After launching the Y6s on the local market last month, Huawei has announced a new and understandably more expensive smartphone in the Philippines for those who are looking for a better, faster option than what it ended 2019 with. This is the Huawei Y9s, also known as the Huawei P Smart Pro in other markets.
It’s a lot like the all-screen Y9 Prime 2019 Huawei released a while ago, but better for taking pictures and arguably nicer to look at in this Breathing Crystal color variant. If that last bit sounds familiar, that’s because this is essentially the same gradient design as that of the Huawei P30 Pro. In terms of the overall package, however, the Y9s is closer to the Y9 Prime 2019 compared to Huawei’s P series flagship.
The Y6s is a pretty good budget handset. Feels great to hold, and it’s got a lovely screen that’s just the right size for most hands, although it doesn’t really come across as the best value among similarly priced devices from top Android brands.
But how does the Huawei Y9s fare in the midrange space? And, is it worth the money? Read our review of the tech giant’s first smartphone to kick off 2020.
Huawei Y9s price and availability
In the Philippines, the Huawei Y9s is priced at P13,990 or $276 converted. The unit sold here pairs 6GB RAM with 128GB of storage; no other configuration exists.
Available in two color options — Midnight Black and Breathing Crystal — the phone is now up for preorder on Lazada and Shopee till January 17. Early adopters get a free gift box worth P690 ($14).
Huawei has been responsible for some of the best-looking devices in the industry, and the Y9s is no different. The hardware looks great and gives the impression it is more expensive than it actually is, despite its pretty plastic casing. It also has a nice amount of heft to it, with most of the weight distributed towards the top of the handset where the pop-up selfie camera is located.
The mechanical nature of the camera module also makes the Huawei Y9s feel a bit on the thick side, but the extra bulk translates to a significantly smaller camera bump on the back, too. It feels inconsequential on this smartphone.
The size is acceptable. One-handed use doesn’t feel messy to us, and the slightly curved edges on the rear provide a nice grip, though people with small hands will probably struggle to get a solid hold on the frame. The dimensions are virtually identical to the Y9 Prime 2019 and smaller than those of the handier Huawei Nova 5T.
As expected, the up-and-down movement of the front camera is smooth and mostly silent, similar to what you get with the Y9 Prime 2019. It doesn’t have any embedded LED lights that blink when the camera is activated, and there are no fancy startup sounds that go with firing up the elevating mechanism. The top also houses a microSD card slot for additional storage up to 512GB.
Along the right, you can see a volume rocker and a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader. This is only the second time that Huawei Philippines has come out with a phone sporting a side-mounted scanner. The Nova 5T was the first such device to be released locally. Personally, we think it works better than a rear-facing solution — but that’s just us. We also think it’s faster and more accurate than most fingerprint sensors embedded into the display itself.
You can open the Huawei Y9s by lightly tapping the scanner, or you can set it to unlock by pressing the power button, which minimizes accidental unlocking while holding the handset. It likewise gives you the option to use your fingerprint ID to encrypt files on the device and add an extra layer of security to apps of your choice. By default, long-pressing the power key activates Google Assistant.
The Y9s, like most phones in the segment, includes a headphone jack and a USB-C port at the bottom. There’s a mono speaker down below as well, and it can put out decent volume for notifications and media. Bass is a little thin, but that’s to be expected from a phone in this price range.
Overall, the hardware is a high point. Huawei has yet again come up with a reasonably priced handset that can easily pass for something more expensive. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is a welcome change and frees up the back, resulting in a seamless visual aesthetic that highlights the color and tapered edges of the panel.
The Huawei Y9s has a sizable 6.59-inch LCD display and adopts a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution at an aspect ratio of 19.5:9, which is pretty tall. This can result in stretched or distorted images on apps that haven’t been updated in a while. But most apps will likely run as intended. The bezels are not as slim as what you might see on the latest handsets, but it’s quite impressive how far the screen extends around the sides of the phone.
The picture quality is decent. Colors appear accurate, while viewing angles are reasonably wide. The display gets bright enough for most situations, but it will struggle with direct sunlight.
Huawei lets you adjust the vividness and color temperature of the screen, as well as the aspect ratio of third-party apps to force them to run in full-screen mode. After tweaking the settings, we were able to find a good balance of colors. Sadly, the Y9s doesn’t have a dark mode to reduce glare and improve night viewing, but some apps, such as YouTube, have it.
