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Hands-on review: The Huawei nova 3i
Fri, 2nd Nov 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Smartphones are becoming a lot more colourful but for the most part, you're lucky if you can get one in a different colour other than white, black or gold - unless you opt for cases and accessories with flair.

Luckily, at least one manufacturer knows that often colourful is good, maybe even a bit funky. And if the device itself is up to scratch, then funky is darn well fantastic!

That has been my experience with Huawei's nova 3i, an ‘iris purple' smartphone that shimmers and shines like some rebellious trendsetter – especially when it sits next to my own jet black smartphone.

But despite the colours, is it actually any good? Touting dual-lens AI cameras on both the front and rear, a Kirin 710 next-gen AI processor and Huawei's modified version of Android 8.1 (Oreo), for an RRP of $499 this is a decent performer in a smartphone market that offers plenty of choice.

I'm a sucker for a great smartphone camera. The nova 3i has dual lens cameras on the front and rear (24MP + 2MP) to help to capture an extra level of clarity.

The AI cameras are able to identify different shooting types. According to Huawei, the nova 3i can identify “500 scenarios in 22 categories. The smartphone automatically identifies different scenes and makes adjustments accordingly, providing users with the best possible results as well as an intelligent shooting experience.

I found that some of those adjustments can detract from the image, though. Huawei likes to use the term ‘vivid' to describe colour representation, but on automatic setting colours can be a wee bit too oversaturated for my liking. At least there are plenty of photo editing apps that can correct this for you.

I'm also yet to meet a smartphone camera that has nailed the art of optical zoom, so zoomed images tend to look a bit pixelated.

Video recording gives you a highest-quality option of FHD 1080p at 60 frames per second. I'd imagine this would be pretty good for capturing videos with action, but the camera seemed pretty average.

What's also an interesting quirk of this phone is that after you install Amazon Assistant, you can use two fingers to long press on something in a photo.

For example, say you take a photo of a TV. just use two fingers to long press on the TV within that photo and Amazon Assistant will try to find it for you.

This practice can be a bit hit-and-miss, I found. It wasn't able to identify my TV, and misidentified my wireless PlayStation controller as a shoe (it guessed correctly on the second try). It also identified the correct book from the photo of a book cover in just a few seconds. The good thing about AI is that once it's trained, it gets so much better at doing things.

Here's a screenshot of a split screen showing my photo and Amazon Assistant's top two suggestions:

It's hard to resist downloading a mobile game or two when they're so easy to download through Google Play.

I've developed an affinity for one particular Android game called Darkness Rises, a game that looks visually nice and requires a decent amount of ‘oomph' from the devices it runs on. The nova 3i didn't stutter or crash at any time – although as with many CPU intensive games, it did chew through battery life reasonably quickly. Clearly the Kirin 710 is up to standard, and that also goes for things like browsing the internet, watching videos and other memory-intensive activities.

Not to worry – we all need a break from our smartphones once in a while – it will take just 2.5 hours (or 2 hours and 44 minutes in my experience) from a fully flat battery to charge up 100% and it's ready for another round.

The Huawei nova 3i comes with Te Reo Māori as an operating language, which is an awesome addition, if only for Huawei's work with Māori to make a genuine and fully functional language available to all users. It you can't find Māori as an available language in the language settings, you may need to update the list and download the Māori language pack first.

Not only is this a smartphone that performs well and uses multiple cameras to take snaps, there's no doubt that this purple people eater is a worthy contender for anyone who's looking for a mid-range device.

The Huawei nova 3i features at a glance:

•    6.3-inch FullView display •    24MP + 2MP dual lens front camera •    16MP + 2MP dual lens rear camera •    Face ID and fingerprint sensors •    Kirin 710 next-gen AI processor •    128GB onboard storage, with room for a micro SD •    4GB RAM •    Te reo Māori as an operating language   Price: $499.