When it comes to battery, Huawei Nova 3i has same battery capacity as predecessor Huawei Nova 2i which is 3,340mAh. It is good enough to last a whole day with a little power left for night. I tested this battery using a video loop test which involves playing a 1080p video on loop at 50% brightness and volume and it got me 13 hours and 30 minutes of playback. For comparison, Huawei Nova 2i got around 12 hours so there's some improvement in battery timings of this device. Charging, on other hand, takes 2 hours and 30 minutes using its stock charger. This is a long time to charge, as phone doesn't feature Fast Charging technology, but this might be a bitter decision Huawei had to make to keep cost of building this device lower. On PC Mark battery test, Huawei Nova 3i got a rating of 9 Hours and 50 minutes.
Result is not too shabby but still it's on lower side of spectrums. Being a glass back phone, it is also disappointing to not get wireless charging but to be honest, when a phone doesn't even support Fast Charging, there's no hope left for wireless charging.
I would say that for most users, Huawei Nova 3i would last an entire day and they won't have any trouble with it. For power users though, it would be a huge hassle charging this device back without Fast Charging available so keeping a power bank would definitely help.
Together with its design, one of the biggest USP of Huawei Nova 3i is its camera setup. It still has four cameras like Huawei Nova 2i but it's now more powerful and comes with extra features. Phone has a rear dual camera setup consisting of 16MP + 2MP sensors with an f/2.2 aperture, and dual 24MP + 2MP front facing cameras with an f/2.0 aperture. Like Huawei Nova 2i, 2MP secondary sensors are there to aid in bokeh effects.
It has got plenty of features like Pro, Slow-Mo, Night, Panorama, Light painting, HDR, Time-lapse, 3D Panorama, Document scan, Beauty, Aperture, Portrait, and AR Lens. It also has an AI scene recognition which can detect up to 22 different scenes. One of its coolest features is the AR Lens. Aside from "stickers" that are found in other mid-range smartphones, it has "3D Qmoji" which works similar to the Apple iPhone X's Animoji. You can pick from multiple characters like chameleon, puffer fish, wolf, cat, rabbit, robot, penguin, and cherry and can also record a video with animated character or turn it into a GIF. Another one is "Backgrounds" which adds animations to your background with matching sound effects. It's cute, and like the 3D Qmoji, you can record a video or turn it into a GIF. And since this device supports Google ARCore, it also has "3D Objects" feature which is jointly developed by Baidu AR and Huawei. It adds an animated character in Augmented Reality and lets you record a video of it. Sadly, it only has five penguin effects at the moment.
In terms of quality, both rear and front cameras can produce images that are sharp, have accurate colors and good contrast but mostly when shooting in bright conditions. It's still capable when shooting in dim environments but images come out soft, perhaps, in its attempt to suppress noise. Performance is poor in low-light as it is very smudgy and peppered with noise. Since Nova series is targeted towards youngsters, Huawei also put in extra effort to the front camera system on Huawei Nova 3i. In fact, this phone is the first ever smartphone to have AI capabilities enabled on front camera system. Similar to rear cameras, front camera system also comes with a 2MP and 24MP camera. 2MP sensor mainly captures information about depth of field, while the 24MP camera captures image data. For example, it was able to detect that I was taking selfie photos in a room and edited photo to better suit environment. Huawei also mentioned that they have a beautification algorithm that tries to understand and recognize user based on gender, age and skin tone. This beautification mode works pretty well, but just make sure that you adjust beautification level to a level which you are comfortable with.
When it comes to its AI capabilities, it has a toggle called AI camera which is also found in Honor devices. Different scenes mean different adjustments to get the perfect shot and these cameras can intelligently detect scenes and automatically improve your photos. Also, it's not only rear cameras with this technology, selfie cameras also have AI capabilities and an improved AI beauty mode. What it does is, it automatically enhances images you shoot and while most of its enhancements are pleasing, there are times that it's just too aggressive. It seemed like it just boosted saturation and HDR effects, leaving images looking artificial at times. The AI engine did a much better job when it came to photos taken in low light scenarios. Comparing photos taken with and without AI, ones taken with AI showed more details. Generally, AI mode does improve picture quality and rule of thumb is that you should always take photos with AI mode on. This is because AI post-processes photos after actual capture of subject which means that you can still revert back to original photo taken from Huawei Nova 3i even with AI mode turned on.
