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Huawei Nova review: A OnePlus 3 killer? Not quite

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £341
inc VAT

A mid-range smartphone, the Huawei Nova isn’t exactly the OnePlus 3 killer Huawei wanted it to be


  • Great screen
  • Speedy performance
  • Long-lasting battery


  • Disappointing camera
  • Emotion UI


Processor: Octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Screen Size: 5in, Screen resolution: 1,920×1,080, Rear camera: 12 megapixel, Storage (free): 32GB (24GB), Wireless data: 4G, Dimensions: 141.2×69.1×7.1mm, Weight: 146g, Operating system: Android 6.0.1

Huawei smartphone launches seem to be a regular occurrence these days. We’ve already had three handsets this year, and now we have the intriguingly well-specced Huawei Nova, alongside its plus-sized brother, the Nova Plus.

Here, I’m looking at the smaller Huawei Nova, and it’s uncommonly suave for a mid-ranged smartphone. With its glossy front, minimal screen bezel and slightly textured metal back, it’s wonderfully good looking, even if it is a little tricky to keep a grip on it.

There’s something oddly familiar about the Nova. It looks just like any old smartphone from the front, sans home button, but from the rear, memories of the Nexus 6P come flooding back, especially with that circular fingerprint reader and the inset strip surrounding the camera. It’s not a bad archetype for starters, and not surprising, given that the Nexus 6P is another Huawei-made phone. Altogether, it’s a smarter look than much of the mid-range competition these days.Huawei Nova bottom

Switch it on, and the Huawei Nova continues to impress. With its ultra-high contrast ratio of 1,494:1, the 1,920 x 1,080 display is not only sharp but exudes impact and pops right off the screen. The IPS was able to display 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, too, ensuring, rich, vibrant colours across the board.Huawei Nova screen brightness

Peak brightness wasn’t quite so impressive at 428cd/m2. It’s moderately usable outside in the autumn sunshine, bringing it roughly in line with the AMOLED-based screen of the OnePlus 3, but I have few complaints with it otherwise. The screen is exceedingly easy on the eye.


Performance-wise, pretty much everything was up to scratch. With a single-core score of 842 and 2983 for multi-core in the GeekBench 4 benchmarking test, the Huawei Nova is more than capable at running most things you throw at it, without any real hiccups. I was able to run the Peacekeeper JavaScript benchmark too, which returned a respectable score of 818, and first impressions are of a reasonably nippy smartphone.Huawei Nova right side

The Nova speeds through menu screens during typical use, and launching and flitting between apps feels super responsive. Exactly what I’d expect from an Octa-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor paired with 3GB of RAM, in other words.Huawei Nova peacekeeper

Running the gaming-specific GFXBench GL GPU tests, the Snapdragon’s Adreno 556 GPU coped with all the games I threw at it. A 10FPS average on the Manhattan 3.0 onscreen test might not look like much, but it’s a respectable score considering how demanding the overall test is on the GPU. Games such as Sky Force Reloaded played without the slightest hitch, even when the action got a little frantic and I had no issues playing simpler games such as Threes! and Angry Birds 2.

The Huawei Nova does a decent job at squeezing the most juice out of its 3,020mAh battery. It lasted 13hrs 32mins in our continuous video-playback test with the screen set to a brightness of 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged. Translated to real-world use, that’s more than enough to coast through the entire working day, and it beats the larger Nexus 6P by more than an hour. If you’re looking for more battery oomph, though, the OnePlus 3 lasts even longer in this test, at 16hrs 56mins.Huawei Nova battery life

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ProcessorOcta-core 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
Screen size5in
Screen resolution1,920×1,080
Screen typeIPS
Front camera8 megapixel
Rear camera12 megapixel
Storage (free)32GB (24GB)
Memory card slot (supplied)MicroSD
Wireless data4G
Operating systemAndroid 6.0.1
Battery size3020mAh

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