Notebookcheck

Huawei Nova Smartphone Review

Manuel Masiero, Sven Kloevekorn (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 01/13/2017

Handy alternative. Like its 5.5-inch sibling Nova Plus, Huawei's Nova is almost premium-range in terms of build. However, the 5-inch handset had even more to offer in the test and gives its mid-range opponents a hard time.

For the original German review, see here.

In addition to its 5.5-inch Nova Plus mid-range smartphone, Huawei also has the slightly smaller and approximately 80-Euro (~$85) cheaper 5-inch Nova sibling in its portfolio. The Android handsets are very identical apart from their screen size. Both offer a Full HD panel with 1920x1080 pixels, a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and dual-SIM functionality. Like its bigger sibling, Huawei's Nova can also record videos in Ultra HD.

Then, there are some small differences: The 3020 mAh battery in Huawei's Nova is a bit smaller (Nova Plus: 3340 mAh), which will probably result in a shorter battery life in view of the same SoC. Instead of a 16-megapixel camera, the primary camera now only has 12 megapixels and also does not have an image stabilizer. In return, Huawei's Nova is somewhat thinner and lighter than the Nova Plus thanks to its smaller size. It is also available in three colors ("Titanium Gray", "Mystic Silver" and "Prestige Gold"), and it supports more UMTS radio frequencies.

To check just how well Huawei's Nova fares in the highly competitive mid-range sector, we compare it with similarly configured and identically priced smartphones in the forms of Lenovo's Moto Z Play, Samsung's Galaxy A5 (2016), Asus' ZenFone 3 ZE552KL, and ZTE's Axon 7. We naturally also compare its performance with that of Huawei's Nova Plus.

Huawei Nova (Nova Series)
Graphics adapter
Memory
3072 MB 
, LPDDR3
Display
5 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel 443 PPI, IPS, glossy: yes
Storage
32 GB eMMC Flash, 32 GB 
, 22.7 GB free
Connections
1 USB 2.0, Audio Connections: 3.5-mm audio jack, Card Reader: micro-SD cards max. 128 GB, 1 Fingerprint Reader, NFC, Brightness Sensor, Sensors: Hall sensor, fingerprint sensor, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, compass, G-sensor, gyroscope, USB OTG
Networking
802.11 b/g/n (b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.1, GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), UMTS (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), LTE Cat.6 (800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2600 MHz), download max. 300 MBit/s, upload max. 50 MBit/s, nano-SIM, head-SAR: 0.99 W/kg, body-SAR: 0.94 W/kg, Dual SIM, LTE, GPS
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 7.1 x 141.2 x 69.1 ( = 0.28 x 5.56 x 2.72 in)
Battery
13.29 Wh, 3020 mAh Lithium-Polymer
Operating System
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Camera
Primary Camera: 12 MPix f/2,2, photos max. 4032 x 3016 pixels, video max. 3840 x 2160 pixels, auto-focus, LED flash
Secondary Camera: 8 MPix f/2,0, photos max. 3264 x 2448 pixels
Additional features
Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, Keyboard Light: yes, modular power supply, USB Type-C cable, SIM tool, headset, quick-start guide, Google apps, Facebook, Twitter, WPS Office, 24 Months Warranty, , fanless
Weight
146 g ( = 5.15 oz / 0.32 pounds), Power Supply: 35 g ( = 1.23 oz / 0.08 pounds)
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

Huawei packs the Nova in a very rigid metal unibody casing that not only has premium looks thanks to a matte surface and curved back but also has a high-quality feel. It looks a lot like Google's Nexus 6P. A so-called 2.5D glass front that is lightly rounded into the bezel covers the screen. Alongside the narrow gaps, the smartphone looks as if it has been made from one piece. The only drawback: The user cannot replace the lithium-polymer battery.

The power button and volume control on the right have well-defined pressure points and are easy to reach with a thumb. A fingerprint scanner is centered on the back. It is in a small recess, making it easy to locate and use.

The dual-SIM tray on the left can be furnished with either two nano-SIM cards or one SIM card and one micro-SD card with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB.

