Huawei Nova review: Good, but it’s no OnePlus 3

£340
Price when reviewed

Huawei Nova review: Performance

It’s when it comes to measuring performance that things become a bit sticky. In day-to-day use, the Nova is a decent performer, as you’d expect considering its specifications. The Nova – and its bigger brother the Nova Plus – uses a 2GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chip, backed with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage on the side. That, you would imagine, would put it slap bang in the middle of the mid-range on performance.

Initially that was pure speculation, as our Huawei handset was locked down, preventing us from putting it through its benchmark paces. We now have an unlocked one and can reveal how it performs. Here it is again against a selection of similarly priced handsets:

Geekbench single core

Geekbench multi core

GFXBench Onscreen (native)

GFXBench Offscreen (1080p)

Huawei Nova

843

2,982

10fps

9.8fps

OnePlus 3

2,371

5,416

47fps

47fps

Sony Xperia X Compact

1,445

3,778

32fps

15fps

Samsung Galaxy A5

727

3,558

4.7fps

4.7fps

It’s not hugely happy reading for Huawei. The OnePlus 3 wipes the floor with it, at £10 cheaper, but then it does with most handsets. More damagingly, the Xperia X Compact is a significantly better performer for £20 more. In fact, the Huawei Nova has more in common with the Samsung Galaxy A5, which is a competent handset, but is available for just under £300.

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In terms of stamina, the 3,020mAh battery held its own admirably well, giving us a final time of 13hrs 32mins in our video-playback test at a screen brightness of 170cd/m2. The average for smartphones is around the 11-hour mark, so while the Huawei Nova doesn’t come close to touching the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which achieved a Herculean 18hrs 42mins, it’s certainly solid enough for most people’s use.

Likewise, the camera is no groundbreaker. It’s a 12-megapixel snapper, and image quality is adequate, but unlikely to set the world alight. Photographers may want to consider the Huawei Nova Plus at this point. Not only does it come with a 16-megapixel camera, it also boasts optical image stabilisation (OIS), something that’s conspicuous by its absence here.

The results are okay, lifted by some heavy image processing. There’s a little fuzziness when you zoom in, and colours feel a touch pale and washed out, but it will do the job. And as a superficial alternative, there are plenty of neat filters you can throw into the mix, including modes that allow you to capture light trails left by moving cars, or the flow of water.

The front-facing “selfie” camera, with its less demanding day-to-day role, fares better. At eight megapixels, it feels a touch like overkill, but for video calls and selfies, it doesn’t disappoint.

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Huawei Nova review: Verdict

Missing benchmarks notwithstanding, Huawei has presented us with a very likeable handset in the Nova. It’s attractive, seems zippy and responsive, has a bright, vibrant screen and solid battery life – and all for a not unreasonable £340.

Not unreasonable, that is, until you consider the great disrupter: the OnePlus 3. That’s the handset that currently sits proudly at the top of our best smartphones list, and while not quite offering the performance of our favourite flagships, it comes close at a fraction of the price. And, crucially, that price is £10 cheaper than the Huawei Nova’s.

That’s not really fair on the Huawei Nova, which offers solid value it itself, but nonetheless, it remains a tough sell by comparison. Still, if you find one on offer, you can rest assured you’ll be getting an attractive, high-quality handset that won’t let you down.

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