The Huawei Nova 3i: Smart Photography On A Budget


With the launch of the Huawei P20 Pro, smartphone users got a taste of what the future of mobile photography could be. In case you are lost, the Huawei P20 Pro was the latest flagship smartphone by Huawei that packed the company’s flagship Kirin 970 Processor. Apart from that, it also had a dedicated NPU or Neural Processing Unit. Now, the Huawei Nova 3i doesn’t pack a Kirin 970 or an NPU. It’s by no means a flagship phone either. So what’s so special about it? Well, that’s what I decided to find out.

Say Hello to the Huawei Nova 3i

The Huawei Nova 3i is the latest entrant to Huawei’s Nova lineup. If you recall, we looked at the Huawei Nova 2i last year. At the time, it offered quite a lot of features, especially in terms of its camera. The Huawei Nova 3i aims to add on to those features as well. Priced at LKR 44,000/- upwards, the Huawei Nova 3i is available from Huawei showrooms and authorized resellers islandwide.

Right off the bat, as soon as you unbox the Huawei Nova 3i, you see that the device sports quite a premium look. The Huawei Nova 3i comprises of glass in the front and back along with a hard plastic frame. Once you’re done marvelling at the design, the next thing you notice is the display. Why? Because it’s huge.

Huawei Nova 3i
The Huawei Nova 3i packs a 6.3″ Full HD+ display

Now packing a large display onto a smartphone isn’t exactly easy. This is because with a screen that size, managing the phone with one hand becomes a trick. This is where Huawei’s FullView display comes into the picture. So you get a 6.3-inch screen with a resolution of 2340×1080. This essentially means that you have more screen space to work with when it comes to games and movies.

Like any 2018 smartphone, the Huawei Nova 3i comes with a notch at the top of the display. For those who don’t like it, fret not as the notch can be turned off if needed. The notch houses the earpiece, front camera and the ambient light sensor as well. The sides of the device house the Volume rocker and power/lock buttons.

Huawei Nova 3i
Notch vs No notch

Located at the bottom of the Huawei Nova 3i are the micro USB port (No USB Type-C unfortunately), 3.5mm headphone jack (phew) and a loudspeaker on the right. It’s not a stereo speaker setup but then again it’s not really a deal breaker.

Huawei Nova 3i
Located at the bottom are the microUSB port, 3.5mm port and a loudspeaker

In order to have a Fullview display, certain changes have to be made. With that regard, the Huawei Nova 3i shifts the fingerprint reader to the back of the phone. This actually makes things easier and I found myself unlocking the phone a lot faster because of it. The top left corner houses the Dual camera setup (which I’ll cover a bit later on) and the LED flash.

Huawei Nova 3i
The rear of the Huawei Nova 3i sport the fingerprint reader and the dual camera setup

The back glass is quite glossy which makes it a fingerprint magnet. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself using the phone for about a minute and then spending 2-3 minutes just wiping the back of the phone. But I guess that’s the tradeoff in having a glass backed phone/

Taking a look inside

The Huawei Nova 3i ships with a Hisilicon Kirin 710 Octa-core processor. So you have 4 cores that will handle your everyday tasks and 4 cores to handle all the heavy duty stuff like gaming, audio/video editing apps etc. Depending on the market, the Huawei Nova 3i comes with up to 128GB of internal storage and up to 6GB of RAM. If you need additional storage, you can forgo one SIM slot and pop a MicroSD card in.

Huawei Nova 3i
The Huawei Nova3i is powered by a Kirin 710 which blazes through all your daily activities without an issue (Image Credits: Wccftech)

The Huawei Nova 3i comes out of the box with Android 8.1 Oreo, skinned with the latest EMUI version which is EMUI 8.2. If you’ve used Huawei devices before, then the EMUI wouldn’t take too long to get used to. If it’s your first time with a Huawei device, even then, the time taken to get used to the phone is minimal.

The operating system gives you a plethora of customization features such as icon packs, wallpapers and lockscreen tweaks and a number of downloadable themes as well. Having used Vanilla android for most of my smartphone time, I didn’t spend too much time customizing these aspects. But if you have the need to, you can do so.

Huawei Nova 3i
A few snapshots of EMUI 8

In addition, the Huawei Nova 3i also supports Google’s ARCore feature. This means that the phone is able to run apps that rely on Augmented Reality. This was especially cool because one app that uses AR is Jurassic World Alive. You can also find a number of AR apps on the Google Play Store as well.

Huawei Nova 3i
Well, this isn’t going to end well

There are a number of customizations I did find useful. For example, you can use gesture to mute incoming calls, increase or decrease the volume and even unlock your phone when picked up. This requires you to set up the Face unlock feature on the phone which, again, is easy to do. Speaking of customizations, what I was really looking forward to was the camera.

