Review: The Huawei Y9s is a supersized phone that is friendly to your wallet

  • Pros: large screen, great performance and features, solid cameras
  • Would’ve preferred an AMOLED screen, one-handed operation challenging

Review: The Huawei Y9s is a supersized phone that is friendly to your wallet

The Huawei Y9s is big. It’s also not expensive – it’s US$239 (RM999) in Malaysia, which almost feels like a steal, considering its features and design choices. That’s probably what Huawei is going for with this device – charm you in with price, then hook you on with value.

The first most noticeable thing about the Y9s is the 6.59-inch display, which pretty much takes up the entirety of the smartphone’s face (it has a 91% screen-to-body ratio). The FullView, uninterrupted display is achieved by turning the selfie camera into a pop-up one.

It’s the same concept we’ve seen with the Xiaomi Mi 9T earlier this year, though the Y9s is virtually identical to the recently-launched Honor 9X, from the screen size and design down to specifications and cameras. The only major difference is in its fingerprint scanner placement (more on this later) and aesthetics – the Honor 9X is clearly more youthful in looks, while the Y9s is more subdued.

What matters, of course, is whether or not the sum of its parts form a solid whole. Not to worry: the Huawei Y9s is a hearty phone, and worth considering as a mid-range option that doesn’t skimp on too much.


Sizeable screen

The large screen is not thoughtlessly large. It’s a solid display, and while not at the kind of crispness we see at something like the Galaxy Note 10+’s Quad HD+ screen, the 1,080 x 2,340 resolutions (FHD+) on the Huawei Y9s is more than sufficient to ensure its large display doesn’t go wasted.

Images come out sharp and there’s enough brightness to ensure the screen appears clearly under direct sunlight. This is an LTPS IPS LCD display, which – don’t get me wrong – is already good, but having spent a good amount of time on the Mi 9T’s AMOLED screen, there is a marked difference in screen clarity. At least enough for me to wish that Huawei went for an AMOLED screen instead (which, undoubtedly, would’ve increased the price).

The sizeable screen means that one-handed operation on the phone isn’t quite as achievable for someone with pudgy hands and short fingers like me, but it’s a great device for multimedia consumption nonetheless. The loud, punchy speakers adds to it.

The Huawei Y9s version of the pop-up camera is more reminiscent of the Mi 9T’s than the shark fin-like version you see on the Vivo V17 Pro, poking out on the top of the screen with relative quickness. The camera retracts the moment it detects a drop, even for a short distance in my tests.

What’s interesting with the Y9s is that Huawei opted to place the fingerprint scanner at the power button, as opposed to the rear of the device like the Honor 9X (or, in the case of the Mi 9T, on the screen itself).

Placing it on the power button feels only natural, as most of us gravitate to the power button habitually anyway. It’s just not the most conducive spot depending on the circumstances. I find it a little harder to unlock when hooked up to the car stand. It also means having to record the biometrics of more than two fingers, because the way you need to unlock it changes on how and which hand you’re holding the device.

This is just a minor gripe, though, and I believe most people would find no issues with it. What’s great is that the scanner is responsive and unlocks the phone almost instantly, even at a mere graze of the finger sometimes.

A picture taken in normal mode.

Solid shooters

The fact that it’s a pop-up camera doesn’t diminish it as a good selfie shooter, though. I find that it captures sharp-enough selfies and can even retain a lot of clarity of the background.

As for its rear shooters, the Huawei Y9s comes with a triple-camera setup. On top is a 2MP depth camera to provide that bokeh effect for when you shoot with the 48MP main shooter. Rounding things up is an 8MP 120-degrees Ultra-Wide angle lens.

The cameras do a good job. Pictures on the main camera come out sharp on the daytime shots, with good details and colours, plus nice contrast. You can, of course, opt to shoot in 48MP mode. It does add to the details, but like other 48MP shooters I’ve tried this year, I think the slight bump in quality doesn’t entirely justify the amount of space it’ll take up on the device.

The wide-angle lens is also solid. Daytime shots come out with equally good details and contrast, and there’s little to no warping on the sides of the image.

The phone also does well in low-light shots. It’s not devoid of noise, but it does provide for decent low-light pictures without sacrificing too much in detail. You can shoot in night mode, which requires holding the device steadily for a few extra seconds. I find that it helps add a bit more clarity and balance.

The same pix as above but in wide angle mode.

For play

The Huawei Y9s rocks a Kirin 710F octa-core processor, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (expandable up to 512GB via microSD, though you’ll have to sacrifice the use of the extra SIM slot). In my day to day use, I find it more than capable of handling most apps and processes with minimal hitches.

Multitasking works fine thanks to the ample RAM and there’s generally no issues doing things like watch Netflix or running Microsoft Word with a Bluetooth keyboard (the larger screen estate makes it a pretty decent work device in a pinch). The device runs Android 9.0 and EMUI 9.1 out of the box.

It’s also a great gaming device. It’s more than capable of handling PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile on higher settings. The Huawei Y9s features Huawei’s GPU Turbo 3.0, which is meant to maintain faster frame rates of certain games. I only tried it with Real Racing 3, and found the experience to be good.

This is all carried by a 4,000mAh battery, which provides enough juice to end a day of web browsing, social media, some games, a spot of Netflix and WhatsApp with at least an additional three to four more hours of use (for sleepless nights).

The Huawei Y9s is an easy recommend as a mid-range, sub-RM1,000 device. It has Google Mobile Services running, in case you’re wondering. As a relatively-inexpensive device with good features, the Y9s doesn’t lose out to those in its price range. Though, if you want something a little trendier, there’s also the Honor 9X.

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