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Huawei has launched its newest smartphone, the Nova 5T. It’s also the latest member of the Nova 5 series, sporting a 6.26-inch screen, flagship-grade Kirin 980 chipset, and quad rear cameras. Can the Nova 5T establish itself as one of the best smartphones of 2019, just like what the Nova 3 accomplished in 2018?
Design and Construction
If the Huawei Nova 5T seems familiar, that is because you have already seen it before. In a way, it’s already in the market, just under a different name – the Honor 20. Yes, the Nova 5T is the Honor 20 but with some changes externally and internally.
On the front, is the 6.26-inch screen with thin bezels that curves on the edges. Placed above it is the earpiece that’s also hiding the notification light. As you might have noticed on the corner is the hole-punch for the 32MP selfie camera. We’ll discuss more of it later. Up top are the secondary microphone and the light and proximity sensor.
On the left is the tray for dual nano-sized SIM cards. While on the right, are the volume rocker, the power/lock button that also doubles as a fingerprint scanner.
Although we’re more accustomed to rear-mounted or in-display fingerprint scanners, I find the side-mounted ones tend to make more sense since your fingers naturally rest on that location when you hold the phone.
Found up top is the secondary microphone and the light sensor, while down at the bottom are the main microphone, USB Type-C port, and the loudspeaker. Sorry guys, there’s no 3.5mm audio port, but Huawei included an adapter in the package.
At the back, we have the protruding camera module that houses three cameras, and the LED flash then placed just beside it is the fourth camera. The glass back, on the other hand, produces a 3D light effect which is different from the Honor 20.
Even with the large screen, the Nova 5T feels compact and premium. The sides and corners are rounded, so it’s easier to grip. The metallic frame is cool to the touch and has a glossy finish which matches the glass panels. I hope that Huawei includes a protective case in the final retail package to protect it from bumps, scratches, and fingerprints.
Display and Multimedia
If you like big screens, the Nova 5T has 6.26-inches of it. It has a Full HD+ resolution which equates to a good 412ppi. You can also adjust the resolution to a lower HD+ if you want to save on power or activate Smart resolution to have the phone adjust it for you.
It uses an IPS panel, so colors are natural with great viewing angles. You can also choose between two color modes: Normal and Vivid, depending on your preference. A screen protector is also pre-installed, which is nice.
Going back to that hole-punch, this can be distracting to some, especially if you’re using apps with important elements in that corner. If you don’t like it, you can hide that hole by activating a toggle inside Settings. It doesn’t look good though, as the effect makes it look like you have an unusually thick bezel at the top.
As for the audio, the single down-firing speaker is loud and crisp. Bass is weak, though, which is expected, but it’s good enough for watching YouTube videos or streaming Netflix. When gaming, make sure to place on an upside orientation so that it doesn’t get muffled by your hand.
The Nova 5T is equipped with four rear cameras. Looking from top to bottom, we have the 16MP ultrawide, 48MP Sony IMX586 main, and 2MP depth assist. Huawei dropped the telephoto camera in favor of a 2MP macro which is placed outside of the camera module. If you want to zoom, the high-resolution main camera can provide up to 10x digital zoom.
Given the different kinds of lenses, the Nova 5T has become a very versatile shooter. Camera quality is great, especially in bright scenarios. Images are sharp with really vibrant colors and good contrast. However, the AI sometimes can be too aggressive, especially when it applies HDR. It’s okay though as you can still adjust it on your favorite photo editing app.
Low-light performance is also impressive, and there were times that it was able to illuminate the whole scene and apply HDR without having to activate Night Mode. It’s not perfect though, as noise tends to creep in. If you want better quality, that’s when you want to use Night Mode. It’s AI Image Stabilization was proven very capable of handling shakes to minimize blur.
When it comes to video recording, it can shoot at up to 4K resolution at 30 fps. What I like about it is that you can shift from the normal field-of-view to ultrawide, to zoom in one shot. Also, video stabilization is smooth that it looked like we recorded with the help of a gimbal. Watch the sample video below.
