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Honor 9N review: N for Notch

The trickle-down effect, that's probably what explains a feature that debuted on the pricey iPhone percolate all the way down to the fiercely competitive Rs 10,000 – 15,000 price band in less than a year. The Notch, it might be a case of love or loathe, but it is taking over the smartphone space. That is what Honor’s new budget smartphone with an ‘N’ suffix is riding on. A few months ago we tested the Honor 9 Lite, a device that helped Honor make a big impact in the budget segment. Is the 9N essentially the 9 Lite with a notch?

Life in technicolour

One of the key elements in the Honor 9 Lite success story was the company’s now trademark blue. Honor goes ‘two up’ on the 9 Lite with two truly stunning new colours – Robin Egg Blue (that’s actually a pale green) and a subtle yet striking, lavender purple. These colours play out quite well with the all-glass back. Honor attributes this to 12 layers of what it calls ‘nano-coating’. Aesthetics have taken a huge jump in the budget segment and the Honor 9N is a case in point. The display specs, 2280 x 1080 pixels, are not a huge step up from the 9 Lite but there are a couple of key differences. At 5.84-inches, the display is a tad larger and then there’s the Notch that extends the aspect ratio to 19:9. You can opt to ‘hide’ the Notch but we like the detailed notification bar that captures key display icons including battery percentage without having to swipe down the notch each time.

Solid performer

The internals don’t change much from the 9 Lite. This device is powered by the same proprietary, Hisilicon Kirin 659 processor, which was at the heart of the 9 Lite. Our test version featured 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal memory. Honor has also added a 128GB ROM version to the 9N that will work for heavy-duty users. The device performed very similar to the 9 Lite in our tests and works really well for everyday usage and multi-tasking. Battery life is average. The 3000 mAh battery should last a day unless you are pushing the camera or gaming mode. The Honor 9N features face unlocking and a fingerprint sensor that is conveniently placed at the back. Setting up the fingerprint sensor was a breeze.

Middling rear camera

The Notch has altered one key element from the 9 Lite. The dual front camera set up makes way for a single 16MP selfie camera. This front cam should please selfie fiends who don’t mind a slightly enhanced image of themselves. Honor’s AI modes coupled with new, proprietary features like 3D face contouring are in the mix. You can amp up the beautification mode and watch those dark circles under your eyes magically disappear. Honor retains the dual camera set up – 13MP + 2MP dual cam, for the rear camera. It delivers the same average results that we experienced with the 9 Lite. Results are decent in ambient light but the camera struggles slightly in lowlight conditions. It is still more than acceptable for a device in this price range.

Past and present

Another crib that Honor hasn't addressed is fast charging. The Honor 9N sticks with micro USB charging at a time when USB C is gradually becoming the norm. But it is still not a deal breaker. Honor packs enough novelty value with this device to make it a serious contender in the budget price segment. The form factor is the 9N’s calling card – it truly feels like a premium device in your hands and can hold its own against pricier devices. Honor brought a certain oomph to this segment with the 9 Lite and now it adds a glass back with some standout colour options with the 9N. And then there’s the Notch that could be a selling point for the 9N in this segment. The Notch looks like it is here to stay.

Honor 9N comes in 3 versions:

3GB RAM / 32GB ROM : Rs 11,999

4GB RAM / 64GB ROM : Rs 13,999

4GB RAM / 128 GB ROM : Rs 17,999