The Nova 3 carries on the Huawei 2018 design language and bears a strong family resemblance to all the phones launched this year. Our review unit, decked out in the Purple color, has a two-tone finish reminiscent of the P20 Pro's Twilight color.
The front of the phone also looks very familiar now, not just for a Huawei phone but for practically every phone launched in 2018. We have the now-familiar notch at the top with thin bezels on the sides and a small but noticeable chin. The notch on the Nova 3 is actually bigger than the ones we saw on the P20 Pro or the Honor 10, since this phone has a dual camera system as well as a more sophisticated face unlock system consisting of an infrared emitter (more on that later). This means there's a bit less space now at the top for your icons.
The earpiece grille is made out of metal and hidden inside it is a notification LED. The LED feels a bit pointless at times due to its location. It's very dim and can't even be seen from some angles so it's not very useful most of the time.
The sides of the phone are made out of metal. It's coated with a glossy paint job and when you add to that the curvature it makes the phone extremely slippery, especially when you're trying to lift it with your fingertips from a hard surface. It's not too different from trying to pick up a wet soap and you wish there was something to grip onto here.
The buttons are all on the right side and within easy reach. The power button has a texture to it but that's only noticeable if you look at it and can't really be felt by your thumb. The buttons are made out of metal and have a good tactile feel to them with no wobble.
Along the bottom is a single loudspeaker, a microphone, a USB-C connector and a headphone jack.
On the back of the phone we see the dual camera system with a single LED flash. Like the P20 phones, the Huawei and other text is aligned sideways like on a camera. The back is completely devoid of any other marking, which lets you admire the finish on the back, with the two-tone color on the Purple variant and the way the light refracts and creates iridescent patterns. The only distraction is the fingerprint sensor, which is placed a bit too high up and is a stretch when holding the phone normally.
The general fit and finish of the phone are up to Huawei's usually high standards. The design, especially in the Purple color, is extremely eye-catching. Build quality is good too and the phone feels well put together in your hand with a nice premium finish. The lack of any kind of ingress protection is disappointing, however, and at this price point we start expecting a bit more than just shiny colors.