HUAWEI just opened pre-orders for the HUAWEI nova 8 and the HUAWEI nova 8i in the Philippines. The newest 4G mid-rangers from HUAWEI will become available by the end of august, but you can pre-order it now for P13,999 and P19,999 respectively from the Huawei online and physical stores as well as Lazada and Shopee.

Check out the hands-on video with the HUAWEI nova 8i on the TechKuya YouTube channel, or read on for our full review!

Back handheld - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Back handheld – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Pros

  • Upscale aesthetics
  • Smooth and ergonomic design
  • One of the fastest charging phones at 66W
  • Big and vibrant screen that’s, almost edgeless

Cons

  • No Google services
  • Hit-or-miss performance

Build quality and display

For this review, HUAWEI sent us the Moonlight Silver HUAWEI nova 8i with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The rear panel is quite striking, looking like a fusion of metal and glass giving it a mirror-like effect without the risks associated with glass because it’s made entirely of polycarbonate plastic material.

Huawei logo - Huawei nova 8i (Philippines)
Huawei logo – Huawei nova 8i (Philippines)

Rainbow colors on the reflective material gives it a surreal, dream-like effect as if you were looking at a real-life Instagram filter. It’s an exciting piece of hardware if you’re into the glossy, “glasstic” look – we couldn’t stop admiring it.

While the HUAWEI nova 7i had a “squircle” (rounded square) camera module, the 8i follows the footsteps of the HUAWEI Mate 30 with its circular design. There’s a noticeable amount of protrusion on both the camera module and on the lenses themselves, resulting in a double camera hump when viewed from the side.

We’ve seen thicker humps, and the way that its color matches the rear panel makes it even less noticeable when viewed from the rear.

3.5mm audio jack - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
3.5mm audio jack – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

If you prefer something more discreet, the phone is also available in a shade of black called “Starry Black”. It is also available in a shade of blue called “Interstellar Blue” if you’re looking for something more pronounced.

At 8.6mm, it’s not the thinnest phone that we’ve held by far, but the curvature on the left and right edges makes it feel thinner and sleeker than it is without the case. It also helps that 6.67-inch display looks almost edgeless thanks to the super-narrow bezels for an outstanding screen-to-body ratio of 94.7%!

Selfie camera - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Selfie camera – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Running at a native screen resolution of 1080×2376, the 60Hz display panel is not just immersive, viewing angles are very good and colors look punchy and vibrant thanks to its wide DCI-P3 color gamut.

By the way, the screen has a pill-shaped “hole punch” notch, so you might think that it has dual cameras, but that’s actually a CMOS sensor beside the 16MP selfie camera. Its main function is to read ambient light quality and adjust the screen. This results in consistent color display and a more comfortable viewing experience over all.

Like its predecessor, the fingerprint is mounted on the power button and we get dedicated dual Nano-SIM slots. The memory card slot bids adieu with this iteration, but the 3.5mm audio jack is still there for those who still need it.

USB-C port - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
USB-C port – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Charging via the USB-C port goes all the way up to 66W: the world’s first at this price range and one of the fastest that you can get right now.

Performance and entertainment

The phone runs Android 10 with EMUI on the Snapdragon 662 platform with 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. Performance-wise, the 662 is a powerful chipset, however, the user experience is not as smooth as we hoped.

For some reason, scrolling and navigating through the home launcher feels sluggish, although the applications themselves are quite snappy once fully loaded.

Chin - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Chin – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Another limitation is the absence of Google integration. This is a potential cause for concern for users who are heavily into the Google ecosystem. Of course, you can install alternative applications using Petal Search and AppGallery, Huawei’s own version of Google Search and Play Store.

Clever users should have no problem working around this limitation, but it might prove to be too much effort for the average Joe. So if you absolutely need Google applications, this is something that you need to keep in mind.

Front flatlay - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Front flatlay – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

That big, beautiful screen makes content consumption more enjoyable: the nova 8i is just perfect for social media and entertainment.

For reference, we ran synthetic benchmarking software Passmark on the phone and got a system score of 4789 points, which is average performance for 2021.

Mobile gaming

The same holds true for mobile gaming, despite some challenges in installing and getting some games to run without Google Play integration.

Things are good when you do get it to run, though. The big screen makes it much more enjoyable, and you can bid goodbye to input lag with its 180Hz touch sampling rate.

