HUAWEI nova Y61 is out now, just in time for Christmas! It’s the Chinese company’s latest budget smart phone, and a pretty good one too. This 6.5-inch Android-based smartphone touts a 50MP triple camera system and a whopping 6GB of actual physical RAM – all yours for the very wallet-friendly price of P7,999!

Hit the play button to watch our super cool HUAWEI nova Y61 unboxing video in 4K or visit TechKuya on YouTube for more tech videos. Done? Let’s get on with the review.

HUAWEI nova Y61 display, design

The first thing you’ll notice about the HUAWEI nova Y61 is that vivid 6.5-inch display. This HD screen has a resolution of 720×1600 pixels, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The colors are rich and vibrant, and the viewing angles are great for an IPS LCD panel.

Notch – HUAWEI nova Y61

It stands out among budget phones thanks to that smooth, drop-type notch around a 5MP f/2.2 selfie camera. Like most budget phones however, the chin is thicker than the notch, which is only fair: The technology to make the notch thinner is really expensive, which is why you only mostly find them in premium phones that cost $1000 (P50K) and up.

The design of the HUAWEI nova Y61 is also quite nice. The chassis is made primarily of polycarbonate plastic material, but it manages to look and feel upscale. Not sure if premium is the right word, but it definitely does not feel budget, at least on the Mint Green variant that we are reviewing.

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Back Mint Green – HUAWEI nova Y61

It looks polished and very well made. Best of all, that finish is not super smudgy despite being somewhat glossy. They call it the “Star Effect” finish for that subtle twinkling that gives life to that back cover. The package comes with a free jelly case, but we feel comfortable enough to use it naked in order to appreciate all of that hard work that went into its design.

Aside from Mint Green, the phone also comes in Sapphire Blue and Midnight Black. We’ve only seen them in photos, but they look just as sweet.

Bottom – HUAWEI nova Y61

Another thing that really adds value is that USB-C port: Seeing it on an entry-level phone like the HUAWEI nova Y61 makes us smile: The single-facing micro USB was great for its time, but now it’s time take advantage of the more user-friendly USB-C which can be inserted either way.

Our phone only came with 64GB of storage, and there don’t appear to be any higher tier variants in the works. From interacting with our community, we know very well that the market for entry-level phones merit are going to be looking for that expansion card slot, and thankfully there is one on the HUAWEI nova Y61.

SIM card expansion slot – HUAWEI nova Y61

Take note that it is a hybrid slot though, so you’re going to have to choose between a second SIM or a micro SD card. If budget is a big concern then I’m sure you’ll be able to sort your priorities out.

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HUAWEI nova Y61 performance, benchmarks

The HUAWEI nova Y61 is a budget-friendly smartphone that’s powered by an older chipset with an octa-core CPU.

While HUAWEI does not specify it on their product page, we were able to gleam more information using diagnostic tools on our test unit. Apparently, it runs on a Kirin 710 chipset, which we know came out sometime in 2018. It is a 12nm chipset with clock speeds ranging from 1.7 to 2.2 GHz, pretty decent for its time, but how does it fare in 2022?

Chihn – HUAWEI nova Y61

Upon running some benchmarks, it manages to outperform some of this year’s entry-level phones such as the narzo 50i Prime, check out the comparison table below:

Computed PassMark CPU Memory Disk 2D 3D AnTuTu
narzo 50i Prime (3+32) 5988 2781 13362 35186 23706 11145 190441
SAMSUNG Galaxy A23 (6+128) 6515 3115 14970 29736 12736 16880 266476
HUAWEI nova Y61 (6+64) 6517 3052 12760 44144 21355 14269 214344
realme 9i (4+128) 7058 3305 14647 75884 15276 14871 255471

Compared to other phones in the same segment however, the HUAWEI nova Y61 packs the highest amount of RAM: those 6GB of actual physical memory not only allows us to open more applications, it is also able to simultaneously run more applications running in the background, giving a much smoother user experience when multitasking.

In a video demonstration, HUAWEI Philippines showed the advantage of physical RAM compared to virtual memory by comparing the time that it took to switch between applications as well as the time that it took to launch them.

