Huawei Nova 9 SE review: More appearances than reality

Huawei is in a difficult position in this country and, due to the US embargo, is far from being able to return to its heyday, when the company was the second Android force behind Samsung and at the top of the smartphone leaderboard with the P30 Pro. Still no reason to give up! After the Huawei Nova 9 was, to put it bluntly, the throttled version of the Honor 50, the Huawei Nova 9 SE should now do the trick. Here you can find out what it can and cannot do.

Design: Huawei Nova 9 SE

Why smooth, Huawei? Maybe because it looks good.

Whether Huawei Nova 9 or Huawei Nova 9 SE, that won’t make a huge difference, will it? Not even close. While Xiaomi has completely switched its Redmi Note 11 family to matte backs, Huawei does it the other way around with the Nova 9 SE. The Nova 9 has a pleasantly non-slip matte back that doesn’t care about fingerprints.
Huawei Nova 9

The Nova 9 has a curved display and a matte surface.

The Nova 9 SE, on the other hand, comes in a glitter-glossy look. Huawei calls it “3D glass back made possible by dual-coating dual-film nano-texture technology“. The holographic effect creates a great play of colors, especially in sunlight, and is a real eye-catcher. You shouldn’t just touch the cell phone, because then it’s immediately covered with fingerprints. At least the edge is matt. Nevertheless, we clearly prefer the simpler one, but more practical Nova 9.

The differences are also significant on the front. The Nova 9 had a display rounded by 75 degrees towards the edge. This is chic and elegant, but sometimes impractical, especially if you want to protect the display with a film or bulletproof glass. The Nova 9 SE behaves more cooperatively with its flat screen. The SE looks elegant because the edges are unusually narrow at around one millimeter. Although “narrow” is relative: A case width of 75.6 millimeters (mm) is anything but dainty. Without the camera, the Nova 9 SE is only 8mm thin and 164.7mm long (with the camera, haha). Huawei speaks of “an incredibly thin and absolutely feather-light housing”. We pull out the proverbial gold scales and try Google: “The 3,500 feathers of a house sparrow weigh a total of two grams” – the Nova 9 SE 191 grams. Okay. The fingerprint sensor is easily accessible on the side and is also the power button. The Nova 9 without SE has the sensor hidden in the display. Both Novas are not waterproof according to the IP certification.

Display: Huawei Nova 9 SE

Huawei Nova 9 SE

The Huawei Nova 9 SE doesn’t like it that much in the blazing sun.

In view of the stately dimensions, one would expect an equally stately display. And that’s what you get. The diagonal of 6.78 inches is even more than you might expect. The Nova 9 “only” has 6.57 inches. With 2388×1080 pixels, the SE even lets a handful of more pixels light up. Basically, the IPS LC display does a good job – preferably indoors. But it’s not an OLED, which simply appears to have more contrast in comparison. The LCD of the Nova 9 SE shows weaknesses outdoors and is noticeably harder to read than the OLEDs of the Redmi Note 11 series that happen to be available for comparison. It is confirmed once again: LCD is good. OLED is better.

Huawei Nova 9E and Redmi Note 11

The LCD of the Huawei Nova 9 SE (left) clearly has a harder time in sunshine than the OLEDs of the Redmi Note 11 Pro and Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G (right).

US embargo

Huawei is prohibited from doing business with US companies. This applies to both software and hardware. The most difficult thing to do is not to use GMS, i.e. Google Mobile Services – Google’s Android all-round carefree package. You can also find alternatives and well-known apps in Huawei’s own App Gallery, but mostly via the Petal Search in other sources. This is quite confusing for newcomers. And Netflix, Google Pay and other applications are not available via detours either. Huawei’s in-house operating system therefore lacks acceptance. There are also hardware limitations when it comes to 5G.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 680

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 ensures speed in the Nova SE. In Geekbench 5, the Nova 9 SE scored a manageable 383/1,697 points. That’s less than the Redmi Note 11, which is available under 200 euros, has Android on board and a crisp OLED. Without the SE, the Nova 9 still achieves 791/3006 points thanks to the Snapdragon 778 4G. Just double it. In everyday life, this is less fatal than it sounds. Operation is smooth, but the SE doesn’t really like demanding 3D games. Here the frame rate goes down.

