Huawei Nova 3 first impressions: Huawei takes a stab at the OnePlus 6

Huawei’s sudden re-entry into the Indian market is pretty intriguing to say the least. After the insane triple-camera P20 Pro, the brand’s newest addition to the market is the Honor 10…oops…the P20….oops…I mean the Nova 3. 

Also read: Can the Huawei P20 Pro’s triple cameras beat the Sony Alpha 6300 – a mirrorless camera?

Jokes aside, the Nova 3 finds itself in a unique situation. The phone not only competes with its sister brand’s Honor 10 but it also goes up against tough completion like the OnePlus 6 and the ASUS ZenFone 5Z. However, it looks like Huawei has stuffed the Nova 3 with a lot of AI smarts. Maybe that changes the equation a bit.

I’ve used the Nova 3 for a little over a day, and here are my immediate first impressions. 

Huawei Nova 3: good looks run in the family

I am so glad Huawei decided to bring the Twilight variant of the Nova 3 to India. Especially considering, the P20 Pro’s Twilight colour edition never made it here. Just look at the phone. You can love it. You can hate it. But, you just cannot ignore it. It is stunning from whichever angle you look at it. I can’t take my eyes off of the phone. Using a case will spoil the look. I don’t want to look at the screen. Just gawking at the rear all day long, is all I want to do. 

But let’s not forget that this back is a smudge magnet and it slips easily. Don’t fret though, Huawei bundles a TPU case in the box, which I am definitely not going to use. 

Moving on, while a lot of the design elements of the Nova 3 are similar to that of the Honor 10 or the Huawei P20, there are subtle differences that make it awesome. For example, since the fingerprint scanner is placed on the rear. This means the chin is smaller now compared to the P20 Pro, which had the fingerprint reader on the front. The fingerprint scanner is also fairly fast and there’s also face scanning for good measure. 

Apart from this, since the Nova 3 comes with four cameras – two on the front and two in the rear – you get a wider notch. This notch accommodates the round earpiece flanked on either sides by the cameras. By the way, the notification light sensor is hidden behind the earpiece. It looks weird when it lights up. The bottom edge has your USB Type-C port, flanked on either sides by the 3.5mm jack and the speaker grille. An extremely premium textured power button sits on the right edge along with the volume rocker. The left edge accommodates the hybrid SIM tray. Yup, you have to sacrifice a SIM card if you want to more storage space. 

Huawei Nova 3: a tall, weird 19.5:9 aspect ratio display

On the front, for the first time, Huawei has gone for a weirdly unique 19.5:9 aspect ratio 6.3-inch display. This IPS LCD panel has the same aspect ratio as the iPhone X. Therefore, you get a really tall panel and a narrow width. This makes the phone itself easier to hold compared to the wider phones like the OnePlus 6 or the ZenFone 5Z. 

Now, the panel itself looks to be colour accurate but I need more time with the phone to give you a full verdict on the quality of the panel. 

Huawei Nova 3: heavy on AI and introducing GPU Turbo

Internally, the Nova 3 — like all the other Huawei and Honor flagships this year — includes a Kirin 970 chip. But, here’s the twist. This is the first phone in India with the GPU Turbo technology. Huawei claims that GPU Turbo works in tandem with the hardware and the software to offer 60 percent better gaming performance at 30 percent power efficiency. I couldn’t test that out yet, though. Also, the Nova 3 comes with 6 gigs of RAM and 64/128GB of storage. 

Moreover, the camera app is pretty feature-rich and at the centre of it all is the AI-engine. I like the fact that you can switch off the AI directly from the main settings itself. But what’s baffling is that the Monochrome setting is hidden in more settings. Why is it baffling? Because the secondary camera on the rear – which is a 24MP camera – is a monochrome sensor. If that is the marquee feature, it should have been easy to access IMO. Never mind, moving on. 

The primary camera on the rear is a 16MP unit and on the front, you get a 24MP primary camera+2MP depth sensor. The camera has a ton of other features like a selfie portrait mode like the iPhone X,  3D Qmojis (essentially, Animoji ripoffs), and more. For now, just take a look at the camera samples. They do look pretty attractive at first glance but you and I both know by now – the Nova 3 will go through Mr. Phone’s rigorous tests. No doubting that. 

Oh before I forget, the Huawei Nova 3 runs on Android 8.1 (Oreo) with EMUI 8.2 skin on top of it. We’ve spoken at length about EMUI in our recent reviews, but I’ll still explore further in my full review. For now, let it be known that EMUI offers you the option to switch off the notch and it maintains symmetry with the curve at the bottom. I friggin love software engineers who don’t overlook such small but intricate details. 

Huawei Nova 3: closing thoughts

The Nova 3’s price in China is around Rs 30,000. Say Huawei India plans to launch the Nova 3 at the same price, it still has a fighting chance IMO. Having said that, I am sad the Nova 3 hasn’t been hyped at all. Honestly, it deserves more attention. Well, only time will tell if Huawei has a sleeper hit in its hands. For now though, wait for the Mr. Phone full review. 

Do let us know in the comments section below what you think of the Huawei Nova 3?

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Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?