Huawei Nova 9 SE Review: Pinnacle of Value

Smartphone camera king

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Huawei has brought the Nova 9 SE – its latest mid-range smartphone in the country and we’ve been using it for quite a while – going through its paces.

Design

Right off the bat, the phone comes in a box that contains a transparent silicone case, a 66W power brick, a USB-C to USB-A cable and the accompanying user manuals.

Picking the phone up, you’ll notice how light and compact it is. The back is glass with a plastic frame. At the bottom, we get the Nova logo and at the top left is the camera island in a star orbit ring design.


Hauwei Nova 9 SE 108MP camera
Hauwei Nova 9 SE 108MP camera

On the right side is the side-mounted fingerprint reader embedded in the power button and volume rocker buttons.

Huawei Nova 9 SE Fingerprint
Huawei Nova 9 SE Fingerprint reader

On the bottom are the type-C charging port, speaker grille and microphone.

Huawei Nova 9 Type-C Charging port
Huawei Nova 9 Type-C Charging port

At the top are the extra microphone and the sim card slot.

Huawei Nova 9 SE sim card slot
Huawei Nova 9 SE sim card slot

The centrepiece is the 6.78″ FullView 1080p Display that supports the P3 colour gamut surrounded by ultra-narrow and symmetrical bottom and top bezels. The screen also supports a 90Hz refresh rate and 270hz touch sampling rate.

Huawei NOVA 9 SE Launch in Kenya

It gets bright outdoors perfect for when you’ll be out and about.

This is a beautiful screen and that high refresh rate comes through when you’re scrolling through articles or social media feeds.

The display is stunning enough to make you enjoy consuming multimedia content on it – from YouTube, Showmax or Netflix. Playback is however capped at SD.

Our crystal blue unit has a 3D glass rear cover has a nano-texture design that gives it an iridescent glow. It’s a stunning design but the literal catch is that it is a magnet for fingerprint smudges. A matte finish would have been a good option.

Performance

Under the hood, we get Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor and Adreno 610 GPU paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.

Huawei Nova 9 SE runs on EMUI 12 and Android 11.

This synergy delivers incredible performance in most usage scenarios. Performance is stellar for both heavy and light tasks – from gaming to multitasking.

Tasks like switching between multiple apps and playing light games like Ninja Arashi are handled pretty well. Nova 9 SE also manages to hold its own when it comes to heavy gaming like Asphalt 9 too.

EMUI 12 comes with a new visual overhaul and functions. You get the default Home screen arrangement with access to the app drawer option too. The control has been tweaked such that pulling from the left of the selfie camera lets you access the notification shade while pulling from the right side is the quick toggles, media controls and brightness slider.

Swiping from the left or right side of the screen and holding it for a second brings out the so-called Multi-window dock.  You can keep multiple apps opened at the same time, but only one remains in the foreground. The rest of the apps are docked and can be summoned from there.

Since the US ban in 2019, Huawei phones don’t ship with Google Mobile Services which means you can’t access Android apps from the Google Play Store or use Google’s other apps such as YouTube or Gmail.

Huawei’s AppGallery offers options for an increasing number of Android apps for its smartphones. Its Petal Search lets you search across those android app repository websites like APK Pure and APK Mirror automatically.

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Also, when you first set up the phone, you’ll be required to add your region and then Huawei’s EMUI will suggest popular apps in your country. Some of these suggestions are even placed on the Home screen alongside the pre-installed ones.

On our unit, we could see suggestions to download local apps like MySafaricom, MyAirtel, Stanbic Bank Kenya, Jiji, Bolt, Bolt Food, Jumia, Kilimall among others. It’s great that Huawei is offering to serve region-specific apps.

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You can play around with the pre-installed themes to customize the interface.

A nice multitasking feature EMUI 12 employs is Device+ that allows for collaboration between different devices which makes your phone a hub of nearby supported devices like the MatePad or MateBook. You can seamlessly transfer ongoing tasks on your phone. If you are in the Huawei ecosystem, this is a nice-to-have feature.

Multi-screen setup mirrors the screen of the phone on your tablet or notebook for uninterrupted workflow without touching the handset. You can use the latter to cast content on compatible TVs as well.

Overall, the phone didn’t falter or stutter once during my review period. The Huawei Nova 9 SE is a respectable mid-range smartphone when it comes to performance.

Battery Life

Huawei Nova 9 SE ships with a 4500mAh battery that uses 66W SuperCharge that lets it go from 2% to 77% in 25 minutes and from empty to full in 40 minutes. For safety, Huawei says it uses a brand-new Low-Voltage Double Charging Pump and Triple-terminal Battery Charging certified by TÜV Rheinland.

I was pushing close to 7 hours with Bluetooth and location always enabled as it was connected to my Huawei Band 6 fitness band.

There are nifty features included to even make the battery last longer such as Power Saving mode. Other features include Smart Charge and Smart Battery Capacity.

Cameras

For optics, Huawei Nova 9 SE comes with a 108MP quad-camera setup and a 16 MP selfie camera.

It’s worth pointing out that the Nova 9 SE is the first Huawei smartphone with a 108MP main camera. It features a 1/1.52-inch large sensor which provides excellent resolution and light sensitivity, resulting in exquisite picture quality and better low-light performance.

The other three cameras include an 8MP ultrawide with a 112-degree field of view, a 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor. All are housed in the star orbit ring camera island design.

Modes to play around with range from the aperture, night, portrait, video capped at 1080p, Prop, Panorama, TimeLapse, SuperMacro, HighRes(108Mp mode), and Dual View.

In good light, you are getting really nice, sharp and pleasant photos with adequate contrast, dynamic range and the right amount of colour saturation. Portraits had that really nice background blur.

Selfies tuned out pretty good even in low light.

Lowlight performance is even better. I was getting really good shots with challenging light situations and each shot had me wowed after I took it. Even nearby onlookers were amazed too.

That goes to show that the Nova 9 SE is a  very capable camera smartphone.

Huawei added Dual View mode that lets you record video simultaneously from the front and main camera – perfect for vlogging and social media videos. This mode supports split-screen or pic-in-pic video recording.

The only caveat with the Nova 9 SE and other smartphones that ship with the Snapdragon 680 chipset(OPPO Reno7 4GRealme 9i, and Realme C25Y) is that video recording is limited to 1080p. There’s no 4K recording ability and this feature would have increased the flexibility of the Nova 9 SE but overall, the Nova 9 SE will take your camera photography to the next level.

Verdict


All in all – the nova 9 SE has covered its bases very well and is a solid package that offers a lot in terms of functionality – a gorgeous and fast screen, high-quality build, high-grade cameras, competitive performance, solid battery life and super-fast charging.

Pricing and Availability

Huawei Nova 9 SE is available from Ksh 39,999 online and in all its official retail stores countrywide including its Experience stores at Yaya Center, TRM, Sarit Center and the Village Market.


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