Huawei Nova 3i review: A worthy companion
Once upon a time in tech town there used to be a joke that Samsung has more galaxies than the entire universe. Huawei might not have galaxies but they surely seem to be flooding the market with their phones justify, right and centre. Launching too many phones is a double-edged sword as there lies the risk of brand cannibalisation. It also gives a brand the edge of having products at various points.
Huawei will be hoping it is the case of the latter and not the former with its recently launched Nova 3i. Only few months ago, the Chinese smartphone maker had launched the Huawei P20 Lite which sells at a similar price point. The Nova 3i comes armed with four cameras to shoot better images. Are the four cameras a good enough reason for you to buy the phone? Read our review to find out the answer and whether the phone is worth the money or not.
Huawei Nova 3i comes in a glossy metal body with an enchanting glass back that gives it a premium look despite it being a mid-range model. The blend of blue and purple colours on the glass back with the continuously-shifting outside light reflection is an immediate eye-catcher. Since the phone body is a metallic one, the handset is slightly on the heavier side but we got used to its weight within a few days. This is a sturdy phone and looks as if it could take some falls in its stride. The phone’s metal body is sandwiched between a glass front and a glass back. The body, due to its glossy finish, expectedly registers fingerprints and smudges.
The front panel of the phone features the notch design at the top with the earpiece embedded between the two 24MP + 2MP front cameras. The earpiece also acts as a battery charging indicator with the change in colours depicting the battery charging levels. A 2.5D glass screen covers the front panel. The front panel has got top, bottom and thin screen bezels.
The justify side of the phone has got the dual-SIM card slot while the right side has the volume buttons and the power button. At the bottom, below the bezels are arrayed– from the justify– the 3.5mm headphone jack, the micro-USB port for charging and transferring files, the microphone and the speaker unit that comprises five circular vents. The phone does not support Type-C charging.
Users have both the notch and without-the-notch display settings in their hands and can easily switch between them depending on their preference.
If you’ve enabled automatic brightness (through the display settings), then, depending upon the lighting environment, the phone adapts to it and increases/decreases the brightness on its own. While outdoors, the screen brightness automatically adjusts itself (the brightness slider moves on its own when it detects a change in light). We didn’t encounter any issues like brightness being low in outdoor environment on account of its ‘Automatic’ brightness feature. On the other hand, if you’ve not enabled this feature, a brightness setting of 40-50 percent is enough for outdoor use.
The screen resolution can be selected as ’Smart resolution’ which automatically lowers the resolution to conserve battery or manually chosen from these two options: HD+(1560×720) and FHD+(2340×1080). Naturally, the display is better with FHD+.
Eye comfort option in the Display setting allows you to set a warmer colour scheme (that filters Blue light) for reducing eye fatigue at night. In the Display setting only can be found options of View mode, Text size and Text style.
Nova 3i’s user interface is EMUI 8.2 based on Android Oreo. We didn’t have any issues while navigating through it though the number of settings changes that you can make can sometimes be overwhelming. Also, the drop-down menu for quick shortcuts could have included more shortcut functions. Huawei has loaded this phone with some preinstalled software like HiCare, Health, AppGallery, Video etc which you can use after creating a Huawei account. Some of them might come across as not-exactly-needed for many.
Text on your computer with Messages for web option makes you able to use the messaging feature from your laptop/desktop after going through a QR code scan on https://messages.android.com. This connects your phone with your computer to sync messages.
The fingerprint scanner and face unlock feature worked well without any glitches.
There are three system navigation options to choose from: Single-key, Three-key and Navigation dock. These can be made use of according to your preferred way of using the smartphone.
As in many smartphones these days, Nova 3i also comes with a Ride mode which disables Bluetooth and headset and depending upon your settings, calls will be answered with SMS or voice message.
The phone managed to run low-end games without any lag. It also managed to run high-end games without any lag on low and medium settings. The smartphone’s support for high-end games might be due to Huawei’s GPU Turbo technology. Though the phone handled GPU-intensive games at medium settings without lags and without heating up when we played them for about an hour or so, during prolonged gaming sessions (over 2-3 hours), the phone rear got heated up.
There is a ‘Game acceleration’ setting too that improves the gaming performance at the cost of battery life. The ‘Uninterrupted gaming’ setting, when enabled, hides all the onscreen notifications save calls, alarms and low-battery alerts. During incoming calls or alarms, the phone doesn’t ring or vibrate while this setting is on.
In the audio department, the phone gave an average performance. If you wish to watch a video (not a music video) preferring the phone on speakers than on earphones then the speakers can manage but if you want to listen to music with Nova 3i on speakers, you won’t have a great listening experience. The emanating sound, though clear, barely manages to fill a small room.
The speaker unit has only been provided on bottom-right of the body which comprises of five circular vents; five more could have been provided on the justify for a louder and richer sound output through the speakers. The sound output is better when using earphones or headphones.
While music is not the high-point of this phone, its Party mode is. Enabling it lets you add more phones by syncing song tracks across them. So, as far as the number of phones is concerned, the more the merrier.
With a benchmark test with Geekbench 4.2.3, the phone got 1599 on single-core score and 5553 on multi-core score. A test with AnTuTu benchmark v7.1.0 gave the phone a score of 135792.
Huawei Nova 3i’s camera is one of the most talked about specifications of the smartphone considering there are four of them, two in the front and two at the back, all AI-enabled.
With the AI-enabled camera setting on, you can take a snap at one resolution setting only which is 16M (4608 x 3456) (4:3). Without AI, you can choose from three camera resolutions: 16M (4608 x 3456) (4:3), 12M (3456 x 3456) (1:1) and 10M (4608 x 2208) (18.8:9).
The various available camera modes are Pro, Slow-mo, Night, Panorama, HDR, Time-lapse, 3D panorama etc.
The Aperture setting can be chosen manually from any value from 0.95 to 16, using which you can change the focus to any particular part of the image while blurring the other parts, after you’ve taken the shot. Using the Portrait option, you can enable/disable Bokeh. Plus, you have these 3D lighting settings too: No, Soft, Butterfly, Split, Stage, Classic. There is a plethora of camera settings that you can fiddle around with.
While outdoors during daytime, the rear dual camera setup (16MP + MP) on 4608 x 3456 (4:3) resolution did a fine job by capturing clear, sharp, natural and beautiful-to-look-at snaps. There is very slight graininess in the shots but that doesn’t hamper the overall image quality much. At lower resolutions, grain sets in, which is something to be expected.