Huawei Nova 3 review: Quiet power in a loud shell


Posted at Aug 18 2018 06:30 AM | Updated as of Aug 18 2018 10:13 AM

MANILA -- There are midrange phones and there are those like Huawei’s Nova 3, a beefier version of the Nova 3i that trumps its more affordable sibling in terms of performance and price. 

The Nova 3 is in the same class as the OnePlus 6 and the Xiaomi Mi8, offering the fastest processors available and cameras to challenge the iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S9 range, but at half the flagship price.


The Nova 3 is nearly identical to the Nova 3i, except for the slightly thicker and rounder back that houses the larger 3,750 mAh battery. 

The more pronounced curves on the back make the Nova 3 easier to hold compared to the Nova 3i. It feels heftier but no less slippery. This shouldn't be a problem as the phone ships with a clear case and a pre-installed screen protector.

It's also one of the few phones available with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. Unlike the Nova 3i, the Nova 3 fast-charges with the USB C standard.

While the gradient paint job is a head turner, it's starting to look less unique, even garish, as other manufacturers have copied the color-shifting effect that Huawei started with the P20 Series.

The black variant, though plain, is starting to look more attractive. 

Huawei Nova 3

Huawei Nova 3

Huawei Nova 3

Huawei Nova 3


The reason to get the Nova 3 is performance. Until Huawei's Kirin 980 is released, the 970 chipset on the Nova 3 is the best available. It also has 6 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabytes of onboard storage. 

We tested the phone on an 8-hour flight, watching hours of video, listening to music and pre-writing emails and we disembarked with roughly two-thirds juice left to spare.

It's impressive but not uncommon for Huawei phones. The P20 Pro with its 4,000 mAh can last for 2 days with moderate use. Only the Galaxy Note 9, which will hit stores on Aug. 24, packs as much juice.

The 6.3-inch LCD screen is bright and crisp even if the resolution maxes out at just Full HD.


The Nova 3 also shines in the camera department. The 4 cameras, 2 on the front and 2 on the rear, lack Leica branding as in the P Series but incorporate Huawei's AI technology.

The 24 megapixel and 2-megapixel selfie cameras recognize up to 8 scenes while the 24 megapixel and 16-megapixel combo on the rear can recognize up to 22.

An HDR Pro mode balances exposure even when shooting in direct sunlight, Huawei said.

Lavender flowers shot with portrait mode on the Huawei Nova 3. ABS-CBN News
Master AI on the Huawei Nova 3 processed the sky above this farmhouse with a more vivid shade of blue. ABS-CBN News
The Huawei Nova 3 captured clear details of a dog frolicking on the beach. ABS-CBN News


At P25,990, P10,000 more than the Huawei Nova 3i, the Nova 3 comes with upgraded cameras and a faster processor. Which one to get will depend on your needs and your budget. 

The P25,990 Nova 3 is a solid choice at its very crowded price point. The Nova 3 is a solid step up. 

Compared to other premium midrangers, the Nova 3 goes head to head with the Mi8, which packs Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 and dual rear cameras. Between the two, it boils down to taste. How much do you want your phone to look like an iPhone X? Do you prefer Huawei's EMUI or Xiaomi's MIUI on top of Android? 

The OnePlus 6, roughly P5,000 more expensive, comes with an 8GB RAM and 256GB memory option.

The Nova 3 is the flagship phone for consumers who don't want to pay big money and don't want to feel shortchanged after. Be aware of the tradeoffs, however, as the phone lacks an official water resistance rating and forward-looking features coming to late 2018 phones such as an in-display fingerprint sensor.