It is possible that the cartridge bearings simply need a short time to break in. For cartridge bearings, I think this is mainly the grease getting distributed evenly throughout the bearing and on the rubber seals.
The fact that you only notice seal drag when the wheel is clamped in the dropouts illustrates the effect of preload. Preload basically means the bearing is getting clamped from the side. If you closed your QR with excessive strength, which I assume you didn’t, then that could cause the bearing to exhibit a lot of resistance. Some hubs require you to adjust the amount of preload. For example, the recommendation I’m familiar with for cup and cone hubs is to leave the preload loose enough that there’s a bit of side to side play when the hub is off the bike, and the play should disappear when you clamp the QR. Basically, you hold the ends of the hub with one hand and push side to side off the bike, and you try to wiggle the wheel side to side with the QR engaged.
The thing is, I believe this doesn’t apply to you. I believe that all Novatec hubs use cartridge bearings, and only some cartridge bearing hubs are designed to even have preload adjustment (e.g. White Industries and Chris King hubs have preload adjustment). In a design without preload adjustment, I believe they should be Ok under any reasonable amount of preload, I.e. you simply don’t tighten the QR with excessive force. If there’s some sort of obvious system to adjust the preload or the bike’s manual contained instructions for adjusting preload, that’s another story, but if the hub has cartridge bearings then I don’t think it does. Also consider, Novatec is an OEM hub manufacturer. It is, to my knowledge, a bit more of a mass market manufacturer, whereas the two manufacturers I named are more boutique ones. For mass market, you would want to make the system relatively simple. Given that most cartridge bearing hubs don’t require preload adjustment, it would be more likely that they’d choose this design.
As an aside, another example of preload adjustment is cranksets. The instructions for Shimano cranks say to tighten the top cap down to finger tightness, I.e. most likely below 2Nm, which I suspect is the minimum on most bike torque wrenches. The top cap imposes preload. On SRAM DUB cranksets, there’s a plastic collar inside the non-drive arm that you tighten with your fingers (actually you loosen it to increase preload, and you screw it tighter to decrease preload), then you fix its position with a small set screw.