With Huawei’s latest flagship coming later this month, the launch of the Nova 5T comes as an early surprise.
The Nova series from Huawei is its own mid-budget range of smartphones that aim to give the best specification at half the price of its own flagship phones.
The Nova 5T’s specification list is certainly impressive. It comes with the flagship-level Kirin 980 CPU and Mali-G76 GPU and has dual neural-network processing unit for AI applications.
You also get a good 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage space. From my experience with the phone, it works equally well compared to the more expensive P30 Pro.
There was no apparent lag even when using the phone with popular apps, which is not a surprise given that the P30 Pro has the same setup.
The Nova 5T comes with a 6.26-inch IPS LCD panel at FHD+ resolution. Even though this is not the same as the OLED on the P30 Pro, many users on a budget would be happy to with live with it, because it may not be seen as a big step down.
For image viewing though, the LCD panel on the Nova 5T comes out cooler with a blue tint over the images. It is great for text but photos do not look as punchy.
Looks-wise, the Nova 5T reminds one of Huawei’s P30. It has the camera cut-outs, graduated colour back and reflective fingerprint-inducing mirror back. It lacks a bit of the heft as compared to the other Huawei flagships but at 174g it does not feel cheap either.
This new phone also has an edge-to-edge screen with very slim bezels. The front-facing camera is now housed in a hole punch in the screen, following Honor View 20’s design.
The Nova 5T feels thicker at the sides though but for good reason. It incorporates the fingerprint sensor with the on and off button at the side, a natural position where your thumb will rest while holding the phone.
This reminds me of the Sony flagship smartphones, a standout feature that is more elegant than having the sensor at the back or under the screen.
The Nova 5T review unit coped well with a full day of heavy usage, thanks to the 3,750mAh battery. While this may not be as high as the Mate 20 Pro’s 4000mAh and P30 Pro’s 4200mAh, the battery capacity should be large enough for most people.
Good news is, you can juice up 50 per cent of the battery in half an hour using the 22.5W SuperCharger when it goes flat.
What I like about this mid-budget phone is the inclusion of some flagship features, like NFC (near-field communication). In Singapore, you can tap the phone to make wireless payment at the cashier or at the subway gantry.
Unfortunately, Huawei has left out some other features, such as wireless charging.
How does the Nova 5T compare to its more expensive siblings in terms of photography, which Huawei has made its strongest selling point of late?
Actually, the Nova 5T has a leg up over the P30 Pro. It now comes with a 48-megapixel sensor with the main camera with a f1.8 aperture lens, a 16-megapixel f2.2 camera for the ultra wide-angle, a 2-megapixel super macro camera and a 2-megapixel Time-of-Flight sensor to create better bokeh effects for portraits.
For the front-facing camera, a good 32-megapixel f2.0 camera will be a godsend to selfie lovers.
If you think the 48-megapixel sensor is overkill, there is more. Under the camera settings, there is a “48MP AI Ultra Clarity” mode. What the camera does is to take allow some computation photography algorithm to work through the image files and produce images that are sharper and smoother at the edges.
Even though you can have more details and have less of the smudging effect on the pictures, the colour graduation is not as smooth. There is some graininess in the shadows and the photos are darker even in good sunlight. If the photos are used for social media, the increase in sharpness in the details can be seen pretty easily.
I would recommend a tripod to be used along with the smartphone’s AI Ultra Clarity mode to get the most detail out of the camera. If you are a casual shooter, the Nova 5T is more than sufficient for your needs.
If you are looking to shoot handheld night shots with the Nova 5T, the camera in automatic mode does a passable job. Unfortunately, the night mode on the phone often produces images that are too bright for my liking.
You need to use the tripod for the night mode. In this case, I appreciate the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro night mode better than the Nova 5T’s.
The one thing that Nova 5T does not have is a headphone jack, something I would still expect to be available on a mid-range phone. As a consolation, there’s a USB-C to a stereo port adapter that comes in the box, so you can still plug in your old headphones.
Unless that’s a deal breaker for you, the Nova 5T is not a bad phone at all. It certainly gives you bang for buck at a reasonable price of S$598, half that of flagship phones today.
And if you are wondering if the Nova 5T is fully supported by Google, the phone comes pre-installed with the Google Play store. I did not have issues cloning or installing any apps.
The Nova 5T is available for pre-order now.