In any given segment, not all phones are considered equally worthy or at an equal level. As much as the phones are diverse due to them being from different manufacturers, they are diverse in design and in terms of how they deliver the overall ownership experience.
Today, we have a Lenovo Z5 and an Honor 9N – two phones that may not be the first choice of a buyer irrespective of the segment these phones lie in. Yet, the two phones provide variety and choice in the lower mid-range category.
We have compared the two and are here to tell you if they are worth giving a thought in the presence of the more popular phones in the segment. Let’s check out their specifications first.
|Lenovo Z5||Honor 9N|
|Body||Aluminium frame, front & glass back||Aluminium frame, front & glass back|
|Processor & RAM||Snapdragon 636, 6 BG RAM, 64 GB storage||Kirin 659, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage|
|Display||IPS LCD, 6.2-inch, 1080p x 2246p, 18.7:9, 402 ppi||IPS LCD, 5.84-inch, 1080p x 2280p, 19:9, 432 ppi|
|OS||Android Oreo 8.1.0 with ZUI 3.9.2||Android 8.0.0 with EMUI 8.0.0|
|Camera||Dual camera 16 MP (f2.0) + 8 MP, PDAF. Front 8 MP with f2.0||Dual camera 13 MP + 2 MP. Front 16 MP|
|Battery||3,300 mAh||3,000 mAh|
|Price||India launch awaited||Starts at Rs 11,999 (version in review, Rs 13,999)|
On paper, the Lenovo Z5 appears to be at a slight advantage. Will it translate into the real world performance as well?
DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY
Build quality was always an important factor in a mobile phone. However, in the recent years, a phone is expected to look stunning, feel premium and strong, all at the same time. Not one aspect of the design is any less important than the other.
On that note, both the Honor 9N and the Lenovo Z5 are well built phones that exude premium-ness to quite an extent. Both handsets are built on an aluminium frame with the backside finished in glass, just like the front. This gives a mirror-like reflection on both the phones, however, when it comes to the in-hand feel, we prefer the Honor 9N a tiny bit more than the Lenovo Z5. The reason is that the side edges of the Z5 are slightly sharper to touch which doesn’t feel like an ideal finish. But overall, both handsets appear equally well-built.
DISPLAY, SOFTWARE & USER INTERFACE
Hardware similarities continue here as well. Both the Honor 9N and the Lenovo Z5 come with IPS LCD panels throwing off Full HD+ resolution with small differences in terms of overall pixel density.
First off, there’s no setting or option to change the color or contrast setting for the display in the Lenovo Z5 while the Honor 9N gets 3 settings – Default, Warm and Cold. In the default setting, the Honor 9N shows better white balance, it is more neutral while the Z5 appears a bit warm in comparison. But it is a pretty small difference. Secondly, the Honor 9N’s display is slightly sharper which can be noticed especially when looking at a number of still images side by side on the two phones.
Overall, the displays of both phones are good enough and don’t leave much room to complain about.
Coming to the software – Both the 9N and the Z5 come with Android Oreo out of the box, but then they differ a bit. The Honor 9N has topped the Android Oreo with Huawei’s EMUI interface, at the same time, the Lenovo Z5 gets the ZUI interface of Lenovo, of course.
Now, no matter the amount of features a custom skin may offer, it remains entirely personal when it comes liking or disliking a company’s custom UI over a stock Android OS. I don’t, but in the case of the Honor 9N and the Lenovo Z5, I would prefer the Honor 9N with its EMUI and not the Z5 with its ZUI. The problem with the ZUI is that it goes about doing some simple functions in an irritating manner.
For example, the Settings menu can’t be invoked by sliding down the notification bar because there’s no option for it there. Then, there’s a uniquely named option called “Lab Features”, this further contains a sub-option called “U-Touch” through which we can basically enable or disable the navigation bar (or the three Android function keys). I would like such an option to be present under the more appropriate “Personalization” setting or under the Display setting itself. Furthermore, there’s the “True full screen mode” which doesn’t really turn off or turn on the notch, which is what we think it would (or should) do. This option doesn’t even work throughout the whole UI in fact. For example, keeping this option enabled would allow you to stretch a YouTube video (in the landscape mode) over the full display. On the other hand, disabling this option wouldn’t allow you to do so. But there’s the thing, the feature has no effect whatsoever when looking at an image in the Gallery, for instance. And of course, like we mentioned earlier, it doesn’t hide or unhide the notch. That cut-out at the top of the display is there all the time. In comparison, the Honor 9N appears simpler but there’s nothing special to talk about it either.
The real deal. The Lenovo Z5 comes with 6 GB of RAM while the Honor 9N gets 4 GB of it. But along with Snapdragon 636, the Z5 feels ever so slightly snappier compared to the 9N. To be fair to the 9N, it isn’t terribly slower by far, it’s just that the Z5 has a quicker response time to the user input and this can be experienced throughout the UI. The Z5 is also fractionally quicker to load an app. But beyond that, there’s virtually no difference between the two phones as far as the operating speed is concerned.
While playing a game as well – there’s no mention-worthy difference between the two phones. For example, we spent some time playing one of the latest car racing games, Asphalt 9, on the Lenovo Z5 and the Honor 9N, and both handsets cope up quite well with the framerate requirement and rapidly changing scenery. However, both phones also suffer in generating overall graphics, for example, especially the objects far out objects in a scenery appear with broken edges or outlines.
In terms of images taken outdoors, the Honor 9N has some clear advantages when it comes to the dynamic range. The Lenovo Z5, in comparison, suffers in that regard as it darkens the shadowy sections in an image. Detail reproduction is close from both the handsets but the Honor 9N has some slight edge here as well. Overall, we prefer the color saturation and vibrancy from the Honor 9N.
Coming to the Portrait images, the Honor 9N once again comes out better when it comes to the dynamic range. At the same time, the depth effect is more or less the same from both the handsets. We must point out that the Lenovo Z5 doesn’t have a Portrait mode as such so these samples are taken with default autofocus.
We clearly prefer the selfie taken from the Honor 9N as it is sharper with better dynamic range. Color reproduction is not in either phones, but the 9N churns out a livelier image.
The above is the 2X zoom sample from the Lenovo Z5. It has a telephoto secondary lens which is capable of 2x zoom. Overall, we like the 2x image from the telephoto lens but it is slightly noisier than its normal version, but that is alright.
There’s not much difference in the battery capacity of the two phones – the Lenovo Z5 comes with 3,300 mAh battery while the Honor 9N comes with 3,000 mAh unit. But this not-so-big difference is enough to make a noticeable difference in the battery life. The Z5 goes up to 1 and a half days, or 36 hours, in a single charge whereas the Honor 9N struggles to go over the 1 day mark, but we can stretch it to a half day more without much effort.
The Honor 9N appears to be better sorted as far as its own EMUI is concerned whereas the ZUI of Lenovo seems like a deliberate effort to be different, and unfortunately for Lenovo, it hasn’t really impressed us. Functionality wise the Z5 seems to have a small edge over the 9N but then the 9N isn’t really a slouch against the Z5 either. The 6 GB RAM in the Z5 appears to have been wasted, at least for now. We aren’t sure if this will help the device to hold up better against its competitors some months down the line. In terms of camera as well, we prefer the overall results from the Honor 9N and we can live with its battery life as well.
So, we would say that the Honor 9N is a better device, and perhaps, the biggest advantage for Honor is that the Honor 9N is available in India while the Lenovo Z5’s Indian launch is still unknown. On that note, the Honor 9N remains the only choice, in this comparison, for the Indian buyers.