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Huawei nova 7 5G Review - Future-ready, almost flagship!

OPPO
Just in time for the initial rollout of 5G mobile services in the country, Huawei Mobile Philippines launched the nova 7 5G.
Meet nova 7 5G

Huawei nova 7 5G is the 2nd mid-range 5G-ready smartphone of the company in the country following the nova 7 SE 5G last month. In total, this is the 7th 5G-ready handset in total.

It's a premium mid-range offering highlighting a 3D curved glass body, OLED display, a new-gen chipset with built-in 5G modem, strong overall specs, fast charging speeds, and high-resolution cameras.

Is it as good as it is on paper? Here's our full review!

Unboxing/Accessories

Everything inside
Everything inside

Similar to other premium Huawei devices, the nova 7 5G arrived with a neat white box with plenty of inclusion inside.

First, you'll see the phone itself. Then you will notice that it has a neatly attached pre-installed screen protector. After digging deeper, you'll see another box with the SIM ejector pin attached. Inside, the smaller box is the clear TPU flexible case.

Next, we saw the 40W SuperCharge power brick, USB-A to USB-C data/charging cable, earphones with microphone, and the USB-C to 3.5mm dongle.

Basically, it nearly has everything you'll need inside the box.

Build Quality/Design

nova 7 SE 5G (left), nova 7 5G (right)
nova 7 SE 5G (left), nova 7 5G (right)

As expected from a premium mid-ranger, Huawei didn't skimp on the materials used. nova 7 5G sports a beautiful 3D curved real glass at the back, an aluminum metal frame, and 2.5D curved glass front.

There's no mention of Gorilla Glass protection though. Fortunately, there's a pre-installed screen protector as mentioned above. Huawei didn't reveal if it has water-resistance as well.
Dual SIM tray
Dual SIM tray

But similar to nova 7 SE 5G, it has a red rubber ring in its hybrid dual SIM tray to provide some sort of water resistance.
Midsummer Purple
Midsummer Purple

In terms of design, it is one of the most stylish-looking phones for the price. PH buyers will get a chance to choose from Space Silver or Midsummer Purple.

Shiny back design!

The Space Silver version boasts a high-gloss CMF 9-layer nano-coat finish. Meanwhile, the Midsummer Purple version is similar to the nova 5T with a holographic 3D light reflection effect and nova branding in gradient patterns underneath the glass. It also has the CMF 9-layer nano-coat finish.

Since it uses a 3D curved glass material behind and a frame with well-machined curves and chamfered edges, the handset is also very comfortable to hold.

My only concern is it is wobbly when placed on a flat surface due to its camera protrusion at the back. Fortunately, if you will use the clear case, the wobbling will disappear.

Similar to most phones with glass back material, the nova 7 5G is a bit prone to fingerprint smudges.
Big OLED screen with slim bezels
Big OLED screen with slim bezels

In the front, the device sports a large 6.53-inch 2.5D curved OLED screen. The ratio is 19:5:9 which is a bit down from the 20:9 of nova 7 SE 5G. But, that is just a nitpick.

OLED with balanced colors!

The front design of this handset is definitely gorgeous. First, it has a super-thin top and side bezels.

Second, the chin bezel is a bit thicker but noticeably slimmer than a lot of smartphones. It is nearly as slim as the chin bezel of the P40 Pro.

Third, the punch-hole housing the 32MP camera is super small. It is arguably as small as the punch-hole found on the V19 Neo—the phone with the smallest punch-hole yet.

On the lower portion of the display, it has a neatly hidden In-Display fingerprint reader.

This makes the phone not that big despite its use of a large display. The device measures at just 160.64 x 74.33 mm. Then, despite its use of capable hardware and pretty large 4,000mAh battery, the phone is just 7.96 mm thick.
Top, bottom
Top, bottom

On the top, you'll see a light and distance sensor that looks like an IR blaster. The purpose of this is to avoid mistouches while inside the pocket and it has some sort of effect to improve calls. Huawei also opted for this solution to achieve a higher overall screen ratio.

