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Honor X9a 5G review: Beautiful curved OLED screen seals the deal for affordable phone

Gelo Gonzales
Honor X9a 5G review: Beautiful curved OLED screen seals the deal for affordable phone

HONOR X9A

Photo by Gelo Gonzales/Rappler

Priced at P16,990, the vivid, curved display with fast refresh rate and the phone's slim build go a long way in providing a premium feel

(Disclosure: Honor lent a unit for this review. )

MANILA, Philippines – The Honor X9a 5G is affordable at P16,990 but it feels more expensive than it is, and there’s one simple reason: its beautiful display. 

It features a 120Hz refresh rate, meaning scrolling is doubly smoother than regular 60Hz phones, and uses an OLED panel for the crisp, vivid color that we’d mostly come to expect from more expensive phones. The display is curved too, which makes you feel like you’re holding one of those curved flagships of yore from Samsung, only lighter and thinner. It has a slim 20:9 aspect ratio (2,400 x 1,080 resolution), that makes it both sexy, and more ergonomically pleasing to hold. 

While pretty, Honor is also heavily marketing the display’s toughness, encouraging tech reviewers to do their own stress or drop tests. We haven’t dropped the phone, intentionally or unintentionally, in our time using it, but seeing Honor put the phone display’s toughness front and center in its campaign, feels reassuring. 

The X9a, to me, just highlights how significant a role the screen plays in making a phone feel premium. It’s a treat for the eyes, and you can get it without having to break the bank. It’s great too that Honor decided to use an aluminum frame for the phone to keep up with the display’s premium appearance. 

The back of the phone isn’t as premium with its use of a polycarbonate plastic material, but the textured finish that shifts from hues of grayish green and blue does a commendable job of keeping up with the phone’s premium-looking aspirations. You know it’s plastic, but it’s good-looking plastic. Helping it stand out as well is the eye-catching circle camera array placed in the top-center, reminiscent of Huawei’s flagship phones. It’s certainly a unique-looking setup, but whether you actually like the circular orientation or not is up to personal taste.

While the display is great, the mono speakers at the bottom are weak, and sound pretty thin. It’s best to use earphones with this one. 

Honor X9a performance, battery life, cameras

With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695G – a commendable mid-range chip – and 8GB of RAM, the X9a 5G is a suitable daily driver, breezing through most daily tasks. For gaming though, you might have to turn down settings to low in most games to get 60 frames per second. More demanding games like Genshin Impact might be hard to run smoothly on the phone, but less demanding ones such as Mobile Legends would perform well. I like that it comes with 256GB instead of 128GB, especially considering it doesn’t have expandable storage.

The battery life is excellent on the X9a thanks to its large 5,100 mAh battery, and a chip that’s been known to be relatively efficient. It lasts long, and can run for up to two days of regular use minus heavy Netflix streaming. I’ve used it regularly as a WiFi hotspot for an entire workday working remotely, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much battery life is left at the end of the day. Charging is not the fastest at 40 watts, and is slower than its predecessor’s X9’s 66-watt charging. It’s still fast enough that I can get enough juice for the day with a quick charge if I’ve neglected to charge it. 

The phone is average when it comes to its cameras (16MP main, 5MP wide, 2MP macro). Photos look great when there is great lighting, but looks par for the course in average lighting, especially with indoor lighting, and struggles in poor lighting. On the front is a standard 16MP selfie camera that produces average results. That’s the trade-off here. You get an amazing user experience because of the display and the battery, but the cameras are clearly not the selling point here. 

If your priority is a phone that looks good, feels premium to use and look at with a vivid, smooth curved display, but has average photo and video capabilities, give the X9a a try. – Rappler.com

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.