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HUAWEI nova 9 review: 50MP flagship camera, mid-range price

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The nova 9 is the latest mid-range phone from Huawei, offering a premium experience for the new generation.

Boasting an eye-catching design and a flagship-level spec sheet, the handset impresses with a 50MP RYYB camera, a 120Hz OLED display, and 66W fast charging.

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On paper, it definitely plays the part of a superb daily driver at half the price of a flagship phone. But as always, we ask the question – How does it perform in real life? Is it worth our money? Well, we put the nova 9 through its paces and we’re here to tell you why we think it is still worth your consideration. Let’s dive in.

Design and Display

Huawei has always been at the forefront of smartphone design, and it shows on the nova 9. This one has a clean and modern aesthetic with a very sleek profile. It’s super slim (only 7.77mm thick) and lightweight at just 175g.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

It has a glass front and back that adds to the handset’s premium appeal. Huawei used a double-coated process to create a gradient finish and it looks gorgeous. Our review unit has the Starry Blue colorway, which shifts colors from blue to purple. The matte surface is also quite interesting. It almost feels like metal and is highly resistant to fingerprints.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

At the back, a large pill-shaped camera layout draws your attention, placing focus on the nova 9’s cameras. There are two rings around its shooters – one has a silver accent around the 50MP main sensor, while the other has no accent and houses the other cameras.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

At the front, we have a full-featured 6.57-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 2340 x 1080 resolution. Unlike other handsets within the same range, this one has a 120Hz refresh rate, a 300Hz touch sampling rate, a P3 color gamut, and HDR10 support. It also has a punch hole selfie camera at the center and a pre-installed plastic screen protector.

The display is one of the best I’ve seen. It looks fantastic with bright punchy colors and deep blacks. Outdoor visibility is good as well. It’s also very responsive, thanks to the high touch sampling rate.

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For the rest of the phone, you have the volume rocker and the power button (with a nice red accent) on the right side. The left side is empty. There’s another mic at the top. And at the bottom, you have the dual SIM tray, the primary mic, a USB-C port, and the mono speaker.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

Performance and Battery

Dubbed a super device for what it brings to the table, the nova 9 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 4G with an Adreno 642L GPU. Our review unit has 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. It runs on EMUI 12 and packs a 4,300mAh battery with a blazing 66W SuperCharge fast charge.

If you’ve used a Huawei device before, then you will feel right at home with EMUI 12. It’s a step up from the previous version with several improvements, including updated icons, a much better settings layout, and improved notifications handling. Swiping from the top left now brings down the notification shade while swiping from the top right will give you access to the Control Panel.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

Another useful feature baked into the nova 9 is its integration capabilities with Huawei’s ecosystem of devices. You can pair it with a MateBook laptop, for example. Connecting is as fast and easy as tapping the phone on the touchpad. Once connected, you can perform a series of tasks, such as transferring files and photos to and from the phone and the laptop, controlling the handset itself, and initiating calls.

As for the performance, in a nutshell, it’s great. Navigating the phone is a smooth and satisfying experience. It is fast and responsive with zero lag. We didn’t experience any problems with apps and games during the review period.

When it comes to gaming, the nova 9 handles itself pretty well. Genshin Impact, for instance, defaults to Low graphics settings. I managed to get good results with most of the graphics settings at Medium and the framerate at 60. Gameplay was smooth for the most part. It was playable with some minor frame drops.

Call of Duty Mobile, on the other hand, was a better gaming experience. You can get away with High graphic quality and Max framerate with fairly no issues.

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Here are the benchmark scores:

  • AnTuTu – 465,283
    CPU – 124,283
    GPU – 156,992
    MEM – 76,069
    UX – 107,833
  • Geekbench – 781 (Single-core); 2964 (Multi-core)
  • 3D Mark – 2503 (Wild Life)

Battery

The nova 9 comes with a 4300mAh battery. It certainly isn’t the biggest, but you can easily get a day’s worth with reasonable usage.

