The crowded smartphone market today has a lot of brands, mostly are the Chinese, out there. But Huawei is one of the top global brands and has good stand in multiple markets with most of the price ranges – entry level, budget, lower/upper mid-range, high-end and premium. With that lot in the market customers always struggle to decide which one they really should buy. Huawei has just tried to attract those customers with its Nova 3i smartphone.

The company’s Huawei P20 Pro was the most recent premium smartphone from the company where the next Mate 20 is ready to be unveiled next month. Among the premium smartphone fight, Huawei recently launched its Nova 3 smartphone series. Nova 3i and the Nova 3 cover mid-range and upper midrange (or say lower high-end) markets. Nova 3i costs PKR 39,999/- (or USD 320) in Pakistan and the Nova 3 costs PKR 59,999/- (or USD 480).

Considering the fact that most consumers would be spending on their low-budgets, reviewing the cheaper model Nova 3i would be best at this time. So if you are reading this just before your next purchase, just wait a bit more and you’ll know that if you want or do not want to add Nova 3i into your next purchase list in this price range. So just forget about Nova 3 for now as this review will be all about Huawei Nova 3i.

Huawei Nova 3i Back Glass
Huawei Nova 3i – Black review unit – KA/TechProlonged

If you have never bought or even heard of Huawei Nova series, it’s not uncommon. While the series did exist before, but the company never promoted it like the way they did this year. In fact, Huawei Pakistan thrown a full fledged launch event to introduce the duo of the smartphones in the country.

The Nova series has been targeting the mid-range for a few year, so do the Nova 3i. However the new Nova 3i is in no way similar to what Huawei has brought before in the series. Bringing better camera and better chipsets with this series is an impressive step by the company, but the design and esthetics is the key element of Nova 3i that makes it stand out in its class.

Huawei launched the Nova 3i in three colors – the Black, Pearl White, and Iris Purple. You can look at the official render of the smartphone in those three colors.

Huawei Nova 3i Feature Colors
Huawei Nova 3i – Official Render Colors – /Huawei

Before we go into detail, you should have a quick look through the key features of Huawei Nova 3i.

Quick Features and Specifications

Huawei Nova 3i
SoC Chip: Kirin 710
CPU: Octa-core (4x Cortex-A73 + 4x Cortex-A53)
GPU: Mali-G51 MP4
Memory RAM 4GB
Storage: 128GB
OS / Software Android 8.1 / EMUI 8.2
Display 6.3-inch
2340 x 1080 Full HD, 19.5:9, ~409 ppi
Rear Camera Dual 16MP + 2MP
Front Camera Dual 24MP + 2MP
Battery 3340mAh
Size/Weight 158 x 75.2 x 7.5 mm /169 grams
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, Ambient light, Compass
Fingerprint
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2.5GHz (802.11 b/g/n)

When launched in July, the Nova 3i was the first phone that featured company’s latest mid-range chip, Kirin 710. The processor has impressed many being shipped in a midrange smartphone and can be compared with Snapdragon 660 for its day to day performance. Do not count the graphics performance for comparison and wait for it as it comes below.

PROS CONS
  • Stunning Design with Dual Glass
  • Impressive display
  • Powerful battery timing
  • Nice camera
  • Adequate gaming
  • No USB Type C
  • No Fast Charging
  • No Video Stabilizer

Let’s move on and see what you will get if you tend to buy the Huawei Nova 3i. A separate unboxing session of Nova 3i was already done last week, you can check that if you want but here’s the list of things which will come in the retail package.

Huawei Nova 3i Box Content

Nova 3i Box Contents

  • The device – Huawei Nova 3i
  • Connectivity/Charging cable
  • Travel charger – 5V+2A
  • SIM eject tool
  • User guide
  • Add-on silicon back cover
  • Add-on screen protector

Build and Design

As we have noted in our earlier recent experiences with Huawei flagship devices, Huawei has literally chosen the dual-glass design for its devices. In fact, it didn’t stick to company’s premium devices, as the Nova 3i now also comes packed in the dual back/front glass.

There’s been no question over Huawei’s build quality and the company has maintained it for years. I can say the same for the Nova 3i even when it’s all glass, it’s smooth and as premium as on a flagship. That back-glass design on a mid-range smartphone does take the aesthetics on par in this price range. Well

Nova 3i has 2.5D curved glass fully covering the whole front and back while the body is packed with the metal frame inside. Hence it’s a tripped down variant of the Nova 3, it’s overall the same design. You can’t quickly recognise both by their design. However the Nova 3 has slightly more curved back glass, is a bit slimmer, and weighs 3 grams less. So you’ll have a little more bulky phone in your hands as Nova 3i that weighs 169 grams.

