Huawei Nova 2 Plus review

Twin cameras and subtle styling, without the sky-high price

16 August 2017
by Stuff Staff

Last year’s Nova and Nova Plus were two sides of the same coin. The smaller of Huawei’s mid-range handsets looked like a miniature Nexus 6P; the bigger one had a whiff of OnePlus 3 about it.

The Nova 2 Plus, though? It’s pure iPhone 7.

For the 2017 sequel, Huawei has gone for an unmistakably Apple-esque vibe, complete with dual rear cameras for some fancy depth-of-field effects and lossless zoom.

Don’t think of it as a mere clone, though: more as the inexpensive Android alternative ex-iPhone fans have been waiting for.

DESIGN & BUILD

We got a pretty lengthy hands-on go with the 5.5in Nova 2 Plus.  Which apart from the screen size, is identical specs-wise with the smaller 5in Nova 2.

Let’s get this out of the way early: yes, they look a lot like the iPhone.

With no red accent around the power button, no metal band stretching across the dual cameras on the back (like you’d find on the more expensive P10) and no metallic accents around the edge of the screen bezels up front, there’s even more of a resemblance here than on Huawei’s current flagship – which itself has an uncanny resemblance to Apple’s best.

We actually like this simpler look, though. Given the price, even coming close to matching Apple for look and feel isn’t really a bad thing.

The metal unibody construction is easily up there with the best Huawei has to offer, too, with no visible seams or seals.

It’s glossy around the sides, but tapers to a matte finish on the rear – you’d be hard-pressed to tell this wasn’t a premium handset from a distance.

It’s got all the mod cons you’d expect from a big bucks phone, too – USB-C charging, relatively slim screen bezels and a super-quick fingerprint sensor on the back. Oh, and let’s not forget a 3.5mm headphone jack. Some things Apple does aren’t worth copying.

SCREEN & SOUND

The 5.5in Nova 2 Plus has a 1920×1080 LCD screen. There’s nothing major to complain about here – it has great viewing angles, enough brightness that we could see clearly outdoors (once it was cranked to the max, at least) and fairly vibrant colours.

It certainly feels like you’re getting the right level of screen for the US$380.

The same can be said of the speaker at the bottom, which was about as loud as you’d expect from a smartphone. It’s no HTC U11, but it’ll do in a pinch for catching a YouTube video while you cook dinner.

PERFORMANCE

This is the first phone we’ve tried with Huawei’s own Kirin 659 CPU inside. It might sound like a real step down from the Kirin 960 you’ll find in the P10 and the P10 Plus, but it’s still an octa-core chip, with four 2.36ghz high performance cores and four 1.7ghz low power ones.

Paired with 4gb of RAM, there was easily enough power to run Android Nougat smoothly – even with Huawei’s EMUI skin running on top, and a whole host of pre-installed apps filling up the internal storage.

The Mali-T830 GPU felt like a good match to the 1080p display, too, with it managing to keep up with the graphical intensity of Asphalt Nitro with little trouble.

The Nova Plus comes loaded with a whopping 128GB of storage and you can add a microSD card to the second SIM card slot if you’re running low on space.

The phone boasts a high capacity 3340mAh battery which for general use should see you comfortably through a full day with a little left over. This is especially because of the 1080p screen. There’s no power-sapping QHD resolution to worry about here.

 

CAMERA

If you’ve used the P10’s dual cameras before, you’ll have a good idea what to expect from the Nova 2 – the 12MP+8MP setup combine to let you zoom in to 2x with no real loss of quality, or to add dreamy bokeh effects to your photos.

The Camera app is almost identical, although there’s no monochrome mode here – and of course no partnership with high-end camera gurus Leica.

That doesn’t mean it can’t take great photos, though: the snaps we took looked clear, detailed and colourful. There were a few telltale signs of oversharpening, similar to our experience with the P10, but that’s not a total dealbreaker considering the price.

Up front, the 20MP selfie cam talks a big game, but cramming so many pixels into a tiny sensor isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success. The snaps we took looked a little smudgy when zooming in, but your mileage my vary.

VERDICT

The Nova 2 Plus improves on the original with a streamlined design, uprated internals and dual cameras with genuinely useful features like zoom and portrait blur.

While it’s definitely not as powerful, both in processing power and camera chops, as Huawei’s P10 and P10 Plus flagships, for the US$380 price tag here in the Middle East you’re getting an excellent mid-range Android alternative, especially if you’re not enamoured with the design of Huawei’s Honor brand.

STUFF SAYS

Score: ****

It might look a lot like an iPhone, but this mid-range Android has a few tricks of its own to help it stand out

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