Size Comparison

156.4 mm / 6.16 inch 76.4 mm / 3.01 inch 7 mm / 0.2756 inch 165 g0.3638 lbs152.6 mm / 6.01 inch 77.4 mm / 3.05 inch 7.7 mm / 0.3031 inch 155 g0.3417 lbs151.7 mm / 5.97 inch 75 mm / 2.95 inch 7.9 mm / 0.311 inch 175 g0.3858 lbs151.8 mm / 5.98 inch 75.7 mm / 2.98 inch 7.3 mm / 0.2874 inch 162 g0.3571 lbs144.8 mm / 5.7 inch 71 mm / 2.8 inch 7.3 mm / 0.2874 inch 155 g0.3417 lbs141.2 mm / 5.56 inch 69.1 mm / 2.72 inch 7.1 mm / 0.2795 inch 146 g0.3219 lbs

Connectivity

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 625, built in the 14-nm structure width with eight ARM Cortex A53 cores that clock at up to 2 GHz, powers Huawei's Nova. Qualcomm's Adreno 506 is responsible for graphics processing. It has enough computing power for the latest generation of Android games. 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM ensures a fast Android user experience. 22.7 GB of the nominal 32 GB internal storage is left ex-factory. According to the manufacturer, the smartphone can be furnished with a micro-SD card of up to 128 GB. However, this does not expand the storage as only photos and media files can be stored on the micro-SD card. Apps cannot be moved to it.

Huawei's Nova is equipped with a USB Type-C port that only supports USB 2.0 speeds. However, external storage devices and input devices can be connected via USB OTG. Further ports include Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC.

Left: micro-SD/nano-SIM slot
Left: micro-SD/nano-SIM slot
Right: volume control, power button
Right: volume control, power button
Upper edge: 3.5-mm headset jack
Upper edge: 3.5-mm headset jack
Lower edge: speaker, USB Type-C port
Lower edge: speaker, USB Type-C port

Software

The smartphone uses a fairly new version of 6.0 Marshmallow. Huawei extends it with its own EMUI 4.1 user interface (build-number: CAN-L01C432B100). According to the manufacturer, an update to Android 7.0 Nougat is planned but was not available at test time.

Extensive software extras are not found on the smartphone. In addition to the usual apps, such as Google tools, a small game collection and some software, such as Huawei's HiCare service app and WPS Office suit, are preloaded. Positive: Apart from Google's apps, almost all programs can be uninstalled and consequently do not reserve storage when they are unwanted.

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Communication and GPS

Huawei's Nova is well-configured in terms of communication with GSM quad-band, UMTS quad-band, and LTE Cat.6 (bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, 38). The reception in 4G networks was always impeccable in the tests. Downloads of up to 300 MBit/s and uploads of up to 50 MBit/s are possible.

Huawei's Nova only supports the 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards, which excludes 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi. The smartphone had problems particularly when receiving data and more than a slow 20 MBit/s was not possible. Huawei's Nova Plus model, which does not support 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi either, is twice as fast here. Then again, Huawei's Nova quickly transmitted data in the 2.4 GHz network.

Networking
iperf3 Client (receive) TCP 1 m 4M x10
ZTE Axon 7
Adreno 530, 820 MSM8996, 64 GB eMMC Flash
337 MBit/s ∼100% +1585%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
121 MBit/s ∼36% +505%
Huawei Nova Plus
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
53.4 MBit/s ∼16% +167%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
Adreno 506, 625, 64 GB eMMC Flash
32.9 MBit/s ∼10% +65%
Huawei Nova
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
20 MBit/s ∼6%
iperf3 Client (transmit) TCP 1 m 4M x10
ZTE Axon 7
Adreno 530, 820 MSM8996, 64 GB eMMC Flash
298 MBit/s ∼100% +485%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
112 MBit/s ∼38% +120%
Huawei Nova Plus
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
51.5 MBit/s ∼17% +1%
Huawei Nova
Adreno 506, 625, 32 GB eMMC Flash
50.9 MBit/s ∼17%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
Adreno 506, 625, 64 GB eMMC Flash
31.2 MBit/s ∼10% -39%
GPS indoors
GPS indoors
GPS outdoors
GPS outdoors

Huawei's Nova very accurately locates its position via GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou. The smartphone found us with an accuracy of 3 meters indoors, and this reduced to just one meter outdoors.

