Reviews

Huawei Nova 3i Review: A supernova among midrange phones

Best in its range but not perfect

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Huawei continues to dominate the midrange market with another Nova phone. If the Mate series is too business-like and the P20 series doesn’t fit the budget, the Nova series is the way to go.

The Nova 2i from last year was a hit among developing markets due to its value for money. Now we have the Nova 3i, the latest phone to come from Huawei’s factory and it’s ready for prime time.


The Nova 3i inherits the key features of its predecessor like having four onboard cameras, large near-borderless display, and a well-built body. Is the Nova 3i a worthy successor?

You guys know the drill, so let’s get to the physique of the phone:

Its 6.3-inch IPS display has a wide notch

Wider than those from other recent Huawei phones

This is because of two selfie cameras and an infrared sensor

The secondary camera helps in adding a bokeh effect

The top is pretty plain, nothing to see here really

The tiny hole is the noise-canceling microphone

The power and volume buttons are on the right…

The frame and buttons are metal but have a glossy finish — at least for the Iris Purple variant

While the on the left is the hybrid card slot

With the phone’s 128GB storage, do you even need a microSD card?

The bottom has a micro-USB and 3.5mm audio port

It also houses the loudspeaker and main microphone

Iris Purple combines purple and blue with a gradient effect

Another beautiful phone with dual rear cameras and a glass back

Undeniably a P20 look-a-like

Let’s get straight to it: The Nova 3i looks a lot like the P20 series. It’s not an Honor-branded phone, but the aesthetics of the Nova 3i kind of give the vibe of Huawei’s sub-brand. Maybe because I was thinking of the Honor 10 while looking at it?

To show you guys how the Nova 3i and P20 series are strikingly similar, I pulled out the P20 Lite from the GadgetMatch HQ. I chose the P20 Lite because it’s likely your second option (it got a price cut in some markets) if you’re planning to get the Nova 3i.

Huawei Nova 3i (left) beside Huawei P20 Lite (right)

Both phones’ displays have a notch, but the Nova 3i’s is wider because it has two front-facing cameras and an infrared sensor for more accurate facial recognition. Also, the chin of the Nova 3i is a bit slimmer than the P20 Lite’s, so the newer phone looks more borderless and iPhone X-like.

The back of the Huawei P20 Lite is virtually identical to the Huawei Nova 3i’s

When you flip both phones, unsuspecting people won’t be able to tell the difference. The dual-camera placement is the same, the position of the fingerprint readers is the same, and even the rounded corners of the phones are the same!

Both the P20 Lite and Nova 3i look very similar, so there’s no debate which phone looks better. You’ll just have to choose which fits your hand better since they differ in size; the Nova 3i is bigger than the P20 Lite.

Amazing performance from the new processor

After recycling the specs of the Nova 2i in the P20 Lite, Huawei finally moved on and introduced a new processor to power their latest midrange phone. The Kirin 710 debuts on the Nova 3i and it’s interesting to see how the new home-baked processor from Huawei stacks up against the competition and its predecessor. My Nova 3i unit also boasts 4GB of memory and a whopping 128GB of internal storage — that’s a lot to fill up.

Android 8.1 Oreo is already available out of the box but it’s skinned with EMUI 8.2. You’ll not escape EMUI if you’re buying a Huawei phone unless the Chinese tech giant decides to join the Android One program. ASUS already made a pure Android phone, the ZenFone Max Pro, but it’s not exactly Pixel-like which is what you can expect from Android One phones.

EMUI 8.2’s notification and quick settings panel

EMUI is not the worst skin around but it’s not the best either — at least for me. It brings new features on top of Android Oreo, and Huawei is fairly committed to keeping their phones up to date which is nice.

Now onto the processor. The new Kirin 710 is more efficient than the Kirin 659 found in the Nova 2i and P20 Lite since it now uses a 12nm architecture, close to the 10nm of the more powerful mobile chipsets found on flagship phones. Huawei also claims a 75 percent increase in single-core performance and about 68 percent in multi-core compared to the older chip.

