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Huawei‘s mid-range lineup has been successfully succeeded by the Nova 3i, a well-anticipated mid-range beast. But, aside from that, there is also this phone that Huawei has added to the Nova line – a phone that would cross the flagship boundary but for the price of some mid-range smartphones out there. With that said, here’s our thoughts about the Huawei Nova 3.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Nova 3i hands-on and quick review – the midrange superstar?


Design Impressions

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The Nova 3 is very similar to the Nova 3i in terms of design, such as the placement of cameras, fingerprint reader, display size, and even color offerings. It might be confusing for most to identify a Nova 3 when paired up with a Nova 3i, due to the similarities in its design principle, which also seems to be shared with the P20 series (especially the Lite variant). The difference between the Nova 3 and the Nova 3i lies inside, as well as on the part where it says ‘AI Camera’ instead of ‘Dual lens’ for the Nova 3i.

Huawei Nova 3 Iris Purple (Photo: Eljay Reyes/AMG)

The screen is just as similar as the mid-range Nova 3i, nothing less, nothing more. It’s good looking, considering that it’s an IPS LCD panel, there’s nothing to worry about viewing angles. It wasn’t that much bright, but may be good enough for multimedia consumption for most.

The phone itself was feeling huge-in-hand, considering its 6.3-inch display and size. It isn’t the ideal phone for ones with smaller hands, as it may slip out easily due to its glass back, which are also very prone to fingerprint smudges (just see the first Nova 3 photo above). It is also hard to use with only one hand (a one handed mode might be present, we aren’t sure of it, yet).

The Nova 3 has a 19.5:9 display ratio, which is exactly the same as the LG G7. The taller aspect ratio makes more estate for content, although the notch and a slightly lower resolution (1080 x 2340 px, Full HD+) simply destroys the experience. Thankfully, Huawei devices do share the not-so-brilliant option of hiding the notch, making design OCs unaware of the said annoying design failure.



There’s a switch to hide the notch on settings

The Nova 3 uses a USB Type-C connector (yey!) compared to Nova 3i’s microUSB port. On the left is the hybrid dual SIM tray (a bit no-no for us), which enables the phone to support dual SIM, but only one SIM if you wish to expand that already plenty 128GB internal storage. There’s also the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom (which was removed on the similar P20 Lite), as well as mono speaker grille and on the right is just your typical volume up and down button as well as the power button.


Performance & Software

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The Nova 3 comes with Huawei’s updated flavor of Android Oreo 8.1 – EMUI 8.2. The software, which is now one of the most hated skins in the Android community due to its aggressive background app management and restrictions, is really something we’re not accustomed into. It’ll take some time for someone not familiar with EMUI to learn and appreciate the phone’s software, that’s for sure.

It also seems that Huawei has taken some time to redesign the EMUI, and it is seemingly noticeable with their recent release so far.

Huawei Nova 3 (Photo: Eljay Reyes/AMG)

There’s also lesser amount of bloat compared to before, which is a good news, although some Huawei apps are being included and some are being pre-installed.

We attempted, yet we failed to run benchmark apps with the Nova 3 – but the software itself seems smooth and a bit optimized compared to Xiaomi’s current MIUI offering, which is the most heaviest Android flavor out there. The other points such as benchmarks and gaming performance will be evaluated on our full review soon.


Camera

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While it seems to us that the devices there are pre-engineering samples (due to the details we’ve seen from the photos we’ve got there), we have a glimpse on how the upgraded dual rear and similar dual front cameras perform.

The dual rear camera on the Nova 3 is different from the Nova 3i, since one lens is used as the main sensor, while the other is used as a zoom lens (which gives you the option to zoom more, just like the one on the P20).

Here are some sample shots from the dual rear camera: (raw, auto, uncompressed)

Huawei Nova 3 rear camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 rear camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 rear camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 rear camera sample

Our first impressions with the rear camera is that the images taken weren’t that great, considering that it is in auto mode and is in a not-so-good lighting condition.There’s a lot of noise, and the images aren’t sharp to highlight the details. It also blurs out the bright edges, too.

And here are some selfies from the dual front camera: (raw, auto, uncompressed)

Huawei Nova 3 front camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 front camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 front camera sample
Huawei Nova 3 front camera sample

The front selfies, on the other hand, does seem to look reddish and saturated with magenta compared to the Nova 3i samples similarly taken from that location. This could shows how the camera would reproduce colors, but again, this seems to come from an engineering sample so we’ll reserve the final word on our full review of a retail unit.


Specifications and Features

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ModelHuawei Nova 3
Display6.3-inch (1080 x 2340 px) IPS LCD FullView 2.0, 409ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio
CPU/SoCHiSilicon Kirin 970 Octa-core
GPUMali-G72 MP12 w/ GPU Turbo Tech
RAM6GB
ROM/Storage128GB, expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB (hybrid, uses SIM 2 slot)
Rear Cameras16 MP, f/1.8, PDAF + 24 MP B/W, f/1.8, PDAF, LED flash, HDR, panorama
2160p@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps (gyro-EIS)
Front Camera24 MP + 2 MP AI cameras, depth sensor
Battery3750mAh non-removable Li-Po battery
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, LE, EDR, aptX HD
USB Type-C 2.0
Network Bands4G/LTE, 3G (HSDPA), 2G (GSM)
SIM SlotDual SIM (nano, hybrid)
SensorsFingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
OS/SoftwareAndroid 8.1 Oreo
EMUI 8.2
Dimensions & WeightSize: 157 x 73.7 x 7.3 mm (6.18 x 2.90 x 0.29 in)
Weight: 166 g (5.86 oz)
ColorsBlack, Blue, Iris Purple, Gold
Protection / IP RatingN/A
Other FeaturesFM Radio

Conclusion

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The Nova 3 is a complicated add-on to Huawei’s flagship line.

Being similarly spec’d with the P20 Pro and the P20 (minus the special features such as Leica branding, removal of the headphone jack, IP67-rating (P20 Pro), and better cameras), the Nova 3 is literally a flagship for almost half the price of the P20 Pro.

Simply, if you don’t care about the special features those higher-end handsets has, you can get yourself a Kirin 970 (SD845 competitor) powered phone for just PhP25,990 or around US$489 (as of the current exchange rate), making it Huawei’s visible competitor for the ASUS Zenfone 5Z, the Xiaomi Mi 8 / Mi Mix 2S as well as the OnePlus 6.

With that said, we’ll reserve our final words for our full review once we receive the review units for further evaluation.


Pricing and Availability

The Huawei Nova 3 is priced at PhP25,990 in the Philippines, or around US$489 (as of the current exchange rate). It will be available for pre-order in the country starting on August 4 until 10 and will be available starting August 11 nationwide.

Pre-order customers will get a bundled premium Bluetooth speaker, which is the one that they’ve previously bundled with the Nova 3i pre-order.