Huawei changed its strategy in its entry-to-midrange lineup by combining its nova and Y series. One of the newer devices in this range is the Huawei nova Y90. And its claim to fame brings the looks of the more premium Huawei devices into the more budget-conscious segment. So, if you wanted that classic Huawei Mate look but only have the budget for an entry-level phone, you can get that with this handset.
But is this redesign all that the Huawei nova Y90 is good for? Let’s talk about what else it has to offer.
You want that distinctive design
If you admired the Huawei Mate’s Space Ring Camera design on the premium Mate 40 series, you’d appreciate Huawei for bringing that to the nova Y90. This design brings symmetry to the back of the phone while making it stand out. Huawei pairs this design with a Glitter Sand textured back. That texture makes the rear sparkle while helping mask smudges it might get.
Huawei lent us the Crystal Blue option, and I refused to put it in the black silicon case it came with because it’s too pretty to keep hidden. We got a pre-production unit, so I’m hoping the final commercial version has a clear silicon case instead.
The Huawei nova Y90 comes in four different colors: Crystal Blue, Emerald Green, Pearl White, and Midnight Black. The Emerald Green is probably my favorite, but this Crystal Blue comes in as a close second.
And while the nova Y90 gets the Mate 40’s design, I’m reminded it’s a budget phone by its plastic construction. An upside to this plastic build is it’s easy to hold in hand because it’s quite light.
Huawei nova Y90’s large display
The Huawei nova Y90 has a slightly smaller display than the nova Y70’s 6.75-inch screen. Even though it’s smaller, it has a better screen-to-body ratio at 94% (compared to the Y70’s 90.26% screen-to-body ratio). That makes it look nearly bezel-less on three sides (the chin still has a bit more thickness to it).
And then that’s complemented by a flat screen and a single punch hole at the top center. This whole combination makes watching content and playing games on this device much more enjoyable.
It’s been a smooth browsing experience on the Huawei nova Y90 with a smoother 90Hz refresh rate and a 270Hz touch sampling rate. The latter comes in especially handy when playing games.
I’ve been enjoying Alto’s Adventure on this phone, even while playing the levels where it’s dark. I can easily see my character moving through the FHD+ screen. This phone has also made it easy for me to catch up on Hospital Playlist episodes during my downtime.
The downside is it only has one bottom-firing speaker. It can come in handy in a pinch, but it does leave me wanting regarding volume. For those who rely on wired headsets, you get a headphone jack at the top of this phone.
LiTT Tip #1: If you spend a lot of time reading text on your phone, activating the eBook mode might be a smart thing to do. Head to Settings > Display & brightness > eBook mode.
Impressive battery life & day-to-day experience
It might seem like a downgrade from the Huawei nova Y70’s 6,000mAh battery. But the 5,000mAh battery on the Huawei nova Y90 is still great. Huawei makes up for the smaller battery with a faster 40W charging speed. With this battery, I typically get a day and a half’s use before I need to recharge this phone.
Huawei challenged us to test the phone’s charging speed, claiming you can get up to 50% in just 30 minutes. I got to around 45% in half an hour, which is still nothing to scoff at for a phone in its segment. (The next time I checked the charging speed, I reached 55% in around 37 minutes.) Typical charging takes me around an hour and a half.
The Huawei nova Y80 runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 680 processor, which we’ve seen on the Huawei nova 9 SE, paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of non-expandable storage. According to the review guide from Huawei, this phone has 4GB and 6GB options available with the same storage configuration.
I’d recommend the 8GB variant, given how reliable the performance has been. I haven’t encountered any crashes during testing, with it seamlessly switching between apps. Although, I can’t dismiss concerns about app availability on Huawei devices, given they are using Huawei’s EMUI 12 instead of Android.
I commend Huawei for trying to find workarounds through their current trouble, though. Many social apps are natively available or through .apk install via the handy Petal Search library. I use the mobile version of Microsoft Edge to access Google services and other apps I can’t get from the AppGallery. The workarounds might seem too troublesome for you. But if you think you’re being completely shut out of your favorite apps, I can still tell you that you’ll at least have access to the mobile browser versions.