Huawei Nova 3i Back Glass

Looks like, Huawei is also moving the branding and labels to the side of the phone as they did on Huawei P20 Pro and then P20 lite. There is no logo design with leaves but only the written “HUAWEI” logo in bold on the left side of the back. Besides there are same label, make and mode.

The same side hosts the dual-camera module on the top corner and prints the camera labels below in the same direction as logo. It reads “DUAL LENS” – “1:2.2/26 ASPH” means at least one (or both) camera of the two has a fixed f/2.2 lens aperture and focal length of 26mm (equivalent to 35mm focal length). Below the camera module you can see an LED flash.

Huawei Nova 3i - Dual Camera

That’s also something you can easily tell the difference visually from the Nova 3 for a different dual-camera setup and it reads different camera labels with “AI CAMERA” instead.

Right there on the back there is a fingerprint scanner – it’s as fast as it always been on a Huawei smartphone.

Other Components

Other common components include the micro USB port on the bottom of of the phone along with the speaker grill. The mouthpiece (or the primary mic) is there as well as 3.5mm audio jack is also placed on the bottom.

The top side of the phone only hosts a secondary mic for noise cancellation and stereo recording.

On the right side of the phone, there are the power button and the volume rocker. The hybrid SIM slot is available on the left side of the phone. Nova 3i also has dual-SIM support but when used with a microSD card, only one SIM can be used.

Nova 3i - Dual SIM

Now there you can spot the front display as well. The top portion of the display has a notched cut-out that hosts another couple of front-camera, the sensors and the earpiece. This notch is a bit wider than we have seen on Huawei P20 series but not as much wider as it is on the iPhone X.

Related: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

Front and Display

There’s a catch, OPPO and Vivo has gone even further down reducing the size of the notch in their recent smartphones. OPPO F9 got a new “V” shaped notched housing only a front camera while the earpiece comes between the front-glass and the frame. Likewise the the Vivo V11 and V11 Pro come with a new “U” shaped cut-out that we saw the very first time last year in Essential Phone. However, Huawei chose a wider space probably to host two cameras for selfies.

The bezels around the phone are not as thin as they were on P20 Pro either with a little prominent chin below the screen. The full front profile carries a 6.3-inch display with aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The display resolution 2340 x 1080 pixels serves with the pixel density of around 409 ppi and 82.1% screen-to-body ratio.

Thanks to the slimmer bezels and the almost half the bezel on top, the same sized phone can bring you a larger screen. Hence, the handling remains comfortable without extra bulk on the phone and without oversized for one-handed operations.

The large display is sure impressive right away when you first turn on the phone. Thanks again to Huawei that they actually felt a need to ship the phones with oleophobic coating out-of-the-box. It indeed makes the display clear from fingerprint smudges and it makes the touch experience smooth.

Huawei Nova 3i Display

The display is sharp and crisp with its resolution, however the bad thing is the notch is always noticeable even when the screen is off. Huawei used TFT IPS LCD on Nova 3i which might be the problem as I have seen Vivo V9 which used IPS in-cell display and had impressively deep blacks. Huawei could have used AMOLED in its expensive model however it also featured the same IPS panel.

However this factor only noticeable when the phone is off or the screen is turned off. If the screen is on or it’s showing anything bright, you won’t feel the notch if hidden by software settings. Yes, just like P20 series, you can go to settings and hide the notch by darkening the shoulders around it.

Huawei Nova 3i - Hide Notch

There are scenarios when the phone software will cover the top area when any incompatible app is running on the front. That’s due to the non-standard aspect ratio which is turning out to be the most recent trend.

The IPS display on Nova 3i is also not bad at all – it’s really bright indoors and nicely visible outdoors. While overall bright user interface helps in outdoors but some dark interfaces doesn’t impress due to lower contrast ratio.

Software and UI

Huawei Nova 3i runs Android 8.1 Oreo operating system with the proprietary EMUI 8.2 software layer on top. Huawei’s software shipment approach is like most vendors which depends on the device model.

Huawei jumped from the version 5 to 8 for its EMUI skin with the launch of Mate 10 last year. You might already know about that as has been P20 series already shipped with the EMUI 8.1 version. In fact Nova 3i comes with an upgrade 8.2 and has some extra features specially in its native camera app.

Even though the Nova 3i runs a newer version, it lacks on some features which we have seen in the flagship P20 Pro. The feature set is more like the P20 lite as that’s obvious difference between a premium and a mid-range device.

Huawei Nova 3i EMUI About Screen

I literally missed the dark interface in Nova 3i, it used to turn the whole white theme into black in Huawei P20 Pro. Thought it would be nice to have on an IPS display.

Software based Notch Handler

It’s good that this software based top bezel aligns with the notch’s bottom edge and more importantly it matches the physical chin bezel below the screen. Even better is that the software bezel on top keeps all the information that would show up alongside the notch as statuses and other notification icons.

