Huawei Nova 3 review: Does the phone match up to its good looks?

My two-week relationship with the device has me in two minds
Published October 4, 2018

The world is on the brink of 2019, and there is no denying the fact that phones are still everything our life is about.

For me, Huawei has always stayed close behind Samsung and Apple in its quest of finding a way into my bank account, and life. It hasn't ever been able to beat the two giants to get to me.

I got a chance to use and review the recently launched Huawei Nova 3 (priced at Rs60,000), and here's what I've come across during the two-week relationship.

Before we get to the fun part, let's get the technical stuff out of the way.

Key specs

  • Card slot: microSD, up to 256 GB (via SIM 2 slot)
  • Internal memory: 128 GB, 6 GB RAM
  • OS: Android 8.1 (Oreo)
  • Chipset: Hisilicon Kirin 970
  • CPU: Octa-core (4x2.4 GHz Cortex-A73 & 4x1.8 GHz Cortex-A53)
  • GPU: Mali-G72 MP12
  • Type: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
  • Size: 6.3 inches, 97.4 cm2 (~84.2% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio (~409 ppi density)
  • Battery: Non-removable Li-Po 3750 mAh battery
  • Colours: Iris Purple, Airy Blue, Primrose Gold, Red, Black

Looks, looks and good looks!

If that's your mantra for most things life throws at you, this phone might win your heart in an instant!

The Nova 3 is one neat mid-ranger with just the right controls in the right places, and a sleek body that flashes a two-toned gradient.

The front is all glass and fuss-free, and the back screams sophistication, all the while conforming to Huawei's signature style.

Check out some angles here:

Front view of the phone
Front view of the phone

Here's what the back looks like
Here's what the back looks like

What I liked

  • Build quality: The phone is an absolute stunner in this department.

  • Cameras: There are four different cams at the front and back of the device that don't mess with the overall look and feel of the phone.

  • Display: Slim, tall and sophisticated is what the IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen is all about. It would've been nicer if the phone came with an OLED screen to position itself as a better option to the much-celebrated P20 Pro in terms of price.

  • One-hand operation: Pretty comfortable to use on the go.

  • Finger-print scanner: Placed at a very convenient angle, this feature lies just where your fingers naturally fall when reaching out for the phone.

What I don't like

  • The back attracts finger prints every time it comes in contact, and I find myself reaching out to clean it after every few minutes of use.

  • All thanks to its glass body, the phone is a tad too slippery for one-hand action. You can get a basic silicone case to counter that but I believe that takes away the whole point of buying such a good looking phone.

I do believe Huawei had an idea about this which is why the frames of the phone are made of metal, but that doesn't help much.

Four cameras? Four cameras!

This mid-ranged beast comes with two front and two back cameras; the front ones hold 24MP and 2MP each while the ones at the back are 16MP and 24MP.

For most of us social media addicts out there, phone cameras mean serious business!

I shot a couple of photos using a number of options that the camera UI showed me, and I must say some of them surprised me to the core in the most positive way ever.

Here's what you must know:

  • The camera interface is fairly clean. Few minutes into the camera app and you get a fair idea of how everything works. The controls are pretty neatly laid out which is a major plus for beginners and pros alike, though I doubt we have any of the former around in the world anymore.

  • The AI mode is turned on by default but you can switch it off whenever required.

  • Compared to other mid-rangers, the cam results throw in few unnatural colour tones here and there but that happens intermittently.

Here are two shots I took while moving on a very bumpy road in a car:

I'm in love with how stable these photos are!
I'm in love with how stable these photos are!

Here are few photos for my #foodgasm posts, shot indoors in regular-restaurant lighting with the back cam on this phone:

Don't need filters and touch-ups! Yay!
Don't need filters and touch-ups! Yay!

For the selfie cam test, I compared the Nova 3 to my Samsung S8. This needed me to get hold of both the phones, a friend who's fairly good at posing and different lighting conditions.

Here are the results:

These images were shot indoors in dim lights
These images were shot indoors in dim lights

The back cameras produce fairly decent shots in broad daylight, but struggles a bit in its absence.

Here's evidence:

Left and Right: Full daylight shots, Middle: Extreme low light
Left and Right: Full daylight shots, Middle: Extreme low light

I also compared imaging capabilities of this device with the Samsung S8 making use of regular daylight, and here's what happened:

Shots produced by the Nova 3 look brighter but I'm afraid the kind of details the S8 picked is something we can't overlook
Shots produced by the Nova 3 look brighter but I'm afraid the kind of details the S8 picked is something we can't overlook

One particular aspect of the camera that failed to woo me is the digital zoom. I played around with the 10x, 2x and 1x options, and didn't really see myself falling for the latter two.

Given the price point and the wide variety of options we have in the cellphone industry today, such image quality is kind of hard to swear by.

Have a look:

Regular indoor lighting works just okay.
Regular indoor lighting works just okay.

The AI mode

The Nova 3 cams pick all sorts of conditions in the AI mode. I tried testing the mode out with plants and skies, and the phone took just a few seconds to recognise what scene the cameras were pointing to.

These two shots say it all:

Photos with AI turned on are evidently crisper, with slightly over-adjusted colour tones but sharper detail. And since unreal is the new cool on Instagram, I'm happy with my AI-photography.

I feel the AI mode picks more light compared to the regular mode
I feel the AI mode picks more light compared to the regular mode

A few other bits about the device


The processor is pretty good at handling most multitasking that I do on a regular basis; watching YouTube while I split the screen to respond to WhatsApp messages and stuff like leaving a billion apps open and running in the background.

I screen-grabbed some of it to show you how this works.


The speakers on this device are pretty old-school. Now that isn't a complaint really but given the fact that we live in a world where phones usually don't shy away from holding stereo speakers even at mid range levels, this little thing makes me a bit unhappy.


In all honesty, phone-experts may find that the LCD display on this device has the usual issues; the black isn’t black enough and when you hide the notch you still see hints of grey.

Then, there are colour profiles that you can tweak as they are saturated by default. These do not mimic high end phone brands, say Samsung and the like, but for that very complaint, the price tag comes to rescue.


The 3,750 mAH battery will easily last you more than 24 hours with 20-40% battery in tow; that depends on your usage of the phone and brightness levels that you're comfortable with.


If I were to describe my experience in two words, I'd say it was: just okay.

The two-toned purple device, specifically, is an absolute delight to watch, and flaunt.

I feel Huawei's Nova 3 is a good buy if you're someone who is instantly wooed by its gradient glass back or the four cameras it brings to the table.

But with two-weeks of use, I've figured I hold a fairly neutral opinion about the device since it hasn't managed to completely blow me away with its features or looks.

That being said, I'm not totally disappointed either.

Considering the price bracket this belongs to, there are a ton of phones out there that put more exciting features on offer, and cost even less.

At the end of the day, the decision always depends upon personal preference and how much you're ready to splurge.