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Huawei Y9s Review - Mid-ranger with all-screen front, pop-up cam, and triple-cam

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To recall, Huawei first introduced the Y9s in the country back in January 2020.
Huawei Y9s Review - Mid-ranger with all-screen front, pop-up cam, and triple-cam
Huawei Y9s

Armed with an all-screen design, pop-up selfie cam, and a triple-camera module, we find the Huawei Y9s as an intriguing and capable smartphone for its PHP 13,990 original SRP.

In fact, we find it to be better or on par with other similarly priced handsets.

Fast-forward March 2020, 
the company dropped its SRP to PHP 12,990 (PHP 1K less) to give way to the new Huawei Nova 7i.

Now, the question is, is it still worth it? Here's our long-term review!


Multimedia Experience

Big "all-screen" display
Big "all-screen" display

One of the key features of the Y9s is its tall and big 6.59-inch TFT LCD (LTPS) screen with slim bezels and notchless design for a more immersive viewing experience. It comes with a resolution fo 2340 x 1080 which is crisp enough for most at 391 pixels per pinch.

Immersive all-screen display!

And yes, this is not your ordinary TFT display. It is a panel with good colors, viewing angles, and decent brightness levels. In fact, I even mentioned in one of our comparisons that I prefer it to the overly warm and saturated AMOLED display of the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy A30s.

It is a display that performs well for either watching, viewing images, and playing games.

To protect the eyes of its users when reading in the dark, Huawei equipped it with an Eye Comfort mode certified by TÜV Rheinland. 

Completing the screen experience is its 10 points of touch for easy typing and swiping.

For the speakers, the handset has a single down-firing speaker with nice good details and nice overall quality. It is far from being the loudest around, but at least it isn't distorted on max volume.

As long as you are in a quiet room, it'll deliver a respectable audio performance for watching movies. But in a noisy environment, you'll notice that loudness is a bit lacking even on max loudness level.

Using your favorite headphones is alright. It reminded me of Y9 Prime in terms of overall quality. It can drive low-powered headphones and most earphones nicely with a slightly warmer tone.

The mic quality is quite crisp and clear for calls and audio recordings. We got an average experience in terms of calls. My voice from both sides of the call is respectably clear.

Cameras

Triple-cam

At the back, the Y9s sports a vertically-aligned triple-camera array. It goes with a 48MP f/1.8 main shooter with a PDAF focus paired with an 8MP f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. Like most mid-rangers, there's no optical zoom. There's no macro mode as well.

The camera interface and features are similar to most Huawei devices. It has the AI scene recognition, up to 6s handheld AIS Super Night mode, Light painting modes, robust Pro camera mode, and more.

The Pro mode has  ISO 50 to ISO 3200, 1/4000s to 30s, EV -4 to +4, AF-S, AF-C, MF, and customizable WB from 2800K to 7000K.

Rear Camera Samples

Daylight 1

As expected, it has averagely fast autofocus and photo saving speed. It is not as fast as the Nova 7i, but it is still quite good compared with most similarly priced devices.
Daylight 2
Daylight 2

There are inconsistencies with the daylight shots in terms of color reproduction and exposure. Sometimes, it underexposes the shots and makes it warmer than usual.
Up to 6x digital zoom
Up to 6x digital zoom

But, the details are okay, the dynamic range is respectable at times, and the 6x digital zoom is decent. The zoom has artifacts, but it is not that bad for a mid-range phone.
Ultra-wide 1
Ultra-wide 1
Ultra-wide 2
Ultra-wide 2

The ultra-wide cam is wide but not too distorted. For my personal preference, that's a good thing. Some, they may want it to be even wider.

Quality-wise, it produces generally okay images despite using a lower 8MP sensor. 

Sometimes, the colors are similar to the main shooter. But sometimes, not. The AI could over-enhance the highlights and brightness in some scenes as well.
Close-up shot
Close-up shot

There's no dedicated macro sensor for the macro mode, but it can still take close-up images reasonably with nice details and natural background blur.

The cameras of this phone didn't arrive with a dedicated macro sensor. The nice thing is its primary cam can still take close-up images. It may not be as close as those macro sensors, but I'm sure that it packs better details and a more natural-looking background blur.
Depth effect (Normal and 100 percent crop)
Depth effect in a dim situation
Depth effect in a dim situation

This camera phone has both the Portrait mode and the Aperture mode. Both work well in capturing shots with depth (bokeh) effect. I personally like its shallow background effect up to f/4.0 digitally. Using the portrait mode, the effect is similar by default.

