Huawei Nova 9 SE Review: It hits and does more than you expect


Huawei Nova 9 SE is the latest release from Ren Zhengfei's Chinese giant. Talking to you about this mid-range smartphone is not a very simple undertaking, also because it does not have the Google Play Store and comes without support for G-Apps. So how do you download applications?

No fear: actually, the ecosystem of Huawei is in continuous development and the AppGallery is growing visibly. The main apps are all present and the ways to install third-party software is immediate and just a few taps.

What arouses us most perplexity therefore, is not the goodness of the software, the performance of the hardware sector (which are very good), as well as the photographic module. The biggest challenge is to overcome the prejudice. Yes, you got it right. Just that sense of uncertainty and confusion that you might have due to the absence of BigG services. Nova 9 SE it's the midrange you should give a chance to, also because it might surprise you ... and not poco, mainly due to the excellent value for money.

We should also stop for a moment to analyze the target of this device: who is it for? The question does not imply an immediate answer, far from it. But it is good to remember a couple (maybe even a few more) of fundamental factors: aesthetically it does not go unnoticed, it has a 108 Megapixel camera, perfect for "on the fly" shots, it has a generous, resolute and well-defined panel and finally, has the ability to install all the most popular apps of the moment. As they say: "What else?"

Huawei Nova 9 SE Review: It hits and does more than you expect

Design and materials

Before talking about technicalities, let's get to the point: from the first glance, it captures the attention of those who hold it as well as those who look at it. If you then buy it in the coloring Crystal Blue which is a bit mirrored, you will find a little gem in your hands. Yes, the back cover will also be in glossy curved glass, but it holds fingerprints very much. It is not a problem, of course, but on a device with a "premium" look it is a feature that does not drive me crazy.

It holds well in the hand, also because, despite the panel being flat, it has rounded corners. It is great - and we cannot deny it - but it has never risked falling from me, and I assure you that it is a rare thing for me. Having small hands I struggle to reach all corners of the display but poco it matters. What I really liked is the fingerprint placed on the right side frame: immediate, very fast, comfortable and three times faster than the sensor for unlocking with the face. As soon as you place your thumb, the device is ready for use.


Its dimensions are of 164,6 x 75,6 x 7,9 mm thick and the weight is 191 grams. In one word: balanced. On the right we find the switch on and off button integrated with the fingerprint reader and immediately above, the volume rocker. On the left, however, we find nothing, while on the lower profile there is the speaker, a microphone and the USB Type C port. At the front, finally, the drawer for the SIM.


The pill-shaped photographic compartment is very, very beautiful, very similar to what we have already seen on the P50 series. Two large circles containing the 108 Megapixel main camera, the secondary lens and the two auxiliary ones with LED flash. To top it all off, the Nova series logo placed above the Huawei branding at the bottom.


I'll be honest: I really liked the screen, even if I'm not a lover of IPS. The contents are seen very well, even in the most extreme viewing angles: let's talk about a 6,78-inch unit with FullHD + resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. The feeling of immersion is total, both during a game and when playing a video. Even when sending a message, I appreciated the frame-screen optimization made by Huawei with this product… and one who loves “small” phones tells you so.


Bright, fluid, with very strong whites and slightly "washed out" colors, but that's normal: not being an OLED or an AMOLED, you couldn't ask for more. Does anything change in practical use? Absolutely not, also because we are dealing with a IPS LCD of excellent caliber, light years away from those economic solutions that are in circulation.

Hardware and Performance

Let's take a step back: those who buy this smartphone will certainly not be a techno-maniac who loves high-performance devices. It is true that everything runs smoothly and that apps open and close quickly (and remain in memory for a long time, thanks also to the 8 GB of LPDDR4X RAM memory), but you cannot expect the same performance as with a top of the range. . We remind you that it is a medium range that does not exceed € 350 (even if with the street price the price drops drastically as we will see later).


The memories are UFS 2.2 type and the trial version I tested has 128 GB: few? Too many? This is subjective: as far as I'm concerned, they are enough, but it also depends on you. If you are used to saving all your photos on the device, perhaps we recommend a microSD card to increase the storage.


The processor it powers is lo Qualcomm Snapdragon 680, however, without the modem for fifth generation networks. We will have to settle for LTE which, however, also thanks to the dual band Wi-Fi 5, allows fast browsing with any network and / or provider. Is the absence of 5G a big flaw? To date, in Italy, in 2022, I say "NO" to you in capital letters. In the next few years (several), we may not know, but it is absolutely not an absence that weighs.

But in practice ... how is it going? As mentioned, considering the target audience of this device (teenagers, relatives who are novice with a smartphone, style lovers and fashion addicted) and taking into account standard use (Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Mail, navigation on the web, banking client, making shots, videocalls, selfies), it behaves really well and practically never heats up. Perhaps, during the most extreme gaming (we tested it with a racing title called Racing Fast we encountered some annoying lag. During the actual game, however, everything flowed smoothly. Perhaps I would mention the absence of valid video games. inside the AppGallery, but we'll be back.


We then ran a series of tests on Geekbench 5 and AnTuTu to see the behavior of the device in all its scenarios. From the first benchmarking portal, we find that Nova 9 SE scored 383 points in the single-core test, while it recorded 1685 in the multi-core test. On AnTuTu instead, we find a score of 190.306 points, divided as follows:

  • CPU: 31398;
  • 51296;
  • MEM: 65715;
  • UX: 41897.

The stress test of this portal allowed us to discover something more about the device: as always, it lasted 45 minutes and the battery dropped from 70% to 57%. The maximum temperature, on the other hand, reached 33 °.


