Hands-On

Huawei Nova 4 Hands-on: A ‘hole’ new approach

Does the punch-hole display make a difference?

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One of the reasons why Huawei is always on the news, aside from the controversies, is because they have new phones every other week. I’m still loving the Mate 20 Pro for its amazing cameras, but there’s now the Nova 4 that, in my opinion, will be an interesting option for new smartphone buyers.

The Huawei Nova 4 offers pretty much everything a premium midrange phone should: a nice display, beautiful body, and good cameras. It’s also one of the few phones in the market that has a hole in its display instead of a notch.

Is a punch-hole display more preferable than a notch? That’s what I tried to find out while using the Nova 4 for this hands-on.

First, let’s start with the basics:

It’s got a notch-less 6.4-inch display

In exchange, there’s a hole for the front camera

There’s support for two nano-SIM cards

No space for a microSD card, though

On its right are the physical buttons

They blend in well with the phone’s frame

The 3.5mm headphone jack is on top

Along with an IR blaster and noise-canceling microphone

At the bottom is the reversible USB-C port

There’s also the loudspeaker and main microphone

The back houses three cameras

And the swift fingerprint reader

The gradient color scheme is present

This has become Huawei’s signature

Can’t deny that it’s from Huawei

From its body to its color, the Nova 4 contains 100 percent of Huawei’s DNA. Gone are the days where we associate every touchscreen phone as an iPhone. Once the gradient color of the Nova 4 shifts, it instantly captivates. The usual question I get when my friends see me holding the Nova 4 is: It that a Huawei?

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a phone with an extreme persona like this Aurora Blue variant of the Nova 4 I have for review. I still prefer my discreet OnePlus 6 in black, but that’s just me. Of course, there’s a black variant of the Nova 4 available as well for those who don’t want a phone that becomes a centerpiece on a table.

The shape and size of the Nova 4 are no different from any premium phone that came out lately. It’s got a glass front and back with a shiny metal frame and the sides of the phone curve gently, making it easier to grip. Overall, I found no issues about the build of the Nova 4, aside from it being smudgy most of the time.

At first, I found the punch-hole to be as annoying as the notch. The hole is larger than expected, but I got used to it. Most apps treat the hole like a notch, so the experience is similar to before. The punch-hole doesn’t have an advantage over the notch in terms of usability.

Where the punch-hole shines is how it’s more tolerable when watching a video in full screen. Some games are not aware of the area the hole is occupying, thus control buttons get covered. Turning off the “full screen display” switch for some games fixes this.

Flagship-grade speed and stability

Enough with the looks; let’s now dive into the internals of the phone. The brain of the Nova 4 is the Kirin 970 processor. It’s the previous flagship 10nm chipset from Huawei’s own labs. It’s also inside the Mate 10 and the P20 series. Moreover, the Nova 4 has the same processor as its predecessor.

Performance-wise, there’s no big difference. This means Nova 3 owners don’t need to upgrade, unless they want a new and different-looking phone. The advantage of the Nova 4 is its upgraded memory to 8GB, although storage remains the same at 128GB.

Android Pie comes out of the box with Huawei’s EMUI 9 placed on top. Frankly, there’s not much new about the custom interface since EMUI 6, aside from the staple features of Android Pie. The heavy skin of EMUI doesn’t affect the performance of the phone, but it’s also not the best-looking.

In terms of gaming, popular titles like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile are playable on high graphics settings. There’s no sign of hiccups or lag thanks to the optimizations by Huawei’s GPU Turbo.

As mentioned, the hole in the display is considered a “notch” by the system, so you can still hide the area it occupies by diving into the Settings panel. This makes the phone look hole-free, but you lose the extra screen real estate in some apps. So far, there are no issues with system and third-party apps, and I hope it stays that way.

Good cameras with ultra wide-angle lens

When it comes to taking photos, the Nova 4 doesn’t disappoint. It’s got a main 20-megapixel camera paired with an ultra wide-angle 16-megapixel shooter. There’s also a 2-megapixel depth sensor to help in taking portrait shots with bokeh effect. As for selfies, the 25-megapixel front camera can take detailed and pleasing stills.

AI scene detection is available both on the front and rear cameras, so the phone always helps in taking the best-possible photo. Check out these samples:

Like with most camera phones, the Nova 4 can take good-looking photos in broad daylight. Good thing the quality doesn’t drop when shooting indoors or in the evening. Generally, the Nova 4 is a capable phone for taking photos, except the ultra wide-angle lens doesn’t sport autofocus. Night mode is also available when you need to take photos in incredibly dark environments.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The Huawei Nova 4 is a new smartphone with a fresh approach to the notch dilemma. If you dislike the notch, the punch-hole display is your next best option.

