Monday, June 17, 2024

REVIEW | Huawei Nova Y61 entry-level smartphone

Last month in November, Shenzhen-based tech company Huawei Technologies silently launched a budget offering in the Philippines – the Huawei Nova Y61. This device, powered by an unspecified octa-core processor and running EMUI version 12, is currently the cheapest available smartphone of Huawei in the Philippines.

As an update to last year’s Huawei Nova Y60, the Nova Y61 now comes with higher resolution cameras, a front-facing camera with a wider angle, near-field communication (NFC – EVE-LX9N) functionality, faster charging speed, and two new color options in addition to Midnight Black: Sapphire Blue and Mint Green.

The Huawei Nova Y61 is part of the company’s amalgamation between two previously separate smartphone series — the stylish Nova series designed for the younger generation, and the quick-charging and long-lasting devices under the Y-series.  

In lieu of Google Mobile Services, the Huawei Nova Y61 runs on the brand’s own Huawei Mobile Services and uses the AI-powered Emotion User Interface (EMUI) version 12 which excels in the areas of collaboration, productivity, and connectivity.

Users with several Huawei devices can take full advantage of the smart device collaboration feature of Super Device, an example of a scenario is watching content from a mobile device like the Huawei Nova Y61 through an external Huawei Vision appliance while hearing audio from a listening accessory like the Huawei Freebuds 4 noise-cancelling earphones.

The EMUI 12 also allows a greater level of customization, especially in setting up the home screen layout thanks to custom service widgets. Users can also activate Simple Mode to automatically enlarge on-screen content and raise volume levels as part of the accessibility features of the Huawei Nova Y61.

One often overlooked feature of recent Huawei smartphone releases is MeeTime – the company’s own HD voice and video calling application similar to FaceTime for iOS and Google Duo for Android. It comes with staple functionality like screen-sharing, live beauty settings, low-light enhancements, sports camera cross-compatibility, and videoconferencing for larger groups. 

The Huawei Nova Y61 is protected by a flat plastic frame with an almost ceramic-like finish. This design works well in two ways: design-wise the Huawei Nova Y61 does not feel cheap and plasticky, and the glossy finish virtually makes fingerprints non-existent.

Without a protective jelly case, the Huawei Nova Y61 is pleasant to hold. The edges are not too rounded which makes the phone slippery, but not too angular that it makes the device feel bulky. Among the three colorways available, the Mint Green comes off as the most stylish one while the Midnight Black looks more subdued and the Sapphire Blue more common.

Despite how the cameras are marketed online, the 50MP triple rear AI camera is not the showstopper it is claimed to be by Huawei. If fans are expecting clear capture of motion scenes, in reality they will need to shoot these photos in extremely well-lit conditions.

The same logic goes to the nighttime shots which will require more than a few seconds of exposure and preferably a tripod since any small movement will ruin the quality.

The subject-background separation or “bokeh effect” only works within reason, backgrounds that are too busy or scene compositions that are too crowded will negatively impact the limited AI detection algorithm of the Huawei Nova Y61.

Slow-motion videos will be available in almost 360p quality, and depending on the lighting conditions as well, results of front-facing portrait shots may vary significantly.

Although it rarely happens that recent phone releases have underwhelming batteries, it’s good to see that Huawei is not sticking to the slow 15W charging speed seen in most budget smartphones nowadays.

The 5000mAh battery can keep up for more than a day’s worth of conventional usage, and the charging rate offered is slightly better than its competition.

Verdict

What sets the Huawei Nova Y61 apart versus the competition is that although it lacks any outstanding feature, it does deliver a decent experience in all areas of the smartphone experience without compromising one for another.

The cameras are acceptable, the battery life is dependable, the interface is user-friendly and intuitive, and the performance is sufficient for average day-to-day use.

Same price alternatives include the Honor X6 and Tecno Pova 4 for larger storage, the Infinix Hot 20S for the bigger screen real estate and higher screen refresh rate, the Poco C40 for the longer battery life, and the Vivo Y16 for the slimmer and more trendy design.

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