Huawei Nova 3 Review: Is design everything it has?

Huawei Nova 3 is an affordable flagship from Huawei that comes with a ton of extra features. Should this be your next smartphone?

Huawei Nova 3
Huawei Nova 3 comes with a gradient design at the back

Huawei recently launched the Huawei Nova 3 and Nova 3i in India. The Huawei Nova 3 is an affordable flagship offering from the company that aims to compete against the likes of smartphones like OnePlus 6 and Asus ZenFone 5Z. It comes with flagship grade hardware with a gradient back design similar to the one we got to see on the Honor 10. So, is it the best affordable flagship smartphone you can buy? Find out in our review.

Price: Rs. 34,999


In terms of specifications, the Huawei Nova 3 sports a 6.3-inch IPS LCD notched display with a resolution of 1080×2340 pixels and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The smartphone is powered by the HiSilicon Kirin 970 processor coupled with Mali-G72 MP12 GPU. The dual-SIM handset comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage which is further expandable using a microSD card. The phone runs Google’s Android 8.1 Oreo-based EMUI 8.2 out of the box. All of this is backed by a 3,750mAh battery.


Huawei Nova 3
There is an AI powered dual-camera setup at the back

Just like most flagships these days, the Huawei Nova 3 also comes with a glass and metal sandwich design. Though the design makes the phone look more premium it also makes it less durable. We personally feel that the Iris Purple variant looks a lot better than the Black one as it makes the smartphone stand out of the crowd. The gradient colour design is surely a conversation starter. However, the design gets ruined as soon as you touch it as the whole back is a huge fingerprint magnet, which is why we appreciate Huawei including a clear back case and a pre-applied screen protector.

As far as the looks are concerned, the phone comes with a notch up front which houses the two selfie cameras, an IR sensor for Face unlock, the earpiece and other sensors. Flip the device over and you will find the dual-camera setup vertically aligned and the fingerprint sensor sits at the centre. There is also the Huawei branding which is vertically written to match the whole theme. On the right, there is the power button and the volume rocker while the left of the phone is left empty. On the top, you get a secondary microphone and the bottom edge is occupied by a USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker grill.

Also Read: Here’s how to install Android 9 Pie based EMUI 9 Beta on your Huawei smartphone


Huawei Nova 3
There is a notch up front that has the front-facing camera, earpiece and a couple of sensors

The Huawei Nova 3 features a 6.3-inch IPS LCD display with a resolution of 2340×1080 pixels and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The display comes with a notch which is pretty much expected from most of the smartphones launched in 2018. The display is bright enough and we were able to use the phone even on hot sunny days outside.

Software & UI

The Huawei Nova 3 runs Google’s Android 8.1 Oreo operating system with the company’s own custom skin, EMUI 8.2 on top. The custom skin does tend to bring a lot of features on board but that comes in lieu of performance. Here, we don’t mean that the Nova 3 does not perform well but when you compare it to something like the OnePlus 6, which runs on stock Android, it feels a bit slower. Also, during our time with the device, we did notice some lagging and stutters across the device every now and then.

Huawei Nova 3 comes with features like Hitouch which allows you to put two thumbs on any image and the device can then find the relative product on Amazon. Other features include fingerprint gestures, motion control, voice control and much more.


Huawei Nova 3 comes with a Kirin 970 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM. The processor is able to handle any task thrown at it. We played games like PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9 and Mario Run during our testing period and were blown away by the performance. However, the phone did tend to get warm at the back just after few minutes of gaming even though we played without any cover/case.

The daily tasks felt quite fast enough but as we mentioned in the Software & UI section, the UI seemed like a bottleneck here. As far as the performance numbers are concerned, the Nova 3 managed to get an impressive score of 199884 on AnTuTu benchmarks. In GeekBench, the Nova 3 received a respectable score of 1912 in single core performance and multi-core achieved a whopping 6561 points.

Also Read: Huawei benchmark controversy: Here’s everything you need to know

However, we really cannot trust these numbers as Huawei has recently been caught cheating in these benchmarking applications. Also, its worth noting that we haven’t received any software update since then.


Huawei Nova 3 bears a dual camera setup at the back consisting of a 16-megapixel primary and a 24-megapixel secondary sensor. The primary sensor is used to capture the images while the secondary lens is a monochrome sensor and captures detail blacks and whites. The dual-camera setup often brings out good portrait shots with a good amount of edge detection.

The AI camera features allow the Nova 3 to automatically detect the scenes so that it can adjust the exposure and other settings accordingly. The AI feature is more like a hit or miss. However, the ability to disable the AI mode after the shot is taken is much appreciated.

Huawei Nova 3 camera (6)
AI mode is able to detect food

On the front, there is a 24-megapixel primary sensor coupled with a 2-megapixel secondary sensor. The selfies come out pretty good and thanks to the secondary lens, portrait mode works quite well with the front cameras as well. There is also an HDR Pro mode for selfies which prevents white backgrounds from looking overexposed.

Huawei has also borrowed some features from Apple’s iPhone X but the implementation here is pretty bad. The 3D mode allows you to take shots with effects like Stage Lighting, Classic lighting and more. Also, there is AR Lens which is quite similar to the AR Emoji on the iPhones. The AR Lens is good to have but not something I would miss if gone. The iPhone X and later use extra sensors to achieve such performance, while the Nova 3’s AR Lens is totally dependent on the front camera which is why iPhones are able to do it better.


Also Read: Honor Play First Impressions: Ultimate Gaming experience on a budget?

Under the hood, the Huawei Nova 3 packs a 3,750mAh non-removable battery. The relatively large battery and Huawei’s optimisations on EMUI make the phone last more than a day. During our review period, with heavy usage, we were easily able to get through one full working day on a single charge. With low to medium usage, the smartphone can easily last for more than one day.


Huawei Nova 3 (1)
Huawei Nova 3 is a decent smartphone for its price

The Huawei Nova 3 brings a lot to the table at a price tag of Rs. 34,999. However, the competition at that price range is currently very aggressive. Considering smartphones like OnePlus 6, Asus ZenFone 5Z, Poco F1 and Honor Play exist in the market makes it quite hard to recommend the Huawei Nova 3 over these alternatives.

However, the Nova 3 does come with a few features which make the device stand out from the other. Personally, I was quite impressed by the Iris Purple colour which gives a dual tone colour at the back. It looks quite attractive in hand rather than in the photos. So, if you are interested in the Nova 3, we highly recommend getting the Iris Purple variant.

The long-lasting battery life and AI camera features are much appreciated. The Face Unlock on the Nova 3 is quite fast and the fact that it comes uses an Infrared sensor saves your eyes from getting blinded while trying to unlock your phone in dark rooms. So, it basically comes down to your preference and needs in your next smartphone. We highly recommend to check out some of the alternatives as well before locking in your decision.


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