HUAWEI nova 9 SE Review – Bold Look, Wallet Friendly

Know what I think about the new HUAWEI nova 9 SE? It looks good. First thing I notice about the phone is the camera bump around the back. It looks big but somehow it looks bold and beautiful. I love the colour too but alas, it is a fingerprint magnet due to the super shiny surface. 

Yes folks, that is the new HUAWEI nova 9 SE. It has all the bells and whistles for great social media eccentric users and a good camera to compliment that. The only thing that may turn people off is the lack of GMS (Google services) as most Malaysian users are dependent on the platform. 

But with the lack of GMS, they have their own HMS which stands for Huawei Mobile Services. It works just as good as GMS but with their own apps and cloud platform that you as a user can use for free. 

Lack of apps? Yes, but only for Google Apps. You can still get ALL Android apps through a 3rd party installer and it won’t bug HUAWEI’s own system. So technically you don’t lose out on anything other than Google built apps. 

So what’s the problem with that, right? I managed to use the HUAWEI nova 9 SE for a whole week and I can still get things done as I usually do. It is the matter of adaptation and using an alternative solution. That works for me. 

Design and Style

HUAWEI nova 9 SE Review

HUAWEI nova 9 SE has a beautiful 6.78” IPS display with 90Hz refresh rate. The colours are great and vibrant. At 1080 x 2388 pixels resolution (~387 ppi density), the icons and text are super sharp. It’s not the best but at this price range, it’s great. And the 90Hz refresh rate does help in getting a smooth scrolling experience.

Around the back, is the earlier mentioned camera module which I think looks good. There’s a total of 4 cameras inside the bump with the biggest being the main 108MP wide angle camera. The others are an 8MP ultrawide setup, a 2MP macro camera and another 2MP depth camera. 

But if you’re shooting videos, the camera app works great with all the extra functions such as Dual-View. With Dual-View, you can shoot both your subject(s) from the back camera and yourself from the front 16MP selfie camera. Great for shooting a surprise video so that you can capture your own reaction. Videos can only be shot in 30 FPS though. 

On the right side of the phone, there’s the volume rocker button and the power button that doubles up as a fingerprint sensor. The responsiveness of the sensor is great. I don’t usually get a miss from this phone. Works like a charm. 

Around the top, there’s the SIM card tray and a tiny mic hole while around the bottom, there’s the usual USB-C port in the middle, a bottom firing speaker and another mic hole. Having two mics on each side means it can record in full stereo mode. 

Working It

The HUAWEI nova 9 SE is powered by Android 11 and based on EMUI launcher. The brain of the device is a Snapdragon 680 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. You can of course get the 256GB storage version too if you like. 

And to power up the device is a 4000mAh Li-Po battery which can be charged up using the 66W fast charger. It can go from zero to 75% in just 20 minutes and with that amount of power, you can easily get through the whole day without plugging it in halfway. 

Even without GMS, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE proved useful in the long run. Instead of using Google Photos, I can use HUAWEI’s own built in Gallery app that can also sync to the cloud. The app is much simpler but yet, intuitive. 

Almost all “work” apps can be sync to the cloud. Exactly like Google. I can easily multitask with the HUAWEI nova 9 SE smoothly. But in terms of performance, there can be a little hit and miss here. 

While multitasking work went smoothly, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE kinda struggled to perform in benchmark tests. I would expect the Snapdragon 680 to perform well here. But I only managed to get a score of 188425 points on Antutu 3D benchmark. 

Yes, you’re seeing that correctly. The score is still within the 100k mark. I was a little disappointed at the score but somehow it can still perform well in gaming. I was surprised at that too. Playing games like Call of Duty Mobile feels smooth but occasionally stutters a little bit. The stutters only happen when loading up the game and that’s all. 

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During gameplay, it ran very smoothly and graphics were rendered really fast. So it’s a little perplexing for me to see the benchmark score being low, but performed really well for gaming. Weird, but I’ll take that. 

So, it scores low on Antutu but doesn’t lag in graphic heavy games. And it is safe to assume that it can perform all the daily tasks and routines without any problems. Well, I can live with that. And it can be a good entertainment device as well because of the long lasting battery. Binge on movies, check. Listen to some music, check. Gaming, double check.

Camera Works Great

While all the other stuff works great, people often ask about a phone’s camera performance. So what do I really think of the HUAWEI nova 9 SE’s camera? I would say, it is a good mid-range smartphone camera. 

Pretty generic answer right there. But what the HUAWEI nova 9 SE does best is shooting some portrait shots. The bokeh effect is above average, which is good in my books. And the colours, contract, saturation and clarity are commendable. 

I don’t know whether it’s the camera software or some bugs, at times it took more than 2 seconds for any photo to be taken right after I hit the snap button. This is kinda annoying because I miss a few good moments everytime this happens, even when I’m outdoors with the sun above my head. But this does not happen all the time.

I do hope HUAWEI can resolve this issue or bug. 

Having said that, the photos turned out good. I enjoyed my time taking some good photos with the HUAWEI nova 9 SE and I’m pleased with the results. 

In good brightly lit areas, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE managed to capture some decent Instagrammable shots while in dark areas or at night, I can opt to turn the Night Mode on. The HUAWEI nova 9 SE camera software handles low light pretty well. This is something I applaud. 

For portrait shots (and selfies), it can be a winner. I love the bokeh effect. Colours are on point and often look natural. For extra clarity and details, just turn on the High-Res mode where it uses the full ability of the 108MP sensor. This is great when you’re out shooting some landscape photography. 

And you can go up close and personal with an ant, if you can catch one, with the macro camera. I got some okay shots with the macro setup but I was expecting it to be better. Nevertheless, the results are usable. 

Conclusion

Without GMS, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE still managed to play well with their own alternative HMS apps. There are options to install apps from a third party installer and those APKs can also be found from HUAWEI’s own AppGallery. So in terms of getting access to all the Android apps, you’re good to go. 

If you don’t rely much on Google’s services, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE is a very affordable option for you especially when you’re a social media enthusiast and like to produce video contents. All the options and features at that price point made it a device that’s worth every penny.

On a surprise note, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE performs really well in gaming. Screen and touch response is very fast and you will get smooth gameplay with it. 

So, if you’ve been wanting for something new, you can give the HUAWEI nova 9 SE a go. It’s affordable, looks good and has great features for vloggers. Retailing at RM1,099.00, the HUAWEI nova 9 SE is one of the cheapest mid range phones you can get with features and performance of a mid-high range. 

The HUAWEI nova 9 SE is available nationwide now at HUAWEI Official Website, HUAWEI Experience Stores, HUAWEI Official Store on Shopee, and HUAWEI Flagship Store on Lazada. Wait no more and get your hands on the latest HUAWEI nova 9 SE, priced at only RM1,099 and bring home freebies worth up to RM 181!

Visit HUAWEI Facebook and HUAWEI Official Website for more information.

Go get it now.

HUAWEI nova 9 SE

RM1,099.00
8.8

Build Quality

8.5/10

Price

9.0/10

Camera

9.0/10

Battery

9.0/10

Functions

8.5/10

Pros

  • Good camera
  • Good looking phone
  • Good for vloggers
  • Nice colour options
  • Surprisingly good performance

Cons

  • No GMS
  • Not waterproof
  • No 3.5mm jack
  • Fingerprint magnet

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