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There is one caveat though, and depending on the user, it could be a big one: The HUAWEI nova Y61 does not come with Google services. This means no native support for Google applications that you normally find on Android devices such as Play Store, Google Play Games, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Docs, and so on.

So you will be completely reliant on package managers and third-party marketplaces such as APK Pure and HUAWEI AppGallery. This is absolutely fine if you don’t plan on using any of those services: there are plenty of alternative applications out there, but it’s going to feel crippling for anyone who has invested a considerable effort into the Google ecosystem.

System settings – HUAWEI nova Y61

In addition to the absence of native support for these applications, you will also struggle with applications and games that rely on these services. This includes games that require Google Play to keep track of your progress, or purchases that you’ve previously made using the Google App Store.

There are ways to go around it though: One would require rooting which is not something the average Joe can easily do plus that fact that voids your device’s warranties. Another would be to sideload Google services by using a sandbox or a virtual environment such as Gspace and GBox.

Side – HUAWEI nova Y61

Gspace not only bombards you with ads, it locks Google Play Store behind a paywall. GBox used to work well until about a week ago when it started checking the underlying physical hardware information and blocked apps such as YouTube from being installed.

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So for heavy Google users this is something that merits serious consideration before taking the plunge.

On the flipside, EMUI 12 feels extra sharp with all of the extra UX features and utilities that you don’t normally find in other Android forks.

HUAWEI nova Y61 entertainment, gaming

Landscape YouTube – HUAWEI nova Y61

HUAWEI nova Y61 is a great smartphone for entertainment and gaming. That large 6.5-inch IPS LCD display is a great way to enjoy your favorite shows and mobile games.

We are given an HD screen whose resolution maxes out at 720×1600 pixels, but that’s fine: For one, we doubt anyone looking to buy a budget phone would notice the difference. For another, lower resolutions allow the phone to push higher frame rates in 3D games compared to phones with higher native screen resolutions.

Entry-level smartphones like the HUAWEI nova Y61 typically run on the bare minimum hardware to keep its costs down. This, in effect, restricts the range of games that you can play on the device.

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Top perspective – HUAWEI nova Y61

However, this did not stop us from installing Genshin Impact, which ran with acceptable framerates on the Lowest graphics setting. Sure it looks pixelated up close but we’re getting playable frame rates at least. The game is still playable at Low graphics settings, but it starts to drop frames like crazy once we tried to push it to Medium.

Generally speaking 2D games were a blast , and most of the non-AAA 3D games ran well with a bit of tuning. Staple MOBAs like Mobile Legends and League of Legends ran fine, but do let us know in the comments if there’s anything that you would like to see us test.

We imagine younger users who mostly play 2D games and not too demanding 3D games will really enjoy this phone. The same goes for employees who are into playing casual games during their break time.

Top – HUAWEI nova Y61

Smartphones typically have bottom-firing loud speakers, but the HUAWEI nova Y61 breaks this tradition by having top-firing loud speakers instead. We suspect that this is a cost-saving measure, so the phone can have a single driver serving as both the loud speaker and handset speaker for voice calls.

HUAWEI nova Y61 camera, content creation

HUAWEI nova Y61 may be a budget smartphone, but its cameras pack quite a punch. The rear camera island includes three usable sensors, including a 50MP main camera. Now that’s not something that we usually find on entry-level phones.

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Rear camera island – HUAWEI nova Y61

I mean, even mid-range phones are cutting down on cameras nowadays, so color me impressed!

Now geeks like us know that Megapixel numbers mean little if the actual shots look like crap, so we ventured and took a ton of photos using different lighting conditions with all cameras, including the the 2MP macro and 2MP ultrawide angle lens to see how it pans out.

Take a moment to check out the un-edited sample photos on Instagram  and follow TechKuya on Instagram for more.

 

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So, what do you say? Quite good for a budget phone, huh?

With ample lighting, the phone takes some really good shots, though it exposes (ehem) it weakness in the uh, exposure of the highlights and shadows. Notice how the highlights tend to be blown out even in brightly-lit scenes, while there is a notable . This indicates that the shots are being taken at much higher exposure levels to lift it mid tones up.