For me, the ideal best bezel-less phone doesn’t have a notch or a hole — just like the Mi Mix 3, OPPO Find X, or Vivo NEX. Those phones have their own issues about their approach, however. It’s just a matter of preference at this point because nothing is perfect — for now.

While I wait for the perfect bezel-less phone without moving parts or display cutouts, I appreciate the options given to us. In the end, it’s your choice if you want a notch, a hole, or a mechanism to house the selfie camera. There are also phones without front cameras at all, maybe that’s your cup of tea — or coffee.

SEE ALSO: How the Huawei Watch GT made me believe in smartwatches

Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 Hands-on: What’s New?

Any differences from last year’s Galaxy Z Fold3?

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Samsung paved the way for foldable smartphones that transform into tablets.

That engineering marvel made the Galaxy Fold possible.

After three years, the Galaxy Z Fold continues to evolve.

The Galaxy Z Fold4, while it may look almost the same as the Z Fold3, offers upgrades that one should consider.

What are those changes?

You should definitely watch our Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 hands-on for you to find out.


Pre-order the Galaxy Z Fold4: howl.me/1782498420013699516

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Hands-On

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 Hands-on: Flip That!

Watch Before You Buy

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Of all the foldables that have been around for the last few 3-4 years, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has been the most fun.

Today, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy Z Flip4.

While it looks exactly like last year’s Galaxy Z Flip3, it comes with some nifty improvements.

But should you rush out and pre-order though?

Head over to our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 hands-on video to know more.


Pre-order the Galaxy Z Flip4: howl.me/1782498419600267258

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The marriage of engineering, technology, and design

The Mate Xs 2 reminded us of what we used to love about Huawei

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Thin. Light. Flat.

These words got me ecstatic, knowing that it’s been years since the first foldable devices came out and these aren’t the words we used to describe them.

Huawei certainly has come a long way, fighting head-to-head with Samsung back in 2019 in bringing a taste of the future.

The company, pressing on after the US-Google-Huawei fiasco, strives to refine its portfolio of foldable smartphones.

Now, in case you’re confused, the first foldable — the Huawei Mate X — was launched in 2019. Huawei introduced the Mate Xs in 2020, and then the Mate X2 in 2021. Later that year, Huawei also brought the P50 Pocket, the direct rival of the Galaxy Z Flip 3.

In 2022, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 undoubtedly succeeds the Mate Xs, continuing its prominent outward-folding design. Let’s take a look at the world’s thinnest and lightest foldable yet.

Elegantly refined in a design that’s imperfectly perfect

One thing I like about Huawei’s smartphones is how they all look classy and elegant. The formula they’ve used to win many hearts over — as seen on the Huawei P and Mate line from a few years ago — is carried vehemently to its foldable lineup.

Up front, when folded, the Mate Xs 2 looks like your regular slate. Tall, boxy yet somehow curvy, and looks and feels sturdy. It has a 6.5-inch OLED display, much like the same slab you see today.

Behind that sleek glass is the folded, extended screen. It makes the device look thick when you check its bottom. But somehow, the cuts and edges fit perfectly, housing the speaker grilles, the SIM Card slot, and the USB-C port.

Flipping the device, you’ll find the extension of the screen. It snugs tightly, locking beside the camera strip together with a button that unfolds the Mate Xs 2.

When you press the button, it releases the lock and the screen rises.

Releasing the lock allows the device to stay in the same position. Yes, it’s still up to you to force it to get that large, square-like screen you expect out of a foldable device.

But let’s forget about that for a moment. Underneath, you can find a diagonal plaid pattern in a leather-like texture. While I loved anything and everything white, Huawei refined the way black smartphones should be. J’adore!

This one has more personality, looks sophisticated, and — beyond the marvelous appearance — has a sense of functionality, too. The texture aids the phone in keeping it durable and scratch-resistant.

A friendly reminder that style without substance is nothing. Don’t be fooled by grand showcases if it only exhibits lavishness without addressing the more important stuff.

Thin but not like ice

Upclose to its back, you can find the hinge gluing the screen together. Huawei attributes its precise and fluid movement to its new-generation Double-rotating Falcon Wing Hinge design.

