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Huawei Nova 7 SE Review: A Trendy Mid-ranger with unparalleled performance

To build upon the success of Huawei’s renowned Nova-series smartphones, the company had announced a brand new Huawei Nova 7 SE smartphone in Singapore last month.

This device, as I expected, is indeed a perfectly well-balanced smartphone which is ideal for all group of users. For the price of just S$529, you will be treated with 5G connectivity, an efficient octa-cores Kirin 820 chipset, 64MP quad-cameras as well as a blazing 40W fast-charging support.

Huawei Nova 7 SE Crush Green

Its undeniable some of these features, including its support for 5G connectivity and 40W fast-charging are mostly seen only among flagship phones in the local market. I find it impressive how Huawei has managed to squeeze in these attractive features while keeping it within a palatable price point.

So, how does the Huawei Nova 7 SE stood up against its competitors? We’ll soon find out within this review!

Design & Display

Just like the Huawei Nova 5T, the brand new Nova 7 SE continues to feature a chic design which conforms to the latest trend.

Huawei Nova 7 SE Crush Green
Huawei Nova 7 SE Crush Green

For the Crush Green model I’d received for review, it has the signature “NOVA” logo etched to the bottom-halve of the device which blends great with its paint job. It’s bold and flashy design gives the Nova 7 SE with a distinctive “personality” that stands out of the crowd.

Its stellar design will be matched with a reflective finish that changes colors under different angles of incident light. Due to its glossy nature, its rear panel do picks up smudges pretty easily but that shouldn’t be an issue since it could be easily wiped off.

Overall, the Nova 7 SE also felt pretty solid on hand and is comfortable to hold in various posture due to its amicable size and weight.

Coming to its front display, the Huawei Nova 7 SE arrives with a FHD+ LCD display which offers a nice 20:9 tall aspect ratio as well as an impressive 90.3% screen-to-body ratio. Other than that, its also worth noting that the front display is also able to support HDR10 contents.

During normal usage like web browsing, the front display offers a good color temperature which doesn’t makes my eyes felt uncomfortable even after prolonged usage.

As for gaming or video streaming, the colors are pretty vibrant and accurate. However, I felt it could be even better if it comes with a slightly higher refresh rate.

Although I’m not really sure about the peak brightness of the Nova 7 SE, but it is certainly good enough to ensure that the screen remains visible even directly under the sun.

Audio

Once again, the 3.5mm headphone jack is present on the Nova 7 SE. This feature, in my opinion, is certainly something good to have as it gives you the option to opt for an old school wired earphone.

As such, there will also be a wired earphone included in the box as well. It comes with a typical plastic-built which lacks of a memory foam. Despite that, it still fits pretty comfortably in the ear.

In terms of audio quality, its wired earphone delivers a pretty balanced sound quality. Although its decent, but it certainly won’t be able to deliver those punchy bass and solid noise cancellation we see among premium earphones.

Huawei Freebuds 3i

Therefore, it will be advisable to pair it alongside a pair of wireless Huawei FreeBuds 3i if you’re an audiophile. Other than having an excellent active noise cancellation technology, the FreeBuds 3i also delivers optimal bass and accurate audio with little distortion even at high volume.

Huawei Freebuds 3i

Furthermore, its secure in-ear fit also makes it a perfect buddy for sports or gym routines. What’s even better is that its stylish design matches well with the Nova 7 SE as well.

Huawei Freebuds 3i

Last but not the least, for its bottom-firing speakers, I would say that it performed fairly well too. It produces clear sounds and acceptable bass level for users to indulge in gaming or listening to music/ video.

Performance & Gaming

At the helm, the Huawei Nova 7 SE is powered by an octa-core Kirin 820 platform designed by Huawei’s HiSilicon and manufactured by TSMC.

HiSilicon Kirin 820
Image: HiSilicon

The 5G-ready Kirin 820 chipset is based upon an octa-core architecture manufactured under a 7nm process. It consists of four units of Cortex-A76 cores which include one big core and three middle cores, as well as 4 units of energy-efficient Cortex-A55 cores.

The CPU cores will be supported by Huawei’s proprietary Da Vinci NPU for enhanced AI performance, as well as Mali-G57 GPU for graphics.

All these features which look great on paper indeed pan out well in terms of real life performance. Although the Kirin 820 SoC isn’t a flagship SoC, but it somehow delivers the same level of smoothness as the Kirin 980 on my Mate 20 X.

During my hours of game play on PUBG Mobile, the Nova 7 SE is able to deliver a consistently smooth game play. Even with the graphical settings tuned to the maximum, its still able to handle all the demanding graphics without any serious signs of hitching.

