The Huawei Y9 was unveiled in March 2018 and was initially aimed at the Low Mid-Range market ($150-$250). At publishing time, the Huawei Y9 was priced at around $230 USD. This is an extremely competitive price point where there is a lot of competition, and therefore a lot of potential alternatives. Let’s see how this handset fares, here comes the full review.
With cost as a primary criteria, we lined-up a good number of products which will be used to assess how the Huawei Y9 fits in its immediate smartphone landscape: Huawei nova 2i (~294 USD), Huawei Mate 10 Lite (~277 USD), Nokia Nokia 6 (~175 USD), Huawei Honor 7X (~200 USD), Xiaomi Mi A1 (~197 USD), Motorola Moto G5 Plus (~205 USD) and LG Q6 (~230 USD).
- 5.93” IPS LCD Display (2160×1080)
- 13 Megapixel Camera, f/2.2 aperture
- HiSilicon KIRIN 659 platform 3 RAM, 32 GB of Storage + MicroSD (256 GB max)
- 4000 mAh battery capacity
- Android 0
The Huawei Y9 is the successor of the Huawei Y7 Prime, launched in June 2017. The new model has a ~8% larger screen diagonal, despite a smaller (~5%) design footprint. The CPU performance is near ~30% higher, and overall, the Huawei Y9 is a serious upgrade for 2018. You can compare Huawei Y7 Prime vs. Huawei Y9 on this page.
The Huawei Y9 uses a classic unibody-style design with a closed metal chassis with tempered glass only to cover the screen. It is a well-known, very sturdy design that is well-suited for efficient mass production. The design is business-like, and it seems not mean to be “fun” or attract a lot of attention, there’s certainly a market for this.
It is unlikely that you will find a front+back glass design in this category, because it is much more complicated to build those, taking many more steps (and money) during the assembly phase. The material itself is also more expensive because glass designs use multiple layers.
Metal is just a more durable material (than glass) when the device lands onto a hard surface. Metal is a bit flexible and will not break. It can get scratches more easily than tempered glass would, but it doesn’t break or crack. Metal can also be pleasing to some users because it feels more substantial and robust. Even if the chassis is not broken, keep in mind that internal components can still break or come loose after a strong impact.
Analyzing how the smartphone was designed, we estimate that the risk of cracking during a drop on a hard surface to be low. You can refer to our reference article about how phones could be built to avoid cracks upon drops.
The Y9 has not received a U.S Military MIL-STD 810G rating. You can open the link on the left to learn more, but MIL-STD 810G is a series of test used to test that military gears can endure a certain level of rough treatments. On our selection, only the LG Q6 (read our Q6 Review) is certified with this standard.
Without an IP rating or a Mil-Spec certification, it is very hard to tell how much this smartphone design can endure. Out of caution, you should assume that the Huawei Y9 cannot sustain the same level of water/dust exposure and shocks/vibrations than those that have received the certifications. Without an official rating, some device may resist more or less, but there is no way to objectively rate it.
This industrial design packs good performance in relation to its size and excellent performance for the price. From a battery point of view, the energy capacity the buyer gets is very impressive for a device of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 76.7% is also quite good overall.
The Y9 5.93″ display has a TFT LCD panel. TFT LCD technology is widely produced because it is affordable and available in volume. Those LCD displays tend to be “good enough.” Better versions of LCD technology such as IPS/PLS LCD are available to provide broader color rendering, color saturation, and black levels.
The display brightness of is 376 NITs is good. In general, a brighter display is great to read the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness is responsible for better image quality in general situations.
The Huawei Y9 has a 70% sRGB color gamut which is fair in its market segment. The colors looked pretty good, but the black levels were just decent, not great when compared to flagship phones. Blacks are noticeably “dark grey” when using the phone in a dimly lit room. It is quite reasonable for this category of products, and it would be unrealistic to expect much more from it.
