Huawei Nova 3 vs. VIVO X21 UD vs. Samsung Galaxy A8: 3-Way Comparison Review
Which smartphone deserves the light flagship status?
The premium mid-range is a growing segment of the smartphone market. It is price-positioned somewhere between the Php25k to Ph30k range, something that used to be owned by flagship devices.
Some of the more notable devices in this fairly new category are the VIVO X21 UD, the Samsung Galaxy A8 and the newly released Huawei Nova 3. So we’re putting them side by side in this 3-way comparison and see which one offers the most value for your hard-earned money.
Like in our previous comparisons, we break them down into several categories for this round-up:
- Design and Build
- Battery Life
Design and Build
The design and build quality of these mid-range smartphones are impeccable and almost at the same level as their flagship counterparts. This is especially true with Samsung’s Galaxy A8 and Huawei’s Nova 3.
VIVO also used a metal frame with some sort of polycarbonate material for the back panel and finishes it off with a curved glass outer layer for a nice glossy look. It looks simple with a sleek and slim profile that’s cool to the touch.
On the other hand, Samsung’s Galaxy A8 take on the same signature look as their flagship S-series, although it’s a bit chunkier and has a smaller profile. The metal and all-glass construction gives it a premium look and feel that’s almost indistinguishable as the flagship counterpart.
The new Nova 3 by Huawei looks stunning in Iris Purple, with a gradient color treatment spanning the entire back panel. The body is constructed with metal and all-glass exterior that makes it look premium and elegant.
Among the three, we call it a win for the Nova 3, followed by the X21 UD and the Galaxy A8. The unique color profile of the Nova 3 is what sets it apart from the rest.
The Galaxy A8 has a rather smaller footprint at 5.6 inches but comes with a nice Super AMOLED display at 2220 x 1080 pixel resolution. This gives it a very high 441ppi pixel density. There’s no notch here which is good but the thick bezels are a sore eye and the 75.6% screen-to-body ratio is unimpressive.
The Nova 3 is the biggest of the three with a 6.3-inch IPS LCD Display. It’s got a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution and 409ppi pixel density. Compared to the rest, the display profile is a little taller with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9 with a high 84.2% screen-to-body ratio.
The VIVO X21 UD tops them all with a huge 6.28-inches full HD+ Super AMOLED display. The screen resolution tops at 2280×1080 pixels or about 401ppi pixel density. The notch design may seem unsightly but contributed to a very high screen-to-body ratio of 85.2%.
VIVO takes home this category with its large Super AMOLED display and impressive use of available screen real estate.
One of the main features of the Galaxy A8 (2018) is its cameras which consists of a 16MP PDAF f/1.7 rear and 16MP FF f/1.9 + 8MP f/1.9 front.
For the front cameras, the 16MP FF f/1.9 (standard angle) + 8MP f/1.9 (wide-angle) configuration makes the device a versatile selfie shooter.
The X21 UD is equipped with dual-rear cameras consisting of a 12MP f/1.8 Dual-Pixel PDAF main and a 5MP f/2.4 secondary to aid in bokeh effects. The front camera, on the other hand, has a 12MP f/2.0 sensor.
It has HDR, Portrait mode, Live Photo, Face Beauty, Manual mode, Panorama, Face Beauty, and AR Stickers. It also has the ability to shoot 24MP images if you need the extra resolution but exclusive to the rear camera.
The Nova 3 comes with a combination of a 24-megapixel monochrome sensor plus a 16-megapixel camera, both set at a wide f/1.8 aperture.
The front-facing cameras are a combo of a 24MP f/2.0 sensor coupled with a 2MP secondary camera as a depth sensor.
Here are some sample side-by-side photos of the rear and front cameras:
In terms of color saturation, the Nova 3 and X21 UD are more vibrant while the Galaxy A8 looks a little faded or washed out. The Nova 3 also has better sharpness compared to the other two where images tend to apply softer edges.
Indoor and low-light shots looked brighter on the Nova 3 while the Galaxy A8 is not as bright and the X21 UD is a bit shaky.
We give the overall score to the Nova 3 for this category.
Most often, we see can determine the value of the premium mid-range device by the type of processor or chipset that it uses.
More or less, we expect the performance of the devices to be near if not very close to its flagship counterpart.
To be more objective in this category, we also looked at synthetic benchmarks (in this test, we used Antutu v7) to determine their raw power.
