Huawei nova 3i mid-range smartphone punches above its weight

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    Huawei nova 3i front

    From OPPO and Nokia to LG and ASUS, the “iPhone X notch” feature seems to be the new design language for Android phones. Even though Huawei’s latest mid-range smartphone, Huawei nova 3i, sports the “same notch”, making it less differentiated look-wise, the Chinese company is certainly pulling all the stops to offer you a superior mid-range phone that aims to give you more bang for your buck. Here’s what we discovered about the phone.


    One thing we noticed immediately during unboxing is how good the phone sits on our palm. The material and weight has a nice balance to it. It has a seamless unibody feel and we like how the front and back glass blends into the matte aluminum-magnesium alloy sides (we have the matte black version). The nova 3i has a 6.3-inch display and according to Huawei, houses a world’s first front-facing dual cameras (24MP + 2MP) with AI support.

    Huawei nova 3i back
    The front and back glass is a fingerprint magnet but we are loving it

    On the minimalist frame, you will find a few key buttons and ports. On the left is a hybrid nano-SIM tray and on the right, a volume rocker and a power/lock button. The bottom of the frame houses a 3.5mm audio port, microphone, loudspeaker, and micro USB port. A fingerprint scanner is nested neatly at the back together with the 16MP + 2MP rear cameras. The phone comes in Iris Purple and Black and we prefer the latter more than the more snazzy purple gradient one.

    “We want to empower our customers with access to high-end technologies and create value for the budget-conscious,” said Cheng Jiangfei, MD, Huawei Singapore. “With the HUAWEI nova 3i, our customers can enjoy exceptional quality and premium functionalities at a fraction of the price.”


    Powered with an all-new quad-core Kirin 710 chip, the nova 3i delivers a responsive and smooth performance when running the EMUI 8.2.0 operating system. The 4GB RAM ensures that running multiple apps is smooth and doesn’t affect its performance. For mobile gamers,  Huawei nova 3i uses GPU Turbo, a graphics processing accelerator technology, to optimise its graphics processing capability. Its battery capacity of 3,340mAh is good for a full day of use with video streaming, hotspot tethering and gaming used intermittently throughout the day.


    Ah, the camera. Our favourite part of the review. Huawei nova 3i has a total of four AI cameras (Front: 24MP and 2MP, Rear: 16MP and 2MP)! These cameras can recognise over 200 scenes across eight categories including sky, plant and beach. Although Huawei says that the AI feature can optimise photos to create a “true-to-life effect”, we find the images, especially for food images over saturated and artificial if the AI mode is switched on. We ended up turning off AI to get a more natural-looking shot (see food image below). One thing good about the Huawei camera software is that you can decide if you want the AI enhancements after the shot is taken. Simply toggle the effect on and off when in gallery mode to see what you prefer.

    The camera software is also full of features. From “aperture” mode that allows you to adjust the depth of field to an endless selection of filters and professional shooting modes (manual settings and long exposure), we had a field day just playing with the cameras. Here are some shots we took.

    Huawei nova 3i - indoor shot
    The phone balances the lighting well even in backlit conditions
    Huawei nova 3i - outdoor details
    The camera locks focus fast is fast but the shots lacks sharpness and image looks soft
    Huawei nova 3i - aperture mode
    We shot this in Aperture mode to help bring out the subject. Even with a complicated scene like this, the camera can detect where the focus should be. However, go easy on the f-stops as it can make the images look fake when you drop it too much. Play around to see what works
    Huawei nova 3i - night shot
    If you want sharp images at night, you need really steady hands
    Huawei nova 3i - selfie
    One of the key features of this phone is the 24M AI camera. As you can see, thanks for the camera, I looked fine even with my blotchy skin and floppy hair. There is also a slight reddish hue on the skin
    Huawei nova 3i - food shot
    For food shots, we find that it is best to turn off the AI mode as it may get saturated. This gives the food shots a more natural looking balance
    Huawei nova 3i - macro
    Close up shots are decent. Although flower shots tend to be soft


    Pricing and Availability

    You don’t have to wait long for HUAWEI nova 3i. The S$398 phone will debut on 28 July 2018 at Waterway Point Shopping Mall, East Wing Atrium, B2. Huawei is also throwing in a free Casio G-SHOCK Analog-Digital Watch (worth $199) with every purchase of the nova 3i, while stocks last.


    Huawei nova 3i definitely punches above its weight when compared to phone in this price range and is a great phone for causal users. We love the large display and the premium build quality but some improvements can be made to the single speaker to make it more compelling. But it’s not a deal breaker and throwing on a pair of good quality headphones for your ME-dia time will solve the problem. The camera is decent but we had high hopes for the company that has produced one of the most sought after LEICA phone camera. But hey, at this price point, the Huawei nova 3i is already pretty hard to beat.