honor 9N comes with a 5.84-inch FullHD+ IPS display with a resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels, which is essentially the same deal that you get in the Honor 10. And it does not disappoint.
The screen of the Honor 9N is quite good, offering punchy colours and good viewing angles. Also its brightness is at par with the best in the business in its price segment. It is, in fact, one of the main highlights of the Honor 9N after the design.
The Honor 9N is one of the most beautiful smartphones in the Indian budget market right now
The phone gives you an option to manually correct colour temperature, as well as an eye comfort mode that turns them to the warmer end of the spectrum for comfortable night-time reading. You can also adjust the screen resolution and tone it down to 720P+ for conserving battery life much like it is in Samsung’s high-end phones.
PERFORMANCE, SOFTWARE AND BATTERY LIFE
The Honor 9N is powered by Huawei’s in-house Kirin 659 processor, the same processor that is also inside the Honor 9 Lite. It is paired with up to 4GB of RAM and up to 128GB of internal storage which is expandable via a hybrid micro-SD card slot. The dual-SIM phone runs Android 8.0 Oreo-based EMUI 8.0.
To cut short the chase, this is not the most exciting hardware available in a phone around the Honor 9N’s price point. It is just about basic when you consider rival phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro or the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1. That there’s already an Honor 9 Lite available in the market, doesn’t help the Honor 9N’s case either.
For what it’s worth, the Honor 9N is fairly quick and responsive but there is an occasional lag or two from time to time. The phone does have a tendency to slow down or stutter when you have too many apps running simultaneously in the background and when clubbed with the occasional stutter, what you end up getting is inconsistent performance.
The same is true about games. Although the Honor 9N handles basic games well, graphical games like Asphalt 8: Airborne will leave you asking for more.
As for software, it’s EMUI, and although it has come a long way it feels overtly cluttered and confusing. It has tonnes of unwanted apps, many that you can’t uninstall. But then that’s the case with most phones at this price point. Even the Redmi Note 5 Pro with MIUI isn’t picture perfect. If only the Honor 9N was faster and more fluid as well.
There is a silver lining though, even if it is a really thin one. Honor will be bringing its GPU Turbo technology to the Honor 9N in Q4 2018. GPU Turbo tech is said to be a graphics processing acceleration technology achieved through hardware and software integration resulting in “smoother and faster mobile gaming experience.” Games will apparently play with up to 60 per cent more graphics processing efficiency, while consuming up to 30 per cent less energy thanks to GPU Turbo, claims Honor, adding that the technology will allow even standard games to render in HDR. So, the Honor 9N, has a slight chance to be a slightly more potent gaming phone in the days to come.
If you’re someone who likes to show off their smartphone and don’t want to spend a fortune buying it, the Honor 9N should perfectly fit your bill
Not only does the Honor 9N fail to excite in terms of all-round performance, its battery life also leaves something to be desired. Battery life isn’t bad, but then again, it should have been better than the Honor 9 Lite, or the Honor 7A, or the Honor 7C. It isn’t, and when you have phones like the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the ZenFone Max Pro M1 setting industry benchmarks in this regard, it becomes a problem for the Honor 9N. The 3,000mAh battery inside the Honor 9N lasts between 12 to 14 hours, or in other words around a day with generalised use but with some effort.
The bottom-firing mono speaker on-board the Honor 9N gets loud, with minimum or no distortion at peak volume, which is a welcome relief. Phone calls made with the phone are of excellent quality and we did not encounter any odd call drop issues with our review unit.
The Honor 9N has a dual camera system on the rear consisting of one 13-megapixel sensor and another 2-megapixel sensor. Both of them have an aperture of f/2.2 and also there’s PDAF for fast focusing. This is again the same setup as what you get in the Honor 9 Lite. While the 13-megapixel sensor is what you can call a regular sensor, the 2-megapixel sensor is capable of depth sensing so users can get software-enhanced background blur in photos before as well as after clicking a shot.
The secondary 2MP camera springs into action only when you hit a dedicated wide aperture mode that sits up top in the camera app. It works best when your subject is within 2 metres. It works even better when it’s in isolation and the subjects in the background are at some distance. If not, be prepared for some wonky — unrealistic — bokeh effects that you would laugh at (and joke about) initially, only to delete them later.
As for results, the 13-megapixel primary sensor clicks above-average photos in ideal lighting. Dynamic range leaves a lot to be desired and photos are often marred by metering (overexposure) issues. It isn’t any better or worse than the Honor 9 Lite (even the Honor 7A and the Honor 7C that ship with similar dual rear cameras) which in turn means it’s capable on paper but not so much in real world usage.
It’s a little difficult to recommend the Honor 9N dual rear cameras even at a price of Rs 11,999. Especially when the results are in line with what you get in the Honor 7A that costs just Rs 8,999. And then there’s the competition.
The front camera sees an upgrade in that the Honor 9N comes with a 16-megapixel front camera with f/2.0 aperture. It is one of the better aspects of the Honor 9N and also it can take good-enough portrait selfies in ideal lighting (also there’s face unlock if you’re into that sort of thing), but then phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Y2 offer that extra edge in selfies, that spoils Honor’s party.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
The Honor 9N, in case you haven’t noticed, is a prettier Honor 9 Lite. It has the same core hardware, the same screen (albeit with a 19:9 aspect ratio), the same dual rear cameras and the same battery. The changes that it brings in have mostly to do with the all-round look and feel, as well as the selfie camera. Of course, there are now more configurations available for buying, but the thing about a phone like the Honor 9 Lite was that it was so very affordable. It still is. The Honor 9N, although it looks more premium and also it has a better equipped front camera, is also a bit more expensive.
The Honor 9N starts at Rs 11,999 for the base 3GB RAM and 32GB storage version, going all the way to Rs 17,999 for the top-end version with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. There’s a third variant also with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage that will sell for Rs 13,999. While I really like the Honor 9N and how it looks, you must also understand that there are more powerful phones with better cameras in and around the price point where the Honor 9N sits. Then there is the Honor 9 Lite which is even more affordable (it start for as low as Rs 10,999 now).
Having said that, if you’re someone who liked the Honor 9 Lite and did not buy it for x, y or z reasons, the Honor 9N should fit your bill. To be a little more precise, if you’re someone who likes to show off their smartphone and don’t want to spend a fortune buying it, the Honor 9N should perfectly fit your bill.
News credit : Indiatoday