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Huawei Nova review

 Review: November 2016  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Huawei Nova is a top-rated mid-range phone. With a premium-design metal body, it has the look of a high-end handset but for half the price. Its top features are its 5-inch high resolution screen, fingerprint scanner, fast 8-core processor, and very long battery life.


Design & looks

Huawei is a company on a mission. That mission is to produce the best mid-range smartphone, and with the Huawei Nova the company is very close to achieving that goal.

We've been tracking Huawei's ultraslim premium-build Android phones for a while now. The company's recent P9 Lite phone has certainly made an impact in the UK, but the Nova might be even better.

The first thing to note is that Huawei has reined in the size of the Nova. While the trend is for ever-bigger screens, many users find that 5 inches remains the ideal size, and that anything bigger can be quite unweildy in everyday use. So Huawei has scaled back the screen size of the Nova to exactly 5 inches, making it slimmer at the same time - just 7.1mm thick. Weighting 146g it feels light for its size.

It's a curvaceous phone, with curved edges and a curved back making it very comfortable to hold despite its ultrathin form. Like other recent Huawei models, it's built from a lightweight magnesium and aluminium alloy and feels strong and solid. The designers have paid attention to the details, giving it diamond-cut bezels and a macho-looking speaker grille positioned on the bottom edge. On the back of the phone you'll find a circular fingerprint scanner, used to unlock the device. This works well, and is fast too.

Available in a choice of metallic Silver, Gold or Grey, it has a premium look that belies its relatively low price.

The 5 inch-screen retains the same high resolution as the larger P9 - 1920 x 1080 pixels - making it very sharp and crisp with an extremely high 443ppi pixel density. The IPS display is very bright, easily viewable, and has good viewing angles.

8-core Snapdragon processor

The Nova is a powerful beast with an 8-core Snapdragon 625 processor. This uses Cortex A53 cores running at up to 2.0GHz, making it as fast as anything in the sub-£300 sector. With a huge 3GB of RAM it can handle multitasking too, and the Adreno 506 graphics unit gives it the power to play most 3D games.

We welcome the fact that Huawei are giving us 32GB of built-in storage with this model too - generous for a phone in this price range - plus the ability to add a microSD card for extra data.

Android 6 Marshmallow

Like all the current crop of Huawei phones, the Nova runs Android 6 Marshmallow, with the latest version of Huawei's Emotion UI on top. This Apple-inspired user interface adds some interesting features, but is quite a heavy mod and won't please die-hard Android fans. It doesn't appear to give the phone any noticeable performance hit however.

12 megapixel camera

The Nova is well equipped for photography. The main rear-facing camera has a 12 megapixel sensor with larger than normal pixels and a wide f/2.2 aperture, both of which aid it in gathering light in darker situations. With BSI and an LED flash it can handle after-dark photography well, although at the expense of introducing noise and grain. During daylight it takes sharp, crisp images. The dual-autofocus system is fast and accurate.

Selfie lovers are well-catered for with a fixed-focus 8 megapixel front camera that uses the display as a flash.

The phone is good for video too, with the ability to record 4K video.


Huawei has beefed up the range of connectivity options available in the Nova with the addition of a USB Type C connector to add to the usual array - 4G, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and a headphone socket. GPS and Glonass positioning are included, as well as a compass.

Strong battery life

The 3020mAh battery of the Nova gives up to 3 days between charges for lighter users, or a full day of active use if you use the phone continuously. We guess that most users will get 2 days between charges. It's able to recharge quickly too.

Conclusion - Huawei's best mid-range phone yet

The Nova impresses. Available for around £300 sim free, or on a mid-priced contract, it gives you the feel of a high-end phone for a lot less money than you'd expect. With high-end looks, fast performance, a good camera and premium features like a fingerprint sensor, 4K video, USB Type C and a powerful battery, it makes you wonder if there's any point paying more for a phone.

We notice that some industry reviewers have marked the phone down for a variety of reasons, but in our opinion, these overly-harsh reviews miss the point - the Nova is a compact phone that costs half as much as a flagship model.

You should compare it with the Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016), HTC One A9s and Sony Xperia M5.

Huawei Nova features include:

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