Mid-range 5G phone has essential features at an affordable price

Huawei's new nova 7 SE
Huawei's new nova 7 SE

Singapore is expected to have islandwide 5G coverage only by 2025, but 5G Android smartphones are already in the market.

While most 5G phones currently belong to the premium segment, mid-range models, too, are getting in on the act.

Take Huawei's new nova 7 SE, for instance. At $529, the 5G-capable nova is a solidly mid-range smartphone that is far more affordable than Huawei's flagship 5G model, the P40 Pro+ ($1,898).

Of course, the nova 7 SE also comes with more modest specifications than the P40 Pro+. For one thing, its Kirin 820 processor is not as fast as the Kirin 990 chip in the P40 Pro+.

Users, though, may be hard-pressed to differentiate between the performance of the two Huawei phones without a side-by-side comparison. Games such as Asphalt 9: Legends run without a hitch on the nova while switching between apps is smooth.

The nova's quad-camera system lacks a telephoto camera, with Huawei opting for an ultra-wide camera, a bokeh option and a macro one to accompany a 64-megapixel main camera.

Photos taken in well-lit conditions show good dynamic range and plenty of details. They also have acceptably low noise for indoor shots with less than ideal light conditions.

For a mid-range phone, the camera app's long-exposure Night mode, which takes around six to seven seconds, is above average at brightening dark scenes at night. But it requires the presence of a light source, such as street lamps, in the scene.

In near-pitch black conditions, the Night mode actually takes photos that turn out dimmer than the standard photo mode.

The nova also has a more mainstream 60Hz IPS LCD screen that is not as vibrant as an Oled one. But it looks crisp with good viewing angles.

Setting its screen to maximum brightness makes the screen contents legible even in direct sunlight.

  • FOR

    • Above-average camera for its price

    • Smooth performance

    • Good battery life

    • 5G capable


    • No Google apps and services

    • Night mode not as good as top models


    PRICE: $529

    PROCESSOR: Huawei Kirin 820 (single-core 2.36GHz, triple-core 2.22GHz, quad-core 1.84GHz)

    MAIN DISPLAY: 6.5-inch IPS LCD, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 405 ppi pixel density

    OPERATING SYSTEM: EMUI 10.1 (Android 10)

    MEMORY: 128GB (Nano Memory expandable up to 256GB), 8GB RAM

    REAR CAMERAS: 64MP (f/1.8), 8MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 2MP bokeh (f/2.4), 2MP macro (f/2.4)

    FRONT CAMERA: 16MP (f/2.0)

    BATTERY: 4,000mAh


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5


    BATTERY LIFE: 4.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Like the older nova 5T, which I tested last September, the nova 7 SE has a flashy glass back with a monogrammed version of the nova logo.

Both phones have a fast side-mounted fingerprint sensor, though the nova 7 SE has more features such as a Nano Memory expansion card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The two phones have a hole-punch selfie camera that creates a near-bezel-less full-screen experience that is great for videos and games.

But unlike the older nova 5T, you cannot watch Netflix on the nova 7 SE, as the latter lacks Google's apps and services due to the United States trade ban.

Instead, it uses Huawei Mobile Services, which includes the AppGallery app store as well as essential system apps like a browser and a photo gallery.

To its credit, Huawei has done an amazing job at bringing key local apps to its platform, from shopping apps (Lazada and Shopee) to banking ones (from DBS and UOB) to telco apps (from M1, Singtel and StarHub).

And while there are still major omissions like SingPass Mobile, the nova 7 SE is usable for those who are not overly reliant on Google's ecosystem.

In The Straits Times' video-loop test, it clocked 11 hours and 25 minutes, which is similar to the nova 5T.

But overall, the newer nova is better as it has a fast-charging feature that can replenish its 4,000mAh battery to around 70 per cent in half an hour using the bundled 40W charger.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2020, with the headline 'Mid-range 5G phone has essential features at an affordable price '. Print Edition | Subscribe