The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max is the local brand’s latest midrange superstar.
Priced at Php9,999, it has a set of features that are poised to offer a great value for the price. But is it the one you should get? We find out in our Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max.
Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max Specs
- Android 10
- Dual SIM, dual standby
- 6.53-inch FHD+ TrueView display, 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution, 394ppi
- MediaTek Helio G90T octa-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- Mali G76 GPU
- 128GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 256GB
- 32-megapixel front camera
- 48-megapixel + 8-megapixel (ultra-wide) + 2-megapixel (macro) + 2-megapixel (depth sensor) rear cameras, LED flash
- Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
- HSPA+, 4G LTE
- WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band
- Bluetooth 5.0
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
- USB Type-C
- Dimensions: 162.86 x 77.05 x 10.15mm
- Weight: 216g
- Colors: Jade Green
- 5,130mAh non-removable battery, 18W fast charging
Design and Build Quality
Before proceeding, let’s talk about the elephant in the room right away. As you can see, the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max looks a lot like the Redmi Note 8 Pro. From the quad-camera orientation on the back, the fingerprint scanner placement, and the Jade Green color option.
It may be frowned upon by some, but at least, Cherry Mobile copied from the right source. The device features a glass-like surface on the back. It’s fingerprint-magnet for sure, but it does look really premium.
We wish Cherry Mobile pre-applied the free screen protector so the inexperienced don’t have to.
The chassis feels very solid. We tried flexing the entire thing and experienced no squeaking sound or bending. It is quite thick and heavy for 10.15mm and 216g, respectively. But the curved back panel still makes it comfortable to hold.
Taking a tour, we have the enormous 6.53-inch FHD+ TrueView screen on the front. The term “TrueView” refers to the waterdrop notch, resulting in ultra-thin bezels. We then have a thin slit on the top of the screen for the earpiece.
The top only has the secondary microphone. While at the bottom, there’s the headphone jack, primary microphone, loudspeakers, and, thankfully, a USB Type-C port.
We also have the SIM tray on the left to house two nano-SIM cards and a microSD card (up to 256GB). While on the right, there are the volume controls and a textured lock/power button. The physical keys feel cheap but tactile enough to do the job.
Overall, we’re fine with the design and build of the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max. It doesn’t have the most refreshing design, but it’s constructed well enough to give extra confidence that it will last.
Display and Sound Quality
The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max has a 6.53-inch FHD+ IPS display, 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution, and 394ppi. It’s not the most good-looking and cleanest screen in the market. But for a device under Php10,000, it does the job fine.
It offers decent colors, which you can configure in the settings menu. The sharpness is also great, both for watching movies and reading texts.
We also like the size. It’s large enough to make watching movies immersive but not too large to be bulky.
The bottom-firing loudspeaker, like the display, is fine for the price. The volume is fine for private listening, but it does distort at max volumes.
You can plug in the free EarPods-like earphones for a cleaner sound, but the volume is lacking.
Hardware and Performance
The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 max is powered by a MediaTek Helio G90T octa-core processor. It’s dated, yet a trusty processor. It’s partnered with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage.
Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max benchmark scores
The performance was solid for a sub-Php10,000 smartphone. Social media browsing, taking pictures, web browsing, and other mundane tasks are seamless on this device.
The gaming performance on the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max was also satisfactory. I played hours of Call of Duty Mobile on this thing, with the graphics quality set to high and frame rate set to max, with no noticeable hiccups.
With that, you can expect it to provide good performance in other popular titles like Genshin Impact and League of Legends: Wild Rift.
Software and User Interface
Cherry Mobile is one of those brands that insist on using their own interface on top of Android. The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max runs on Android 10, with the company’s own interface on top.
The interface looks really outdated and bland that it almost doesn’t make sense. We wish that Cherry Mobile just give in and use a stock-Android look on the Aqua S9 Max.
Still, those who plan to really own this smartphone can get used to it. Cherry Mobile also managed to spare us from bloatware, and even their own apps are nowhere to be found, so that’s a plus.
Having quad cameras, no matter how useless the last two are, became a norm even on budget smartphones. With the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max, you’re getting a 48-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel ultra-wide, 2-megapixel macro, 2-megapixel depth sensor, and a 32-megapixel selfie snapper on the front.
The main shooter takes great images, especially for the price. It has vibrant colors, deep contrast, and an acceptable dynamic range. It gets softer in low-light scenarios but still usable.
We also have the ultra-wide camera taking clean shots, letting you cram large subjects inside a single frame. The macro camera lets you get close to a small subject, but the quality is not the best. We’re also not seeing a Portrait mode or any mode that can utilize the depth sensor in the camera app.
The 32-megapixel selfie camera takes sharp image, but for some reason, the color and contrast look a little washed out. A different camera app or software update may help improve the image quality you can get out of this device.
The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max features a large 5,130mAh battery. Albeit, poor battery efficiency resulted in lackluster battery life. Again, a software update could help improve the battery efficiency on this thing.
Charging is relatively fast when compared to other devices at this price. It comes with an 18W fast charger in the box. But with its large battery, it would’ve been nice to have reverse wireless charging on this thing.
As you can see, the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max has the right set of features to justify its price tag. It has a clean and sturdy — despite unoriginal — design, immersive screen, acceptable performance, and of course, a competitive price. And for many people, especially those who are shopping in this price range, those are all they ever need.
However, we wish that Cherry Mobile can improve the battery optimization on this device. Also, sticking with the stock-Android interface would have been a better route.
Still, if you’re looking for a smartphone under Php10,000, the Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max is worth checking out.
Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max price and availability in the Philippines
The Cherry Mobile Aqua S9 Max has an official price of Php9,999. As of writing, it’s available on the Cherry Shop website for only Php8,999. From time to time, you can even get it for as low as Php7,999 and with a free game controller, wireless speaker, tempered glass protector, and a premium case.
- Large display
- Reliable performance
- Flexible cameras
- Competitive price
- Dated design
- Battery optimization can be improved
- UI needs work