The screen’s sharpness shows an enormous progress from last year’s Y7 Prime, just check: the Y9 has a ~52% higher pixel density, even though the screen’s surface is ~9% larger.
bright-lighting (~300 LUX)
The Huawei Y9 has a camera that is in-line with what you can expect from a smartphone in the ~$200 market. We compared it with the LG Q6 and the Moto G5. In the synthetic bright light (~300 LUX) tests, the Huawei Y9 landed somewhere between the LG Q6 and the Moto G5+. The Y9 has slightly better color capture than the Q6, but the Moto G5 was a little better itself. The G5+ contrast is better and subtle differences and transitions on the color wheel are visible, where the Huawei Y9 tends to blur things more. I’m not sure that people would notice that much unless they zoom, but 300 LUX is pretty decent lighting conditions, comparable to an office with artificial lighting.
low-light (~5 LUX)
In low-light, it is more of the same, except that the competition pulls farther ahead. Both the Moto G5+ and the LG G6 pull ahead, with once again, the Moto G5+ leading the trio. The difference is large enough that someone would probably notice by looking at social media shares. Keep in mind that 5 LUX is quite low, and comparable to a dim restaurant, possible a dim bar or other nightlife events.
Without a dedicated zoom lens, the results are just like the above, but magnified. It’s not surprising, but smartphone cameras at the ~$200 typically don’t perform well enough to expect great photos after cropping.
Bokeh (background blur)
In our synthetic tests (two photos below), the camera had a hard time figuring out where the background was, and how to deal with it. The blur is not consistent across the background and you can see it clearly in the central test pattern, and the brushes to the left. You can also notice many artifacts around the hair of the subjects (to the left). It is because the camera software can’t tell if those pixels are part of the character, or the background.
By default the blur level is set to “4”, but in natural light (picture below) and with the settings to “7”, the blur works better, so it’s something that you might want to try.
Camera hardware analysis
The Huawei Y9 has a quad-camera system, with 2 cameras in the front and 2 more in the back. The main purpose of having two cameras per side is the ability to create background blur (aka Bokeh).
In the Huawei Y9, the main rear camera aperture of f/2.2 is not that great in absolute terms but is the norm in this price range. The sensor size of 16.45 mm2 would be considered as medium-sized (for a smartphone).
The 13 Megapixel count should not be used as a direct metric for photo quality. In dim lighting situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) has little influence. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each obtains less light information, and in dark conditions, it is better for the overall photo quality to sense more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite.
It is a balance that needs to be struck. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor compromise between sharpness, low-light and autofocus performance.
On a sunny day or in very bright light situations, Megapixel could be a good metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a cityscape photo with a higher megapixel count could lead to finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.
The Y9’s camera does not have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the primary camera module. The lack of OIS support will reduce the chances to capture great photos, especially in low-light scenes.
OIS helps to achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it possible to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are entirely different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness Again, it’s normal in this phone category, and none of the selected competitors have it.
The autofocus of the Y9’s camera is based on Phase Detection technology. Phase-detection AF that was initially built into discrete AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera primary sensor. It works by having specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus.
This method is very advanced, and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is somewhat proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.
The Selfie camera is different depending on your region, so you may want to double-check this. Typically, it is 16 Megapixel in SE Asia and China, and 8 Megapixel everywhere else. You may have more granularity than this, so please verify. In this review, we have the 16 megapixel version, and we might capture 8 MP photos later, if there’s a strong demand for it.
In bright lighting, the extra Megapixels do their job, and the Huawei Y9 is clearly better than the Moto G5+, LG Q6 and even our old friend the Google Nexus 5. In low light, the general ranking stays the same, but we recommend using the display-flash, which is an option on the Huawei phone.
The battery capacity of Huawei Y9 is 4000 mAh, which is impressive in general. Looking at the immediate competitive landscape, it’s fair to say that the Huawei Y9 has a class-leading battery capacity.
Battery life is one of the most sought-after features of a handset. A key factor is undoubtedly the battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other).
Battery life can be affected by a great many factors, but the main ones are the central processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is not possible to precisely estimate through benchmarks how much energy drain YOUR unique usage pattern will generate. However, two things are without a doubt always good:
- A larger battery capacity
- Faster charging
While the Huawei Y9 has an excellent battery capacity, its charge speed is not that great. With a charge speed of ~36 mAh per minute (using the included charger), it is quite far from the ~50 mAh/mn of average Premium phones, and even farther from the ~66+ mAh/mn that high-end Huawei phones can achieve.
