Huawei Nova review: Stunning mid-range phone, but lacks processing power

Huawei has gone from strength to strength in the UK, with recent releases including the flagship Huawei P9 proving popular in Britain – but it isn’t done yet. Announced at IFA 2016 in Berlin, Huawei has launched a new range of smartphones to take on the mid-range market, the Huawei Nova and Huawei Nova Plus. There’s also the Huawei Mediapad M3 too, for those interested. We’ve spent some time with the Huawei Nova and here we discuss pricing and availability, design, features and software of the upcoming smartphone. Read next: Best smartphone of 2016

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Huawei Nova review: UK price and release date

So before we go any further, let’s first discuss UK pricing and availability. The Huawei Nova, along with the Nova Plus are both marketed as being mid-range smartphones, meaning they’re not designed to compete with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 or iPhone 6s. UK users will be able to pick up a Huawei Nova for around £320 when it’s released in the UK.

So when will it be released? As announced by Huawei during its IFA 2016 press conference, the smartphone will be available to buy in over 50 countries from October, although a date is yet to be set – we’ll update this section with more information as soon as we receive it. As with other Huawei smartphones, the Huawei Nova will be able to order from VMall once it’s available.

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Huawei Nova review: Design

Huawei’s brand new Nova isn’t to be sniffed at – sporting 2.5D glass and a curvy body, the Nova doesn’t look or feel like a mid-range smartphone. This isn’t news though, as Huawei is famous for offering users a premium design at a sub-premium price – think Huawei P9 and Mate 8: sleek and gorgeous, yet £100-200 cheaper than the competition. The 2.5D glass meets the smartphone’s aluminium unibody perfectly, providing users with a completely seamless design that allows for smooth swipes from the edge of the display.

The Huawei Nova isn’t a large phone, measuring in at 141.2x69.1x7.1mm and 146g – in fact, the 7.1mm thick smartphone is similar in dimensions to Apple’s iPhone 7, despite the fact that the iPhone 7 features a 4.7in display while the Nova features a 5in display. How is this achieved? The Nova features incredibly thin bezels and as the smartphone features no physical buttons on the front of the device (true of many Huawei devices), the display can take up a larger portion of the front of the smartphone.

The Huawei Nova features a brushed metal finish on the side with a sandblasted finish on the rear, which provides users with a nice in-hand feel and adds to the premium design of the smartphone. On the sandblasted rear users may notice a circular fingerprint scanner similar to that featured on the recently announced Honor 8, and is a step away from the square-shaped reader featured on the Huawei P9, Mate 8 and even the Nova Plus (which we can’t quite understand).

In terms of flavours, the Huawei Nova is available to buy in Apple-esque shades of ‘Mystic’ Silver, ‘Titanium’ Grey and ‘Prestige’ Gold.

Huawei’s smart design meant that despite featuring a large display, we found the Huawei Nova comfortable to hold and use one-handed over long periods of time. This is due to its slim bezels, but is also down to the curved edges of the smartphone which allowed it to sit comfortably in our hands. Its curved design is reminiscent of the iPhone, and it feels similar to Apple’s flagship in the hand – quite the feat for a mid-range smartphone.

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Huawei Nova review: Features and spec

So, what does Huawei’s mid-range smartphone offer users to tempt them away from the competition? Let’s start with the display – the crisp and vibrant 2.5D 5in Full HD (1920x1080) IPS display featured on the Huawei Nova is apparently designed to perform well in low-light conditions due to the inclusion of a blue light filter.

The filter aims to provide extra comfort in evenings and other dark conditions making it similar to Apple’s Night Shift functionality and while it does a good job at this, we think it’s a little less subtle than Apple’s offering with a noticeably orange tint. We’d also like the ability to automatically turn it on at sunset and off at sunrise too, as manually toggling it on and off on a daily basis isn’t ideal.

In terms of power, the Huawei Nova comes packing an octa-core 2.0GHz Snapdragon 625 processor and is coupled with 3GB of RAM. What does this translate to in real world usage? The general use of the phone – swiping between menus, scrolling through Facebook and browsing the web – is absolutely fine with no signs of lag.

That’s not to say there’s no issues with performance, though. While it’s fine for everyday use, the limitations of the built-in tech of the Huawei Nova become more apparent when playing games, especially more graphically intense games like Assassins Creed Pirates.  The game can handle standard 3D platformer games like Crossy Road absolutely fine, but playing graphically intense games results in constant framerate drops and lag. This is evident in our benchmark results, which we come to in more detail below.

While the Snapdragon 625 provides a generally snappy user experience, it’s not the only reason it was featured in the Huawei Nova - Huawei was keen to point out that the Snapdragon 625 provides users with 30 percent battery life than the Snapdragon 615. This coupled with a fairly substantial 3200mAh non-removable battery should provide users with two days of battery life, although we can’t quite back up Huawei’s claim. We can get through a day comfortably without a charger, but it has yet to last us a full two days on a single charge. It’s charged via USB-C too, like many other recent Huawei-branded smartphones.

With regards to storage, you’re looking at 32GB out of the box and while this isn’t that impressive, it’s expandable thanks to Huawei’s ‘Hybrid slot’, which offers either MicroSD and SIM or dual-SIM capabilities depending on your requirements.


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