Huawei nova plus Review: Looks Great & Performs Well, But Pricey

by Reads (1,321)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Service, Warranty & Support
      • 7
      • Ease of Use
      • 7
      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 6
      • Value
      • 4
      • Total Score:
      • 6.40
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Design, finish and craftsmanship
    • Excellent display contrast
    • Above average battery autonomy
    • One of the best fingerprint sensors in the world
  • Cons

    • High price-to-performance ratio
    • Poor display visibility when exposed to direct sunlight
    • Display has no protective layer
    • Poor low-light camera performance

Quick Take

The Huawei nova plus has an excellent design and fantastic finish. The rest (display, camera, performance) aligns with its mid-range class, with a price that’s higher than the competition.

Here’s the Huawei nova plus formula: upper mid-range hardware packed in a metal unibody with a flagship finish. That’s not different from other handsets from China-based makers, which typically balance price, performance, and the right cut corners well. The only difference is that as an established brand, Huawei wants more money for its device.

Huawei nova plus

Huawei nova plus

Huawei nova plus is a larger of the two novas, and it sports a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 625 chipset with 3GB RAM, a 16-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera, and a 3350mAh battery. It ships with Android OS 6.0.1 and Emotion UI 4.1.

It’s a mid-range handset according to the spec sheet, with a set of positive features that just about make up for its shortcomings. Accept that, and it won’t disappoint.

Build & Design

The Huawei nova plus has a sanded metal unibody, which comes in three colors (Prestige Gold, Mystic Silver and Titanium Grey). Combined with 2.5D glass in the front, the Huawei nova plus is convincingly one of the most attractive smartphones Huawei has ever produced, and one of the most elegant 5.5-inch phones on the market.

Unfortunately, the premium impression is tainted by the fact that the display doesn’t feature a protective layer. This makes it less scratch-proof than most rival phones, at least on paper. Still, it feels fantastic when held in hand, with a slightly rounded back surface. It weighs 160 grams (.35 pounds), and measures 152 x 76 x 7.3 mm (5.98 x 2.98 x 0.29 inches).

The display dominates the front, and takes up a solid 72-percent of the overall surface. Oddly, it feels ‘rubbery’ under the fingers, with greater friction than expected. This is likely due to the rounded edges and the fact Huawei did not use any special coating for the glass. The upper and bottom rims are thin, housing only a Huawei logo, while the control keys are capacitive and take up a part of the user interface. There is a speakerphone for making calls above the display, as well as the front-facing camera and ambient light sensor.

The back includes the bulging camera lens. Interestingly, the nova plus remains stable when placed down, and the bulge doesn’t cause it to rock left and right. This makes the bulge less of an issue. There’s a fingerprint sensor under the camera, which is concave and works very well – it’s very fast and easy to feel straight away. This is definitely one of the best fingerprint sensors in general.

Huawei nova plus top edge

Huawei nova plus top edge

Huawei nova plus bottom edge

Huawei nova plus bottom edge

The phone’s lower side includes stereo speaker perforations with the USB Type-C input in between; while the upper side holds just the 3.5-mm audio jack and a tiny, secondary microphone for cancelling environmental noise. There’s a rather slim power key at thumb’s height on the right side, with the equally slim volume rocker above it. The left side houses a two nanoSIM card drawer, with one slot serving double duty for microSD cards.

Huawei nova plus power button and volume rocker

Huawei nova plus power button and volume rocker

Huawei nova plus SIM tray side

Huawei nova plus SIM tray side

Display

The Huawei nova plus has a 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display (1080 x 1920 pixels), which is common with mid-range devices. This results in more than comfortable density of 401 pixels per inch, and no one should complain about its imaging sharpness. The screen’s above average contrast is also praiseworthy, mostly because of its very dark black tones. In fact, its contrast is a primary reason the nova plus display is better even than the manufacturer’s current flagship, Huawei P9, in average light.

The colors have average saturation, which differs from other smartphones with large IPS displays. Those usually push saturation, and have more vivacious imaging. With the nova plus though, this is primarily because its display is not very bright.

And that’s why sun glare causes major issues. Contrast loses a lot of its sustainability, and averagely saturated colors blend together. Here, the P9 is better, and glare resistance one of the primary differentiators between the flagship and the mid-range.

Performance

Huawei nova plus Android OS 6.0.1 and Emotion UI 4.1.

