Huawei Nova hands-on review: Huawei’s IFA 2016 announcements included a new mid-range smartphone family – we went hands-on with the first of its name, the Huawei Nova.
Huawei Nova hands-on review: Design
Without something for scale you would be forgiven for mistaking the new Nova for a pint-sized Nexus 6P, as there are some very obvious design queues shared between the two devices; most obviously with the offset camera placement, set within a glass bar along the top edge of the phone’s back. Thankfully its smaller size and lighter weight make it more manageable one-handed than its 2015 sibling.
The Nova adopts what Huawei calls ‘dynamic minimalism,’ which seems to be a continuation of what we have already seen from the company, simply given a classification with the arrival of the Nova line.
It’s an attractive smartphone with nice rounding, a sandblasted metal unibody and other Huawei hallmarks such as its signature diamond chamfered edges and knurled power key (in this case accented with red, just like the P9 Plus).
Along with a camera, the back of the phone also features the company’s latest fingerprint sensor, which boasts a response time of 0.3 seconds, as well as depth-sensing technology as part of the fingerprint verification process and gesture support seen on previous Huawei (and Honor) handsets.
The Nova integrates a reversible Type-C USB connection, making it one of the first mid-range smartphones to do so and will come in three colours: gold, silver and grey (pictured).
Huawei Nova hands-on review: Screen
On the front of the Nova you are presented with a 5-inch Full HD IPS LCD set behind 2.5D pillowed glass. It’s an attractive display that feels pleasant to swipe around thanks to that curved surface glass. Colours appear accurate and overall brightness looks like it’s a notable improvement on older Huawei phones, which sometimes under-delivered in bright environments.
You also have knuckle mode, a one-handed mode and a blue light filter at your disposal, which increases colour temperature in poorly lit environments to reduce eye strain.
Huawei Nova hands-on review: OS
The software experience feels identical to the likes of the Honor 8 and Huawei P9, with the company’s latest Emotion UI running atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
That means no apps drawer, but you do get a dynamic lock screen, a split two-pane notifications drawer, a host of proprietary Huawei apps and gesture support from the fingerprint sensor for things like accessing the notifications drawer, answering calls and swiping through your photos. We are hoping the age of the Nova guarantees it will receive the upgrade to Android 7.0 Nougat down the line.
Huawei Nova hands-on review: Performance
Interestingly, Huawei chose not to grace the Nova with one of its own Kirin processors and instead sided with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 625 SoC, backed up by 3GB of RAM. On first impressions, it feels like more than enough to ensure solid performance from the Nova and grants the phone fast-charging chops and NFC, too.
Like most other Huawei phones, the Nova includes a hybrid SIM tray for dual-SIM functionality or single SIM use with a microSD card (up to 128GB) to bolster the phone’s 32GB of internal space and the non-removable 3020mAh battery is quoted at offering up to two days of use on a charge, although we suspect real-world performance won’t quite reach such lofty heights.
Huawei Nova hands-on review: Cameras
The glass bar that gives the Nova its 6P-like aesthetics houses a 12-megapixel camera paired with a single LED flash. The sensor boasts 1.25μm pixels for superior low light performance (just like the Huawei P9) and, thanks to that beefy processor, video tops out at 4K resolution.
There’s also a sizeable 8-megapixel front-facer, which enjoys the benefits of Huawei’s standard beauty modes and Full HD video recording too.
Huawei Nova hands-on review: Price & availability
We are still waiting on price and availability information for Huawei’s new mid-ranger, the Nova, but we will update this article as soon as we know more.
Watch our Huawei Nova hands-on review here: