Huawei Nova 7i Review

Supernova, Supercharged

This is the Huawei Nova 7i, more known as the P40 Lite in Europe or the Nova 6 SE in China. It’s the company’s newest mid-range offering to land in the Philippines this month. Does it have all the bells and whistles for the Php13,990 price tag it’s asking for? Here’s our review.

Huawei Nova 7i specs:

  • 6.4 inch LTPS IPS LCD display, 1080 x 2310 px
  • 2.7GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 810
    Mali-G52 MP6
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB UFS 2.1 internal storage
    expandable storage via nano memory up to 256GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
  • Quad rear cameras:
    48 MP, f/1.8 wide
    8 MP, f/2.4 ultrawide
    2 MP, f/2.4 macro
    2 MP, f/2.4 depth of field
  • 16MP front camera (punch-hole)
  • Dual SIM, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0
  • fingerprint scanner (side-mounted)
  • USB Type-C
  • EMUI 10 (Android 10 AOSP, Huawei Mobile Services)
  • 4200mAh battery
    40W Fast charging
  • Colors: Midnight Black, Rush Green, Sakura Pink

An all-too-familiar, yet beautiful design

The phone is a huge breath of fresh air from all the devices we’ve reviewed so far. The form factor, in itself, is reminiscent of 5.7-inch devices despite having a 6.4-inch display. The phone in itself is also wider, so there’s plenty of room for more horizontal navigation. At the front is an IPS panel with a cutout at the upper-left corner for the 16-megapixel selfie camera.

Its dual-hybrid SIM slot sits at the left side, while the volume rocker and the fingerprint scanner, doubling as the power/lock button caved into the aluminum edges.

At the bottom, we have the USB Type-C port along with the microphone, the speaker grille, and a 3.5mm audio jack. There’s also another microphone up atop for noise canceling.

The polycarbonate back part, meanwhile, is devoid of any alterations, sans the protruding square at the upper-right corner, in which the quad-camera setup resides. Our unit, a dazzling Sakura Pink, reminds us of spring with its pink to blue hue change. This one’s really glossy, though, so you may find yourself wiping fingerprints and smudges off the phone every now and then.

Despite a 4,200mAh battery capacity, the phone feels relatively light and easy to hold. I didn’t have any hard time holding the phone, though typing may take two hands to do. We’ll recommend using a case due to the glossy nature of the phone, in case you don’t want it slipping off your hands.

A hole in the (IPS) wall

Here’s what’s surprising in this phone: The 6.4-inch display with a 19:9 aspect ratio does not appear to be as large as it is. I find myself being accustomed to the display because it looks and feels wider and shorter than other phones I previously reviewed, and partly because it reminds me of a 16:9 device.

The LTPS IPS display takes up 83.5% screen-to-body ratio, so you’ll see lesser bezels here. The colors are vivid, the details are crisp in the naked eye, and it does not have any issues when seen from different angles. Its brightness is great for most conditions, except for high noons where the phone doesn’t get as much brighter than the sun. Nonetheless, you’ll enjoy viewing content with the device whether you’re at bedtime (with Eye Care) or during travel (with automatic brightness).

Its audio seems to be decent for normal consumption, with decent mids and highs. It’s a mono speaker that peaks at 82dB, so don’t expect Dolby-like quality with it.

Stellar Camera. No kidding.

The quad-rear camera setup of the Nova 7i does not disappoint. There’s a wide 48-megapixel lens for high-res or low-light shots, an 8-megapixel for ultrawide scenes, and a pair of 2-megapixel shooters for macro and depth of field. The camera app offers modes for the night, expert, panorama, slow-mo, light painting, moving picture, and super macro, among others.

Combined with Huawei’s already-impressive camera software processing and algorithms, the phone was able to capture detailed, natural, well-reproduced images of subjects we took. They offer quite a higher sharpness than the usual, but the colors, contrast, and dynamic range are quite decent. The camera was able to take decent light even in dim environments, and the Night Mode made the photos better-looking.

The 16-megapixel front camera, on the other hand, seems to have its AI beauty feature turned on by default, though you can minimize this by switching to Photo mode and turning the Beauty dial to zero. The selfie cam offers good lighting, color, and decent details that can be shared online. Blurring in Portrait Mode is great, too, with little to zero misses. Here are some sample shots:

The rear camera setup can only record up to Full HD resolution at 30fps, though there are options where you can record in the standard 16:9 mode or the new 19:9 full-screen mode. Colors are on point, details are decent. Details, though, could be a bit blurry when zoomed. Here’s a sample clip:

A world without anything Google

The Nova 7i continues the string of Huawei releases that do not offer Google Mobile services out of the box. Instead, customers need to get accustomed to Huawei’s own Mobile services, including its own app store called AppGallery. While it’s still lacking a lot of big-name app titles, the said store is growing by the day with more local apps jumping in. You can also sideload apps and install downloaded APKs, though the company doesn’t guarantee that they will work 100% especially if they rely on Google’s framework.

For the most part, using Huawei’s own suite of apps prove to be useful in their own right. The email app can open accounts from your domain, Google, Hotmail, and Yahoo, while the Notepad app gives you more upfront choices for every note you take. They’re not really that bad, but I don’t know if I can fully rely on these apps if there are no known web-based counterparts, more so if I don’t have a laptop like a Matebook D that supports Huawei Screen share.

Thanks to the Kirin 810 chipset and 8GB of RAM, using this phone has been a breeze. We had no hiccups so far, and most games we played, including resource-heavy ones such as Asphalt 9, offer zero to little lag. Warmth can be felt up at the upper-back part on a prolonged game or multitask use. Here are our benchmark scores with the device:

  • AnTuTu – 303,422
  • PCMark – 7,588 (Work 2.0)
  • GeekBench – 2,879 (Single-core), 7,804 (Multi-core), 5,928 (Compute)
  • 3DMark – 2,819 (Slingshot Extreme – OpenGL), 2,609 (Slingshot Extreme – Vulkan)

This side fingerprint scanner works wonders

Huawei’s implementation of a side fingerprint scanner isn’t really new. They’re not the first ones to utilize this design as Sony did with the Xperia phones a few years ago. Nonetheless, I find this useful. For one, you don’t need to press the button to unlock the phone. The phone gets more ergonomic too, with the scanner now at a hand’s reach. Left-handed people, though, may find the placement absurd because the scanner seems to be made with right-handed people in mind.

Other connectivity options such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and Mobile Data work well. GPS is not an issue as well. This phone We’re just bummed that this is one of the first mid-range phones to feature a nano memory chip at the second SIM slot. Really, Huawei? A 64GB NM card in Lazada costs around Php1,399, which many may not afford. But, would you need extra storage when there’s already 128GB of it inside?

The Battery is the star of the show

With a 4,200mAh battery powering a rather monstrous device, one could possibly think that it drains juice too much. When we used this since last week, we lasted almost a day of moderate use with WiFi and 4G Internet use on social apps, cameras, emails, SMS, and calls. Our PCMark benchmark battery test have the Nova 7i a 13 hours and 18 minutes score.

To top that off, the 40-watt charger is no joke. I spend at least two hours to fully charge my current phone, but this one does it in under one hour. You’d get a full charge from 20% to 100% in just 49 minutes. I’m happy that we’re actually seeing these kinds of technology, mostly used in flagship devices, being implemented to lower-priced, mid-range ones.

ALSO READ: Huawei Nova 7i now official in the Philippines, priced

Carl writes for WalasTech when he's not working full-time. Give him tips and/or leads at [email protected].