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Honor X9b review: Betting big on durability

At 25,999, the Honor X9b is priced fairly for what it offers – a durable design and strong battery life. But it still has a long way to go to match its rivals

The Honor X9b comes in Sunrise Orange (with the vegan leather rear panel) and Midnight Black (the more understated of the two).

By Sahil Bhalla

LAST PUBLISHED 24.04.2024  |  12:05 PM IST

After a tumultuous time on the sidelines, Honor, or rather HTech, came back roaring in India with the Honor 90. A few months on from that, HTech is back with another mid-ranger -- the Honor X9b, which is priced at 25,999. It has a design language that’s eerily similar to the Realme 12 series. The Honor X9b comes in Sunrise Orange (with the vegan leather rear panel) and Midnight Black (the more understated of the two).

The smartphone offers a sleek and lightweight build with a good in-hand feel. It’s got curved edges that help enhance the grip. It comes with an official IP53 rating for water and dust resistance, adding to the reliability and durability of the smartphone.

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Also read: Honor 90 review: A mid-range smartphone that feels premium

The last part of the sentence is what Honor has been focusing on. The “ultra-bounce 360-degree anti-drop resistance and cutting-edge cushioning technology" is something we’ve heard one too many times from the company. The company suggests that the smartphone doesn’t require tempered glass as the screen, by itself, is very durable.

Let’s not get excited here. Don’t go buying the smartphone thinking it is unbreakable. Don’t throw it across the room, and don’t even think about running a car over it. The display may be durable but it will eventually buckle under the pressure.

The Honor X9b weighs in at 185g and has a thickness of 7.98mm. That it feels sturdy can be quite the illusion here. Yes, the build quality is superb, but don’t take that for granted. Honor says that the smartphone can survive drops of 1.5 meters. The key here is that this isn’t a rugged phone. The company, instead, relies on three layers of shock-absorbing cushioning material applied to the frame. Furthermore, the company claims that the smartphone can survive drops on hard surfaces like marble.

Given the durability claims by the company, everyone was excited to test it out upon getting their hands on the Honor X9b. I’ve seen videos of the smartphone being thrown across the table, falling down the stairs, and even cracking. The first few drops may only result in a small dent, but anything beyond that and the smartphone’s display will crack. The glass screen may crack, but it’ll still be functional and work without any problems.

I tried a few times to throw it across a table, slide it off my bed, and even drop it as I was stepping out of the car. Luckily for me, there weren’t any cracks. Just some dents.

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The Honor X9b is a durable smartphone, and more so than almost all other smartphones in this segment. That’s a given. Just don’t take the company’s claims to the extremes. In short, it is a capable mid-ranger with a blend of style and durability. It may be similar to the Realme 12 Series, but it’s a lot more subtle and eye-catching.

What else to know about the Honor X9b

Display: The Honor X9b features a 6.78-inch AMOLED display. It has a 1.5k resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and a peak brightness of 1200 nits. There’s a centre punch-hole for the front-facing camera. The bezels are extremely thin. The display itself is gorgeous. You get vibrant colours, crisp text, great dynamic range and good viewing angles. The curved edges help lend the smartphone a lot more grip, which is always a good thing. The only downside is that it attracts smudges.

Performance and software: The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 chipset. It’s a respectable mid-range chip. It’ll easily take care of all your daily tasks. It does struggle when you try to game for long hours. The phone does not heat up, but it also won’t play your games at full graphics and frame rate settings. On the software side of things, the smartphone ruins MagicOS 7.2 (based on Android 13) out of the box. One wished that the new OS, based on Android 14, was launched with this smartphone, but alas. Honor has promised two years of software updates and three years of security updates. There are some proprietary apps (read: bloatware) included in the Honor X9b like the Honor App Market and Game Centre. Some of the third-party apps can be uninstalled, but it’s still a pain to do so.

Cameras: The Honor X9b features a triple camera setup on the back. There’s the 108MP main sensor, a 5MP ultra-wide sensor and a 2MP macro unit. On the front is a 16MP selfie camera. The useless macro camera aside, the camera is quite capable in good lighting conditions. With the main snapper and good daylight conditions, the photos retained a lot of details with great dynamic range and punchy colours. Portrait shots also had good edge detection, but the skin tones weren’t very natural looking.

It’s when the lighting isn’t favourable that the Honor X9b’s cameras falter. In night-time conditions, the details are lost, and the photos are darker than they should be in certain instances. It’s a decent setup and more than good for social media posting. But blow it up on a large monitor, and you’ll be wishing you had something better to shoot with.

Battery life: Battery life was most impressive on the Honor X9b as it comes with a hefty 5,800mAh cell. The smartphone lasts an entire day without faltering. I constantly got 7 hours of screen on time (SoT), which was very good. Sometimes it would last until lunchtime, on the second day, which was impressive. There is no charger included in the retail box, however. The other downside is that the smartphone only supports 35W fast charging. It can be juiced from zero to 100 in over two hours. That’s slow by 2024 standards.

Verdict: Is it worth the durability claims?

The Honor X9b is a compelling mid-range option because it dares to stand out from the crowd. It has extra durability, looks good, and a hefty 5,800mAh battery. There’s also the great AMOLED display (though not the best in the business) and a capable primary camera.

On the flip side, the smartphone has average performance, slow charging speeds, and can crack under immense pressure.

At 25,999, the smartphone is priced fairly for what it has to offer. HTech has a long way to go before it can grab market share from its more established rivals – the likes of POCO and Nothing in the same price range.

Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.

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