Tech review: Huawei nova 7 SE is a 5G mid-range smartphone

The Nova 7 SE's Kirin 820 processor is not as fast as the Kirin 990 chip in the P40 Pro+. PHOTO: HUAWEI

Singapore is only expected to have island-wide 5G coverage 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 (available on Lazada and Shopee) 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, 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 ran without a hitch on the nova while switching between apps was smooth.

The nova's quad-camera system lacks a telephoto camera, with Huawei opting for an ultra-wide, a bokeh and a macro camera 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, like 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 screen. But it looks crisp with good viewing angles. Setting its screen to maximum brightness makes the screen contents legible even in direct sunlight.

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.

Both phones also 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, the nova 7 SE 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 bank apps (from DBS and UOB) and 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 11hr25min, 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.


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 cameras: 16MP (f/2.0)

Battery: 4,000mAh


Features: 4/5

Design: 4/5

Performance: 4.5/5

Value for money: 4/5

Battery life: 4.5/5

Overall: 4/5

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