Huawei nova 8i Review - Sleek with fast charging, but lacking versus its predecessor

The Huawei nova 8i arrived in the country a couple of months ago. After our extended usage, we now have our full review ready. How did it fare? 
Huawei nova 8i Review - A worthy choice under PHP 15K?
Huawei nova 8i

To recap, the new phone features a 6.67-inch 2.5D curved LCD screen with 2376 x 1080 resolution. Inside is the 11nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 octa-core processor, Adreno 610 GPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB of storage, and 4,300mAh battery with 66W SuperCharge.
How did we like the Huawei nova 8i?
How did we like the Huawei nova 8i?

It is running on Android 10 with EMUI 11 and it comes with 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, and dual-SIM support. It is priced at PHP 13,999 in the Philippines.


Multimedia Experience

For a device with slim bezels, it has an LCD screen!
For a device with slim bezels, it has an LCD screen!

Again, it has a 6.67-inch 2.5D curved LCD screen with 2376 x 1080 FHD+ resolution with 391 ppi pixel density. It has slim bezels all around and a pill-shaped punch-hole cutout for the selfie cameras. This bezel setup and cutout give it a 94.7 percent screen-to-body ratio. It also has a 60Hz refresh rate as well.

You will be surprised that there is an LCD panel instead of an AMOLED panel since almost every device with slim bezels has the latter. In terms of colors, the nova 8i provides a vibrant experience with good contrast and brightness. Although it is not an AMOLED screen, it still delivers fairly deep blacks. It also gets pretty bright as well.

The combination of the cutout and slim bezels provides an immersive experience overall. However, at this price point, we expected at least a 90Hz refresh rate instead of the 60Hz the nova 8i has.

It supports 10-points of multitouch that are responsive, accurate, and quick.
It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a bottom-firing speaker
It has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a bottom-firing speaker

In terms of audio, the bottom of the phone has a single speaker and on top is a 3.5mm audio jack. The earpiece on top is not used for media though. It is only used for calls exclusively. Even though it is a single speaker setup, the nova 8i gets pretty loud without being distorted. However, it will struggle in a larger room with lots of surrounding noise. We enjoyed using it without a pair of earphones.

You can also improve audio quality when using earphones. It can drive most of the earphones and small headphones that we have. There's no mention if it has a HiFi amp. The output is mostly decent, but don't expect it to be as clean as the output from smartphones with dedicated amps. It also has Huawei Histen if you want to artificially enhance its quality.

The device also has two microphones with a decent performance in recording and calls. It can easily pick out your voice during calls without any trouble.

Cameras

64MP quad-cameras
64MP quad-cameras

At the back of the phone is a quad-camera setup with 64MP f/1.9 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth + LED flash. The stock camera up has a Photo mode, Video mode, Aperture mode, Night mode, Portrait mode, Pro mode, Panorama mode, HDR mode, Time-lapse mode, Stickers mode, Super Macro mode, and High-Res mode. It also retains AI Scene Detection as well.

The Pro Mode features controls for ISO, Shutter Speed, Exposure, Focus, and White Balance. No RAW image format here though.

Rear Camera Samples

Main camera daylight
Ultra-wide camera daylight
Ultra-wide camera daylight

In daylight, the images from the ultra-wide-angle and main cameras came out to be decent. They are sharp and detailed images with good enough colors and contrast. Although it looks good, we expect more for the 64MP quad-camera system.
Portrait mode, Indoors
Portrait mode, Indoors

The portrait mode will add the usual bokeh around your subject with decent edge detection as well. However, there is a bit of a delay in actually capturing the image where the nova 8i asks you to hold for a few seconds more after pressing capture.

Indoors, the performance remains consistent. With good lighting, images have decent details and sharpness. The contrast and color give the image a vibrant yet more natural look.
Close up shot
Close up shot

Even with the 64MP main camera, a fairly close-up shop will come out looking good given the lighting is great. If you need a more dedicated Macro shot, the Super Macro mode with the 2MP sensor can be used but the images come out soft with dull colors. The main camera is still the way to go here.
Main camera, normal mode
The main camera, normal mode
Main camera, night mode
Main camera, night mode

In low-light and night situations, even the 64MP main camera will struggle. However, with the Night Mode, the users can still take improved shots as long as your subject is not moving. However, Night Mode is only available via 1x mode. No Night Mode for ultra-wide.

Overall, we believe that this camera system's performance can be more refined. Compared to the nova 7i last year, we still prefer the images the latter took. We hope that improvements can be provided over OTA updates in the future.

The capsule cutout contains the 16MP f/2.0 selfie camera. 

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie cam, daylight
Selfie cam, daylight
Indoor selfie
Indoor selfie
Night mode selfie
Night mode selfie

For selfies, the Huawei nova 8i front-facing camera can capture decently sharp, detailed, and saturated selfies in daylight and indoors. In low light, the selfie becomes a bit noisy and grainy as the sharpness and detail drop but it does retain the vibrant colors. There is a Night Mode selfie which improves the sharpness and details but for static subjects. You can easily make the image blurry if you have a shaky hand though.

