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:

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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

Cameras

Fujifilm Instax SQ20 hands-on: How good is it?

Trying out the new Motion Mode on doggies!

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Fujifilm’s sequel to their first ever digital/analog hybrid is here and it’s looking better than ever. The Instax SQ20 is one classy-looking instant camera but what can it do? With a set of built-in filters and new features like the Motion Mode, it looks like a promising device.

I finally try it out, with help from some doggies, on our hands-on video.

The SQ20 retails for US$ 199 in the US, PhP 12,999 in the Philippines, and SG$ 299 in Singapore.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

READ ALSO: Fujifilm Instax SQ10 review

READ ALSO: Prynt Pocket unboxing and review: A printer that prints videos?

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Accessories

Neutrogena’s Light Treatment stick will target your pimples

I tried it to see if it works!

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Adult acne is real and it has plagued one too many women (and men!). In the search for beauty tech that will help rid me of my breakouts forever, I discovered Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Spot Treatment. (It’s a mouthful, I know.)

This LED light treatment stick uses red and blue LED lights to target specific spots on your face to treat acne in the most unobtrusive way possible. But, how exactly does it work and is it effective? I gave it a shot and here’s how my experience went.

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

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Accessories

Sony WH-1000XM3 Hands-on: As good as advertised

The hype is real

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As far as updates go, the Sony WH-1000XM3 came pretty quickly following the hype surrounding its predecessor. The Sony WH-1000XM2 were already fantastic noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, and the little improvements here and there on the M3 definitely made it better.

Before we jump in any further, I’d like to clarify again that I am by no means an audio expert. Just sharing with you my time with the WH-1000XM3 just as I did with the WH-1000XM2.

The noise-cancelling hype is real

If you want headphones that will truly help shut out your surroundings, you can’t go wrong with the WH-1000XM3. We played it as a gag in this short video, but it truly works.

Putting these on really gives you a feeling of being isolated from your surroundings. That’s perfect for when you really want to zone in on whatever you’re working on or if you simply don’t want to be bothered.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is the perfect companion for when you don’t want to be bothered

I have had several instances when my workmates had to tap my shoulder or wave like crazy in front me just to get my attention. That’s pretty intense noise-cancelling.

A nifty feature is that I don’t have to take off the headphones just to hear what they’re saying. Putting my hand over the right earcup turns off the noise-cancelling and lets me hear my surroundings. This can also be done using the ambient button located on the left earcup.

Pretending I’m laughing at someone’s jokes but I’m really just laughing at myself

Sound quality is clean AF

The WH-1000XM3 is perfect for all kinds of audio activities that involve precision. When video editing, it’s easier to detect any stray audio or tell if your music is too soft or loud.

It’s great for video editing, among other things

Playing games with these on offer an immersive experience. I couldn’t help but tear up again during the emotional parts of Marvel’s Spider-Man for PS4 especially when you hear everything that’s happening in the game so close to your ear.

I used it extensively for listening to music. I got hooked to K-Pop (okay, mostly just Twice) recently and while I’ve always admired the production value of the music videos, I found that their music is just as well-produced.

Just walking around looking fly while listening to Twice

There are several layers to each track and you definitely hear them better when listening with the WH-1000XM3. Sharing with you this playlist in case you want to give it a go.

It’s important to note that if you’re the type who likes to hear and feel a lot of bass from your headphones, you probably shouldn’t get this. The WH-1000XM3 offers a more balanced sound experience — that, sure, you can tweak a little — but it ultimately sounds smooth, clean, and is never too soft or too loud.

Touch controls and other features

Pausing, skipping tracks, and volume control are all pretty easy. Moving your finger clockwise or counterclockwise while going around the right earcup adjusts the volume.

To pause, you simply have to tap the middle of the right earcup. To skip tracks, just swipe from the center of the right earcup heading towards either edge.

Touch controls make things easy

The WH-1000XM3 also has a Google Assistant integration. This means you can send commands through the headphones among other things. There’s also an option to have Google Assistant read your most recent messages so you can listen instead of pulling your phone out to read them.

If I had any issue with the headphones, it’s probably the Bluetooth pairing. I had an easier time moving from phone to laptop and vice versa on the WH-1000XM2 over the WH-1000XM3. I’m not particularly sure if that’s my laptop acting up, but I have had to unpair and re-pair quite a few times which was a bit of a pain.

Comfort and durability

The longest I’ve had the headphones on is probably close to eight hours. That’s honestly too long. My recommendation has always been to keep it on for around four hours max and to take it off for a while after that.

It’s generally comfortable and can be worn for hours

The material used is much more flexible than the one on its predecessor. You can literally stretch and bend it and it would not break — perfect for someone like myself who has the tendency to break things.

It’s super flexible!

Final thoughts

I’m honestly dying to try other noise-cancelling headphones to know how the experience stacks up against the WH-1000XM3. As far as sound quality and noise-cancelling go, these Sony headphones are absolutely top-notch. All the hype this has generated is justified.

One last pose, just because

I also didn’t find myself charging the device too much. In a week with moderate to heavy use, I needed to juice up only during weekends. And it now comes with a USB-C port, so that’s a plus for future-proofing.

If you’re coming from the WH-1000XM2, it might be too much to jump to the WH-1000XM3. However, if you’re looking to splurge to upgrade your audio-consumption experience, go right ahead and grab these. It’s light, durable, and you get the kind of audio that Sony promises.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are available for US$ 350. It currently retails in Singapore for SG$ 549 and PhP 20,000 in the Philippines.

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