,

The Honor 9 Looks an Awful Lot Like a Premium Smartphone

The formerly budget brand is now delivering flagship specs.

We’re used to viewing Honor as Huawei’s budget brand here in the States, but that might be changing with the Honor 9. Announced today in Berlin for the western world, the Honor 9 looks a lot like the Huawei P10 on the inside, but with a shiny exterior that resembles last year’s Honor 8.

The phone looks a lot like the Honor 8 — it has a metal frame combined with a glass black that refracts light in all kinds of shimmers and streaks. They’re not calling the Honor 9 the Lightcatcher for nothing! They’re even carrying over the blue color from last year, along with a more staid grey. The only big difference is the fingerprint sensor, which is now on the front of the phone. That’s a bit of a shame — Huawei did some cool things with backside fingerprint sensors, like making them touch controllers that could bring down the notification center with a swipe.

Inside, this is as good of a phone as any Huawei brand can put out right now. It runs Huawei’s much improved EMUI 5.1 (based on Android 7.0 Nougat) on a Kirin 960 chipset, the same one in the Huawei P10. That’s backed up by 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage with a microSD card slot supporting cards up to 256 GB.

The 5.1″ 1080p display is about what we’d expect — unless you’re planning to use your phone with a VR headset, this display should perform well enough. In any case, it won’t be a huge drain on the battery — good news, because with a 3,200 mAh battery, there’s a good chance the Honor 9 can last all day.

So far, that all adds up to a phone as good as anything else on the market. But, if you want the absolute fastest connection speeds, this phone won’t quite deliver — while the modem on the Kirin 960 does support carrier aggregation and multiple antenna, it can only handle 600 Mbps download speeds, as opposed to the Gigabit LTE offered by phones with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.

Camera quality might also not be up with the best of the best, but it certainly won’t be bad. It looks like the cameras here are very similar to the ones on the Huawei P10 — 12 MP and 20 MP autofocus cameras on the back. Like usual for Huawei, one (the 12 MP) captures color, while the other (the 20 MP) captures black and white images, both of which get stitched together. The black and white camera helps with light levels and wrings out better low-light quality, which is badly needed without optical image stabilization and so-so lenses (no Leica here, unlike the P10). The front camera has an 8 MP sensor with an f/0.95 lens, and you’d better believe that thing’s ready to take prime selfies.

 

We’re not sure if the Honor 9 will have the hardware for great audio (the AKM Hi-Fi audio chip and a headphone port help), but they have partnered with Rainer Maillard and Monster to create a few EQ settings for the phone — you can pull sounds in for quieter music, turn up the bass, or widen the soundstage for more complex tunes.

The Honor 9 will start its western launch on June 27, and we’ll be sure to update this post with pricing and availability. So far, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have all been confirmed, but we don’t yet know if it will come to the United States this year. The Honor 9 also launched in China a couple weeks ago for a price equivalent to about $550. If that price holds, it’ll put the Honor 9 into the same conversation as the OnePlus 5, although that phone offers a similar experience (with a less interesting design) for a lower price.

UPDATE 06/27/2017: The Honor 9 will be available in the countries mentioned above sometime between June 27 and early July for £380 in the UK and €450 in the Eurozone. A United States launch is not planned.