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Huawei Nova 5T review

Flagship-grade without the price

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With good looks, quad camera prowess and solid performance, the Nova 5T represents great value for a smartphone in 2019. It packs in a lot of high-end features for its modest price tag, but Huawei has cut corners to make that happen. You don’t get wireless charging, fancy display technology or other premium features reserved for pricier devices, but at this price can you really complain?

For

  • Great quad-camera
  • Large display in a small form factor
  • Great value for money

Against

  • No wireless charging
  • No headphone jack
  • Screen is only LCD

The Nova 5T is Huawei’s second Nova phone to come out this year. It comes at a time when most top brands, including Huawei, are just done launching their top-specced flagships. With their latest Nova phone, Huawei is hoping to cater to those gushing after a high-end device on a tight budget.

On paper, the Nova 5T looks like a great value proposition. It packs in a big screen in a wieldy profile, a quad-camera setup like Huawei’s P30 Pro, and Huawei’s top of the line Kirin 980 processor - all at a palatable price tag. 

As good as it all sounds, the Nova 5T is still short from being able to call itself a premium flagship. You won’t see top-end features like wireless charging, expandable storage, an OLED screen or water resistance. But if you can live without these extras and crave the camera quality of a phone like the P30 Pro, the Huawei Nova 5T is a phone you should seriously consider. 

Huawei Nova 5T 4 pricing and availability

You can pick up the Nova 5T now for AED 1,599, in three color finishes - midsummer purple, crush blue and black. It comes in just the one configuration 8GB RAM with 128GB non-expandable storage.

Given the amount of tech and features it offers, the Nova 5T does seem like a bargain against high-end rivals like the Huawei P30 Pro. But you should note that last year’s flagships - including the excellent P30 - have seen price cuts. Phones like the mid-range OnePlus 7 Pro also offer a better, fluid AMOLED screen and double the storage for just a few hundred Dirhams more.

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The Nova series has refreshed its brand and we’re into it. We’ve got the Midsummer Purple unit to review and it looks like a departure from the flamboyant gradients and shimmering finish that we’ve come to associate Huawei phones with. 

On the 2.5D glass-clad back you’ll find the newly minted Nova monogram in an eye-catching reflective finish that creates an almost holographic aesthetic. The Nova monogram is embedded subtly throughout the back in a modern, repeating pattern not unlike a designer handbag. While this glass finish catches fingerprints at the slightest touch, the dark purple finish and reflective light camouflage them well.

(Image credit: Future)

The rear houses the key attraction of the Nova 5T: a highly capable quad camera setup. Positioned in a vertical array, the lens setup looks a lot like the one found on the P30 Pro, with three main lenses and flash in a single line and a tiny sensor off to the side. 

The camera bump on the Nova 5T isn’t as bad as the one found on its closely match cousin - the Honor 20 Pro. Though much like the Honor 20 Pro, the phone rocks if you lay it flat on the table.

Turn the phone over and you’ll be greeted with a large 6.26-inch display that’s adeptly packed into a compact form factor. The phone feels sturdy. and its svelte profile creates a really nice in-hand feel. Instead of the notch, the Nova 5T sports a 4.5mm punch-hole in the top left corner giving the phone a screen-to-body ratio of over 90%. You can still find thin bezels around the screen except for the wide chin on the bottom that sticks out. 

(Image credit: Future)

On the right, there’s an indented side-mounted fingerprint scanner that also doubles as a power button. It sits below the volume rockers and works like a charm, never taking too long to unlock the phone. 

The bottom houses a USB-C port next to a speaker grille with no headphone jack in sight, which is disappointing. The box includes a pair of USB-C earphones but no dongle, so if you’re planning to use your favorite wired headsets, you’ll have to acquire an adapter on your own. Still, it’s one less port to worry about and cover in case of exposure to water since the Nova 5T is not water-resistant. 

Display

The IPS LCD panel is the most glaring indicator of the Nova 5T’s modest price tag. While still capable, the Nova 5T’s display falls short of the vibrant and punchy OLED & AMOLED panels found in slightly higher priced phones. 

Colors on the LCD panel aren’t as vivid, contrast seems off in certain profiles and blacks aren’t truly black, leaving grey borders on the sides and flaunting less-than-desirable contrast during dark scenes. They are brighter than most OLED screens, and not as much of a chore to use under direct sunlight.

Full HD+ resolution at 2340 x 1080p comes out to a gracious 412 ppi, resulting in crisp images and videos. But since it’s an IPS LCD screen, it is a strain on the battery. There’s also no dark-mode on LCD screens for battery efficiency but you can manually lower the resolution under the Display settings to reduce battery drain.

We quite prefer punch-hole displays to the notched ones that can be quite intrusive, so on the Nova 5T the cut-out on the top left can be ignored easily. It only gets noticeable  you’re using full-display apps that have controls on the area where the punch-hole is. In this case, you you can zoom out of fullscreen display mode and choose to have black borders on top and bottom like a phone with bezels.