It is generally not possible to predict real-world battery life by running synthetic benchmarks. Factors such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will vary too much. Also, how many apps on-board and their usage cannot be estimated. Battery capacity is the most reliable battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
This product does not have a swappable battery, which is the norm for smartphones these days. Closed batteries cannot be taken out or quickly repaired, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery size inside the same product design.
Since this phone has a huge screen, keep in mind that larger displays tend to consume more energy because of the more significant surface area to illuminate. It depends on the brightness levels screens are being used at, but the potential for higher energy is there, so higher battery capacity is preferable.
This handset has a relatively mild screen resolution. Although this may be less competitive from a display quality perspective, having fewer pixels to manage is helping battery life.
The battery-value of this phone is extraordinary, and this is money well-spent. Just compare how much battery capacity you get for each dollar spent:
This handset main processor is a HiSilicon KIRIN 659 (8 Cores, 2.36 GHz) which has access to 3 GB of memory (RAM) and in general, it will be faster than current Snapdragon 4xx processors found in competing products. Competitors with Snapdragon 6xx processors can match, or beat the Y9’s speed.
The amount of RAM is essential for heavy users, or for having many apps/services on the phone. When the memory is tight, the phone may become less responsive if the OS must read/write from the slower Flash storage instead. This was one of the significant differences between low and high tiers of phones, but this line is blurry now.
Before you look at the charts, it is important to realize that most tests are only loose pointers, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to see sharp performance differences between different classes of devices (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is less visible to do so within phones of the same class.
Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? Article.
Gaming performance (GFXBench) numbers apply only to complex games using 3D graphics. Casual apps like puzzles and 2D games do not need this kind of speed and can run pretty much on any modern device.
A $230 phone, the Huawei Y9 should not be expected to match the performance of high-end handsets. However, if we look at the “performance per dollar spent,” you get a lot for your money.
Wireless Broadband Performance
Wireless networks (3G/4G) performance is often thought of as peak download/upload speeds, but it is the average speed that counts. These days 4G/LTE is the primary network of interest, but 5G is coming. The higher the paper LTE performance and the better the average actual performance. Note that, cellular providers have better and more efficient wireless networks to lower their own costs.
The Y9 has a CAT6 (~301 Mbps download) modem. This level of performance is above-average in its product category and decent in general. High-end devices can achieve ~1200 Mbps speeds, but wireless networks are still rolling this feature out. Many competitors in this price range only get ~150 Mbps.
The $230 Huawei Y9 handset is well positioned in the low mid-range segment ($150-$250) and offers a lot of value. To make a long story short, The Huawei Y9’s superior display and battery sizes make it a must-have on your short list, but keep in mind that you have better main camera options within this price range, from possibly less visually attractive phones. Choices have to be made…
It is interesting to see how many products Huawei and its subsidiary Honor have in this price range. Huawei is mostly competing with itself in this market, and we think that the Y9 is slightly better than the Honor 7X. We considered the Nokia 6 and the Xiaomi Mi A1 because these are two options often looked at by potential buyers."THE HUAWEI Y9’S SUPERIOR DISPLAY AND BATTERY SIZES MAKE IT A MUST-HAVE ON YOUR SHORT LIST"
The Nokia 6 ($175) is only attractive if your budget is insufficient. Its screen is ~8% smaller, the phone design is ~5% bigger, and it has ~25% less battery capacity although its weight is similar. Clearly, the industrial design of the Huawei Y9 is superior to the Nokia 6. The system performance is lower too.
The Xiaomi A1 ($200) also has a lower system performance, battery size or display size. However, it is a little bit more compact (by ~8%). The LG Q6 is nicely built but lags from a technology standpoint. Finally, the Moto G5 Plus can match the performance but has a small screen and older design.
For $50 more, you could look at the Huawei Mate 10 Lite, which has a 16% smaller battery size, but probably a better camera and design. The system performance is just about the same.
You can compare the specifications of the Huawei Y9 vs. the Huawei Mate 10 Lite or the Huawei Y9 vs. the Huawei Nova 2i – these are the two most common comparison we’ve seen.
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