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Huawei Nova 5T Review - Flagship features, mid-range price tag!

Huawei Nova 5T
Before the reveal of HarmonyOS and EMUI10 at the recently concluded HDC 2019 in Shenzhen China, Huawei showed select members of the press a secret device that could potentially shake the mid-range smartphone market. That device is the Nova 5T.
Huawei Nova 5T Review - Flagship features, mid-range price tag!
Meet Huawei Nova 5T

Huawei Nova 5T is the newest member of the Nova 5 family. As of writing, there's now a total of 5 Nova 5 devices aside from the 5T. It includes the 5i, 5i Pro, 5, and 5 Pro.

Nova 5T is the first from the said series of phones that will go official in the Philippines.

It is a handset with never-before-seen style, specs, and cameras for PHP 18,990.

Here's our review!

Unboxing/Accessories

Everything inside

There is a good chance that this is not yet the final retail package of the phone. But anyway, here's what we saw inside.

First, the phone itself followed by the 22.5W SuperCharge USB wall charger, USB-A to USB-C data/charging cable, USB-C to 3.5mm audio dongle, and SIM ejector tool.

Second, we noticed that Huawei also added a screen protector pre-installed.

There is no earphone with mic and case inside the box.

Build Quality/Design

Shiny glass back
Shiny glass back

Nova 5T uses a 2.5D curved glass material at the back and in front. The metallic frame feels quite solid as well.

There is no mention of Gorilla Glass protection and IP rating for water and dust resistance, but it doesn't mean that the phone is not well-machined.

No doubt, it is quite a looker!

At the back, the 2.5D curved glass material has a stunning paint finish in black, crush blue, and midsummer purple. It uses a holographic type of finish that has a 3D light reflection effect.

Just note that the 3D lighting effect is more visible with the crush blue and midsummer purple versions. The midsummer purple version is the one with new Nova branding reflective patterns underneath the glass.
The most affordable with punch-hole yet
The most affordable with punch-hole yet

In front, this phone is one of the first to use a punch-hole type of screen for the price. It goes with a 6.26-inch 2.5D curved panel with 19:5:9 of screen aspect ratio.

It resulted in a more immersive type of display with slim bezels. It has an impressive 91.7 percent of screen-to-body ratio with tiny bezels.

The punch-hole is quite small and not that intrusive as well.

Despite having an over 6-inch screen size, the handset is reasonably handy at 154.25 x 73.97. It is also pretty slim for a device with a lot of components and 3,750mAh of battery capacity at 7.87 mm.
Top
Top

On the top, it has a light and distance sensor that looks like an IR blaster. It is used to avoid mistouches while inside the pocket and it has some sort of effect for calls.

Huawei opted for this solution to achieve a higher overall screen ratio.

It also has a microphone on top.
Bottom
Bottom

Below, you will see another mic along with the USB-C port and the down-firing speaker.
Left
Left

At left, you will see a hole to open the dual SIM tray with no microSD card expansion.
Right
Right

At right, you will find the power button that doubles at the side-mounted fingerprint scanner and a volume keys.

Nova 5T's overall craftsmanship is close to premium for its price. It also has a comfortable heft, but it is far from heavy at 174 grams.

Display Quality

Vibrant enough screen
Vibrant enough screen

One of the things that makes this handset special is its punch-hole display with a larger screen-to-body ratio at 91.7 percent versus phones with dewdrop notches.

The most affordable with punch-hole screen in PH yet!

It uses a 2.5D curved 6.26-inch TFT LCD (IPS) display with FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 412 ppi which is crisp and punchy enough to provide an immersive and enjoyable viewing experience.
Rich enough colors

It may not be as eye-popping as high-end AMOLED panels, but Huawei boasts that it has a wide color gamut of 96 percent NTSC which should be excellent enough for more.

Viewing angles are alright and the brightness level is quite strong even for outdoor use.
Display settings
Display settings

Like other Huawei devices, you can adjust its color temperature to your liking and it has an Eye comfort mode to lessen the emission of blue light for a more comfortable viewing or reading experience in the dark.

As expected, it has 10 points of touch for easy swiping, typing, and more responsive touches.

Audio Quality

At the bottom, Nova 5T has a single down-firing speaker. Its earspeaker doesn't act as a secondary speaker for a stereo effect.

Fortunately, its speaker is more than respectable. Its soundstage may not be that wide is loud enough to let you enjoy fairly rich audio for a phone.

The bass is there, but do not expect it to be as deep and punchy as other phones with the higher-end type of speakers. Mids and audio separation are alright, but highs have hiss.