You will also find the earspeaker grille for calls on the top.
Left, right view
Left, right view

Below, you'll see the pinhole to access the dual nano-SIM tray, USB-C port, and single button speaker. Sadly, the 3.5mm headphone jack slot is gone. That is why it has a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle included in the package.

There's nothing at left and you'll find the 

At 180 grams, it has enough heft but not that heavy for prolonged comfort.

Multimedia Experience

Immersive screen
Immersive screen

In the front, the handset is equipped with a 60Hz 6.53-inch 2.5D curved OLED display with a crisp FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 395 pixels per inch. Huawei said that it has DCI-P3 color gamut for more accurate colors.

It may not have a 90Hz refresh rate screen, but nova 7 SE 5G's OLED display renders colors beautifully and accurately with deep backs and nice contrast.

It is warmer than the LCD panel of the nova 7 SE 5G, but unlike other OLED or AMOLED panels, the screen output of the nova 7 5G is not too warm or oversaturated. It is just right to my eyes.

The screen of the device also has fairly strong brightness for outdoor use. Under direct sunlight hit, it'll struggle a little, but it is still viewable.


The handset also has accurate Automatic brightness adjustments and other useful features such as the TÜV Rheinland Full Care Display-certified adjustable Eye Comfort mode, eBook mode for paper-like screen effect, and the system-wide Dark mode.

You can also adjust the resolution of the phone from High (2400 x 1080) to Low (1600 x 720).

Similar to most standard screens, it has 10 points of touch for easy typing and swiping which is important for touch accuracy and playing games.
Crisp OLED screen
Crisp OLED screen

At the bottom, the handset has a single down-firing speaker. It can go loud via Huawei Music that is rich in sound. The sound is loud enough to fill a 30 square quiet meter room with music.

It is near full sounding with minimal distortion on max loudness. Signature is bright with respectable vocals. The bass response is reasonably fast and tight for a tiny speaker, but don't expect to it produce a deep bass with crawling sub-bass. Of course, soundstage won't be as wide as other phones with stereo setup.

For Netflix, there are titles with weaker volume and it might not be enough for some.

My suggestion is to use its USB-C dongle and connect via headphones. Similar to other high-end devices, sound it produces is clear as long as you use high-quality earphones or small headphones.

Personally, I find it capable enough to drive a few of my headphones at 50 to 60 percent loudness. Some headphones with a higher requirement may require you to crank the volume to over 70 percent to make it shine.

Signature is warm and it can produce a tight bass without overpowering the vocals on most headphones I've tried.

In the audio settings, you can see that it uses the Huawei Histen Sound Effects. From there, you can choose Auto, 3D audio (artificially wide soundstage), Natural, and Standard.

I usually go for the Standard effect with no equalizer effect. But, it is still up to the user. The Auto sound effect of this handset is not as bad as other audio purists who don't like any sort of sound effects might think.

I also tried the device for calls to see if the earspeaker is clear and it is really clear.

For voice and recordings, it has a mic on top and another mic below. It is quite clear and blocks outside noise somehow. Of course, microphones from phones in the flagship category will be better, but this is just a step below them.

Camera

Quad-cam goodness!

This handset also highlights a high-resolution primary camera. It loads with a 64MP f/1.8 main shooter with autofocus and optical image stabilization.

To complete its quad-camera setup, Huawei paired the 64MP main cam with an 8MP f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide-angle camera, another 8MP f/2.4 camera with 3x optical zoom, and 2MP f/2.4 w/ 4cm macro camera.

It also has an LED flash for super low light shots.

In the software department, the handset has Huawei's usual camera modes and features. You'll find the Master AI function, Filters, AR Lens, Night, Portrait with Beauty (10-level), Effects (different background blur effects), Photo, Pro with up to ISO 51200 and 30 seconds shutter, Aperture (f/0.95 to f/16), Light painting (Traffic Trails, Light Graffiti, Silky Water, Star Trails), HDR, Super Macro, and High-res.

