As the most powerful sibling in the current nova 7 series triumvirate, the titular Huawei nova 7 5G packs an even better 5G-capable Kirin 985 processor compared to its sibling the nova 7 SE 5G that we reviewed recently, putting it a few notches short of a true flagship phone like the P40 series and way about the entry-level nova 7i.

What elevates the nova 7 5G over its peers though is that it not only retains 5G support (both standalone and non-standalone networks), but also packs in a more vibrant OLED display, more powerful processors and better cameras on both the front and rear while keeping the large 4,000mAh battery life too.

huawei nova 7 review front

What’s in the box


Externally, the nova 7 5G comes in Huawei’s characteristic white liveried box with their scintillating font and logo emblazoned on each side. Sliding the box open revealed the phone itself wrapped in a protective plastic sleeve placed in a cardboard tray. 

Beneath it, Huawei has bundled in a soft TPU casing form-fitted to the nova 7, a 40W SuperCharge charger with a UK-style plug and USB cable, the usual array of quick start and warranty guides, a SIM eject pin as well as a pair of hard ear buds that end in a 3.5mm audio jack. Our test unit is non-local but we’re assured that Malaysia units will get a UK-style SuperCharge charger.

huawei nova 7 review box contents

Oddly enough, the nova 7 5G itself does not physically integrate an 3.5mm audio port unlike the nova 7 SE – a somewhat bizarre design omission – which is why they’ve also thrown in a small Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack dongle with the box in case you want to use traditional wired headphones. As accessories go, the nova 7 5G comes ready to use out of the box with a protective casing, headphones and a fast charger too which is a pleasant bonus indeed.

huawei nova 7 review dongle

Huawei nova 7 5G build and design

The Huawei nova 7 5G bears aesthetic similarities to the more affordable nova 7 SE 5G in terms of the overall form factor with a punch hole for the selfie camera mounted in the upper left of the display along with a vertically aligned rear quad camera array.  Our test sample even has an identical metallic purple finish gracing its backplate which made us do a double take. 

nova 7 review bottom section

The nova 7 has its SIM card tray mounted on the base and lacks a headphone jack.

While it looks similar, there are discernible differences between the nova 7 5G and nova 7 SE 5G. The nova 7 5G is slightly smaller, lighter by 9g and slimmer by 0.6mm. Where the nova 7 SE 5G has a SIM card tray mounted on the left side of the phone, the nova 7 5G instead has it on the base.

Huawei nova 7 review rear

Another key difference is that the nova 7 5G includes an under-display fingerprint reader rather than the side-mounted fingerprint reader on the nova 7 SE 5G . That and the nova 7 5G lacks a headphone jack.

Differences aside, the left side of the nova 7 5G is bare while the right side has a power button and volume rocker. Button placement is relatively ergonomic and it’s small enough for one-handed use. Most of the interesting features about the nova 7 5G lie in the base of the phone.  

huawei nova 7 review sim card

The SIM card tray in the nova 7 has an over and under arrangement so some care needs to be taken on extraction.

Where you would expect a 3.5mm audio jack, the nova 7 5G instead has a dual nano SIM card tray which explains why they’ve added in the Type-C-to-3.55mm dongle with the box.

Oddly enough, you can’t expand the storage of the nova 7  5G as the phone lacks even access to an NM card tray and instead only has a bay for two nano SIM cards in an over-under arrangement. There is also a USB Type-C port for charging and a speaker grille for the sole mono speaker. 

Up front, the phone has a 6.53-inch OLED display which is capable of slightly better contrast than the LTPS LCD panel used in the nova 7 SE 5G.

The positioning of the selfie camera punch hole is similar but the key difference here with the nova 7 5G  is the inclusion of the under-glass fingerprint reader whereas the nova 7 SE 5G has a side-mounted fingerprint reader.

huawei nova 7 review angled backplate

On the rear backplate you get a quad camera array that has a prominent camera bump that makes it prone to scratches if laid camera-side down on a table. The metallic finish itself is striking to behold with the nova monogram subtly emblazoned all over the backplate as a repeating pattern much in the manner of a designer handbag.

nova 7 review side

There’s a noticeable camera bump on the rear camera array

Like prior examples of the nova series, the use of the bundled casing helps flatten out the bump and protect the rest of your phone in the bargain. Using the casing also helps to mitigate the issue of the reflective backplate being a fingerprint magnet that requires frequent wipedowns.

The liberal use of metal and glass in the design especially in the backplate gives the nova 7 5G a rather premium feel with a pleasant heft and tactility that can easily match Huawei’s more premium offerings like their P40 series.

