This week’s Editor’s Choice is a rarity for a gadget that has just been released, since we usually assess devices for several weeks for this slot. The accolade is given to products that represent a significant advance in technology, or a remarkable approach to innovation or user needs. The Huawei nova Y91 is Editor’s Choice for the week starting 3 July 2023, thanks to massive increments in battery, display and sound almost speaking for themselves.
What is it?
The Huawei nova Y91 is a smartphone that breaks boundaries on several levels. The biggest surprise of all, once one has seen what the phone has to offer, is the price. It slots in solidly at the lower end of mid-range handsets, which requires a double-take at its features.
The new handset, launched in South Africa last week, features a 7000 mAh battery, which may not be the largest battery on the market, but is the biggest we have come across in a mainstream handset.
This goes hand-in-hand with the other standout feature of the phone: the display. At 6.95-inches, it is also significantly larger than the typical mid-range handset, which tends to average around 6- to 6.5-inches. Alongside the 6.6-inch P60 Pro, Huawei’s flagship smartphone, it looks giant-sized, and appears no thicker, although it has a little more bulk (8.9mm vs 8.3mm).
It is one of the rare large-screen smartphones that takes into account the huge demands that such displays make on battery life. The single biggest drain on a battery is a bright screen, and the bigger that screen, the greater the drain. The 1080 x 2376 pixel FullView display is a Full HD screen, delivering 376 pixel-per-inch density.
It has a 90Hz refresh rate, meaning the display responds fast enough for a good mobile gaming experience. Huawei says the display also supports a 270Hz Touch Sampling Rate, a feature rarely touted for smartphones, but aimed at providing a smooth experience when browsing and playing games.
According to the MakeUseOf site, the touch sampling rate is the frequency at which your phone’s display reads your input: “it’s the number of times the display registers your touch. The faster the touch sampling rate, the more sensitive the display.”
In the case of the Y91, software algorithms improve touch accuracy, making for a great gaming experience.
Then there is an LCD Full Screen always-on display feature, the first we are aware of on a mid-range phone, which offers both a bright image display and current notifications with a touch of the power button, but without the need for unlocking the phone.
All of that makes significant demands on a battery, but there is further good news: the handset comes with 22.5W Huawei SuperCharge charging brick in the box. It delivers rapid charging speeds, protected by an intelligent charging system that Huawei says uses a 20-layer protection mechanism. Once charged, the promise is of 27-hours video playback. We didn’t go that far, but after a day of regular use we typically still had more than 80% capacity.
Symmetrical dual stereo speakers use Histen 8.1 balanced sound effects, providing immersive sound that delivers both texture and clarity, while Space Sound provides a sense of spatial distribution of music or movie soundtracks – all exceptional for a phone in its range. On top of that, it features Super Volume with 20 levels of volume adjustments: big sound that turns the phone into a mini boombox.
The rear camera uses a Starry Circle design with a symmetrical axis, giving it a futuristic appearance. It houses a triple-camera array consisting of a dual 50 MP main camera with an f/1.8 aperture and 2 MP depth sensor. That adds up to plenty light coming in for general photos, close-ups, portrait and low-light photography, along with recording video in up to 1080p at 30 frames per second.
The camera software includes AI Scene Recognition, Super Night 2.0 mode, Portrait Mode, Time-lapse and Panorama shots, which let one take extended wide-angle photos by stitching together multiple images.
An 8 MP front camera supports portrait segmentation and AI Beauty 5.1, promising natural selfies with a touch of flattery.
What to do with all that imagery? Even the storage is big for a mid-range phone, at 256 GB.
What does it cost?
The Huawei nova Y91 can be purchased from the HUAWEI online store for R6,999 (includes free gifts to the value of R1,198) or from R399 a month on a 24 month contract from selected retail stores.
Why does it matter?
The mid-range has become not only crowded, but also confusing, as it includes handset ranging from R4,000 to R15,000 in price, making for a wide array of features and promises. The Y91 helps cut through the clutter and clear up confusion with a clear set of differentiating features. The big screen, big battery, and big sound add up to a multimedia powerhouse at a budget price.
What are the biggest negatives?
- No support for Google Play, but workarounds now cover most Android apps. We used Gmail quite effectively.
- No NFC, the technology that allows touch payments. To be fair, it’s not a big demand in the lower mid-range, but will need to be addressed in future
What are the biggest positives?
- It has a Dual SIM slot, a common need in entry-level and mid-range phones, but seldom available.
- Despite its large size, it is slim enough to allow a comfortable grip.
- That 7000mAh battery! And it is paired with a fast-charger in the box, most unusually for a phone in its price range.
- The 6.9-inch display size is the biggest selling of all, turning the smartphone into a mini-tablet.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee
Buy the Huawei nova Y91 smartphone at the Huawei store, here.