How do the numbers translate to everyday performance? Well, I haven’t encountered any lag when using the phone’s interface and system apps. Although, there are slight hiccups when using Facebook Messenger’s chat heads. The processor is still new, so there are some kinks that need to be ironed out with third-party apps.

Asphalt 9: Legends runs perfectly fine on the Nova 3i

When the Nova 2i was announced last year, it was a fan favorite. It offered a big 18:9 display with a Kirin 659 processor and a generous amount of memory and storage. The Kirin 659 processor was decent but it didn’t exactly live up to expectations when it came to gaming. Other chipsets in its range, like the Snapdragon 625, Snapdragon 450, and Helio P60, were able to run certain games more smoothly. So, with the new Kirin 710 chipset on the Nova 3i, I was curious about its gaming performance.

After playing different titles on the phone for a week, I’m glad to report that the updated Mali-G51 MP4 GPU greatly improves gaming on the new midrange Huawei phone. It could have been better if the Kirin 710 has the Mali-G71 to make it on par with the gaming capabilities of the late P10 phones.

Midrange Kirin processors don’t always get the best GPU around, but the improved graphics and overall performance of the Kirin 710 is enough to make the Nova 3i a convincing successor.

Camera’s AI oversaturation is a problem

As mentioned, the Nova 3i still has four cameras: two at the back, two in the front. The phone may have the same number of cameras as the P20 Pro, but the additional sensors are not that special — no monochrome or zoom cameras.

The main 16-megapixel rear shooter is accompanied by a 2-megapixel depth sensor for adding bokeh effects. The aggressive AI (artificial intelligence) camera feature we first saw on the Honor 10 is present on the Nova 3i.

Here are a few samples taken with AI turned on:

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Just like with the Honor 10, the Nova 3i takes vibrant photos; way too vibrant with AI turned on, to be honest. In other phones, AI uses the best-possible settings based on what you’re shooting. Huawei’s use of AI is a bit much, but you can always toggle it off even after taking the shot, so just keep the AI on so it can suggest what it thinks is best.

From the meager 13-megapixel selfie shooter of the Nova 2i, we now have a high-resolution 24-megapixel front camera with a 2-megapixel depth sensor. The increase in resolution greatly improves the detail of selfies and overall picture quality. Of course, there’s beauty mode and a few lighting effects to play with.

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Then there’s Qmoji which is, you guessed it, like Apple’s Animoji. Using the front cameras and sensors, the Nova 3i can capture and track facial expressions and use it to animate a cute character. It’s not as great as Animoji, but it’s fun to send a short Qmoji clip to friends.

Playing around with Qmoji

Without the Leica label, the Nova 3i can’t match the P20 phones. But it’s got great cameras for everyday shooting or when you feel like playing around with the extra features.

Long-lasting but why still use micro-USB?

Like most midrange phones nowadays, the Nova 3i is capable of lasting most than a day. It’s got a sizeable 3340mAh battery which is the same capacity as its predecessor’s. Unfortunately, it still has a micro-USB port; no USB-C for midrange Nova phones, yet.

The Nova 3i was able to get through my usual work day with enough juice left at night. I get an average of five hours of screen-on time from about 22 hours of usage. It would have been great if there were SuperCharge (Huawei’s quick-charging tech) available. Charging times are pretty decent, though. It takes 15 minutes to get it from zero to 15 percent and about 35 minutes to reach 30 percent. A full charge happens in around one hour and 45 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re coming from the Nova 2i, which is still less than a year old, I can’t find solid reasons to upgrade. Don’t get me wrong, the Nova 3i is better in every aspect but I find it more suitable for new Huawei users. It’s a great phone to introduce people to the Huawei sphere. Why? It’s got a good balance of price and performance plus aesthetics and functionality. It’s a convincing phone for those who are looking for a new one.