Huawei nova 7 5G  Specifications 

As the most powerful of the three nova series phones that Huawei has so far released in Malaysia, the nova 7 5G  packs some beefy hardware for a midrange phone that puts it a few steps short of a flagship. Here’s what it packs under the hood:

Specifications
Price RM1,999
Display 6.53-inch OLED, 1080 x 2,400 pixels
Processor Kirin 985 5G processor
OS EMUI 10.1 based on Android 10
Memory 8GB RAM/ 256GB storage (non-expandable)|
Camera 64-MP F/1.8 + 8-MP ultra wide angle + 8MP telephoto 3x optical zoom + 2MP macro camera [rear]/32MP [front]
Battery 4,000mAh w/ 40W Huawei SuperCharge
Size/Weight 160.6 x 74.33 x 7.96mm / 180g

The Kirin 985 octacore processor features an integrated 5G modem which helps to futureproof the phone when 5G is eventually deployed in Malaysia. While it pales in comparison to their top of the line Kirin 990 5G processors seen in the P40 series phones in terms of pixel-crunching performance, the Kirin 985 is no pushover.

The Kirin 985 processor also packs a dual Neural Processing Unit (NPU) setup based on Huawei’s Da Vinci NPU architecture that enhances AI performance by approximately 173% compared with the previous generation. Of note is that the Kirin 985 packs Huawei’s own Kirin ISP 5.0 image unit for better noise reduction and improved night shots.

The nova 7 5G  also comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of non-expandable storage though it lacks the slots to use Huawei’s own proprietary NM storage cards.

The 256GB is plenty, and it’ll be awhile before you even need to practice any  housekeeping though you now have the option to back up photos and other essentials to the brand’s own Huawei Mobile Cloud.

This kind of hardware setup puts it squarely between the nova 7 SE and the P40, acting as a missing link of sorts as it’s just a few steps short of a flagship phone and at a lower price to boot.

Huawei nova 7 5G and the Huawei AppGallery

The Huawei nova 7 5G does not have Google mobile services and instead runs on their EMUI 10.1 user interface based on Android 10 that relies primarily on Huawei’s own AppGallery for sourcing apps and the like.
Huawei nova 7 homescreen

Most apps that Malaysians use on a daily basis like online shopping like Lazada and Shopee, banking apps for major Malaysian banks, loyalty apps like Boost and social media apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and the like are all present.

huawei nova 7 review apps

There is the notable omission of apps like Google Mail, Google Docs and the like. Since they’ve parted ways, Huawei has worked around this with their own solutions and has created their own Huawei Cloud to offer back-ups and cloud storage for WhatsApp in lieu of GDrive along with the use of other analogues that supersede, and occasionally work in a smoother fashion than Google’s suite of apps.

huawei nova 7 petal search

One key improvement with EMUI is that they have an app preinstalled called Petal Search which relies in part on Bing as a means to suggest apps, or rather alternative locations to get them from in a neater fashion compared to its AppFinder predecessor. It’s not very context sensitive nor is it proactive enough to suggest apps of a similar nature so you’ll have to be very specific or know what you want. If you’re searching for Call of Duty Mobile, for example, it won’t suggest similar multiplayer shooters. 

To be fair, this is what the AppGallery is already capable of but the dearth of apps means that you’ll have to range a bit farther and wider than usual to get what you need. Petal Search helps a lot but you’ll still have to wander off to third-party app sites to sideload what you need like APKPure and Aptoide as it’s purely a referral app and not an app repository. 

As a means to address this, Huawei has also tweaked EMUI a bit and has created folders under broad categories like Business, Entertainment, Social, Lifestyle and Games with links to their more popular apps to make the process easier. It could be construed as bloatware of sorts but under the circumstances, it’s a boon to say the least as it helps those who aren’t used to EMUI or the AppGallery to get the apps they need.

The phone also benefits from EMUI’s range of updates and features like the ability to simultaneously pop up two apps onscreen in Split Screen mode which comes in handy.

Huawei nova 7 5G performance

In terms of benchmarks, the nova 7 5G and its combination of hardware scored the following:

PCMark Work 2.0 8,067
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme – OpenGL ES 3.1 4,680
3DMark Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan 4,432
GeekBench 5.2.0 Single Core score 659 Multicore 2,436

These results are a notch behind what the Kirin 990 5G processor in the P40 Pro is capable of tackling but is a notch above what the nova 7 SE’s Kirin 820 5G processor. We naturally weren’t able to test the phone’s 5G capabilities as the networks aren’t in widespread deployment yet in Malaysia.

Connectivity aside, benchmarks only paint a partial picture with most of it under theoretical workloads but under actual field conditions, the nova 7 5G  did not disappoint with smooth performance in day to day use as a primary phone.

huawei nova 7 review gaming

Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG ran smoothly on high settings and our email on Gmail and Outlook was shunted to Huawei’s own email app without problems. We managed to get Whatsapp, Facebook and TikTok humming along nicely too. On the shopping front, we also managed to get Shopee and Lazada installed without issue. 

In general, if you can’t find an app on the AppGallery, you’ll need to dig around the aforementioned APKPure and Aptoide to get what you need but some applications that rely heavily on Google services still won’t run even if you manage to install them but all the essentials for Malaysians are available in mostly working order.

huawei nova 7 review screen
The nova 7 5G’s OLED display did not disappoint with great clarity under sunlight and good detail. Contrast and blacks were excellent onscreen especially when viewing videos like the Dark Knight Rises and the Fifth Element. 

If the colour rendition still doesn’t appeal, EMUI has an extensive menu in the settings that allows you to tweak it to taste.  One minor quibble is that the display is capped at a 60Hz refresh rate. Hardcore gamers may balk at this but the nova 7 isn’t intended to be a dedicated gaming phone and casual users likely won’t notice any discernible differences.

huawei nova 7 review colour rendition
Unfortunately the provided mono speaker at the base of the phone is akin to its sibling the nova 7 SE 5G and is serviceable at best. It’s pleasantly loud in a pinch to let you watch a quick clip or a tune or two but doesn’t have much sound staging or bass. 

Battery life is comparable to the nova 7 SE 5G , seeing as both have a 4,000mAh battery. With similar usage conditions on a normal work day and auto screen brightness without kicking in any power saving modes, it lasted a good day and a half with a modest amount of hour gaming and an hour of YouTube thrown in for good measure with a mix of WiFi and 4G data on all day. 

You can likely stretch this out even longer if you activate the nova 7 5G’s more aggressive power management modes but the otherwise efficient processor and aggressive power management that Huawei employs will reliably keep you in play without inadvertently running out of power at an inopportune moment. 

huawei nova 7 review power modes

Charging it with the bundled 40W SuperCharge charger worked as advertised with it hitting about 65% in about 30 minutes from dead zero which comes in handy if you need a quick top-up in the field.

Huawei nova 7 5G cameras

The rear consists of a primary 64MP F/1.8 camera that utilises pixel binning and a 1/1.7-inch sensor with large 0.8μm pixels, a secondary 8MP camera with a 120-degree ultra wide angle lens, an 8MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom that can dial up to 5x hybrid zoom and 20x digital zoom for stills and up to 10x digital zoom for videos and a 2MP dedicated macro lens camera. In this price range, it’s somewhat rare for a smartphone to pack optical zoom lenses which makes its inclusion in the nova 7 a pleasant surprise.

Huawei nova 7 review rear camera

Rounding things off is a 32MP F/2.0 selfie camera on the front. Both the front and rear are capable of 4K video capture. Like the nova 7 SE 5G , none of the cameras have optical image stabilisation though the main 64MP and 8MP telephoto camera do have phase detection autofocus (PDAF).

huawei nova 7 front camera selfie

When taking ultra wide angle shots, the nova 7 5G relies on the 8MP ultra wide angle camera while close up shots are handled by the 2MP macro camera. To handle the rest of the grunt work, the camera relies primarily on the 64MP main camera which handles shots until 10x zoom before it swaps over to the telephoto camera.

The camera setup on the nova 7 5G leverages heavily on the Kirin 985’s NPU for scene recognition to optimise settings when taking stills and video with some impressive electronic image stabilisation in the absence of any optical image stabilisation. 

It’s also capable of real time beautification modes when taking 1080p video from either the front or rear cameras which is quite a feat, especially for those looking for a bit of aesthetic oomph like live streamers.

One special feature new to the nova 7 5G is the inclusion of what Huawei calls a Super Night Selfie 3.0 mode that helps deliver better selfies even under poor light conditions.

Huawei camera EMUI pro modeUnlike other phones in the midrange category, Huawei hasn’t gimped the camera user interface on the nova 7 5G and you have a full-featured camera menu akin to their higher end P40 series flagship phones including a comprehensive manual mode and a slew of filters too. 

huawei nova 7 review EMUI camera menu

They’ve wisely opted for a slider to select various levels of zoom and modes which is easy to navigate . For the macro and pro mode, you’ll have to fumble around a bit as it’s nested rather deep in the menus which makes them less reachable at a moment’s notice.

Under daytime and brightly lit conditions, Huawei’s cameras paired with their potent NPU shows its stuff and captures excellent shots from the ultra wide angle, primary and macro camera that show good detail and pretty good colour accuracy.