At least, it isn't distorted or that muffled.

For headphones, it has an option to activate the Histen sound effects. I suggest using auto as it will automatically adjust the sound effect based on the content you are consuming.

Personally, I find it not as overpowering as other audio effects which is a good thing. It still sounds fairly natural to my ears.

Another thing, this phone has a strong driving power for wired USB-C headphones. It can make my pretty demanding RHA T10 (connected to a USB-C dongle) shine at just 50 or 60 percent loudness.

This means that it can maybe even power some large headphones.

When it comes to Bluetooth connectivity, I find it really stable as it is using the new Bluetooth 5 tech. Huawei also claimed that they did something to make its connectivity stronger.


One thing is for sure, it made my LDAC-ready 1MORE Triple Driver BT In-Ear Headphones E1001BT sing.

The earspeaker is also quite excellent for calls. The microphones can record audio with less noise quite well.

Battery

Great battery performance
Great battery performance

Inside, this phone is equipped with a 3,750mAh battery.

Of course, I would have liked it better if it is at 4,000mAh juice, but for a phone with 7.87 mm of thickness, it is considered as large enough.

The actual battery performance of the handset is stellar too. In our benchmark test, it lasted for 14 hours and 10 minutes. It is stronger than the average 12-hour scores of 2017 phones with 4,000mAh juice.

Most likely, it is due to Huawei's more efficient 7nm Kirin 980 chipset and its EMUI 9.1 skin with improved battery management.


In real-life, the result is similar. I can use the device for a whole workday with around 30 percent left in the thank.

That is impressive as a person like me uses my phone a LOT for social media, watching YouTube clips, taking images, and playing some demanding games like NBA 2K19.

Battery settings
Battery settings

In the battery settings, it has modes where it will allow you to conserve power better and control background apps which consumes power. It also has an optimize battery usage button to help you enjoy your phone longer on a single charge.

Moreover, this phone has a fast 22.5W SuperCharge charger. It can charge the phone from 0 to 50 percent in 30 minutes and 0 to 100 percent in around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Not bad!

Cameras

#OOOO
#OOOO

Nova 5T is the first smartphone in the country with four cameras at the back. It uses a 48MP f/1.8 Sony IMX586 w/ PDAF, CAF, 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle sensor, 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor. It also has a single LED flash.

That makes it one of the most versatile shooters around since you can use the 48MP main cam for highly detailed shots, the 16MP cam for a wider field of view, the 2MP f/2.4 4c macro sensor for super close-up shots, and the 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor for images with good depth estimation and background blur.
Cam UI
Cam UI

Personally, I would have liked it better if it has the wide cam of the P30 Pro that also doubles as the macro sensor so Huawei can add an extra telephoto sensor.

It would have made this an even more attractive camera device, but I'm not complaining. Most likely, the reason why they opted for this setup is to keep the cost down.

Aside from the main functions of the cameras, I'm glad to say that Huawei retained its super feature-rich camera UI. Yes, it is still not the most intuitive camera UI around, but it has some features that you won't see with other phone makers.
Pro mode, cam modes
Pro mode, cam modes

It even has AI for detecting and optimizing a lot of scenes. Personally, my favorite modes of this phone are the Portrait mode with face beauty and the AI-assisted handheld Night mode.

It also has a robust Pro camera mode with an option to activate the ISO 102400 for the main camera. For the ultra-wide mode, it has the standard ISO 3200. For both modes, it has up to 32s shutter, EV -4 to +4, manual focus, and white balance settings (2800K to 7000K).

It also has the unmatched Huawei Light painting modes with unlimited exposure like the Traffic trails, Light graffiti, Silky water, and Star trails. Up to this date, only Huawei phones can take decent Silky water shots even without an ND filter.

It is also one of the few with a Super macro mode.

Lastly, you also get all the common camera modes such as the HDR, Filter, and Panorama with the Nova 5T.

Rear Camera Samples

Thanks to its PDAF and CAF focus, Nova 5T's focus speed is pretty fast and accurate. It is still not as fast as the P30, but it is near that level. Shooting and saving time is near flagship-grade as well.
Normal daylight shot
Normal daylight shot

Aside from its powerful camera hardware (for the price), the 7nm Kirin 980 chip with flagship-grade image processor and NPU to handle AI tasks helped the Nova 5T take stellar images in most conditions.
Using the ultra-wide cam
Using the ultra-wide cam

In daylight, the shots that we got are crisp and highly detailed with respectable color accuracy. When the master AI camera mode is on, there's a good chance that it will improve the sharpness, dynamic range, and colors.
A properly exposed image with good colors
A properly exposed image with good colors

However, there are also times where it'll fail and will deliver slightly oversharpened images with brighter than expected exposure. The AI could make artifacts visible at times too.
Colors and dynamic range are consistent even with ultra-wide mode
Colors and dynamic range are consistent even with ultra-wide mode

But, when it works, it works well. In our experience, 8 out of 10 images with AI mode turned out really good.

