Huawei Nova 2i

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Price: £229 inc VAT from fave.co/2KsJyIO

The Nova 2i is yet an­other great-value An­droid phone com­ing out of the Huawei/Honor camp. It’s clear there is a lot of cross­over be­tween the brands, and the 2i is in essence an Honor 7X with the Honor 9 Lite’s front dual-cam­era and dual-SIM func­tion­al­ity. It’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions are sim­i­lar to, but an up­grade over the Huawei P Smart, as well.

To put that into per­spec­tive, as we saw last is­sue the Honor 9 Lite is the cur­rent cham­pion of our best bud­get phones round-up. So fall­ing just a short way be­hind this is not a bad place to be, es­pe­cially when you have a slightly bet­ter spec­i­fi­ca­tions for not a lot

more cash. If money were no op­tion, we could ar­gue that the Nova 2i is in fact the best of the group.

It stands out in the bud­get smart­phone mar­ket for its good-look­ing metal uni­body build, large 18:9 dis­play and four cam­eras – two at the front and two at the rear. Per­for­mance is pretty de­cent for the money, too. So how much is it ex­actly?

UK avail­abil­ity

The Nova 2i is not di­rectly sold in the UK by Huawei, though you can find it on Ama­zon. Our re­view sam­ple was de­liv­ered from Hong Kong via GearBest, where it costs £229 at the time of writ­ing. GearBest stocks the 2i in black model (as per our sam­ple), blue and gold.

When you buy from China you should re­mem­ber that upon ar­rival in the UK you are li­able for im­port duty, which is cal­cu­lated at 20 per­cent of the value on the ship­ping pa­per­work. And al­though we have had very good ex­pe­ri­ences with GearBest, cus­tomer sup­port is less likely to be as sim­ple as if you had bought your phone from a high-street op­er­a­tor.

It was not de­signed with a UK tar­get au­di­ence in mind, but there’s only two places you’ll spot that. First, in its dual-SIM sup­port (a bonus, al­though you must choose to use ei­ther a sec­ond Nano-SIM or a mi­croSD card); sec­ond, in its lack of sup­port for FDD-LTE Band 20 (800MHz).

For most UK net­works the lat­ter is not a ma­jor is­sue, but if you use O2 or any of the net­works that pig­gy­back it, such as Gif­fGaff, you won’t be able to re­ceive 4G. This is be­cause the O2 net­work re­lies

solely on that fre­quency for LTE. You’ll still be able to get 3G and use Wi-Fi for data, of course.

De­sign

The Nova 2i is al­most iden­ti­cal to the Honor 7X, with the only ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences be­ing the Honor/Huawei brand­ing on the back, the ver­ti­cal ar­range­ment of the rear dual-cam­era and the ad­di­tion of a sec­ond cam­era lens at the front.

The size and weight are match­ing, and both are fit­ted with a 3,340mAh bat­tery that charges over Mi­cro-USB. It sup­ports nei­ther wire­less charg­ing or Quick Charge, as you’d ex­pect at this price, but it does come with a 10W charger. In our tests we found it could juice up to 29 per­cent in 30 min­utes from empty.

So while that Mi­cro-USB port makes this phone seem a lit­tle out­dated (we’d pre­fer to see USB-C,

though it does mean Huawei has in­cluded an in­creas­ingly rare head­phone jack), other fea­tures im­press at this price point.

The 5.9in screen is a great ex­am­ple of this. It’s no longer a sur­prise to find full-HD res­o­lu­tion at this end of the mar­ket, but the 18:9 as­pect ra­tio makes it ap­pear more pre­mium. It’s not just about looks of course, and the ex­tra screen space is use­ful for watch­ing me­dia and play­ing games.

The Nova 2i has very slim bezels to the left and right, and min­i­mal space is re­quired at the top and bot­tom for such things as the selfie cam­eras and ear­piece. This re­sults in a very clean ap­pear­ance, and cou­pled with the slim 7.5mm metal case you wouldn’t be­lieve this was a bud­get phone.

It’s an IPS panel, which means colours are re­al­is­tic and view­ing an­gles are strong. We mea­sured a max­i­mum bright­ness of 410cd/m2 us­ing a Spy­der, which means it should re­main vis­i­ble even in di­rect sun­light. Text and im­ages are crisp thanks to the 407ppi pixel den­sity, too.

Turn over the phone and there’s more of the same: the dual-cam­era juts out slightly but not so much that its cen­tral po­si­tion causes it to rock when placed on a ta­ble. There are an­tenna lines run­ning top and bot­tom, with a sin­gle LED flash found di­rectly above the cam­era and a fingerprint scan­ner be­low. The brand­ing is sub­tle, and over­all the Nova 2i looks good.

The Nova 2i feels in­cred­i­bly well built, as though it could stand up to some bumps and scrapes, but Huawei does pro­vide a clear sil­i­con case in the box. Do note that this phone is not wa­ter­proof.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

The Huawei Nova 2i runs the same 16nm octa-core Kirin 659 chip as the P Smart, Honor 7X and Honor 9 Lite. It’s clocked at 2.36GHz and, in com­mon with the 7X, is paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of stor­age. Both the P Smart and Honor 9 Lite have only 3GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age, so it’s sur­pris­ing to see these mod­els out­per­form the Nova 2i in our bench­marks (see our charts).

