HONOR X9a review: (Not) All about the screen

Chinese brand HONOR is both literally and figuratively no longer the ecommerce-focused Huawei sub-brand it was in 2020. Now publicly owned by the region of Shenzhen, China, HONOR has emerged as a real player in the smartphone sphere in the last two years.

It even has a foldable line to go up against Samsung, with the latest device here, the HONOR Magic Vs, launched in November last year.

The brand has made the most of its Huawei teachings and designs, which only adds to the fact that its customers don’t have to find ways to circumnavigate the use of Google apps.

HONOR’s latest offering for South Africans is the HONOR X9a, a device supposedly in the brand’s mid-range lineup, but it punches above its weight and it costs a bit more for it.

Hypertext received a demo model of the HONOR X9a for review from HONOR representatives, among the first in the country. We found that the device is a solid showing from the brand. Let’s break it down:

Aesthetically, it reminds us of the TECNO Camon 17P, especially the model we had and its colour configuration. But at closer inspection, it is more akin to a Huawei smartphone, except for the circular camera bezel on the back which is unique to HONOR devices.

Overall, it is a good-looking, thin smartphone which is all screen but we have concerns about finding a case for the device. General vendors locally don’t keep many HONOR-specific cases.

This means users will have to find thin, transparent cases, which are the only ones that will provide camera usage thanks to this design choice.

HONOR X9a – Specifications

  • 2400 x 1080, 6.67-inch OLED display,
  • 8GB RAM + 5GB (HONOR RAM Turbo),
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chipset,
  • Adreno 619 GPU,
  • 256 GB (only around 228.56 useable),
  • Android 12 OS,
  • Magic UI 6.1,
  • Triple camera system, with a 64MP main camera,
  • 5 100mAh battery, with 40W wired fast charging.

HONOR made a big song and dance about the X9a’s OLED screen, a first for its X series of smartphones, and for a reason. The X9a offers a visual bounty at first glance, with exquisite colours and eye-catching background presets.

No complaints from us in terms of screen fidelity, vibrant colours, sharp images and high contrast are a given here. When it comes to swiping across its menus, scrolling through social media or streaming video the X9a’s OLED is working hard to create a pleasant experience for the eye.

HONOR told the local media that it took extra precautions to make the smartphone’s OLED screen more durable in case of cracking. We vehemently recommend a glass cover because unfortunately the screen is easily scratched despite the brand calling it the “smartphone with the strongest screen.”

The on-screen fingerprint scanner was also pleasant to use and gave access every time without fail.

Performance-wise, the X9a’s Qualcomm silicon glides through everyday use, bolstered by its 8GB of RAM which is nothing to shrug at. Its hardware allows for usage that is precise and immediate. It isn’t at all sluggish and there was hardly any stuttering.

In benchmarking, the HONOR X9a scored 662 in single-core tests in Geekbench 5, and 1884 in multi-core testing. Slightly below the scores of top-of-the-range HONOR 50, an older device which currently retails for around R11 000.

It was a pleasant surprise that the X9a could install and run all 3D Mark benchmarks. Some smartphones will often run only certain tests or none at all.

On 3D Mark Sling Shot, the X9a scored 4 113, and in Wild Life, it scored 1 217, and 362 in the more hardware-intensive Wild Life Extreme.

Outside of benchmarks, we played a few rounds of Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG) to test the hardware in the field. We ran the high-definition textures at a visually appealing framerate, just under 60 frames, and the gameplay was responsive and clean.

Audio-wise, the HONOR X9a doesn’t have much that stands out, with a run-of-the-mill 24-bit speaker system.

Calls are a bit softer than we’d like and full volume isn’t high enough to be remarkable. It seems the X9a is all about the screen, as it doesn’t come with an earphone jack either.


The main camera on the HONOR X9a is a 64MP affair, which is capable of shooting video at 1 080P. Additionally, it has a 5MP ultrawide lens and a 2MP macro camera for close shots.

Like the HONOR X8 before it, the X9a shines when it comes to its camera array. Users can expect quality in this department in general. Even the most mundane of compositions are brought to life with HONOR’s image-adjusting technology.

Colours have higher saturation, and fine details pop in the most exquisite way. This is definitely a stand-out high point for the X9a.


The HONOR X9a features a 5 100mAh battery, with wired fast charging up to 40W. This is around what you would expect for a smartphone today, and the X9a is no slouch when it comes to durability.

Without sustained usage, expect the X9a to be on for days on end with a single charge. With everyday usage, you will only really have to charge it before bed if you don’t want it to die by midday the day after.

And then, 15 minutes of spot charging will bring your X9a to a respectable battery percentage, thanks to its fast-charging capabilities. Again, this is nothing unexpected for modern devices and at this stage should be considered the norm.

HONOR X9a – Verdict

It would be a disservice to say that the HONOR X9a is all about its OLED display, which is in any case a lovely addition to the X series because its camera array and its picture-taking capabilities are of superior quality.

The kind of pictures you show your friends and family and get told “Oh yeah, I see what you mean now.” For the recommended price of R11 999, you get a great-looking smartphone, with a great camera. Hardcore gamers might struggle with hardware limitations, but those looking for a solid, everyday smartphone will find one.

Our only concern is the circular bezel at the device’s rear, which may make case shopping a bit difficult, and its so-so audio quality. Overall, a really solid offering but we couldn’t help wanting a little bit more for its price. Especially with the local smartphone market saturated with solid, affordable offerings as it is.



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