Huawei Nova Hands-On: Pretty, But Neither Here Nor There

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

With budget handsets growing increasingly brilliant by the year and flagships… well, continuing to be flagships, you can be forgiven for forgetting about that other tier of smartphones: the mid-rangers. Huawei certainly hasn’t, however, having just launched the Nova.

It’s a 5-incher with a Full HD display, and it’s really rather understated and pretty. There are hints of the Huawei P9 and iPhone 6S about it, from the front at least, thanks to the Nova’s glossy finish and rounded corners.

The glass front panel blends pleasingly into the brushed metal frame, while the curved, sand-blasted back brings together elements from the Huawei Mate 8 and Nexus 6P. Unlike those monsters, however, the Nova feels compact. It slips in and out of jeans pockets easily, and I had no problem reaching all areas of its display one-handed.

A circular fingerprint scanner lies beneath the 12-megapixel main camera sensor (HDR, no OIS), while an 8-megapixel selfie snapper sits on the front. The camera app is as slick as you like, firing up and focusing speedily, but Huawei’s now infamous ‘Beauty Mode’ is still nightmarishly weird.

The divisive EMUI custom skin is back again, sitting on top of Android to make the software appear iOS-like. That means there’s no app drawer, which I don't mind but many others seem to hate. Cue rejoice and dismay in various corners. Out of the box the phone will be running Android 6.0, Marshmallow.

One of the fresh additions in the Nova that Huawei seems particularly proud of is the blue light filter, which should help you catch a good night's sleep even if you’ve been using your phone in bed. I haven’t had the chance to try it out yet, as I left my only pair of presentable jim-jams back in the UK.

Powering the Nova is the octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, which has been paired with 3GB of RAM. Performance was nice and nippy for us, though we’ve only spent a short amount of time with the Nova so far. We’ll have a better idea once we get our hands on it properly.

The Nova’s 32GB of storage is expandable by up to 120GB through the SD card slot, and Huawei says its 3,020mAh battery, which is rechargeable through a USB Type-C port, will deliver up to two days of use. If accurate, that could prove a big draw.

The Huawei Nova will be available in silver, grey and gold models, and will set you back €399 (around £335).