Hands-On, Smartphone

Huawei Nova 5T Hands-On: A More Affordable Honor 20 in a New Guise

Huawei and Honor always had some similarities with their smartphone offerings. Whether it’s a familiar camera system or design, there’s no denying that both phone makers share some engineering here and there. After all, they are affiliated with each other.

But the new Huawei Nova 5T takes things to a whole new level. Take away the Nova branding on the back, and you have yourself a Honor 20. No, I’m not kidding; they are both literally the same smartphone. As far as I can tell, at least.

Okay, let’s break it down: how are these two devices similar to each other? Well, for starters, they look identical, except for some different styling cues on the back of the phone. Side-mounted fingerprint sensor? Check. Hole-punch display? Check. Same screen size, battery capacity, and quad camera system? Check, check, and check. The resemblance is uncanny.

That being said, there is one difference. Instead of the Honor 20’s 6GB of RAM, the Nova 5T for the Malaysian market gets 8GB of RAM instead, though both phones still come with 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage. Beyond this – and the different back panel design – there really isn’t anything else that differentiates the two smartphones.

Of course, there may be some differences when it comes to software. The Nova 5T runs on EMUI 9.1, while the Honor 20 operates on Magic UI 2.1. But despite the “different” versions of Android, I honestly don’t see any major difference between the two software. Nonetheless, this is something I can only really put to the test in a full review of the Nova 5T.

Now, that’s enough comparison with the Honor 20. When it comes to build quality and design, i really dig the Nova 5T’s premium look and feel, thanks to the glass and metal construction. On top of that, I love the Midsummer Purple colourway, which has tiny Nova brandings throughout the back of the phone.

If that’s a bit too much for you, there’s also the Crush Blue and Black models; the latter is a lot more subtle-looking.

On the front of the device, you’ve got the hole-punch cutout at the top left of the display for the 32MP f/2.0 selfie camera. Personally, I’ve always preferred this design over a notched screen. It takes up less screen real estate, so it won’t be quite as distracting. I do wish the cutout is a bit smaller though, but you can only ask for so much from a smartphone at this price point.

As for the screen itself, the 6.26-inch 1080p LTPS display looks good with vibrant colours and wide viewing angles. Naturally, it can get reasonably bright too, though it remains to be seen if it can get bright enough to be usable under bright sunlight – I only managed to try out the phone in a dimly lit environment.

When it comes to performance, the Kirin 980 chipset under the hood of the Nova 5T is without a doubt powerful enough to provide a pleasant user experience. It is Huawei’s fastest SoC to date, and the 7nm size of the Kirin 980 also makes it a power efficient chip.

That power efficiency will come in handy when it comes to battery life. Packed with a 3,750mAh battery, I’m pretty confident the Nova 5T can return above average battery life. The 1080p resolution of the display should help in this regard too.

And then we have the Nova 5T’s quad camera system. The primary sensor is a 48MP f/1.8 shooter, which is complemented by a 16MP f/2.2 wide angle camera, a 2MP f/2.4 macro lens, and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor for bokeh simulation. Collectively, this camera setup can capture really good-looking shots.

Even in low light conditions, the quad camera system can capture a good amount of detail and exposure; even the noise level is kept in check really well. That being said, the shutter speed does slow down quite a bit, though the camera interface still feels responsive.

Based on my brief time with the Nova 5T, I’m quite impressed with the camera performance. It would be interesting to see how the camera would fare against the Honor 20 – the latter is actually quite respectable in the camera department.

The Huawei Nova 5T is an interesting smartphone. It is one of the most impressive Nova devices to date, and it is priced very competitively too. Only a sole 128GB variant of the phone is available in Malaysia, and it retails at only RM1,599.

To put this into context, the Honor 20 (which is almost identical to the 5T) retails for slightly more at RM1,699. Again, it’s worth noting that Honor’s offering only comes with 6GB of RAM, compared to the Nova 5T’s 8GB RAM – peculiar, isn’t it?

Evidently, Huawei is aiming to dominate the affordable flagship segment with the Nova 5T. It doesn’t just have the Honor 20 in its sights; the company is obviously looking to compete directly with the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro as well, which also retails from RM1,599.

All in all, the Nova 5T could just be Huawei’s most exciting sub-RM2,000 smartphone yet, even if the Chinese company is still caught up with the US government. But whether or not the 5T is really as good as it seems can only be revealed in a full review of the smartphone.

If you’re keen enough to purchase the Nova 5T, it will be available for pre-order from 29 August to 5 September 2019.