Flatter to deceive
a decent mid-range device that has a lot to offer. It does a respectable job of doing what it set out to do. Namely making you look good while having an attractive display and design (depending on how you feel about the camera bump. But we can’t feel we’re overcompensating for the shortcomings, mostly due to the sanctions Huawei is facing confronted.
Huawei’s latest smartphone aims to make you look good. The Nova range flips the script by having a 60MP sensor as its front camera. Now is where the selfie geeks will be licking their lips, but that’s not quite the full picture. There are very apparent downsides as a result of the sanctions the Chinese company is facing. Not including 5G isn’t bad, but Google’s lack of these Androids still requires considerable tweaking.
Mirror mirror on my phone.
The Huawei Nova 10 clearly wants to look good and it does a decent job at that. Its curved screen makes it seem like it’s all you’re holding. Its light weight adds to the effect instead of making it feel cheap. We have the glass-backed Starry Black version of the Nova 10, a design that makes the back panel look like a second screen or a black mirror.
If the thin frame were metal instead of plastic, the symmetrical body design would be the spitting image of the Honor 70 5G. That is, if you ignore the Nova’s unusual tri-sensor camera bump with its garish gold accent ring. The trim surrounding the sensors is luxurious, but it also looks premium Fortnite skin for a three-eyed Wall-E. The volume rockers and power button are satisfyingly clicky with Huawei’s now signature red accent on the power button. The 120Hz OLED display is crisp and clear. The 6.67-inch screen fits comfortably even in small hands, probably thanks to the slim design of the Nova.
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The 4,000mAh battery was thankfully something we never needed to worry about. After a day of camera work and performance testing in the phone’s optimized Performance mode, it still had about 20 per cent left in the tank at 8:00 p.m. After losing 10% overnight, we fully charged it in around 35 minutes with the 66W fast charger. In power-saving mode, we arrived at 9:00 p.m. with just under 30% charge.
Stay with me. I will make you a star.
The Nova 10’s cameras have received Huawei’s clarity memo. The mission is simple: make you the star of the show. The 60MP selfie sensor does well for capturing images, doing justice to small details in most cases. How? AI, of course.
AI is the first thing that greets you when you open your camera. Taking pictures of your walk in the park? It optimizes for nature. Photos of your colleagues? The camera optimizes portraits. The difference this makes to the final image is subtle compared to without it. Examples include brighter greens in Nature mode and muted reds in Portrait mode.
The sensors also hold up when recording video. The Nova 10 has the ability to record 4K or 60fps video, but not both at the same time. The selfie camera does well in capturing facial detail, especially at some distance (about arm’s length).
He takes his job so seriously that he won’t let you take a bad photo. By this we mean an underexposed photo. It’s not always a problem. As a dark-skinned brother, I’ve had my share of photos looking like I’m behind a paywall. But sometimes you want what’s in the dark to stay in the dark.
This becomes even more apparent with photos taken at dusk when there is still some light. The extra exposure makes the photos look like they were taken earlier than they actually were. We will admit that the last point could nitpick but these are notable differences.
The rose with the dazzling thorn
For all its looks, the Nova 10 has an obvious Google-shaped void to fill. Transitioning to a Huawei device from a device with Google means additional steps to follow when setting up the device. For example, to get your contacts, you need to import a vCard and transfer it through a sketchy app. Huawei’s App Gallery isn’t as comprehensive as Google’s Play Store, so you’ll have to do without games like Injustice and Call of Duty. Unless you get them from a third-party APK site you are directed to by Huawei (following a disclaimer). See what we mean by feeling sketchy?
There was an uncomfortable amount of advertising when we first started using the Nova 10. Recommended apps in home screen folders make the phone feel bloated. Trying to view home videos from the Gallery app, as most people would, also displays ads. The bottom third of your video will be covered by ads, including posters for certain movies and thumbnails from random TikTok creators. That’s thanks to Huawei’s video app, which really wants you to know it exists. But advertise directly in an operating system? Oh good?
Read more: A phone without Google? How to live with Huawei’s next devices
For what it’s worth, the Huawei Video app is an interesting answer to Google’s free video content. Making the app the only place on this device to watch video content is a bold move. Especially since it seems more and more necessary for several streaming subscriptions. But why are home videos related to this? There are workarounds, like adding a Local Videos shortcut to the home screen, but we can’t say it didn’t feel intrusive.
The verdict of the Huawei Nova 10
Overall, the Huawei Nova 10 is a decent mid-range device. He does a respectable job doing what he set out to do. Namely, making you look good while having an attractive display and design (depending on how you feel about the camera bump). But we can’t get rid of the feeling that it overcompensates for shortcomings mostly caused by a lack of Google features.
Considering all this, its price of R13,000 seems a thousand rand too high. If it weren’t so inconvenient to upgrade to a device without Google and Huawei included blistering 5G speeds, the price would feel a bit more justified. As it stands, you can probably find something more familiar (and affordable) that will get rid of all that itchiness even better.