It’s no secret that Huawei is having a great year. Their new releases are proven be a huge hit to the masses, thanks to their great features, design, and fairly affordable price tag. Those are just some of the reasons why Huawei is now part of the top 5 smartphone brands here in the Philippines.
One of their latest releases, the Huawei Nova 3, is a new addition to their strong line-up of mobile devices. Unlike the Nova 3i, this device will cater to those who are shopping in the premium midrange space. This is for those who want a flagship-like smartphone, without having to spend way too much money for it.
With that said, is the Huawei Nova 3 the one to get for Php25,990? Or should you just go with a different brand with their real flagship offerings for the same price? Let’s figure that out in our full review.
Huawei Nova 3 Specs
- Android 8.1 Oreo, EMUI 8.2
- Dual SIM, Dual Standby (Nano format, Hybrid)
- 6.3-inch 19.5:9 IPS display, 1080 x 2340 pixel resolution, ~409ppi
- 2.4GHz HiSilicon Kirin 970 octa-core processor
- Mali-G72 MP12 GPU
- 6GB RAM
- 128GB internal storage, expandableup to 256GB
- Dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, WiFi hotspot
- HSPA+, 4G LTE
- 16-megapixel f/1.8 sensor + 24-megapixel B/W f/1.8 sensor with phase detection autofocus, LED Flash
- 24-megapixel + 2-megapixel Fusion Selfie front-facing cameras
- USB Type-C 2.0
- Bluetooth v4.2
- FM Radio
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- Dimensions: 157 x 73.7 x 7.3mm
- Weight: 166g
- Colors: Purple, Blue, Black, Gold
- 3,750mAh non-removable battery with fast charging
Design and Build Quality
The Huawei Nova 3 is clearly a premium device. And it’s evidently designed and built to reflect that. This handset is constructed with solid metal chassis and is sandwiched with glass in the front and back.
It does look identical to the Huawei Nova 3i, which has a similar design that we really liked as well. However, when you see it in person and got to hold it with your hands, you can easily notice their differences. The Nova 3 feels sleeker, thinner, and lighter thanks to its curved corners. Its design is actually more identical to the Honor 10.
Moving on, since it comes with a glass back, the Huawei Nova 3 is obviously prone to fingerprint marks and smudges. So, unless you can find a case that wouldn’t conceal its gorgeous looks, then you should just accept the fact that you’d be cleaning it from time to time.
Now, let’s go through the entire hardware of the Huawei Nova 3. To start, we have the 6.3-inch screen on the front, with a display notch on top, and a slightly thicker bezel on the chin.
The left side has the hybrid dual nano SIM tray, while on the left there are volume controls and lock/power button. The buttons feel tactile and well made, plus, they are easily reachable even for people with smaller hands.
On the top, we only have the noise-canceling microphone, while on the bottom we have the primary microphone, loudspeaker, 3.5mm headphone jack, and USB Type-C port.
Lastly, there are dual rear cameras on the back, an LED flash, fingerprint scanner, and some Huawei and camera branding.
Overall, the Huawei Nova 3 is one of the sleekest smartphones that I have ever held. And the most interesting part is, Huawei was able to accomplish this without making it feel like a fragile device, just like what most high-end devices .
As stated earlier, the Huawei Nova 3 has a 6.3-inch Full HD+ IPS display, with a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution, and ~409 pixels-per-inch.
The screen quality looks fairly decent. However, you might want to check the display settings first before using this device. It appears that the display mode is set automatically to Vivid. Obviously, it make the colors more vibrant and saturated. However, the whites turn into a bluish tone. You’ll actually never see the difference until you switch it back to Normal mode, which makes the color look slightly warmer, switching the bluish to regular white.
Anyway, it’s still a great display. Huawei Nova 3’s large screen is good for watching movies and playing games. However, the notch can be a bit distracting in some scenarios, but we just have to live with it for now.
Thankfully, you can completely hide the notch on the settings menu. Although it keeps the notification icons, battery, percentage, and the time beside the notch so the extra space can still be used.
A lot of smartphone manufacturers tend to overlook their devices’ sound quality, and the Huawei Nova 3 is no exemption.
It’s bottom-firing loudspeaker can put out audio with loud volume, although the sound clarity is a little disappointing. The treble sound a little muffled and the bass is almost inaudible.