With this proprietary technology, I’m still gobsmacked by how Huawei packed all the components tightly. This feels like the ASUS Zenfone 8 which shrank its components to achieve a compact form factor, but with a trickier and more intensive process.

Nevertheless, this fusion of engineering and design allowed Huawei to create the thinnest, flattest, and lightest foldable — with no visible crease.

Regardless of the angle and lighting condition, the Mate Xs 2 really doesn’t exhibit any crease on its display.

It makes the smartphone usage pleasant to the eyes — and even your fingers, simply because the crease is barely felt. And frankly, you’re more likely to swipe and scroll on the right side of the phone instead of the part where the hinge is.

While the Mate Xs 2 is pretty thin, weighing only 255g with a thickness of 5.4mm when unfolded, it’s easy to carry and hold.

Even when folded, which comes with a thickness of 11.1mm, the Mate XS 2 is easily gripped and fits your spaces like any slab smartphone.

Gorgeous, “sturdy” display

Besides the huge leap in engineering and design, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 is emblazoned with top-of-the-line display technology.

With already a creaseless screen, the unfolded device sports a 7.8-inch high-resolution OLED display. It reportedly packs a billion colors and supports P3 wide color gamut.

With an artistic rendition of Weathering With You through a 4K wallpaper, the Mate Xs 2 exhibited rich and vibrant colors.

Watching a show is quite different though, especially with its strange aspect ratio. It doesn’t provide a full-screen experience even if you rotate the screen.

But fold the phone back… and you can enjoy an immersive viewing experience. It was delightful to watch Encanto and sing along with Isabela and Mirabel Madrigal.

Aside from the beauty and grandeur of the Mate Xs 2’s display, Huawei made sure it’s durable. The Mate Xs 2 adopted a bulletproof Composite Structure screen with a protective film, support layer, and rotating shaft.

I haven’t had a chance to test its resistance to drops, crushing, or impact. I still believe foldables are fragile, even with their claims of being ‘sturdy’ and ‘reliable.’

What I worry about is the folded part of the screen, since, without a case, the surface directly touches the folded rear. While Huawei assures us with an aluminum alloy protective frame around the screen that keeps it scratch-resistant, I can’t help but feel anxious whenever I place it on any rough, hard surface.

Is there power under the hood?

Okay, let’s talk specs. Huawei, for most of its flagship devices, pushes the limits of its hardware. It runs on EMUI 12, comes with an 8GB RAM and 512GB of ROM, a 4600mAh battery capacity capable of 66W SuperCharge, and a 120Hz refresh rate.

The only drawback that got me taken aback is its processor. Sadly, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a Snapdragon 888 4G. While we have the thank the US government for that, the processor is somewhat limiting especially in terms of future-proofing.

Don’t get me wrong, Snapdragon 888 is still powerful. But plenty of chipsets are going above and beyond, and this flagship foldable getting left behind.

As for the user experience and the lack of Google Mobile Services (GMS), this has been addressed multiple times — from ways to augment your experience to the improvements Huawei made, especially for HarmonyOS. But that’s a story for another time because there are plenty of features to talk about.

Are the cameras still flagship-grade?

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 houses a 50-megapixel True Chroma camera system, including a 13-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera. Upfront, it has a 10.7-megapixel selfie camera.

A few tests here and there made me think that the photos are color-accurate, detailed, and flagship-worthy. But that wouldn’t be fair to be this subjective when I hardly have any photos to showcase. Hang tight! As of this writing, we’re brewing something cool about its cameras.

Anyhoo, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 — like its previous iterations — comes with a Mirror Shooting mode where the photographer can take a photo while the subject can see how they look on the rear screen.

This is similar to most foldables nowadays. Frankly, it’s a handy feature that might come in handy when you travel or want to capture an iconic moment.

Remembering the love for Huawei

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 reminds me of everything we’ve loved about Huawei. Elegantly-designed smartphones. Sleek and vibrant display technology. Impressive hardware. Huge leaps in engineering and design. Actual innovation.

The only barriers that propel it from taking back its crown are the people who can’t adapt to a new user experience, and the geopolitical issues surrounding the company. Nevertheless, the Mate Xs 2 is Huawei’s proof that they can still be a trailblazer, and they’ll probably keep on doing so.

Price and availability

The Huawei Mate Xs 2 retails for PhP 99,999. It will be available in Shopee, Lazada, or the Huawei Store. Learn more about the flagship foldable on Huawei’s website.


Editor’s Note: The article has been updated with new information. Previously, the story indicated pre-order details.

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