Huawei Nova and Nova Plus review: Hands on with the dinky Nexus 6


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Huawei Nova and Nova Plus review – One thing you can’t accuse Huawei of is being idle. Even ignoring everything but their phone business, in 2016 they’ve already launched the Mate 8, the P9 and the P9 Plus. And they’re not done yet: at IFA, the Chinese manufacturer unveiled another pair of handsets – the Huawei Nova and Nova Plus.

The almost-identical names might make you think they’d be practically twins, but they actually look quite different. The Nova packs a 5in screen and looks just like a mini Nexus 6, complete with the black strip surrounding the camera at the back. The Nova Plus’ display, meanwhile, measures 5.5in corner to corner and has been styled to resemble a smaller version of the Mate 8.

As you’ll see when we get to specifications, these are mid-range handsets, but they certainly don’t look like they are. The bodies are crafted from metal and are slick-looking, with curved-edge “second-generation” 2.5D glass on the front. There’s a circular fingerprint reader on the rear, mounted centrally, which can be used to pull down the notifications menu, swipe through gallery photos and answer calls, and it’s paired with NFC for contactless payment via Android Pay.

Huawei Nova and Huawei Nova Plus review: Specifications

Huawei Nova Huawei Nova Plus
Screen 5in, 1,920 x 1,080, IPS 5.5in 1,920 x 1,080, IPS
Processor 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
RAM 3GB 3GB
Storage 32GB, with microSD slot expansion up to 128GB 32GB, with microSD slot expansion up to 128GB
Design All-metal body, “second-generation” 2.5D glass All-metal body, “second-generation” 2.5D glass
Camera 13MP 16MP, OIS
Colours Silver, grey, gold, rose gold Gold, silver, grey
Battery 3,020mAh (48 hours “normal usage) 3,340mAh (52 hours “normal usage)

At a glance, they look pretty similar, specs-wise, but there are some key differences between the handsets. For a start, the Nova Plus has a better camera with a 16-megapixel resolution compared with the Nova’s 13 megapixels. It also holds another advantage over the smaller Nova: optical image stabilisation (OIS), which should help it capture better photographs in low light.

The batteries also pack different capacities. With a larger chassis, the Nova Plus has a 3,340mAh power pack compared to 3,020mAh for the Nova.

Still, both the Huawei Nova and Nova Plus have a processor in common, and surprisingly, it isn’t a Kirin as in the P9 and P9 Plus, but a 2GHz, octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip. There’s 3GB of RAM in both handsets and a microSD card slot for expanding the onboard storage.

Huawei’s Emotion UI makes a return as does the company’s crazy “knuckle sense” tech, which allows you to carry out various tasks by rapping the screen with your knuckles.

I’m not a big fan of the Emotion UI, but to give them credit, the company has been steadily improving the way Emotion UI looks and works recently, so it’s much more bearable than it once was. I’d still prefer Huawei gave consumers the choice between its own software and pure Android, but at least they do seem to be listening.

Huawei Nova and Huawei Nova Plus review: Early verdict

With handsets such as the Nova and Nova Plus, price will ultimately decide whether they sink or swim, especially with so many top-quality smartphones in this bracket right now. I’m thinking of the OnePlus 3 here, and also the original, 5.5in Nexus 6, both of which which offer faster processors than the new Huawei Novas.

At €399 for the Nova and €429 for the Nova Plus (available from 26 September), however, both work out fractionally more expensive than the OnePlus 3 and Nexus 6. Undoubtedly the price will come down over time, but for now I think these two are a touch too pricey, no matter how nice their design.

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