The budget smartphone market continues to be competitive. Gone are the plasticky and bulky smartphones that crawled along due to low RAM and plenty of bloatware — they’ve been replaced with a breed of budget phones that manage to work well, while looking stylish. That’s the balance the Nuu G3 is striving towards, and if it came out a year or two ago, the G3 would undoubtedly have turned heads. But it’s 2018, and the Nuu faces some stiff competition from the likes of Motorola, Honor, and Nokia.
Nuu is a Chinese smartphone brand that released its first smartphone in 2012. You can find some of its devices at retailers like Best Buy and Walmart, but the brand is still relatively unknown in the U.S. Nuu hopes to change that with its latest budget phone, which costs just $200.
An appealing design
At a quick glance, the Nuu G3 doesn’t look like its price tag. Its aluminum case is sandwiched by glass, a little unusual for a budget phone, but don’t expect the same durability you’d find on a flagship phone like the iPhone X or Galaxy S9. Nuu doesn’t use Gorilla Glass or any other hardened glass, which means a single drop would likely shatter the screen and rear. You’ll definitely want to be cautious about dropping it. A case is included in the box, but it’s meant more to guard against scratches, not drops.
There are two color options for the Nuu G3: Blue and taupe. We reviewed the former, but no matter what color you choose, you’ll find the phone to be a fingerprint magnet. That’s no fault of Nuu, however, as it’s also a problem with high-end phones that use glass.
The G3 has a 5.7-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio screen — a relatively-new trend that’s already seeping into the budget market. It means the phone is a little longer, and you’ll be able to see a little more content on vertical-scrolling apps. This aspect ratio is usually paired with a “bezel-less” design, where the edges surrounding the screen are incredibly thin. We wouldn’t exactly call the G3’s design bezel-less, but they are indeed small and unobtrusive. The volume rocker and power button are on the right edge of the phone, with the latter button having a handy pattern so it’s easy to distinguish.
We managed to fool the Face Lock feature on the Nuu G3 with a photocopy of a selfie.
Flip the Nuu G3 over and you’ll find a dual-camera system with a LED flash to the right. The fingerprint sensor is housed directly below the camera. This setup looks an awful lot like the new Galaxy S9 Plus, but there’s a giant “Nuu” logo at the bottom to remind you it’s not a Samsung phone. The fingerprint sensor responds quickly, without the need to frequently adjust our finger.
On the bottom of the G3 are bottom-firing speakers, as well as a USB Type-C charging port. The phone’s audio capabilities fall firmly in budget phone territory — it’s nothing to write home about. Sadly, there’s no headphone jack. There’s a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box instead, so you can still use standard headphone, but if you have Bluetooth earbuds, you’ll have to rely on Bluetooth version 4.2.
Overall, the Nuu G3 is an attractive package for its price. It’s lightweight and comfortable in the hand, but it also feels a little cheap. There doesn’t seem to be a reason as to why the company went with an all-glass design when polycarbonate would be more durable — especially since there’s no wireless charging — and the lack of a headphone jack is Nuu just hopping on the bandwagon. Still, it’s an good-looking phone that looks like a more modern version of the Galaxy S7, minus the home button.
For a budget phone, the Nuu G3 packs impressive specs. There’s a 2.3 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor, along with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that’s expandable thanks to a MicroSD card slot. There’s also a dual-SIM card slot, which isn’t too common on budget phones in the U.S.
Steven Winkelman/Digital Trends
Specs don’t paint a full picture, however. The Android operating system on the Nuu G3 takes up quite a bit of the available storage — nearly a quarter of 64GB to be exact. While you’ll still have a little bit more than 50GB of onboard storage left when you turn on the phone, it’s annoying to think so much space is devoted to the OS.
The Nuu G3 is also a little slower than the competition. There’s a little lag when swiping between apps, and apps open slowly. We compared the length of time it took to open a few apps on the Nuu G3 and found it lagged behind the $200 Honor 7X in every instance.
Here are a few benchmark results for comparison:
- Geekbench CPU: Single-Core 804; multi-core 3037
- AnTuTu 3DBench: 73,660
- 3DMark SlingShot Extreme: 658
The same-priced Honor 7X hit 63,311 in its AnTuTu benchmark score, and the rest of the scores aren’t too far off. We still managed to find better performance on the Honor phone despite the scores slightly favoring the Nuu G3. Regardless, performance is still satisfactory. If you expect to perform a lot of tasks at the same time on this phone, however, you will run into a few hiccups.
The display on the Nuu G3 is surprisingly solid, with good viewing angles and vibrant colors. It’s a 5.7-inch HD ( 1,440 x 720p) IPS display, and the biggest downside is that it’s not too sharp. It’s easy to discern individual pixels on the screen.
Ships with Android Nougat
The Nuu G3 runs Android 7.1 Nougat — it wouldn’t be an understatement to say we were more than disappointed to see a new phone shipping with a version of an operating system that launched in 2016. The upside, however, is that you won’t find a ton of bloatware on the G3. Other than an odd browser that looks extremely similar to Chrome, the phone runs a near-stock version of Google’s Android OS.