The Iris Purple color looks better under bright light

There’s still room for improvement, especially in charging and gaming performance. One can’t have it all because if you’re looking for the ideal phone, you’ll have to pay a premium to get a flagship phone. Then again, midrange phones have already proven that there’s no need to shell out your hard-earned money to be able to have a great smartphone.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Nova 2i Review: The midrange phone to beat?

Reviews

Realme 3 Pro review: ‘Pro’ models are indeed better

Is this your next gaming phone?

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Realme might be new (or maybe young) to the smartphone industry, but they’re already making a significant mark. As an OPPO sub-brand before, Realme was created to put up a fight in the budget segment. Just a few models later, they are now taking on the midrange segment with the Realme 3 Pro.

The Pro model of the Realme 3 might not look that different from the regular one, but it has lots of improvements that make it worthy of its “Pro” moniker.


How good is the Realme 3 Pro? Let’s find out in this review.

It has a 6.3-inch Full HD+ IPS display

Comes with a waterdrop notch

The volume buttons are on the left…

Two separate buttons for volume up and down

… along with the triple-card tray

It’s the perfect setup

The power button sits on the right

All the buttons are matte plastic

The bottom is busy with the micro-USB port, speaker, and 3.5mm jack

No USB-C but it has fast charging

The back sports a “3D Speedway Design”

Inspired by Le-Mans speedway

It looks pretty similar to the regular Realme 3

One of the cameras is highlighted by a yellow ring

Familiar with subtle elements

Like with most affordable phones in the midrange segment, the Realme 3 Pro feels plasticky, yet it’s solidly built. It has a 6.3-inch IPS LCD topped with Gorilla Glass 5 which should be able to withstand everyday scratches. With a Full HD+ resolution, the phone’s screen is sharp enough to display pleasing images.

If you’ve seen the Realme 3 (or read my review), the Realme 3 Pro will look really familiar. It shares a similar design to the brand’s budget phone, but it has a couple of improvements.

During my time with the Realme 3 Pro, I’ve noticed that it’s more comfortable to hold, probably due to its tapered side frame. Also, it has a special inner pattern on the back that’s noticeable under bright lighting. Unfortunately, the back is made of plastic and it’s prone to scratches.

Overall, the Realme 3 Pro’s physical aspect is respectable. It doesn’t have premium materials aside from the front glass, yet it’s well-built. Nothing is praisable here, but it’s not shabby either. Since Realme is generally sharing design cues with OPPO, I’m not expecting them to offer anything premium material-wise soon in this price range.

Flagship-grade, built for gaming

Inside, the Realme 3 Pro is so much different from its budget counterpart. It’s powered by a flagship-grade 10nm processor, specifically Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 710. Just last year, only expensive phones got to enjoy the efficiency of 10nm chips but it already has trickled down to the midrange segment.

What does this mean? Fast performance without the high cost. To makes things better, the Realme 3 Pro comes with up to 6GB of memory and up to 128GB of expandable storage.

The phone runs an updated version of ColorOS 6 which is based on Android 9 Pie. While ColorOS’ customization on top of Android doesn’t appeal much to most, it has noteworthy features like Hyper Boost 2.0 which intelligently optimizes gaming performance.

While we’re at it, Realme is promoting the Realme 3 Pro as a gaming smartphone. With its capable processor, better GPU (it has an Adreno 616), and gaming-focused software enhancements, the phone does deliver good gaming performance. PUBG: Mobile is set to high graphics settings by default and it runs without any hiccups. I also had no issues running Asphalt 9 and Mobile Legends.

Upgraded dual cameras

As a midrange phone, the Realme 3 Pro must have more than one rear camera. Thankfully, it has two: a main 16-megapixel shooter with an f/1.7 aperture and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. While the secondary camera is a bit of a letdown, the main sensor is impressive.

When there’s plenty of light to work with, the Realme 3 Pro can take stills with great detail and accurate color balance. AI scene detection is quick and it makes shooting in Auto mode a breeze. Moreover, the phone comes with a couple of extra modes like Nightscape for night shots and Chrome Boost for improved dynamic range.