I also like the fact that its 16MP ultra-wide camera is also quite detailed with minimal distortion. Of course, the primary 48MP cam is better, but when you need to take a shot with a wider field of view, its wide-camera is pretty reliable.

If you will notice, the difference in colors from the main cam and the wide cam is minimal as well. That's rare for a phone priced this low for the specs.
It has no optical zoom, but it has decent 10x digital zoom
It has no optical zoom, but it has decent 10x digital zoom

This phone also has the ability to take up to 2x lossless digital zoom despite its lack of an ultra-wide sensor. It even has up to 10x digital zoom. Do not expect the 10x zoom to be that great though.
Macro sample
Macro sample

It even has this Macro mode that allowed us to take super close-up images. The Macro mode works well in well-lit scenarios.
Indoor shot
Indoor shot
Indoor ultra-wide

For indoor shots, color consistency is still there and that is a good thing. Interestingly, even the ultra-wide mode performed decently in scenes with artificial lighting.
Close-up shot to show natural-looking background blur
Close-up shot on auto mode to show natural-looking background blur
A depth effect sample using the portrait mode
A depth effect sample using the portrait mode

The portrait depth effect is noticeably cleaner and more realistic than what I can remember coming from the Nova 3. The depth estimation, edge detection, and background to subject separation are almost as good as the regular P30.
Normal shot vs with Night mode
Normal shot vs with Night mode

In low light, grain and loss of details are evident, but shots without the Night mode turned out okay. The dynamic range is noticeably poorer as well.
Ultra-wide with Night mode
Ultra-wide with Night mode

But with the use of the Night mode, images in the dark are spectacular. It enhances the details, dynamic range, and colors. It controlled the exposure on areas with bright lights nicely as well.
Another Night mode shot
Another Night mode shot
Another ultra-wide Night mode shot
Another ultra-wide Night mode shot

You will need around 4 to 6 seconds of exposure time per Night mode shot. The Night mode works for both the main cam and the ultra-wide cam. Other devices don't have that mode on the ultra-wide cam.
Look at exposure control
Look at exposure control
Enhanced dynamic range and details
Enhanced dynamic range and details
Even for ultra-wide shots
Even for ultra-wide shots

I just wished that the Night mode is faster. But overall, the shots in the dark by this phone looks less artificial than the one found with the Nova 3.

Aside from the handheld Night mode, Nova 5T has a robust Pro mode and Huawei's Light painting modes that you can use for more creative low light shots.

If all else fails, it has a bright single LED flash. It would have been nicer if it has a dual-tone LED flash though.
Selfie UI
Selfie UI

For selfies, it uses a 32MP f/2.0 sensor. It has most of the modes found on Huawei devices for selfies like AI HDR, AI scene detection, Portrait mode with different bokeh effects, and face beauty up to level 10.

Selfie Camera Samples

Above-average sharpness levels

It doesn't have autofocus, but its face detection is quite fast and accurate. There is no pinch to zoom for selfies as well. As expected, shooting and saving speed is less than a second quicker.

Selfie bokeh
Selfie bokeh

For the image quality, it is similar to the P30 Pro in terms of sharpness on the edges of my face and hair in daylight. The AI HDR corrected the background exposure in most of our selfies. The colors are somehow close to accurate and the edge detection of its selfie portrait mode is quite impressive as well.
Softer-looking indoor selfie
Softer-looking indoor selfie

But, we noticed that its exposure is a bit brighter for indoor shots. It tends to my skin tone whiter as well.
Selfie in the dark
Selfie in the dark
Selfie with screen flash
Selfie with screen flash

In low light, loss of details is evident. It made my skin softer as well. It is still decent for a selfie cam though. Use the screen flash most of the time to get decent results.

For videos, Nova 5T has up to 4K 30fps in quality and it can shoot 4K in both the main cam and the ultra-wide cam.

There is also an option to switch to the 1080p 60fps and 1080p 30fps. It even has cool video effects like background blur, AI color, and 960fps.

It is one of the better video shooters for me with fast AF speed and great stabilization (EIS) despite the lack of OIS.