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Quad camera in the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Huawei Nova 9 SE

At first glance it looks like two lenses, but there are four!

The main camera (f/1.9) has a resolution of 108 megapixels (MP). In the standard mode, 9 pixels are calculated in each case, resulting in a 12 MP photo in the end.

Standard sample shot from the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Standard photo taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE. The original image has a resolution of 4000×3000 pixels.

In 108 MP mode, there are no gimmicks and zooming. A maximum of 10x magnification is possible in standard mode. But then it rustles properly.

Maximum zoom example shot of the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Maximum zoom taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE. The original image has a resolution of 4000×3000 pixels.

The ultra-wide-angle lens (f/2.2) has a resolution of 8 MP and a shooting angle of 112 degrees.

Ultra wide-angle example shot of the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Ultra wide-angle photo taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE. The original image has a resolution of 3264×2448 pixels.

The depth lens (f/2.4; left below the main lens) and the macro lens (f/2.4; right below the main lens) achieve a resolution of 2 MP. The optimal shooting distance for macro shots is 4 centimeters. Despite the modest resolution, the results were even more convincing than, for example, with the Redmi Note 11 series.

Macro shot taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Macro shot taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE. The original image has a resolution of 1600×1200 pixels.

Macro shot taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE

Macro shot taken with the Huawei Nova 9 SE. The original image has a resolution of 1600×1200 pixels.

The front camera (f/2.2) shoots selfies with a maximum of 16 MP and a recording angle of 90 degrees. In VLOG mode, you can save different settings (selfie video, picture in picture, dual view (front and back simultaneously), main camera, wide-angle shots) one after the other in a video file. Videos can be saved in FHD at a maximum of 30 fps. The Nova 9 can do 4K.

Battery in the Huawei Nova 9 SE

The battery in the Huawei Nova 9 SE has a capacity of 4,000 milliampere hours (mAh) and is therefore 300 mAh smaller than in the Nova 9. It is charged via USB type C with a tight 66 watts. The necessary power pack is included in the scope of delivery. The convenience of wireless charging does not exist.

Huawei Nova 9 SE scope of delivery

A transparent protective case, a USB Type-A to Type-C cable and a powerful power adapter are included in the box of the Nova 9 SE – not polished here.

storage and equipment

The Huawei Nova 9 SE comes with 8 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and 128 GB of device storage. The memory is not expandable, the dual card slot only likes SIM cards. EMUI 12 is used as the operating system. A reference to the open source portion of Android or the version is concealed in the settings. In addition to 4G and LTE, there is NFC with a payment function, but without Google Pay, Bluetooth 5.0 and WLAN a/b/g/n/ac.

Huawei Nova 9 SE

Neither top nor bottom: The Huawei Nova 9 SE has no jack socket.

Huawei Nova 9 SE: price, colors

The Huawei Nova 9 SE comes in Crystal Blue, Midnight Black, and dentist-wife-friendly Pearl White. It costs 349 euros (RRP) with 8+128 GB. For comparison: The Nova 9 costs 499 euros (RRP).

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Overview of new smartphones

Practical test conclusion: Huawei Nova 9 SE

The Huawei Nova 9 SE is not only special because of its operating system without Google apps. On the plus side there is a high loading speed, an appealing photo quality and a very large display. Compared to the Nova 9, however, the screen has less contrast, the back of the case is smooth, the battery is smaller and the processor performance is lower. The target group of those who want the largest possible display with a narrow border, like to reload quickly and browse for apps on the Internet should be manageable. If you want to consciously break away from Google and don’t want to or can’t reach for the iPhone, you have an alternative.

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