What is the Nuu Mobile G3?
The Nuu Mobile G3 does what the Honor 9 Lite, the Moto G6, and the Alcatel 3V have been doing of late. That is, providing an affordable smartphone with much of the surface appeal of a flagship worth a lot more money.
To its credit, the Hong Kong manufacturer has managed to do this with considerable panache and a number of wins. An attractive design and an admirably restrained approach to software in particular help it to stand apart from many of its rivals.
Several notable flaws and omissions serve to undermine the Nuu Mobile G3’s chances of becoming the new budget king but the brand definitely has our attention.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Design
The Nuu Mobile G3 is a good-looking piece of kit. There’s no small amount of Samsung to its dual glass surfaces, particularly in the way that both the front and back curve away at the edges.
Not that the display here truly drops off the edge, as it does with the Samsung Galaxy S9. In fact, there’s a small but visible black border around the entire screen. That isn’t a massive downer in a sub-£200 handset but the way it cuts off the corners at an abrupt angle is a little disconcerting. In fact, it looks downright weird.
The likelihood is that you’ll be too distracted by the G3’s shimmering paint job to notice, at least at first. The blue model we were sent is certainly striking, and again has something of the Galaxy S range to it.
Naturally, the effect is somewhat spoiled by the greasy paw prints that will cover the device within minutes of handling it for the first time. But that isn’t a unique criticism in 2018, nor even at this price point.
Back to the positives, and the G3’s metal rim preserves the general premium feel of the phone. The side buttons are pleasantly clicky, and the power button has a pronounced texture to help distinguish it from the volume keys.
The phone certainly doesn’t feel its 9mm thickness, doubtless thanks to the optical illusion created by those curved edges.
There’s no physical home button here. That operation is handled through software, while the phone’s biometric sensor can be found on the back, right below the camera.
It isn’t the fastest component of its kind that we’ve used but it’s sufficiently reliable and reasonably easy to find, thanks to a slight lip around the sensor’s edge. It also works in concert with NFC to enable mobile payments, which is always good to see in a cheap phone.
On the bottom of the device is a modern USB-C port for charging purposes, which is another positive inclusion. The total omission of a headphone socket most certainly isn’t.
This is annoying in modern flagship phones too but just about defensible. If you’re willing to spend £1000 on a phone, it’s a fair assumption that you’ve invested in (or are willing to invest in) a set of wireless headphones too. That simply isn’t the case in the sub-£200 price bracket, where saving the customer money is key.
Sure, there’s a USB-C-to–3.5mm adapter bundled in with the G3 but we’re all aware that that’s nothing but a half-way solution.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Screen
I have mixed feelings about the Nuu Mobile G3’s 5.7-inch display. Initial impressions were quite positive. This is a big and extremely bright display, which combines with the eyeball-assaulting default wallpaper to create the impression of one of Samsung’s famously vibrant OLED screens.
The reality is that it’s nothing of the sort, however. This is an IPS LCD with a correspondingly cooler, fresher tone. It isn’t an unpleasant effect, at least initially, but comparing the look of photos on the G3 with the same images on the famously accurate iPhone X display suggests that this budget contender isn’t particularly colour-accurate.
What’s more, you can’t tweak the tone of the display in the settings menu as is possible with many of its budget rivals.
Where the Nuu Mobile G3 display really loses brownie points, however, is with its resolution. At just 1440 x 720, or 720p, it lags well behind rivals such as the Moto G6, the Alcatel 3V and the Honor 9 Lite. At this size and price point, we really should be getting the Full HD 1080p effect.
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The screen’s sheer brightness and level of punch makes up for that pixel shortfall to a large degree in general navigation, but when you come to tasks such as web browsing and watching movies, you might start to notice a slight fuzziness.
This is another budget smartphone display that has made the shift to an 18:9 aspect ratio. This stretches out the screen vertically, while the bezels are reduced so that the front of the phone approaches the all-screen ideal.
It also means that you can cram in a 5.7-inch display without making the phone a complete pain to use single-handed – although you’ll still need to engage a second hand to reach the top corners.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Performance
The Nuu Mobile G3 runs on a MediaTek Helio P25 octa-core CPU, which is something of a cheaper alternative to Qualcomm’s more established mid-range chips. It isn’t a bad runner by any means but it won’t be setting any advanced tasks or benchmark tests alight.
An average Geekbench 4 multi-core score of 3356 is almost double the result achieved by the Alcatel 3V with its lesser MediaTek MT8735A chip but that’s a particularly poor runner.
It lags a little behind both the Moto G6 (3929) and the Honor 9 Lite (3644) with their respective Snapdragon 450 and Kirin 659 CPUs. It’s a solid performer but certainly not a class-leader.
General navigation is pleasantly fluid, no doubt aided by the generous provision of 4GB of RAM. Tasks such as unlocking the phone and jumping straight to the camera (via a double-tap of the power button) are far from instantaneous but nor are they irritatingly slow.
Jumping between open apps is a reasonably speedy experience, again thanks to that generous memory allowance. This is a spec we’re more used to seeing at the top end of the market.
The Nuu Mobile G3 is certainly capable of running the graphically intensive arcade racer Asphalt 9 but it defaults to lesser settings and produces a far from spotless frame rate. Fast-paced multiplayer shooter Guns of Boom runs a little inconsistently, with performance ranging from adequate to seriously stuttery.
Simple 2D games such as Alto’s Odyssey fare much better, as you might expect.