The camera can shoot from ultra-wide up, 1x, 3x Optical Zoom, 5x Hybrid Zoom, and 20x Digital Zoom.

Also on the camera app, you will also find the Huawei AI Lens with Code Scanner, Instant translation, Shopping with image recognition, Calorie counter, and Identify images function.

On paper, I'm a bit disappointed that it didn't have PDAF focus and CAF like the lower-end nova 7 SE 5G. Instead, Huawei only loaded it with a regular autofocus tech.

But in actual scenarios, its focus speed is just as fast, as good, and as accurate nova 7 SE 5G. Moreover, it has a slightly faster photo saving speed.

Likely, this is due to the nova 7 5G's use of a faster Kirin 985 chipset with a more advanced NPU for handling AI tasks.

Rear Camera Samples

Outdoor main cam
Outdoor main cam

For color accuracy, nova 7 5G did a fantastic job in this particular in this outdoor shot. The weather is a bit cloudy and gloomy the time I took it and it looks quite natural. It didn't oversaturate the shot and made fake greens on the trees even if the Master AI function is turned on. Details are crisp, but a bit oversharpened.
Outdoor ultra-wide
Outdoor ultra-wide

Even on the lower-res 8MP ultra-wide camera, colors are similar. The shot that I took is detailed as well. The barrel distortion effect is not too much either.
Ultra-wide
1x
1x
3x
3x
5x
5x

In terms of zoom quality, the device has a really good 3x Optical Zoom as long as you are in a well-lit environment. It is detailed and the colors are consistent.

The cool thing? Even if you push it up to 5x Hybrid Zoom, the quality is still lossless. It just made the shot a little brighter and a little more saturated than the actual thing. But, it still looks fine in general.
Ultra-wide to 20x Digital Zoom
Ultra-wide to 20x Digital Zoom

As advertised, the nova 7 5G has 10x and 20x Digital Zoom. At 10x, the images will still usable. At 20x, it can let you view things from afar. However, don't expect it to be crisp enough for social media uploads.

For me, the main purpose of its 20x zoom is just to allow its users to identify objects or read texts from afar.
Auto vs Super Macro
Auto vs Super Macro

We also tried the macro camera of the device and it is serviceable. In daylight, it can really do super close-up shots much better than the primary camera of the device. For dimmer lighting scenes, it'll struggle.
Well-lit shot with background blur (bokeh) effect
Well-lit shot with background blur (bokeh) effect

Plus, despite its lack of a dedicated depth or 3D ToF sensor, the AI of this phone is good enough to assist its other cameras in taking shots with forced background blur reasonably well.

It may not be as clean and as natural versus higher-end phones with ToF cameras, but the quality is just as good compared to other phones with dedicated depth cameras. Not bad.
Indoor close-up
Indoor close-up
Indoor
Indoor
Indoor close-up dim
Indoor close-up dim

Indoor shots? No problem. The handset captured highly detailed images that are rich in colors. The shots are a bit warm and saturated, but they are still considered as very good overall with nice shadows, highlights, and contrast.
Detailed even indoor scene shots
Detailed even indoor scene shots
Soft indoor ultra-wide shot
Soft indoor ultra-wide shot

Even the background blur produced naturally when you take close-up images are pleasing to the eyes.
Ultra-wide shot, 100 percent crop
Ultra-wide shot, 100 percent crop

My problem with indoor scenes is its ultra-wide cam. From memory, it isn't as good as the nova 5T with a 16MP shooter. Colors are alright, but the quality is a little soft.
Low light auto
Low light auto

Similar to a lot of high-end Huawei devices, the nova 7 5G has an excellent camera for low light shots.