Most major social media apps are accessible on this phone. I use Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram on the nova Y90 just fine. YouTube is accessible through a Progressive Web App (basically the mobile browser version). And I’ve accessed Netflix through Petal Search. Lazada and Shopee are natively available, too. You might need to check on your banking apps, though. Like, it still redirects me to BPI’s mobile browser version. (But it has Maya, GCash, and UnionBank available natively.)
At its slightly lower price point, the Huawei nova Y90 might be a good device to use when figuring out if you’d want to switch to Huawei’s ecosystem. If you’re looking for a device that works well with other products from the same company, Huawei has perfected (or nearly perfected) that interoperability. It’s so easy to link Huawei devices together.
You won’t get that full experience, though. This can’t take advantage of Huawei’s multi-screen collaboration feature, but it’s understandable given this is a more affordable device. At the very least, it supports easy file transfer. I can open, view, and transfer files with Huawei’s Super Device technology. This tech makes your files viewable in the File Explorer app on my Huawei laptop without needing to connect the phone using a USB cable.
LiTT Tip #2: To access your Huawei nova Y90 files on your Huawei laptop, you must establish a Super Device connection between the two devices. Head to Settings > Device+ on your phone to ensure it’s enabled. Open the Huawei Control Panel on your laptop and tap the Super Device icon so it can look for your phone. If it’s not showing up, tap on Phone not found. That will pull up the Huawei PC manager, and you can connect your phone and laptop. You’ll get a prompt on the phone to connect to your MateBook, and then you can just tap on Access phone files on the Huawei PC Manager to bring you to its folder in File Explorer.
What about the Huawei nova Y90’s camera performance?
I’m not sure if it’s because I have a pre-production/engineering unit, but many of the photos I took weren’t as sharp as I hoped. I want to believe the final commercial product that would end up in your hands will fare better. Some software tweaks could help improve photo quality. Google Pixel devices are a prime example of using software to enhance photo quality.
I’ve also gotten used to seeing more saturated photos come out of camera phones that the colors from the Huawei nova Y90 seem slightly duller than I prefer. That’s something you can tweak in editing, though. For night photos, Huawei advises you to use a tripod to take your shots. This isn’t one of the phones to use at night without propping it up. It does get a dedicated Night mode, which helps get better quality shots in low light.
I find it struggles with focusing and sharpness more with the selfie camera. You’ll definitely need to take multiple shots with a steady hand to get selfies you’ll like. At least, that’s what happened in my case. Portraits were also hit or miss for bokeh, but I’m banking on this not being the final production unit. (I hope that’s the case.)
For videos, you get up to 1080p at 30 frames per second. And you get dual-view video, a fun vlogging feature that records videos at 1920 x 864 at 30fps. You should record videos in decent lighting. There is no night mode for videos, so quality dips significantly as the light gets low.
What’s lit and what’s not?
What’s lit about it:
- Distinctive design & great color options
- Great display for gaming & watching content on
- Audio jack for your wired headphone listeners
- Long-lasting battery paired with faster charging
- Solid and reliable performance
- Makes it easy to access files on a Huawei laptop
What needs the extra spark:
- Solo bottom-firing speaker
- The EMUI-powered device can be limiting for some users
- Can’t handle multi-screen collab
- Photos aren’t as sharp
If you consume a lot of content, shop, or do your daily tasks on your phone, the Huawei nova Y90 can be a reliable device. Of course, it’s given that it must have access to the apps you use. You might need to do a little digging for the more specific ones.
I can’t endorse its camera capabilities for now, but I’m hoping this is something Huawei remedies for the final product you’re going to get. But if that isn’t your priority, you have a decent phone to work with here. The Huawei nova Y90 offers you a large display, excellent battery life with fast charging, and a standout design. For some, that’s enough reason to pick up this phone.
Huawei will reveal pricing and pre-order details on August 12, so I’ll update this post then.
Huawei Philippines just opened pre-orders today, August 12, until August 18. The Huawei nova Y90 comes to offline and online Huawei Stores, authorized retail outlets, and leading e-commerce sites Shopee and Lazada for only PHP 11,999 (around USD 216). Huawei throws in a Huawei Band 4e as its pre-order freebie (worth PHP 1,399 or approx. USD 25).
Are you planning on getting one? Let us know your thoughts on social media!
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