Review verdict: The Huawei Nova 9 is a sleek and sexy phone that the company is offering in the Philippines, but stiff competition from similarly-priced products pose a very real threat to its success
- Great design
- Absolutely gorgeous screen
- Speedy fast charging
- Good cameras
- No IP protection
- Tough competition in the same price range
- Small battery
Huawei nova 9 Specs
- Snapdragon 778G processor
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB storage
- 6.57-inch Full HD+ curved OLED display, 10-bit color, 120hz refresh rate
- 50-megapixel f/1.9 RYYB main camera with PDAF, 8-megapixel f/2.4 ultra-wide-angle camera, 2-megapixel f/2.4 depth sensor, 2-megapixel f/2.4 macro camera
- 32-megapixel f/2.0 selfie camera
- 4G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC
- In-display fingerprint scanner
- 4300mAh battery
- 66w charging
- EMUI 12
Huawei has finally released their second nova smartphone in the Philippines this year with the new nova 9. Compared to the nova 8, the nova 9 looks like the better upgrade on paper, though it faces an uphill battle in stores when it hits on November 17.
The nova 9 is a Huawei-built phone, so everything that you associate with the brand’s previous offerings like the P40 Pro applies to it as well. It’s a gorgeous-looking phone thanks to its slimmer than normal dimensions as well as its curved display.
The chassis is incredibly light at just 175 grams, and its skinny 7.77mm thickness means it’s incredibly easy to grab and use one-handed even if you have daintier hands.
The phone comes in two colors: Starry Blue and Black, with our review unit coming to the latter colorway. The phone’s gorgeous externals are matched only by its ability to collect dust and fingerprints – I swear the thing gets smudges by merely looking at it. The phone uses a glass back but a plastic frame, which is a little surprising.
Like most phones released this year, the nova 9 has a massive rear camera module oriented vertically. It protrudes a few mm from the rear and holds four cameras along with an LED flash.
The controls are located on the right side of the phone, with the power button doubling as the nova 9’s fingerprint scanner. The bottom of the phone holds the USB Type-C port, speaker grille, and SIM tray. There’s no hybrid SIM here – you’re stuck with whatever storage variant you buy.
The phone doesn’t have any kind of ingress protection, so you’ll have to keep it out of range of water if you don’t want it to turn into an expensive paperweight.
Display and sound
The Huawei nova 9 uses a curved, OLED display that has a resolution of 1080 x 2340. The panel has all of the goodies you’d expect, including a refresh rate of 120Hz, 10-bit color reproduction as well as P3 color gamut coverage, Delta E<1 color accuracy and HDR10 capabilities. There’s a cut-out for the selfie camera at the top.
The panel is reasonably bright, though images displayed on the curved display looked a little on the cool side out of the box, though it’s easily rectified in the settings.
The nova 9’s display knows what you’re doing and changes the refresh rate to save power depending on the scenario. If, for example, you’re simply watching Netflix, the phone locks the refresh rate to 60Hz (since going over doesn’t really impart any benefit). If you’re scrolling through the phone’s UI though, it jumps back up to 120Hz.
As for the sound produced by the single, bottom-firing speaker, it’s alright. Keep it under 60 and you’ll be fine, any higher than that you’re going to hear a lot of sound distortion.
The Huawei nova 9 has a 50-megapixel Ultra Vision Camera that has an f/1.9 aperture lens, along with an 8-megapixel snapper with an f/2.2 aperture lens, and two filler 2-megapixel cameras for both depth and macro duties. The camera has AIS or AI-enhanced image stabilization for better low-light performance.
Images taken with the nova 9 are generally good for the most part, but they’re not amazing. We noticed some autofocus inconsistencies with the images that we shot. It’s certainly not deal-breaking, but it is there.
Low-light shooting is impressive, as usual. Many of the shots we took in low-light below were taken at around 5 PM indoors, in lighting conditions that would have proven problematic for other devices.
Selfie shots taken via the phone’s 32-megapixel camera looked good as well.
Performance, software, battery life
The phone is powered not by a HiSilicon Kirin chipset which is usually the norm for Huawei, but by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G. The chip is made with TSMC’s 6nm manufacturing process and is an octa-core processor with an Adreno 642L GPU.
The phone overall feels very snappy and responsive and has no issues at all running whatever apps we could find for it. Speaking of, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn by now that the phone doesn’t have access to Google’s Play store, with the phone running and installing apps from Huawei’s own app repository App Gallery instead.
This has been the nature of Huawei’s phones for a long time now, and in their defense, they’ve been adding even more apps to their catalog. Any app that you can’t find in App Gallery you’ll have to search for in Petal Search, which usually finds the APK for most apps that don’t require Google integration.
The phone surprisingly runs EMUI 12, and not HarmonyOS, as it seems that the latter is a China-exclusive affair, at least for now.
The nova 9 has a battery on the smaller end of the scale – 4300mAh. Surprisingly enough it scored around 15 hours and 13 minutes on our PCMark Battery benchmark test, which does give the phone staying power for an entire day’s use. The 66W fast charger also helps, since it’s capable of filling the phone back up to 72% from 20% in just 30 minutes.
Wrap-up and verdict
The Huawei nova 9 is the typical premium mid-range phone that the company releases every year as we found in our review for the Philippines, and is a good phone in 2021. However, the Philippines has seen a lot of excellent phones in the same price range get released by its competitors, and unfortunately good doesn’t cut it anymore. The absence of GMS and its pricing being what it means that its competitors have a leg up against the nova 9 as the phone heads to both Shopee, Lazada, and physical stores for the holidays.
Huawei nova 9 Review Price Philippines
Currently, there is no local pricing for the Huawei nova 9, although in Europe the phone retails for €499, or an equivalent of Php 28.6K locally. Take note that European pricing is slightly higher because of their taxes, and the phone may go for less when it officially gets local pricing come November 17.