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We now have the new champion when it comes to the cheapest 5G smartphone available in the market. Introducing, the new Huawei Nova 7 SE. It is equipped with the company’s latest mid-range chipset that supports 5G and has a price tag of RM1,499 only.

But then again – 5G is still not ready to be deployed to the masses yet. So, as a Google-less Android smartphone in the year 2020, is the Huawei Nova 7 SE worth the price?

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The super-shiny design

Huawei is really doubling down on the Nova series of smartphones being “cool” and “hip” and “young”. I do admit, this silver/peach color combo with its super-shiny sheen is fantastic.

The overall reflection is also kinda difficult to see. Combined with its fingerprint magnetism, it’s just not something that I’m a fan of.

Huawei Nova 7 SE

Huawei does include a transparent TPU case but that will affect the shine on the phone – which kind of defeats the purpose.

Huawei Nova 7 SE

The camera bump is also relatively big, which makes the phone rock back and forth when laid on the table.

Huawei Nova 7 SE

Screen

The Huawei Nova 7 SE comes with a relatively massive 6.5-inch IPS LCD screen with 1080p in resolution. There’s also a circular cutout at the top left corner for the selfie camera too.

Huawei Nova 7 SE

Generally, it’s a good display that I have no complaints about. The colors and brightness are good and throughout my usages thus far, the display served me well. I do wish it’s AMOLED, though.

The specs

Other than the cameras, there’s really nothing much to highlight about this phone. We now have:

The performance isn’t that much different from the Kirin 810. There is a slight bump that is shown in the benchmarks when compared to the HONOR 9X Pro, but through our day-to-day usages, we don’t feel any differences at all.

Here are the benchmarks:

Huawei Nova 7 SE 3DMark benchmark Huawei Nova 7 SE VRMark benchmark Huawei Nova 7 SE Geekbench 4 benchmark Huawei Nova 7 SE Antutu 7 benchmark

The cameras

Speaking of the cameras, the Huawei Nova 7 SE comes with:

  • Quadruple camera setup
    • Main: 64MP f/1.8 with PDAF
    • Ultra-wide angle: 8MP f/2.4
    • Macro: 2MP f/2.4
    • Depth sensor
  • 16MP f/2.0 selfie camera

Huawei Nova 7 SE

Generally, I like the main camera’s pictures – but the ultra-wide angle camera just looks disappointingly bad. Watch our video at the top of this video to have a look at all the pictures.

Software – EMUI 10.1 with Huawei Mobile Services

Like what we’ve stated in the Huawei MatePad Pro review here, you’ll need to update to EMUI 10.1 or later to get Widevine DRM support so that we can watch Netflix on these devices. What’s weird is that the Huawei Nova 7 SE has Widevine L1 support but the MatePad Pro only has Widevine L3. What this means is that we can watch full HD videos on the smaller Huawei Nova 7 SE but only SD quality on the much bigger MatePad Pro. What gives?

Huawei Nova 7 SE

As for the software side of things, the Huawei Nova 7 SE runs on Huawei Mobile Services that we already talked about last time – and AppGallery is still growing in terms of app selection. We can also backup WhatsApp chats to the cloud via Huawei Cloud.

For power users like you and me, we know where to get the APKs if it’s unavailable in the AppGallery. But then again – it’s a hassle that not everyone wants to deal with.

Furthermore, apps like Grab just flat out don’t work with phones running on Huawei Mobile Services.

Battery life?

It’s actually quite good. Even with a tiny 4,000mAh battery, it can go nearly 14 hours in our battery life test. Again, this is pretty much as expected since the Kirin 820 is pretty similar to the Kirin 810 in terms of performance.

Huawei Nova 7 SE battery life benchmarks

As for charging times, it can go around 70% in just 30 minutes of charging time – which is great.

Huawei Nova 7 SE fast charging benchmark

The 5G part

I’d say 5G is the new marketing bandwagon that all brands want to hop on. We have many multiple brands pushing 5G since last year. We even have Qualcomm making 5G a must for their flagship Snapdragon 865 chipset.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to matter if we get a 5G-compatible smartphone in Malaysia right now. To cut the long story short, it’ll take time for 5G to be mainstream – so I don’t consider 5G to be a consideration point while picking a smartphone in the year 2020.

Huawei Nova 7 SE

If you’re thinking about futureproofing… that’s a valid point, but are you sure that you’re not going to change to another phone by the time 5G becomes readily available?

Should you buy the Huawei Nova 7 SE?

For the price of RM1,499, it’s obvious that the price hike is because of that 5G tax. And since it’s not ready in Malaysia yet, don’t use “5G” as a factor while choosing your smartphone right now.

I don’t like the idea of “futureproofing” with a mid-range smartphone since mid-range smartphones get outdated really fast. The question is – by the time 5G becomes available and affordable, are you sure that you’re still using the Huawei Nova 7 SE?

The Huawei Nova 7 SE in itself is a decent phone – but the price tax for that currently-unusable 5G is difficult to justify.
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