Huawei Nova 3i review

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After our earlier unboxing, our Huawei Nova 3i review is ready so you can see for yourself whether or not this is the smartphone you want to splurge on.

The Nova 3i is a sleek smartphone. Its all-glass body purrs at you, “Touch me. Hold me.” Just be careful; it is as slippery and delicate as it is beautiful. Huawei includes a transparent silicon case in the box. You will want to use it or get another case that matches your personality.

huawei nova 3i in hand

Before we jump into the Huawei Nova 3i review proper, let’s do a quick rundown of the phone’s key specs.

Huawei Nova 3i Features

  • Software / Operating System: Android 8.1 Oreo + EMUI 8.2
  • Screen: 6.3 inches, 2340 x 1080, 19:9 ratio, IPS LCD display
  • Rear Camera: 16 megapixel (color) + 2 megapixel (color), F/2.2 aperture, supports autofocus (phase focus, contrast focus), LED flash
  • Front Camera: 24 megapixel (color) + 2 megapixel (color), F/2.0 aperture, supports fixed focal length
  • Processor: Octa-core 2.2 GHz Hisilicon Kirin 710.
  • RAM: 4GB / 6GB
  • Internal Storage: 128GB.
  • Battery: 3340mAh Li-Ion with 10W Fast Charging.
  • Misc: Fingerprint sensor; Face Unlock; 3.5mm audio jack.

The full specs sheet is available HERE.

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Design & Physical Build

The Nova 3i is well built and looks good. Well, most smartphones look good these days, thanks to edge-to-edge screens. With the exception of entry-level handsets at the base of the pyramid, ugly bezels are all but gone. We are in the age of sleek smartphones, and the Huawei Nova 3i does not disappoint.

huawei nova 3i review notch

But it has one of 2018’s silliest features stamped boldly on its front end – the notch. The ugly notch. I dislike notches, including this one. There are many others who seem to like the feature, and that is fine. Here, the notch houses a 24-megapixel + 2-megapixel dual camera for selfies (we shall come to it later in the photography section).

huawei nova 3i bottom chin

The bottom end of the Nova 3i has a small chin. We all wish chins would disappear already, and that will likely happen in 2019. But this is a 2018 phone and the chin is mandatory. 

Huawei Nova 3i review 4

Flip to the back of the phone and you are met with glass again. The Nova 3i has glass wherever you turn. In the sea of glass is the dual lens camera and fingerprint sensor. Again, it is really beautiful. Just remember that it is delicate and should be protected if you are not a super careful person with gadgets.  

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Software

The Nova 3i runs Android Oreo, but with the brand’s custom user interface called EMUI on it. So it doesn’t look much like stock Android. 

Huawei nova 3i emui 9.2 dropdown menu

I am not sure I like the visuals, but that is a personal preference and not necessarily a bad thing. 

There are lots of customization options there, so if you like to tweak your phone to taste, this will interest you. 

You can remove the traditional navigation menu at the bottom of the screen and replace it with at least two custom alternatives by Huawei. I tried one of them (photo below); it takes some getting used to. I found myself longing for the familiar navigation style. 

emui 9_2 custom navigation menu

 

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Network and Telephony

Voice calls are clear and crisp. The phone supports two SIMs, as well as 4G LTE.

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Multimedia

The delightful screen of the phone makes watching videos are beautiful thing. However, in the audio department, the loudspeaker fails to deliver top results. Whether you are playing music or watching a video, audio output is tinny. there is a distinct lack of bass. But then, that has been pretty much my experience with most mid-range smartphones.

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Photography

It is time to look at the Huawei Nova 3i’s 4 AI cameras – a dual camera in front and another at the back. Here are sample shots taken with the phone, so you can judge for yourself. Let’s start with the selfie camera.

Huawei Nova 3i Selfie Camera Samples

The top photo is taken outdoors a while before sunset, while the one below is an indoor night shot.

Huawei Nova 3i selfie outdoors

huawei nova 3i selfie indoors lighting

I don’t know about you, but it looks like there is a heavy amount of over-processing going on in the selfie photos. The AI seems too keen to do its job and doesn’t quite get it right. Note that these pictures look superb when viewed on your phone or nay other small screen, so they are perfect for Instagram, Twitter and social media in general.

But when these photos are viewed on a terminal with big display like a desktop or laptop, the Wow factor quickly disappears. But then, does anyone blow up photos taken with phones for framing? Do you?

Huawei Nova 3i Main Camera Samples

How does the main camera fair? As always, much better. Have a look at the following outdoor (top) and indoor (bottom) shots.

Huawei nova 3i camera outdoor daylight

Huawei nova 3i camera indoors

 

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Performance

This is where it gets odd. The Nova 3i is fitted with 4GB RAM, yet we experience random freezing of the phone while in use.

My first instinct is to chalk it up to RAM. But 4GB RAM is more than adequate for everyday use. At least that had been our experience with other devices with the same amount of RAM. So, there must be something eating up the RAM, and I can’t think of anything but Huawei’s custom user interface, EMUI. It might be something else, but I am willing to bet that EMUI is the culprit.

Still, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth to have to deal with random freezes/pauses on a device that costs N100,000. Another angle to this is that the issue could be limited to our device or set of them from the factory. If this is the case, not every unit out there will experience the stuttering.

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Battery Life

The 3340mAh battery is smallish for a 6.3-inch display, but it gets by for average daily use. There isn’t much to worry about if you do not sit with your phone all day. 

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Alternatives

Now, if you would like to spend about N20,000 less for the same performance, you should consider the Huawei Y9 2019. You get the same processor, same RAM, 64GB instead of 128, a bigger battery, and a slightly bigger display.

If you are already asking why the Nova 3i costs much more, chalk that up to the superior selfie dual camera, and physical build (Nova 3i is more compact, slimmer and lighter). If those two features are not a big deal to you, Huawei Y9 2019 is great value for money. It will cost you only N77,000 instead of the N105,000 you will spend on the Huawei nova 3i.

Note that there is a 6GB RAM variant of the Y9 2019 as well. Chances are that you will find it to buy for roughly the same price as the Nova 3i. The benefit of that model is much better multitasking. It also has the same 128GB internal storage as the Nova 3i.

Huawei Nova 3i review 12

Huawei Nova 3i Review: Conclusion

In conclusion of this review, the Nova 3i is a good mid-range smartphone. I am convinced though that the better value lies with the Huawei Y9 2019. But, the final decision is yours.

To get your hands on one, visit your favourite phone store in your city, or hop on to Slot, Jumia, Konga, or any of the other online retailers. Happy shopping!

Do let’s have your feedback and comments on this Huawei Nova 3i review. I love to read your comments!

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