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Huawei Nova 5T review

The Huawei Nova 5T is an affordable, powerful quad-camera smartphone - but how does it perform?

Huawei Nova 5T review
(Image: © Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Our Verdict

The Huawei Nova 5T will likely be the last Huawei phone to launch with Google's services in Europe, at least until the US trade ban is lifted. Irrespective, with Huawei guaranteeing sustained security updates, it's still a great camera phone given its price. The 5T combines impressive imaging with plenty of power and a bright screen. While there's no telephoto camera, highlights like a through the roof ISO and 960fps slow-motion video capture impress, as does its night mode and everyday usability.

For

  • Premium design
  • Excellent night mode
  • Powerful for the price

Against

  • No telephoto camera
  • No OIS
  • No SD card slot
  • Not available in USA

At £399 ($525), the Huawei Nova 5T is unlikely to compete for the title of the best camera phone. Still, it does deliver an all-screen display with a small 32MP punch-hole selfie camera, glass, and metal design and the same processor found in the flagship Huawei P30 Pro. Add a large 3750mAh battery complete with supercharging tech that loads up the Nova 5T by around 50% in 30 minutes of charge time to the mix, and it's looking good so far. 

The highlight feature, however, is its quad-camera. We'd typically see three cameras in this phone's price range. Still, the 5T serves up a 48MP primary camera, a 16MP ultra-wide camera and two 2MP modules, one depth sensor, and another macro snapper, similar to that found on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10.

If the Nova 5T was launched six months ago, it would have been in a league of its own, but it wasn't. The Honor 9X sports a lower price and an even more all-screen display, while the Realme X2 Pro packs more power and a mammoth 64MP primary camera. It's main competition, however, comes from the more powerful Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro and the Oppo Reno 2, both featuring stunningly premium designs and a very comparable camera setup. 

With such fierce competition, does the Nova 5T deserve a spot on your shortlist of phones under £400?

Camera specifications

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Despite its four cameras, the Huawei Nova 5T doesn't include a telephoto camera module - a notable omission which is found on most dual and triple-camera phones like the Google Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 Pro. What you do get is a 48MP primary camera with an f/1.7 aperture, 26mm lens, and a 1/2in sensor, with 0.8µm pixels. 

The Huawei Nova 5T's telephoto camera has a 16MP resolution and an f/2.2, 13mm lens with a 1/3.1in sensor. As for the 2MP macro camera, it features a 27mm wide-angle lens and an aperture of f/2.4 - the same as found on the depth sensor.

The Nova 5T features all the standard Huawei shooting modes. Automatic mode is loaded up with an 'AI' feature that recognizes objects and scenes, Portrait mode blurs backdrops, and flatters subjects. In contrast, Night mode delivers a well-exposed handheld shot with an artificial shutter speed of over five seconds. 

The Nova 5T also carries forward the extended shooting modes featured in more premium Huawei devices, including Light Painting, Pro Mode, Aperture, and Document scanning, to name a few; these are all found in the 'More' tab. 

Additionally, the Super Macro mode engages the phone's 2MP fixed-focus macro camera for high-impact close-up shots when the light is right. 

Huawei Nova 5T camera review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Photos taken on the Huawei Nova 5T's camera are captured at 12MP by default, despite the fact the camera phone features a 48MP primary camera. Generally speaking, while phones with the same sensor tend to perform similarly, capturing impressive shots with plenty of detail but nuances lost in the dark shadows and bright highlights, the Nova 5T's images impress on the whole.

Noise handling in automatic mode is reasonably good, but Huawei's Night mode is one of the best around at this kind of price, and on the 5T, it performs very well. This compensates for a lack of optical image stabilization nicely.

In good light, the AI mode can boost dynamic range too, which helps shots along, and there's also an HDR mode if the AI scene detection doesn't cut it. To boost detail, ramp up the shooting resolution to 48MP in the settings - ideal for well lit, low contrast conditions. 

If you fire up pro mode, you're in for a treat. For starters, the ISO can be bumped all the way up to 102,400 - mightily impressive for a smartphone, especially considering the fact results don't look bad at all. As for the maximum shutter time, it's 30 seconds, so if you find a steady surface, you can capture impressive night sky shots. 

Video is shot at up to 4K, 30fps, and is stabilized electronically at up to full resolution - something you don't always see in midrangers. As for quality, it's impressive, provided the light is right, though, as with most smartphones, grain creeps into footage quickly when the lights go down. The Nova 5T can also capture 960fps slow-motion video and its 32MP front camera, very good looking selfies.

Sample images

Huawei Nova 5T - main lens (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Nova 5T - ultra-wide lens (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Nova 5T - lowlight portrait mode (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Nova 5T - lowlight night mode (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Nova 5T

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei Nova 5T – Macro mode (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Battery, connections, and OS

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

The power inside the Huawei Nova 5T exceeds most phones in its price range, bested only by 64GB Realme X2 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro.

The phone's Kirin 980 processor paired with 6GB RAM packs plenty of oomph, whether you're 3D gaming or 4K video shooting, and its 6.26-inch Full HD screen is sharp and bright too, so things look clear indoors and out. The IPS tech powering the display isn't as deep or punchy as the OLED panel on some of the competition, though it's easier to view in brighter conditions outdoors.

There's no headphone jack, and neither is there a microSD card slot, though the 128GB storage should suffice for most. Another bonus: NFC is accounted for inside on the Nova 5T, so mobile contactless payments are supported - a feature missing from the Honor 9X.

With a 3750mAh battery, the Nova 5T comfortably makes it through a full day without any issues, and the phone powers up quickly, too, with its 22.5W charging - 50% in less than 30 minutes. As for the side-mounted fingerprint scanner, this isn't as futuristic as the under-display scanner of the Oppo Reno 2. It is nonetheless zippy and will get you into your phone reliably quickly and securely.

Huawei Nova 5T verdict

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Huawei's Nova 5T is a very good phone with some standout features for the price. It also packs a decent amount of storage and great battery life too. The phone's cameras may not include a telephoto lens, so it won't be quite as capable as some of the competition for concerts, for example, however, its lowlight capabilities are about as good as you're going to get for under £400.

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