NUU Mobile’s G3 is a brilliant budget Android device, now coming in two new colors with Oreo Improvements
NUU Mobile has relaunched its already high-value G3 with two new colors and an update to Android 8.0 Oreo, taking full advantage of the improvements to the operating system and making an already high-value device even better. At just $199.99, now the G3 is available in shiny new tones including ‘Ruby Red’ and ‘Tiger’s Eye Golden Brown’. Each has a similar sheen to the original ‘Sapphire Blue’ color, reflecting light in varying hues depending on the lighting. Our test unit is a stunning red while the other has shifting gradients of brown not dissimilar to the tiger’s eye gemstone it gets its name from. The updates to the OS bring a number of enhancements to the almost completely stock unlocked mobile device, such as picture-in-picture mode and autofill as well as improved security, performance, and battery life. That makes an already snappy affordable phone even better than before, and definitely worthy of consideration at the budget end of the spectrum.
On the inside, the NUU Mobile G3 is driven by a MediaTek MTK6757D (Helio P25) SoC. That’s an octa-core chipset clocked at 2.39GHz on the performance side and 1.69GHz on the efficiency side backed up by a Mali-T880 graphics chip. A healthy 4GB of RAM is included alongside 64GB of storage expandable to 128GB via microSD, in line with some of the most recent flagship handsets. A 3,000mAh fast-charging battery drives all of that, packed into a 153 x 70 x 9mm frame and charged via USB Type-C, which also works with an adapter for audio output. For connectivity, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC are each part of the package. Mobile networks are accessed via a dual-SIM and connections are compatible with GSM, LTE, and WCDMA networks. It also supports VoLTE but the bands here mean that it should work with any US GSM network carrier such as T-Mobile, AT&T, and their subsidiaries or MVNO’s using their towers.
Outwardly, the NUU Mobile G3 has a shape and in-hand fit similar to an HTC flagship at the back but with curved edges at the front more closely resembling a Samsung built flagship. It also has a similar glass on metal design. The touchscreen is a 5.7-inch HD+ 1440 x 720 display panel with a display ratio of 18:9 and 13-megapixel camera above. A single forward-facing LED flash can be found next to that, compared to the two-tone LED flash accompanying the dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel shooters on the back and just above the fingerprint scanner.
In The Box
Opening the box for the NUU Mobile G3 reveals the smartphone first, followed by a small partition containing the user manual, documentation, and a slim-fitting case that doesn’t quite provide a lip over the screen’s glass but fits nicely. The charging cable, USB-C headphone adapter, and wall adapter are found under that in bags, as is a well-made SIM tool with a comfortable plastic handle. It’s nothing over the top but each of the inclusions is a nice addition. As of this writing, NUU Mobile is also offering a Mint Mobile SIM card for a limited time as part of a promotion but our box didn’t contain one since this is a review unit. That allows for three months of unlimited, talk to all of North America including the US, Mexico, and Canada, unlimited text, and 5 GB of 4G LTE data per month at no charge.
Hardware and Design
In terms of design, as mentioned above, the in-hand feel, curves, and screen aren’t groundbreaking. Instead, although not exactly like any handset made by another manufacturer, they felt familiar and comfortable. There’s plenty of heft without feeling heavy, which adds a sense that the G3 is well-built, coupled with the fact that buttons and ports are all solidly built. All of the edges, ports, and button feel as smooth as the handset itself, with no sharp edges or protrusions to snag on things. Overall, the device just feels very good to hold. Aesthetics are pleasing too, thanks to the tonal shift in colors under different lighting that is just subtle enough to avoid feeling overdone. Volume keys and the power button could be placed a bit further apart but the latter button does feature grooves, making it easy to distinguish without even looking.
Build quality is high here too. Gaps are at an absolute minimum and there are no real bezels to speak of on either left or right-hand sides. Those at the top and bottom are a bit large by modern standards but aren’t so big as to take away from the design. Buttons click through with a satisfactory ‘pop’ without feeling too tight. The port along the bottom edge is snug and should last for quite some time. Everything about NUU Mobile’s G3 build and design simply scream comfort and quality that’s very difficult to find in the below-$200 price range.
As already mentioned, the bezels with this screen aren’t pushing any boundaries but aren’t necessarily lagging behind either. That’s complemented by a display that is very responsive to the touch and doesn’t over-pixelate images. A resolution of 1440 x 720 may seem low on paper but it’s important to remember that the current display technology found in top-end devices is bordering at the point where more pixels will make very little difference. From our use with the NUU Mobile G3, there aren’t any wayward pixels at HD+ and only the most sensitive users are going to notice a major difference. This isn’t AMOLED by any stretch of the imagination but colors here are good too. Black tones are as close to the completely turned-off pixels delivered by OLED as any other LCD panel we’ve seen and that’s close enough that most users won’t notice a difference.
Performance and Battery Life
For a device in the price range of the NUU Mobile G3 and using a MediaTek SoC instead of a Snapdragon, it might be expected to have serious issues running intensive apps or even on the OS side of things. That really isn’t the case though, in spite of this device’s scores on benchmarks. On the single-core side of the equation, using Geekbench 4, this handset scored just 915 while its multi-core score was closer to 3416. That’s comparable to a Samsung Galaxy S5 or just over a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, respectively. It scored closer to a Huawei Nexus 6P on rendering. For battery life, our test ran at full display brightness under more than 75-percent workload for just over five-and-a-half hours. All of that seems to point to a handset that performs just about as it might be expected to for the cost, in spite of the above-par design.