OS, UI, and Apps
Running the software department is the Android 9 Pie-based EMUI 9.1, which is also found in Huawei’s most recent devices. The UI is clean and uses multiple home screens to house the apps.
It doesn’t have pre-installed applications aside from the usual Google apps and services, which is good. If you’re a fan of Dark mode, unfortunately, this one doesn’t support it probably because it doesn’t have an OLED panel like some of its more powerful P and Mate cousins.
When it comes to storage, you’re getting 128GB with 110.18GB as usable. That’s still a huge amount but if you’re thinking of expanding it using a microSD card, sad to say that it doesn’t have that capability.
Performance and Benchmarks
Powering the Nova 5T is a HiSilicon Kirin 980 with an octa-core CPU, Mali-G76 MP10 GPU, and 8GB RAM – the same hardware that is powering the Huawei P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro. If we’re going to classify the Nova 5T, it’s technically a flagship.
As expected, performance is excellent in all tasks, including gaming where GPU Turbo 3.0 shines. It was able to run PUBG Mobile in its highest settings without any loss in fluidity. It can get warm at the back near the cameras, but not to the point of causing any trouble or discomfort.
We performed two sets of benchmarks, one in Normal mode and one in Performance mode, to see how much computing power the Nova 5T can provide when handling basic and heavy tasks.
|PC Mark (Work 2.0)||7810||8998|
|3D Mark SSE||2,144 (OpenGL ES 3.1)||4,275 (OpenGL ES 3.1)|
|2,243 (Vulkan)||4,363 (Vulkan)|
|Geekbench||3,293 (Single-Core)||3,356 (Single-Core)|
|9,511 (Multi-Core)||9,972 (Multi-Core)|
|5,772 (RenderScript)||8,696 (RenderScript)|
|AndroBench||787.74 MB/s (Read)||787.74 MB/s (Read)|
|572.33 MB/s (Write)||572.33 MB/s (Write)|
The numbers show the difference in performance. It even topped the scores of the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro in our reviews.
Connectivity and Battery Life
When it comes to connectivity, the Nova 5T has dual-SIM support, LTE, WiFi ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and USB 2.0 Type-C. Again, what’s only missing is the 3.5mm audio port.
The Nova 5T is equipped with a 3,750mAh battery which is a decent capacity although it would have been nicer to have 4,000mAh instead. Despite that, we’re still getting around 9-10 hours of mixed usage. In PC Mark, it got 14 hours and 16 minutes of battery life. While in our video loop test, we got 15 hours of playback. It supports Huawei’s 22.5W SuperCharge, and we were able to replenish the battery in under 2 hours.
Let’s do a quick rundown. The Nova 5T has an attractive and premium design, nice display, good cameras, decent battery life, and excellent performance. If you’re coming from the Nova 3, there’s still plenty of reasons to upgrade to this phone. So, if you’re looking for a flagship-grade Huawei smartphone but don’t have the budget for the P30 Pro, this is the one to get.
Huawei Nova 5T specs:
6.26-inch FHD+ (2340 x 1080) 19.5:9 IPS display, 412ppi
HiSilicon Kirin 980 (7nm) 2.6GHz octa-core CPU
Mali-G76 MP10 GPU
128GB of storage
48MP F1.8 (main) Sony IMX586+ 16MP F2.2 (ultrawide) + 2MP F2.4 (macro) + 2MP F2.4 (depth)
32MP F2.0 front camera (in-screen)
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS
USB 2.0 Type-C
Fingerprint scanner (side-mounted)
EMUI 9.1 (Android 9 Pie) w/ GPU Turbo 3.0
3,750mAh battery w/ 22.5W SuperCharge
154.25 x 73.97 x 7.87 mm
Black, Crush Blue, Midsummer Purple
What I liked:
Great flagship performance