Huawei Nova 3i review: All Sell, No Soul

Is Huawei's latest budget phone a bargain?

Huawei Nova 3i
  • Huawei Nova 3i
  • Huawei Nova 3i
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Premium feel
  • Ticks all the right boxes

Cons

  • Camera
  • Inconsistent software

Bottom Line

The Nova 3i has all the right specs but fails to bring them cohesively together to forge an identity of its own.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

In the face of skyrocketing flagship prices from Samsung and Apple, the value presented by mid-tier and more budget-friendly smartphones continues to grow - and the Huawei Nova 3i isn’t an exception to this trend. For the respectable price-tag of $599, there’s a lot here to like.

Still, there’s a distinct unevenness that sees the Nova 3i lag behind some of the alternatives - both from competitors and from Huawei themselves. For as many reasons that I can find to recommend this phone on its own, I struggle to find any specific case for why you should opt for it over the other options lurking just out of frame.

Sure, the camera is better and processor provides better performance than what you'll get out of the similarly-named Nova 3e. But it doesn't always feel $200 better in the ways you'd hope and expect it to. In a weaker year, it'd stand out as exceptional. In extraordinary times, it's lost amidst the arc of a larger trend. $599 gets you a much better product than it did only a few years ago.

Ultimately, the Huawei Nova 3i is a decent device left outgunned by the reality that mid-tier smartphones in 2018 - and beyond - have become one of the fastest-moving fronts in consumer electronics.

Specs - Huawei Nova 3i Smartphone

Display size:   6.3-inch

Display type: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, FHD+

Processor:  HUAWEI Kirin 710 AI processor

Operating System: Android 8.1 with EMUI 8.0

Fingerprint Sensor: Yes

RAM:  4GB

Storage: 128GB

MicroSD slot: Yes

Durability: N/A

Ports: 3.5mm headphone jack + MicroUSB

SIM:  Dual

Battery: 3430mAh

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.2

Rear Camera:  16-megapixel (f2.2 aperture) + 2-megapixel (Bokeh lens)

Front-Facing Camera:  24-megapixel (f2.0 aperture) + 2-megapixel (Bokeh lens)

Colors: Black, Iris Purple

Dimensions: 75.2 mm x 157.6mm x 7.6 mm

Weight: 169g

RRP:  $599

Availability: JB Hi-Fi, Amazon, Harvey Norman, Mobileciti, Bing Lee and Officeworks.

Design - Look, Feel and Features

The Nova 3i is nothing is not if not beholden to what’s come before. As you might expect from a Huawei-brand device with a $599 price-tag, it feels slightly more premium than the Nova 3e but slightly less so than the prestigious P20 Pro. Moment to moment, it feels snazzy to hold. But I wouldn’t say it feels all that different from what’s come before.

Huawei Nova 3iCredit: Huawei
Huawei Nova 3i

The Huawei Nova 3i is encased in glass on both sides and comes framed by a quartet of appealing svelte, curved edges. There’s a notch, which some might be unhappy to see but isn't overly egregious by the standards of the form. There’s also a headphone jack, which is always appreciated.

In the palm of your hand, the Huawei Nova 3i competently mimics the feel of other, more-expensive smartphones but that appeal doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny. Look closer and you'll be able to the cite the compromises soon eough.

[Related Content: Smartphone Notches Explained]

The lack of any IP-ratings here feels like a key drawback. These days, even mid-tier devices are earning their stripes when it comes to water-resistance and the absence of any such durability certification here does leave the Nova 3i wanting. It also lacks in any sort of fast or wireless charging - which does put at a disadvantage to both flagship fare and more contemporary alternatives.

[Related Content: 3D Face Unlock vs 2D Face Unlock: Which is more secure?]

Next Page: Camera, Performance, The Bottom Line

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Read more on these topics: Huawei, Huawei Nova 3i
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