Huawei nova plus Android OS 6.0.1 and Emotion UI 4.1.

The Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 625 chipset was a good pick for the nova plus on paper, with its eight Cortex-A53 cores running a 2.0GHz clock, aided with Adreno 506 GPU and 3GB of RAM. The Huawei nova plus comes with 32GB of memory storage. Unfortunately, the 64GB memory storage and 4GB RAM model is only available in China, where it is sold under the name Huawei G9 Plus.

In practice, this chipset functions solidly, with satisfactory speed and no hints of slowing down over time (and a nova plus loaded with apps). Unfortunately, benchmarks don’t measure this, and betray how well it runs. Running GeekBench 3, the device scored 941 in the single-core test, and 4922 in multi-core test. The flagship Huawei P9 scored 1812 and 6550 on the same tests, respectively.

It ships with Android OS 6.0.1 and Emotion UI 4.1.

Connectivity

Looking at connectivity, the two SIM card setup is less than ideal. Only one offers a 4G connection, while the other is limited to 2G data transfer speed, and doubles as the microSD card slot. The 4G connection card transfers data according to the Cat.7 standard, meaning it provides a maximum speed of 300 Mbps for downloads and 150 Mbps for uploads. The device supports FM radio through an app, which is praise-worthy (most smartphones support FM, but few activate it), as it’s becoming rare these days.

Battery Life

The Huawei nova plus has a 3340mAh battery, and because its display and chipset aren’t particularly demanding, it has decent battery life, too. It is possible to watch Full HD videos with the display brightness set to the max for nearly 8 hours, while the phone should be recharged every other night with average usage.

It is praiseworthy that the user can choose between three power management modes. The usual one is simply called Standard, meaning it uses the optimal ratio of hardware performance for any task. Performance mode removes processor limitations, with no regard to battery savings. And Ultra Power Saving prolongs battery autonomy for several hours, but with a clear drop in the phone’s performance.

Camera

Huawei nova plus rear camera and fingerprint sensor

Huawei nova plus rear camera and fingerprint sensor

Huawei thinks the nova plus has an ace that’ll differentiate it from the competition: a couple of above-average cameras. Specifically, the Huawei nova plus has a 16-megapixel rear camera with a dual-color LED flash and optical image stabilization, with f/2.0, hybrid autofocus and PDAF+ contrast detection. It sounds powerful; however, in practice, it’s average, producing the kind of photos you’d expect from a mid-range device.

Specifically, the Huawei nova plus shoots exceptionally beautiful images in daylight, complete with correct exposure, realistically saturated colors, and plenty of detail (which we expect in a 16-megapixel camera). However, at night, and even with Huawei’s Super Night Mode, pics lose most of their detail. Focusing is also very difficult in low light. It either takes too long, or loses focus all together.

To be fair, the Huawei nova plus produces outstanding night pics shot up close, thanks to its solid flashes, which also make it great for selfies. The front-facing camera sports 8 megapixels, as well as OIS. Of course, also has Huawei’s robust beauty filter, which is either a plus or easily ignored, depending on your selfie preference level.

In terms of video, the rear camera records 4K clips at 30 fps, which is a high-end spec for a mid-range device. As with the images, the video quality is good during the day and at night with a static subject shot up close. Full HD recording is also limited to 30 fps. It’s a shame it can’t record Full HD at 60 fps (this is a limitation of the chipset).

Huawei nova plus sample HDR photo

Huawei nova plus sample HDR photo

Huawei nova plus sample photo

Huawei nova plus sample photo

Huawei nova plus Review Conclusion

Huawei nova plus

The Huawei nova plus has an excellent design and fantastic finish. This convincing craftsmanship is its chief selling point. The display, chipset, and camera performance are just good enough not to drag it down.

Unfortunately its price, €430 (about $472) is relatively steep, considering China-based mobile makers like ZTE, Xiaomi, and LeEco full flagships for the same money. However, Huawei is a more established brand outside China, and offers established reliability. For some users, that’s enough to justify the price.

Pros

  • Design, finish and craftsmanship
  • Excellent display contrast
  • Above average battery autonomy
  • One of the best fingerprint sensors in the world

Cons

  • High price-to-performance ratio
  • Poor display visibility when exposed to direct sunlight
  • Display has no protective layer
  • Poor low-light camera performance


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