Review: A value-driven selfie phone
By Sharil Abdul Rahman February 13, 2018
- Combines great performance, looks and features for its price point
- All-metal finish gives it a premium feel
THE Huawei Nova 2i is an odd product – a mid-ranger offered by a brand better known for premium devices.
Huawei has made strides in delivering value-packed products for its smartphone range. With models sitting in the high-end of the spectrum covered, it is now time to see if the mid-range market can accept another entry.
The looks of the Nova 2i can be described as functionally beautiful. The all-metal finish gives it a premium feel when held in the hand, and the vertical dual-camera at the back stands out when used. The only glass on the phone is on the front, which in turns makes it incompatible with any sort of wireless charging.
Huawei’s design labs have churned out many good-looking devices lately – the Nova 2i is no exception. The model that we received is the blue version, and it is handsome in every way.
The phone features many nods to the other phones in Huawei’s stable, including the more expensive P-series and Mate series.
The front of the phone is very simple and clean, with no buttons to mar the FullView display. The said display features an 18:9 aspect ratio which is becoming popular these days.
Speaking of screens, the FullView display is a 5.9-inch panel with a resolution of 2160 x 1080p. It is high resolution enough that content on screen will not look too fuzzy or jagged when viewed up close.
On the back, the twin camera sensor sits in the middle, oriented vertically. Dual cameras are now becoming the norm for even mid-range smartphones, so expect the two-lens design to persist in 2018.
The single LED flash bisects the antenna line, just above the camera lenses to give it a very symmetrical look when seen from the rear.
Other design touches include rounded corners for a more comfortable handling of the phone and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. This design choice is up to the customer’s preference – some like the scanner to be on the rear while other prefers it on the front for easier unlocking on a flat surface.
We can confirm that the fingerprint scanner on the Nova 2i is accurate and fast – the phone unlocks faster than you can blink your eye.
On the left side sits the dual-tray for the SIM card and memory storage. Just push in a pin and the tray pops out. On the right lives the power and volume button.
The volume rocker can be a bit mushy at times, but the power button has a satisfying click to it with every use.
Rounding things out on the bottom is a microUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The former is a bit odd with more phones coming out with USB Type-C as standard, while the latter is much appreciated with the current trend of removing this analogue connection for a fully digital experience on smartphones.
Huawei has traditionally gone with in-house solutions for their products; the Nova 2i is no exception. Underneath the all-metal body is Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 659. It is comparable to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 650 in performance. When paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, the Nova 2i sits on the higher end of the mid rangers.
We did not perceive any app slowdown or lag when running it on the Nova 2i. Applications launch with a snap and the UI elements does not detract in any form – in both functions and looks.
Talking about UI, Huawei’s EMUI rules the roost on the Nova 2i. It is based on Android Nougat 7.0, with plans for an update to Android 8.0 in the near future. It is a full skin, so no stock experience here. However, what it gives instead is power and performance on a tap of the screen.
As expected the phone performed well enough for daily use and even for gaming. The scores, while not as high as flagship smartphones, reflects that it is a capable device for many.
As stated before, the gaming power for the Nova 2i is acceptable, and most games running on this phone will fare will without too much stuttering of lag. It will have some trouble rendering games with a lot of elements on scree but otherwise it is fine.
Even multiple apps will not feel too out of place with the Nova 2i. The Geekbench scores relates it well, as multitasking will be acceptable on the phone. Of course, if you open too many apps at once or open a large Excel file on the phone it will lag; but then those situations will be far and few in between.
Battery life on the Nova 2i is one of the better once we have come across in a smartphone. The 3340mAh battery is respectable, seeing it has a 5.9-inch screen on the front. You can go for a full working day on a single charge.
Huawei is using two sensors on the Nova 2i – a 16-megapixel main sensor and a secondary two-megapixel sensor. The second sensor is present to record depth information, which can be used in simulating bokeh in the final photo.
Some lessons were learned from the Huawei collaboration with Leica. While the camera itself does not have the Leica branding, the knowledge from creating the P-series and Mate-series are trickled down to lower spec models.
Images taken with the Nova 2i’s camera are sharp, clear and clear for most uses. From capturing family photos to recording documents for later filing – the sensor on the Nova 2i has enough resolution to capture most of the details. While the sensor can’t go against sensors on flagship models, for the price it is more than capable.
The only grouse is that in the next model Huawei could include either a wider lens or a zoom lens for the secondary camera. We have good algorithms these days to simulate the blurred background, so having either a wider lens or a zoom function would be a nice value add to future models.
Having learned from its other releases thus far, the Huawei Nova 2i combines great performance, looks and features for its price point.
While it doesn’t tick all the boxes, the boxes it ticked are competent enough that it is a recommended buy for anyone looking for a large screen smartphone without paying through their nose.
At only RM1,299 (US$329), this phone is very affordable for anyone looking for the feature set in this device. It is also known as the P10 Lite in overseas markets, so the P-series legacy lives on in this mid-tier smartphone. It is available in Black, Blue or Gold to fit your needs.