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Huawei Nova 4e hands-on: A solid sequel

Huawei Nova 4e

Not even a month after Huawei launched their first punch-hole smartphone, the Huawei Nova 4, the company is launching yet another Nova handset in Malaysia. This particular device is called the Huawei Nova 4e — also known as the Huawei P30 Lite in some markets — and it was a pretty surprising handset because it seems to give you far more value for money compared to its predecessor.

We all remember what made the Huawei Nova 4 so special when that handset first launched: Its punch-hole camera. It was one of the first smartphones we’ve ever seen with this novel feature, so naturally it was very interesting. However, if you think that that particular feature also makes an appearance on the Nova 4e, then you’ll be sorely mistaken.

As its name would suggest, the Huawe Nova 4e is designed to be a more affordable handset that sits just below the Huawei Nova 4, succeeding the Nova 3e. Naturally, this means that the smartphone will have more watered down specs — and it does.

Huawei Nova 4e

Let’s start with the display. Instead of the large punch-hole screen you’d find on the Huawei Nova 4, the Nova 4e opts for a much smaller 6.15″ panel with a more conventional notch design. It’s not a big notch — it’s a dewdrop design — so it’s not super obstructive. However, the bezels around the side of the smartphone do seem bigger though I can’t say for certain without comparing them side by side. Still, I don’t think this is a huge issue because the display is still a crisp Full HD+ panel with solid viewing angles and what looks like solid brightness too.

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Inside, the Nova 4e is powered by a Kirin 710 processor that’s mated to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. If these specs look familiar, it is because the processor and storage option are identical to last year’s Nova 3i and Honor 8X. The biggest difference is that you’re getting more RAM and upgraded features elsewhere (which I will get into in a bit).

Expandable storage, dual SIM hybrid

In this respect, it’s very similar to the more expensive Nova 4 because that handset also shares a processor with its predecessor. How will it impact daily performance? It’s hard to say without a full review, but my time with the demo units didn’t produce any lag spikes.

Despite having similar internals, the phone is upgraded in a couple of other places, most notably in the camera department. At the back, you’ll find a triple-camera setup which functions very similarly to the one on the Nova 4.

This means that you get a 24MP main camera with an f/1.8 aperture wide-angled lens, a secondary 8MP ultra-wide camera and a third 2MP sensor for depth effects. At the demo area, the cameras didn’t seem particularly impressive, but considering the lighting conditions, I don’t think it’s a very fair test anyway. However, I will note that the camera does feel pretty snappy and I definitely appreciate the ultra-wide camera to a telephoto alternative.

Since this is a selfie-centric device, the Nova 4e actually comes with a 32MP selfie shooter up front. That’s even more megapixels than the one on the Nova 4, but again the lighting conditions aren’t ideal for photography testing. However, the camera does support 4-in-1 pixel binning which is supposed to improve performance in low-light.

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I was a little disappointed with the smartphone’s battery capacity though. Yes, the 3,340 mAh cell is an upgrade over the Nova 3e, and has the same capacity as the Nova 3i, but I would have loved to see a larger cell. It’s 2019 after all.

Nevertheless, the thing that matters in the end is how well the real-world battery life is, and that’s a little hard to predict with my brief time with the handset. It is worth noting that the smartphone comes with 18W fast-charging via a USB-C cable — so it’s good that they kept that from the Nova 3e.

Nova 4e, Peacock Blue

What did impress me was the build. I remember the Nova 3e to be a fairly well-built handset too, but I think the Nova 4e takes things up a notch. Its back is now gently curved at the edges so it’s more comfortable in the hand, and the metal band is now glossy so it feels more expensive to boot. It’s also a very pretty smartphone, especially if you like the striking Peacock Blue colourway. But, I still feel like the Nova 4e’s missing that premium heft (maybe because the battery is on the small side) that would really give it that “expensive” hand feel.

As a whole though, the best thing about the Nova 4e is its price. When this device goes on sale on the 16th of March 2019, the handset will retail for RM1,199, which is a solid price for the kind of specs it offers. Yes, it’s not the best bang-for-buck device you can buy, but the Nova 4e is retailing for RM200 less than how much the Nova 3e debuted at.

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Top: Nova 4, Bottom: Nova 4e

Plus, if you’ve been eyeing the Nova 4 — and don’t mind trading the flagship processor in for an RM700 discount — then the Nova 4e might just be the phone for you.

In any case, I’d love to hear your thoughts too. What do you think of the Huawei Nova 4e? Let me know in the comments below.