HUAWEI nova 9 SE
+ Gorgeous design
- No Google Mobile Services
+ Bright display
- No expandable storage
+ Great battery life
+ Decent camera performance
It's been a year since we last reviewed a nova; this time HUAWEI sent us the latest nova 9 SE, which has recently been available for purchase nationwide. The nova 9 SE is the company's first device with a 108MP main camera so let's dive into the review to check out if it's pleasant for photographs.
Unboxing and Design
Inside the box, there's the nova 9 SE phone, a transparent phone case, a SIM ejector tool, a 66W charging brick, and a corresponding USB-A to USB-C cable. It's nice of HUAWEI to include a charger in the bundle as more higher-end phones don't ship with chargers.
The nova 9 SE has a rear design that's not strange to HUAWEI fans. On the back is a reflective glass cover with a holographic effect, which means you'll see a rainbow-ish finish on the back when you hold it at a certain angle. The review unit that we received comes in Crystal Blue so the back cover appears blue, apart from the rainbow color. There are also two other color variants available: Midnight Black and Pearl White.
Also present on the rear is the familiar oblong camera bump housing a quad rear camera array and the iconic nova logo at the bottom in the middle, engraved above the HUAWEI branding. On the front, the selfie camera comes in a punch-hole design in the middle of the glass panel. With both the front and back made of glass, you can expect the phone to be a strong fingerprint magnet, even on the edges.
Completely bare on the left, the volume rocker and power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader are located on the right. On the top are a SIM tray and an earpiece, while the charging port and speaker grille are located at the bottom.
Overall, the 191g nova 9 SE has some weight but it's still comfortable to hold and despite the glass back, it won't slip out of your hands easily. I'm not a fan of the fingerprint smudges that appear all over the phone after some time of usage, though.
Display and Audio
The nova 9 SE boasts a large 6.78" HUAWEI FullView Display with a 2388 x 1080 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. Aside from the thicker chin, bezels are very slim on the front screen but it's not very noticeable when you have the phone case on.
In the settings menu, you can choose between three modes of screen refresh rate, a standard 60Hz that consumes less power, a high 90Hz for smoother visuals and gaming, and a Dynamic mode that balances the screen smoothness and battery life, by automatically adjusting refresh rates for different types of content on-screen.
While it uses an LCD panel, colors vibrancy isn't sacrificed and colors accuracy is on point as it supports 16.7 million colors. Brightness is also decent. To provide you a viewing experience that will less likely strain your eyes, a Dark Mode, Eye Comfort Mode, and eBook Mode are available.
Audio-wise, the bottom-firing speaker is capable of producing loud volumes that can fill a small room. Since the earpiece is just an earpiece, watching videos or gaming in a horizontal position isn't a perfect experience due to unbalanced audio.
At the back, the 108MP main camera is joined by an 8MP ultrawide camera, a 2MP depth camera, and a 2MP macro camera.
In daylight, photo quality is okay with color and contrast. However, photos rendered softer than I would've wanted. Extra details would be good too.
The macro camera performs rather less than average. The results turn out soft and lack sharpness. There's also noticeable noise. I'd recommend shooting using the main camera with 2x zoom for even better results.
Enabling the night mode will launch a pretty long 4-second exposure but it actually does a good job in adding light to the images, capturing more details but also with visible grain.
Whereas, in Portrait mode, I do find the background blur a little too intense because, in some photos, it looks like you're cropped out and superimposed into a new image.
Selfies can be taken by the 16MP front-facing camera with a 10-level AI beauty effect, depending on how smooth and AI-ish you'd like to look in your Instagram selfies.
Videos can be shot in 720p or 1080p at 30fps. The Dual-View video feature lets you record videos from both the front and rear cameras simultaneously. It's especially suitable for vloggers who, for instance, need to shoot a product review video while showing their reactions. In this mode, you can also capture a close-up and wide view, both at the same time. For editing, you don't have to download any additional apps as you can easily edit some simple videos using the pre-installed Petal Clip.
The nova 9 SE is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor and Adreno 610 GPU, along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. In the AnTuTu benchmark test, it managed to score 221,263 points.
In real practice, I've noticed some occasional delays when launching apps. The amount of RAM is sufficient for some multitasking but if you're the type who saves many pictures of your favorite Kpop idol, you could run out of storage quickly since there's no expandable storage.
While it may struggle in games like Genshin Impact with hiccups even in low graphics settings, it can manage less graphics-intense games such as MLBB with ultra graphics settings like a pro.
On average usage, including social media, web browsing, and photos and videos-taking, the phone still has more than 50% of battery life, which is impressive for its 4000mAh battery capacity. Even if you forgot to charge it before you sleep the night before, the 66W HUAWEI SuperCharge can fill up the battery to 60% in just 16 minutes. It only takes 36 minutes to fully top up the device so it's really reliable even during rush hours.
Buy or no buy
Running the latest EMU1 12, the nova 9 SE features the AppGallery, GameCentre, Petal Search, and Petal Maps to replace the apps that GMS has to offer. Fortunately, the AppGallery still covers many lifestyle apps that you'll need, such as Lazada, Shopee, Touch 'n Go, MySejahtera, Grab, and more.
Apps like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, however, are available via the browser unless you download their APK separately. The absent GMS may be a dealbreaker for some, though.
Ignoring that, the nova 9 SE comes with a gorgeous exterior design, a bright and large display, and fast-charging capabilities. As a HUAWEI phone, it's even more delicate when you use it with other HUAWEI devices as it offers seamless connectivity with the multi-collaboration feature. For just RM1,099, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE is simply one of the best in its price range available in the market now.