For selfie videos, it has up to 1080p 30fps and 720p with face beauty at 30fps. It also has an AR lens effect to use the improved Qmoji feature. It is now more responsive and accurate. It can mimic my facial expressions better as well.

Video Samples


Performance

AnTuTu and Geekbench scores (Performance mode)

Since it runs with the flagship 7nm Kirin 980 chip paired with Mali-G76 MP10 GPU and a dual NPU. As we all know, it is a very fast processor that can run any tasks with ease. In fact, it is almost as fast as the P30 Pro!
PCMark Work 2.0 performance score and 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme scores (Performance mode)
PCMark Work 2.0 performance score and 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme scores (Performance mode)

In addition, it is paired with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage. The downside, the storage is not expandable. But 128GB is still considered as large for a phone at this price point.

Crazy fast performance for the price!

The result? We never had issues with opening any apps even for multitasking. It can run multiple apps even a lot of tabs from Google Chrome with ease.



Even for games, we never had issues for NBA 2K19 and PUBG Mobile. The gameplay is consistent with almost no frame drops.

Thermals are also okay. It gets warm while playing games that require 4G LTE. But, not alarmingly hot. Expect the heat to be around 32 degrees.

The UI

The UI
The UI

For the UI. It runs with EMUI 9.1 skin based on Android 9.0 Pie OS. As expected, it is now more integrated with Google than ever and it is still super rich in features.

It has few bloats, but most of them are removable. For the non-removable bloats, I find some of them useful like the Optimizer, Themes, and Health apps.

A lot of Google apps like Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Drive, and more are pre-installed.
Switches
Switches

It also has a lot of shortcut functions and easy to use gestures. Like other EMUI devices, you can switch to a Standard-looking skin or the as skin with the app drawer.

I also like that it is assisted by AI to keep the performance smooth always. There's the HiVision on the camera app for AI translation, identifying objects, and even for shopping.

There is this App Twin feature where you can use two apps like Facebook at the same time. The Private Space mode is the place where you can store files and other details that's just for you.

One-handed operation is present, but it is hard to access the gesture mode. On Android buttons mode, you just need to hold the square key.

Like other phones, it has the Huawei Share super-fast function.

Like other Huawei devices, it has the Wireless Projection feature. But, unlike the P and Mate series, it doesn't have the Desktop mode via USB-C to HDMI.

Other features

It doesn't have an In-Display fingerprint scanner, but it has a traditional fingerprint scanner mounted with faster unlocking speeds at the right side of the phone.

For phone functions, it has a great telephony experience with a strong GSM signal and stable 4G LTE connectivity.

I also like that it has a hidden LED notification on the earpiece.

As usual, it has OTG connectivity via USB-C and all the basic sensors needed on a phone.

Pros - Impressive design, flagship-grade performance, strong battery life with fast charging support, versatile camera system, stabilized videos even on 4K wide, the super-aggressive price tag
Cons - Non-expandable storage, no stereo speakers, no wireless charging

Huawei Nova 5T Specs

Display: 6.26-inch 2.5D curved IPS screen w/ FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 412 ppi
CPU: 2.6GHz 64-bit Kirin 980 octa-core processor w/ Dual-NPU
GPU: Mali-G76 MP10 w/ GPU Turbo
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 128GB UFS 2.1
Back Camera: 48MP f/1.8 Sony IMX586 w/ PDAF, CAF + 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle sensor + 2MP f/2.4 4cm macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth w/ LED flash
Selfie Camera: 32MP f/2.0 w/ AI HDR
Battery: 3,750mAh w/ 22.5W SuperCharge
OS: Android 9.0 Pie w/ EMUI 9.1
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), 4G LTE Cat 21, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, NFC, GPS (L1 + L5 dual-band), A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo (E1 + E5a dual-band), QZZS (L1 + L5 dual-band), dual SIM (hybrid)
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure
Others: Fingerprint sensor, USB-C, dual-mic, Colors: black, crush blue, midsummer purple
Dimensions: 154.25 x 73.97 x 7.87 mm
Weight: 174 g
Price: PHP 18,990

Verdict

An absolute steal!

Coming from the Nova 3 last year, Nova 5T presents a massive upgrade in overall specs, features, and cameras. The fun thing, it is even more affordable than the Nova 3 when it first arrived in the Philippines.

At PHP 18,990, I can't think of a phone that can match its speed and cameras from all the officially released phones in the Philippines.

Despite its few weaknesses, for us, it is the best overall phone for the price yet.

Build/Design - 4.5
Display - 4.25
Audio - 4
Battery - 4.5
Camera - 4.5
Performance - 4.75
Average - 4.41/5
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