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Honor 9 Hands-on Review: Premium phone, affordable price

The Honor 9 has officially hit Europe, offering premium specs for the affordable price of just £380 – even less than the great-value OnePlus 5. We went hands-on at Honor’s big Berlin launch and here’s our first-look Honor 9 review.

Update: We have now fully tested the Honor 9 so go check out our in-depth review for our full thoughts.

Honor aficionados won’t be shocked at the design of the shiny new Honor 9 flagship phone. This pleasingly compact handset uses a blend of materials for a satisfying finish; glass on the front and curved rear end, broken up by a sandblasted metal rim. It’s always great to handle a mobile that’s under 5.5-inches (which seems to be the standard size these days), so the Honor 9 certainly is a pleasure to wield one-handed.

You don’t get any form of water resistance sadly, just like the OnePlus 5. Here’s hoping that glossy surfacing is at least resistant to scratches and scuffs, to stay pristine for the length of a contract. You can pick up the handset in a fetching blue colour, as well as black and grey.

Read next: Honor 9 vs Honor 8 Pro vs Honor 8, what’s the difference?

That 5.15-inch screen is a mite smaller than last year’s Honor 8, although still a Full HD panel. Images are perfectly crisp thanks to that 1920×1080 pixel resolution, which offers satisfying levels of clarity as well as quite vibrant colours.

As usual, you have a night mode which filters blue light, to reduce eye strain and make it easier to drift off. Meanwhile, on top brightness levels, the Honor 9 will cut through any kind of glare for a comfortable viewing experience.

Got a whopper of a media collection? You get a microSD memory card slot to expand the 64GB of storage space by a further 256GB, giving plenty of room for all of your movies and more. Memory cards are slipped into the second SIM card slot, so you can only use a single SIM if you wish to expand the on-board space.

Android 7.0 is topped off with Huawei’s own Emotion UI, EMUI 5.1. This tweaks the look and feel of Google’s OS, as well as adding a host of new features. From gesture shortcuts to resource management tools, many of these additions are worthwhile and add to the Honor 9’s usability. Some – such as the fingerprint sensor gestures which replace the back and recent apps buttons – don’t really improve the experience, instead merely offering a different way of doing things.

A rare feature included in the Honor 9 is an IR blaster to control over 250k devices that support infra-red. Definitely a nice addition, if you don’t already use apps – or your voice – to interact with your smart home gadgetry.

Check out our EMUI 5.1 review to see all of the software features you can expect in the Honor 9.

Like the Honor 8 Pro before it, the Honor 9 comes packing Huawei’s own Kirin 960 processor (backed by 4GB of RAM). We’ve seen this chipset stuffed inside loads of Huawei and Honor phones now, including Huawei’s own flagship devices, the Huawei P10 and the P10 Plus.

Which means we know exactly what to expect. The Honor 9 certainly seems just as capable as its predecessors, offering a smooth experience when flicking through the OS, loading apps and everything else.

This is the most affordable Kirin 960 device launched so far, and a great way to guarantee long-lasting premium performance without breaking the bank.

As for battery life, we’re yet to fully test the Honor 9 – although we’re not expecting the same two days of use we got from the larger Honor 8 Pro. Still, that 3200mAh cell will hopefully give well over 24 hours of play time before the phone needs to be plugged in again. Plus, you have Huawei’s excellent fast charge tech, which keeps the cell cool while powering it up quickly.

The Honor 9 throws up no surprises when it comes to the camera tech. You once again have a dual-lens camera (one a 20-megapixel monochrome effort, the other a 12-megapixel RGB shooter), to capture crisp, detailed photos and up to 4K resolution video. This is the same camera tech found in the Huawei P10, although we’re hoping that low light performance has been tweaked and improved in the software.

Around the front of the phone, an 8-megapixel camera is ready to shoot your mug.

Check out our hands-on Honor 9 camera review for all you need to know.

The Honor 9 is available to pre-order right now via the vMall online store. In the UK this new flagship handset will cost you £380, which is solid value for money considering the specs on offer. So far the new blower certainly seems to offer strong competition for the OnePlus 5, Samsung’s Galaxy A5 2017 and other mid-range mobiles.

Check back soon for our full Honor 9 review to see if this really is the new phone for you.

Read next: Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5, which is best for me

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