Huawei nova 9 Review Philippines

Immense Prowess

Huawei is bringing in a whole new game with its newest mid-range device, the Huawei nova 9. It’s said to feature flagship-grade cameras with its 50-megapixel RYYB sensor on top of other cameras at the back, and it’s also the first phone in the Philippines to feature Huawei’s own HarmonyOS as an immediate over-to-air update. Here is our full review.

First announced in September, the nova 9 features a quad-rear camera setup, a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, and 66-watt SuperCharge.

Huawei nova 9 Philippines specs:

  • 6.57-inch OLED display,
    FHD+ 2340 x 1080px, 120Hz refresh rate
    300Hz touch sampling rate
  • 2.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G (4G)
    Qualcomm Adreno 642L GPU
  • 8GB RAM
  • 256GB storage
  • Quad rear cameras with LED Flash:
    50MP f/1.9 RYYB
    8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide
    2MP f/2.4 macro
    2MP f/2.4 depth
  • 32MP f/2.0 selfie camera
  • 4G LTE, Dual SIM (nano)
  • WiFi 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, GALILEO, QZSS, NavIC
  • USB Type-C
  • In-display Fingerprint scanner, Face Unlock
  • Huawei HarmonyOS 2.0
  • 4,300mAh battery
    66W fast charging
  • Colors: Black, Blue, Green, Violet

Inside the box Huawei sent to us contains the essentials: the phone itself, a Type-C data cable, the 66-watt charger, a SIM ejector pin, a clear TPU case for added protection, and a few papers for warranty information and a user guide.

Phone Design: Starry, Stunning Color

The design of the nova 9 does not differ from the nova 8 when looks are concerned. Despite that, it still looks and feels elegant, and the unit can be considered on a league of its own when it comes to construction.

Our unit comes in a Starry Blue colorway that offers a blue base with hints of purple as light hits the surface. There is also mineral dust on the surface, and the good thing is that smudges aren’t that visible on the surface.

At the back is the Huawei monogram, the Nova logo, and the new quad-camera layout with the three cameras accompanying the 50-megapixel snapper make a diamond pattern with LED Flash underneath it. The protruding area is longer than the previous generation.

Curved sides are still prominent at the left and right parts, giving the impression and handheld feeling that the phone is slim in nature. The design also helps with gesture-based navigation as you can easily slide your finger off the sides whenever you are switching windows. At the right part are the power/lock and volume keys.

Other sides are devoid of any buttons, save for the bottom part which houses a dual SIM card tray, a microphone, a USB Type-C port, and a bottom-firing speaker. The SIM tray offers the idea of using two SIM cards, but it can be tricky to place in given that you have to put them outward-facing at both sides of the tray before you insert them in. The absence of expandable storage is not surprising as well since we’ve seen it ourselves with the nova 8 as well.

The front has a 6.57-inch OLED display with near-bezel-less construction, save for some very thin bezels at the top and bottom. The selfie camera is just below the call speaker. The device also employs an in-display fingerprint scanner, which you can see at the lower-middle part when your fingerprint is needed.

The phone is light to hold despite the supposedly large, curved display, as it can be easily grasped. It’s also not that hard to hold it when used for one-hand operations or long gaming hours.

Display: Smooth like butter

The 6.57-inch OLED display in the Huawei nova 9 features sufficiently vivid colors, good brightness even when outdoors, ample amount of light in dim environments, and great contrast. To add, the 120Hz refresh rate makes the animations, navigations, gaming, and multimedia content all smoother, which pleases the eyes.

Unlike other mid-range phones, Huawei gives you the choice to choose your profile for the refresh rate: Standard (limiting to 60Hz), High (everything at 120Hz), or Dynamic (letting the system choose the display refresh rate to maximize the battery life).

The lone bottom-firing loudspeaker can bring music loud enough to be heard in a quiet medium-sized room with decent vocals, trebles, and even bass. There’s no 3.5mm audio jack in the unit, so it’s best to use a Type-C to 3.5mm audio converter for wired audio (too bad one isn’t included in our box), or opt for a nice wireless audio gear (Huawei’s own Freelace Pro and Freebuds 4 come to mind)

Cameras: Beyond expectations

With the nova 9, you’re getting a quad-rear camera setup: a 50-megapixel RYYB main sensor (first seen on the Huawei P30 Pro), an 8-megapixel ultrawide, and two 2MP lenses for depth and macro. For the selfies, you have a 32-megapixel shooter that can let you shoot 4K clips right from there, which is good for your next TikTok or Instagram Reels post.

What can you expect in its default camera software? 

The default camera software features photo, video, portrait, night, and Video as its primary modes. The nova 9 also introduces a Vlog Mode, where you can use a split image from the rear camera setup or both front and back lenses.

