Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas

The launch of the Nova 5T in the Philippines was a very important milestone for Huawei, as it allowed them to once again offer a flagship-spec smartphone for the price of a mid-range. It’s actually quite baffling, as to how a device with a Kirin 980 and four rear cameras is priced at PhP18,990.

It’s not the first device to have achieved a feat. There’s the HONOR Play, and the very popular Pocophone F1. Both fall exactly in the same category, and have been well-received by consumers despite their shortcomings.

Does the Nova 5T suffer from its own list of hidden compromises? or did Huawei manage to out a device that is just magically great and affordable at the same time? Let’s find out in this review.

Specifications

Display 6.26″ FHD+
Processor Kirin 980 (Octa-Core)
RAM 8GB
Storage 128GB
Rear Camera 48MP (f/1.8) + 16MP (f/2.2) + 2MP (f/2.4) + 2MP (f/2.4)
Front Camera 32MP
OS Android 9 + EMUI 9.1
Battery 3,750mAh
Other Features AIS Super Night Mode
22.5W SuperCharge
USB-C Interface
Side-Mounted Fingerprint Scanner
GPU Turbo 3.0
4K 60fps Video Recording
960fps Super Slow Motion Video
AI Scene Recognition
AI HDR+ for better exposure on selfies

Design and Build Quality

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasDespite having a 6.26-inch display, the Nova 5T looks and feels so compact in the hand, that it reminds me of the good old days of the Xperia Z5 compact, a time when any screen above 5-inches is considered huge.

It’s thanks to that small footprint, that this phone is so easy to hold and use with one hand.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasThe back panel is reminiscent of the P30 series, sporting a quad camera system in a protruding module, along with a vertically positioned branding. Of course, its reflective design easily attracts a ton of smudges, so feel obliged to use a case with it.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasOne notable change to the design is the use of a side-mounted fingerprint reader, which is also the power button. The good news is that it’s fast and very sensitive. The not-so-good news is that it’s just too sensitive, that even a slight slide of your finger activates it.

Because you also have to press it to lock the device, there are also instances when it will immediately unlock the screen just as you’re lifting your finger from pressing it, if you’re not quick enough.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasAt the bottom, you get a USB-C port along with a single speaker grille. Oddly, Huawei has also opted to take out the headphone jack, which means you either go wireless, or use a dongle to enjoy your favorite headset.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasAs for the display, you get Full HD+ resolution on an LCD panel with a punch hole. While it doesn’t look pale, it does look inferior in terms of overall quality when side by side with say, a Samsung Galaxy A50s.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasI do find its hole design to be slightly better than using a notch, simply because it feels less intrusive when for example, you’re playing a game or watching a video.

Performance

Thanks to its flagship-grade Kirin 980, the Nova 5T’s performance as a daily driver is fast and smooth across the board. Apps open fast, switching between running ones is a breeze, and the UI feels fluid and snappy.

Benchmarks

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasFor the purpose of comparison, we’ll pit the scores of the Nova 5T to a close rival in its price range, the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas

While the Snapdragon 855 pulls ahead in multi-core and overall graphics performance, Kirin 980 manages to be slightly better at single-core performance.

We threw in a bunch of popular games to test the phone’s gaming performance. Using GameBench, we are able to monitor FPS, FPS Stability, and even estimated uptime.

Asphalt 9 PUBG Mobile CoD Mobile
Average FPS 29.67 39.96 59.97
FPS Stability 100% 100% 100%
Estimated Uptime 6h 13m 5h 11m 5h 28m

While the phone did well in general, in fact, even exceptional for CoD Mobile, it feels like it could do more for PUBG Mobile, only reaching 40fps on average, and Asphalt 9, with an average of around 30fps. Don’t get me wrong, the experience is enjoyable, but you can’t help but want just a bit more out of it.

