Huawei continues to gun for the top dogs of the smartphone world as it tries to gain recognition beyond its home of China and into the Western market. With the Huawei P9 now taking the mantle as the manufacturer's flagship device, Huawei is now targeting the flourishing mid-tier with the Nova and larger Nova Plus, two new devices in a brand new product line from the scrappy smartphone maker.
Clearly trying to capitalise on the growing trend of plus-sized smartphones, Huawei's new smartphone line comes in regular and XL sizes. The 5in Nova sits alongside the 5.5in Nova Plus, with both devices packing bright and punchy 1080p displays at 443ppi, with so-called 2.5D glass that gives a nice curved look to the screen. Huawei has also added a blue light filter, which is intended to stop your phone interfering with your sleep patterns.
Both devices measure 7.1mm thick and sport a brushed metal finish, meanwhile the edges of the handsets have been rounded off to result in a handset that looks and sits better in the hand than even the flagship P9.
Huawei largely has the design front nailed these days, and while it might not boast the sleek curves of the Galaxy S7 Edge or the refined perfection of the iPhone 6, the Nova is certainly one of the best-looking Huawei phones to date. It actually bears a striking resemblance to 2015's Nexus 6P, which is unsurprising as it too was manufactured by Huawei.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Nova Plus, which is somewhat of the ugly older brother of the two. The Nova takes inspiration from the 6P and this year's Huawei P9 by tucking its rear-facing camera module tidily away at the top of the device, which sits just above a circular fingerprint sensor. The Nova Plus appears messier by comparison, with the camera, flash and noticeably squarer fingerprint sensor all sitting bunched together on the rear of the device, without the appealing two-tone finish.
The Nova Plus's camera module also protrudes the handset whereas the Nova's sits flush with the rest of the device, although this is likely owing to its larger sensor, which comes in at 16MP compared to the smaller phone's 12MP. The Nova Plus also boasts optical image stabilisation, which the Nova misses out on. Both devices are able to shoot video in 4K.
In practice, both cameras held out well during our brief hands-on time with them, offering snappy autofocus and producing clear, bright images thanks to their f/2.2 aperture lenses. Surprisingly, on their auto settings the Nova and Nova Plus seemed to give a better point-and-take performance than the Huawei P9, which can struggle to properly balance lighting in some situations. Both phones pack secondary 8MP cameras round the front.
Processor and storage
Inside the devices, the Nova and Nova Plus are largely the same beast. Both house a 2GHz, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 3GB RAM, which felt snappy enough under the finger during our hands-on time. You'll find Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) running under the hood, overlaid with Huawei's proprietary Emotion UI 4.1 interface. We're still not a fan.
The Nova and Nova Plus each come with 32GB internal storage expandable with a microSD card, which can be popped into a 'hybrid' slot on the side of the device that house both the storage and SIM cards.
Huawei touts a two-day battery life for the Nova and 2.5 days for the Nova Plus, thanks in part to the power-conserving capabilities of the Snapdragon 625. The Nova packs a 3020mAh battery, whereas the Nova Plus sports a 3340 power pack that Huawei says gives it a 10% longer battery life than its sibling.
The Huawei Nova and Nova Plus will be available in over 50 regions from October, costing €399 (£335/$445) and €429 (£360/$479) respectively.
The Huawei Nova and Nova Plus are unlikely to shake things up at the high end of the smartphone spectrum, but that's not the intention anyway. Instead, the devices are an attempt to tap into a burgeoning middle tier dominated by the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG and prove that no place is safe from the Chinese manufacturer's onslaught. On the other hand, despite their solid hardware and (mostly) good looks, there's no escaping the fact that the Nova and Nova Plus are two more additions to an ocean of mid-range smartphones. Whether they merit the creation of a whole new brand for Huawei remains to be seen.