As is the trend of 2018, there’s a Face Lock feature on the G3 that lets you unlock the device with your face. Don’t expect this feature to rival the level of security with Face ID on the iPhone X — we were able to easily unlock the phone with a color photocopy of a selfie. It’s purely for convenience, and it works relatively well.
Cameras are a mixed bag
The dual-camera system on the Nuu G3 is nearly flush with the case and looks absolutely handsome. While two rear cameras are a nice touch on a budget phone, it’s not going to yield the same results you’d find on other dual camera phones. In fact, it won’t even yield results as good as its closest competitor, the Honor 7X.
A single drop would likely shatter the screen and rear.
The primary lens on the Nuu G3 packs 13 megapixels, and the secondary lens has 5 megapixels. The primary lens is meant to do the heavy lifting, and the secondary helps create a bokeh effect for Portrait Mode photos.
In broad daylight, photos from the G3 are perfectly acceptable. There’s good detail, solid color, and the camera reacts quickly — though some photos can look a little washed out. In any other lighting condition, things start to drastically change for the worse. There’s a significant amount of noise, and a good chunk of detail is lost when shooting in low-light. Since there’s no optical image stabilization, you’ll need to hold the phone very still, lest you want to end up with blurry photos. This is made worse as the camera shutter button is slow to react in poorer lighting conditions. The front camera has 13 megapixels, and again selfies look solid in bright light. In any poorer lighting conditions, expect the photo to come out a fuzzy.
Nuu really wanted to the G3 to be feature-packed, and it definitely shows in the camera app. How well those features work though, is somewhat of a mixed bag. Portrait Mode offered the best results. Similar to the Live Focus feature on the Samsung Galaxy S9, the Nuu G3 allows you to adjust the degree of background blur and see the results instantly in the viewfinder. Unlike the Galaxy S9, however, you’re not able to adjust the blur once the photo is taken. We encountered a few instances where the background wasn’t evenly blurred, but we’re still impressed with how well it performed.
For a budget phone, the Nuu G3 packs some pretty impressive specs.
There’s a Beauty Filter on board that also masks any imperfections on your skin — smoothening it all out to make it look like you’re wearing makeup. It’s not good at all. There’s a slider that lets you control the strength of the effect, but it doesn’t seem to work, and the result often makes your entire face blurry.
In the right conditions, you can get Instagram-worthy photos on the Nuu G3. Otherwise, this is a camera that will easily frustrate. If you want a decent camera in this price range, the Honor 7X is your best bet.
Slow charging, day-long battery
The G3 is powered by a 3,000mAh battery capacity, with support for fast charging. We had no problem making it through a day of moderate use. After quite a bit of browsing the web, using social media apps, watching YouTube videos, and taking photos, the G3 hit 47 percent around 6 p.m. — that’s after taking it off the charger at 8:30 a.m.
That being said, charging is slow. We charged the phone with both the included 5 watt charger as well as another quick charger, and the G3 still took more than 2 hours and 40 minutes to fully charge back up.
Price, availability, and warranty information
The Nuu G3 costs $200, and it’s available on the company’s website. It only works on GSM networks, meaning you can only use it on T-Mobile and AT&T, not Verizon and Sprint.
The phone comes with a one-year warranty that covers defects in workmanship and materials. To use the warranty, you’ll need to contact Nuu to obtain a return service authorization. You’re also responsible for the shipping. Although it’s a pretty standard warranty, if you need to take advantage of it, be prepared to go without a phone during the repair period.
The Nuu G3 is a good looking phone for its price. On paper, it offers a lot of impressive features for a budget phone, but the quality of those features are a mixed bag.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. The Honor 7X comes in at the same price, offers more features, and has the added benefit of being faster and more durable, with a capable camera.
If you’re willing to wait a few more months, the Nokia 6 (2018) is an excellent alternative that comes in at about a hundred dollars more. The Nokia 6 features a stunning design, a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor, and comes preloaded with the Android One edition of Android 8.0 Oreo.
How long will it last?
We expect the Nuu G3 to last about one to two years. Since we’ve already experienced some lag, we expect performance to get worse as time goes on. Also, while the glass may seem like a nice addition, a single drop could easily destroy it, and impact the phone’s usability.
It’s also worth noting that the Nuu G3 ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. The next version of Android is only months away. While Nuu would not confirm an upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo or Android P is on the table cards for the G3, a representative told Digital Trends it may be possible to update the phone to Oreo — though not over traditional over-the-air updates. The representative said users may need to mail their phones if Nuu decides to update the G3 to Android 8.0 Oreo, which is preposterous.
Should you buy it?
No. While the Nuu G3 may look great, there’s a lot to be desired in terms of overall performance. For the same price, we recommend buying the equally handsome, but much more capable, Honor 7X.
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