HONOR X9b 5G reviewed

    TechnologyGadgetsLabHONOR X9b 5G reviewed

    I have dropped my daily driver more times than I can count. There were times when it was just a slight nudge off my work table onto a carpeted floor. There were also times when it was from a chest-high faceplant onto a concrete sidewalk. Luckily, it’s protected by a pretty hefty case from a reputable brand, but that does not guarantee that the phone would walk away unscathed.

    Imagine my surprise when HONOR sent us the newest X9b 5G, with instructions to drop it and use it to smash stuff. Yes, you read that right. HONOR is so confident in their latest X lineup member that they wanted us to physically abuse it ON PURPOSE. That’s precisely what we did in addition to our usual gauntlet of tests to see if the HONOR X9b 5G is as durable and reliable in real life as it is on paper. Spoiler alert: it is.

    Design: 4.5/5

    The HONOR X9b 5G review unit came in a Sunrise Orange colorway. I’m not much for loud palettes and would have preferred either the Emerald Green or Midnight Black variants, but this was a beautiful and classy-looking device. The back itself is made of vegan leather, which provides a little more grippiness versus a plastic back, in addition to giving a satisfying feel in-hand. It was honestly a shame to use the included transparent jelly case. Luckily, the phone’s durability meant I could use it ala carte and enjoy the premium in-hand experience without worrying about being a klutz.

    The round camera module occupies the top part of the back shell with a ridged, piano black outer ring whose perimeter has the lenses and flash unit and an off-white inner circle with branding marks. Specifically, the primary camera sits on the outer ring’s left, the wide camera on the right, the depth camera on the top, and the flash on the bottom. Various other branding marks sit at the bottom of the back shell. I’m not a fan of the glossy piano black camera hump, but at least the lenses themselves are quite small. It’s also a relatively unique design that stands out from more common rectangular camera modules.

    The front has a nearly 6.8-inch AMOLED Curved display with slim bezels, adding to the device’s premium look and comfortable handling. This display maxes out at 1200nits of beak brightness and is tuned to a 120Hz refresh rate and 1920Hz PWM dimming capacity. There’s a camera punch hole at the top and an in-display fingerprint scanner at the bottom. Meanwhile, the phone’s edges are made of aluminum with a microphone pinhole at the top; minimal branding marks on the left; volume rocker and power button on the right; and the dual nano-SIM tray, another microphone pinhole, USB Type-C port, and sole speaker along the bottom.

    Hardware: 4.5/5

    The HONOR X9b 5G runs on the midrange 4nm octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 platform, which features an Adreno 710 GPU, 4 cores running at 2.2GHz, and another 4 clocked at 1.8GHz. This is paired with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage. 

    In the camera department, the HONOR X9b 5G is rocking the following at the back: a 108MP f/1.75 main rear shooter with a 1/1.67-inch sensor; a 5MP f/2.2 ultra-wide secondary; a 2MP f/2.4 macro lens; and an LED flash module. At the front, it sports a 16MP f/2.5 selfie shooter.

    Battery-wise, the phone has a 5800mAh power pack with an included 35W wired HONOR SuperCharge brick and USB Type-C cable. HONOR claims it can endure up to three days of use before needing a top-up.

    We talked a bit about the phone’s display in the previous section. On paper, those specs should equate to a great viewing experience. But what about its non-optical quality — its claimed durability? HONOR claims that the X9b 5G is #TheToughestPhone, capable of taking a five-foot drop and able to smash fruits thanks to its Ultra-Bounce Anti-Drop Display with SGS Five-star Overall Drop Resistance certification. SGS is a Switzerland-based testing, inspection, and certification company, and as far as our Google-fu can tell, only a handful of phones have received SGS’ five-star drop rating. Most of them are premium flagships. It is exciting to see that the same technology has trickled down to the midrange through the HONOR X9b 5G. Additionally, the phone is IP53 water- and dust-resistant, which should enable it to survive accidental spills into liquids or fine material. This potentially means you’ll get even more value out of your money because the phone should remain problem-free for years to come, even if it has accidents now and then.

    As with my previous reviews, I did miss the headphone jack. Bluetooth headsets are fine to use, but in my opinion, it’s just always nice to have the option of going wired.

    User Experience: 4/5

    Let’s start with the drop test, shall we? I was so nervous to purposely drop the HONOR X9b 5G on its face from head high (I’m 5’6”). But after being assured that I wouldn’t be charged should the phone be damaged, I became more comfortable doing the unthinkable. I hoisted it up and let go. It fell face first with a cringe-inducing thud onto a tiled floor before bouncing and resting on its back. I picked it up to see if there were any scratches and was pleasantly surprised to find none. I turned it on to see if the phone still worked as intended, and it still did. 