Using AI to help you take better pictures

The Huawei Nova 3i couples a 16 MP, f/2.2 lens along with a 2 MP depth sensor. This has become pretty standard for smartphones that pack a dual camera setup. In addition to this, the phone also has a dedicated AI mode when taking pictures.

Huawei Nova 3i
The AI mode will detect the object and adjust accordingly

So when you are about to take a picture, the AI will automatically detect the best setting based on the environment and adjust the camera settings accordingly. This means your photos look a lot better as well. Once a photo has been captured, you can toggle the AI mode on and off to see the differences between the AI mode and regular mode.

Huawei Nova 3i
The AI Mode of the Huawei Nova 3i does an impressive job

Apart from the AI mode, the Huawei Nova 3i also sports a number of other photography modes such as Slow-mo, Night time, Panorama, HDR, Watermark, Good food and even a 3D panorama mode.

Huawei Nova 3i
The camera on the Huawei Nova 3i has a multitude of modes

Another really cool feature about the camera is the AR Lens mode. You can take your pic(k) of 3D Qmoji, Effects, Backgrounds and 3D Objects. They all use your facial expression overlayed with a number of filters to produce some hilarious and surprisingly accurate effects. Pretty fun if you’re bored and have some time to waste.

The portrait mode was another feature that blew me away. The front camera of the Nova 3i packs a 24 MP, f/2.0 lens along with a 2 MP, depth sensor, much like the rear camera setup. Apart from having the standard bokeh effect in portrait photography, the Huawei Nova 3i makes use of 3D lighting.

Huawei Nova 3i
The Portrait mode on the Huawei Nova 3i is quite impressive

This adds a number of lighting effects such as soft, Butterfly, Split, Stage and Classic lighting. The classic lighting is thus far my favorite. It detects a face and then cuts out the rest of the image leaving only the face. This makes it interesting if you’re trying out portrait photography.

Huawei Nova 3i
Want even more control over your camera settings? You got it

If you want even more control over the camera, the Huawei Nova 3i offers full manual controls as well. So you can control the ISO, shutter speed, noise, and focus levels, all in real time. As far as a smartphone camera, the Huawei Nova 3i has a lot going for it. In terms of video, the Huawei Nova 3i can capture footage at 1080p at 30FPS. Now, using all these features would take a hit on the phone’s battery, right?

Can the Huawei Nova 3i Last the day?

You’d think with all these features running, the Huawei Nova 3i would be dead in a couple of hours. Interestingly, the battery life on the device was surprisingly good. I’ve been using the phone for some time now. My daily use of it ranges from playing Pokemon Go, binge-watching Avatar on Netflix and switching between Facebook and Instagram. I’ve also been playing a lot of Asphalt 9 and Tekken 7 coupled with about an hour or so of Ark: Survival Evolved as well.

Huawei Nova 3i
EMUI offers a number of ways to improve your device’s battery life

Amidst all this, the Huawei Nova 3i still has around 20% battery left after a full day of use. Then again, results will vary based on what you are doing. But the fact that I don’t have to keep depending on my power bank is actually a relief.

Overall, though, I was quite impressed with the 3340mAh battery on the Huawei Nova 3i. Sadly, the phone doesn’t support fast charging and the micro USB port also means that a full charge takes around 2 hours. Again, not a deal breaker, especially for a phone at this price point.

Making the Huawei Nova 3i break a sweat

While benchmarks are designed to utilize the complete capacity of a device, they are not exactly a representation of real world usage. That being said, we decided to put the Huawei Nova 3i against some tough benchmarks such as GeekBench 4 and 3D Mark.

Huawei Nova 3i
And the scores are in

In short, the Huawei Nova 3i does quite a good job of handling a heavy workload for a midrange device. One thing that should be noted was that the device remained cool throughout the entire process. This is especially handy if you’re planning on gaming a lot.

Final thoughts

For the price, the Huawei Nova 3i is quite a good option for anyone who’s on the lookout for a mid-range smartphone that packs an impressive set of specs. The glass back design accentuates the premium look of the device, but it also makes it a fingerprint magnet.

In addition, it also makes it quite slippery to hold on to. Fortunately, a cover or case will solve that problem. The lack of fast charging is also a bit of a downer along with the lack of a USB Type-C port as well. The fingerprint sensor is ridiculously fast and I found myself locking the phone just because I accidentally brushed the sensor with my finger and the phone got unlocked.

If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone that also looks good and has a really good camera, give the Huawei Nova 3i a shot. If you’re already using one, let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.



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