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Huawei Nova 3i Review

Huawei set new standards when it comes to bang-for-the-buck devices when they released the Nova 2i late last year. It was so popular it was our most-read review of 2017.

Barely a year later and they’ve already released its successor, the Nova 3i, along with its more powerful sibling the Nova 3. With the competition in the mid-range segment now more intense than ever, can Huawei do another home run with the Nova 3i? Let’s find out.

Design and Construction

The design of the Nova 3i is different from its predecessor that you wouldn’t think that it came from the same family. It’s more premium thanks to the 2.5D glass on the front and back. The frame is still metal but has a glossy metallic finish.

On the front, we have the 6.3-inch display and uses a notch design. It’s wider than the notch we see on the P20 or Honor 10, which is understandable considering that it houses the 24MP + 2MP front cameras, sensor, and the earpiece with LED notifications.

The hybrid nano-SIM tray is placed on the left, and the metallic volume and power/lock buttons on the right. Up top is the secondary microphone, while down below are the 3.5mm audio port, main microphone, loudspeaker, and micro USB port which can be a downer for some who are expecting a USB Type-C.

At the back, we have the protruding dual-rear cameras, the LED flash, and the circle fingerprint scanner. Also found here are the labelings similar to what Huawei did for the P20 devices. From here you will also notice it’s gradient color of blue and purple which Huawei calls the Iris Purple. In a way, it kind of reminds us of the Honor 10.

As expected, it’s a smudge and fingerprint magnet. Unfortunately, the retail box we received didn’t come with its own jelly case and there’s no screen protector pre-installed.

The Nova 3i feels nice in the hands as the glass front and back curves almost seamlessly to the edges for that unibody feel. It has a decent heft, wider than the Honor 10 but still easy to grip and comfortable to hold with one hand. Although navigating the whole screen would still require two hands.

Display and Multimedia

The Nova 3i is equipped with a 6.3-inch FullView Display 2.0 with FHD+ (2340 x 1080) resolution or equal to 409ppi. Given the notch design, it now has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio and boasts an 81% screen-to-body ratio.

Users also have the option to lower the resolution to HD+ (1560 x 720) or switch on Smart resolution so it can do it automatically to help save power. There’s also an option to adjust color modes from Normal to Vivid, as well as color temperature from Default to Warm to Cold. In addition, there’s split screen support and you can also hide the notch if you’re not fond of it.

So far we like the quality of the display as the images and texts are sharp while the colors are punchy. Viewing angles are great without showing any color shifting. These are good indicators that it can provide users with a good viewing experience when browsing, watching videos or playing games.

When it comes to audio quality, the Nova 3i’s single speaker is loud and crisp enough for casual listening to music, videos, and gaming, as well as hands-free voice calls. However, like most smartphones of this caliber, the bass is weak. Better use the earphones included in the package or a Bluetooth speaker for a better listening experience.

But if you’re with other Nova 3i or Honor smartphone users, you can use a cool feature called Music party which syncs music playback across phones on the same WiFi network to create a surround sound. The more phones at the party, the better. It’s really fun and easy to use.

Camera

One of the main features of the Nova 3i is its cameras. It still has four cameras like the Nova 2i but it’s now more powerful and comes with extra features. It has a 16MP + 2MP rear cameras, and 24MP f/2.0 + 2MP front cameras. Like with the Nova 2i, the 2MP secondary sensors are there to aid in bokeh effects.

It’s got plenty of features like Pro, Slow-mo, Night, Panorama, Light painting, HDR, Time-lapse, 3D Panorama, Document scan, Beauty, Aperture, Portrait, and AR Lens which we will discuss in a bit. It also has an AI scene recognition which can detect up to 22 different scenes.

One of its coolest features is the AR Lens. Aside from “stickers” that are found in other mid-range smartphones, it has the “3D Qmoji” which works similar to the iPhone X’s Animoji. You can pick from multiple characters like the chameleon, puffer fish, wolf, cat, rabbit, robot, penguin, and cherry. You can record a video with the animated character or turn it into a GIF.

via GIPHY

Another one is “Backgrounds” which adds animations to your background with matching sound effects. It’s cute, and like the 3D Qmoji, you can record a video or turn it into a GIF. And since the device supports Google ARCore, it also has the “3D Objects” feature which is jointly developed by Baidu AR and Huawei. It adds an animated character in Augmented Reality and lets you record a video of it. Sadly it only has five penguin effects as of the moment.

In terms of quality, both the rear and front main cameras can produce images that are sharp with accurate colors and contrast but mostly when shooting in bright conditions. It’s still capable when shooting in dim environments but the images come out soft perhaps in its attempt to suppress noise. Performance is poor in low-light as it is very smudgy and peppered with noise.

