When we first caught wind that Huawei was going to be contributing to the Nexus programme in 2015, we were excited for this ambitious Chinese company. The good thing about making a Nexus phone, is it puts you on the Android map. 

Although some questioned whether the company was up to the challenge, the Nexus 6P has been well received - loved, in fact. 

It's perhaps no surprise, then, to see Huawei release a new handset that channels the Nexus 6P design into something new.

This is the Huawei Nova, and it's excitingly cute for a mid-ranger. 

One glance at the metal unibody of the Huawei Nova, announced today at IFA 2016 in Berlin (alongside a larger Nova Plus) and you can't help but see the Nexus 6P. As Google's champion phone of 2015 strolls into retirement, Huawei's offering this mini version in its mid-range.


Apart from the size, of course, the biggest difference is that the camera is no longer sitting on a raised platform. The back is flat, giving Richard Yu, Huawei CEO, every opportunity to shout "no bump, no bump," as he so emphatically did at the launch of Huawei's flagship, the Huawei P9

What the Nova carries is Huawei's commitment to bring quality to all its devices: 2.5D glass curves into the edges of the phone, with neat chamfering, for a phone that feels solid, high quality and sits comfortably in the hand. 

Coming in gold, silver and grey, the brushed edges meet the sandblasted back in a phone that's only 7mm thick. It's a surprisingly confident build for a phone that's sitting in the middle of the pack. 

One of the things about the Nova that's a little strange for Huawei followers, is that the company has turned to Qualcomm to power this device, rather than using its own HiSilicon hardware. That perhaps suggest that Huawei wants the Qualcomm name to carry this device to consumers and instil a little more confidence; equally, that could just come down to supply. 

It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, a 64-bit octo-core chipset, with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage. As with other Huawei devices, there's a hybrid tray in the side that will support with a SIM and microSD, or dual SIM cards. At least you'll be able to expand the internal storage as you see fit.


That SD625 chipset marks the phone out as the mid-ranger it is, so it won't offer the same sort of power as flagship devices on the SD820, like the HTC 10, but from previous experience, we've found this class of chipset to perform well in everyday tasks. Just look at the HTC One A9 (a device that's not too dissimilar to the Nova), and you'll find satisfying daily performance.

Given the short period of time that we had with the Huawei Nova, we didn't have the chance to put it completely through its paces, but things seemed smooth enough: bear in mind that it was presented to us running pre-production software, so it's too early to draw any definitive conclusions. 

The Huawei Nova is powered by a 3020mAh battery and there's a USB Type-C connection on the bottom of the handset for charging. Fast charging is supported, and there's a fast charger in the box.

We've mentioned that 2.5D glass on the front of the display. The Nova is a compact handset, with a 5-inch IPS display, but it still carries a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. There are higher resolution displays out there, but at this size, a bump in resolution makes little difference. 

Here you're looking at 440ppi, but it's the colour and vibrancy that's impressive at first glance. We didn't have time to assess this display in all conditions, but it seemed vibrant enough, free from grain, with good viewing angles, so there's little to dislike so far.


Huawei knows that great cameras get a lot of attention. The Huawei P9 flexes its camera muscles with a partnership with Leica, bringing the novelty of a second monochrome camera. The Nova in comparison is conventional, with a 12-megapixel sensor on the rear. 

This is reported to offer 1.25µm pixels, which aren't huge compared to the 1.5µm you'll find elsewhere and an f/2.2 lens. The camera app is the familiar arrangement that Huawei's Emotion UI offers and our first tests revealed it to be snappy enough. 

There's an 8-megapixel camera on the front, offering up the usual selection of fun features, beauty modes and so on. 

With the software being pre-release, Huawei wouldn't let us share any samples, but as it is, we'd need longer to assess its potency as a camera. 

Unlock the Nova using the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the handset and you'll find yourself in familiar EMUI territory. This is the same software as you'll have seen on earlier Huawei handsets, or Honor devices

We're not huge fans, as we feel it makes a number of changes to Android that just don't need to be made, such as changing the layout and colour scheme of the settings menu and restructuring the quick settings and so on. While that's no crime - Samsung does a perfectly good job in this regard - we've always been left with the feeling that EMUI could be better.


That aside, the Huawei Nova offers you all the flexibility and customisation that Android allows, so in many cases, if you want to change something that Huawei has done, you can. 

From the time we've had with the device it seems slick enough in operation, although we've not had the chance to fill it with our own apps and give it a real world test. Huawei has been getting better and better in this regard, so we suspect the Nova will toe the line and put in a strong performance.

One of the star performers is the fingerprint scanner. We've seen excellent performance from the rear scanner on Huawei's previous devices, but the inclusion of a range of other interactions - like being able to swipe down the notifications with a swipe of the finger on the scanner - adds a dimension that no one else is offering.

First Impressions

There's a lot to love about the Huawei Nova. It's a mid-range handset that wants to bring you adequate power, with specs that matter, and a build that's class leading. The mid-range is in many ways more interesting and disruptive than the flagship level in Android devices and that's true of the Nova.

The thing that's likely to turn heads with the Nova is the mini Nexus 6P looks. But it's not just looks. First impressions are that it pulls off this doppelganger act with some class.

The HTC One A9's downfall was the price as it sailed over £400, higher than flagship devices like those from OnePlus. Huawei has always been more affordable, and the €399 asking price is reasonable. Exactly how that will translate into UK pricing given current exchange rates, we're not quite sure.

The Huawei Nova will be available in October.