Check out these samples:

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For selfies, there’s a 25-megapixel front-facing camera inside the display’s notch. With its high pixel count, you can take sharp selfies with a number of beauty filters to suit your taste. Of course, it also AI mode that automatically adjusts everything.

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The Realme 3 Pro’s camera performs great, but it could have been better if the depth sensor had an ultra wide-angle lens instead. We’ve seen wide-angle shooters on budget phones and other similarly priced midrangers, so it should have been possible with Realme’s.

VOOC is a must

OPPO’s proprietary fast charging tech has come to Realme phones. Even though the Realme 3 Pro still sports a micro-USB port, I can forgive it since it features VOOC 3.0. The phone ships with a 20W fast charger in the box, so you don’t have to spend extra for this.

It can quickly go from zero to 50 percent in around 30 minutes, while a full charge will take about an hour and 15 minutes.

How about battery life? I was able to lightly use the Realme 3 Pro for two days and was left with enough juice — around 15 percent — to let it stay awake overnight. A full workday shouldn’t be a problem for the phone’s 4045mAh battery.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Realme 3 Pro has a good display, fast processor, decent cameras, and quick charging speeds. With those already in check, what more could you ask for from a nice midrange phone that wouldn’t hurt your wallet?

Speaking of, the price starts at INR 13,999 in India or PhP 12,990 in the Philippines for the 4GB variant with 64GB of storage. If you want extra memory and storage, the 6GB+128GB model goes for INR 16,999 or PhP 14,990.

The Realme 3 Pro is not exactly the midrange phone to beat, though. The lack of an ultra wide-angle shooter is disappointing, but this smartphone is more of a gaming device than a camera-centric phone in the first place.

SEE ALSO: Realme X is a flagship-grade phone with a budget price tag

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Laptops

Huawei MateBook 13 review: 5 reasons to make the switch

And a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t

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Lots of tech reviewers, including myself, considered the MateBook X Pro as one of the best Windows laptops of 2018. It has the build quality, performance, and look that could easily take on the MacBook Pro.

Naturally, Huawei followed up this major release with a set of new notebooks in early 2019. These include an updated MateBook X Pro, MateBook 14, and finally, the MateBook 13 we have here.


Given its name and pricing — starting at US$ 999 for the Intel Core i5 variant — it’s a given that this is at the lowest end of the MateBook lineup. But don’t let any of those figures fool you; this is one solid product.

I can provide a few reasons why.

Smaller yet equally powerful

Having used the MateBook X Pro as a daily driver for several months now, switching to the MateBook 13 felt like a downgrade at first. I’d miss the quad speaker setup and larger screen, but those were the only losses in the grander scheme. If you took even a single glance at the MateBook 13’s specs sheet, you’d know that it still packs a punch.

The particular model I reviewed, which retails for US$ 1,299, comes with a Core i7-8565U, 8GB of memory, 512GB of fast storage, and a GeForce MX150 GPU. That’s loads of power for a slim laptop that’s only 14.9mm thick with a weight of 1.3kg. That’s also perfect for pushing the 2160 x 1440 pixels on the 13-inch display.

All the convenience is here

I was a little worried that Huawei would remove the fingerprint scanner as a way to cut costs, but fortunately for me and everyone who uses the MateBook 13, it’s still conveniently placed on the power button. Keep your finger on the sensor for a couple of seconds during boot-up, and you’ll go straight to your desktop.

Another handy feature is the fast charger the MateBook 13 comes with. At 65 watts, it can bring this laptop from zero to full in about 1.5 hours, which is similar to what Huawei does with SuperCharge tech on its flagship smartphones. As a bonus, the cable ends in USB-C, so it can quickly charge your handset, as well.

Huawei Share is surprisingly good

I admit, there was some skepticism at the beginning with the Huawei Share sticker placed on the lower-right corner of the notebook. I’ve seen multiple attempts at making syncing between a smartphone and laptop seamless for ages, but nothing has really made it worth the try over simply plugging the mobile device in.

