We’re big fans of bold designs on our devices, particularly with smartphones. I like it when smartphones have a distinctive look to them, even those that seemingly throw back to designs of yesteryears. And yes, I’m referring to this relatively new nova device.
Huawei’s packed quite a design punch into the nova 8i, but that isn’t all this handset offers. And that’s what we’re exploring here. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Quirky, vibrant design
Huawei brings back a classic Mate series look with the nova 8i, making it relatively easy to pick out the device in a sea of other smartphones. Its slight curves and camera module are reminiscent of that flagship line. And then in front, it’s nearly borderless on three sides, which isn’t as common in its price bracket. Huawei offers the nova 8i in three striking colors: Moonlight Silver, Starry Black, and Interstellar Blue, which our unit came in.
You are reminded it isn’t a flagship device with its polycarbonate build. Now, that’s more in line with its segment. Despite that, the phone feels well-built and solid in your hand. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is in the middle of the phone’s right side, making it easier to reach. I’ll forever praise the convenience of this sensor placement. Slightly above that is the volume rocker. There are no buttons on the left side.
Huawei conveniently placed the headphone jack at the top right beside the earpiece, explaining the lack of a speaker grille taking up space on the display’s bezel. The bottom houses the USB-C charging port, a single loudspeaker, and the dual-SIM tray.
Sadly, there’s no space for a microSD card slot here. You’ll have to make do with 128GB of storage, which is thankfully still a large capacity.
As I mentioned, the 6.67-inch Huawei Edgeless Display is striking. This almost bezel-less display with a 94.7% screen-to-body ratio allows for more immersive viewing, playing, and working experience. It does have a pill-shaped cutout in front, but there’s only a single camera here. The space is for a light sensor that helps manage screen brightness. It’s placed high up on the top left corner that I tend to forget it’s there when I use the phone.
It isn’t an AMOLED screen, but the FHD+ IPS LCD still shows vibrant colors and good details. I didn’t have trouble using it outdoors on sunny days. It gets dim enough that I don’t blind myself when opening it in a dark room.
LiTT Tip #1: If you use your phone for hours on end, the Huawei nova 8i has an Eye Comfort feature certified by TÜV Rheinland. It can filter out excessive blue light while minimizing yellowish discoloration typically seen when this feature is enabled. Head to Settings > Display & brightness > Eye Comfort to enable the feature. You can also scroll down and access it through the Quick Settings feature.
LiTT Tip #2: The Huawei nova 8i can automatically adjust the display’s color to adapt to your surroundings. Natural Tone uses a sensor to sense the ambient light level and then adjust the screen’s color temperature to maintain a consistent color display, whether you’re in a cold light or warm light environment. Head to Settings > Display & brightness > Colour > Natural Tone to enable the feature.
Long-lasting, quick-charging smartphone
Aside from its youthful design, the Huawei nova 8i brings an ultra-fast charging speed typically unavailable in its price segment. And what’s better is you get that 66W SuperCharge from the power brick included with the phone. According to Huawei, you can fully charge the nova 8i in just 38 minutes.
But that speed is reliant on the conditions where you charge your device. I haven’t been able to achieve that. It might be because I don’t work in a place with air-conditioning. But it takes me around an hour to get to 100%. Still not bad.
I tried to see how fast the phone charges. And I’ve noticed that I can get around 12% in a 10-minute charge or over 50% in just 30 minutes. If you can only afford a quick charge, the nova 8i’s fast charging can help you out in a pinch.
It’s possible to get through an entire workday and a bit more on the nova 8i. That’s pretty good, given it has a slightly lower capacity battery. I’ve used it once as a second screen to let Netflix play in the background while I work for half a day, played some Ragnarok X, listened to music on Spotify, and browsed social and the internet for work, and I still only needed to charge around 8 or 9 in the evening. If you don’t spend that much on your phone, you might even be able to carry it over to the following day.
Photo and video ready smartphone
The Huawei nova 8i is armed with a quad-camera setup at the back and a 16-megapixel selfie camera in front. The rear camera array includes a big 64-megapixel 1/1.7-inch sensor, an 8-megapixel 120-degree ultra-wide camera, and a pair of 2-megapixel lenses for macro and portrait photography.
I mostly rely on the primary sensor because it lets more light in and helps me take better photos. I find it can create some great separation between a subject and the background with some natural-looking bokeh, even if I’m not in Portrait mode. But that mode is available to you along with Aperture, Night, High-res, Pro, Time Lapse, HDR, Panorama, and Super Macro. High-res uses the full 64-megapixel sensor when you shoot, allowing you to crop in the shot to maintain the photo’s quality.
Photos come out with decent color reproduction. It doesn’t look too saturated. And, of course, you’ll notice the slight quality difference between the primary and ultra-wide sensors. But those wide-angle photos still turn out to be usable.
Night mode takes around five seconds to take your photo. It’s a mode you’ll need a tripod and an unmoving to make sure you get the shot in low light. But then you can tinker around with the Pro mode to get the picture you want, too.