In real-life, the shot I took is really dim. But even on auto mode, the device got an image that can rival handheld night modes from other brands even without flash. It is bright, detailed, and the colors are not washed. Noise is minimal as well.
Night mode 1
Night mode 1

When you use the Night mode, you'll get an even better shot. It'll further correct the exposure, add a bit more details, and make the shot look nicer overall.
Night mode 2
Night mode 2

Noise will be even lesser as well. If you will notice, the shot above is detailed, but it is not too bright. Just right. It doesn't suffer from over sharpness unlike shots from older Night modes.
Add caption

Using the wide cam, the quality of the image suffers. It is usable, but it is noticeably softer with a less dynamic range than the low light shots using the primary camera.

Weirdly, Huawei failed to add the ultra-wide Night mode for wide shots unlike its other phones in the past.
Pitch black shot
Pitch black shot

In a pitch-black lighting scene, it is incredible that the cameras of this phone can still see. Thanks to its high ISO and the pixel binning solution of its main camera sensor.
With flash
With flash

But of course, using the flash in the said kind of condition will be better.
Cropped shot with flash
Cropped shot with flash

Agree?
32MP goodness
32MP goodness

In the front, the device highlights a single high-resolution 32MP f/2.0 snapper. It also has all the modes we are familiar with including a similar Portrait mode from the main cam, several filters, AR Lens, and Night mode with 10-level Beauty and screen flash.


As expected, the handset has a fast tap focus feature and quick saving speed. The field of view is reasonably wide for a single camera setup as well.

Selfie Camera Samples

Daylight selfie
Daylight selfie

In daylight, it takes selfies shots with accurate colors and crisp details. Exposure seems correct as well. It didn't oversaturate my face even if I'm wearing a face mask too.
Indoor normal vs indoor using Portrait mode
Indoor normal vs indoor using Portrait mode

Indoors, the quality will depend on the lighting. For dimmer indoor shots, it'll struggle a little. This device also has a background blur effect with beauty function via Portrait mode.

The beauty mode is not overpowering up to level 3. The background blur (bokeh) is decent, but don't expect its edge detection to be on point. To keep it simple, it is not bad, but it is not great.
Low light and low light with Night mode
Low light and low light with Night mode

In near pitch-black lighting conditions, the selfie cam of the handset can still surprisingly see. Just don't expect it to be great. But, it has a Night mode function for selfies. The Night mode will help you take a clearer and brighter shot.
Night mode with screen flash
Night mode with screen flash

But we recommend using the screen flash along with the Night mode for highly detailed and well-exposed shots with good colors in the dark.

For videos, nova 7 5G is quite good. It has up to 4K 30fps with decent stabilization. Quality stutters at times, but this is still decent for a phone. For smoother recordings, I suggest to switch down to 1080p 30fps. This mode records gimbal-like stabilized videos.

Another feature that I like is it has the ability to record 15x to 1800x time-lapse using both the main and wide-cam up to 4K 30fps quality.

But, this is also why we find it weird that it can't record at 4K using the ultra-wide cam on regular video mode.

Those who like taking to take Slow-mo videos will also like this one. It has 4x to 32x 960fps Slow-mo.

The handset also has the Dual-View Mode that splits recordings into two screens. It allows users to take back and front videos at the same time.

In the front, it takes up to 4K 30fps videos as well. Compared to selfie photos, selfie videos, the crop is big and you will need to extend your hand a little to properly fit your face un the frame.

The good thing is it records crisp-looking selfies with respectable stabilization.

At 1080p mode, you can even record selfie videos with up to Beauty level 10. The Slow-mo is not available for selfies, but it has the basic Time-lapse function.

Video Samples


Performance

Kirin 985 AnTuTu and Geekbench scores
Kirin 985 AnTuTu and Geekbench scores

At the very heart of the phone, you'll see the new 7nm Kirin 985 octa-core chip with up to 2.56GHz clock speed, Dual NPU (Big-Core + Tiny-Core), and Mali-G77 GPU. Huawei paired this with 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and 256GB UFS 2.1 storage.

