- Huawei has revealed a brand-new chipset, the Kirin 710, with its Nova 3i smartphone.
- The new chipset represents the biggest leap in power for Huawei’s lower-tier phones since 2016.
- It’s unclear whether the processor is indeed a successor to the Kirin 650 series of budget chips.
Huawei has quietly announced the Nova 3i this week, a less powerful version of the standard Nova 3. Nevertheless, the new phone is a landmark moment for the company, as it’s running the all-new Kirin 710 chipset.
Aimed at devices below the flagship level, the Kirin 710 is the biggest step for mid-range Huawei chips since the Kirin 650 in 2016’s P9 Lite.
Every Kirin 65X chip since the Kirin 650 has delivered the same octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU setup, the same aging Mali T830-MP2 GPU combination, and a 16nm manufacturing process. So aside from storage, RAM and clock speed improvements, the P9 Lite is roughly as powerful as the latest P20 Lite.
Now, the Kirin 710 has landed and it looks like a massive improvement upon the older mid-range chipsets. It packs four lightweight Cortex-A53 cores and four Cortex-A73 cores which, while not as powerful as the latest Cortex-A75 and A55 cores, still represent a big upgrade. The new chip’s CPU setup is similar to Huawei’s recent flagship processors, which also feature four Cortex-A53 cores and four Cortex-A73 cores.
The new Nova 3i listing doesn’t reveal the GPU, but an XDA article notes that it’s 1.5 times better than the Kirin 659’s GPU. So while we are getting improved graphics, we expected a bigger leap in performance because the Kirin 659’s GPU was a mid-range GPU even back in 2016. It’s also a few versions behind the new Mali-G72 GPU seen in the likes of the Mediatek Helio P60 and Huawei’s flagship Kirin 970 processor.
Rounding out the list of major changes is a shift to a 12nm manufacturing process, which is slightly smaller than the 16nm on the Kirin 655, 658 and 659. The smaller process usually translates to better-sustained performance and longer endurance.
Earlier rumors suggested the Kirin 710 would offer a neural processing unit (NPU), akin to the Kirin 970 flagship chip. This doesn’t seem to be the case in the finished product, although the Nova 3i does indeed support various AI-branded functions, such as scene recognition and Apple-inspired animated emoji.
The big question is how Huawei plans to use the new chipset — will it replace the Kirin 659 processor or is it an entirely new family? In the case of the former, we can expect a power boost for Huawei’s mid-range devices, from the Lite series to even the mid-range Honor phones.
If the Chinese brand plans to use the Kirin 710 for “upper mid-range” devices, it’ll still be a boon for non-flagship Huawei and Honor smartphones. Either way, the gap between mid-range and high-end power might be plugged by the new chipset.
What to know about Nova 3i?
The Nova 3i shares a few features with the standard Nova 3, such as a 24MP+2MP front camera pairing, a virtually identical 6.3-inch full HD+ display, animated emoji, and up to 128GB of storage. But the similarities seem to end here.
The Nova 3 has a Kirin 970 chipset with an NPU and 6GB of RAM — the Nova 3i has the less powerful Kirin 710 and 4GB RAM. The standard Nova model also sports a 24MP+16MP f/1.8 rear camera pairing, while the Nova 3i has a 16MP+2MP rear camera setup. Finally, the Nova 3 has a larger 3,750mAh battery and USB Type-C connectivity compared to the 3i’s 3,340mAh battery and microUSB port.
According to a listing on the Huawei Philippines website, the Nova 3i has a retail price of 15,990 Philippine pesos (~$298). Meanwhile, the Nova 3 has a ~$446 price tag in China. The Nova 3i’s price bodes well for those hoping the Kirin 710 comes to more affordable devices, but we’ll have to wait and see anyway.