The Honor Pad 9 is the most iPad-est Android tablet I’ve used, and that’s a good thing

 Honor Pad 9.
Honor Pad 9.

The Honor Pad 9 is not your standard Android tablet. It may look like one, feel like one, and have the same wide aspect ratio display like most models, but appearances can be deceiving. That’s because Honor has created the most iPad-esque experience I’ve seen on an Android slab, thanks to MagicOS on Android 13.

Sure, there are some cutbacks for that £299 price tag, such as the underwhelming Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 chipset, tinny speakers, and a camera system that is more potato than prime shooter. But these quickly fade into the background because of three key things.

First, you have a gorgeously sleek, lightweight design, with an evenly-balanced weight distribution that makes holding it with one hand a joy without a single hint of strain. Second, that 12.1-inch 2.5K Eye Protection display with a 16:10 aspect ratio is a colorful joy for the eyes. And finally, for whatever reason you’re away from a power outlet, the battery life in here is generously long.

In my own experience, the slickness of the software and the holistic experience comes close to beating the 10th Gen iPad — especially impressive given you’re paying £200 less for the privilege. If you’re willing to give up that additional power and a near-infinitely larger app library in the iPadOS app store, Honor has a good shot at being an iPad killer here.

However, it’s hard for any hardware to overcome a huge number of apps and games like this, and as you can see, that’s one of the key reasons why an Apple slab tops our list of best tablets.

For what it’s worth, this has been my favorite Android tablet of the past few years. But just make sure you look for the apps you want to use, and see whether they are present in tablet form on the Play Store.

Honor Pad 9: Cheat Sheet

  • What is it? This is a mid-range Android tablet.

  • Who’s it for? This tablet is perfect for constant content consumers on-the-go.

  • What is the price? The Honor Pad 9 comes in at a starting price of £299 (roughly $379).

  • How does this compare to an iPad? Its closest competition is the £499 10th Gen iPad, which has a more powerful chipset and a huge number of tablet-specific apps.

  • What tasks is it capable of? Outside of binge watching the latest movies and tv shows, the Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is capable of casual gaming and some productivity-driven multitasking.

Honor Pad 9: Specs

Honor Pad 9: The ups

Let’s take it from the top. There’s a lot going for the Honor Pad 9, and as a content consumption device, it has the display, the dimensions, and the stamina to be a fantastic tablet for watch and play.

Sleekness that puts iPad to shame

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

To house that larger 12.1-inch display over the iPad’s 10.9-inch panel, the Honor Pad 9 is taller and wider. But most importantly to its comfort in use, it’s just as thin and only a touch heavier. Put into real world context, that means you won’t feel a single bit of that typical wrist strain you get from holding up the weight of heavier slabs.

And none of this is because of relying on cheaper materials that are usually lightweight. The sleek, utilitarian aesthetic maintains a perfect symmetry from all angles — using a combination of aluminum and glass to exude an impressively premium look and feel.

A treat for the eyes

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

Then, we turn our attention to the most important part of any content consumption device, which is the display. At 12.1-inches, this 16:10 aspect ratio is ideal for a tablet UI of this nature, while also giving you enough of a widescreen form factor for watching movies and TV shows.

Now, I know you looked at that IPS LCD bit of the specs and probably panicked a little. It’s normally hard to extract a ton of color out of IPS tech, and the cost of this tablet may raise more suspicions about its quality. However, those suspicions are quickly put to rest with the visual feast you’re treated to at a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate.

Watching my partner’s newest love, Kid Cudi’s gorgeously animated love story Entergalactic, demonstrates how well the 2560x1600-pixel resolution is capable of handling the intricate details of every scene, and the color and contrast nail the flash flood of vividity that hits the screen every minute.

MagicOS is…well…pretty magic

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

One common gripe with Android tablets has got to be the user interface (UI). Sure, companies have figured out effective workarounds, but in my opinion, none have come close to the smooth, user-friendly experience of MagicOS — built on Android 13. Oh, and it comes with Google services too!

Simple three-finger gestures drop you straight into multi-tasking modes (including running two instances of the same app) with the greatest of ease, swiping up from the bottom to flip between apps is super fast and fluid, and the option to interconnect your various devices over the cloud with Honor Connect is close to Apple Continuity levels of “it just works” neatness.

While I can’t guarantee how many years of updates this device will get (this has not been confirmed by Honor), I can safely say that in its current form, navigating this tablet is quite the joy.

The stamina champ

Under the hood, you’ll find an 8,300 mAh battery, which is capable of some great things here. On paper, Honor promises 11 hours of “online video streaming,” which in my experience, the Pad 9 hit and then some at 11:26. For a wider range of tasks like productivity and gaming, you’ll see that drop below the 10-hour mark, but this is iPad territory in terms of longevity.

Plus, if you do see it drain to zero, Honor’s tablet supports fast charging up to 35W — allowing you to juice this thing back up to 100% in just over 20 minutes.

Honor Pad 9: The downs

But while I can heap the praise on this software UI, the battery life and that display, there are some big obstacles. Let me explain.

Speakers are rather tinny

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

Honor is making a big song and dance about the speaker system, and why wouldn’t the team take a victory lap? The outer edge of the Pad 9 is surrounded by eight speakers — placed strategically for surround sound, and Hi-Res audio-certified to deliver crisp audio.

But in reality, while there is a nice clarity in identifying individual high and mid-tone sounds amongst the multi-track composition of an orchestra, there is certainly a real tinniness to the sound here. I know tablets usually are a little light on bass, but this is more so than I’d experienced from other competing slabs.

Of course, this is easy to fix with a pair of the best bluetooth headphones (since the 3.5mm headphone jack is missing). But for social listening moments like doom scrolling TikTok, you’re going to sorely miss that hint of bass.

Camera = potato

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

Let’s be honest here — chances are you’re not going to use your tablet as a camera. That smartphone in your pocket is going to take vastly better shots. But in the moments that you want to do a quick video call, or maybe you’re in a clutch moment of only having the Honor Pad 9, picture quality is a bit basic.

The 8MP front-facing sensor is decent enough for the occasional WhatsApp video chat, but you will detect a lot of noise in the darker corners of an image. Meanwhile, the 13MP main snapper round back generates pictures with less noise, but a mushy lack of detail and absence of the finer color details.

Raw horsepower is not quite enough

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 is enough for your basic productivity needs and casual gaming. Most importantly to the Honor Pad 9’s super power, it’s powerful enough to run the high quality movie and TV show experiences.

But when you start to apply a little more pressure to the chipset (paired with 8GB RAM) and start to multitask a couple of CPU-intensive apps like Adobe Lightroom and Sketchbook, or opening up multiple Chrome tabs, you can start to feel the Pad 9 begin to buckle under the pressure.

This is understandable in the realm of the Android tablet market — Honor opted for the entry-level Snapdragon 6 Gen 1, which does also come with a built-in AI engine (similar to Meteor Lake’s NPU) that will handle more of these tasks in the future (when they appear).

But looking at the fact this doesn’t even match up with the 9th Gen iPad, it’s clear to see Apple and Android tablets are operating on different battlefields here.

Honor Pad 9: Verdict

Honor Pad 9
Honor Pad 9

Alas, this is just symptomatic of the iPad vs. Android tablet battle — namely that the battle is already kind of over. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this specific Android slab.

The Honor Pad 9 is a binge-watchers dream tablet, and MagicOS does go some way to giving you a super clean iPad-esque experience with the customizability and freedom of Android 13.

But looking past my gripes with its performance and speakers, there is that one unavoidable problem: it is not an iPad. You’re not getting the hundreds of thousands of apps purpose built for iPadOS, neither are you getting Apple’s dense creative suite with the likes of iMovie.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the Honor Pad 9, and the score I gave it is a clear indication that you should look at it at least. But just make sure you know the compromises you’re making before opting for this banger of an Android tablet.