The Underdog Part II


Steady Video:

When you are in video mode, there are a few options, including time lapse, slowmo and auto. We took a video in 1080p both in daylight and during the night, to show the difference in quality.

1080p Steady Video:

The above video showed my 1080p test for the Aqua S9. I took this video around the afternoon and the sun was directly hitting my camera, and it was too late when I noticed it. The quality is blurry, but that’s probably because I may have forgotten to wipe off the lens, or that I’m under direct sunlight. Colours are lacking but the sound is decent. Taking the video under proper lighting conditions should probably fix the quality of it. What I found annoying is that the camera is having difficulty focusing, as there is “bouncing” when I’m recording. I took this video with a tripod too.

720p Video

For the 720p video, the quality is much worse, but the sound remained nearly the same. Like the 1080p video, there is “bouncing” and losing focus within the lens, taking into consideration that I used a stable tripod to record the footage. Colours are pretty much dead too.


At night, just like the photos, the video’s quality degrades to a huge extent. The colours are now softer and everything feels washed out. The video is pretty dark too, as if taken during midnight (the film itself was take around 7:30pm and the place is full of lights). Still, you can identify what’s going on and it’s not full-on blurry. Nothing much to see here. The 720p video is also pretty much the same albeit with worse quality

Slow Motion

We also tested the slow mo video. When we were actually filming, the phone started to stutter and lag, although still managed to capture the film perfectly.

Slow-mo apparently removes the sound, so take note of that. The slow-mo doesn’t feel that slow at all, rather, it feels like there is only a slight reduction of frame rate. It also does not tell how much frames per second the slow-mo uses. According to Adobe Premiere, the slow mo is a steady 7.5FPS

Still the slow-mo works as intended, and nothing should be expected at 4K php. It’s just nice to see that a feature like slow motion is now available for ultra-budget devices like this.


Obviously a video test can’t be a video test without testing how the video performs when moving. The phone has no stabilisation (as expected from this very cheap price) so I tried to be as careful as possible.

Even at my most careful movement, the camera is still shaky, very shaky, you need to be at snail-pace speed just so that the video recording remains steady. The quality is decent enough (but still blurry) because lights are everywhere as I was inside an establishment. My voice is quiet mainly because I’m wearing a mask and the fact I used my BOYA microphone for testing (which is kind of cheating I believe). With that being said, I don’t recommend the Aqua S9 for vlogging.

Aside from the interiors, I took another video, this time from the outside. Because the scene does not have too much lights, the colours and quality is not overexposed. The details are much visible and is actually more tolerable than the interiors. However, as there is no stabilisation, the video turned out to be as shaky as the interiors, therefore, I only recommend this if you’re not moving, or recording a steady video.


You already know what I think of the video performance of the phone, so what is there to talk about? The front video of course. I tested the front video for all the vloggers out there who don’t have the budget for a more expensive handset.

I find it surprising that the front camera tends to be steadier in taking moving video, keeping in mind I was walking at the same pace as the main camera. Yes, you could fit five of your friends in the video frame, but the focal length tends to be close, so it may need to be away from arm’s length or requiring a monopod for that to happen.

As for the quality, yes it has good quality (for a 4k phone) during daylight, but the colours are still washed out and pixelated. This was filmed inside a mall.

Like the main cameras, I also did another video, this time, outside. This one was not included in the video review but let me tell you, it is better than the one inside due to less amount of light overexposing the front camera, but I still do not recommend it for vlogging due to it being really unstable. A selfie on the Aqua S9 is decent, but for vlogging, I’d go elsewhere.

TLDR; I do not recommend taking videos with this, but if you don’t have a higher budget, this is the best you can get, for sub 4k.


The performance test is the main reason why I wanted to get the Aqua S9. The UNISOC (formerly Spreadtrum) SC9863A is not the best choice for a chipset as the Aqua S9’s older sibling, the Flare S8 comes with the Mediatek Helio P23, which should be better on paper. One thing’s that’s a disadvantage in theory is that the SC9863A has a 28nm process while the Mediatek Helio P23 uses a 12nm process. However, the SC9863A uses a Cortex A-55 Octa core CPU, which should help compensate for the large nanometer process.

AnTuTu Benchmarks:

The most natural thing to do is to benchmark the phone of course. So I installed the good ‘ol AnTuTu and had a day with it.

I was pretty much shocked to see the phone managed to reach 100k on AnTuTu, let alone nearly 110k. This is better than the Flare S8 which came with 83k. The phone’s configuration is 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, so with that in mind, the UNISOC SC9863A seems promising.

Below is the AnTuTu score for the previous device, the Flare S8, in comparison to the Aqua S9.

Mobile Legends (HIGH GRAPHICS)

What I found interesting is that, Mobile Legends seems to be more demanding than League, as the game has a tendency to frame drop. Even in High graphics, ML is very much playable. I had a field day playing the game. Though, like I said it stutters and there is no HFR mode available, so going for “smooth” is a better option.

League of Legends: Wild Rift

This review will be based on the custom preset I made. Whichever preset you made, it runs smoothly, no matter what, whether “Balanced” or “Performance”. I haven’t tested myself but I believe the Performance preset consumes more battery than the Balanced Preset.

The game prevents you to using certain quality levels due to optimization, so I selected all the possible highest graphics settings for LoL. Unlike ML, LoL supports 60fps for the Aqua S9, so definitely a plus.

Gameplay-wise, the game is less demanding than ML, being able to run smoother and with less chances of frame drops, even during the action. I had no instances of the game lagging, or the phone getting hot. The temperature was well-controlled and the only reason I started to lag is because of network issues. So if you’re worried about the performance of the phone when it comes to the chaotic moments, worry not. The phone can handle it pretty well.

