Huawei has just recently introduced a new Nova smartphone series, Nova 3. Featuring two different smartphones — 3 and 3i — we will be taking an in-depth look at what the higher spec-ed out of the two, Nova 3, has to offer. This specific series has been offered from Huawei over the last few years right alongside its Mate and P lineup and for 2018, the brand has revamped it quite much. Features that immediately strike with Nova 3 include Kirin 970 processor and a 128GB storage capacity — same as on standard P20 Pro — at quite a lesser price. But, as performance is just one aspect, we will discuss the Nova 3 as a whole in our detailed review ahead and conclude whether it stands tall against the tough competition of similarly priced 2018 smartphones.
P20 Pro is one smartphone that has garnered Huawei amazing success. Learning from it, the brand is now finally trickling down P20’s features to more affordable price-points and we gauge Nova 3 to be exactly that. On top of the processor being a key similarity with P20 Pro, Nova 3 also features a stunning Iris Purple color option which the former featured in. Further, as Nova series has always been targeted towards youth, this color scheme surely helps grab the market. Good looks and great performance are key things to have but does Nova 3 come up short in others? Let’s discuss ahead!
We did glance over some key specs, however, here are complete technical specifications for Huawei Nova 3:
- Network: Hybrid Dual SIM 4G Support (GSM / FDD / TDD / WCDMA)
- Display: 6.3″, 19.5:9, 1080 x 2340, 409 PPI Display
- Processor: HUAWEI Kirin 970 – Frequency: 4×2.36GHz (Cortex A73), 4×1.8GHz (Cortex A53)
- OS: Android 8.1 (Oreo)
- Camera Rear: 24 mega-pixel (mono) + 16 mega-pixel (colour), F/1.8 aperture, supports autofocus (deep focus, phase focus, contrast focus)
- Camera Front: 24 mega-pixel (colour) + 2 mega-pixel (colour), F/2.0 aperture, supports fixed focal length
- Connectivity: Type-C USB 2.0, Bluetooth® 4.2
- Sensors: Gravity Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Fingerprint sensor
- Memory: 4 GB RAM + 128GB internal storage
- Dimension: 157.0m x 73.7mm x 7.3mm
- Battery: 3,750mAh
Huawei Nova 3: Design and Hardware
While it gets harder to pack in more performance in smartphones each year, same goes for physical designs. By now, most smartphones are merging towards similar layouts that make them quite hard for consumers to differentiate. For this, Nova 3 and Huawei have a very clever solution, in fact, they can be crowned as a trend-setters for this. Rather than thinking long and hard about hardware placement attributes, designers at Huawei have diverted their attention to beautiful color options and we must add, they have succeeded! The unit we have with us is configured in poster-spec Iris Purple color. Featuring a complete glass back, this paint job is integrated seamlessly into the phone and gives off a nice sheen when light reflects off of it. There are two main colors, purple on the bottom and light blue on the top, both of which have been merged using a gradient effect. If you aren’t into the whole look, Huawei still offers Red, Airy Blue and Black options.
While Nova 3’s color overpowers all other design aspects, there are still few details that make it synonymous with other Huawei smartphones. The dual cameras on the back, which we will take in greater detail ahead, are oriented vertically and the fingerprint scanner is placed at the rear center. As for the sides, unlike P20 Pro, Nova 3 comes in a color-matched painted aluminium border rather than chrome and for our unit, it came in this dark purple. The left edge is where users would find power and volume buttons and as for right edge, Nova 3 features a dual hybrid SIM tray. Top end is basically empty except for the microphone cut-out and at the bottom, there are speakers, USB Type-C and headphone jack.
Flipping Nova 3 to inspect it’s front, it comes equipped with new 19.5:9 6.3 inch diagonally long display with minimal bezels and a notch. For display technology, IPS LCD is being utilized. Compared to OLED, IPS LCD is an inferior technology that lacks color-depth but, is expensive at the same time. What Nova 3 loses in color representation, it gains back with its high-resolution and 409 PPI — higher than P20 Pro. As for the notch, it is debatable as to whether pushing the screens parallel with the front sensors garners any benefit but it is there and each user would have its own opinion. What we appreciate, however, is Huawei including a built-in option to hide the notch through software which works quite well. Lastly, within the notch itself, there are two cameras to provide better bokeh and face unlock, rest, there are sensors and the earpiece placed here as well. Also, Nova 3 features a notification LED which falls behind the speaker grill rather than the being behind the glass.
Moving towards internal hardware such as the processor, storage and RAM, it is no surprise Nova 3 stacks quite closely with P20 Pro. Running same EMUI skin based on Android 8.1 Oreo, Nova 3 is no slouch. It blazes through normal UI, apps and games without any hiccups and offers great efficiency at the same time — thanks to Kirin 970. Accompanying the processor, there is 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on-board. RAM figure is quite respectable and thanks to optimizations in Android, multi-tasking for apps wasn’t an issue. As for storage, it is truly amazing how Huawei packaged in 128GB of it while still competing with mid-range pricing. For reference, the $1200+ iPhone which launched this month starts with 64GB. For enthusiasts, this will be a deal-sealing spec and we are glad Huawei has thought of it!
For a rough reference as to how Nova 3 performs, here we have few synthetic benchmarks from the phone to give you an idea.
To finish, let’s cover some minute hardware details of the phone. Fingerprint print scanner on the back is quite fast and reliable — we had zero issues in our tests. Further, there is no removal of headphone jack which is a big plus. The speaker placed at bottom is average, its neither astounding nor bad.