To test how well localization functions in practice, we took Huawei's Nova alongside Garmin's Edge 500 professional navigation system on an approximately 12-kilometer long bike ride. The smartphone did a good job in the direct comparison and proved that its navigation accuracy is absolutely sufficient for everyday use.

Huawei Nova: total route
Huawei Nova: total route
Huawei Nova: turning point
Huawei Nova: turning point
Huawei Nova: bridge
Huawei Nova: bridge
Garmin Edge 500: total route
Garmin Edge 500: total route
Garmin Edge 500: turning point
Garmin Edge 500: turning point
Garmin Edge 500: bridge
Garmin Edge 500: bridge

Telephone and Call Quality

Huawei has only modified the phone app very marginally compared with the stock Android version. As usual, it offers tabs for contacts and favorites beside a keypad. The call quality was beyond reproach in the test. Noise suppression functioned impeccably and both ends could understand each other very clearly. The intelligibility only decreased somewhat when using the speaker.

Cameras

HDR photo using front-facing camera (click for original)
HDR photo using front-facing camera (click for original)

The webcam furnished with a fix-focus in Huawei's Nova has a maximum resolution of 8 megapixels and shoots 3264x2448-pixel photos in the 4:3 format. The maximum resolution decreases to 6 megapixels in the 16:9 format (3264x1836 pixels). Videos can be recorded in Full HD.

The camera software has diverse functions for selfies. A make-up mode with nine different filters, such as natural, club, party or elegant, can be found. They cover the eyes, eyelashes, cheeks, forehead, and lips with effects in real-time and the results are really natural. Just as easy to use is the 10-level beauty-enhancer that allows selecting settings for the "perfect selfie" (smooth complexion, eye size and thinner face are among them). Furthermore, a magnifying mirror, brightness settings, and nine color filters for putting oneself in a good light are preloaded.

The primary camera is a 12-megapixel module (photos up to 4032x3016 pixels) that has an LED flash but, in contrast to Huawei's Nova Plus (16 megapixels), does not have an optical stabilizer. Despite this shortcoming, the smartphone does a good job. Photos look appealing thanks to their natural colors and they score with a high range of dynamics. The primary camera even produces high-detail photos in difficult light conditions. However, they look relatively unfocused when looking closer.

Once again, the extensive software is pleasing. The primary camera includes a professional mode in addition to standard photo modes, such as HDR and panorama. Important image parameters, such as light sensitivity, exposure times and white balance, can be set manually in the first. Like with Huawei's Nova Plus, videos can be recorded in UHD quality (3840x2160 pixels) with the Nova. However, more than 30 frames per second is not possible. In return, the sound is recorded in decent stereo quality. The auto-focus sometimes failed in the test and manual adjustments were necessary - but this was no tragedy in total.

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

We performed additional tests with Huawei's Nova under defined light conditions. The photos were not edited afterward. Huawei's Nova always reproduced colors a bit too vividly - although this is not particularly realistic, it looks good.

The sharpness of the photos can be evaluated well using our test chart. Huawei's Nova reproduces image details sharply in the center and color transitions are displayed very homogeneously. The contrast decreases clearly toward the edges. This effect is particularly visible in the lower half of the photos.

Screenshot of ColorChecker colors. Original colors are displayed in the lower half of each patch.
Screenshot of ColorChecker colors. Original colors are displayed in the lower half of each patch.
Test photo section
Test photo section
Test photo (click for original)
Test photo (click for original)

Accessories and Warranty

Huawei delivers its smartphone with a modular power supply, USB Type-C cable, SIM tool, headset, and quick-start guide. Nova-specific accessories are not listed on the manufacturer's website.