You will only notice that the edges aren't super clean if you pixel peep.

Though in the Portrait mode, you can change the bokeh effect from circles to hearts and more. It'll also allow you to put the Beauty level 1 to 10 effect.
Dim food shot
Dim food shot
Dim close-up food shot
Dim close-up food shot

In more challenging conditions, this device surprised me as its primary camera performed well. Just look at the details on my second food shot. It is pretty nice and there's no visible noise. The exposure is a bit strong, but colors are on point.
Low light 1
Low light 1

Since it has a 48MP primary shooter with 4-in-1 pixel binning tech, the Y9s did well in the dark. There's a bit of noise, but I still consider it as good for the price.
Low light ultra-wide
Low light ultra-wide

The story is different on the wide cam. Obviously, it won't be as good as the primary shooter. This shot that we took is not far from being good. But, it is decent at times. Take a look at this link.
Night mode 1
Night mode 1

The difference-maker is the Night mode. Huawei is one of the best in doing this and I'm impressed by how it enhanced the details, colors, dynamic range, shadows, and highlights without overdoing it.

We have more Night mode shots below:
Night mode 2
Night mode 2
Night mode 3
Night mode 3

Apart from the Night mode, it has several Light painting modes with an "unlimited" slow shutter usually exclusive for higher-end Huawei smartphones. My favorites are the Silky water and Traffic trails. It also has a Light painting and Star trails mode.
Silky water in low light
Silky water in low light
Traffic trails
Traffic trails

Its back cameras have imperfections (like all mid-range smartphones), but this is one of the nicer camera phones for the price.
Pop-up selfie cam
Pop-up selfie cam

On the top of the handset, it has a pop-up mechanism where'll you'll find the selfie camera. It's a 16MP f/2.2 shooter with Huawei's AI scene detection/optimization, different filters, and a robust Portrait mode with different effects and Beauty levels 1 to 10. Also, this is the first Huawei mid-ranger with a handheld (long exposure) Night mode for selfies.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie

The Huawei Y9s comes with a good performing selfie cam in real life. It is really wide compared to other single selfie cams and it can produce generally detailed images especially in well-lit situations.


My only issue with it is it tends to make my skin tone a bit brighter than what I wanted under direct sunlight.
Selfie well-lit normal vs bokeh
Selfie well-lit normal vs bokeh

Well-lit indoor selfies are a bit better. The exposure is more controlled which resulted in better overall looking selfies. Its default Beauty is not too much as well. The depth effect is a hit or miss like other mid-rangers with single selfie cam.

Indoor dim selfie
Indoor dim selfie

The indoor selfie that we took under more challenging lighting is decent. I still consider its details and colors as nice.
Low light selfie
Low light selfie

Loss of details and a bit of grain will be more visible in low light. That's normal. Huawei's solution is its use of the Night mode or Night mode + screen flash.
Normal low light selfie vs Night mode selfie
Normal low light selfie vs Night mode selfie

This is one of the nicest Night modes for selfies yet. I actually find it to be even nicer than the Night mode selfie of the 7i.

For our first camera samples, click here.


For videos, it can record up to 1080p 60fps at the back using the primary camera. At 1080p 30fps, you can use both the main cam and wide cam. The 1080p 60fps is really shaky with autofocus problems.

The 1080p 30fps is so much better in focusing, colors, and stabilization. Thankfully, it has EIS at 1080p 30fps.

It also has a Time-lapse and 480fps Slow-mo. The 480p Slow-mo is a bit grainy. I recommend using it in daylight.

The selfie video is good and it is wide. It is not that cropped versus other selfie video cams. Details are also decent as long as you are in a well-lit scenario. It doesn't have EIS in front.

Video Samples


Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

Huawei Y9s sports the 12nm Kirin 710F octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz. It is paired with Mali-G51 MP4 with GPU Turbo 3.0, 6GB RAM, and 128GB large storage.
PCMark Work 2.0 performance and 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme
PCMark Work 2.0 performance and 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme

Kirin 710F is the slightly upgraded of the Kirin 710 last year. This chip sits in the middle of the pack compared with chips of other similarly priced handsets. The benchmark scores of 

It is a chip that sits in the middle of the ower-mid-range chips right now. It is faster than Samsung's Exynos 7904 and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 665 and on par with MediaTek's Helio P65. It is lower than the Helio G90T, SD730, and Kirin 810 though.

