Huawei Nova Review

Huawei Nova Review Darryl Linington
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Not too long ago, Huawei wasn’t a company South Africans were that familiar with. Even being one of China’s largest Mobile Phone Manufacturers had us only associate with it when we bought Mobile Data hardware, like 3G and LTE dongles. Then they started edging well into the International Mobile Phone market and dropped what is known to be their greatest phone, the Nexus 6p. Great performance speeds, awesome camera and well-optimised battery usage made the 6p an attractive option in early 2016, more so it’s great price! Huawei’s new Nova is in many ways the successor to the 6p, only not as much as would be expected.

Marketed as a mid-range phone, the Nova comes in around the same size as the Sony Compacts range, yet bigger than an iPhone SE. Regardless of tier, the Nova is an absolute beauty! With a 5” IPS display wrapped in a mix of brushed and smooth metal body finishes with well rounded edges, it is as comfortable to hold as it is resting in your pocket. Feeling solid and weighty (coming in at a whopping 146g – which is heavy for a 5”screen phone) the Nova doesn’t feel cheap. As with most Huawei’s, the fingerprint reader is to the top of the back of the phone, more or less where your index finger would naturally rest when holding the phone – allowing for fast and easy access to the Nova unless it’s resting on a flat surface.

Huawei Nova

The front of the Nova keeps a clean, sleek look, with only the front camera lens, speaker and ambient light sensor visible all attention is drawn to the screen. Huawei got the visuals and feel of the Nova spot on and with the help of the 5-inch, 1920×1080 LCD-IPS screen hits it home. On the screen panel text appears perfectly clear, deep black levels and vibrant, yet natural colours rendered in high contrast has all images appear rich. However, being an LCD, it doesn’t really have the contrast and black ranges you’d be used to seeing on OLED panels, but it’s a contender no less. Brightness on the panel is very suitable for outside use as well and there is an Eye Protection mode to cancel out blue light by drawing deeper on the pool of orange light which is easy on the eyes when using for extended periods.

Running Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Upgradable to 7.0 Nougat) with Huawei’s own EMUI 4.1 interface running over it, alters general interactivity that some may be used to when using Samsung or LG phones. This is my only real area of critique to be honest. Removing a fundamental feature I’ve come to enjoy on Android, the Apps Library, the Nova rather adopts the iPhone-like flattened approach which requires you to group apps into folders to avoid navigating between pages and pages of apps just to find the one you seek. Another aspect which feels underdone is the actual interface itself. I prefer “Lite” interfaces myself to avoid burning through unnecessary battery just for shadow effects, but there does exists a look that is too basic. Widgets feel dated and look a little too minimalist and the standard icons pack lacks style. This is especially troubling when realising that the Huawei EMUI is one of the heaviest overlay skins for Android.

A fair amount of bloatware exists as well: WPS Office, News Republic, and various other apps and games as well. Also featured are standard Huawei apps like the generic weather and FM Radio apps, a voice recorder and system optimiser as well. Luckily most of these can be uninstalled. Another forced app is the Huawei Swype Keyboard, which I suggest you default back to the google keyboard immediately or alternatively adopt SwiftKey – I don’t want to get into it, but spacebars really need more space.

The Huawei Nova features a 12MP camera on the back with a single-LED flash, while it has an 8MP selfie camera on the front. Using a ½.9-inch sensor makes each sensor 1.25 microns across allows for incredibly sharp and clear daytime photos with powerful colours. This is during perfect conditions though. In even moderately darker lighting the camera comes up short. The autofocus struggled to find my intended targets and even in attempts to snap as focus was almost gained, I just could not enjoy the experience. This only gets worse the dimmer the environment. This is even more upsetting when some of the camera’s best features are built for night use, like the long exposure mode which uses extended shooting to create moving light scenes, which sadly creates odd pixelation instead. The front 8MP camera suffers the same, best you stick to daylight photography when using the Nova.

Countering what may seem like a lot of bad is the Nova’s core strength – its battery. Coming in at a low 3040mAh you’d not expect much, but pushing a smaller 1080p screen does allow for better power management unlike with bigger phones. With active use, using the phone only in the evenings, it was on a solid 32% on the third night. I gunned it through the night and managed to get it close to depleted by the 4th evening. It’s a solid 2 production day battery. Driving a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor eases the load as well with it working sparingly with power draw while supplying faster processing. Accompanying the 625 is 3Gb of integrated memory and 32Gb of storage space, expandable to an additional 256GB via a MicroSD. Not the greatest for the mobile gamer, who would be better off with manufacturer flagships the Nova performs perfectly within mid-range expectancy. The latency in Huawei’s timely Android updates faults incentive even more.

Huawei Nova Review

The Huawei Nova is a fair mid-tier competitor, but unless you’re looking for a 2-year cycle, mid-ranger you would be better off aiming for high-range alternatives. A solid entry into Huawei’s offerings still leaves the Nova lacking in many aspects as it pales in comparison to competitor devices in the same league. I would personally not get the Nova, but only because there are better alternatives, even from Huawei itself.

The Huawei Nova was reviewed by Jacques Du Plooy.

Editor of Tech IT Out. Former radio host of Former Editor of IT News Africa and ITF Gaming. All round techie, gamer and entrepreneur. For Editorial Enquiries Contact: or via +27788021400.