But in most cases, having loud volume is all you need for this kind of speakers. It’s good for listening to music with a couple of friends or watching videos online.
But if you really want to listen to music with better quality, you can plug in a pair of earphones or an external speaker setup in its 3.5mm headphone jack.
It’s still not the best-sounding smartphone of all as we reserve that title to devices like the Vivo X21 and its dedicated HiFi audio chip. However, when compared to its loudspeakers, this is still the best option.
Huawei even included their Histen Sound Effects feature, which improves the sound quality through your headphones in a software level.
Hardware and Performance
One of the key selling points of the Huawei Nova 3 is its processor. It’s one of the cheapest smartphones to come with a HiSilicon Kirin 970 chipset. That’s a processor that’s used in the Huawei Mate 10 and the P20 Pro, which are smartphones that are much more expensive than the Nova 3.
The processor is supported by 6GB of RAM, a generous 128GB of expandable storage, and a Mali-G72 MP12 graphics chip with GPU Turbo Technology.
It goes without saying that the performance is really seamless on the Huawei Nova 3. The spacious RAM capacity makes opening apps and switching between them a fluid experience. The applications themselves do run seamlessly.
And thanks to its GPU Turbo Technology, the Huawei Nova 3 is great for gaming. PUBG Mobile, one of the few games with GPU Turbo support, offers smooth frame rates under the highest graphical settings available.
The sizable 128GB of storage is also great for those who hoard photos and videos, or those who like to have tons of apps installed on their phone. The device only takes up around 10GB of storage for the system files, which means you have 100GB+ of storage space for all your media and software files.
Both the fingerprint scanner and face unlock security features are becoming standard inclusions in smartphones today. The Huawei Nova 3 has both of these biometric methods and they work really well.
The fingerprint scanner is in a comfortable location, right within reach of your index finger. It can quickly and intelligently detect your print and unlock the device in a split second. Just like most devices, the Nova 3 can store up to five different fingerprints.
On the other hand, the face unlock only delivered an average performance. It can only detect my face correctly 70% to 80% of the time. With that, I would just go directly to the fingerprint scanner most of the time as it provided me a lot of confidence that it would actually unlock the device when I need it.
Just to add, the Huawei Nova 3 also has an IR camera, so it can still unlock your face in pitch black room. It did work well a few times, but I think the software is really struggling to determine if the face it’s seeing is correct. Hopefully, Huawei can fix it in a future software update.
Software and Interface
The Huawei Nova 3 utilizes the same software interface that its other brothers have. It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.2 interface. Huawei’s custom UI is definitely not the cleanest of all, but it sure has improved when compared to its previous iterations.
The lock screen is clean, with the notifications in the middle and the date and time on the bottom. It also lacks an app drawer, which means all your apps are laid out in the home screen.
All of the quick toggles are neatly organized right above the notifications tab. The settings menu is also grouped well together, with a search tab on top to help you find what you want to look for easily.
Some of the native features of Android 8.1 Oreo is also present here. For one, there’s the notification dots that lets you easily know if you have a pending notification right from the app’s icon on the home screen.
Huawei uses the trusted SwiftKey keyboard for the Nova 3, which is really comfortable to type on. The camera app is easy to use, and the gallery provides an easy look at the photos saved on the phone.
Overall, despite not being the most straightforward and clean-looking Android interface around, the EMUI 8.2 contributes to the overall usability of the device.
Huawei surely put a lot of hard work on their devices’ camera. It clearly shows in the P20 Pro’s camera quality, as well as here in the Huawei Nova 3. This handset has a 24-megapixel + 2-megapixel selfie cameras, and a dual 16-megapixel + 24-megapixel (B&W) rear cameras.
The primary 16-megapixel camera can take good photos. It might not be the best camera phone in its category, but it can surely deliver. It can produce images with acceptable colors, good contrast, and just an overall appealing photo. Even in low-light, the Huawei Nova 3 is an admirable performer.
Probably my only gripe with the Huawei Nova 3’s camera is the extreme post-processing that the software must be doing after the image is taken. The pictures look okay at first look, but when you zoom in, you’d notice some distorted details in the images.
On the other hand, the secondary 24-megapixel monochrome sensor can create dramatic-looking images. The black and white look really provides a character on the images. But the thing is, this effect can be easily achieved by a filter effect.
