Huawei’s introduction of the Nova 2i (Maimang 6 in China and Honor 6i in India) is making the mid-range competition pretty interesting. The growing popularity of smartphones with large, near bezel-less displays has certainly excited a lot of consumers. With the likes of the LG Q6, the Vivo V7+ and the upcoming OPPO F5, Huawei’s Nova 2i is yet another solid competitor in the Php15k price range.
In our full review of the Huawei Nova 2i below, we looked at all aspects of the phone — from design to performance, battery life and most especially the quad-camera setup which is a first from Huawei.
Before anything else, watch our quick unboxing video below:
Table of Contents
Design and Construction
The Nova 2i is a nice-looking device, somewhat akin to the Huawei P10 but simpler and more subtle. It comes with an all-metal unibody design and a slim profile despite the humongous 5.9-inch display.
The size of the phone is still manageable; comfortable actually, considering the size of the display, thanks to the 83% screen-to-body ratio.
The Nova 2i comes in various colors but the one we have here is in dark blue which is the best color we’ve seen for the device. It’s only 7.5mm thin and 164 grams in weight which is pretty good for the display size. The metal body feels solid on the hands and the matte finish gives it the classic look that’s similar to the P10 Plus.
In fact, the two almost have the same exact dimensions and net weight — except that the P10 Plus is just 5.5 inches and the Nova 2i is 5.9 inches.
The power button and volume controls are on the right side; the 3.5mm audio jack, loudspeakers, and micro-USB port are at the bottom along with the primary microphone. Up top is the noise-canceling mic and on the left side is the SIM slot.
At the back is the fingerprint sensor where it is normally found in Huawei devices, just below the rear cameras that are stacked on top of each other. A single LED flash sits on top of them while the antennas bands run across the top and bottom corners are visible yet subtly placed.
We liked the smooth matte finish, the rounded edges and the solid build of the Nova 2i. It’s pretty close to the design and build quality of the Huawei P10. As for the size, it’s really going to be subjective but we think it’s not meant for single-handed use.
Display and Multimedia
Speaking of the display, the Nova 2i comes with a huge 5.9-inch IPS LCD display. It nearly competes with the 5.8-inch display of the Galaxy S8 and the 5.99-inch display of the Vivo V7+.
It has an almost bezel-less display at the front with the glass slightly curving out around the edges. The 18:9 aspect ratio is becoming the norm this year and the Nova 2i follows that convention.
While a majority of the apps in the Play Store still do not conform to the new aspect ratio, the device can actually adjust or stretch them to fit the entire screen although you will be prompted to do this to every app individually. The display is bright and crisp, great for watching videos or streaming on YouTube.
Despite the large screen, the 2160 x 1080 pixel resolution looks really nice. The 409ppi gives it more than enough pixel density to produce accurate and sharp images. Viewing angles are wide and still retains the brightness and color accuracy even at around 15-30% angle of view. Colors are vibrant and contrast is good as you would expect an IPS panel although there are a lot of tweaks in the display settings that you can change to adjust this to your liking.
It’s also very refreshing that you get an almost immersive experience for a device this size. The side bezels are about 2mm thin so they aren’t really that narrow compared to many other phones like the P10 or the Mate 9. Where the Nova 2i shaved off much of the front panel is the top and bottom bezels; the top corner houses the speakerphone and the two front-facing cameras while the bottom corner only shows the Huawei logo.
The screen also has native features such as a blue-light filter and ability to adjust color temperature to either cold or warm. The option for View Mode allows the user to set the relative size of the content and fonts to either small, medium or large so that setting really depends if you still have 20/20 eyesight.
The Nova 2i has a single speaker at the bottom, just on the left side of the USB port. Sound quality is good and maximum volume is pretty loud. The earphones that came with it were decent and works just fine with the audio quality on the average side.
OS, Apps and UI
The Nova 2i runs on Google Android 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1 interface that’s customized by Huawei. It’s a flat UI with multiple home screens and folder-based grouping of apps but there’s an option in the settings to enable the app drawer for those who prefer it. Since this is a larger screen, there’s an option to set the grids of the Home Layout to either 4×6, 5×5 or 5×6 apps per screen.
We had a huge 2.5GB software update during the course of this review and that made a lot of improvements on the device.
The normal on-screen navigational buttons are present and can be customized and re-arranged to your liking. If you find the display too large with one-handed use, you can narrow the touchable display area to around 70% and flushed to either the left or right side of the screen. There are pulse notification lights or you can set the screen to turn on whenever you receive new messages. You can do this for each app so you have full control of the notification alerts.
App twin is a native feature that when activated, allows you to run two instances of the same app with each one logging to a different account. This feature is very useful if you’re using two SIM cards and each SIM is associated with different chat accounts.
With the 64GB internal storage, about 12.5GB is allocated for the firmware so you’re left with 51.5GB of usable space.
The fingerprint sensor at the back is placed below the camera which is the best and most ergonomic placement of the scanner in our opinion. It’s easy to access and unlock the phone. It’s fast and very accurate and supports up to 5 unique fingerprints.
The Nova 2i is the first smartphone from Huawei to sport a quad-camera setup — that’s two rear cameras and two front-facing cameras. The main 16-megapixel camera can shoot at full resolution in 16:9 aspect ratio or if you want the 18:9 aspect ratio, supported resolution is at 11MP.
The camera can also capture photos in RAW format but you have to switch to the Pro Mode in order to do that. The second rear camera is used to provide depth-of-field and simulate very good aperture which is as wide as f/0.95 to f/16.
