You don’t need to spend the thick end of NZ$2000 to get a decent phone. The NZ$500 Huawei Nova 2i gives you three-quarters of a modern high-end phone for a quarter of the price.
Huawei offers powerful high-end phones. Unlike its rivals it also offers credible choices for those of us who don’t want, or can’t afford to pay for an expensive phone.
There are compromises, you always expect that if you pay less. Yet there isn’t much you can do on a high-end Android phone that you can’t do on a Nova 2i.
Most people buying a phone in this class aren’t too interested in the technical specs. They want to know what the phone can do. We’ll get there in a minute. But first, and for the record, here’s what the NZ$500 asking price buys.
The Nova 2i comes with Android 7; that’s the Nougat edition. It includes an eight core Huawei Kirin 659 processor, 4GB of ram and 64GB of storage. The screen is 5.9-inches.
There’s fingerprint sensor and a 3,300 mAh battery. The Nova 2i has dual lens cameras on the front and back. The front camera has a 13 megapixel sensor, the back camera is 16 megapixels.
In rough terms the specification list compares loosely with the technology packed in a high-end Android phone eighteen months to two years ago. Something like the Huawei P8.
While it doesn’t scream along, in practice the processor and ram are good enough to run almost every mainstream Android app you’ll come across. It will certainly run every worthwhile game.
You may need to choose more conservative display settings to keep demanding apps running smoothly, but they will run. All business tasks should be a breeze.
The modest chip and ram are not quite up to the job of recording 4K video. It works, but the results are sometimes patchy. Maybe with practice you’ll learn to work around the limitations.
If 4K video is important to you, then you may need to buy a more expensive phone. Huawei says the phone can shoot 4K at 30 frames per second. While that may be technically true, it is optimistic.
Android 7 (Nougat) is the last but one version of Google’s phone operating system. Which means, like the hardware, the phone’s software is about two years behind the market’s high-end. That’s the second compromise you have to make to save $1000 off the price of a new high-end phone.
Phone makers are not always good at providing Android software upgrades. Huawei is one of the worst offenders in this area. Choose the Nova 2i if you are certain you can live with Android 7 for the foreseeable future. Most people can, but security may get a little hair-raising at times. You’ll need to take care.
Huawei loads its own EMUI software skin. It’s OK as Android skins go, but, let’s put it this way: no-one aspires to own an EMUI phone. It’s something you are stuck with. If you feel confident, you can swap EMUI for third-party software, but Android skins are all equally imperfect.
While the Huawei Nova 2i isn’t going to turn heads, it is far from ugly. Nor does it look cheap. Anyone looking at the phone might take it for an expensive model.
It feels fine, not perhaps as smooth and comfortable as a phone costing $1000 more, but there’s nothing wrong here. The Nova 2i feels better than the $700 Oppo R9s.
The phone’s screen has the 18:9 aspect ratio. That means it is a little longer or taller than most other phones with the same screen size. There’s next to no bezel, which seems to excite phone makers more than users. It’s curvy, light and comfortable.
Huawei has used a 1080 by 2160 pixel display. That’s a lot more than you’ll find on any other low-to mid-price phone. It doesn’t compare with the high-end, but it’s more than good enough.
While the cameras deliver decent images, they don’t compare with more expensive phones. Unless you have a thing about image quality you may not notice or care. The one dodgy area is taking shots in low light conditions. Performance there is ordinary.
Battery performance is solid. The phone can go two days between charges if you don’t push it too hard. There is no NFC, some people may find that is a deal breaker.
If the above comments seem lukewarm at times, that’s because most of the time we’ve compared a NZ$500 phone against models that cost NZ$1500 and up. For the money it is a bargain, it delivers more than rival models in the same price range.
What you get is, in effect, a brand new phone that’s the functional equivalent of a two-year-old flagship phone for about the same price as a second-hand version of the same thing.
This Huawei Nova 2i review was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.
Nova 2i: Value, not excitement from Huawei