Huawei Y9 Prime Review

The budget phone that keeps going and going and going.
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5
Outstanding battery life
Decent camera with a suite of fun features
Generous display and no notch
No NFC or Fast Charge
Huawei Y9 Prime Review - Rear

Is the Huawei Y9 Prime a worthy mid-range smartphone?

You better believe it. Whenever another mid-range handset is announced I roll my eyes and count down the days until I inevitably have to review said handset and go through the motions: “not the best but great for the price” or ”perfectly capable processor for the price”. But a few recent releases have changed my tune a little, first the Samsung Galaxy A70 and, now, the Huawei Y9 Prime. There’s a lot to say about the Huawei Y9 Prime in particular.

Firstly, it comes with all the weirdo bells and whistles I love in a mid-range handset that’s willing to take a risk: a pop-up selfie camera, some ambitious AI camera post-processing modes, and a handful of dumb, fun photo and video filters. But the most impressive feature of the Huawei Y9 Prime is its seriously, I mean seriously, outstanding battery life.

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Good to know

Here are a few specs and features that aren’t worth writing about, but still good to know.

 

  • 128GB storage out of the box
  • USB-C charging
  • Comes with a protective case and wired headphones
  • Available in Sapphire Blue and Midnight Black

The goods

What we loved about the Huawei Y9 Prime

  • One of the best below $500
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Quality camera and quirky app

There’s a lot to love about the Huawei Y9 Prime. Firstly, there’s the modest pricing, coming in at a cheeky $399 outright. Secondly there’s the whopping 4,000mAh battery that just won’t quit and lastly, there’s the triple-lens camera array in all its goofy glory.

Y9 Prime Price

Under $400? Y NOT

I had to double, no triple take when I read the outright price for the Huawei Y9 Prime.

Wait, WAIT. You mean to tell me, the smartphone I’ve been thoroughly enjoying over the past week costs less than $399? Get this trash tier phone out of my sight, I say to my personal assistant.

But seriously folks. We like to have fun here but the Y9 Prime’s generous price is no laughing matter.

I was genuinely surprised when I realised how far down the mid-range scale the Y9 Prime was. The Samsung Galaxy A70 I recently reviewed is a killer handset for the price but $699 can’t really be considered a “budget” price tag.

Y9 Prime Battery

Going the distance

One of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had with the Huawei Y9 Prime so far has been its outstanding battery life. The Huawei Y9 Prime’s vibrant 6.59-inch display is powered by a 4,000mAh battery. That’s a big battery but the Huawei Y9 Prime is a big phone and usually, these two factors combined give you the kind of battery life you’d expect from a smaller smartphone with a smaller battery.

That’s not the case with the Y9 Prime. This is a case of bigger battery, better battery life.

My first attempt to run the battery dry was a long and patient process. It was the Betty White of smartphone batteries, it just wouldn’t die.

I left my apartment on Sunday morning at 9:30 am with a full charge. I hit up a new cafe for breakfast, then headed for the Sunday markets; giving the Y9 Prime’s camera a real workout for most of the day.

I used the Y9 Prime a lot that Sunday and I fully expected to return home that night with the battery a small red sliver from death. That was far from the case, the Y9 Prime’s battery indicator was a fat slab of white (about 80%). Okay, I thought, this going to be one of those phones that pretends like its all good under the hood only to absolutely lose it when it gets below 50%. Not true, either.

On that single charge, I went almost three days without running out of battery. On Wednesday morning (3 days later) I woke to a dead Huawei Y9 Prime. It had gone peacefully during the wee hours of Tuesday night (it’s worth noting I went to bed with about 5%).

Nearly 3 days without a top-up or any kind of battery saving feature activated. This was on above-average usage for me, so needless to say, I was blown away by the Y9 Prime’s battery life.

Y9 Prime Display Size

Y9 Prime Selfie Camera and Display

Pop-camera and notchless display

While the big dogs bicker over who has the sexier notch, Oppo and Huawei are over here quietly scrapping the notch altogether in favour of pop-up front-facing cameras. The Huawei Y9 Prime’s 16MP selfie camera is concealed at the top of the handset (next to the SIM tray). When you flick over the selfie mode, the mechanism begins to whir, exposing the selfie camera.

It’s a very novel feature – like a little robot buddy whose one and only purpose is to take glamorous photographs of your massive noggin.

The main advantage of the pop-up camera is, as mentioned, it negates the need for an intrusive camera notch. It’s a fun idea that pays off in our experience so far.

If the sight of an exposed, mechanical camera sends a shiver down your spine, Huawei has assured us that the selfie camera has survived 100,000 pops during internal testing and can withstand up to 15kg of pressure (if you’re worried about breaking it off).

There’s also some clever AI running in the background when the selfie-camera is popped that tells the Y9 Prime if the handset has been dropped. If it detects that the user has dropped the phone, the pop-up camera will quickly retreat into its shell.

We couldn’t test out the 100,000 pops claim, but we did try dropping it with the camera popped. I dropped the Y9 Prime to the floor from a standing position and, true to the claim, the Y9 Prime’s camera was tucked away by the time the phone hit the ground.