Huawei's Nova comes with a 24-month warranty.

Input Devices and Handling

The capacitive touchscreen in Huawei's Nova detects up to 10 finger inputs at a time and responds quickly and accurately to all commands no matter where they are performed on the screen. The preloaded keyboard that Huawei covers with its own swipe layout also allows fast and accurate inputs using, for example, swipe gestures and speech. Users who do not like this keyboard can always install an alternative from Google's Play Store.

The rear-sided fingerprint scanner makes a good impression. The sensor identifies stored fingerprints quickly and unlocks the smartphone fast. The physical keys hardly have play toward the sides of their recess, and their accurate pressure point conveys a high-quality impression.

Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard portrait mode
Keyboard landscape mode
Keyboard landscape mode

Display

Subpixels
Subpixels

The 5-inch IPS panel in Huawei's Nova has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. This equals a pixel density of 443 PPI, which results in a razor-sharp image reproduction. The Nova has more than enough brightness reserves with a maximum of 493 cd/m². The maximum brightness of 489 cd/m² in the measurement with evenly distributed bright and dark image areas (Average Picture Level 50 / APL50) is only insignificantly lower.

The very homogeneous illumination of 90% and the high contrast ratio of 1120:1 are also good. Subjectively, this is seen in a crisp and vivid color reproduction. However, we ascertained screen flickering (PWM) that was only evident when the screen's brightness was set to minimum. This should be a rare case in everyday use, though.

469
cd/m²
483
cd/m²
495
cd/m²
477
cd/m²
493
cd/m²
501
cd/m²
469
cd/m²
481
cd/m²
499
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 501 cd/m² Average: 485.2 cd/m² Minimum: 4.22 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 94 %
Center on Battery: 493 cd/m²
Contrast: 1120:1 (Black: 0.44 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 4.2 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 3.8 | 0.64-98 Ø6.4
Gamma: 2.39
Huawei Nova
IPS, 1920x1080, 5
Lenovo Moto Z Play
AMOLED, 1920x1080, 5.5
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
IPS, 1920x1080, 5.5
ZTE Axon 7
AMOLED, 2560x1440, 5.5
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
Super AMOLED, 1920x1080, 5.2
Huawei Nova Plus
IPS, 1920x1080, 5.5
Screen
19%
-13%
-30%
18%
-10%
Brightness middle
493
509
3%
658
33%
328
-33%
378
-23%
485
-2%
Brightness
485
511
5%
633
31%
334
-31%
380
-22%
481
-1%
Brightness Distribution
94
93
-1%
93
-1%
88
-6%
91
-3%
90
-4%
Black Level *
0.44
0.66
-50%
0.5
-14%
Contrast
1120
997
-11%
970
-13%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
4.2
2.2
48%
4.9
-17%
4.6
-10%
1.95
54%
4.2
-0%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
6.6
5.8
12%
9.1
-38%
14.7
-123%
3.09
53%
7.9
-20%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
3.8
2
47%
5.8
-53%
2.8
26%
1.86
51%
4.8
-26%
Gamma
2.39 92%
2.25 98%
2.26 97%
2.29 96%
2.13 103%
2.36 93%
CCT
7438 87%
6768 96%
7840 83%
6612 98%
6376 102%
7568 86%

* ... smaller is better

Color temperature settings
Color temperature settings

The image reproduction can be adapted in the screen's settings. The "Eye Comfort" model filters out the blue light fraction of an image to prevent eye strain when using the smartphone in dark environments. The menu item "Color temperature" allows further settings. In addition to the three predefined color temperature profiles, standard, warm and cool, a color wheel can be used to modify the color temperature freely.

As the analysis using the spectrophotometer and CalMAN software shows, Huawei's Nova is clearly off track in the standard color temperature profile. Both the grayscale levels and mixed colors surpass the ideal value of DeltaE < 3 evidently. The screen looks more balanced when selecting the warm color profile (maximum DeltaE of 4.2). These irregularities will not be noticed in everyday use.