Samsung uses its own chipset for most of its devices. In the case of the Galaxy A8, they used the Exynos 7885 which has an octa-core processor composed of a dual Cortex A73 running at 2.2GHz and a hexa-core Cortex A53 running at 1.6GHz. This is paired with a fairly good Mali G71 GPU.
While the ARM Cortex A73 is currently one of the best, the Exynos 7885 only has 2 cores instead of the usual 4 and that really showed in the benchmark scores (85k points).
In the meantime, VIVO stuck it out with Qualcomm with the mid-range Snapdragon 660 which is composed of 8 Kryo cores, half of which runs at a top clock speed of 2.2GHz and the other half at 1. 8GHz. This is paired with an Adreno 512 GPU.
|Benchmark||Huawei Nova 3||Samsung Galaxy A8||Vivo X21|
The Snapdragon 660 is a very capable chip and the synthetic benchmarks showed very good scores (141k points).
On the other hand, we have to give this round to Huawei for using their top-of-the line chipset in the Nova 3. Running a HiSilicon Kirin 970, this is the exact same chipset Huawei used in their flagship P20 and P20 Pro smartphones so using it on the Nova 3 is a huge statement.
The Kirin 970 runs on a quad-core Cortex A73 with a max speed of 2.4GHz and another quad-core Cortex A53 at 1.8GHz. This is paired with an equally powerful Mali G72 MP12 GPU. The final benchmarks scores are expectedly high, more than double the Exynos 7885 of the Galaxy A8.
System memory or RAM is essential in order to get a smooth and snappy performance especially when a lot of apps are loaded or are running in the background.
Normally, we can safely say that 4GB of RAM should be enough in a smartphone especially if we’re talking about the premium mid-range segment.
Obviously, more RAM is generally better. The Galaxy A8 has 4GB of RAM while the VIVO X21 UD and the Nova 3 have 6GB of it.
This round is tied between VIVO and Huawei.
Internal storage is a huge consideration especially with the growing sizes of apps and games in the Google Play Store as well as the amount of media we download actually create (photos and videos).
Both the Nov 3 and VIVO X21 UD come with a generous 128GB of internal storage while the Galaxy A8 only has 32GB.
This round goes to Huawei and VIVO once again.
Battery life is a little tricky to measure. Bigger capacity (in mAh) does not always follow a longer battery life. This is because of other factors such as processor efficiency, display size, and technology used as well as OS and system optimization.
In order to help determine this, we used a set of test to standardize the measurement. One is the PCMark Battery test and the second is the video loop test.
|Battery Test||Huawei Nova 3||Vivo X21||Samsung Galaxy A8|
|PC Mark Battery Test||12 hours, 26 minutes||8 hours, 40 minutes||12 hours|
|Video Loop Test||12 hours, 34 minutes||17 hours||18 hours, 30 minutes|
Of the three, the Nova 3 has the biggest battery capacity at 3,750mAh, followed by the X21 UD at 3,200mAh and the Galaxy A8 last at just 3,000mAh.
Despite the relatively smaller battery capacity of the Galaxy A8, it manages to squeeze a lot of juice. This could be due to the fact that it has a smaller display size and uses a more power-efficient Super AMOLED panel.
Surprisingly, the Galaxy A8 wins in this round.
Operating system is an essential component of a smartphone. Newer versions offer more features and better overall experience. In this case, the VIVO X21 UD, Galaxy A8 and Huawei Nova 3 all run on the latest Android 8.1 Oreo.
Each one uses their own custom UI on top of the OS along with a plethora of other add-on features.
It’s a 3-way tie in this category.
Of the three smartphones, the Nova 3 is the most affordable at Php25,990, followed by the Samsung Galaxy A8 at Php26,990 and the VIVO X21 UD at Php29,999.
There’s no question the Huawei Nova 3 is the best value for what it offers and by quite a significant difference from the other two contenders.
Based on our tally per category, the Huawei Nova 3 led the pack by quite a lot getting high marks in design, processor, RAM and storage as well as the camera. It’s also the most affordable of the lot. The Kirin 970 is a flagship-class
The VIVO X21 UD came in second, winning the display category uncontested. Trailing behind is the Galaxy A8 which surprisingly got points for the camera.
Huawei’s Nova 3 made a clear statement that the brand doesn’t need to compromise to give the best possible device at a reasonable price point. It’s like you’re buying a flagship smartphone at the price of a mid-range device.