There’s really no practical imaging use for it except for the fact that it’s a support camera which is perhaps the reason why it’s just a 2MP sensor.
In terms of camera quality, we can say it’s really good but not very impressive. Daylight shots are great but the camera suffers in low-light conditions. With an aperture of f2.2, it’s a bit hard to get a not-so-blurry shot when shooting in low light. Video recording tops at full HD 1080 at 30fps. There’s no 4K support but fancy features such as slow-motion (480p), time-lapse and light painting are present.
The front-facing camera also comes with LED soft light for better selfies. The main front camera has a 13MP sensor with f/2.0, a bit larger opening compared tot he rear camera. The secondary 2MP camera is basically a support camera for bokeh effects.
It is clear that Huawei’s approach for the pair of dual-cameras at the back and front is for shooting fancy portrait photos and selfie photos with bokeh effects. It relies a lot on software tweaks to produce appealing results. It need not be a great camera, it just needs to produce the best-looking version of the subject.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Nova 2i is powered by a HiSilicon Kirin 659 octa-core processor. It’s the first time we’ve tested a phone running this chipset but an earlier release of the Nova 2 and Nova 2 Plus already had this in its hardware. The Kirin 659 has a top clock speed of 2.36GHz for the set of 4 cores and another low-power Cortex A53 running at 1.4GHz. This is paired with a Mali T830 GPU which is the same as in the Huawei GR5 2017 and the Galaxy J7 Pro.
Synthetic benchmarks gave the Nova 2i a fairly good score with a high of 62,964 in Antutu benchmark (puts it around the Snapdragon 810 and Snapdragon 625 chipset). The score is within the vicinity of the Zenfone 3 (Snapdragon 625) at 62k and just a hair below the Galaxy S6 (Samsung Exynos 7420) at 67k.
Antutu Benchmark: 62,964
PCMark: 4,886 (Work 2.0), 6,029 (Work 1.0)
PCMark Storage: 7,492
3D Mark: 413 (Sling Shot Extreme)
Geekbench 4.1.3: 920 (Single-core), 3,636 (Multi-core)
Graphics-intensive games play just fine with the Nova 2i — from Asphalt 8, NBA2K16 and Gods of Rome, the game experience is short of excellent. We didn’t even notice the device getting any warmer than usual even at extended playing time.
Connectivity, Call Quality and Battery Life
The Nova 2i comes with a hybrid dual-SIM tray — the first one carries a nanoSIM and support 4G LTE while the second one can accommodate a microSD card up to 256GB or a nanoSIM but can only do 2G in terms of connectivity.
Other connectivity options include WiFi, Bluetooth, and an FM radio tuner. GPS connection is strong and accurate, thanks to GLONASS support. To those who are curious, no there’s no gyroscope in here.
Voice calls are loud and clear, thanks to the secondary noise-canceling microphone at the top corner. SMS are sent and received quite fast and LTE connection is strong and fast as well.
Battery life of the Nova 2i is relatively good, above average compared to most smartphones in this category. It can last more than a day on a single full charge with moderate use but even heavy users will find the capacity enough for an entire day.
In our PCMark Battery Test, the phone got a score of 8 hours and 46 minutes at 50% brightness and 0% volume (pretty close to the score of the Huawei P10 at 9 hours, 15 minutes). Using our standard video loop test, the device can also last between 12 to 12.5 hours playing a full HD movie at 50% brightness and in airplane mode. This performance is slightly above average in our charts.
The only disappointing factor with the Nova 2i is that Huawei still uses an older and slower micro-USB port, instead of the more modern USB Type-C port. As such, charging is quite slow — using the 2A power charger that came with it, the Nova 2i can go from 0% to 100% in 2.5 hours.
Huawei is wise to put the Nova 2i as its semi-experimental device. The FullView display and the quad-cameras are its main unique features, introduced way ahead of the flagship.
We could not find any major fault with the Nova 2i. If there is one, and we think it’s just a minor annoyance, it would be the use of a micro USB port and slow charging. The use of the pair of dual cameras can be a somewhat gimmicky to others but it does the job well if the user’s main concern is just to take really great portraits and selfies.
Otherwise, the Huawei Nova 2i is an excellent mid-range smartphone that packs the best feature-set for its price category.
The Huawei Nova 2i will be available in stores nationwide starting October 21 with a suggested retail price of Php14,990. Colors available will be in gold, black and blue.
Huawei Nova 2i specs:
5.9-inch 18:9 IPS LCD display @ 2160 x 1080 pixels
2.5D Curved Glass Display
HiSilicon Kirin 659 2.36GHz octa-core processor
4 x 2.36GHz ARM Cortex A53 + 4 x 1.4GHz ARM Cortex A53
4GB LPDDR3 RAM
64GB internal storage
expandable via microSD up to 256GB (uses SIM2)
16MP+2MP rear cameras, f/2.2 with LED Flash
13MP+2MP front cameras, f/2.0
Hybrid Dual-SIM (nano+nano/microSD)
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
GPS with aGPS support, GLONASS
Android 7 Nougat with Huawei EMUI 5.1
3,340mAh Li-Ion battery
Dimensions: 156.2 × 75.2 × 7.5mm
Weight: 164 grams
What we liked about it:
* Simple yet elegant design
* Large, brilliant display in a manageable form factor
* Decent to very good performance
* Four cameras
* Above average battery life
* Affordable price
What we did not like:
* Still uses micro-USB instead of USB Type-C
* Slow charging