Huawei Nova 8i Review: Super-Charged Budget Midranger

As of this moment, there’s a whole lot of things to admire about the Huawei Nova 8i, the Nova series, or Huawei as a mobile phone manufacturer itself. It’s as if the entire Huawei mobile device portfolio has recently been upping up its entire lineup in the midst of the its troubles with Google, pushing the frontiers even further within their own price bands. Although the limitation has definitely affected their sales, it has not fazed them into continuously creating new devices that offer so much value for a wide range of consumers. And, there’s still a whole lot of people who believe in their devices, even outside of China.

So here comes the Nova 8i – part of a series known as the kings of midrange. It’s definitely a lineup that Huawei has been expecting to eat up a share of the ever-important midrange category of smart phones. Is it a good enough entry though? Let’s find out.

Packaging and Contents

Watch the entire unboxing video here:

Like most midrangers, the Huawei Nova 8i does not really contain a lot in it case. There was the main unit, a SIM ejector, and its charger and cable. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Huawei still included earphones. It’s pretty basic; and even though it’s not anything high-end and probably doesn’t really cost that much, it’s still pretty cool to include it.

Design and Build

The Huawei Nova 8i feels robust – at 190g, it’s a little bit on the hefty side. But for me, who has somewhat large hands, it was just right. For personal comparison, it’s 20g heavier than my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. Some users might find it a little bit heavy, but it does feel pretty solid. That might be primarily due to the material used for the device. It has a curved polycarbonate body (no glass on the back) which although makes it more durable also makes it more of a fingerprint magnet compared to other phones.

It doesn’t have any IP rating, meaning there’s no assurance of any coverage from water or dust damage. In addition, Huawei didn’t disclose what kind of glass it uses to protect the display, which is pretty strange. We assume that it doesn’t use any Corning Gorilla glass display and doesn’t have the same level of protection. In terms of physical size, the Nova 8i measures 6.37 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches.

At the bottom of the device is the USB Type-C port, and the SIM card slot, which can accommodate up to two nano-SIM cards. It neither has a microSD card slot, nor Huawei’s proprietary NM cards. So, no expandable storage options here.

At the top, it just has the 3.5mm audio jack, which is in my opinion where all audio jacks should be placed.

At the right side of the phone is the fingerprint scanner/power button, which scanned my finger amazingly quickly, especially for phone unlocks. The right side of the phone also has the metal volume rocker. Aside from those three buttons, nothing else is on the right side.

Display

One thing that Huawei is proud of for the Nova 8i is the 6.67-inch display, which they tout as the Huawei Edgeless Display. In all fairness, compared to other phones, it does have a near-bezel less display, and looks pretty great in this aspect. Due to this, it has a fantastic screen-to-body ratio of 94.72%.

The massive screen has a FHD+ resolution (2376×1080) which made viewing photos and videos absolutely great. However, it does have an IPS LCD panel, compared to other competitors which have an AMOLED or OLED panel. While there is not really any visible downside for majority of users, anyone coming from an AMOLED screen would notice a few differences.

In addition, the Huawei Nova 8i display has enhanced eye comfort features which have passed the TUV Rheinland low blue light certification, which makes it easier on the eyes especially at nighttime. There’s also an option to view the screen using the “natural tone” setting to make the screen automatically adjust colors depending on the outside environment.

Internals, UI, and Performance

The Nova 8i is powered by an 11nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 platform, with an Octa-Core CPU and an Adreno 610 GPU. There weren’t any major issues when it came to basic tasks, as the Snapdragon 662 proved to be a capable system. Powering our review unit was also 6GB of RAM coupled with 128GB of storage. Again, without external storage capabilities, the 128GB will fill up quite fast, which can potentially contribute to an overall slower system in the long run. However, fresh off the box, it proved to not be a major issue.

One of the biggest downsides with the Huawei ecosystem, and something I’m personally frustrated with, is the number of “suggested apps” that Huawei pre-bundles most current phones with. It also changes every so often, depending on which app is most used on their charts. I’m pretty sure it’s related to the limitations with Google Services, so that end-users won’t frantically try to find their apps. In some ways, it is useful especially for those not too familiar with the Huawei ecosystem. Advanced users, however, might find it pretty annoying.