Talking about video, Huawei Nova 3i can shoot videos up to Full HD at 60fps. Quality is not that impressive as footage lacks details and sharpness. Colors and dynamic range are okay, but it doesn't have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) or Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) which makes it prone to shakes. End product is a video which doesn't look too impressive, but again, at this price point, I did not expect this phone to deliver outstanding video shots.
Overall camera experience on Huawei Nova 3i is rather impressive, one of the better ones available at this price point. Huawei fans will definitely be delighted, and other users will surely be impressed with these AI capable cameras.
Huawei Nova 3i's running software is EMUI 8.2.0 which is based on Android 8.1 Oreo. Although a Huawei-branded phone, user interface is almost identical to one found on Honor devices. It still houses multiple home screens to house apps without an app launcher. Swiping down from top will reveal toggle keys as well as notifications. Swiping to left side of main home screen will bring out HiBoard instead of Google. You get options to change themes and icons with it, but rest of UI is similar to what we've seen on previous Honor devices.
Aside from Huawei's own apps like Phone Manager, Themes, AppGallery, and HiCare, plenty of other pre-installed apps are present like Facebook, Messenger, Netflix, Camera 360, Z Camera, Quik, Lazada, Booking.com, and a few other games. It's annoying to see these apps especially if you don't need them in first place. On bright side, these applications can be uninstalled so that's a plus. For music lovers, Huawei has included a great feature called Music Party which enables other Nova or Honor phones to be connected together via WiFi and act as stereo music speakers. This can come handy when it's a party and there are a couple of Honor or Nova smartphones available. However, it also looks like a gimmick as chances of multiple people in a party having Nova series phones are pretty slim.
To enhance experience for gamers, Huawei developed Game Suite app that simplifies management of all the games installed on phone. With Game Suite, gamers can give priority to their gaming experience by preventing power saving modes and provide full hardware capabilities to specific game with "Game Acceleration" mode. Users can also use "Unintended Gaming" mode to prevent any notifications or mute messages that could disrupt their games. This feature will be especially useful for users who treat their games seriously.
In summary, Chinese phones rarely come with stock Android experience, especially Huawei and this phone's software experience is one to please those who want extra features on Android, and not a vanilla version. In the end, it all depends on user preference and for Huawei fans, this is a UI they generally like.
Huawei Nova 3i launched both in China and Singapore, with prices starting from 1,999 Chinese yuan for 4GB/64GB model. That converts to around $295, while in Singapore, 4GB/128GB model will retail slightly cheaper at $398 (about $290). Phone is available in three different colors: Black, Pearl White and my personal favorite: Iris Purple.
Huawei did a fine job last year on Huawei Nova 2i by packing a mid-range smartphone with above average specs then sell it at a very competitive price point. They used same formula with Huawei Nova 3i but gave its hardware and design a significant bump. Screen is larger, performance is better, body is more premium, cameras have higher resolution, it has double storage, and comes with a slew of new AI features. However, there's no USB Type-C, no video stabilization, and no dedicated microSD card slot, which can be a downer for some.
However, keeping everything aside, most of quirks of Huawei Nova 3i comes directly from choice to adopt Kirin 710 as base chipset to power smartphone. In most cases, Kirin 710 chipset seems to be quite a letdown for Huawei Nova 3i, causing it not to be obvious choice for users. Kirin 710's design mandates that only MicroUSB ports are used, instead of more popular USB Type-C Ports. Therefore, instead of USB Type-C which is reversible in design, users will have to fiddle with their MicroUSB cables and find out the right position to insert their charging cable. The Kirin 710 also lacks 802.11ac WiFi standard and it only supports 2.4GHz on 802.11n standard. Therefore, users will not be able to connect their smartphones to 5GHz WiFi channels.
Having said that, nothing else in market comes near to the value that Huawei Nova 3i provides at this price point of $398. Until a worthy contender arrives into market to prove us wrong, Huawei Nova 3i is the most logical choice for someone looking to purchase a new smartphone at this price point.