Kirin 985 is fast and stable!

These specs are comparable to several one-generation old high-end phones and it is higher than most phones found in the under PHP 30K range from competing mainstream brands.
PCMark Work 2.0 performance score and 

Kirin 985 is faster than the Snapdragon 730G of Exynos 9810 octa-core chip of the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, and Helio P95 of OPPO Reno3 Pro.

Compared with the P30 Pro with Kirin 980, Huawei's new chip achieved higher scores.

The benchmark scores of the device translate to great real-life performance as well. The device allowed us to run all of the apps we installed smoothly, do multitasking without noticeable hiccups, and enjoy flagship-like speeds.

Even if you run the Multi-Window mode which runs two apps at the same time, performance is still very snappy.

Similar to most phones found in this price point, the read/write speeds of its UFS 2.1 storage are also reasonably fast even if it isn't using the newer UFS 3.0 or 3.1 standard. 
To nitpick, the large 256GB storage is non-expandable.


For games, it runs all of the games I play on mobile at max settings with stable and consistent in-game speed even after an hour. You will only experience hiccups or frame drops on rooms with hot temperatures.

And if you think that this handset will easily go hot, you are wrong. The phone stays cool most of the time even under heavy usage. On a place with regular room temperature and fan for cooling, the max heat we recorded is just 38 degrees Celcius.
GameCentre
GameCentre

Like other Huawei devices running on EMUI 10.1, it has the hidden GameCentre in the AppAssistant of the phone in its settings. This provides Game Acceleration, Uninterrupted gaming, Mistouch prevention, Disable three-finger screenshot, Disable knuckle gestures, and Brightness lock.

In terms of connectivity, the experience is solid. It has stable dual-band WiFi, 4G LTE with LTE-A, and strong GPS. Never had an issue in terms of calls and SMS on places with a decent signal as well.

It supports all 5G and 4G bands in the country as well.


The key feature of this handset is 5G. 5G is the upgrade of 4G with way faster download and upload speeds.

Currently, only a few locations support 5G in the country. But since 5G is easier to deploy than 4G, we can expect it to be widely available sooner or later.

See also: First areas where you can try Globe and Smart 5G in the Philippines

Personally, I roamed around the locations with 5G and tested the speed of the nova 7 5G.

I recorded a peak speed of 751 Mbps download and 59.6 Mbps upload at the SM Megamall using Smart's network. At the BGC, the speed is about the same using Globe's 5G network.

For Huawei to Huawei file sharing, use the Huawei Share. It is simply super fast. Sadly, even if it has NFC, Huawei Share from the nova 7 5G to a Huawei PC is not working.

Hopefully, Huawei can seed an update or fix to enable Huawei Share for PC on the nova 7 5G.
PCMark Work 2.0 battery life score
PCMark Work 2.0 battery life score

Powering all the above-mentioned hardware is a 4,000mAh battery. It's a reasonably large battery capacity that can last.

As usual, long battery-life and fast charging speeds!

At PCMark's Work 2.0 battery life test, we recorded 15 hours and 25 minutes. That score is even better than the 12 hours of the Galaxy A71 with a larger 4,500mAh battery.

Real-life battery performance is also quite good. It can last a whole day use under heavy usage with around 20 to 30 percent juice left in the tank before going to sleep.

If you use 5G, it'll drain the battery a little faster. In our test, we drained 10 percent of the battery in 1 hour of watching Netflix.

Similar to other Huawei devices with 4,000mAh battery and 40W SuperCharge, the phone can be filled from 0 to 70 percent in 30 minutes and 0 to 100 percent in 1 hour.
EMUI 10.1
EMUI 10.1

For software, the device runs with EMUI 10.1 based on Android 10 OS. It is a modern-looking skin with updated visuals and functions that is feature-rich at the same time. The skin allows its users to choose its Homescreen style to have or not have a Drawer for apps, Three-key navigation or Gestures with or without the Navigation dock, and activate or deactivate Dark mode.