To my delight, Huawei Share legit works. I tap my P30 Pro to the right of the trackpad, and it automatically pairs through NFC. From there, you can select photos, videos, or music you’d like to share between the two devices. The only downside, of course, is that you need a compatible Huawei phone to make this work, which would alienate tons of users.

A much better webcam placement

The biggest complaint of any MateBook X Pro user centers around the notebook’s awkward webcam placement. While the pop-up mechanism is cool, the videos you get out of it aren’t. It’s the lone downside of an otherwise perfect Windows laptop.

Huawei took notes and put the webcam where it belongs on the MateBook 13. It’s right above the display this time and doesn’t add much to the top bezel. It’s a shame that Huawei didn’t just apply this to all of its laptops from the start, but I do miss the privacy I got from the hidden placement of the MateBook X Pro.

Pretty much everything about the design

I believe that 14 inches is the sweet spot for ultra-slim laptops; it provides enough real estate while fitting well inside any sort of backpack. However, the MateBook 13 makes a strong case for why 13 inches is even handier without losing much work space. Because the bezels are still so slim, the display always feels bigger than it looks.

I’m also glad that Huawei didn’t make any comprises with the keyboard and trackpad. The clickiness and response of every backlit key is spot on, and although the trackpad may be a bit too wide for its height, the responsiveness is equally satisfying and it’s so easy to apply gestures on it, especially if you pick the non-touchscreen option.

But then…

As usual, there are a few downsides. The most glaring one is the absence of a USB-A port. One can argue that USB-C is the future — and the MateBook 13 has two of these — but if the MateBook X Pro can have a couple plus one USB-A, so should the MateBook 13. There’s a dongle for this, but being able to plug in straight away is miles more convenient.

As alluded to earlier, this laptop bears only two downward-firing speakers. They can get loud, but clarity is lost at the higher levels, and is totally muffled when placed on a soft surface. And because of the smaller overall heft, battery life takes a hit. I could get easily get over six hours of usage on one full charge, but that isn’t MateBook X Pro levels.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The MateBook 13 is best described as a more affordable MateBook X Pro that doesn’t compromise too much. In effect, it’s yet another MacBook competitor.

With the exception of video calls, there were several moments wherein I wished I’d been using the MateBook X Pro instead, specifically when binge watching shows and plugging in a flash drive.

Otherwise, for the price it commands, the MateBook 13 is one of the best in its class. I love how you can get high performance and a quality build in such a compact package.

The best alternatives here are the MateBook 14 for something a little bigger and Dell’s XPS 13 line, which had been the undisputed champ before the current-gen MateBook series arrived. Now, that crown has to be shared.

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Reviews

Huawei P30 Pro review: A camera story

Same tale, new chapter

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After the Mate 20 Pro launched, I wondered how Huawei would differentiate the latest Mate from the next P-series phone. The Mate 20 Pro has everything, including all the features missing from the P20 Pro. It was simply complete.

Seeing the P30 Pro for the first time, the P20 Pro’s previous hype — and the Mate 20 Pro, by extension — wasn’t there. I wondered: How exactly is this better than the Mate 20 Pro aside from a higher DxOMark score?


I was also hesitant switching from the Galaxy S10+ to the P30 Pro as my daily driver. Samsung’s flagship became a personal favorite of mine. There were certain things that hit me after moving my accounts to this Huawei phone.

It’s heftier than the Galaxy S10+. It wobbles when laid flat on a table because of the camera protrusion. It has no 3.5mm audio port or stereo speakers. And, Huawei’s EMUI skin still isn’t at the level of other Android coatings.

Yes, these are minor complaints that go away with a week’s worth of use. Still, these little things can make or break the experience. They can question a user’s pricey purchase from the get-go.

But then, I fired up the camera app and all my doubts became background blur.

I won’t get into the technical aspect anymore. (We have a full hands-on for that.) So, let’s look at what the P30 Pro can really do.

