Our Verdict

The Huawei Nova 3i stands out in the crowded mid-range category. It has a promising camera setup, a decent processor, a good display, and a delicate yet premium design.

For

  • Attractive design
  • Crisp, expansive display
  • Impressive rear camera

Against

  • Limited notch support from apps
  • MicroUSB port is dated
  • Bloated camera UI
  • Couldn't feel the GPU Turbo in action

Although Huawei is well-known for its flagship P20 Pro handset and Mate 20 Pro phablet, the mid-range is where this manufacturer really shines, delivering some seriously premium features at a budget price.

Shortly after the Nova 3e was released on the Australian market (which is literally a renamed P20 Lite from abroad, but at a significantly cheaper price than in other markets), Huawei has come out with a slightly more premium sibling – the Nova 3i.

While other international markets have a few contenders in the way of Honor, Xiaomi and OnePlus in this price range, the Australian market has little else other than Huawei, Motorola's G-series and some of the newer Nokia releases.

So how does the Huawei Nova 3i stand up against its reduced competition?

Huawei Nova 3i price and availability

While the Nova 3i first launched in Australia for $599 in August, you can comfortably find it for $499 already, bringing it much closer to its younger sibling and closest rival, the Nova 3e, which can be found for $399 at most retailers.

Design and build

  • Has an iPhone-esque notch
  • Delicate yet appealing glass and metal design

From the back, the Nova 3i looks strikingly similar to the Nova 3e, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A gorgeous combination of flat, glossy glass and metal makes the handset a pleasure to hold and ogle. 

Flip it over though, and you'll notice that instead of a 5.8-inch display, the Nova 3i is sporting a gorgeous 6.3-inch screen. While this makes the overall handset a little wider and taller, the impact is lessened thanks to marginally reduced side and top bezels and a chin bezel that's more than halved in width.

The Huawei Nova 3i has an extremely reflective glass back 

The Huawei Nova 3i has an extremely reflective glass back 

Smartphones that rely heavily on glass construction almost always run into the same three problems – risk of cracking without a cover, the slippery nature of the glass itself, and its affinity to attract fingerprints. Slapping a case on the phone does hurt the look and feel, but we still recommend it.

Well, it's not new, but Apple's continued influence on modern smartphone design can be easily spotted on the front of the Nova 3i. The footprint and shape are quite identical, and of course, there's the familiar notch stacked at the top edge of the immersive display.

Although the notch does not have the iPhone X-like high tech camera array, it's still quite broad because of the dual camera setup. Although the 82.03% screen-to-body ratio seems almost bezel-less, there is still a slight chin, although it's among the thinnest on phones of this range right now. 

The fingerprint sensor sits on the back in a position seen on a majority of Android phones still sporting the configuration. It's quite easy to access with a single hand and is snappy to operate.

The Huawei Nova 3i weighs in at 169g. With dimensions set at 157.6 x 75.2 x 7.6mm, it really is pocketable and can be comfortably held in one hand.

Face unlock and fingerprint sensor

The face unlock on the Nova 3i isn't as advanced and secure as the one on the iPhone X, but it sure is a better implementation than many other Face ID wannabes. It's quick and accurate, even when in minimal light or even pitch darkness, and although it takes about a second to activate, you can save a button-press with the nifty raise-to-unlock feature.

The face unlock is turned off by default, so you need to surf around the security settings to set it up. It is surprisingly fast and takes no time to enrol your face, which further ensures that it isn’t truly obtaining a detailed 3D map of your face like Face ID.

When it comes to daily use and better security, you might want to stick with the default fingerprint unlock which is fast, painless, and likely a little more secure.

It has a tall and bright 6.3-inch display 

It has a tall and bright 6.3-inch display 

Display

  • Edge-to-edge 6.3-inch display
  • 1,080 x 2,340 resolution

Without being too big for one-handed operation, the Huawei Nova 3i manages to cram in a 6.3-inch 1,080 x 2,340-pixel IPS LCD display, thanks to the whole edge-to-edge approach. The notch, however, turns the display into a rather unorthodox 19:9 aspect ratio.

The huge display looks impressive from the moment it turns on. It makes for a perfect canvas when flicking through the home screen and native apps. However, except for some native apps, many apps remain unoptimised for this aspect ratio. 

Still, the panel is capable and looks quite attractive with that design. It's sharp, accurate, but of course, it doesn't have a high contrast ratio and saturation of an AMOLED panel. An AMOLED panel also does a better job at hiding the notch with deep black bands on both sides of the notch. While in this case, the black isn't merging into the black notch that well. 

The Nova 3i follows suit with most phones in its range having 1,080 x 2,340 screen, which not just makes it sharp, but also fairs well when used for multimedia.