When it comes to video, you can record up to 1080p at 30 frames per second with the front, and neither sensors offer optical image stabilization. But it subtly cuts around the edges to give off the appearance of more stable clips. I’ve been able to use it for a quick TikTok post and even this unboxing video on our Facebook:
That Dyson video was even edited on the CapCut app on the phone. I used the FreeBuds 4 to add the voiceover, too. Speaking of the FreeBuds, you can use the FreeBuds 4 or 4i for video voice remote recording. That means the Camera app takes advantage of the connected earbuds and uses the audio it picks up there to record what you’re saying, a helpful feature for vloggers. I’ve noticed it applies a sort of noise cancellation to your surroundings, so the video’s audio focuses on your voice. It won’t completely keep external noise out, but it tries to hone in on your voice.
LiTT Tip #3: You can delete camera info and your device’s model before sending photos to other people. Head to Gallery > Share > Privacy options at the top of the Share screen. There you’ll find the toggle to Remove photo info.
Steady performance with EMUI touches
Huawei equips the nova 8i with a popular chipset made for its segment, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 662. It is paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, a decent combo for day-to-day use. It’s not the kind of chip explicitly geared for gaming, but it can handle your games. Don’t expect it to let you play everything smoothly at the highest setting.
Aside from easily using this phone for browsing and posting on different social media sites, I’ve played a fair amount of Ragnarok X on this. It will occasionally stutter in some cutscenes, but I’ve never had trouble interacting with the game. Overheating wasn’t an issue I encountered either.
Like many smartphones in its price bracket, it won’t be speedy as the flagships, and there’s a slight lag sometimes toggling between screens or apps. But it won’t be too off-putting once you get into what you need to do on this phone.
EMUI 11 Android skin adds some Huawei-specific touches I’ve come to appreciate on its other devices. Huawei brought its Multi-Window feature here, allowing you to have supported apps run on a floating window above your main screen. I love using this feature to look up information while I’m writing. I don’t need to leave my main writing app to verify information.
Huawei nova 8i makes it easy to switch the audio output on this device. So, if you’re listening to music on Spotify with Huawei earbuds like the FreeBuds 4 and you take them out, the music will pause because of smart wear detection. But if you hit the play button on the screen, it’ll automatically send the audio out through the loudspeaker. It understands you aren’t wearing the earbuds, and you still want to listen or watch what you’re watching, but you want to do it through the speaker instead.
Or you can manually switch where the audio will come out yourself. Swipe down to access the quick settings and notification shade, and you’ll see a “Switch audio” card there. It’ll let you choose where the sound will come out. This is handy if you’re using third-party earbuds or headphones.
If you’re wondering about the apps you have access to, Huawei has been adding more and more apps into its AppGallery, and then Petal Search helps you look for those that aren’t available yet. Many of the top apps in the country are available on AppGallery. Your favorite social media apps are all there, I have Netflix and Viu on my test unit, and I have Spotify, too.
I have shared my experience with Petal Search on my MatePad Pro experience story, which reflects my experience on the nova 8i. Except I had less trouble signing into my Google accounts. The default browser let me access Gmail without any issues. And you can access different Google services through the Browser. It will be that barebones, mobile web experience, but better than nothing, I guess.
I’ve still run into trying to sign into apps where I used Google’s sign-in option. As far as I know, there is no fix for now. Google services aside, most of the apps I use regularly are here. Netflix is accessible through Petal Search. But this app version only supports Widevine L3, which is a bummer. I’m not sure if that’s because you get it through a third-party app store, but you only get to stream Netflix content on SD. Good thing it’s not really that big of a display.
But if you do want to stream content in Full HD and love Asian content, you can get Viu on AppGallery. You will need a premium account on Viu for this, though.
LiTT Tip #4: Game Assistant lets you stay immersed in your game without any interruption. If you want that option, you can access the feature through Settings > Apps > enable AppAssistant. And then head to Game Space to add supported games.
What’s lit and what’s not?
What’s lit about it:
- Brings premium Huawei design in the mid-range segment
- Conveniently placed side-mounted fingerprint sensor, audio jack
- Eye-catching Edgeless Display
- Quick charging with included charger
- Natural-looking photos and good subject separation for the main camera
- Video voice remote recording with the FreeBuds 4 and 4i
- Typically smooth performance
- AppGallery and PetalSearch gives access to many of the top apps
What needs the extra spark:
- Shiny, fingerprint-magnet back
- No storage expansion option
- Night mode takes a few seconds before shooting
- No image stabilization for videos
- Only gets SD streaming on Netflix
- Barebones access to Google services
Huawei markets the nova 8i as an option for young professionals or budding creators needing a more capable handset than budget devices. And the nova 8i smartly addresses many needs of this segment: a stylish device with social media-ready cameras, a decent display to enjoy content on, and a superfast charging battery that can get you through the day.
Since it isn’t a premium smartphone, it understandably has to compromise some things that could turn away some users. It’s not the best device for hardcore mobile gamers or those heavily reliant on Google services. But they aren’t the market, anyway. If what the Huawei nova 8i does have on offer top your requirement list, you’ll be plenty happy with what you get.
The Huawei nova 8i retails for PHP 13,999. It is available via the online Huawei Store, Lazada, Shopee, and Huawei Experience Stores.
* If you buy something from these links, LiTT may earn a commission, but it won’t cost you extra. Prices are subject to change without prior notice.