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When it comes to its AI capabilities, it has a toggle called AI camera which is also found in Honor devices. What it does is it automatically enhances the images you take. Most of its enhancements are pleasing, however, there are times that it’s just too aggressive. It seemed like it just boosted the saturation and HDR effects, leaving the images looking artificial at times.

When it comes to video recording, the Nova 3i can shoot up to Full HD resolution at 60fps. The quality is not that impressive as the footage lacks details and sharpness. Colors and dynamic range are okay but it doesn’t have video stabilization which makes it prone to shakes. Watch the sample below.

OS, UI, and Apps

Running the software is EMUI 8.2.0 which is based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Although a Huawei-branded phone, the interface is almost identical to the one found on Honor devices.

It still houses multiple home screens to house apps. Swiping down from the top will reveal the toggle keys as well as the notifications. Swiping to the left side of the main home screen will bring out HiBoard instead of Google.

Aside from Huawei’s own apps like the Phone Manager, Themes, AppGallery, and HiCare, plenty of other pre-installed apps are present like Facebook, Messenger, Netflix, Camera 360, Z Camera, Quik, Lazada, Booking.com, and a few other games. It’s annoying to see these apps especially if you don’t need them in the first place. On the bright side, these can be uninstalled.

If you’re concerned about storage, don’t be, as the Nova 3i is equipped with 128GB storage with 103GB as usable. If that is not enough, there’s USB OTG and you can install a microSD card, however, you’ll have to sacrifice dual-SIM functionality.

Performance and Benchmarks

Powering the Nova 3i is Huawei’s new mid-range chipset, the Kirin 710 octa-core chipset clocked at 2.2GHz and Mali-G51 GPU. So far, it performed great when it comes to ordinary tasks like navigating the UI, launching and switching between apps. The fingerprint scanner and face unlock is fast and responsive that is comparable to the P20 series, and can unlock our device almost instantaneously.

Running multiple apps in the background is not an issue thanks to the 4GB RAM. It also proved to be capable when it comes to gaming as it was able to run Asphalt 9 and Mobile Legends smoothly. PUBG Mobile is also very playable, although you’re limited to Smooth and Medium Frame Rate graphics settings.

  • AnTuTu – 138,548
  • 3D Mark – 943 (SSE – OpenGL ES 3.1), 1,125 (SSE – Vulkan)
  • Geekbench 4 – 1,590 (Single-Core), 5,594 (Multi-Core), 4,061 (RenderScript)
  • PC Mark – 5,624 (Work 1.0), 4,338 (Work 2.0)
  • AndroBench – 308.28 MB/s (Read), 227.33 MB/s (Write)

Based on the benchmark results, the performance is close to the likes of the OPPO F7 and Vivo X21 UD, and outperformed the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 and Vivo V9.

Connectivity and Battery Life

The Nova 3i comes with a standard connectivity suite like dual 4G with VoLTE support, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. NFC is absent but not really a deal breaker. Calls are loud and clear while mobile is fast as long as the signal is good in the area. GPS works well with navigation apps like Grab, Google Maps, and Waze.

When it comes to battery, the Nova 3i has the same battery capacity as the Nova 2i which is 3,340mAh, which is enough to last a whole day with a little left for the night. Using our video loop test which involves playing a 1080p video on loop at 50% brightness and volume got us 13 hours and 30 minutes of playback. For comparison, the Nova 2i got around 12 hours in our test. Charging, on the other hand, takes 2 hours and 30 minutes using its stock charger.

PC Mark battery test, on the other hand, rated the device at 9 Hours and 50 minutes. A not too shabby result but still kind of on the low side.

Conclusion

Huawei did a fine job last year on the Nova 2i by packing a mid-range smartphone with above average specs then sell it at a very competitive price point. They used the same formula with the Nova 3i but gave the hardware and design a significant bump.

The screen is larger, the performance is better, the body is more premium, the cameras have higher resolution, it has double the storage, and comes with a slew of new AI features. However, there’s no USB Type-C, no video stabilization, and no dedicated microSD card slot, which can be a downer for some.

As for the suggested retail price, the Nova 3i has a Php15,990 price tag (see Lazada listing here) which is just Php1K more than the introductory price of the Nova 2i. It is also priced lower than most mid-range smartphones which makes it a solid contender.

So, is the Nova 3i the next mid-range smartphone to beat? Is it a new home run for Huawei? Based on what it has to offer, we believe it is.