    At this point, all pretense of care went out the window. I proceeded to yeet it straight down, some ways away and even tried the water bottle flip challenge on it. It survived all. I smashed it face-first angrily on a table. It still worked. I also dropped it from head high in public a few times and got shocked reactions from those around me. Still, the phone chugged on like nothing happened. I had to remind myself not to do the same to my actual phone because I’m certain mine would crack if I subjected it to the same form of abuse. The #ToughestPhone moniker is well deserved and is not just marketing hype.

    You can catch snippets of the drop-testing fun over at the Gadgets Magazine social media pages.

    Toughness is nothing without reliability. Thankfully, the HONOR X9b 5G is a solid all-around performer. In everyday use, the processor-RAM-display refresh rate combo led to a silky smooth experience juggling between emails, social media, and binge-watching online videos. Regarding gaming, the HONOR X9b 5G also ticked all the performance boxes. I tuned the graphics setting up to the maximum possible across all the games I tested, and never did I feel like the phone was struggling to hit 60fps. For your information, these included Call of Duty Mobile, NBA 2K Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Pokémon Unite. More demanding titles such as Diablo: Immortal and Genshin Impact also ran well at the highest possible graphics settings with all eye candy turned on, although there are noticeable, but not game-breaking, texture pop-ins and flickers. 

    Synthetic benchmarks resulted in scores of 12104 in the PCMark Work 3.0 performance test, 2382 in the 3DMark Wild Life test, and 478.05 MB/s and 591.61 MB/s of sequential write and read speeds using the CPDT storage test.

    Despite its capable processor, the HONOR X9b 5G can still go a long time without needing a charge. However, it does not quite reach the three-day battery life it’s advertised with. With mobile data always on, browsing social media, watching some videos, and playing a few MOBA rounds, I found that I had just enough battery to make it home on Day Two. Using the PCMark Work 3.0 battery life test, the phone lasted around 11.75 hours, from 100% to 20%.

    Regarding charging speed, I found the 35W brick relatively slow in filling up the sizeable power pack. Starting from empty, 15 minutes of charge gave the phone almost a quarter tank, and it took nearly two hours to fill it up. It’s a good thing that the battery lasts as long as it does, so charging sessions while you’re mobile should be few and far between.

    Finally, I found the camera adequate across all scenarios, with in-app post-processing on the tamer side without much boosts in image saturation and sharpness. The main camera gets decent colors and details when lighting is present. Meanwhile, the ultrawide camera is excellent for squeezing in more of what you see into the photo. There is a noticeable delay when switching between the rear cameras. Selfies also come out fine.

    Comparison of the main camera (left) and ultrawide camera (right).

    Value: 4.5/5 

    Coming in at a price tag of PHP16,999 for the lone 12GB + 256GB variant, the HONOR X9b 5G makes a great case for itself, especially among those with butterfingers such as myself. Smartphone screen replacements typically cost at least PHP1,000, with the prices going higher depending on where the repair is being done. The fact that you can drop it and not worry about going through the financial and time burden of having a cracked screen repaired makes it that much more worth it. I can imagine that it would also be great for the elderly and children who are more prone to dropping their phones. Add to that the impressive performance and battery life, and you have a phone that should last you for years to come.

    Pre-order HONOR X9b 5G from January 12 to 19, 2024 and get a FREE HONOR Gift Box and HONOR Choice X5 Earbuds worth PHP4,000.

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    • Display: 6.78-inch 2652×1200 px FHD AMOLED Curved, HONOR Ultra-Bounce Anti-Drop Display with SGS Five-star Overall Drop Resistance certification, 120Hz refresh rate, and TÜV Rheinland Low Blue Light Certification
    • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1
    • OS: MagicOS 7.2 (Android 13)
    • RAM: 12GB
    • Storage: 256GB
    • Camera: 108MP f/1.75 with a 1/1.67-inch sensor (main rear); 5MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (secondary rear); 2MP f/2.4 (macro rear); 16MP f/2.5 (front)
    • Connectivity: 5G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C, dual nano-SIM
    • Battery: 5800mAh, 35W HONOR SuperCharge
    • Others: In-display Fingerprint Scanner, IP53 dust and water-resistance
    • Dimensions: 163.6 x 75.5 x 7.98mm  
    • Weight: 185g
    • Colors: Emerald Green, Midnight Black, Sunrise Orange

    What’s Hot:

    • As tough as advertised
    • Impressive daily and gaming performance
    • Long battery life

    What’s Not:

    • Charging speed could be faster
    • Cameras are decent at best


    Never experience a cracked screen again with the HONOR X9b 5G.

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