ColorChecker (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
ColorChecker (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
ColorChecker (color temperature warm; target color space: sRGB)
ColorChecker (color temperature warm; target color space: sRGB)
Colorspace (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Colorspace (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Colorspace (color temperature warm; target color space: AdobeRGB)
Colorspace (color temperature warm; target color space: AdobeRGB)
Grayscale (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Grayscale (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Grayscale (color temperature warm; target color space: sRGB)
Grayscale (color temperature warm; target color space: sRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (color temperature standard; target color space: sRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (color temperature warm; target color space: AdobeRGB)
Saturation Sweeps (color temperature warm; target color space: AdobeRGB)

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM detected 2500 Hz ≤ 1 % brightness setting

The display backlight flickers at 2500 Hz (Likely utilizing PWM) Flickering detected at a brightness setting of 1 % and below. There should be no flickering or PWM above this brightness setting.

The frequency of 2500 Hz is quite high, so most users sensitive to PWM should not notice any flickering.

In comparison: 52 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 9824 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 142900) Hz was measured.

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
44 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 10.8 ms rise
↘ 33.2 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 98 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (25.5 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
58.8 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 16 ms rise
↘ 42.8 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 94 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (40.8 ms).

High brightness plus high contrast ratio - this combination makes Huawei's Nova ideal for outdoor use. Legibility is only impaired in direct sunlight. However, all smartphones struggle with this problem.

Huawei's Nova does not present any weaknesses in viewing-angle stability. As expected, the image on the IPS panel does not invert or display significant brightness losses even from very flat angles.

Outdoors sunny
Outdoors sunny
Outdoors shade
Outdoors shade
Viewing angles
Viewing angles

Performance

Huawei furnishes the Nova with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 625 that is powered by eight energy-saving Cortex A53 cores and can fall back on 3 GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Exactly this configuration of an octa-core processor and storage capacity is also found in Huawei's Nova Plus, Lenovo's Moto Z Play, and Asus' ZenFone 3 ZE552KL. Consequently, all devices are roughly on par in the synthetic benchmarks. However, ZTE's Axon 7 wins by a nose in total.