Huawei Nova 3 also has AI scene detection, which greatly improves the color of your images as it detects the scene that you’re taking.
Instead of having a dedicated sensor for a monochrome effect, it would have been better if the secondary rear camera of the Huawei Nova 3 was a telephoto or a wide-angle lens. But if you’re one of those who is really into monochrome pictures, then you’d surely like this one.
In addition, other than taking pictures in black-and-white, the secondary camera also assists the primary sensorto take Bokeh pictures. The effects look believable as the blurred background effect feels like the image taken by a professional camera.
Moving on, we have the 24-megapixel and 2-megapixel cameras on the front. The camera itself can take sharp and well-lit images. Although I’m pretty sure you’d use it most often with the novelty features turned on.
There are the Face beauty modes, which does a decent job of improving how your face looks like in photos. However, I wish it’s AI-accelerated just like on the OPPO F9 which has noticeably better Beautification performance.
Huawei also introduced the 3D Qmoji on the Huawei Nova 3, as well as other fun features like the Snapchat-like face filters, and AR filters like gesture effects and background changers.
Portrait mode also works fine, thanks to the extra 2-megapixel front camera. It does a decent job of blurring the background, which not only provides a professional look but also allows you to obscure any distractions in the background.
Being a high-end smartphone, the Huawei Nova 3’s connectivity features have obviously been locked down. This handset has 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, USB Type-C connectivity, and even an FM Radio.
During my time with rhe Huawei Nova 3, I didn’t experience any problems with all those wireless antennas. The 4G LTE connectivity was able to connect to the mobile internet without a hitch with blazing fast speeds, depending on the network and location. The same goes with WiFi and our home network.
The Bluetooth connectivity is also okay. It can transmit audio to my wireless speaker and headphones without any noticeable signal drop or quality loss even from afar.
Of course, the call quality is also good. The earpiece provides a decent volume and the dual microphone setup was able to pick-up my voice without any problem.
One of the strongest features of the Huawei Nova 3 is its battery. This is a big plus considering that the device is poised to be a productivity, entertainment, and photography-centric device.
During my testing, the Huawei Nova 3 can easily last me throughout a day of casual use with 20% to 25% of juice left before I go to bed at night. That’s a day of web browsing, swiping through my social media feed, listening to music on my commute, and taking pictures here and there.
So, if you’re a heavy user, the Huawei Nova 3 got what you need. But if you still managed to drain it before the day ends, you can easily top it up quickly thanks to Huawei’s SuperCharge technology.
Devices like the Huawei Nova 3 really blurs the line between the traditional midrange and high-end devices. This phone provides a flagship-like experience, without the price tag of a real one.
The Nova 3’s sleek and elegant design really makes it a stunner. Also, the large and gorgeous screen makes it perfect for doing day-to-day tasks and consuming media.
And of course, the handset is equipped with a really powerful processor. Partnered with its GPU Turbo Technology, not only that it can nail any productivity-related tasks, but it also makes for a great gaming device.
Another thing to like is its feature-packed cameras. Other than taking great photos, it also has tons of novelty tricks, which makes it more enjoyable to use.
But for its price tag, there are definitely better options out there. One of which is Huawei’s own gaming-focused Honor Play, which offers exemplary performance for a fraction of the Nova 3’s price.
There’s also the crowd-favorite Xiaomi Pocophone F1. It runs on a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and a range of other flagship-level features.
The nail in the coffin? The two devices are way more affordable than the Huawei Nova 3. To make it clear, the Pocophone F1 and Honor Play aren’t entirely better than the Nova 3. But if we’re talking about overall value for money, they are way ahead.
The Huawei Nova 3 is a great device all by itself. However, devices like the Honor Play and the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 really ruined things for it. If you want a smartphone with the best possible performance for the price, then you should clearly look somewhere else. But if you want a smartphone with great cameras and gorgeous design, check out the Huawei Nova 3.
Pricing and Availability of the Huawei Nova 3
The Huawei Nova 3 has a retail price of Php25,990 is now widely available nationwide through Huawei’s concept stores, kiosks, and third-party retailers.
- Attractive design
- Large display
- Flagship performance
- Good cameras
- Bloated software
- Slightly expensive