The 66W SuperCharge is blazing fast. It can fill up the battery to 100% in under 40 minutes. Of course, we don’t charge from zero. It’s going to be a lot faster if you charge from something like 20% – 30% (which is better for battery health anyway).

Huawei AppGallery

By now, we all know that Huawei phones do not have the Google Play Store. For apps, the nova 9 has the AppGallery, the world’s third-largest app distribution platform. It keeps getting better, adding more apps and games with every passing day.

For apps not on the AppGallery, you can use Petal Search to find and install the missing apps. Alternatively, you can also install APK Pure, which can also handle updates.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

I personally rely on Gmail for my email needs, and YouTube and Netflix for entertainment. So, I have to have those services on my phone. Luckily, using all three services on the nova 9 was easy to set up with a little legwork.

The default email app takes care of Gmail. YouTube can run on the default browser. Alternatively, you can use Huawei’s Quick App Center. You essentially get the same experience with the browser, but it’s faster and has a much better execution. And you don’t need to bother with browser tabs too. It also works on other Google services, such as Calendar, Keep, and Maps.

As for Netflix, you can install it via Petal Search or APK Pure. The latest version of the Netflix app works, but you only get SD resolution. The handset only supports L3 Widevine. It’s not a big deal because the difference in quality is not as noticeable as I thought.

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Cameras

The nova 9 has four rear cameras. The 50MP main snapper has an f/1.9 lens backed by a large sensor and an RYYB color filter array from Huawei’s flagship P series, allowing for up to 40% more light intake. It works together with the XD Fusion Engine to process huge amounts of data for improved clarity at the pixel level.

The second camera is an 8MP ultra-wide, the third a 2MP 4cm macro, and the fourth a 2MP for depth information.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

For the most part, photos are decent with good contrast and punchy colors. It’s way better than most in its range. You get a lot of detail with good sharpness. Indoor shots also look good. Overall, camera performance is more than enough for everyday use, let alone for social media.

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As with most Huawei phones, the nova 9 also comes with a very capable night mode. Be sure to use a tripod or prop it on something steady if you’re planning on taking photos in darker environments to get the best results.

The selfie camera is also very good. Skin tones look natural. One thing though is to check beauty mode. It’s turned on by default, and higher settings can make your complexion too pasty.

Check out our camera samples below.

Final Thoughts

The Huawei nova 9 comes in with a lot of noteworthy features that are sure to please the young and the young at heart. The handset is not just hype. It walks the walk.

You get a 120Hz AMOLED display that is a joy to look at. It just elevates the experience to another level. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 778G 4G is more than enough to satisfy both casual users and avid gamers. And then you have the 50MP RYYB camera, which clearly punches above its range.

HUAWEI nova 9 review

Earlier we asked if the nova 9 is worth the money? And our answer is a resounding yes. It is clearly one of the better mid-range phones out there, bringing not only style but flagship performance and value as well.

Price and Availability

The Huawei nova 9 is priced at Php 23,999 in the Philippines, available in Huawei online and offline stores.

Huawei nova 9

Display6.57-inches FHD+ OLED Display, 2340 x 1080, 120Hz Refresh Rate, 300Hz Touch Sampling Rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 778G 4G
Adreno 642L
RAM8GB RAM
Storage256GB Storage
Rear Cameras50MP Main, f/1.9, RYYB Sensor
8MP Ultra-wide, f/2.4
2MP Macro, f/2.4
2MP Depth, f/2.4
Front Camera32MP Selfie Camera
Network4G LTE
ConnectivityWi-Fi AC Dual Band, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC
OthersSide Fingerprint Scanner, USB-C
OSEMUI 12
Battery4300mAh Battery, 66W SuperCharge
Author

Bryan is a tech enthusiast and self-admitted geek who enjoys blogging and watching NBA clips on YouTube. He has over 20 years of experience in corporate communications, marketing services, and customer relations from different industries such as telecommunications and banking.

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