For the price, its speed is just fine. I find it quick enough in loading most of my apps and I never had a problem in switching from an app to another. This chip is great for social media apps, watching 1080p videos, taking photos/videos, and playing a few games.

I would have liked it better if it has 8GB RAM, but 6GB is still very good for multitasking. The 128GB storage is large for the price and it is expandable using a microSD slot.


I still won't recommend it for max settings gaming, but it can run most heavy games at medium settings.

The thermal management of this handset is also quite nice. Even if you are not in an air-conditioned room, the temperature is stable at about 34 degrees. Playing demanding games such as NBA 2K20 (Offline) and Call of Duty: Mobile (with LTE) will for a few hours made the temperature the rise to around 42 to 44 degrees. That's warm and normal, not hot.

Huawei Y9s has WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, but it doesn't have the 5GHz WiFi. The connection is still quite good and stable. This device also has 700MHz 4G LTE which is good. It also has Bluetooth 4.2, FM Radio, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and dual SIM slots.

The telephony experience is mostly good. It is good for both calls and SMS in my experience.

This device also has a side-mounted fingerprint reader and it is consistent and fast. You just need to get used to it, but it works. There's no face unlock because of its use of a motorized pop-up cam though.

The battery of this handset is rated at 4,000mAh. At PCMark, it lasted for 14 hours and 29 minutes which is considered as good. Screen time is around 5 hours at the default 50 percent brightness. For my actual usage, it lasted for a whole day with a 25 percent battery capacity left in the tank.

For charging, it has a USB-C port. But, it only supports up to 5V/2A or 10W of charging. It took me 1 hour and 30 minutes or 90 minutes to fully charge the device. If you are using it while charging, expect slower charging speeds.
EMUI 9.1 skin
EMUI 9.1 skin

The handset comes with Android 9.0 Pie with EMUI 9.1 skin. EMUI 9.1 is good, clean, and feature-rich. But, it is not the newest skin around. It would have been nicer if it runs with EMUI 10 out of the box instead.
Optimizer and Themes
Optimizer and Themes

It has a lot of Themes, a Standard or Drawer (app drawer) Home screen style, option to use Three-key navigation or Gestures, Optimizer app, Digital balance app, and Health app.

You will also find the Phone Clone app to easily transfer the apps from your only Huawei phone to the Y9s.


Anyway, it has very few bloats. The newer version of Netflix with a download option also works.

It also has the Huawei AppGallery where you can download a few apps not found on the Google Play Store like the AnTuTu benchmark.


Pros - Good design, great display, decent cameras, wide selfie cam, fast fingerprint scanner
Cons - Speaker needs improvement, no 5GHz WiFi, charging speed could have been faster

Huawei Y9s Specs

Display: 6.59-inch 2.5D curved TFT LCD (LTPS) screen w/ FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 391 ppi
CPU: 2.2GHz 12nm Kirin 710F octa-core processor
GPU: Mali-G51 MP4 w/ GPU Turbo 3.0
RAM: 6GB
ROM: 128GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 512GB
Back Camera: 48MP f/1.8 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide-angle lens + 2MP f/2.4 + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 16MP f/2.2
Battery: 4,000mAh w/ 10W fast charging
OS: Android 9.0 Pie w/ EMUI 9.1
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 700MHz 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.2, BLE, FM Radio, OTG, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, USB-C, Colors: midnight black, breathing crystal
Dimensions: 163.1 x 77.2 x 8.8 mm
Weight: 206 g
Price: PHP 13,990 (PHP 12,990 new SRP)

Verdict

If you are looking for a device for heavier gaming, there are other similarly priced phones with better chips that can best this device like the Nova 7i.

But, the Huawei Y9s is a must check if you are in need of a handset with a premium Huawei P30-like 3D glass curved design, immersive all-screen display, and respectable overall performance.

It also has a good back camera performance a rare single selfie camera with a wide field of view and robust features.

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4
Cameras - 4.25
Performance - 4
Average - 4.125/5
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