Review Verdict: The X9b 5G stays true to its reputation as a gorgeous and tough smartphone, all while having relevant upgrades from its equally tough X9a predecessor.
-Great battery life
-Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is a decent upgrade
-Good main camera performance with 3x digital zoom
-So-so ultra-wide camera
-Only a single speaker
-No OIS on main camera
HONOR kicked off 2023 with the beautiful-yet-tough X9a 5G, and they’re doing the same for 2024 with the X9b 5G. While both phones look almost similar, the addition of a vegan leather option and a few internal upgrades aim to make the X9b 5G a tough phone that can dominate in the 2024 mid-range segment. Is it a back-to-back win for HONOR?
HONOR X9b 5G Review Philippines: Design
There’s barely any difference with the design of the X9b 5G when compared to its predecessor. The most notable change is the Sunset Orange vegan leather option, which gives the X9b 5G a more luxurious look with a fine-grain texture for the back panel, gold-colored frame, and gold accents on its large camera module.
The gold accents is also seen with the HONOR branding at the bottom, giving this version of the X9b 5G a more premium look compared to its glass-backed siblings.
Other than that nice vegan leather option, the button and port layout of the X9b 5G is the same as the X9a. However, HONOR added an IP53 rating to make the X9b 5G secure against accidental water splashes.
HONOR X9b Review Philippines: Display
The display may look similar to the X9a, but the X9b 5G has a higher resolution at 1.5k. The increase in resolution is not noticeable at first glance, but pixel peeping through the display reveals sharper text and icons on the X9b 5G.
What we did notice, however, is that the X9b 5G’s maximum brightness is better compared to the X9a, making it more usable under direct sunlight.
The X9a earned its reputation for being a tough phone that can sustain drops, and HONOR claims that the X9b 5G has tougher glass to protect the curved display. Just like its predecessor, we did several drop tests on the X9b 5G that involve dropping it on a flight of stairs several times, dropping it on a tile floor, and dropping it on concrete–and the X9b 5G’s front panel held up well.
One aspect we wished HONOR improved on the X9b 5G is the audio. Like its predecessor, the X9b 5G retains the same single speaker setup. Its audio quality is below average, with the competition offering better audio quality with a stereo speaker setup. A number of mid-range HONOR phones still use a single speaker setup, and we hope their future releases make the upgrade to a stereo setup.
HONOR X9b 5G Review Philippines: Cameras
The camera setup of the X9b 5G gets an upgrade on the main shooter, where we get a 108-megapixel sensor. The new main sensor has better imaging performance than the 64-megapixel sensor used on the X9a.
Aside from the photos appearing to be more detailed and have more dynamic range, HONOR makes good use of the new sensor’s 3x in-sensor zoom. A number of mid-range phones using a 108-megapixel sensor are promoting this feature, and the X9b 5G is no exception. We took a few shots using the 3x digital zoom feature, and the results are good.
We can’t say the same for the ultra-wide camera, which at only 5 megapixels is a weak choice for a mid-range phone at under Php 20k. Compared to the main camera,
The upgraded main camera (and processor–more on that later) allows the X9b 5G to shoot videos at 4K resolution, along with 60FPS recording at Full HD.
Our complaint with shooting 4K video on the X9b 5G is the lack of OIS and EIS, so taking handheld footage can be a challenge unless you have a stable pair of hands or a gimbal. Otherwise, the footage quality is good enough for content creation purposes.
HONOR X9b 5G Review Philippines: Internals and Battery Life
While it still has a 256GB non-expandable storage, the X9b 5g gets more RAM at 12GB, along with a Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 processor. The X9b 5G uses UFS 3.1 storage and LPDDR5 RAM, making it perform significantly better than the X9a.
Being one of the few phones to use the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1, the X9b’s performance is significantly better than any Snapdragon 695-powered phone and is roughly at par with the Snapdragon 778G. While it has lower clock speeds, the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1’s 4nm process makes it more power efficient than the popular Snapdragon 778G–all while having roughly the same performance.
While the current version of Geekbench Compute is not optimized to benchmark the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1’s GPU performance, the results we got from 3DMark prove the significant improvement over the Snapdragon 695’s GPU.
While roughly the same size as its predecessor, the X9b 5G has a bigger 5800mAh battery inside, and it lasted us 15 hours and 47 minutes in PCMark’s battery benchmark test. That translates to almost two days of battery life with moderate use. Charging speeds are slightly slower at 35w, but that should be good enough to quickly top up the battery while preserving its lifespan.
HONOR X9b 5G Review Philippines: Wrap-up and Conclusions
While it may appear to be more of an incremental upgrade over last year’s X9a, the HONOR X9b 5G addressed most of the shortcomings of its predecessor–particularly with the main camera and display quality. It still retains the same (if not better) durability of its predecessor, but an added IP53 rating an a vegan leather back option further makes the X9b 5G a solid mid-range offering from HONOR to kick off 2024.