I really like the notch-less display. Unfortunately, there’s a fairly obnoxious bezel on the bottom of the display that looks a little asymmetrical and a little cheap. The bottom bezel and the rounded edges of the Y9 Prime’s body are really the only two things that cheapen its appearance.

Otherwise, it’s a stylish phone that kicked off the two-tone finish that the new P30 Pros are sporting.

The so-so

What’s less impressive about the Y9 Prime

So I’ve been banging on about how much I love this dirt-cheap smartphone for a while now but what is it exactly that makes the Huawei Y9 Prime so affordable? Here are a couple of features that are aren’t up to snuff with the Y9 Prime (but are totally justified by the price tag).

Huawei Y9 Performance

Mid-tier Kirin chipset

The Huawei Y9 Prime is snappy. I’ve played the new Call of Duty Mobile with no noticeable performance issues and put the new Pokemon Masters through its paces for the last few days and haven’t experienced any issues that aren’t network related.

Operating advanced camera functions and toying around with the camera app’s quirky AR feature is perfectly responsive with no input lag to report. With that said, most of the filters and advanced shooting modes are post-processed, meaning you don’t get a good idea of how the photo will turn out until you’ve taken it.

It takes the Y9 Prime roughly 30 seconds to power on, which is par for the course and switching between apps is just as smooth as it is with my personal Google Pixel 3.

From a purely technical perspective, the Kirin 710F processor found in the Y9 Prime is a far-cry from the top-of-the-line Kirin 980 chipset found in Huawei’s premium range but most casual users won’t notice the difference.

Y9 Prime Camera

Average camera specs

This triple-lens array on the rear camera features a 16MP main camera, a 2MP depth camera and an 8MP ultra-wide-angle camera. Under natural lighting, the camera blows out whites a little (colours, in general, are a bit strong but the whites stand out most). The Y9 Prime’s depth camera also struggles to identify the subject in certain scenarios; most notably in the camera app’s stage lighting feature, which makes me look like a have a comically small head.

Other than those few hangups, the camera takes a stunning shot in auto mode and the ultra-wide-angle is killer.

The TikTok-inspired shooting modes are also straight-up bonkers. There are three particular themes that animate your video and provide backing music on the fly. It’s fun to screw around with and I even found myself wanting the option to download more songs and themes to film my cats with.

Here are a few samples taken with the Huawei Y9 Prime’s auto camera settings.

And here’s an example of the Y9 Prime’s zoom. This a low light scenario so not the most appropriate setting but its enough to show the kind of quality you can expect from a 6x time zoom.

If you’re looking to get a taste of the latest smartphone camera craze, ultra-wide angle shots, the Y9 Prime has you covered. Budget attempts at wide angle lenses usually result in some unsightly fisheye distortion around the edges of the photo but the Y9 Prime seems to handle it just fine in the wide angle shots I’ve taken so far.

Here’s a sample showing the difference between a standard and a wide angle camera shot on the Y9 Prime.

The not-so-goods

What the Y9 Prime could do better

  • No facial recognition
  • No wireless charging, fast-charging or NFC
  • Low protection

Y9 Prime Biometrics

Face/Off

One crucial downside to burying your front-facing camera inside the phone is that you can’t take advantage of facial recognition biometrics security. It’s not a dealbreaker for me personally by any stretch especially considering the Huawei Y9 Prime’s fingerprint unlock feature is lightning-fast.

Hey, if you’re a little uppity about sharing your biometric data or you’re the type to cover your phone camera with tape, this could actually be a selling point.

Otherwise, if you’ve grown comfortable to the quick access provided by facial recognition, the Huawei Y9 Prime might not be for you.

Y9 Prime Fingerprint Scanner

Y9 Prime Connectivity

No wireless, fast-charging or NFC

The Huawei Y9 Prime does a bang-up job of most everyday activities but when it’s budget build really starts to become clear when you take a look at its specs for connectivity.

I’ve given the Huawei Y9 Prime top marks for its battery performance but when it does (eventually) come time to charge, it isn’t going to juice up as fast as what you’re used to with premium phones. The Huawei Y9 Prime doesn’t have fast-charge so you will have to allow for a little more time once you’ve completely run the battery dry.

Most people charge their smartphones overnight so it won’t be an issue in most cases but for those frightful mornings where you realise the charger wasn’t even plugged in, it can be a bit of a hassle.

Lastly, there’s the lack of NFC. This is the one feature missing that really threw me for a loop. If you’ve become attached to contactless payment (e.g. paying with your phone), you’re going to miss that convenience if you switch over to the Y9 Prime.

Y9 Prime Durability

No water resistance

Omitting some key durability features is another way Huawei has managed to keep the price on the Y9 Prime low.

Most notable is the complete lack of dust and water resistance. Huawei’s flagship P30 and P30 Pro smartphones have an IP68 rating; that means these handsets can cop a fair bit of dust, sand and moisture before it becomes an issue. They can also take a bit of a dip; both phones will survive a dunk down to 1.5 metres deep.

That’s super reassuring for swimmers and folks who work around a lot of dust and water.

So while you save a motza when you opt for a Huawei Y9 Prime, you also give up a few creature comforts you might have become used with a more premium handset.