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Huawei Nova 3 Review: Better than Expected?

Huawei launched its latest nova phones; Nova 3 and Nova 3i recently. Nova 3i is more of a budget-centric midrange smartphone whereas the Nova 3 is upper tier mid-range smartphone with flagship processor. Nova series has always been good for its price to performance ratio, build quality and battery. So, how well does the Nova 3 do to keep up the heritage? Find out in our Huawei Nova 3 review.

Huawei Nova 3 Review


Design & Build

The Nova 3 sports a similar glass panel with an aluminum frame design that we’ve seen from Huawei’s premium offering. This is a huge plus as the latest phone once again belies its actual price tag with a look and feel that could go toe-to-toe with some flagship smartphones. With some design cues from Huawei’s premium lineup, the Nova 3 carries a dual camera setup on the back along with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The rounded edges look smooth and the antenna bands are well hidden. The glass finish is as smooth as it gets and feels as premium as some flagships in the hands. Huawei has been doing this a lot with most of their phones, the gradient color back, it’s unique and gives off this unique effect depending on how you’re looking at it. Huawei calls it the iris purple and it has this bluish and purple gradient.

huawei nova 3 review

Now it should not be a surprise that you’re getting a notch in 2018. However, Nova 3 has a dual camera on the notch along with a mic. Since notch is what you do to get rid of bezels, I would say Huawei has done a nice job keeping the bezel to its minimum. The bezels on the side are almost non-existent. However, there’s a slight chin at the bottom but it’s an upgrade over the other phones from their nova series.

On the right side, we have a physical volume rocker and power key, with the former doubling up as a shutter button, while the left is home to a solitary dual-SIM tray. Similar to the Nova 3e, it’s a hybrid dual sim slot with micro SD support. Aside from the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and single firing bottom speaker, there’s a USB type C port.

Display

Nova 3 sports the trendy edge to edge screen. It uses an LCD panel with a screen resolution of 1080*2340, the minimum bezels and the tall 19.5 by 9 aspect ratio means that the screen takes almost the whole surface of the phone.

It’s crisp and it has to be one of the best displays in the mid-range smartphones. The colors are punchy and it’s bright enough. The viewing angles are great and you won’t have any problems with the display in outdoor condition too. Out of the box, the Nova 3 is set to a default color mode. This can be switched to a far cooler mode or a warmer mode in the display settings menu. There’s an eye comfort mode for filtering out the blue light, which can be scheduled for a certain time of a day, an optional smart resolution toggle that automatically drops the display down to a 1,520 x 720 resolution to conserve battery when required.

Hardware and Performance

For the hardware, we get 6 gigs of RAM, 128 gigs of internal storage which can be expanded using a micro SD card. Meanwhile, we get Kirin 970 Chipset with GPU turbo.

The Kirin 970 is the same processor that was used in its flagship device p20 pro. Internet browsing, opening apps, and multitasking were smooth. It ran most of the intense title we threw at it with relative ease. On the plus side, the GPU turbo really helps to conserve the battery even while gaming.

Now the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone, it is fast. Fingerprint sensor these days are really good and I still think Huawei does it better than most out there. Additionally, you can use the fingerprint sensor to take a photo, answer calls, browse photos and show notification panel.

Software

The Nova 3 runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, with EMUI 8.2 on top. There is an option to use the app drawer and most of the icons look flashy. Also, it comes with some bloatware like Huawei Health and other pre-installed tools. Swiping right on the home button takes you to smart care where you can monitor your phone usage, news, fitness data, and others.

There’s backup and restore feature, multiple navigation features, options to hide the notch, multiple battery saving modes with different intensities, and you can also adjust screen resolution under the battery settings.

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Additionally, there are some motion features, you can swipe with three fingers to take the screenshot and you can even take the scrolling screenshot which allows you take the screenshot of the full display as long as you can scroll.

Camera

Huawei has been offering the dual-lens camera in the Nova lineup, so it’s no surprise to see two sensors on its latest offering. The Nova 3 sports a primary 24MP f/2.0 lens and a 2MP lens on the front.

The primary sensor looks great here, great in details and it comes with HDR Pro mode for a better dynamic range. Basically, the HDR Pro mode helps with bright backgrounds. It comes with portrait mode and lighting options, the edge detection and blur amount is quite decent here. Furthermore, the front camera supports AI to enhance the camera experience.

AR stickers are implemented quite well if you’re into it, it’s a nice way to kill some time with your friends.

The rear camera gets an upgrade from the Nova 3i. There’s a 16 MP f1.8 primary rear sensor and a 24MP monochrome sensor. The camera app is fairly easy to use and provides a wide variety of modes such as HDR, panorama, Night shot and time lapse. And there’s a fully featured pro-mode as well for both, photo and video.

Talking about cameras real-life performance, photos captured from the rear camera in favorable light are quite impressive, level of detail and colors are good and has a decent dynamic range. Unlike previous phones from Nova series, the images are not aggressively saturated but still, there is a hint of sharpness and oversaturation, especially with the AI turned on.

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It comes with the AI support which tries to tweak images according to the situation. The good thing is you can cancel out the AI tweaks even after capturing the picture. So always click pictures in AI mode and turn it off you don’t like the tweaked effects. But I did notice some weird artifacts with the AI turned on. You can check it out in the pictures below.

There’s also a wide aperture mode, allows you to take shots with depth of field effect which are decent at best. There’s also a portrait mode and it seems to do a good job with a nice amount of blur and average edge detection.

I was not expecting the Nova 3 to perform under low light and night settings but it did quite well. Its f/1.8 sensor tries to keep the noise under control and pictures turn out quite good. However, the pictures with AI turned on are overexposed and oversaturated, hence there is more noise. But it’s a matter of preference and you might like those oversaturated images.

Moving on to the videos, it can capture up to 4k 30 fps. The videos have a good amount of details and colors in 4k but the lack of stabilization is its downside. Things get much smoother in lower settings like 1080p 60fps and 1080p 30fps but it could have been much better with OIS.

Battery

We get a larger 3750 mah battery. Nova 3 was consistently providing 4+ hours of screen on time and per my usage, it’s excellent so there’s no problem with battery here. But if you use it wisely, like if you are a moderate user you will be able to make it last almost 2 days. And it’s great that Huawei managed to chip in such a large battery in such a slim phone!

Wrapping It Up

So, at 59 thousand rupees you’re getting a phone with fabulous build quality, a solid processor inside, and an AI front camera that will not let you down. I like this phone very much, especially its battery. The camera was better than I expected and I think that its camera is good for photos but things could have been much better with videos.

Nova 3 is a definite step-up in terms of performance and is a worthy upgrade for the price tag!


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