Call of Duty: Mobile (Low Graphics and Frame Rate)

For some reason, my screen recorder recorded Call of Duty with a pixelated quality but nonetheless, the game ran well on the Aqua S9. The game only gave you one graphics option, LOW graphics, and the choice between medium or low frame rates. Either way, this is a phone that can handle CoD Mobile just fine. It got warm after a few hours of playing the game, and it ate the battery pretty fast. The game did have short hiccupping and frame drops but it does not destroy the experience and you can still pretty much win battles.

Genshin Impact

With how the S9 is performing (this might be a broken record but, the phone is performing really well surprisingly), I really want to put the phone to the ultimate torture, by playing the most demanding games, one example being Genshin Impact. There are also other games which you can put the phone to the test such as Asphalt 8 and 9, or Real Racing.

This is the game where the phone truly struggles, though still playable. Even on low graphics, the game does not run smoothly (the game runs at a steady 7FPS) and there is even a part where things don’t get rendered properly such as the first battle with the Stormterror. (That one made me dizzy as I’m not sure where to hit). The phone also started getting hot when playing the game for a while (even with the 11GB update, the game got really hot and I actually got worried that I’m destroying the battery’s lifespan as it was updating WHILE charging).

The world rendering is also slow, there are times that some areas near me don’t get rendered until it is too late, the device got warm quickly too. The game is playable on the S9, but it’s not recommended unless you have an extreme level of patience.

One more thing, the game does not respond quickly and even after a few mashes, the characters don’t respond as fast, or the controls are not fluid. If you want to play Genshin Impact without any struggles, it’s better to play on a capable PC or a higher-end phone.

Gran Turismo PSP (PPSSPP)

As per request, I will do some emulator testing. I chose two emulators for this and a single game, both are Gran Turismo (the highest end game for the PSP) and the emulators are EPSXE and PPSSPP.

Let’s start with Gran Turismo PSP. Like Call of Duty, the recorder recorded the game in such low pixelated quality. I don’t have an idea on how to fix this.

Gran Turismo PSP is unplayable, this is already with frame skipping lvl 8 on. The game does not freeze but as you can see, the game is problematic, everything looks pixelated and the game runs at 7 frames per second, so the movement is jittery. Even the main menu lags to oblivion. To be fair though, this is the highest demanding game on the PSP, so I’m sure games like NFS Underground Rivals would run more smoothly here, but I don’t guarantee smooth graphics or frames.

Gran Turismo EPSXE (PS1 Emulator)

For some reason, I couldn’t record the sound of the game, but at least you can see what is happening. I had attempted to record the game multiple times but it just won’t record the sound

Unlike Gran Turismo on PSP, EPSXE runs smooth, with some minor lag during the start of every race. The music jumps from time to time but this is not a problem as the sound still continues as normal. Though you have to find that out yourself since I could not record the sounds or music for the game.

If you’re playing RPG games like Final Fantasy 7, the phone can handle it well too. You should have little to no problems when using an emulator on your S9.

With the rest of the gameplay, the graphics are smooth, and this is with the `OpenGL plugin which makes the graphics smoother and reduces pixilation.


I used PCMark for the battery benchmarks since I couldn’t find any other option to test the battery (thank you Gizguide and Sir Pete for the idea). I had a bit of difficulty at first because the interface is hard to get to, but I managed to get the records and benchmarks eventually.

The final benchmarks report that the phone can run for 12h 58m on standby, or approximately 13 hours. Not bad for a phone with a capacity of 5000mah, cause there are some phones that will do worse, and with stock android, the battery is strong and does not die easily. However, take note this is only on stand-by so it still depends on the user on how he/she uses the phone, if you’re a heavy gamer, then this duration may or may not get shorter.

As for the charging, we ran tests from 1-40% and 10-100% with the default 10W charger it came with. Unfortunately, it is really slow, it might even take forever to charge. The 10-100% test charged to full in 3H 35m. The 1-40% test charged within an hour. However, if you have a better plug and brick, charging may be faster.


The Aqua S9 is a very good contender for the price, though it may not have all the quirks and giggles other phones have, it certainly can compete with slightly higher-priced phones, even with the questionable processor, which to my surprise, it worked really well. You cannot get a 4GB RAM phone and full-stock android at this price range, as other competitors opt for 2GB RAM and Android Go. If I’m going to say anything negative about the Aqua S9, I’d say it would be the video-taking, as the quality is just bad, but for taking photos, I’d say this is adequate. So if you’re looking for an ultra-budget performance phone, this is for you.


? 4GB of RAM and 64GB Storage for a really low price of 4,000php

? Surprisingly Good Performance. It can handle most games with the exception of heavy-duty ones like Genshin Impact

? Bright and Sharp Display. Not the most crystal clear or the most vibrant but it will do for outdoor use

? Decent Photo Quality during the daytime, although pictures could be slightly more vibrant

? Bloat-free and clean Android. Launches with Pure Vanilla Android and your only “bloat” are the Google Apps

? Ships with Stock Android (not Android Go) as opposed to its competitors

? Loud and clear audio


? Night Video and Photo is a nightmare. Almost unidentifiable without night mode.

? Night Mode for Photos brightens up image, but the quality nevertheless remains the same: Noisy and washed out

? Has no stabilisation, meaning the video will be very shaky even at the most careful moments. Not recommended for vlogging

? Does not support 5G Wi-Fi, mainly because the processor does not support it

? The outdated Cherry Mobile Startup tune may bother or embarrass some users (but this is more of a nitpick from me)


You can purchase the Aqua S9 in authorised offline stores, or through these links:

Lazada: Cherry Mobile Aqua S9

Shopee: Cherry Mobile Aqua S9

Remember, you can always watch our review here.

Thank you for reading this review, and as always, you can leave comments below to express your thoughts about the Aqua S9