For taking videos, it shoots up to 1080p 30fps in quality. There is no EIS or OIS here. Still, this is a very usable video companion if you have a steady arm or a tripod.

For selfie videos, it can take up to 1080p 30fps with a minimal crop as well.

Note: We included a few video clips taken by the nova 8i in the YouTube video below.


Performance

Qualcomm 662's benchmark performance
Qualcomm Snapdragon 662's benchmark performance

The Huawei nova 8i features the 2.0GHz 11nm Snapdragon 662 octa-core processor, Adreno 610 GPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage, and a 4,300mAh with 66W SuperCharge. It managed a score of 174,704 on AnTuTu while it got 252 Single-Core and 1,101 Multi-Core scores on Geekbench.

Downgraded performance coming from the impressive nova 7i last year...

Snapdragon 662 is a DOWNGRADE from the Kirin 810 of the nova 7i. SD662 is a chip that should be found on phones in the below PHP 7K range.

So as expected, it is not meant for heavy gaming usage. Fortunately, it can run most of the popular apps decently. We rarely experienced hiccups switching between social media apps like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and TikTok.

Web browsing, checking emails, and other works and daily tasks work great here as well. We were able to use Canva and Snapseed for some photo and video editing as well.

But, we would be lying if we didn't wish for Huawei to retain or upgrade the SD810 last year.

This is not entirely Huawei's fault as they are likely left with no choice due to the US sanctions.

WiFi connectivity is stable just like its 4G LTE connection. However, the lack of 5G is a bit of a bummer here though. The fingerprint scanner is fast and accurate too. Face Unlock is consistent and fast too as long as you meet the parameters for it to scan your face properly. We didn't have any problem with it though.
PC Mark battery test
PC Mark battery test

The 4,300mAh battery was able to record a 17-hour and 3-minute result on PCMark's Work 3.0 battery life benchmark. In daily real-life usage, nova 8i lasted us a full day on a single charge with 30 to 40 percent left. However, this result may vary depending on how heavy you use the device.

Great battery life!

The 66W SuperCharge technology was able to charge the nova 8i from 10 percent to 100 percent in around 40 to 45 minutes. This is why the smaller battery size is not much of an issue for us. Being able to top-up your device in under an hour is a great feature to have!
EMUI 11
EMUI 11

For the software side, It is running Android 10 with EMUI 11. This has been improved from its previous iterations which may be the reason for a decent experience even if the SD662 chipset can be lacking for the price. It looks sleek and feels snappy enough.
EMUI 11 toggles and Settings app
EMUI 11 toggles and Settings app

Yes, Google Services is absent still here. It is not perfect, but you can still access Google apps using GSpace. Most of the Google apps are also web-based, so you can access them with your browser or even create a shortcut to your Desktop.

A few of the apps that we regularly use like Genshin Impact and BPI (It can be accessed via the web though) won't work.

The rest of the apps can be found using the AppGallery or Petal Search Widget.

We were still able to use it as our daily driver since we were able to install our most-used apps and still access Google apps such as Keep, Drive, Maps, and more.

Huawei nova 8i Specs

Display: 6.67-inch 2.5D curved LCD screen w/ FHD+ 2376 x 1080 resolution at 391 ppi
CPU: 2.0GHz 11nm Snapdragon 662 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 610
RAM: 8GB
ROM: 128GB
Back Camera: 64MP f/1.9 w/ PDAF + 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth + LED flash
Selfie Camera: 16MP
Battery: 4,300mAh w/ 66W SuperCharge
OS: Android 10 w/ EMUI 11
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic, pressure
Others: Side-mounted fingerprint sensor, USB-C, Colors: Moonlight Silver, Interstellar Blue, Starry Black
Dimensions: 161.85 x 74.7 x 8.58 mm
Weight: 190 g
Price: PHP 13,999

Verdict

Is it worth it for the price?
Is it worth it for the price?

The Huawei nova 8i is a good-looking device with a sleek screen with slim bezels all around. It also has a strong battery performance and the fastest charging speed for the price.

The performance can be improved though. Especially since the nova 7i was able to have the better performing Kirin 810. But, this is not all on Huawei. The US trade ban on the company is restricting its ability to create 5G capable devices and acquire chipsets overall.

Another concern is the camera performance. Yes, the 64MP main camera is great to have but a more refined performance is a must-have as well. We are hopeful that it can be improved via software updates.

If you don't need a phone with a flagship-like look, good battery performance, and fast charging, the nova 8i is hard to recommend. 

Build/Design - 4.25
Multimedia Experience - 4.25
Cameras - 4
Performance - 4.25
Average - 4.19/5
Huawei nova 8i Review - Sleek with fast charging, but lacking versus its predecessor Huawei nova 8i Review - Sleek with fast charging, but lacking versus its predecessor Reviewed by Telenor Editorial on December 17, 2021 Rating: 5

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