Benchmarks Result

PC Mark Work 2.0 Score: 7163

PC Mark Storage 1.0 Score: 11226

Battery Life and Charging

One of the key strengths of the Nova 8i is definitely the battery life and the fast charging. Out of the box, the Huawei Nova 8i features lightning-quick 66W fast charging, but only with the proprietary charger which comes with the device. Once plugged with its own charger, the Nova 8i will light up with the “Super Charging, Max 66W”, along with some cool animations. From 0, it will give a full charge in a little over 1 hour, which is pretty quick considering that the Nova 8i has a 4,300mAh battery. Again, this only does this with the included charging cable and wall charger. I tried using my own Baseus 65W GaN charger and it didn’t even show fast charging.

Huawei estimates that the battery life would be roughly 40 hours (!!), even on performance mode, which is the most power-hungry mode available. This estimate is pretty legit, and I finished an entire day with intense tasks with more ~30% left on the battery.

Camera Performance

The rear setup on the Huawei Nova 8i has a 64MP f/1.9 camera, an 8MP f/2.4 ultra wide, a 2MP macro and a 2MP depth sensor. One noticeable feature lacking from the setup is the lack of OIS or optical image stabilization. This usually results in a little more shaky photos. However, I didn’t really experience this while using the camera that much.

The front setup is a 16MP shooter which can record 1080P video as well. There is also a light sensor on the side of the front camera.

Huawei Nova 8i Sample shots

Night Mode, No lighting

While both cameras performed well in indoor lighting, the night mode result turned out fantastic. Given barely any light, the camera gave out decent photos (if taken with a super steady hand). However, it does take around 5 seconds to be able to do this, which is a pretty long time.

Portrait Mode

Portrait mode shots turned out to be a bit underwhelming though, and the mode doesn’t seem to adjust that well enough to make faces stand out. In addition, there was a tendency to over-beautify faces.

I would have to say that the overall camera performance was above average. Given the Nova 8i’s positioning, I was just expecting so much more. However, results turned out to be exactly as it was on its price point. Default colors were not over-saturated, and details were just right. For most users, there really isn’t a lot more to look for. This is not a bad thing, given that the Nova 8i does offer a lot of other performance considerations, and reserves its superior camera for the Nova 8.

CONCLUSION

At its price point, the Nova 8i currently faces some tough competition from other brands. It seems like there’s a new phone coming out every quarter at this price point, with better features. As of this moment, the Nova 8i offers an overall great package for users who want to focus on display and battery life. While its camera was just above average and its OS a little annoying at times, it does compensate by focusing on other features that truly matter to some users.

It doesn’t have the midrange value crown for now. But then again, each user has their own preferences on which specifications really matter. For users who would like to have really focus on having a no-frills daily driver with a great display and excellent battery life, then the Huawei Nova 8i would be a great choice.

Huawei Nova 8i Specifications

Display6.67 inches
Screen-to-body ratio: 94.7%
Resolution: FHD+ 1080 x 2376 Pixels
Colours: 16.7 million Type: TFT LDC (IPS)
Refresh Rate: up to 60Hz
Touch Sampling Rate: up to180Hz
Rear cameraMain: 64MP, f/1.9 aperture
Depth: 2MP, f/2.4 aperture
Macro: 2MP, f/2.4 aperture
Ultra Wide: 8MP, f/2.4 aperture
*The photo pixels may vary depending on the shooting mode.
Front camera16MP, f/2.0 aperture
Dimension & Weight161.85 (H) x 74.7 (W) x 8.58 (D) mm, 190g
ProcessorQualcomm SM6115 Snapdragon 662 (11 nm)
RAM+ROM6GB / 8GB RAM, 128GB ROM
SecuritySide-mounted Fingerprint
Charging4,300 mAh (Typical Value) 66W HUAWEI SuperCharge
ConnectivityDual SIM
Available color*Moonlight Silver / Interstellar Blue / Starry Black10

Huawei Nova 8i

8.3

Design

8.5/10

Features

8.5/10

Performance

8.0/10

Pros

  • Fast (Proprietary) Charging
  • Above-average Display
  • Solid Build

Cons

  • Average camera
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Huawei OS

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