I immediately analyze the selfiecam: although there is a 16 Megapixel camera with f 2.2 aperture, the general performance in poor light conditions is not convincing. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves in the dark - or almost - the video noise becomes persistent. During the day, however, nothing to say: detailed yes, but don't expect the most beautiful self-timer in the world (it also depends on the subject…). The software does an exceptional job of compensating for the critical issues, it is a pity that the final result is a bit too unnatural. In some selfies, it seemed to have a light coming from who knows where to illuminate a portion of my face, but this is my criticism as a photographer. The truth is that selfies and videocalls will suit almost everyone… as long as you don't want to study the hair of the firmware algorithm.

Later, the sensor surprised us Samsung ISOCELL HM2 108 Megapixel f / 1.9: a revelation, especially for a mid-range device. Great photos during the day and, even in the dark, it brings out interesting samples and has an excellent PDAF autofocus. Don't expect the impossible from other lenses. Okay the ultra wide angle (during the day) d 8 Megapixel with aperture f 2.2, a little less performing the other lenses which, among other things, cannot be used for photos in night mode, as in the vast majority of devices in this range. of price.

The customization of the settings is really very rich, but in the end, is it really needed? Okay, so I'll answer this question anyway: yes. The Pro Mode, if you know how to master it, gives you satisfaction, but the super macro is not excellent. There is also the possibility of taking panoramic photographs, timelapse, high resolution shots and with the double view.


With videos, on the other hand, Huawei could have done better. Sure, the performance of the Nova 9 SE they are all in line with the price range in which the smartphone fits, but from a brand like Huawei one would expect something more. The maximum resolution is still at 1080p at 30 fps and the absence of an optical stabilizer is strongly felt. If you are a videomaker and videos are your reason for living, perhaps you risk being disappointed but we are still talking about a smartphone that caters to a different user target.


And we come to the software, the point where the focus of the review of this has been for years Huawei Nova 9 SE. We can spend hours discussing hardware, photographs and materials, when what really matters is the user experience. As you all know, there are no Google Play Services: namely that there is no Play Store as well as BigG services: YouTube, Google, Gmail, Drive. Is that a problem? Absolutely not, or rather: "no, come on". To access these platforms, just use your browser and use them from there. That's all. They are just two more "taps". It is a criticism at a time when all companies are making skins that are increasingly intelligent and full of automatisms, but this has even led us to consider it a "problem" to perform two steps instead of one.


Philosophies aside, we find Android AOSP with skin EMUI 12, assisted by Huawei Mobile Services. Simply put, apps are downloaded from the AppGallery. There are almost all the hottest ones and the most famous ones, but if you are looking for one in particular that is not available, the system will bring you back to a portal from which you will download the APK. With two more steps, you will have everything you need. Hard? No, but we invite you to install all the sw you need at the beginning.

The list of applications within theAppGallery it is not yet complete, but it is growing visibly: the company is investing huge resources to bring what is possible within the ecosystem.

In this regard, an applause also goes to the excellent "MyHuawei“, An intelligent hub that also includes software for reporting (and solving) problems. Convenient and intuitive. The company's support is immediate and there is also the large community of Huawei fans who will solve any doubts.

Finally, the gestures are very comfortable; coming from Apple and often using Android for work, it took me a few seconds to get used to the interface. The only flaw: the presence of bloatware and spam apps in the system or in some video games can be annoying. Finding yourself shutting down ADS all the time - in titles like “Racing Fast” or “The Walking Dead - The surviror”, can compromise the final experience. We would like to see a more “minimal” skin, with no frills.

We point out the possibility of connecting the device to a PC to take advantage of the functionality Device + which, for anyone who owns a laptop or desktop with Windows 11, is a real salvation. The only negative note: you need a computer from Huawei to work and not owning one, it was impossible for me to try it. Let's say a more generous compatibility wouldn't hurt.

The Petal world was a discovery: Petal Clips is really well done and allows you to edit a video or a photograph in a few moments, while Petal Search replaces Google Search, but uses a search engine developed jointly with Microsoft Bing. Much appreciated was the possibility of using third-party stores to download apps from “non-Huawei” stores (the so-called “sideloading” so hated by Apple).


Honestly from the battery, with a "standard" use, some games and a lot of online messaging under Wi-Fi we expected something more: I arrived at 22:00 from 07:00 in the morning, but I used a lot poco 4G and I made very few phone calls. What puzzled me was how the phone drained quickly while gaming. Very good though, the wired charging speed (there is the wall charger in the package) from 66W.


As said at the beginning, Nova 9 SE è a smartphone that you have to give a chance to. You have to try it, take a tour of the Huawei ecosystem to appreciate the goodness and effectiveness of a new player in the world of mobile telephony. The medio-range is the perfect phone to give to a teenager who wants a cool, trendy product that takes screaming photographs, as well as to your relative who makes the device a classic use, without wasting hours in front of the benchmarks or videogames.


Huawei Nova 9 SE it does more than we might expect and the AppGallery grows week by week. It costs € 349,90, but you can take it home a €332,40, with the FreeBuds 4i and 12 months of Huawei Care + for free via the box below. The original cost is perhaps not the cheapest, but the promo that is there now, may not surprise you poco. In the package then, there is also a silicone cover which is always welcome and increases the general grip of the device, a great thing if you are a little careless or if you don't like to use “naked and raw” phones.

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🎁 Cover, Freebuds 4i and 12 months of Huawei Care as a GIFT

✈️ Sold and Shipped by Huawei Official Store

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332,40 €