Huawei Nova 3-series review: Midrange phones with impressive design, camera

Huawei Nova 3
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei seems to have become more active in India’s smartphone market, especially with its recent launch of smartphones across price segments. Looking beyond the cost-effective Honor-branded smartphones, it has come up with premium products like the Huawei P20 Pro. The recently launched Huawei Nova 3-series completes the company’s smartphone portfolio for this year.

In the Huawei Nova 3-series, the company launched the midrange flagship Huawei Nova 3, and the affordable midrange device Huawei Nova 3i. Though these smartphones are identical in design, they are different in specifications and features. Placed in different price segments, both cater to the same audience of casual gamers and camera enthusiasts.

Design and display

Both smartphones feature glass-metal-glass sandwich design with a multi-coloured reflective glass back, similar to that in the premium Huawei P20 Pro. However, the reflective glass properties are available only in blue-purple colour. Like the premium offering, the Huawei Nova 3-series smartphones look dazzling from sides but require regular cleaning to maintain the lustre.

On the front, both phones have a 6.3-inch in-plane switch LCD screen of fullHD+ resolution stretched in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The screen on both features a notch, accommodating dual selfie camera lenses, earpiece and sensors. Due to dual front cameras, the notch is bigger than in other notch-based smartphones, so the screen area around it for notifications, etc, is crunched.

In terms of display legibility and colour rendition, the screen in both smartphones is colourful, with ample brightness to stay visible under direct sunlight. However, the auto brightness level seems out of calibration and requires manual tweaking to set it right. The screen also shows a slight shift in colour when looked from angles; that diminishes its overall utility, especially while watching multimedia content.

Software, hardware and performance

This is one area where the Huawei Nova 3 and Nova 3i differ. The former is powered by Huawei flagship Kirin 970 system-on-chip, mated with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The Kirin 970 has been around for a while now. However, for a midrange flagship, it still has enough power to keep going without any trouble. On the other hand, the latter is powered by Huawei’s midrange Kirin 710 SoC paired with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Like the Kirin 970, the Kirin 710 is an octacore processor with four powerful cortex A73 cores clocked at 2.2 GHz and four power-efficient A53 cores clocked at 1.7 GHz.

Both smartphones boot Google Android Oreo 8.1 out of the box covered under Huawei’s proprietary EMUI 8.2 operating system. The OS is heavily customised and loaded with a lot of bloatware. Though the user interface is sleek and has a lot of scope to customise, it is far from stock Android and might not impress everyone.

In terms of usability, both phones offer top-notch performance. They are smooth, swift and sleek and do not slow down over time. They also manage background apps without hiccups. However, the Huawei Nova 3’s superiority comes to notice with processor and graphic-intensive applications like games, photo editor, video editor, etc. The Huawei Nova 3 shows no signs of lag or stutter, but warms a bit at time. The Nova 3i shows some weakness while taking heavy-duty load of graphic-intensive games and processor-intensive applications. Interestingly, the phone shows no heating issue.

The Huawei Nova 3 also features the GPU Turbo technology. Though it is still fresh and requires developers’ support to make it work better across user interface and apps, it does show some improvements in gaming titles it supports, such as the PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. With just one gaming title on board, the GPU Turbo technology does not add much value to the smartphone. However, with a promised future update to enable interface level enhancements, besides audio and vibration feedback improvements, there are chances the GPU Turbo technology will actually become useful.


This is another area where the Huawei Nova 3 and Nova 3i are different. Both bear dual camera set-ups on the front and back. The Nova 3 sports a 16-megapixel primary RGB sensor mated with 24MP secondary monochrome lens on the back and 24MP+2MP dual camera module on the front. The Nova 3i, on the other hand, has a 16MP+2MP dual-camera module on the back and a 24MP+2MP one on the front.

The rear camera on the Huawei Nova 3 is of the flagship breed and takes detailed photographs in all lighting conditions. Focus is quick and the low-light photography is satisfactory for a midrange flagship. The AI mode allows the phone to recognise most scenes automatically and adjust the camera settings accordingly. However, most other camera modes – PRO, HDR, monochrome, etc – are hidden inside more option. The front camera is good and features an iPhone-inspired portrait mode with different lighting support.

The rear camera in Huawei Nova 3i is not as refined as that in the Nova 3, but it is better than those of most other midrange flagships like Oppo F7 and Vivo V9. Unlike the Nova 3, the secondary rear camera in the Nova 3i is meant strictly to sense depth. Therefore, the picture quality relies mostly on the primary sensor, which takes satisfactory shots in daylight but struggles in low light. Ditto for the selfie camera.

One thing in common between these devices is a sharp oversaturated output. Though such images look good on a phone’s display, they miss details and look unnatural when viewed on bigger screens. However, if you know how to play around the PRO mode, these things can be moderated to get optimal results.


The Huawei Nova 3 and Nova 3i are priced at Rs 34,999 and Rs 20,999, respectively. The Nova 3, being a premium offering, is a power-packed proposition in the mid-range flagship segment. It shows strengths across areas. However, the Nova 3i is a trimmed-down version of the premium offering. Though, both smartphones are pitched for gaming, with a focus on imaging, it is really true only of the Nova 3. While the Nova 3 has a performance focus, the Nova 3i struggles to find a balance between features and performance.