Some options inside the Vlog mode include switching between front and back cameras easily, a Front/Rear mode, a Rear/Rear mode that utilizes digital zoom, and a Pic-in-Pic where the front camera video is inserted into the video you’re capturing at the rear, perfect for reactions or simple shots where there is no tripod.

Other modes include Pro, Aperture, Slow Mo, Panorama, Timelapse, Moving picture, High-Res, and a Story Creator Mode where you can choose from a plethora of built-in templates.

At the front, you get the usual modes including, of course, AI Beauty and Portrait Modes. Automatic Face Tracking is also noticed even when we use a mask.

There’s no telephoto video, but this phone can digitally zoom by up to 10 times (photo) or 6 times (video) while maintaining the most important details.

Is it ok for daily use? 

Absolutely! The cameras take photos quite fast, and it’s relatively easy to launch with just two quick presses to the volume down key even when your phone’s locked.

The end results may take quite some time given there is some bit of heavy back processing, but the results are just stunning. Photos captured day or night have a lot of light and detail to them, and the dynamic range is good. Photos are well saturated and offer good contrast. The same can be said for the front camera, which offers well-detailed photos. Here are some sample shots:

Is this phone great for vlogging? 

The videos are also just as great, with built-in stabilization keeping the phone even when you’re walking around. The front camera can capture up to 4K so you’ll expect to get crisp shots most especially in well-lit environments. Here are some sample clips:

OS and Performance: Just as good as everyone else

This nova phone packs EMUI 12 based on Android 11 out of the box. It’s also the first Huawei phone in the Philippines to be brought in with a direct OTA update for a beta version of Huawei’s HarmonyOS 2 (simply switch your My Huawei App phone region to Hong Kong and press the update button on the support tab) and it doesn’t feel all too foreign despite having a ton of new features to boot. We’ll discuss our HarmonyOS experience in an upcoming story.

Huawei’s own services are at the core and you’d be happy to see more local apps available on the phone’s AppGallery, which is nice to note considering they were so few more than a year ago.

Petal Search is also there when you need to find more than what is on the AppGallery, and allows you to sideload apps without much fuss. HarmonyOS also allows you to smartly connect to a supported Huawei AIoT product, be it a monitor (MateView), laptop (Matebook), audio (Freebuds/Freelace), speaker (SoundX), tablet (MatePad), or another Huawei device. The new OS also leaves you with 224GB out of 256GB internal storage for your apps and personal files, and the only way to expand is via online storage backups as there is no available microSD or NM card slot.

We just wonder why they kept this phone at 4G, as this nova star phone features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable internal storage. The choice of connectivity makes us wonder — why only 4G when the chip can also support 5G? Despite that, mobile connectivity (signal, calls, texts, data) work really well. Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC, and GPS also work great.

The in-display fingerprint scanner is accurate and reads our fingerprints fast enough as other phones do. Face unlock also works really well, and the software enables you to record another look for your face scan so it won’t be hard when you have another fashion to boot.

Aside from that, everything just felt so seamless in operation. Huawei heavily relies on gestures for the phone’s navigation as its default, and we can’t help but feel in awe at how seamless everything is — from switching back and forth webpages to easily multitasking with apps, the gestures we did just made it feel so right.

Here are some benchmarks we took with the device:

  • AnTutu – 504,887
  • GeekBench – 771 (Single Core), 2,937 (Multi-Core), 2,230 (OpenCL) 2,543 (Vulkan)
  • 3DMark – 3,943 (Wild Life), 2,008 (Wild Life Exrtreme)
  • PCMark – 9,864 (Work 3.0)

Gaming isn’t an issue with the device as we are able to test resource-heavy games such as Genshin Impact and Asphalt 9 without much stutters. Mobile FPS games like COD MObile or PUBG Mobile also benefit from the smoother display combined with a near-consistent frame rate, though you may notice your phone heating up a bit at the upper-rear part.

Battery Life:

There’s a 4,300mAh battery included with the nova 9, which is measly compared to standard battery capacities we see nowadays. The usual tradeoff we know for those with less than 4,500Mah batteries is faster charging times, as this has a 66-watt SuperCharge feature. We were able to last almost a day on a single charge with a dynamic refresh rate, As we played with multiple games during our tests, we also checked on how

  • 30 mins of Genshin Impact – 15%
  • 30 mins of PUBG Mobile – 8%
  • 30 mins of Video Playback – 7%

The Huawei Nova 9 lasted 10 hours and 46 minutes on a Dynamic 120Hz display with our PCMark Battery test, while a full 100% recharge takes only 36 mins with the packaged data cable and 66-watt charger, which is good for those who are always on the move.

Carl writes for WalasTech when he's not working full-time. Give him tips and/or leads at [email protected].