It’s been a while since Huawei announced the Nova 3 in India. In fact, we had received the review unit on the day of the launch event itself. However, the final review of the product had to be delayed as our review unit faced an issue and was not receiving the crucial OTA update that would have updated the handset to the final retail firmware. We got the handset replaced with a fresh unit which we had to test again to bring this review to you.
Huawei Nova 334,999
Design and Build Quality9.0/10
Value for Money6.0/10
What Is Good?
- Head turning looks
- Excellent build quality
- Flagship grade performance
- Good battery life
What Is Bad?
- Pricey when compared to competition
- Video recording capability needs improvement
- Camera isn't bad, but competition has it better
In the meantime, several new devices, including the all-important POCO F1 (Review) and the Honor Play (Review), were launched which meant that the Nova 3 had to wait for its turn to be reviewed. Nevertheless, we are finally done with all the testing and here are our thoughts on the Nova 3 from Huawei. Like was the case with my previous Honor Play review, I have split the review into multiple articles. There will be clear links to those articles in the subsections below.
Let us now dive straight into the review.
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Huawei Nova 3 Review: In the Box
- Huawei Nova 3
- Transparent Rubber Case
- SIM Ejector Tool
- Huawei Fast Charger
- USB Type-C Cable
- Quick Start Guide/Documentation
Huawei Nova 3 Review: Design & Build Quality
While most people may have a hard time digesting this fact, Huawei currently is the second-largest smartphone maker in the world. The company has been in the news for knocking Apple off its number 2 position back in August as per an IDC report. Anyway, the reason I wanted to reiterate that fact was to assert that Huawei (and Honor) can no longer be categorized as “just another Chinese player” in the smartphones space.
The company has been releasing several compelling devices in the past and their design and R&D capabilities are second to none. In fact, one look at the Nova 3 should dispel any doubts you might have about Huawei’s engineering and design capabilities.
The Nova 3 is one of the best-looking handsets in its class and the looks as premium as any sub-40k handset should be. While the Iris Purple colour option may not appeal to someone like me in the 30s, the womenfolk were pretty impressed by the colour scheme. Thankfully, for boring folks like us, there is a less flashy black version of the handset as well. I have covered the design and build aspects of the phone in a dedicated article that you can read by clicking the “Don’t Miss” link below.
Huawei Nova 3 Review: Display
The Nova 3 gets a large 6.3-inch IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels in the unusual 19.5:9 aspect ratio. As you might have guessed, like several other handsets released in 2018, this one also gets a notch at the top. The display is good with great viewing angles and colours. However, the primary competition in the form of the OnePlus 6 offers an AMOLED panel that ensures better, punchier colours. I have talked about the display of the Nova 3 in detail in a dedicated article. You can click the link below to read it.
Huawei Nova 3 Review: Software, Performance and Battery Life
This section took me the longest to write since our original Nova 3 unit was not updatable to the stable, retail firmware and we had to wait for a replacement unit to arrive. Anyway, as far as the hardware is concerned, the Nova 3 offers you flagship grade specifications that include Huawei’s flagship chip the Kirin 970, 6GB of RAM and the option to expand memory using microSD cards.
As far as the software is concerned, the phone runs Huawei’s own custom Android skin (EMUI 8.2) atop an Android 8.1 Oreo core. The Nova 3 is a zippy performer and the flagship class processor, ample RAM and good software optimization ensure that the phone delivers great performance. Our original review unit, however, did face some memory management issues that hopefully Huawei should be able to address in future software updates.
As far as the battery life is concerned, thanks to the large 3750 mAh battery, the Nova 3 easily lasts an entire day of moderate to high usage. I generally tend to use phones with the brightness levels turned to slightly over 50 percent. In this mode, the Nova 3 consistently delivered a screen on time of more than 5 hours. The handset also supports quick charging using Huawei’s own quick charger. However, the phone takes well over 2 hours for a complete 0 to 100 percent charge. Even with the fast charger, the 0 to 50 percent charge takes more than 45 minutes which is much slower than what the competition has on offer.
I have written in detail about the hardware, software and the overall performance of the device.
Huawei Nova 3 Review: Cameras
The Nova 3 is one of the few phones in India that boast of a quad camera setup. The primary camera at the rear is a 16-megapixel f/1.8 unit that takes RGB images. The secondary camera at the rear is a dedicated monochrome sensor that has a maximum resolution of 24-megapixels. An interesting thing I noticed on the phone was that the main rear camera was able to take colour images at 24-megapixel resolution even though the camera is a 16-megapixel sensor.
At the front, the phone gets another 16-megapixel primary camera that is mated to a 2-megapixel depth-sensing camera. As you might have guessed, the secondary 2-megapixel camera cannot be individually used to capture images. Image quality using both the front and rear camera was generally good. The AI features on the phone might feel a bit overbearing at times, but you can switch off the AI on the images even after you click an image which is a good thought on part of Huawei.
Anyway, I have covered the camera and imaging aspects of the Huawei Nova 3 in a dedicated article that you can read by clicking the link below.
Nova 3 Review: Should You Buy It?
When the Nova 3 went on sale last month, the phone was positioned between the ASUS Zenfone 5Z (Review) and the higher priced versions of the OnePlus 6 (Review), and frankly, the Nova 3 made sense for someone who did not want either of these devices and also wanted the device in the flashy Iris Purple avatar. There was also in-house competition in the form of the Honor 10 (Review) which, incidentally, is also available in similar vibrant colour options. That phone, however, features a much smaller display and a compact form factor.
A lot of stuff has happened in the past few weeks, though. Things started with Honor coming up with the kickass Honor Play which is, in my opinion, the best sub-Rs. 20K handset that you can currently buy in India. This phone, in fact, looks quite similar to the Nova 3 and only skimps upon the flashy colours, the RAM and the camera but still offers near-flagship-class performance.
If the Honor Play wasn’t compelling enough, Xiaomi came up with the POCO F1 complete with the Snapdragon 845 chip, 6GB of RAM even on the base version, and a very good camera. Even the most premium version of the Poco F1 at Rs. 28,999 is a good Rs. 6,000 cheaper than the Nova 3. Then there is the excellent Zenfone 5Z from ASUS that also offers 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage for less than Rs. 30,000. Even the top of the line 128GB version with 8GB of RAM is Rs. 2,000 cheaper than the Nova 3.
Finally, we also need to address the elephant in the room – the mighty OnePlus 6 that offers a faster chipset, the same amount of RAM, the polished Oxygen OS experience, smoother UI, and a very good camera experience for the same price as the Nova 3. In these circumstances, it is essential that Huawei reduces the price of the Nova 3 and bring it nearer to the Rs. 30K mark for it to remain competitive enough and a decent choice for buyers.