AnTuTu v6 - Total Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
63206 Points ∼23%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
61345 Points ∼22% -3%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
62484 Points ∼23% -1%
ZTE Axon 7
122524 Points ∼45% +94%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
41676 Points ∼15% -34%
Huawei Nova Plus
64601 Points ∼24% +2%
Geekbench 4.0
64 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
2984 Points ∼11%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
2525 Points ∼9% -15%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
4042 Points ∼15% +35%
ZTE Axon 7
3867 Points ∼14% +30%
Huawei Nova Plus
3156 Points ∼11% +6%
64 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
840 Points ∼15%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
795 Points ∼14% -5%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
820 Points ∼14% -2%
ZTE Axon 7
1280 Points ∼22% +52%
Huawei Nova Plus
845 Points ∼15% +1%
3DMark
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) Physics (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
1802 Points ∼43%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
1636 Points ∼39% -9%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
2109 Points ∼50% +17%
ZTE Axon 7
1783 Points ∼42% -1%
Huawei Nova Plus
1773 Points ∼42% -2%
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) Graphics (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
391 Points ∼7%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
382 Points ∼7% -2%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
380 Points ∼7% -3%
ZTE Axon 7
2528 Points ∼47% +547%
Huawei Nova Plus
384 Points ∼7% -2%
2560x1440 Sling Shot Extreme (ES 3.1) (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
473 Points ∼10%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
461 Points ∼10% -3%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
465 Points ∼10% -2%
ZTE Axon 7
2500 Points ∼53% +429%
Huawei Nova Plus
465 Points ∼10% -2%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 Physics (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
1821 Points ∼43%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
1631 Points ∼39% -10%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
2112 Points ∼50% +16%
ZTE Axon 7
1099 Points ∼26% -40%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
1479 Points ∼35% -19%
Huawei Nova Plus
1795 Points ∼43% -1%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 Graphics (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
737 Points ∼9%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
725 Points ∼9% -2%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
719 Points ∼9% -2%
ZTE Axon 7
4619 Points ∼56% +527%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
275 Points ∼3% -63%
Huawei Nova Plus
733 Points ∼9% -1%
2560x1440 Sling Shot OpenGL ES 3.0 (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
849 Points ∼13%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
827 Points ∼13% -3%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
842 Points ∼13% -1%
ZTE Axon 7
2698 Points ∼42% +218%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
336 Points ∼5% -60%
Huawei Nova Plus
844 Points ∼13% -1%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Physics (sort by value)
Lenovo Moto Z Play
15923 Points ∼18%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
15984 Points ∼18%
ZTE Axon 7
20408 Points ∼24%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
9495 Points ∼11%
Huawei Nova Plus
15823 Points ∼18%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Graphics Score (sort by value)
Lenovo Moto Z Play
13437 Points ∼3%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
13466 Points ∼3%
ZTE Axon 7
24310 Points ∼5%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
7542 Points ∼1%
Huawei Nova Plus
13412 Points ∼3%
1280x720 offscreen Ice Storm Unlimited Score (sort by value)
Lenovo Moto Z Play
13920 Points ∼6%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
13955 Points ∼6%
ZTE Axon 7
23319 Points ∼10%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
7903 Points ∼3%
Huawei Nova Plus
13882 Points ∼6%
GFXBench (DX / GLBenchmark) 2.7
1920x1080 T-Rex HD Offscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
23 fps ∼0%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
23 fps ∼0% 0%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
23 fps ∼0% 0%
ZTE Axon 7
88 fps ∼1% +283%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
14 fps ∼0% -39%
Huawei Nova Plus
23 fps ∼0% 0%
T-Rex HD Onscreen C24Z16 (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
22 fps ∼1%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
23 fps ∼1% +5%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
21 fps ∼1% -5%
ZTE Axon 7
53 fps ∼2% +141%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
14 fps ∼0% -36%
Huawei Nova Plus
23 fps ∼1% +5%
GFXBench 3.0
off screen Manhattan Offscreen OGL (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
9.8 fps ∼0%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
10 fps ∼0% +2%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
9.9 fps ∼0% +1%
ZTE Axon 7
39 fps ∼1% +298%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
3.8 fps ∼0% -61%
Huawei Nova Plus
9.9 fps ∼0% +1%
on screen Manhattan Onscreen OGL (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
10 fps ∼0%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
10 fps ∼0% 0%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
9.7 fps ∼0% -3%
ZTE Axon 7
28 fps ∼1% +180%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
3.8 fps ∼0% -62%
Huawei Nova Plus
10 fps ∼0% 0%
GFXBench 3.1
off screen Manhattan ES 3.1 Offscreen (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
6.2 fps ∼0%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
6.2 fps ∼0% 0%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
6.2 fps ∼0% 0%
ZTE Axon 7
31 fps ∼1% +400%
Huawei Nova Plus
6.2 fps ∼0% 0%
on screen Manhattan ES 3.1 Onscreen (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
6.6 fps ∼0%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
6.7 fps ∼0% +2%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
6.1 fps ∼0% -8%
ZTE Axon 7
16 fps ∼0% +142%
Huawei Nova Plus
6.6 fps ∼0% 0%
PCMark for Android - Work performance score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
4596 Points ∼34%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
6767 Points ∼50% +47%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
6785 Points ∼50% +48%
ZTE Axon 7
4970 Points ∼37% +8%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
4008 Points ∼30% -13%
Huawei Nova Plus
5724 Points ∼42% +25%
BaseMark OS II
Web (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
727 Points ∼36%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
649 Points ∼32% -11%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
702 Points ∼35% -3%
ZTE Axon 7
963 Points ∼47% +32%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
741 Points ∼36% +2%
Huawei Nova Plus
754 Points ∼37% +4%
Graphics (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
1006 Points ∼3%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
1013 Points ∼4% +1%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
1019 Points ∼4% +1%
ZTE Axon 7
4631 Points ∼16% +360%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
488 Points ∼2% -51%
Huawei Nova Plus
1015 Points ∼4% +1%
Memory (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
1531 Points ∼24%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
795 Points ∼13% -48%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
1042 Points ∼17% -32%
ZTE Axon 7
1489 Points ∼24% -3%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
554 Points ∼9% -64%
Huawei Nova Plus
1553 Points ∼25% +1%
System (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
2280 Points ∼14%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
2069 Points ∼13% -9%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
2923 Points ∼18% +28%
ZTE Axon 7
3307 Points ∼20% +45%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
2153 Points ∼13% -6%
Huawei Nova Plus
2132 Points ∼13% -6%
Overall (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
1264 Points ∼15%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
1019 Points ∼12% -19%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
1215 Points ∼14% -4%
ZTE Axon 7
2165 Points ∼26% +71%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
810 Points ∼10% -36%
Huawei Nova Plus
1262 Points ∼15% 0%

