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Huawei Honor 9 – PC Mag UK's phone of the year

I’ve been reviewing phones on and off for close to ten years now, so I’ve seen what was remarkable and revolutionary become regular and ordinary[1]. Phones are much of a muchness these days in terms of what they can actually do, so much so that these days people generally don’t bother with the old ‘smart’ prefix. This is fantastic news for consumers.

Features previously only available to people rich/desperate enough to stump up hundreds and then GBP75/month for iPhones on contract could enjoy the best of the best. All phones these days can take pretty good if not amazing photos, record high definition video and they all more or less have access to the same apps and games. We’re now at a point where most screen resolutions are high enough for there to be not much of a difference.

Nobody really needs a six-inch 4k screen[2]. Everyone can access the Internet and use social media to discuss politics (read: trade insults) with the loud and the ill-informed. We have seized the memes of production.

You no longer need to spend over a grand for your new phone, unless of course you’re the idiot-looking son of a TV chef[3]. This lowering of the velvet rope means it’s now easier for folks to buy something outright which a) won’t break the bank and b) isn’t crap. Better still, freeing people from the tie in of a long term contract means that they can get access to the kind of monthly savings regularly enjoyed by the SIM Only Master Race and not have to worry about upgrade cycles.

This state-of-the-market analysis is basically a long-winded way of me telling you that you should consider buying a Huawei Honor 9[4].

At GBP379.99 unlocked, or GBP30 on a GBP26/month Three contract, it’s (still) one of the best value buys out there. Since the launch of the Honor 9, we’ve had a new Samsung Galaxy Note, new iPhones (three)[5], and some new Google Pixels (two)[6] arrive. They’re all excellent of course, but they don’t come close to matching the Honor 9’s absurdly good pounds-per-processing power ratio.

Why buy an Honor 9? It’s got an excellent dual-lens camera that’s packed with fun modes like post-focus, pseudo-bokeh, to make stuff like flowers, snaps of your dinner or portraits of your significant other(s) look dreamy and arty. It can shoot 4k video at 30 frames per second, along with timelapses and slow-mo clips.

Its front camera can automatically take selfies whenever it detects a smile. Machine learning and RAM recycling means that the phone actively learns which apps you use, when you use them, while reclaiming memory from low priority apps and idle processes, in theory making for a better performance. While we’ve not used an Honor 9 for long enough to see this happening ourselves, it’s a process we’ve observed in other Huawei phones like the Mate 9[7], which we have had for a year; read the benchmarking results posted in our recent Mate 10 Pro review[8] for comparison.

Seeing as the Honor 9 uses the same eight core CPU (a HiSilicon Kirin 960 with four 2.4 GHz Cortex-A73s and four 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53s), runs the same custom UI (EMUI 5.1), with the same storage cleaner tool, long-term performance should be similar.

More efficient use of resources in theory makes for better battery power. At any rate, that 3,200mAh battery will easily give you a day of regular use and then some; two, if you’re really conservative with your phone use. The presence of Huawei’s SuperCharge 2.0 tech means that with the supplied charger, you can get a half full tank in half an hour, which means nightly charges are a thing of the past.

Sadly, as SuperCharge is proprietary technology, this means it’ll only work with the supplied adapter and not other fast-charging battery packs or mains chargers, so consider getting a spare. Consider again that for under GBP400 you get a phone with a 5.15-inch 1080p Full HD screen, 64GB of storage which can be expanded (officially, up to 256GB) and 4GB of RAM powered by all of the above. There’s even two colour choices on offer from Three, depending on how you voted in the EU referendum; New Passport Blue or Existential Crisis Grey.

And there are cheaper phones out there, sure.

But none that look quite as nice as this and none that quite offer the same kind of processing power and performance longevity.

By the same token, there are better, more nicely designed phones out there, but they won’t be quite so nice to your wallet.

The Honor 9 looks great (though you’ll want a case to protect that nice metal and glass back), is plenty powerful and (relatively) cheap[9].

References

  1. ^ remarkable and revolutionary become regular and ordinary (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ six-inch 4k screen (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ you’re the idiot-looking son of a TV chef (twitter.com)
  4. ^ Huawei Honor 9 (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ new iPhones (three) (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ some new Google Pixels (two) (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Mate 9 (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ posted in our recent Mate 10 Pro review (uk.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ and (relatively) cheap (r.zdbb.net)

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