On the other hand, we only really noted any lag in this smartphone at all during the most intensive games and even that generally only occurred during the initial loading. That’s a testament to the latest update in firmware and associated optimizations already but the G3 didn’t disappoint in other aspects of performance either. Multi-tasking was a breeze, even with well over a dozen apps opened up and the software itself never glitched or hung during our use. The entire experience was buttery smooth. In spite of the fact that more demanding titles tended to down-scale resolutions slightly or dropped advanced graphics features, there are no complaints to be had on that front. A fingerprint scanner problem that had been present with the previous firmware, leading to its slow operation, is now completely solved as well. The handset opens up as quickly as our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 almost 100-percent of the time and the difference isn't immediately noticeable when it does open a bit slower.
On the battery front, the test also fell well-short of real-world usage. At one point, we left the device alone for three days except for texting, phone calls, and around an hour or two of light gaming. The battery life wasn’t completely unaffected by that use, wouldn't be with any phone, and will vary from user to user. But we only saw around 70-percent to 80-percent battery decrease over that period. Charging up took just shy of two hours but even without power saving features turned on or auto brightness activated for the screen, this handset should last a full day or more under typical usage. That should last even longer with Oreo’s battery saving features enabled.
Connectivity and Audio
Beginning with audio, the NUU Mobile G3 is without a doubt one of the best sounding sub-$500 phones on the market. Bass tones tend to get lost through the built-in bottom-firing speaker but that's not really unexpected since that's the case with 99-percent of handsets out there. As such, balance is really the only metric to be examined and that's present to excess in the G3. Highs and mids did not, in any of the media we listened to or watched, drown one another out and bass notes were still present -- just not at the forefront or as powerful as from a dedicated speaker or headphones. Headphone audio over the included adapter was even more impressive and proves that a high-end DAC is not really needed for an enjoyable listening experience. Bluetooth connections were solid as well when playing media.
Connections were as solid as any other device too via our test using an MVNO on T-Mobile's network. Call quality came through almost flawlessly on both ends, texts sent quickly, and we didn't notice any differences between the experience here compared to an $800+ flagship. This handset works on the bands listed below and will almost certainly not work with Verizon or Sprint but does come unlocked so that it can be used on AT&T towers too. Wi-Fi showed similar stability and connection quality, which was also the case with data transfers via NFC.
2G GSM: Bands 2, 3, 5, 8
3G WCDMA: Bands 1, 2, 4, 5
4G LTE: Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17
As with other software, the camera software here is AOSP and doesn't contain a ton of extras. The standard inclusions such as beauty mode, HDR, and fine-tuning pro tools are intact but the app itself is relatively lightweight. It performs well as a result of that, with comparatively fast auto-focus and shutter speeds. The resulting photos, on the other hand, are hit and miss. As shown below, the camera actually performs exceptionally well in low-light situations. The indoors images here were taken with only the smallest amount of light coming in from a single window. Regardless, the majority of the details aren’t lost in those shots and the color balance remains accurate with a bare minimum of artifacts if any compared to other devices in the price range.
Outdoors, that experience doesn’t necessarily translate and that's where photos become a mixed bag. With the sun just out of frame on a relatively cloudy day, the image still managed to get washed out and turning on HDR didn’t fix that. Prior to the update, the camera actually performed slightly better so this is most likely due to software and could easily be fixed in a future update. Color capture in other shots remains accurate and the software is fast enough that adjustments can be made on the fly in most situations. So this is a far better camera than what should be expected at just below $200 but isn’t going to compare to a flagship by any stretch of the imagination.
The selfie camera does quite the opposite. Without the use of the forward-facing flash, photos shot in low-light have artifacts to spare -- in the form of single or small groups of white or lightly-colored pixels. That’s not really a problem since the flash does actually balance lighting a scene fairly well but having to use that can be a bit annoying. Outdoors and in well-lit scenarios, the front camera performs almost as well as the primary snapper.
Solid near-premium design and build quality
Responsive display and fingerprint scanner
Display resolution is above acceptable
Fast, color-accurate main camera works better than most in low-light environments
Smooth operation and great performance on a budget
Plenty of color options to suit personal preference
Reasonably good sound output
Great battery life
Sub-$200 with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage
The camera software could use some slight adjustments in light-saturated environments
No 3.5mm headphone jack
NUU Mobile’s G3 may be one of the least expensive handsets available and was already one of the best in terms of value but this update has, for the most part, still managed to make it better. Not only are there more options for those who want a bit more flash than the standard blue -- which was already full of personality -- but the software is generally better too. There are, as with all budget devices, one or two caveats or tradeoffs on that front. This isn’t going to be playing the top mobile games with all the latest enhancements, graphics settings, or similar top-end-specific features turned on. The camera could use some improvement and will likely see that in a future update but is still among the best in its class. But it does offer a well-thought-out design and a high-quality build, in addition to a comfortable, smooth experience. There's simply not many Android smartphones that are going to be better than the NUU Mobile G3 for the money for the vast majority of users.