Huawei Nova 3i specs:

SpecificationHuawei Nova 3i
Display6.3-inch 19.5:9 IPS LCD FullView display 2.0 @ 2340 x 1080 pixels, 409ppi
Glass type2.5D Curved Glass
CPUHiSilicon Kirin 710 4x cortex a73 2.2ghz + 4x cortex a53 1.7ghz Octa-core Processor
GPUMali-G51 w/ GPU Turbo Tech
RAM4GB RAM
Storage128GB internal storage
SIMDual-SIM (nano, hybrid)
MicroSDExpandable via microSD (hybrid)
Rear Camera16MP + 2MP AI dual rear cameras w/ Super slow mo 480fps
Front Camera24MP + 2MP AI dual front cameras
LTEDual 4G, Dual-VoLTE
WiFiWiFi 802.11b/g/n, 2.4GHz
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2, BLE, HWA, aptX, and aptX HD
GPSGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, A-GPS
PortMicro USB 2.0
3.5mm audio portYes
Biometrics- Fingerprint scanner
- 360 face unlock
OSEMUI 8.2 (Android 8.1 Oreo)
Battery3,340mAh Li-Po battery
ColorsGradient, Classic Black, White

What we liked:
* Premium build
* Large and nice display
* Four cameras
* Large storage
* Good performance
* Competitive price

What we didn’t:
* No USB Type-C port
* No dedicated microSD card slot
* Below average video recording quality
* No video stabilization


This article was written by Louie Diangson, Managing Editor of YugaTech. You can follow him at @John_Louie.

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33 Responses

  1. Adones Villacin says:

    Ask lang po if Nova 3i has the same issue with P20 Lite na madaling mag init yong back pag nag games ka?

  2. Paul says:

    Are there any phones with video stabilization in the below 20k range?
    Kinda unfair to list it as a con if the competition doesn’t have it either.

  3. Saji says:

    What is the SAR value this phone? Currently having problem with ear pain while making phone calls for more than 5 minutes with honor 9 lite. Better to check radiation level before purchasing.

  4. Robert Jhon Gagui says:

    mas ok ba to kesa sa max pro m1 4gb??

  5. john says:

    why should we support a Chinese company with proven ties to the Chinese Government which is stealing our territory?

  6. jobert0 says:

    Huawei set new standards when it comes to bang-for-the-buck devices when they released the Nova 2i late last year. – Set new standards? bang for the buck devices? Sorry to burst your bubble dude, those nice words you mentioned belongs to Xiaomi, not huawei, not oppo or its twin vivo.

  7. Dredd says:

    @louie xiaomi mi max 3. far better specs priced cheaper

  8. waLLace says:

    please update the review. do the same battery video loop test in oppo f7 and asus max pro. 50% brightness and sound with headphones.

  9. wallace says:

    Please update the review. Do the same battery video loop test like in oppo f7, asus max pro, and redmi note 5 with 50 percent brightness and sound with headphones. because i cant compare it to other review.

  10. J says:

    That internal storage capacity and expandable memory via microSD is LOVE.

    Will read more user experience review before I buy this though. Need to way the pros and cons.

    Thanks for the review Yugatech.

  11. Vince says:

    PUBG is playable only in medium settings? So the Nova 3i is beaten by Asus’ zenfone max pro m1 in gaming?

  12. Fei says:

    How does it goes if compared with redmi note 5(global) and zenfone 5 in terms of camera and loud speaker performances?
    Which 1 better?

  13. Allen says:

    Is it just me or is it kinda cheeky how Huawei named the Kirin 710 as such, obviously drawing attention from the similarly named Snapdragon 710?

  14. Jayson says:

    Mabilis mag charge I to ng dalawang oras o hindi

  15. Root says:

    Huawei has now stopped unlocking bootloaders..so thanks, but no thanks!

  16. JM says:

    Ang Medyo badtrip dito mga bro is ung preorder palang wala na daw stock ng Iris purple. sabi ng agent from techbox megamall sa glorietta lang daw avail ung iris purple and they only have 100 units for purple and 1000 units for black. totoo kaya un.. ganda pa naman nung iris purple.

  17. emman says:

    kindly review rin po yung max fps per resolution, gusto ko malaman kung ano resolution ng super slow mo'(420fps) nito…

  18. CJ Gil says:

    Is this water-proof?

  19. Luisa says:

    Nova 3i or P20 lite camera?

  20. Luisa says:

    This or Huawei P20 lite?

  21. Ryan says:

    may GPU turbo na po ba ito out of the box? thanks

  22. Edwin says:

    Is this have a OTG

  23. David Akram says:

    The mainstream smartphone market segment has never been this crowded. Many manufacturers are pushing out affordable and feature-packed smartphones that are giving consumers a good run for their money. It just became a lot more difficult for consumers to make an informed decision on the right smartphone to purchase! With the new Nova 3i Smartphone, Huawei tries to make it a straightforward choice for consumers who are seeking for a new smartphone in this segment.

  24. Alexandra says:

    Hi i got nova 3i just 3days from now. May napansin lang po ako with the notification light. Nakailaw po sya while charging. Natural po siguro yun. Pero once na nakavideocall po aq on a low light or dim talaga while charging nagrereflect po yung green notif light sa cam. Bothering po kasi kahit while taking video front cam on low light. D ko po alam kung factory deffect yun. Please help. Thanks para din po maibalik ko agad kung hindi normal yung ganon.

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