When it comes to storing those games and apps, the Nuu Mobile G3 packs a substantial 64GB of internal storage as standard. There’s the potential for a further 128GB via the included microSD slot, too.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Software
One of the most interesting things about the Nuu Mobile G3 – certainly when compared to most of its budget rivals – is that it runs a stock version of Android.
Unfortunately, that version – Android 7.1.1 Nougat – is more than a little out of date by now. However, the main thing to note is that this is Android as Google intended it, with none of the clumsy UI flourishes or pointless duplicate apps that you’ll find elsewhere.
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Simply as a result of doing next to nothing on the software front, Nuu has been able to create an affordable phone that feels classy, modern and smooth. If only more manufacturers would learn that lesson.
The menus are clean and unadorned, with stylish fonts and sliders. Google’s notification tray remains the best in the business, while the Google Assistant is only ever a vocal ‘OK Google’ away.
Google’s own apps are front and centre here. Want to review the pictures you just took on the Nuu Mobile G3’s camera? Open the Google Photos app. Need to send an email? There’s no decision to be made; it’s Gmail or nothing.
Of course, you can supplement and even replace all of these from the Google Play Store. But having such a clean default experience means a lot, particularly at this more casual end of the market.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Camera
Nuu has followed the trend of offering a dual-camera setup with the G3. Here that manifests as a 13-megapixel main shooter with a 5-megapixel secondary lens given over to depth-sensing duties.
In the latter case, this is most obviously utilised in the camera’s dedicated Portrait mode, which is accessed through a slide to the right in the iOS-inspired camera UI.
In this mode, you can adjust the aperture from f/11 right down to f/0.8. Or rather, a virtual approximation of the effect that certain aperture would have. The lens itself is fixed at a pretty conventional f/2.0.
Portrait mode works reasonably well here, although I found that the autofocus would occasionally struggle to lock onto the subject – a common observation across my time with the phone’s camera, in fact. That said, the resulting pictures always seemed to be reasonably well focused (except in poor light), so it seems to get there in the end.
The result is a subject that truly pops, while the background falls away into artfully exaggerated bokeh. There’s the usual issue of the edges of your subject being dragged into the blur but overall I’ve seen the effect applied with far less skill elsewhere.
Unlike with Huawei’s system, however, you can’t adjust the depth effect after the image has been taken. In practice, of course, I’ve rarely found this feature to be genuinely useful. Others might find its omission more of a downer.
In terms of regular shots, the Nuu Mobile G3 camera is nothing to write home about. It’s capable of grabbing reasonably accurate photos in good lighting, although it definitely throws in the odd dud. When it comes to lesser lighting the results aren’t too great, with plenty of noise and the need to intervene with tap focusing.
HDR mode isn’t applied by default but it’s easily reachable from the main UI rather than locked away in a side menu (take note, Huawei). It’s quite effective at balancing out extremes of light and shade, too, without making the image look overly false.
There is a Pro camera mode here that lets you manually adjust focus, ISO, exposure and white balance, and I also quite liked that there was a dedicated Mono mode for quick and stylish black and white images.
Around the front is a sharp 13-megapixel selfie camera with a rare dedicated flash, which should appeal to the younger audience that the G3’s price tag will attract.
Nuu Mobile G3 – Battery life
The Nuu Mobile G3’s battery is a 3000mAh unit, which is about par for the course these days. It’s exactly the same size as rivals such as the Moto G6, Honor 9 Lite and Alcatel 3V.
With a lower-resolution display, you might reasonably expect the G3 to have even more stamina. Conversely, that display gets extremely bright, and it’s running on a different chip to any of the others.
In any case, there’s nothing to worry about. You’ll be able to get through a full day of moderate usage with room to spare, just as you would with any other mainstream phone at this price point.
When it comes to heavyweight tasks, I found that the Nuu Mobile G3 slightly outperformed some of its direct rivals. After playing a 50-minute downloaded TV show with the screen brightness cranked up to full, the G3 lost 12% of its juice.
That’s better than the Alcatel 3V on 16% and the Honor 9 Lite on 14%.
Battling away on Guns of Boom for 15 solid minutes with the screen brightness set to halfway, the G3 lost 5% of its power. Again, that beats the Alcatel 3V on 7% and the Honor 9 Lite on 6%.
These aren’t huge margins, of course. The main takeaway here is that the Nuu Mobile G3 is competitive when it comes to battery life, with the potential to wring just a little more life out of it than many of its rivals.
Another pair of points in its favour are the inclusion of a reversible USB-C connection and a fast-charging solution.
In the case of the latter, I managed to gain between 17% and 18% from a 15-minute charge. That isn’t the fastest charging in the business by any stretch of the imagination (I was able to get 20% from the Moto G6 Plus) but it’s still fairly rapid.
Why buy the Nuu Mobile G3?
The Nuu Mobile G3 doesn’t trouble the Moto G6 as the current champion of the £200 smartphone weight class. Its display isn’t sharp enough, and its performance isn’t sufficiently strong for that.
But it does offer enough to place it in the ‘interesting alternative’ category, alongside so many Honor handsets. Its curvy design might not be original but it does make the handset feel considerably more high-end than many of its rivals.
Meanwhile, the provision of a stock version of Android – despite being out of date – feels refreshingly slick amongst so many dodgy custom UIs.
It’s enough to make us take note of Nuu Mobile as a budget brand to watch in future, even if there are clearly better options in the here and now.
There’s a lot to like in the Nuu Mobile G3, from its flagship-aping glass and metal design to its refreshingly clean approach to software. Unfortunately, a low-res display, mediocre performance and the lack of a headphone socket mean that it falls short of key rivals.