It’s been roughly a week since HONOR launched their supposed “unbreakable toughest phone”, the HONOR X9b 5G, the update to their super durable HONOR X9a 5G from last year. After all the marketing hype has died down, does the phone live up to its reputation?
At a highly competitive price point of just Php 16,999, the HONOR X9b 5G seems to combines elegance, toughness, and superb internals — perfect combination for a mid-range phone from the brand.
After toying with it since the Holidays, we’re ready to render our verdict on the HONOR X9b 5G.
First-off, the HONOR X9b 5G comes in three distinct colors: Midnight Black for those wanting a more subdued smartphone; Emerald Green for those who want a trendier look; and Sunrise Orange in Vegan Leather for those who want a bit more elegance on their devices.
We got the Sunrise Orange for our unit and while the color motif and vegan leather combination has been done before by different brands (i.e. the Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G and Huawei Mate 50 Pro), HONOR X9b 5G updates the look with a slimmer profile and choice reinforced bezels.
In fact, just finding this treatment on a sub-20,000 Peso phone is a welcome development as it is. It’s not just technology that trickled down from flagship to midrange, we now have design luxury as well, thanks to HONOR X9b 5G.
To add to the luxurious flair, the HONOR X9b 5G’s triple Ai Camera Matrix Module is embellished with an almost gold-like fluted bezel surrounding the camera ring. This design takes direct inspiration from high-end luxury watches (ahem, ahem, ROLEX).
The HONOR X9b 5G supersizes its screen versus its predecessor with a 6.78” (1220 x 2652) Ultra-Bounce Anti-Drop curved AMOLED display screen and a 120Hz refresh rate. The screen can go up to 1200 nits of brightness as well and has 1920Hz PWM Dimming Technology. This means, regardless of the environmental lighting conditions, you can easily binge your favorite shows or consume media with ease and less eye strain.
Visually, the large screen of the HONOR X9b 5G is great to watch videos on. What we were hoping, however, was the unit would have dual-firing speakers. It does not (sadly). We were a bit disappointed with the fact that a mid-range phone would skip this fundamentally basic requirement (especially in 2024).
That being said, the audio can get pretty loud despite only coming out from one speaker. This can create the illusion of “surround sound” but once you cup your right hand over the end of the phone, you’ll be hard press to hear anything. This simple mechanism cuts sound completely – and becomes pretty annoying when gaming.
On the gaming front, the HONOR X9b 5G is equipped with a powerful 4nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor. This is further supported by 12GB of RAM with 8GB of Extended RAM and a large 256GB Internal memory. While the HONOR X9b 5G isn’t marketed as a gaming phone, the internal specs are more than enough to breeze through your favorite mobile games. We tested it on our usual roster of Mobile Legends: Bang-Bang, Asphalt 9, Genshin Impact, and Honkai Star Rail and found that the unit can run all of them at high to ultra graphics with consistent frame rates.
Surprisingly, the unit didn’t burn as hot as we thought it would even after an hour of gameplay on each of the games. While most mid-range phones can play MLBB and Asphalt 9 easily, most struggle when pitted against the current twin towers of HoYoverse – Genshin and Star Rail. Not the HONOR X9b 5G.
The built-in game manager also allows you to lock screen orientation, limit notification pop-ups, and reduce accidental screen presses – something that occurs more frequently on curved display monitors.
The 120Hz refresh rate along with 240Hz max touch sampling rate also ensures that you get the best gaming visual representation that you can.
Overall, aside from the occasional dip of audio when you cup the phone, playing mobile games on the HONOR X9b 5G is very enjoyable.
Geek Photoshoot Capabilities
Aside from monstrous internals and a fresh coat of paint, the HONOR X9b 5G also improves its camera system from last year this time by touting a larger 108MP main camera working hand-in-hand with 5MP Ultrawide and a nominal 2MP Macro cam.
The increased main camera lends to clearer photos and more details captured especially on HDR mode. With proper lighting colors are punchy and vibrant, with less instances of over exposure (but it still does happen from time to time).
While it doesn’t have a dedicated teleportrait camera, the portrait feature mimics teleportrait functionalities by properly cutting subject and background (and adding that rich bokeh effect).
The image quality dips significantly on poorly lit areas, even in some indoor shots (especially when the phone switches to Macro mode). There are significant picture grain and noise as can be seen on sample below. To address that, you can either switch to Night mode for areas with poor lighting conditions but you’ll have to keep your hands steady as much as possible.
For selfies, the HONOR X9b 5G is equipped with a 16MP (f/2.5) wide shooter, which does the job if you have ample lighting.
The updated camera of this unit can more or less perform nominal everyday photography. Just don’t expect it to produce more-than-stellar shots, it’s not built for that. And while the phone can shoot videos of up to 4K (with 30fps cap) versus just clocking under 1080p @60 for the HONOR X9a 5G, you will need to have super steady hands and/or a stabilizing equipment to take full advantage of this as the phone doesn’t seem to have any OIS built in. But before we chastise the camera capabilities fully we have to remember that this is a sub-20,000 Peso phone –we shouldn’t expect flagship-level optics here.
So, if the phone isn’t really geared towards photography, what is it geared for? Well…overall durability is on top of that list.
You’ve seen the viral videos and various content creators claiming that the phone is indestructible. And while the HONOR X9b 5G has an SGS Five-star Overall Drop Resistance certification which means that the unit doesn’t just provide up to 1.2x more impact protection than its predecessor. It also means that it’s not just the glass that has protection, the bezels, rear, and internals offer some level of protection as well. Hence when we threw the phone on the ground again and again, we couldn’t crack the screen at all.
That being said…the material is still glass (albeit reinforced) and if you throw the phone with much force unto uneven pavements, there is a chance that the glass will break. Please do not attempt to do this. If there’s one thing to take home about this, however, is that the SGS Drop Resistance Certification and our experiments prove that HONOR is willing to put money where their mouths are and standby their durability claim. On top of this, the phone is also rated IP53 which gives it a bit of dust and splash resistance. Kudos to the guys at HONOR.
As for battery life, the HONOR X9b 5G has one of the biggest batteries within their price segment at 5800mAh. It took us almost 2 days to properly drain the phone and their 33W SuperFast Charger can juice it all up in under 2 hours.
Final Geek Lifestyle Verdict
Overall, the HONOR X9b 5G, while having some basic fundamentals missing (especially for the price point), makes up for this with amazing durability, and superb internals – like that 4nm chipset powering the entire thing. And while we hope that an update in camera software could help give us a better camera experience, we’re also not choosing the HONOR X9b 5G for its optics. The phone is for everyday use first and foremost and this new release from HONOR can easily keep up with you from the time you wake up to your commute to work, and until you get back home. It’s a reliable little partner that can give you hours of superb gaming and entertainment (sans single-firing audio speaker) and durable enough to withstand the abuses of everyday use.
HONOR X9b 5G Specs:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 5G Processor (4nm)
- Adreno 710 GPU
- 12GB RAM (+8 GB VRAM)
- 78-inch AMOLED display, 120Hz refresh rate
- 256GB storage
- 108MP f/1.75 main + 5MP f/2.2 ultrawide + 2MP f/2.4 macro triple rear camera setup
- 16MP f/2.5 wide front camera
- 3G, LTE, 5G Dual SIM
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, fingerprint under display, USB Type-C,
- 5800mAh battery with 35W fast charge support
- Android 13 with Magic UI 7.02
- IP53 Rated
- Emerald Green, Midnight Black, Sunrise Orange (Vegan Leather)
- Price: PHP 16,999