However, it do heats up after some time under the highest settings which occasionally lead to a slight drop in frame rate. That’s something inevitable due to the lack of dedicated cooling system which is present among gaming smartphones. This issue however, could be easily avoided by switching to the normal graphic settings.

EMUI GameCentre

As usual, Huawei’s custom EMUI 10 also comes with a dedicated GameCentre which will bring a floating dock to select game titles that have been added to the GameCentre.

When activated, it will introduce a set of settings that help to enhance gaming experience by ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted game play. For instance, there is an “Uninterrupted Gaming” mode which will disable all notifications and prevent incoming calls from ringing or vibrating.

Cameras

Next up, let’s talk about another major highlight of the Nova 7 SE – it’s highly versatile quad-cameras array on its rear chassis.

These cameras at the back include a 64 megapixels (f/1.8 aperture) primary shooter, 8 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) ultra-wide lens, 2 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) macro camera, as well as a 2 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) depth sensor.

As usual, the main camera will utilize 4-in-1 pixel binning technology to produce 16 megapixels shots with 4:3 aspect ratio by default. Of course, the device do have a “High-Res” option which you could switch over for a full resolution shots, but honestly I don’t really see any visual differences between them other than the sheer difference in file size.

Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Default Mode
Default Mode #1
Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Default Mode
Default Mode #2
Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Default Mode
Default Mode #2

Speaking of its default shooting mode, its main camera is definitely able to deliver crisp and detailed images with good dynamic range regardless of the scene complexity. Its good to see that the colors of the images are realistic and has no obvious sign of over saturation. The buildings in the distance remain highly detailed without being over-sharpened.

Moving on to night scene, the Huawei Nova 7 SE retains its superiority in this aspect as well. Under a dim environment, the device will automatically activate its dedicated Night mode which some how has a pretty long 4 to 6 seconds exposure time to analyze the scene.

Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Night Mode
Night Mode #1
Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Night Mode
Night Mode #1

Although its a pretty tedious job to hold the phone steadily for a couple of seconds, the result you received will certainly be rewarding. The dedicated Night mode is able to add enough illumination that produces good exposure and color contrast for a poorly-lit scene. Overall details of the scene are also well preserved too.

Coming to its zooming capabilities, the Huawei Nova 7 SE will only be able to support up to 10x digital zoom via its camera software due to a lack of telephoto lens.

Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Zoom Mode
5x Zoom
Huawei Nova 7 SE Camera Sample Zoom Mode
10x Zoom

At 2x zoom level, quality of the images remain relatively well preserved. However, we will start to see some deterioration in the quality of the images after we cross the 3x mark.

Although we can still easily figure out minor details from the zoomed-in images, but it become obvious that the richness in colors begin to fade and becomes dull. Nonetheless, its still commendable given that the images didn’t become blurry even at the maximum zoom level.

As for the close-up shots, the Nova 7 SE flare well in this category too. Subjects in the close-up shots are well-focused and isolated from the background for most of the times.

However, I do realize occasionally that the camera did not automatically switch over to macro mode and it takes awhile to focus on the subject. Other than that, its all good for the close-up shots.

Last but not the least, we also have a 16 megapixels selfie camera housed within a hole-punch cutout on the top-left corner of the front display. Needless to say, selfies taken on the Nova 7 SE is definitely Instagram-friendly and it even even comes with a Super Night Selfie mode dedicated for low-light environment.

Battery & Charging

To keep its lights on, the Huawei Nova 7 SE is fitted with a 4,000mAh battery at the helm which comes with support for Huawei’s proprietary 40W fast-charging. As usual, the battery will be refueled via the USB Type-C port located on its bottom frame.

In fact, the Nova 7 SE has the fastest charging rate among current mid-ranger smartphones, and is even on par with the flagship P40 series smartphones.

Despite the seemingly low rated capacity, the device can easily support more than a day of normal usage with hours of web browsing, social media consumption and music playback.

Although its battery life drains pretty fast under intensive gaming, but that certainly isn’t a real issue as the device could be quickly recharged thanks to its fast-charging support. A short 20ish minutes charge is sufficient to bring its battery level from 0 to 50%, while a full charge will take you around an hour.

Pricing

For those who’re interested, the Huawei Nova 7 SE is available through the local telcos, as well as other online and offline channels.

Pricing for the device start from as low as S$0 under a two-years mobile contract with M1, Singtel or StarHub. Otherwise, it will be available at an off-contract price of S$528 via Lazada or Shopee.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the Huawei Nova 7 SE is definitely one of the most attractive mid-ranger smartphone in the local market. Not only does the Nova 7 SE offers near-flagship performance with a highly versatile quad-cameras system, its inherent 5G support also keeps the device future-proof. Most importantly, it’s also blessed with a chic design that pleases the eye.

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