By now, from the countless advertisements and testimonials, everyone knows that the amazing zoom capability — going from ultra-wide 0.6x to 50x — is the P30 Pro’s highlight. While reaching the max results, zooming to 10x hybrid zoom is actually quite usable.

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As many tech reviewers have said, the 50x zoom is a bit of a gimmick and quickly loses its magic after a couple of weeks. It does, however, come in handy when you really need it, like for this moon shot:

Another one of the P30 Pro’s specialties is night mode, which became a staple Huawei feature since the P20 Pro. With the new quad Leica system, there are noticeable improvements, but not by much compared to the Mate 20 Pro.

Many would agree that the Pixel 3 has a smarter implementation with Night Sight, which is better at retaining colors in darkness, but the P30 Pro is the king of illuminating subjects with close to no light. There have been numerous occasions wherein auto mode was more than enough, and I didn’t even need to swipe towards night mode.

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In general, auto mode did the trick every time, both for the front and rear cameras. I tried my best to love Huawei’s AI scene optimizer this time — it didn’t work out with all their past phones for me — but I just couldn’t take its insistence to darken subjects, blur out every single background, and take its sweet time doing so while I try to shoot a moving object.

Lots more can be said about the P30 Pro’s cameras, but all you really need to know is that there’s no better set of smartphone cameras in the current market. DxOMark hit the nail on the head this time and few would disagree.

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If you need more convincing, look no further than my tour around Paris with the P30 Pro. This piece proves just how capable the premium handset is at being an all-in-one device. Not once did I think of taking out my mirrorless camera to snap a photo of a landscape or person. When I did, it was only for picturing the phone itself.

But then you have to wonder if there’s anything more to the P30 Pro than just its spectacular cameras. Yes, there definitely is, but it’s not much different from what we’ve already seen on the Mate 20 and P20 lineups. Most features, from reverse wireless charging to EMUI 9.1 and SuperCharge, are unchanged.

Not to say that reusing tried and tested formulas are bad, but this doesn’t spark joy either. When comparing the P30 Pro to the Mate 20 Pro and P20 Pro, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the newest model is simply a combination of the two previous flagships, carrying over the curved OLED panel and high-end processing power.

However, Huawei didn’t leave out refinements. The P30 Pro is much comfier to hold with more ergonomic curves; a vibrating screen replaces the need for an earpiece during calls and works great; plus, the display’s notch is at its smallest size yet. In addition, the Kirin 980 chip is more optimized and runs smooth thanks to the 8GB memory and 256GB storage.

Huawei somehow also found a way to increase battery life even further. While the Mate 20 Pro was the endurance champ of 2018, the P30 Pro is 2019’s frontrunner. I use my phone tirelessly for browsing, writing, editing, hotspotting, picture taking, and gaming on the go, but the P30 Pro never asked for a full charge until the day ended. Getting upwards of six hours of screen-on time is expected here.

At the same time, some aspects feel inadequate for a flagship smartphone at this point. Aside from the issues mentioned at the start of this review, the P30 Pro isn’t stellar at video shooting. While it’s great to have that ultra-wide-angle lens to cover more, audio recording isn’t always on point, and it sucks to lack 4K shooting at 60fps.

Finally, the under-display fingerprint scanner needs to improve faster. We’re a couple of generations in. I still wish manufacturers would stick to the capacitive type found in older models like on the P20 series. The convenience is already here, but the speed and accuracy aren’t.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you value camera performance more than anything else in a smartphone, you really don’t have to look any further. The P30 Pro is 2019’s top camera phone so far, and it would take a lot to dethrone it. And even if the Mate 30 Pro beats it later this year, this set of cameras will stand the test of time, similar to what the P20 Pro has been doing.

Unfortunately for Huawei, the Galaxy S10+ is equally fantastic, and checks boxes that the P30 Pro doesn’t, such as the audio port, faster reverse wireless charging, and better overall feel for the exterior and Android UI. Until the OnePlus 7 and Pixel 4 come out, it’s these two flagships you’d have to choose between at the top.

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