The nova 5T is Huawei’s latest smartphone release, offering near flagship specs at a mid-ranged price of £399.99 here in the UK. We’re delighted to see Huawei releasing another phone with Google services despite the ongoing US trade ban.
- Display: 6.26″ 1080 x 2340p IPS LCD
- CPU: Kirin 980 Octa-core
- GPU: Mali-G76 720 MHz
- RAM: 6GB / 8GB
- Storage: 128GB (non-expandable)
- Battery: 3750 mAh
- Rear Cameras: 48MP f/1.8 Main + 16MP f/2.2 Ultra Wide + 2MP f/2.4 Depth + 2MP f/2.4 Macro
- Front Camera: Hole-Punch 32MP, f/2.0
- Video: 2160p@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps with EIS
- OS: Android 9.0, EMUI 9.1
- SIM: Dual 4G Nano-SIMs
The device comes with a European 22.5W fast charger plus USB-C cable, earbuds and 3.5mm headphone adapter. The handset is available in a choice of 3 colours – Crush Blue, Midsummer Purple and plain Black (we evaluated the 6GB black version).
Design is reminiscent of this year’s previous flagship P30 Pro and it even packs the same processing power with the Kirin 980. The 5T is a slightly smaller, thinner and lighter device and moves the dew-drop selfie camera to a cut-out on the left. Overall this is another attractive looking device from Huawei that feels good in the hand and retains their excellent build quality.
The screen is sharp, bright and clear with good contrast, colour reproduction and viewing angles. As this is an IPS panel you do miss out on those handy always-on display and dark mode features you get with Huawei’s OLED screened phones. However they have included a tiny notification LED to the left of the earpiece grill at the top of the phone. I found the hole punch selfie lens inoffensive, but those that disagree have the option of hiding it with a black bar at the top of the screen.
There’s a sim card tray on the left, while the right has the volume rocker and power button. The power button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner which proved both fast and accurate. As someone who often uses their phone lying flat on the desk, this location requires you to lift the phone to unlock. For me this isn’t as convenient as the in-screen readers on Huawei’s flagships, but many will disagree as unlocking works very well with the phone in your hand.
The USB-C port is at the bottom along with the mic and mono speaker. This speaker gets pretty loud and overall I’d say sound reproduction is better than average.
A full charge of the internal 3750mAh battery takes around 1.5 hours, and it’s capable of charging to 50% in just 24 minutes. There’s no wireless charging on this handset. Battery life wasn’t an issue – from my usage the battery easily lasted all day with around 30% to spare.
For a mid-range phone the 5T has terrific camera performance with no less than 4 AI cameras at the back. The main 48MP sensor does most of the heavy lifting, applying pixel binning to add more light to 12MP shots by default. Despite lacking OIS, shots were sharp and bright with good exposure and saturation. You also get decent night shots (especially using the longer-exposure night mode) – just don’t expect the 5T to match the crazy low-light performance of the P30 Pro.
I find having a wide angle lens really useful and the 5T produces 16MP photos with a consistent look to the main sensor while avoiding barrel distortion around the edges. There are also two 2MP sensors – one for aperture effect (blurred background) depth information and the other for close-up macro shots.
The macro lens lets you focus at just 4cm from the subject, but I didn’t find the relatively low-res 2MP shots to be very useful. You can get similar results when taking shots from further away using the main lens and a 2x zoom. A telephoto zoom lens would have been preferable, but then again we aren’t really complaining at this price point.
The front 32MP camera is excellent – delivering bright, clear selfies in relatively low light. The same lens is used for the face unlock feature, and again I found this worked well as long as there’s adequate light.
The 5T can capture 4K video at 30fps but this can be shaky as there’s no electronic stabilisation in this mode. Handheld video tends to look better at 1080p since you do get EIS in this mode. Overall, captured video looks smooth and sharp so I’ve no issues with the results at this resolution.
On to the operating system, and our 5T review unit was running the Android 9 Pie-based EMUI 9.1 (we’ve only just started to see Huawei’s EMUI 10 rolling out). Those who’ve used Huawei phones before will be on familiar ground – even the same navigation gestures are available. Overall the UI is very clean, hiding powerful configuration options behind an easy to navigate interface. The phone comes with very little bloatware as only a small selection of Huawei and Google apps come pre-installed.
Performance was excellent across the board, offering the same smooth, lag-free experience we saw with the P30 Pro. Asphalt 9 is my demanding go-to game for phone testing, and even on high settings the 5T handled it flawlessly.
While we don’t think £400 is unreasonable for a phone this good, unfortunately at this price we can’t recommend the nova 5T. This relates to how Huawei have sidestepped the US trade ban. Back in June, Honor (a Huawei subsidiary) released the Honor 20 just before the trade ban took effect. The nova 5T is essentially the same phone, re-badged and re-released with new colour options. We don’t blame Huawei for this as they’re just maintaining their presence in Europe while they ride out the Google certification storm. However price erosion means the Honor 20 is now available in the UK for under £330. Prices will likely balance themselves out after a few months, but right now that extra £70 makes the 5T a tough sell over the Honor 20 unless you’re getting a better deal on contract.
Hopefully Huawei sort out this pricing discrepancy in the near future, as otherwise you couldn’t go far wrong with the nova 5T. Fast processor, good screen, camera and battery life plus plenty of storage and RAM – this is a highly capable handset with only a few subtle compromises over phones costing significantly more. You can click the links below for more details…