But we’re talk­ing about re­ally min­i­mal dif­fer­ences here, and in the real world each of these phones is on par with each other. We found the EMUI in­ter­face quick and easy to nav­i­gate, and apps load in a timely fash­ion.

Per­for­mance is not at a flag­ship-level, but it’s suf­fi­cient for most users. It’s up there with the

min­utes. That’s not bad for the money, and higher than Huawei’s flag­ship P20’s score of five hours, 17 min­utes, but by com­par­i­son the Moto G6 man­aged nine hours, 15 min­utes.

Cam­eras

The Nova 2i pairs the rear cam­era of the Honor 7X with the front cam­era of the Honor 9 Lite. That means it has four in to­tal, with a 16- and 2Mp ar­range­ment at the rear and 13- and 2Mp at the front, and both are paired with a sin­gle-LED flash. Dual-cam­eras at the back are in­creas­ingly com­mon, but it’s more un­usual to find them at the front. It’s a bit of a gim­mick, of

course, be­cause in each case the sec­ond cam­era is rated only at 2Mp, and is used to cre­ate the pop­u­lar bokeh (blurred back­ground) ef­fect ei­ther dur­ing or after the shot. You can tap any­where on the screen to fo­cus and blur the back­ground.

Still, a 13Mp cam­era is pretty de­cent if you’re some­thing of a selfie queen, and the 1.75μm pix­els and front flash aid in cap­tur­ing these shots in low-light. Which is use­ful, be­cause low-light per­for­mance is not the best we’ve seen without the flash. You also get a Beauty mode and an as­sort­ment of stick­ers and fun ef­fects for jazz­ing up your self­ies.

The dual-cam­era at the rear is de­cent enough at this price, but works best in good light where you’ll find sharp im­ages and good de­tail. HDR is ei­ther on or off, but even on we didn’t see a huge dif­fer­ence. You can see a cou­ple of our test shots be­low.

The cam­era app it­self is de­cent, with sev­eral modes such as mov­ing pic­ture (cap­tures a short video when you take a still), Por­trait, Wide Aper­ture, Pro Photo, Light Paint­ing, Slow-mo and Time-lapse. There’s no video sta­bi­liza­tion, though, and shoot­ing maxes out at 1080p (16:9).

Soft­ware

The Huawei P Smart and Honor 9 Lite run An­droid Oreo with EMUI 8, but this Nova 2i is – in com­mon with the Honor 7X – stuck on An­droid Nougat and EMUI 5.1. There’s not a huge amount of dif­fer­ence be­tween EMUI 5.1 and EMUI 8, with new fea­tures fo­cus­ing on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, smarter split screen fea­tures, in­stant trans­la­tions and more in the way of help­ful tips on us­ing the phone.

It is in­ter­est­ing that the two phones run­ning Oreo and EMUI 8 out­per­formed those run­ning the older soft­ware in our bench­marks – but only just.

This is not at all stock An­droid, so by de­fault you’ll find there’s no app tray (you can add one if you like). The quick-ac­cess tog­gles in the drop­down no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar have a dif­fer­ent lay­out, as does the Set­tings menu (which also has a handy search func­tion).

On our re­view sam­ple all the usual Google apps were pre­in­stalled, along with Huawei’s own apps for things like Health, Themes, Videos and HiGame. There’s some bloat­ware, too, such as Book­ing.com and Flip­board, though you can unin­stall these.

A swipe in from the left of the home screen launches HiBoard, which at­tempts to put in one place all the info you’re likely to want to quickly ac­cess, such as the weather fore­cast, apps, con­tacts and more.

There are a bunch of use­ful fea­tures within the soft­ware that let you use ges­tures to do things like take a screen­shot or launch a spe­cific app. You can also ac­cess a split-screen mode and view two apps on screen at once.

If you are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the dual-SIM sup­port you might also ap­pre­ci­ate the abil­ity to run two in­stances of one app, log­ging in to two dif­fer­ent ac­counts at the same time.

Ver­dict

The Huawei Nova 2i is a great-look­ing bud­get An­droid phone with a large 18:9 dis­play and four cam­eras head­lin­ing in its spec­i­fi­ca­tions. It prom­ises ex­cel­lent value, but you might pre­fer to buy one of the sev­eral sim­i­lar Huawei/Honor phones in­tended for the UK mar­ket. Marie Black

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.9in (2,160x1,080; 407ppi) MaxView IPS dis­play

• An­droid 7.0 Nougat with EMUI 5.1

• 2.4GHz Kirin 659 16nm octa-core pro­ces­sor

• 4GB RAM

• 64GB stor­age, mi­croSD sup­port up to 256GB

• 4G FDD-LTE B1/B3/B5/B7/B8/B28

• Dual-SIM dual-standby (2x Nano)

• 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 4.2

• GPS

• 3.5mm head­phone jack

• Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras: 16- and 2Mp with flash

• Dual front-fac­ing cam­eras: 13Mp, f/2.0 and 2Mp, 1.75μm pixel with flash

• Mi­cro-USB

• 3,340mAh bat­tery

• 156.2x75x7.5mm

• 164g

The Nova 2i has a head­phone jack and is charged via the Mi­cro-USB port

Geek­bench 4

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