Lock, Unlock and Home Screen

First of all, the lock screen comes first after you have setup your phone, with the same Magazine style by default as always. You can change the categories to load wallpapers from, in this specific style. Just in case if you didn’t know, this style loads a new wallpaper every time you press power button to wake up the phone. Some quick options are also present on the lock screen.

The home screen can be configured as always to have different layout of icons. Folders and context menu is there that you can initiate by tap and holding an icon – you can still drag the icon that way by ignoring the menu and continue with dragging.

App Drawer

Default home screen style is just old without the app drawer but you can turn it on by going through Settings > Display > Home screen style > Drawer. Huawei must move this option to the home screen customize settings, it will be more quick and easy that way.

Variety of Navigation Styles

In addition to common three-key navigation that you have seen in above screenshots – recent apps, home, and back keys, Nova 3i has two more navigation options. Single-key navigation, and navigation dock.

Navigation Dock. When enabled, a dock is appeared floating on the screen which you can simply tap, tap & hold, hold & stretch and drag to respectively navigate to back, home, recent tasks view or move the dock itself.

Security & Privacy

Fingerprint and Face Unlock are the two basic security features in Nova 3i. There is indeed no objection over fingerprint scanner as it’s as fast as always Huawei has made it. Face Unlock, on the other hand, was also impressively fast beyond my expectations.

PrivateSpace

In addition to various security and privacy features like App Lock, user profiles, Huawei has added a new PrivateSpace which I guess is more useful than user profiles. Unlike user profiles you don’t need to choose the user first to switch to. Instead, you can just turn it on with your main profile and set a different PIN code to unlock into this space right from your own main profile’s lock screen. In fact you can set a different finger to go into this space without any other input on the lock screen. It’s a perfect option to apply on a case when you need to give out your phone temporarily to anyone for a while, you can put your finger (that you have set for PrivateSpace) on the scanner and it will be unlocked into that space. You can even share that PIN code with them as it’s totally a separate space and won’t show anything from your main profile.

Phone Manager

The phone manager is still there and it’s an important part of Huawei smartphones, I appreciate that as most of the things it would handle from management of memory to the privacy features. Phone manager app include everything from permissions, mobile data control, memory cleaner and management, Avast virus scanner is built-in, app locker and then a shortcut to battery options.

Game Suite

Huawei Nova 3i comes with the Game Suite, it allows users to add certain games in a list that will provide the users with uninterrupted gaming experience. In addition the system will optimize the settings for better performance in selected games. This may also consume more power and you may experience heat up.

Smart Screen Resolution

Nova 3i has a native resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels which is also default resolution. The system allows you to set the resolution down to 1560 x 720 pixels which will consume low power. In addition, there is a Smart resolution option; when turned on, the system will automatically adjust the screen resolution when needed. Specially when the battery is low.

Other Features

There some more features such as HiTouch. A certain gesture of touch – holding two fingers, will identify a product on screen and will search online using Amazon Assistant.

There display related settings which are pretty much useful for many. “Eye comfort” allows you to set the screen light from cold to warmer tint. I usually use it at about 25% on the provided scale.

“Color mode and temperature” can separately be adjusted if you are not using the Eye comfort feature. This will allow you to set on-screen colors to be vivid or normal. Additionally you can the color temperature on the color palette.

System Performance

As noted above, the Nova 3i is the first smartphone to feature Kirin 710 – company’s latest mid-range system-on-chip. Replacing Kirin 659, the new 710 is supposed to power upcoming mid-range smartphones from Huawei. With respect to specifications, the Kirin 710 is supposed to outperform the predecessor about doubles the time, even in graphics. Kirin 710 also competes the Snapdragon 660 at some extent but stays a bit behind the Adreno GPU.

That’s all according to the things on paper. However the Nova 3i, with that processor, impressed with its performance in almost everything we threw at it. Day to day performance was quite impressive without any kind of lag. Everything was smooth and responsive without any objection.

I know most of you would be reading this part only to know about gaming. Considering a mid-range smartphone, it did really good. What else would you test it for when PUBG Mobile will be enough to read the system optimization and provide you with the set of graphics configuration. The game automatically configured on the second level of graphics “balanced” and frame rate at “medium”. This default configuration gave me the wonderfully lagless experience. The game also allowed me to go 1-level up in configuration but the experience was doomed.. That For the price, it does the job.

Huawei Nova 3i - Gaming Performance

Other games like Asphalt 9, Asphalt Xtreme, Need for Speed Nitro, Mortal Kombat X, Modern Combat 5 should all be good to play on Nova 3i. You can always use the Nova 3i’s Game Suite to boost your gaming experience.

The Nova 3i also supposed to be running with GPU Turbo update, so this should really enhanced your experience as well.

This part also can not be completed without benchmark scores, so check below how does the Nova 3i stand among the competition.