Around the back, the Huawei Y9s carries a three-lens setup featuring a 48-megapixel, f/1.8 primary camera; an 8-megapixel, f/2.4 ultra-wide camera for landscapes and group shots; and a 2-megapixel depth sensor that adds bokeh to portraits.
AI is a feature added to the camera app’s auto mode. It uses artificial intelligence to identify different scenes and change the camera settings accordingly. So, if you’re taking pictures of food, the Y9s might boost the colors to make the meal look more appetizing. If you prefer, of course, you can just turn the setting off.
On the whole, the main camera is capable of detailed, well-exposed images that show excellent color representation and dynamic range. It snaps 12-megapixel photos by default, using four-in-one pixel binning to get the best results from the 48-megapixel sensor. The wide-angle camera performs decently enough under well-lit conditions, whereas portrait-style shots look fine, not overly exaggerated.
The general consensus has been that Huawei phones are among the best when it comes to night shots, thanks to the company’s superb Night mode. On the Y9s, it is accessible in the camera app natively. However, it should be noted that Night mode is not available when you switch to the wide camera. Low-light shots look particularly crisp and punchy considering the price.
Sample pictures taken with the Huawei Y9s. We particularly like the photos captured in Night mode (1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th images)
Meanwhile, the pop-up shooter includes a 16-megapixel sensor and f/2.2 lens. For the most part, it gets the fundamentals right — selfies are bright and clear, with reasonably accurate skin tones. Disabling beauty filters and AI will result in a natural-looking face, which might be of huge importance to those who don’t like soft selfies that make a person look like he or she is wearing makeup.
Powering the Huawei Y9s is the company’s own 12nm Kirin 710F chipset, which we’ve seen several times now in the mid-end segment, including in the Y9 Prime 2019. The Y9s, however, sees 6GB RAM under the hood. That extra memory can go a long way toward making the user experience smoother and multitasking easier.
The ARM Mali-G51 MP4 graphics in the Kirin 710F allows most games to run with minimal frame drops on the Y9s, and even demanding games like Black Desert Mobile are playable at high settings. If you’re a serious Mobile Legends: Bang Bang player, you’ll be happy to know that this device is compatible with the game’s High Frame Rate mode.
How is gaming on the #HuaweiY9s? Watch us play Mobile Legends, Black Desert Mobile (4:00 mark), and NBA 2K20 (9:00 mark) on the phone!
However, take note, that the Huawei Y9s doesn’t support 5GHz wireless networks, so if you have a dual-band router as we do, you’ll have to connect the handset to your router’s 2.4GHz network.
On the software side, this handset runs EMUI 9.1 on top of Android 9.0 Pie. It has the Play Store and other core Google apps preloaded, since this device has been certified by Google prior to the U.S. government-imposed trade ban that prohibits American companies from doing business with firms like Huawei.
A 4,000mAh battery keeps the lights on and has a 10-watt charging speed using the included charger and cable. Huawei’s SuperCharge fast charging isn’t in place, so expect the average charging time from zero to full capacity to clock in at around two hours. There’s no wireless charging, but for the price, that’s hardly surprising.
On the battery front, the Huawei Y9s is pretty much the same as most other devices powered by a Kirin 710F, meaning you’ll get a day or two of use with a mix of web browsing, emails, social media, media playback, and some online gaming.
Our review unit lasted 11 hours and 48 minutes in the latest PC Mark benchmark app, which is a good indication of longevity. This performance is just about average for a modern smartphone, except the Y9s provides plenty of screen real estate to enjoy, with no notch or cutout on the front.
The Y9s matches its great overall aesthetic with a sizable all-screen front and a 48-megapixel camera that takes quality photos even in low light. The rest of the package is no letdown either. And while there are certainly better-specced options out there for more or less the same money, few have the same all-in-one appeal of this Huawei.
Huawei Y9s specs
- 6.59-inch LCD display, 2,340 x 1,080 resolution (19.5:9)
- Octa-core Kirin 710F processor
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB expandable storage (up to 512GB through microSD)
- Triple 48MP, 8MP (ultra wide), 2MP (depth) rear cameras
- Pop-up 16MP front camera
- Fingerprint sensor (side-mounted)
- 4,000mAh battery with USB-C charging
- EMUI 9.1 on Android 9 Pie
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