Mid-range phones are immensely popular in Pakistan. Most people look forward to buying one and have their sights set on a particular phone from the start.
However, when deciding on a phone, you might run into two phones that are so similar it’s hard to decide between them. In our case, it was the Huawei Nova 3i and Oppo F9.
Both phones are very popular these days, especially the F9 from Oppo’s famous “selfie expert” series. Not only do they cost the same (Rs. 40,000, for the 4GB F9 variant and the Nova 3i), their specifications are also quite similar.
Which is why we took it upon ourselves to compare the two phones and help you decide which one is the better choice.
Read on for a detailed comparison of the two phones, and check out the video review below.
Design and Display
The two phones each feature design elements that make them unique. In Oppo’s case, there’s a 6.3-inch IPS LCD Full HD+ display with a waterdrop notch, it also boasts nearly 90% screen to body ratio (according to Oppo). The F9 has a Gorilla Glass 6 protection layer at the front and the back, but in my experience, it felt closer to plastic and scratched easily. It features an iPhone 7 styled horizontal dual camera array at the back with a fingerprint scanner smack dab in the middle.
In Nova 3i’s case, it features a similar 6.3-inch IPS LCD Full HD+ screen, but with an iPhone X styled notch. It also has a similar screen to body ratio as Oppo F9. It uses Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and the back, with a vertical dual camera array at the back along with a fingerprint scanner in the middle.
For the display, Huawei Nova 3i had better colors, contrast, and viewing angles though Oppo F9 wasn’t too bad itself. What made the Oppo F9 unique was its gradient design at the back, which shimmers in a different color depending on the lighting.
As I mentioned earlier, Oppo F9 felt like it was made of plastic and didn’t feel premium at all when you hold it in your hand. Nova 3i, on the other hand, felt almost like a flagship device and you could tell that it actually had a glass back.
Overall I liked the Huawei Nova 3i better due to its superior build quality and screen contrast/viewing angles.
Huawei Nova 3i is powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 710 SoC with 4 GB RAM and 64/128 GB of storage. Our review unit was of the 128 GB sort.
Oppo F9 runs on a MediaTek Helio P60 processor along with 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of internal storage.
Both phones had decent performance and didn’t lag or stutter at all in everyday use. Apps loaded up faster and switching between them was a breeze. Thanks to 4 GB of RAM, neither of the phones had to reload any apps while I switched between them.
Surprisingly, the F9 and Nova 3i were on par in the gaming department as well. GPU Turbo didn’t help Nova 3i’s case at all. However, the games were playable with high framerates on both phones. Not quite 60 fps, but they aren’t exactly flagship phones anyway.
This was pretty much a tie between the two phones, as I didn’t lean towards Oppo F9 or Huawei Nova 3i in the performance department.
This is where things get a little interesting. Chinese phones are famous for their heavily customized UI and the little bits and features they offer. Xiaomi being a prime example.
Even though both phones run Android 8.1 Oreo, the software experience was anything but similar.
Oppo F9’s UI mirrored iOS in a lot of ways, from the recent apps section to the overall color scheme. It felt limiting, as it lacked options or made them hard to find. The camera app, for example, didn’t have any options for tweaking the resolution or other options. The settings app also had options grouped under odd names or categories, making them hard to find.
The Nova 3i was a lot better, and Huawei’s EMUI felt more refined and user-friendly. Everything was grouped up under easy to find settings, a lot of shortcuts and options were quite similar to stock Android. You can cover up the notch and turn on the app drawer, which could make you think this is another Android phone altogether.
Huawei Nova 3i offers a better overall software experience.
Despite having almost the same cameras, the two phones didn’t offer the same level of quality or results. Both of them have a 16+2 MP dual camera setup on the back, with no OIS or EIS.
Oppo F9 had portrait mode, 2x optical zoom, HDR and the usual slew of beauty modes.
Nova 3i also has a portrait mode/bokeh effect but no HDR. It does have an AI mode that automatically recognizes the scene and adjusts the colors and settings accordingly.
In good lighting and daylight shots, Oppo F9 performed better than the Nova 3i, with more detail, better shadows and colors. The difference wasn’t easy to spot as Nova 3i also offered great results in daylight. Oppo’s HDR mode, however, removes soft shadows from the image and does not improve the dynamic range in any way.
Comparing low light images, Huawei Nova 3i was the clear winner. Not only did it capture more detail, it also retained other highlights in the pictures and was superior to the Oppo F9.
Overall, Oppo F9 is better in daylight shots but was pretty bad in low light. Huawei Nova 3i was pretty close to Oppo F9 in daylight shots and was better in low light, so we deem Nova 3i as the winner in terms of photography.
Battery Life and Fast Charging
Looking at the spec sheet, there’s not much of a difference between the batteries of the two phones. Oppo F9 has a 3,500 mAh unit while Huawei Nova 3i comes with a 3,340 mAh battery.
In our usage, Oppo F9 was a bit better than the Huawei Nova 3i and aced the battery benchmark we threw at it. I used PC Mark’s Work 2.0 Battery benchmark, which tests the battery by web browsing, image editing, video editing and various other tests. It continues to run until the battery falls to 20%.
Oppo F9 scored an impressive 9 hours 9 minutes, while Huawei Nova 3i was nearly an hour behind at 7 hours 47 minutes. In day to day use, you won’t notice much of a difference and the two phones will easily get you through a day and a half on a single charge.
Nova 3i lacks any form of fast charging so Oppo F9 wins here too. It took 2.5 to 3 hours to get Huawei Nova 3i from 0-100%. Oppo features VOOC fast charging in the F9, getting from 0-57% in just 30 minutes. When charging it up from 0% to full, it took around 1-1.5 hours.
Summing it all up, Huawei Nova 3i is the winner among the two, but not by much. It offers a better design, a better software experience, slightly better camera and a better display.
Oppo, on the other hand, has better battery life and the blazing fast VOOC fast charging, on top of great daylight camera results and that sweet looking gradient design.
We can say one thing for sure, whichever phone you go with, you won’t regret your decision.