Darker portions of also exhibit a fair amount of noise, but we are quite pleased with how natural and un-processed the photos look.

HUAWEI nova Y61 selfie camera video test:

The biggest surprise for us though, would be the variable aperture feature. By using a combination of hardware and software imaging techniques, HUAWEI is able to simulate the blurring effect, aka bokeh, that you get from expensive prime lenses in interchangeable (IC) lens cameras.

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Shooting in this mode was surprisingly fun. Though a few artifacts pop up from time to time, the way that it isolates the subject creates some very interesting results that will definitely stand out on social media.

HUAWEI nova Y61 rear camera video test:

Videos came out well, though they also exhibit the same artifacts that we saw in the photos. Mainly blown out highlights and grainy shadows, but at least it manages to keep the subject properly exposed.

Like most budget phones, we didn’t expect it to come with OIS (optical image stabilization), but we were hoping to have some kind of EIS (electronic image stabilization). There seems to be some kind of stabilization in place, but the results were so shaky that it was hard to tell.

Hit play to watch the sample video and observe the results.

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HUAWEI nova Y61 battery, charging

Bottom perspective – HUAWEI nova Y61

Just like any other smartphone, the HUAWEI nova Y61 battery needs to be charged on a regular basis in order to keep the device running. The good news is that the HUAWEI nova Y61 comes with a 5,000 mAh built-in battery and 22.5W HUAWEI SuperCharge technology, so you can get back up and running in no time. That’s higher than most budget phones, which typically max out at 15W.

According to HUAWEI, you can only reach 22.5W with the charger and cable that comes supplied with the package which means that the USB-PD (USB Power Delivery) standard is not supported.

PCMark battery life benchmark results – HUAWEI nova Y61

Unlike flagships, entry-level phones are typically less demanding. In our internal battery life benchmarks, we were able to get as much as 16 hours and 47 minutes on Wi-Fi. Wow, isn’t that just mind-boggling? This may go down if you use the camera a lot or if you use mobile data and make a lot of calls, but it’s still a ridiculously high yield that almost guarantees more than a day of continuous use.

In addition to its ridiculously good battery life, the HUAWEI nova Y61 also comes with a user-friendly, reversible USB-C  port on the bottom of the device. We love the fact that USB-C is now becoming the standard for budget phones. Finally, we can bid goodbye to the micro USB!

Closing thoughts

Back flatlay – HUAWEI nova Y61

HUAWEI nova Y61 may be a budget-friendly smartphone that offers decent performance and cameras along with excellent battery life that lasts more than a day. Its aesthetics, the user-friendly EMUI 12, and 22.5w fast charging elevate the phone above what your normally expect from an entry-level smartphone.

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The absence of native Google integration can, however, pose a problem for users who are deeply invested in the Google ecosystem. HUAWEI provides alternatives to the most common productivity apps though – there are a ton of options out there on the HUAWEI AppGallery.

Priced at P7,996 with 5GB of actual RAM, the phone is almost too attractively priced for anyone who is willing to invest in the HUAWEI ecosystem.

HUAWEI nova Y61 specs technical specifications (Philippines)

  • Display: 6.52 inches; 720×1600; IPS LCD
  • SIM: Dual SIM (nano-SIM, hybrid slot 2)
  • OS: EMUI 12 (no Google Play services)
  • Chipset (SoC): Unspecified
  • CPU: Octa-core
  • GPU: Unspecified
  • Memory (RAM) + storage: 6 GB + 64GB
  • Expansion: Yes, hybrid slot
  • Main camera (rear): 50MP f/1.8 (wide), 2MP f/2.4 (macro), 2MP f/2.4 (depth)
  • Selfie camera (front): 5MP f/2.2
  • Connectivity: 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 5.1 A2DP
  • I/O: USB Type-C; fingerprint scanner (side mounted)
  • 3.5mm audio jack: Yes
  • Battery: 5,000 mAh; 22.5W HUAWEI SuperCharge
  • Colors: Midnight Black, Sapphire Blue, Mint Green
  • Official price (Philippines): P7,996 (6+64GB)


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