We review the Huawei Nova 2i!

After shaking up the mid-range market at the beginning of the year with the GR5 2017, Huawei chose to stay silent as their competitors released their offerings throughout most of this year. With their initial offering starting to show its age, the company needed a brand new phone to take back the highly lucrative mid-range market.

And they found it with the Nova 2i. Released as the Maimang 6 in China, the Nova 2i is a phone with not two, not three, but four cameras in its attractive metal shell. After using it for two weeks, we found that it’s definitely one of the best mid-range phones you can buy in the Philippines today. Read on to find out why:

Huawei Nova 2i specs

  • Kirin 659 octa-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.9-inch Full HD display, 18:9 display aspect ratio
  • 64GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • 16-Megapixel and 2-Megapixel rear cameras with PDAF and LED Flash
  • 13-Megapixel and 2-Megapixel front cameras with LED Flash
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, Fingerprint scanner
  • 3,340mAh battery
  • Android Nougat with EMUI 5.0

Design: Attractive full metal build feels great in the hand

Huawei is no stranger to making unibody aluminum phones. Their mastery of metal started a few years back, and now they’ve managed to elevate building unibody smartphones to an art. The Nova 2i is no exception, as the phone’s build quality is top-notch – there’s really nothing about it you can complain about when it comes to how it’s put together.

The phone has curved corners and a flat back, and comes in three different colors though we’re utterly in love with the blue variant that our review unit came in. The two rear cameras are in a camera module that protrudes a few mm from the metal back, which is a little problematic if you choose to use the phone without a case. The fingerprint reader is located right below the camera module, at its usual place.

The buttons and ports are exactly where you’d expect them to be, namely on the side and on the bottom. The phone has a 3.5mm jack, though unfortunately it doesn’t uses the new Type-C standard so there’s no fast charging built-in. You’ll also have to choose between an extra SIM or more storage since the hybrid SIM tray can only accept one, not both.

On the top of the display is the dual front camera assembly, which makes the Nova 2i one of the few phones out in the market today that has four cameras. Both the rear camera and front cameras work the same way – there’s a primary imaging unit and a secondary depth sensor that provides bokeh effects after the fact.

Read:  Huawei Officially Prices Nova 2i In The PH: Php 14,990, Arrives On October 21

Display: Tall 18:9 display gives you more screen real-estate but not all apps can use it

The Nova 2i holds the distinction of being Huawei’s first ever smartphone to have a 18:9 display. That allows the phone to have a 5.9-inch full HD+ panel while still having the same overall physical dimensions of a 5.5-inch phone. The extra pixels on the top and bottom as well as the almost non-existent bezels on the side allow the phone to have a resolution of 1080 pixels by 2160, giving you more screen real-estate on the top and bottom.

This means you’ll have more space to consume content on apps that are designed for the new aspect ratio, since there’s more space to fit stuff in. That means less scrolling on Instagram, Facebook and while viewing websites.

Unfortunately not all apps are optimized for the new aspect ratio. YouTube, for example, displays black bars on the sides when viewing content in landscape mode. Huawei’s EMUI 5 does not have a way to crop content to fit everything into the 18:9 display like Samsung does with the Galaxy S8, S8+ or Note 8, for example.

As for the display quality, the Nova 2i’s display looks pretty great. Colors are vibrant and punchy, and the display is easily readable under the sun.

Read: First Shots for the Huawei Nova 2i

Hardware: Kirin 659 could use a better GPU

Like most of Huawei’s other mid-range phones, the Nova 2i is powered by the company’s home-grown silicon, namely the Kirin 659. Kirin 659 is a mid-range chipset, running at 2.36GHz paired with a Mali-T380 GPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable storage.

Kirin 659 is a pretty capable processor, and the phone felt quick and snappy while we were using it these past few weeks. With 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the chipset is more than enough for casual users. The phone runs Android Nougat along with EMUI5.

Heavy gamers and more performance-focused consumers may be a little annoyed with graphics-crunching capabilities of the Nova 2i though, since it comes with a Mali-T830 GPU. It’s not as fast as say the Adreno 506 that comes with the comparable Snapdragon 625 processor, and our benchmarks prove it.

Asphalt 8 FPS
Modern Combat 5 FPS

As for the other things: the Nova 2i has an annoyingly weak speaker, which will have you straining your head most of the time if you try to use it. The fingerprint scanner is pretty fast, which isn’t surprising given that this is a Huawei product. LTE speeds are fast and quick (which is dependent on where you are of course) and we had absolutely zero problems at all with the phone’s wireless connections.

Read: A Tour Of Huawei’s Beijing R&D Center

Camera: One of the best we’ve seen for its price range

With four sensors scattered in its body, the Nova 2i’s cameras scream “gimmick” the first time you see them. Both the 16-megapixel rear camera and 13-megapixel front camera are paired with 2-megapixel depth sensors that add depth information with each shot so you can add bokeh effects later.

And while we’ll admit that the bokeh function isn’t as impressive as we thought, the overall performance of the rear camera is pretty awesome. We shot a lot of the photos used in this review during a very wet Saturday in Taichung, Taiwan, and they still came out well despite the overcast sky. The only time that the phone really struggles is with low light, but then again what phone doesn’t?

Battery: More than enough to last you a day

The Nova 2i comes with a 3,340mAh battery inside of its sleek, aluminum body. According to PCMark’s Battery benchmark, that’s enough to keep it running for around 7 hours and 33 minutes on a single charge, which is an average score for a phone like this. We found though that the Nova 2i had enough juice to get us through an extended work day with a little bit left at the end, which was surprising to say the least.

Verdict: The phone to beat in the mid-range segment

While Huawei’s been quiet the past few months, the company has broken their silence with a fantastic mid-range offering. The Nova 2i delivers on all fronts: style, performance and camera. The quad-camera promise of the phone may feel a little gimmicky, but trust us, it really does deliver the goods as far as image quality is concerned for its price point.

Speaking of price, the Nova 2i has a ridiculously aggressive price of Php 14,990 here in the Philippines, which makes it one of the best phones you can pick up at that price point. Huawei will be offering the phone on October 21, and first day buyers get a swanky JBL Flip 3 Bluetooth speaker with every purchase while supplies last. If you’re looking for a whole lotta phone for very little money, we suggest you give Huawei’s Nova 2i a try.

The New Mid-Range Contenders: Huawei Nova 2i vs Samsung Galaxy J7+ vs Vivo V7+

The Php 15K Mid-Range Specs Comparo: Motorola Moto G5s Plus vs Huawei Nova 2i