Huawei's appeal has been increasing with a number of great devices, from the Mate 8 to the Huawei P9, pushing solid design and build with impressive specs at a price the undercuts the better known brands.

In a move to redefine the mid range, Huawei announced the Nova at IFA 2016 in Berlin. With a smaller 5-inch device and this larger Nova Plus at 5.5 inches, Huawei is looking to appeal to what it is calling "dynamic aspirers".

We're not sure what that type of person is, but we understand the logic: to offer a mid-range device with design and build that doesn't compromise.

Huawei is setting out its stall to be the leading manufacturer of metal unibody phones. Where that was once unquestionably the realm of HTC, metal phones are all the more common now, and not just from premium brands.


Huawei's mastery of metal and keen eye for design has been evident for a number of years, although the early models seemed too focused on being the thinnest, rather than being the nicest. That's slowly evolving and the Nova Plus' reassuring feel is evident of that.

Huawei calls the design "dynamic minimalism", which might sound fancy, but is essentially the same approach we've seen more most other manufacturers like Apple or Samsung. Huawei describes it as taking the 2.5D edge of the display and it seamlessly transitioning into the curve of the body of the phone. 

Where the smaller Nova looks like the Nexus 6P, the Nova Plus doesn't get the same association. There seems to be no reason why these phones aren't aligned in terms of design; glance at the rear of the Nova Plus and the squared, raised, camera and those who follow Huawei well see this as a G8 replacement. 

The design (and general specs position) is similar to the G8, although there's refinement in the design and build that makes it more appealing.


Overall we like the execution. We think the smaller 5-inch Nova is the better looking device, but as with that model, the Nova Plus pulls off a quality move. It feels well-built, imparting a welcome sense of quality.

Sitting under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset, which marks this out as the mid-range handset it is. This is backed by 3GB RAM. That should result is strong performance at this position. We've seen a number of devices with this low-tier Snapdragon in and although they might not be as snappy as flagship phones with the same graphical prowess, they're competent enough in daily tasks.


The Nova Plus offers a USB Type-C connection on the bottom, supporting fast charging of the 3340mAh battery. That's a fairly generous battery for this type of device and although we don't have any figure for the endurance, the lower grade chipset and restrained display resolution - combined with Huawei's software - should see it easily getting through a busy day. 

There's a fingerprint scanner on the rear, repeating the performance of many recent Huawei and Honor devices. We've been impressed with recent scanners on devices and here it's boosted with enhanced interaction, letting you swipe to open notifications, for example. 

There is 32GB of internal storage and this can be boosted via microSD through the card tray that will either give you storage expansion, or let you turn it into a dual SIM device.


Where the Nova Plus really differs from the Nova is in the display size. Marked out a 5.5-inches, the Plus is making a play to those wanting a larger device. It matches the size of the recent Moto G4, a device that may well be on its list of handsets to out-perform.

With 1920 x 1080 pixels of IPS display spread across 5.5-inches, you get a pixel density of 401ppi. That's pretty good, and results in nice sharp visuals. It's also in the territory where flagship devices will offer more: 2560 x 1440 is fairly common in phones around 5.5-inches and that's a small compromise you're making here, although it likely won't matter to all but the display purist. 

Our first impressions of this display are good. It's bright, it's vibrant, but we haven't had the chance to test it in a wider range of environments to see how well it will really work.


Where the Nova Plus wants to take a jump over the Nova is in the camera. This sees itself boosted to 16-megapixels with the addition of optical image stabilisation, which is a feature you don't always find in the mid range. That should mean that this phone is slightly better a dealing with your handshake, especially in those slightly longer exposures in low light.

We've not had the chance to fully test the camera, but we do wonder why the shift in sensor, when Huawei has had some great results from the 12-megapixel sensor it is using elsewhere, such as in the P9. We suspect this is really to make the Plus appear to be offering you more and drive a difference in price. 

The camera offers the full range of features we now expect from Huawei, offering plenty of shooting modes and a capable 8-megapixel front facing camera, designed to make you look beautiful.


Launching on Android 6 Marshmallow, the Nova Plus gets itself topped with EMUI, the familiar software layer that Huawei adds to all its devices and those of the Honor sub-brand.

EMUI offers plenty of features, but does customise lots of Android, in some cases changing elements of Google's operating system that really don't need changing. However, as EMUI has matured, it's become better to live with. Some of the additions are fun - like the fingerprint scanner enhancements we've mentioned and the fully-featured camera.

On the other hand, we're still not hugely keen on the visual reworking of every app icon and the lack of apps tray, but in many cases, if you don't like what Huawei has done, you can change it: such is the beauty of Android.

In our initial play with the Huawei Nova Plus we didn't get the chance to fully assess the performance of this device, but things seemed to be running smoothly enough on the software front, even if it was a pre-release build.

First Impressions

The Nova Plus gives Huawei a larger screened mid-range handset to rival some of the popular devices out there, like the offering from Moto. The Nova's strength is really in its premium metal bodywork, giving you a phone that looks the part.

Although we've not had the chance to fully assess this device, we're expecting it to be rather competent. Equipped with the right specs to make it a good day-to-day phone, and the €429 asking price looks competitive, only €30 more than the smaller model. Exactly how that will translate into UK pricing, we're not sure.

The Huawei Nova Plus looks like a strong addition to the mid-range, but we prefer the cutsey stylings of the smaller Nova, with those mini Nexus 6P looks.

The Huawei Nova Plus will be available in October.