The new Huawei Nova 7 SE is a mid-range phone that’s also 5G capable. Many mid-range phones don’t have the feature and granted, Singapore still hasn’t rolled out 5G networks yet, but it’s always good to have some futureproofing in your phones since they’ll most likely stay with you for two years or so.

Anyway, back to this phone. The Nova 7 SE comes in three colours and the one we have here is the Space Silver, which is pretty nice. There’s a gradient going down, so you get a blueish silver at the top that slowly becomes more of a peach silver at the bottom. 

You get a flat Full HD 6.5-inch screen, so no curved edges, which means more usable screen real-estate and no false touches on the side. The low-temperature polycrystalline silicon IPS LCD display is sharp and the colours are vibrant, although you won’t get the same vividness and deep blacks as an AMOLED display.

The glass back is curved and feels great in the hand. At 189g, it’s not a hefty phone, but it doesn’t feel cheap or plasticky either. It is a bit of a fingerprint magnet though, so if you’re particular about that, you might want to throw on a case.

The phone runs on the new Kirin 820 SoC, which is surprisingly fast and as a result, everything on the phone runs fluidly. There’s barely any lag when using the fingerprint reader on the lock button and switching between apps. The phone’s performance is also thanks to the 8GB of RAM inside which honestly, is pretty much the bare minimum for a lot of people out there nowadays. 

The phone only comes with 128GB of storage, meaning if you want more storage, you’ll need to get one of Huawei’s Nano Memory cards. 128GB is a decent amount though, and most people should be able to get by with it.

The down-firing speaker is nice and can get quite loud. As usual, I don’t recommend using the built-in speaker for proper music listening, but for shows and videos, there’s no issue at all. Huawei has included a 3.5mm headphone port on the bottom, which means everybody looking to use wired earphones will heave a sigh of relief here. 

You get a quad-camera array at the back, with the main camera being a 64MP lens that will have pixel-binning turned on by default, resulting in a 16MP image. You also get an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. 

Wide-angle photos are pretty good, with a decent amount of detail retained even in darker areas. 

Portrait images are also usable, with good separation between the subject and background. The phone still struggles with the separation near the hair though, but that’s an issue even flagship phones face. 

Time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, there’s no Google Mobile Services on the Nova 7 SE. There’s no Google Play Store either, so Huawei has put in their AppGallery alternative. They also recently launched Petal Search, an app that collates a list of apps and where you can obtain the apps. In some cases, it directs the user to the app’s website for download, like WhatsApp and Facebook. 

In others, it’ll be a download from APK sites. Needless to say, not every APK site is reliable and there have been plenty of security concerns around this. Huawei literally warns you about it every time you download and install an APK, even if it’s from their Petal Search app, but the point is that the option is there for people who want it. 

There’s also the option to use Huawei’s Phone Clone app when changing phones so you can get all the apps and data from your old phone transferred over to new Huawei phones, which we previously tested.

You get a 4,000mAh battery in this, which isn’t great, but it will last a full day, and the phone supports 40w wired fast charge so you won’t have to sit around and wait forever for your phone to finish charging. 

Personally, I find it hard to fault anything in this phone. At S$528, it’s a strong showing. The only thing that really puts this phone at a disadvantage is the lack of Google Mobile Services and the Play Store.

For people like me who are deeply entrenched in the Google ecosystem, it’s a bitter pill to swallow because Huawei’s phones are truly excellent, hardware-wise. If you’re not too reliant on Google, and you just need a phone that performs well at an affordable price, the Nova 7 SE is a great choice.

More information and purchase information on the Huawei Nova 7 SE (S$528) is available on the Huawei website.


Written by Cheryl Tan