Huawei Nova 3: Camera
Camera is one thing which Huawei recently perfected with P20 Pro hence, setting a high bar for itself. Definitely, we don’t expect Nova 3 to be as powerful as the Triple-Leica lens flagship but still, there is a benchmark we would like it to meet. Artificial Intelligence has recently seen a large boom in its application on mobile photography. Not only does this feature, if implemented correctly, overcome for low quality camera modules but allows for some amazing bokeh photos which users love — Portrait Mode. We are glad to say, Nova 3 not only comes with AI but has an integration that we found useful. So much, that most of our test shots are with it enabled. For technicals, the rear features a 24MP f/1.8 sensor coupled with a 16MP module that is used for depth and records Black / White data. You can see our sample shots here:
Nova 3 comes with a similar AI scene selection software that automatically detects what you are shooting and processes the photo accordingly. Further, for video, Nova 3 captures upto UHD quality footage. On top of second module serving as an assistant to the main lens, if you choose to stay within 16MP resolution, there is an option to switch to it to take 2x zoom photos. The color representation is taken from the 24MP itself. Handy feature for mobile photography!
Overall, we will summarize the rear cameras on Nova 3 as perfect for its price. Thanks to AI, pictures captured can look really above what Nova 3 is actually capable of if it was solely depending on hardware. As for the front sensors, there are two sensors as well. However, in this case, contrary to 24MP main front sensor, there is a low 2MP module assisting it. The 2MP module is there for perfect Portrait mode selfies. Further this setup is offers some amazing face unlock capabilities with respect to competing smartphones.
Huawei Nova 3: Connectivity and Battery
By now, the only key critique we had for Nova 3 is IPS display panel, except that, it has proven itself well. Now, lets see what communication features it has on board and what sort of battery performance it is capable of, keeping in mind the power-hungry processor. For starters, despite coming with 128GB storage as standard, the phone still comes with a hybrid SIM slot letting users expand memory even further. For regions it might differ, but our unit has support for 4G stand-by on both SIMs with compliance for latest high-speed 4G technologies. As for other communication features, our unit doesn’t feature NFC but for regions where there is a large user base for it, there is a version by Huawei that has it. Also, Bluetooth is rated at 4.2 rather than 5.0 hence no support for multiple device connections. For main data transfer to fill in the larger storage, Nova 3 features USB Type-C with support for fast charging.
Performance at the cost of battery is something which consumers absolutely dread. Staying independent from the charger and still handling CPU intensive task is the ultimate goal which potential buyers look for. Thankfully enough, Nova 3 strikes a great balance. For our usage test — ranging from browsing internet, running benchmarks and navigating the stock UI — we found Nova 3 to be easily a one-day endurance phone. Adding on to it, thanks to Type-C, there is support for fast charging and a fast charger is included within the stock box.
Huawei Nova 3: Software
Hardware is something which is has been made available easily for all manufacturers over the few years, now, what sets high-end brands apart is the software experience. Running MIUI 8.2, based on Android Oreo, Nova 3 feels just like any other Huawei smartphone, which is a good thing. The EMUI theme is highly customizable and can be setup to suit one’s need. From the option of disabling Notch, to having a system-wide dark color scheme, EMUI has truly grown into something truly fluid.
On top of the actual UI aspect of software, Huawei has been good with keeping its phone up to date with latest Android revisions. Despite the phone launching with Android Oreo, we expect an Android Pie build to follow quite soon, and with that users can expect an inflow of new features as well.
Further, Nova 3’s software is capable of Face Unlock. The way Nova 3 implements this is, you can have your standard pattern, pin and fingerprint configured while utilizing Face Unlock. We noticed, this way, there is no situation where you are forced to retry a certain security feature. Speaking for reliability, the lighting still plays a major role in Nova 3 recognizing the face but as this is a software feature, it will get better with time.
Thanks to EMUI, you get few extra handy apps installed on your Nova 3. Seeing how there is 128GB storage, we don’t mind the extra stock apps. as it occupies negligible space
Default bundled Huawei Nova 3 Apps and Features:
- Phone Manager: This is sort of a central app provided by Huawei to overview your phone stats and monitor it. It is helpful for cleaning out junk from storage and seeing which apps use the most RAM and all of that sort.
- Themes: Huawei provides this Theme app from which you can download extensive themes for your EMUI device. The good thing is, it has a variety of selection and you can easily filter through.
- HiGame: A sort of redudancy towards Google Play but HiGame basically provides the best games which Huawei has helped in development for its smartphones. Good to browse through when you are searching for an optimized game for your phone.
- Mini Screen View: This built-in mode allows you to shorten the whole display towards the bottom of the screen so that you can use the phone effectively with one hand.
- Huawei Clone: For users transferring from older smartphones, Huawei Clone offers you to copy over older SMS, photos and other user data to your new P20 Pro quite effectively and automatically.
Huawei Nova 3 initially set out to provide young users, enthusiasts with a phone that features flagship level performance, carries no serious compromises and comes packed with an exterior that any user would be proud to hold, and we must say, it has achieved it! Our concerns with IPS panel are set aside by the high resolution it carries, low-res camera with its AI implementation and face unlock unreliability with providing a fast fingerprint scanner. At this price, with a high-end Kirin 970 processor, extreme amounts
of storage and a beautiful exterior, no user can go wrong with Huawei’s Nova 3!