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Huawei Nova 5T review

Flagship-grade without the price

(Image: © Future)

Battery life

In our daily use, which consisted of heavy social network and web browsing, music streaming, and a few good bouts of gaming, the Nova 5T ended the day regularly with 18-22% left in the tank. We found battery life on the Nova 5T to be good for a day consistently and it can potentially last even a good part of the next day with conservative use and software-enabled optimization. 

In our standard battery test where we play a 90-minute Full HD video on a fully charged phone with brightness cranked to maximum, the Nova 5T lost an agreeable 14%, which is double than the 7% dropped by the Huawei P30 but on par with rival phones with LCD panels. 

There’s no wireless charging on the Nova 5T which is a shame, but that's also a feature that’s missing from the OnePlus 7 and other similarly priced rivals. Thankfully getting the Nova 5T’s 3,750mAh battery back to full charge is swift through the 22.5W super charger included in the box. It’s not as fast as the quick charging tech found on the likes of Samsung and OnePlus 7 but it is able to get you up to 50% in just 30 minutes.

Camera

While the Nova 5T skimps out on certain top-end features, the camera is not one of them. It’s got an impressive and versatile quad-camera setup resembling the one found on the P30 Pro. The lenses in tandem with AI trickery can pull of some darn good shots. They’re a smidge below the Leica branded quad-cameras on the P30 Pro but the results are just as good as the OnePlus 7 Pro and are comparable to top performers like Samsung Galaxy S10+. 

There’s a 32MP selfie-snapper housed in the punch-hole on the front of the phone. It’s teeming with AI smarts and software enhancements which makes selfies look over-processed. The only time AI is useful is when you’re in a dark room and just have to take a selfie. In this case, the AI uses 4-in1 pixel fusion technique to brighten up the image. When AI is left off and you have enough light around you, the images from the front camera can be quite decent.

(Image credit: Future)

The four camera setup on the back is headlined by a 48MP main sensor (f/1.4) with optical image stabilization and laser autofocus, which is the same Sony IMX586 48MP sensor found on OnePlus 7 Pro. Accompanying that is a 16MP super-wide lens (f/2.2) with 117-degree FoV, an 8MP telephoto lens (f/2.4) with OIS capable of 3X lossless and 5X hybrid zoom, and lastly a 2MP macro lens with f/2.4 that performs averagely and we think is only there to boost the spec list.

When taking a photo, most of the work is done by the 48MP sensor that’s about 1/2-inch in size. It’s larger than most main sensors found on smartphones, allowing it to capture more light and color and produce high resolution shots. The resulting shot is a 12MP image, and while you can manually choose to capture 48MP photos in the camera settings, we recommend this only if the scene you’re shooting is well-lit. 

(Image credit: Future)

We found that the camera produces its best shots when it’s shooting scenery during the day. When it comes to human subjects, the results can be a little dry. Most of the times though, images are clear and bright with just the right amount of exposure to make details pop. If you don't tweak camera settings accordingly at night, then your shots can come out overexposed, with washed out colors and a tad murky.

The speedy Kirin 980 with its dual NPU powers the AI capabilities and camera smarts on the Nova 5T. AI is enabled by default in the camera but it’s a hit or miss. Photos can come out looking over-processed and unnatural and unless you’re going for an artificial aesthetic, AI is best left turned off. 

That doesn’t mean the AI doesn’t come in handy from time to time. Both AI ultra-clarity and super night mode help add detail to a shot by capturing more light and multiple images to produce one good shot. Albeit they need a good 3-5 second exposure and processing time, best used on patient subjects.

There’s no optical zoom lens on the Nova 5T. It uses digital zoom instead to go as high at 10x but expect quality to get worse the higher you go. The less said about the macro lens is better, it’s not as impressive as the macro lens found on Huawei’s P30 Pro and even if you get up and close with a subject, it gets finicky if you move even the slightest bit resulting in blurry images.

The wide-angle lens on the other hand comes in handy when you want to cram in more of a scene in one shot. Images aren’t are distorted around the edges like most wide-angle lenses and photos look more or less as if they’ve been taken with a regular lens.

Shooting video on the Nova 5T is a smooth and stable. You can record video at 1080p and images will retain their detail and color, however lack of OIS means that you’ll want to keep the phone as steady as possible. The option to shoot 4K is there should you need it and despite the lack of stabilization, it can produce respectable videos. 

Ammara is a tech and gaming writer with with an irrational love for all things Apple, indie games and cyberpunk novels. She handles social media for TechRadar Middle East with a keen interest in video creation and covers news and reviews across everything. Away from the keyboard, Ammara can be found playing the latest game and browsing for more tech gadgets she doesn’t need. She is also the current office Wordle champ.