When you swipe down, you'll find a lot of shortcut functions to open the WiFi, Personal Hotspot, Bluetooth, 4G, and 5G. It'll also allow you to activate Eye Comfort mode, eBook mode, and even the Screen Recorder with ease.

The gestures are mostly smooth. To nitpick, accessing the One-handed mode by slightly holding and swiping up diagonally on the lower portion of the display works 4/5 times.

Entering the split-screen view is also a bit complicated. First, you need to hold a little before swiping from the left or right of the display. Second, the user should select the app he or she wants to split-screen. Third, when the app enters the Floating Window mode, press + hold the grey minibar icon to enter the split-screen.

Older methods of Huawei such as the knuckle shortcut are easier to use.

For added security, Huawei allows its users to add several users or guests. If you switch to the Guest mode, you can let your friend use your phone without accessing your contacts, photos, other files, and browser history. Clever.

What about apps? About 90 percent of all the apps I use works with Huawei even if it doesn't have Google out of the box. Due to the China-US situation, Huawei was forced to replace it with its own Huawei Mobile Services that uses the AppGallery.

The AppGallery is quickly and steadily improving. It now has plenty of local apps, social media apps, banking apps, and games. Huawei also ensured that it has tight security by adding a 4-layer threat detection.

If the app you are using is not yet on the AppGallery, you can download AppGo or Petal Search Widget on the AppGallery.

I used AppGo or Petal Search Widget to download apps like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Netflix, and more.

If the app you are using is not yet compatible with the phone. Petal Search Widget will create a web shortcut of the app. This is what I used to access Google apps and the BPI app.

AppGallery is not yet on its mature stage, but Huawei is steadily improving and the quality and quantity of apps on its own app marketplace.

Pros - Premium build, beautiful display with tiny punch-hole, fast and future-proof Kirin 985 5G processor, long battery life, fast charging speeds, great and feature-rich cameras, night selfies, future-ready 5G connectivity, affordable price for the specs
Cons - No mention of glass protection, non-expandable storage, the ultra-wide cam is not that impressive, Huawei Share for PC is not working even if it has NFC, no 3.5mm audio jack

Huawei nova 7 5G Specs

Display: 6.53-inch 2.5D curved OLED screen w/ FHD+ 2340 x 1080 resolution at 395 ppi
CPU: 2.56GHz 7nm Kirin 985 octa-core processor w/ Dual NPU (Big-Core + Tiny-Core)
GPU: Mali-G77
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 256GB UFS 2.1
Back Camera: 64MP f/1.8 w/ AF and OIS + 8MP f/2.4 120-degree ultra-wide-angle + 8MP f/2.4 w/ 3x optical zoom + 2MP f/2.4 w/ 4cm macro + dual-tone LED flash
Selfie Camera: 32MP f/2.0
Battery: 4,000mAh w/ 40W SuperCharge
OS: Android 10 w/ EMUI 10.1
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz), 5G, 700MHz 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.1 (BLE, SBC), NFC, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: In-Display fingerprint sensor, USB-C, dual-mic, Colors: Space Silver Midsummer Purple
Dimensions: 160.64 x 74.33 x 7.96 mm
Weight: 180 g
Price: PHP 23,990

Verdict

The Huawei nova 7 5G is a stellar premium mid-range handset that offered a great design, crisp display, long battery life, capable primary camera, and near-flagship overall performance.

It even has the future-ready 5G connectivity that will allow its users to enjoy blazing-fast download and upload speeds once the tech is already available in their areas.

We have a few above-mentioned nitpicks, but those won't change the fact that the nova 7 5G is a solid value for money all-around contender.


Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4.25
Cameras - 4.25
Performance - 4.5
Average - 4.31/5
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