Based on the FPS graphs below, the Nova 5T managed to remain consistent in performance, with only slight dips in fps on Asphalt 9.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
Asphalt 9 (1 full race)
Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
PUBG Mobile (15 minutes)
Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
CoD Mobile (1 round 5v5)

Camera

Nova 5T comes with four rear cameras, one main, one for wide-angle shots, one for depth, and one for macro. This gives the device a ton of versatility, allowing it to easily adapt to just about any shooting condition.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasWith decent lighting, typical snaps pack plenty of detail, good sharpness and texture.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
Normal
Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
Wide-Angle

The wide-angle lens can provide better coverage, but is not as good as the main sensor in terms of overall quality. Shots also show a bit of distortion on the side, but nothing deal-breaking.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasClose-up shots with also pack the right amount of detail, definitely more than enough for social media posts.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasThe dedicated Night Mode allows the device to capture some good low-light shots with a lot of detail, though  I’d say it’s slightly inferior to the Mate 20 Pro’s Leica optics, but it’s more than enough to please.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasNova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas

Shots with depth of field demonstrate good accuracy and edge detection with decent background subject separation. The effect itself also looks refined.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasAs for selfies, the Nova 5T’s front snapper can take decent shots, but the amount of detail falls short of my preference.

Software

The Nova 5T runs on EMUI 9.1 on top of Android 9 Pie. Performance-wise, the UI runs smooth, and feels very Snappy, unless you’re used to a 90Hz screen of course.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasThe software gives you a full suite of authentication methods, Face Unlock, Fingerprint and the usual pattern, PIN, or password. You’re also able to record what’s on screen just by tapping Screen Recorder from the pull-down menu.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasOther notable features include being able to smartly adjust the screen resolution to prolong battery life, and performance mode, which basically squeezes more horsepower, at the cost of temperature and battery life.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasDigital Balance is also another useful feature which allows you to manage screen time to, for a lack of better terms, avoid digital addiction. This is particularly useful when the device is being used by your kids.

Battery

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasOn PCMark’s Work 2.0 benchmark which simulates data manipulation and basic video editing, the Huawei Nova 5T managed to churn out an estimated 11 hours and 48 minutes of uptime. Basically more than a full day of light to moderate use. Your mileage may vary of course, depending on how you use the phone.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget PilipinasWith Huawei SuperCharge technology, the phone’s 3,750mAh battery can be charged from 10% to full in about 1.5 hours.

Nova 5T, Huawei Nova 5T Review, Gadget Pilipinas
Huawei Nova 5T Review
Our Verdict
Breaking the Norm. That's how I'd describe the Huawei Nova 5T. It's a phone that breaks that almost breaks the barrier between mid-range and flagship, but at the same time, it's able to justify its price with its shortcomings. The compact form factor makes it so easy to use with one hand, but the side-mounted fingerprint scanner is a little too sensitive. I personally think that they should've stuck with a rear-mounted one. The display is decent at most, especially when you put it side by side with some similarly-priced devices. Performance-wise, it's good. Good, but not great, as it clearly lags behind its Qualcomm counterpart especially in gaming. Imaging, again, it's good, but not great, as it clearly is inferior to its Leica-powered siblings. Battery life is great, and it charges very fast too. In general, this phone is a great deal for PhP18,990, so long as you don't expect that it'll match more expensive current-gen flagships.
Design and Build Quality
Performance
Camera
Software
Battery
Pricing
What's Good
Compact footprint. Easy to hold and use with one-hand
Great battery life
Quad-camera system makes it extremely versatile
Decent gaming performance
Decent Night Mode
Properly Priced
What's Not
Camera performance feels underwhelming compared to its Leica-equipped siblings
Not as great in gaming as its Qualcomm Counterpart
Side fingerprint scanner is too sensitive
Display looks inferior to other devices in its price range
4.3
Author

Emman has been writing technical and feature articles since 2010. Prior to this, he became one of the instructors at Asia Pacific College in 2008, and eventually landed a job as Business Analyst and Technical Writer at Integrated Open Source Solutions for almost 3 years.

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