[Review] A Mid-ranged Device with a Huge Screen: The Huawei nova 8i

Huawei nova 8i


The Huawei nova 8i is a decently-built device that toes the line between budget and mid-tier at a price of RM1,299. The review sample I received was in Starry Black, which actually looks more interesting than it sounds. It is also available in Interstellar Blue and Moonlight Silver.

Unboxing and first impressions

In the box, we received a 40 W charger (66 W for the retail units), the corresponding USB-A to USB-C cable, a TPU case, as well as a pair of earbuds.

The design of the phone itself is pretty distinctive, with a quad camera array housed in a circular bump on the back, much like its premium sibling, the Mate 40 Pro, albeit with the lenses packed more closely together.

Although it is a relatively inexpensive device, Huawei has done a good job making the exterior look premium. The glossy plastic back is of high quality and gives off an almost pearlescent sheen, with subtle curves towards the sides making it extremely comfortable to hold.

The edges are matte, which aids a better grip, and the overall weight is just nice - not heavy enough to cause wrist fatigue, and not light enough to feel cheap.

The left side of the nova 8i is completely bare, while the right side houses the volume rocker and power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. I'm happy to report that the position of the fingerprint sensor is just nice, and it is pretty responsive too.

To my delight, the top features a headphone jack as well as a microphone, while the bottom houses the SIM tray, USB-C charging port, as well as the sole speaker grille.

Gorgeous slim-bezel display, mediocre audio

The nova 8i boasts a 6.67" IPS display with a FHD+ (2376 x 1080) resolution. One thing that immediately stood out to me was how slim the bezels were. Apart from a slightly thicker chin, the top and sides are barely noticeable, especially if you have a phone case on.

The screen itself is vibrant and has a decent brightness. In the settings, you can opt to switch the dark mode, which is easier on the eyes and will likely stretch out battery life as well. E-book mode and eye comfort mode is also available.

As for refresh rate, it features only a modest 60 Hz, so you'll miss out on the buttery-smooth scrolling and gaming that are usually found on higher end devices. There is also a pill-shaped cutout housing the selfie camera on the top left, which isn't my favourite thing but is a pretty typical feature in modern times where the pursuit of ever-slimmer bezels is prevalent.

In terms of audio, it has very loud if unremarkable audio. Due to the fact that there's only 1 speaker doing all the work, watching videos or gaming in landscape mode isn't very pleasant due to the unbalanced nature of the sound.

Class-appropriate camera performance

As for the cameras, on the back we have a 64 MP main camera, an 8 MP wide-angle lens, as well as a 2 MP macro lens, and 2 MP depth lens, while the front camera is 16 MP.

Despite the okay-sounding specs, the performance of the camera was pretty average to say the least. Most photos turned out darker than what you'd perceive in real life, and are a bit softer than I'd like.

L-R: 1.0x; wide; 8.0x

Turning on night mode will activate a 5.5-second exposure, which is pretty long, though it seems to do the job of brightening the photo enough to capture more detail. One downside is that the colours taken with night mode seem to be artificially saturated.

L-R: Daytime; night mode

Macro mode works best in good lighting, else it will come out with muddy details that don't look too good.

Selfie mode features a built-in beauty filter which is becoming the norm nowadays; it's set to level 5 by default, and you can turn it all the way up to 10 for that soft, glowing baby skin, or embrace reality by turning it off altogether.

One thing to note is that there is no optical image stabilisation (OIS) present on this device, and it relies solely on EIS, which does crop off the edges of the video occasionally to achieve a stable output.