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The year 2018 has given some significant developments to budget and mid-range smartphones in the Indian market. The smartphone manufacturers now appear to be more dedicated towards the low-end and mid-range devices due to the market dynamics. The leading smartphone manufacturers have now started offering top-end features like face unlock, taller displays with 18:9 aspect ratio, and dual-lens camera setup in affordable price-point. These features were once only associated with premium and value flagship handsets spotted on high-end devices. This significant change in the smartphone's specs and feature sets addresses the needs of young tech-savvy consumers who look forward experiencing flagship features and performance without burning a hole in their pocket.
Honor's recent budget smartphone is built on these specific requirements. Priced at Rs. 11,999 for the 3GB RAM variant, Honor 9N is among one of the first handsets that sports a FullView Notch display. It would not be wrong to say that Honor 9N can be an alternative to the company's popular Honor 9 Lite.
Apart from being the most affordable smartphone to feature a notch with 18:9 aspect ratio display, the device also features a dual-lens camera setup. It flaunts an all-glass design that can easily grab anyone's attention at first glance. The device is available in two RAM variants including the 3GB RAM variant and the 4GB RAM variant. The 3GB RAM variant comes with an internal storage of 32GB whereas the 4GB RAM variant comes with 64GB internal storage. We got to use the 4GB RAM variant of the device and this is our comprehensive review of the Honor 9N.
Display: Crsip and Vibrant LCD display with a notch
Honor 9N sports a 5.84-inch FHD+ FullView display with a notch. It would not be wrong to say that the device is basically the Honor 9 Lite but with a notched display. The screen comes with a 19:9 aspect ratio and has a resolution of 2280 x 1080 pixels (433PPI). The smartphones use 2.5D curved glass up top and also at the rear panel. Coming onto the performance of the screen, it is vibrant and serves well for gaming and video playback. I streamed a number of high-resolution videos to test the display performance and was surprised to see the crisp and colorful output.
I also played some graphics-rich games apart from the videos such as Asphalt 8-Airborne and PUBG mobile and honestly, I was pretty impressed by the display performance. The display is bright and responsive and the color saturation is also balanced which results in clear and sharp display quality.
The FullView display along with a notch on top results in a screen-to-body ratio of 79% which as mentioned earlier is ample for multimedia consumption.
Design: Highly polished glass finish that instantly grabs attention
One of the best features of the Honor 9N is its compact form factor. The smartphone fits easily in the palm and the 79% screen-to-body ratio makes it easy to operate with one hand. Honor has used metal and glass to design the smartphone and it makes the device pretty attractive.
The rear panel of the device gives a highly polished glass back which can reflect light even with a slightest change in its orientation. The rear panel of the device houses the dual-lens camera set up along with a LED flash and it also has the fingerprint scanner mounted at the rear. The shiny back of the device does give it a premium look however it is prone to fingerprints and smudges. The volume rockers along with the power key are placed on the right panel of the device, whereas the left panel of the device has the SIM card tray.
Overall, Honor has done an impressive job in designing the smartphone and it will not let the users down in the design.
Camera: 16MP front camera with a Dual-lens rear camera setup
The Honor 9N ships with a 16MP front camera that functions on 4-in 1 light fusion technology. This technology helps in converting 4 small pixels int,o a single 2.0um pixel which helps to capture quality images in low-light situations. For the brief period I used the device, I found the feature perform quite well even in low-light situations. The beauty algorithm which the company has used gives images an artificial output; however, you can customize its intensity for a neutral image output.
The front camera can also capture images in Portrait mode, however, just like the beauty mode, this mode also produces artificial looking images. The Honor 9N also comes with face unlock feature which performs quite well and the device gets unlocked quickly. However, the face-unlock feature doesn't perform as expected in the dark environment. Overall the face unlock feature is snappy and I didn't experience any kind of lag in its performance as long as you are using it in well-lit scenarios.
The Honor 9N features the latest trend of dual-lens rear camera setup. Honor is a successful brand when it comes to offering dual-lens camera setups in almost every price range. The dual-lens camera module in the Honor 9N consists of a 13MP primary sensor and a 2MP secondary sensor. The rear camera uses a 5P lens and works on a f/2.2 aperture. The other features of the rear camera include PDAF, ‘Snap First, Focus Later' feature (it allows a user to focus on the subjects after they have captured an image), AR lens and also a Moving Picture mode. At this price range, the Honor9 is a feature-rich camera device.
Hardware and Software
Under the hood, the Honor 9N is powered by an octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 659 SoC which is coupled with Mali T830-MP2 GPU along with a 4GB RAM. The chipset is similar to that of Honor 9i, Honor 9 Lite and also the Huawei P20 Lite.
The aforementioned combination of the hardware makes the device suitable for performing everyday tasks like calling, browsing the web, and even capturing images and videos. As I have previously mentioned that I played some graphics-rich games such as the Asphalt 8 and PUBG mobile and the performance was pretty much smooth when the games were played at low settings. The device, however, tends to get a little warm with more than 30 minutes of playing the games; however, it is nothing concerning as such. For the price-point, Honor 9N is a good device for occasional gaming.
In the software department, the Honor 9N runs on EMUI 8.0 based on Android Oreo. If you prefer stock Android, this is not a device for you. However, EMUI is not at all bad and comes with its own set of customizations and some software tweaks to provide a premium user experience. The EMUI features Wi-Fi Bridge which allows a user to share any Wi-Fi network as a hotspot. With the Wi-Fi bridge, users can connect up to 4 devices to the network. The company has also included a Ride Mode which makes it easy for the two-wheeler riders to avoid calls while riding a bike.
Battery and Connectivity:
The Honor 9N is backed by a 3,000 mAh Li-Polymer battery that supports fast-charging technology. The battery performance is decent and the device can last one full day on a single charge with moderate use. However, you might need to charge the device more than once if you are playing graphically intensive games for a longer time period. The battery gets charged from 0% to 100% within an hour.
The connectivity aspects of the Honor 9N include a dated micro USB 2.0 charging port which is quite disappointing. It would have been much appreciated if the company provided the latest Type-C USB port for charging and data transfer. The device features a dual-SIM slot and supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. The other connectivity aspects include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, however, the devices miss on the basic FM radio connectivity.
Honor 9N is basically the Honor 9 Lite with a bigger and better display. The device has some impressive set of features in the sub-Rs 15,000 price range that will please masses. For a starting price of Rs. 11,999, Honor 9N does a commendable job of being a budget Android device. It offers a premium design, crisp LCD display, and a feature-rich camera.
The device competes with Redmi Note 5 Pro head-on and it seems that it stands up to the competition fairly well. If you are looking for a smartphone in the sub- Rs 15,000 price range and design is your priority, you can go for this device without any second thoughts.