Top - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Top – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

We ran our usual tests consisting of Marvel Super War, Mobile Legends (MLBB), and League of Legends: Wild Rift. The games ran best on Low to Medium settings for that buttery-smooth 60fps gameplay experience.

For those who might ask: yes, Ultra Mode is supported in Mobile Legends.

You could go all the way and max it out if you wanted push it, to ultra, but we don’t recommend doing so when playing competitively as it will stutters quite a bit.

Dual SIM tray - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Dual SIM tray – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Passmark gives the Huawei Nova 8i a 2D performance score of 12.5k, while 3D performance is close to 14k. These are below average numbers, although it did get a disk performance score of almost 32k which is slightly above average.

Really the biggest potential downside when gaming on the 8i is the absence of Google Play Services, so you might not be able to continue your saves unless your game supports alternative single sign-in (SSO) authentication providers such as Facebook, Line, or WhatsApp.

Photography and content creation

64MP quad cameras - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
64MP quad cameras – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

Both the HUAWEI nova 8 and the HUAWEI nova 8i feature the same quad camera system consisting of a 64MP f/1.9 main shooter, an 8MP ultrawide lens, a 2MP macro lens, a 2MP depth sensor.

It takes sharp, pleasing images although darker areas tend to be noisy. It does struggle a bit when shooting low light, and white balance can also be troublesome: there seems to be a bias towards cooler tones, so the results can have a bluish tint.

 

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We love the HDR and night shots, but keep in mind that you can only shoot in this mode with the 64MP camera.

As mentioned in the beginning, there’s a 16MP f/2.0 camera up front for selfies. Like the rear camera, the results were stunning with decent lighting, but it struggles with low light situations.

Video resolution is set to 1080P 30FPS on both the rear and front cameras. Like our photos, the white balance tends to be all over the place.

A “Pro Video” mode where you can set the white balance and exposure to a fixed value would have been very helpful for content creators.

Battery life

A 4,3000 battery module keeps the HUAWEI nova 8i chugging along for at least one entire day of moderate use. This mainly consists of social media and content consumption such as YouTube and Netflix with some gaming.

66W SuperCharge - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
66W SuperCharge – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

We could stretch this to a day and half or even two days with conservative use, but battery life is a thing of the past given how quickly this device charges. It is the first smartphone in the world to charge at a whopping 66W, making it one of the fastest charging mobiles that you can get right now.

HUAWEI calls this SuperCharge technology, and the product team is confident enough to advertise that impressive 60% in 17 minute and 100% in 38 minute claim. You do need a special SuperCharge cable to do this though – regular cables will not charge as fast.

Verdict

Flatlay - HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)
Flatlay – HUAWEI nova 8i (Philippines)

HUAWEI nova 8i is one of the fastest charging phones that you can get our hands on right now, capable of fully charging itself in just 38 minutes. It is also one of the sleekest, sexiest mid-rangers with its ergonomic design, chic aesthetic, and almost edgeless 6.67-inch display.

The main drawback is the lack of integration with Google Services, and, depending on who you ask, it can either be a major concern or a minor inconvenience.

Priced at P13,999, the HUAWEI nova 8i could be more competitive with better software to maximize the potential of its sophisticated hardware. Thankfully, software gaps can easily be addressed through OTA updates, so hopefully we’ll get them by the time the retail units arrive.

HUAWEI nova 8i technical specifications (Philippines)

  • Display: 6.67 inches; 1080 x 2376 pixels; IPS LCD
  • SIM: Dual SIM (nano-SIM, dedicated slots)
  • OS Android 10, EMUI 11
  • Chipset (SoC): Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 (11nm)
  • CPU: Octa-core (2GHz max)
  • GPU: Adreno 610
  • Memory (RAM) + storage (ROM): 8GB+128GB
  • Expansion: none
  • Main camera (rear): 64MP f/1.9 (wide) + 8MP f/2.4 (ultrawide) + 2MP f/2.4 (macro) + 2MP f/2.4 (depth)
  • Selfie camera (front): 16MP f/2.0
  • Connectivity: 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0 A2DP, LE
  • I/O: USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Biometrics: side-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Battery: 4,300 mAh; 66W SuperCharge
  • Colors: Moonlight Silver, Interstellar Blue, Starry Black
  • Price (Philippines): Php13,999 (8GB + 128GB)