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  • Fitri Aiyub

Huawei Nova 9 SE Review - New 108MP Camera?

After being impressed by the improvements made in the Huawei Nova 9, its budget friendly counterpart the Nova 9 SE takes some different approaches such as adding in a new 108MP main camera that made us curious. But do crash diets really trim the fat and make you look slimmer? Let's take a look at why the Nova 9 SE may seem to have cut back on some of its hardware by making some unhealthier dietary decisions, in order to help your wallet stay fat.

Right out of the box, you get the feeling like Huawei hasn't focused on using lighter materials in this version as it now weighs 191 grams compared to the original Nova 9 of just 175 grams. In the hands, it feels slightly bigger than before and much less refined. It takes some aesthetics from Huawei's flagship - the P50 Pro with it's mirror like finish but with a blue-ish hue tint. While it looks great- the backplate is an obvious fingerprint magnet. Probably a trend that Huawei has in store for their releases this year with this polished type design.

Even the reminiscent camera bump looks slightly larger than before, housing a quad array camera setup and also a slightly larger 6.78 inch flat display - which to its own regard should make it feel better when handling it in the hands compared to over-the-edge curved displays, but oddly it just doesn't feel right in the Nova 9 SE. Something about the mix of a glossy finish at the back could be the cause of this but nothing a good casing or skin wouldn't solve.

The 6.78 inch LCD display tops at a 90Hz refresh rate and 270Hz touch sampling rate - with Dynamic options available for balanced smoothness and greater battery life. While it may not resemble the clarity of an OLED, it still produces FHD+ resolutions which in real world tests makes watching 1440p content the highest standard by default and may be an eyesore when the black bars on the side for 16:9 aspect ratio content begins to take apparent notice as blacks are quite visible with an LCD display.

Other faults such as using YouTube via third-party apps or browsers is still a notable factor given how Google Services' absence is still a talking point even in 2022. But before we fall into that rabbit hole, we still appreciate the rich tones of this display that has a DCI-P3 range up to 98%, well balanced viewing angles, and a decent driver overall for everyday use.

It's a shame that the Nova 9 SE doesn't take a step up from its sound experience either, given the mono speaker at some points feels hollow and lacks volume range for your typical Netflix stream, or music listening on Spotify. While it still manages to reach a maximum reading of over 90dB, it still averages around 58dB throughout our audio tests – which isn't great especially compared to the likes of a 4 year old flagship that had better outputs for a good mix of mids and highs.

With a newly implemented 108MP to it's quad array camera construction that also consist of a 8MP True-chroma camera, a 2MP ultra-wide and a 2MP Ultra Spectrum camera, we were hopeful at the start but results say otherwise.

Given a massive resolution upgrade to a 108MP, it doesn't necessarily mean better outputs than the 50MP in the original Nova 9. We were disappointed to see the results that came out just about average to say the least. Capturing very low dynamic range when shooting outdoors, and relatively overexposing most situations such as the whites in an image. Quite a lot of detail has been lost and no longer the punchy-high contrast colours we're used to seeing from a Huawei phone.

Video performance takes a hard hit as well , with 4K resolution absent and topping at only 1080p and doesn't support gyro-EIS stabilisation or HDR functions. Shifting exposure compensations are very noticeable and tend to produce muted colours all across the board. Perhaps not the most viable solution to increase sensor sizes to 108MP when image engines such as Huawei's XD Fusion seem to be left out of the equation in this phone.

The nova 9 SE comes with the option of 6GB or 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The Snapdragon 680 and Adreno 610 didn't perform at it's best either, only scoring 385 for Single-Core test and 1692 for Multi-Core test on Geekbench. As for OpenCL and Vulkan benchmarking, The Nova 9 SE managed to score 437 and 449.

Quite below the average performer as it only manages to score 5% better from all other devices. Real world situations are noticeable when gaming, showing some significant drop in resolution and overall smoothness on games such as Asphalt 9. But as for casual use such as internet browsing or having multiple apps open, the Nova 9 SE had no issues in overall stability.

After extensive gaming, catching up with the latest news, and TV series bingeing, battery life performed averagely with its 4000mAh capacity. Quite the standard pack thrown into this mid-range phone yet it still lasted over a day before having to charge again. It will get you back up to 100% in 45 minutes with its 66W fast charger that is included in the box.

We were yet to be informed about the price of the Nova 9 SE as announcements of its price will likely be at the time of this video's release. So we’ll leave the official price in the description below and a link if you'd like to find out more.

For us, it had clearly made some questionable cutbacks to adhere to the budget friendly version of its predecessor. An understandable business decision for Huawei to make, with manufacturers such as Samsung doing wonders with their Fan Edition, which also had some cutbacks and a cheaper price tag, so it's no surprise that Huawei would take the same approach.

But did it leave a good impression? In our books, not so much.Purely because of how good the original Nova 9 was and how great the improvements it made were from the Nova 8. So experiencing this SE version made it feel as if all of that progress is now left in the past for this to exist. A situation of good intentions but not the outcome to match.

But if price, only price is your top priority, then maybe - just maybe.. the Nova 9 SE might be worth taking a look.


Written by Fitri Aiyub

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