Snaps from the ultra wide angle have a slightly more muted hue with the primary camera serving up slightly more jazzed up greens and blues which it makes them pleasing to look at especially on social media.

Zoomed in shots in the daytime were surprisingly good all the way out to 20x digital zoom from a good kilometre or so away thanks to the dedicated telephoto camera and are markedly better than what the nova 7 SE 5G is capable of tackling.

huawei nova 7 camera closeup

The inclusion of optical zoom without OIS would usually be a recipe for noisy shots but Huawei’s NPU here has done a bang-up job with excellent, judder free shots when zoomed in.

nova 7 review camera vertical

Shots taken after dusk or indoors don’t veer much from what the nova 7 SE 5G  was capable of with fair if somewhat soft results on the primary and wide angle camera with some middling detail retention and modest levels of noise. Fortunately, the provided Night mode goes some way to addressing this.


With Night mode on, the nova 7 is capable of slightly better exposures, colour retention and contrast that eke out what would have been unsalvageable shots into something viewable on Facebook. 

nova 7 review night shot

Capture on auto mode

nova 7 review night

Zooming isn’t particularly recommended though as anything beyond 2x and without Night mode on, shots end up with noticeable noise and at maximum zoom what you get is almost illegible.

huawei nova 7 camera dusk

There’s a modest 7-second time delay when capturing shots in Night mode but it’s well worth the effort though there are limits as Night mode still can’t tackle extremely dim scenarios like starlight and requires the minimum of street lighting to yield results. While Pro mode allows you to dial up to 51,200 ISO, it understandably needs some expertise to use it.

nova 7 night shot

Auto mode on the nova 7

nova 7 review night mode

Night mode on the nova 7

The new Super Night Selfie Mode 3.0 for selfies was tested indoors in a dark room with just a desk lamp for illumination and yielded surprisingly good results. The nova 7 5G’s display was used as an ad-hoc flash and the AI was able to ensure the subject’s face remained well illuminated even with the dim lighting while retaining good skin tones and detail.

nova 7 super night selfie

Low light Super Night Selfie 3.0 mode on the nova 7

Captured videos on the rear quad camera in 4K@30fps were solid with relatively good noise control and fairly good colours while retaining a fair amount of detail. The EIS on the phone is surprisingly good, helping to smoothen out hand shakes and the usual judder from walking into relatively smooth panning motions. 

nova 7 review camera ui

Huawei nova 7 5G verdict

At RM1,999, the Huawei nova 7 5G is effectively an upgunned variant of the nova 7 SE 5G with a better camera and more powerful hardware at a decent price to performance ratio.

On its own merits, the Huawei nova 7 5G is an excellent midrange phone that ticks off all the right boxes. It has a good display, solid hardware, decent battery life with fast SuperCharge charging support and an excellent set of cameras for what you pay for. Unfortunately, it lacks expandable storage even via Huawei’s own NM cards and also lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack too.

nova 7 series rear
The biggest elephant in the room for Huawei – the dearth of apps with the lack of the Google PlayStore has been addressed somewhat. They’ve also gone a long way to making it easier to find  their AppGallery and Petal Search app but they still have some ways to go to compete with the likes of Google’s Play store. 

The nova 7 5G is well worth a look especially if you’re looking for a phone in this price range with excellent low light selfie and good rear camera capabilities and can live with the lack of an audio jack and non-expandable storage.

On 7th July, Huawei is throwing in a special one-day preorder programme that has a slew of freebies with the phone that are worth RM1,571 which is two thirds the cost of the phone – a substantial bonus indeed.

When preordering in the links below, you’ll get a free pair of CM510 speakers, a 10,000mAh SuperCharge power bank, a separate nova 7 casing in Forest Depths blue as well as 15GB of free Huawei Mobile Cloud storage valid for a year. They’re also tossing in a variety of Members Centre awards spaced out over the course of the year as freebies like food redemption vouchers and the like.

Review unit courtesy of Huawei Malaysia.
Pre-order the HUAWEI nova 7 on 7/7: https://shop.huawei.com/my/product/huawei-nova-7 & https://shop.huawei.com/my/o2o-sale.html?

For more information on Mid Year Sale 2020: https://shop.huawei.com/my/mid-year-sale.html

Huawei nova 7 review
  • Display
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Battery Life
  • Value
4

Huawei nova 7 5G

The nova 7 5G is well worth a look especially if you’re looking for a phone in this price range with excellent low light selfie and good rear camera capabilities and can live with the lack of an audio jack and non-expandable storage.

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