Nova 3i Benchmark 3D Mark Nova 3i Benchmark AnTuTu Nova 3i Benchmark Geekbench multi-core Nova 3i Benchmark Geekbench single-core Nova 3i Benchmark GFX Bench Manhattan

 

Battery Performance

Nova 3i has impressed me after months with its superb battery timing. It seems that new Kirin 710’s 10nm manufacturing process is doing its job.

Nova 3i packs a 3340mAh battery which should be enough for many with day to day tasks like phone calls, text, social interaction, streaming video and music, etc. Actually that will easily give over a day backup.

Nova 3i Camera

Excessive camera usage may take some battery juice but it’s better than most we have tested recently. GPS navigation is also a key battery drainer, but Nova 3i seems to have it managed well. Last but not least, gaming is something that will take most of the battery juice but I am talking about some graphically vigour titles.

Camera – Photos and Videos

Huawei Nova 3i features four cameras – two on the front and two on the back. Just like the company first did with Huawei Mate 10 lite last year. The dual rear cameras features a 16MP primary sensor with a 2MP secondary sensor for depth mapping. It helps producing bokeh effect in portrait mode or aperture mode.

Huawei Nova 3i Camera

The camera user interface is completely overhauled as we saw in the P20 Pro, however it indeed lacks on some features. But Nova 3i comes with a new set of features in camera app – AR Lens. It offers you to use QMoji, Facial effects, Backgrounds and 3D objects.

The UI is exactly similar to P20 Pro’s. Nova 3i also offers you to shoot in Pro-mode, however a specific “Night” mode offers you to straight out of the box option to take shots in darkest environment. The mode can work impressively when hand-held if you try to keep yourself steady. It takes a 5 sec exposure at lowest possible ISO sensitivity according to the scene. You can choose your own exposure time and ISO as well in this mode.

Huawei Nova 3i features company’s AI algorithm that is “driven by learning over 100 million images.” As per the claims, it can “recognize 22 categories of 500+ scenes and provides optimized settings instantly.” Unlike the P20 Pro that gave you the option in settings to turn on the “Master AI” option to take this affect, Nova 3i brings the option directly on top of the viewfinder. You can see the first screenshot above.

Camera Performance

The most important part is always the camera performance and image quality. The Nova 3i camera managed to work nicely to produce true and vibrant colors. The camera brings the right amount of sharpness in bright light and the dynamic range is also good. The camera did well gaining right detail.

Huawei seems to have improved much in software side for camera and it has shown really good results in Nova 3i. Noise is handled impressively in dark areas, in addition to enhancing sharpness and colors.

Unfortunately, the Nova 3i disappointed in low light conditions where the images are less sharp with less fine detail. However, the camera managed to reproduce the accurate colors.

Normal vs AI Mode

Portrait Mode

Nova 3i Portrait Mode
Portrait Mode

Front Camera

The Nova 3i features a dual-camera on the front as well – 24MP primary sensor with f/2.0 lens aperture and a 2MP secondary sensor for depth mapping. Like rear, the front camera also has a support of system’s AI features and the beauty mode is way better than before. However, I don’t like to take selfies in beauty mode, it’s good to use a bit of it on the scale.

Quality and performance wise, the front camera also struggles in low-light conditions. Thanks to the screen flash that could help with an improved selfie quality.

Nova 3i Front Camera
Front Camera Low Light
Nova 3i Front Camera Portrait Mode
Front Camera Portrait Mode

 

Conclusion

Huawei Nova 3i is a competitive piece of hardware in this price range. Everything it does with anything it has, is rightly done. There are, however, some elements which I believe would be good if there were – such as fast charging, USB Type-C. These two features would make the Nova 3i stand of the crowd. But you’ll have to deal with these missing things.

Nova 3i Review

The price tag of PKR 40,000/- gives you a good range of options such as OPPO F9 or Vivo V11, but eventually it all depends on individual’s preference. Nova 3i is good balanced feature-pack smartphone in this price range, plus you get a really premium feel with dual-glass and metal inside. Nova 3i has a good camera performance while the display is just an IPS.

General performance of Nova 3i is also comparable to the ones in the price range. The ones with Snapdragon 660 may give you a bit boosted performance in gaming due to having higher clock-rate. Overall performance, however, is much balanced between the competition.

Choosing Nova 3i won’t be bad option and will give a value for your money.

Nova 3i Photo Gallery

Huawei Nova 3i Review
Build & Design 9
Display & Touch Screen 7
Software / OS 7.5
System Performance 7
Battery Performance 7.5
Camera Primary/Secondary 7.5
Summary
HiSilicon Kirin 710 is the promising and competitive mid-range processor to feature company's very first phone in this price range. With 4GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage, this phone is good for your pocket.
7.6
Best Value
User Rating 0 Be the first one !
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