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.
|Processor||Kirin 980 (Octa-Core)|
|Rear Camera||48MP (f/1.8) + 16MP (f/2.2) + 2MP (f/2.4) + 2MP (f/2.4)|
|OS||Android 9 + EMUI 9.1|
|Other Features||AIS Super Night Mode|
|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
Despite 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.
The 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.
One 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.
At 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.
As 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.
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.
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|
|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 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.
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.
The 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.
Shots with depth of field demonstrate good accuracy and edge detection with decent background subject separation. The effect itself also looks refined.
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.
The 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.
Other 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.
Digital 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.
On 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.