Legend

 
Huawei Nova Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm Adreno 506, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Lenovo Moto Z Play Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm Adreno 506, 32 GB eMMC Flash
 
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm Adreno 506, 64 GB eMMC Flash
 
ZTE Axon 7 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 MSM8996, Qualcomm Adreno 530, 64 GB eMMC Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016 Samsung Exynos 7580 Octa, ARM Mali-T720 MP2, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Huawei Nova Plus Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Qualcomm Adreno 506, 32 GB eMMC Flash

Browsing on the Internet with Huawei's Nova is very fast subjectively. The benchmarks also confirm this. Huawei's Nova achieves good scores starting with Octane 2.0 over Mozilla Kraken 1.1 up to JetStream 1.1 and is on par with Asus' ZenFone 3 ZE552KL and Lenovo's Moto Z Play. Samsung's Galaxy A5 (2016) is not quite as fast, while ZTE's Axon 7 takes the first place here.

Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
4717 Points ∼9%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
4979 Points ∼10% +6%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
4905 Points ∼10% +4%
ZTE Axon 7
8062 Points ∼16% +71%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
3611 Points ∼7% -23%
Huawei Nova Plus
4730 Points ∼9% 0%
Mozilla Kraken 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
8234.9 ms * ∼14%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
8168.9 ms * ∼14% +1%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
8041.4 ms * ∼14% +2%
ZTE Axon 7
3096.5 ms * ∼5% +62%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
11887 ms * ∼20% -44%
Huawei Nova Plus
8027.7 ms * ∼13% +3%
WebXPRT 2015 - Overall Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
60 Points ∼7%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
83 Points ∼10% +38%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
84 Points ∼10% +40%
ZTE Axon 7
111 Points ∼14% +85%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
64 Points ∼8% +7%
Huawei Nova Plus
83 Points ∼10% +38%
JetStream 1.1 - Total Score (sort by value)
Huawei Nova
30.487 Points ∼9%
Lenovo Moto Z Play
31.8 Points ∼10% +4%
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
31.118 Points ∼9% +2%
ZTE Axon 7
44.754 Points ∼13% +47%
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
22 Points ∼7% -28%
Huawei Nova Plus
31.3 Points ∼9% +3%

* ... smaller is better

The 32 GB eMMC storage in Huawei's Nova is fast and even a bit faster than that in Huawei's Nova Plus. The same is presented in the micro-SD's performance. Although Huawei's Nova cannot completely exhaust the speed potential of our Toshiba Exceria Pro M401 reference card, it achieves the same good results of the smartphones by Asus, Lenovo, and ZTE. Huawei's Nova Plus first follows at some distance.

Huawei NovaLenovo Moto Z PlayAsus Zenfone 3 ZE552KLZTE Axon 7Samsung Galaxy A5 2016Huawei Nova Plus
AndroBench 3-5
1%
30%
54%
-38%
-19%
Sequential Write 256KB SDCard
47.69
50.57
6%
50.07
5%
51.34
8%
33.32
-30%
Sequential Read 256KB SDCard
79.5
74.58
-6%
79.22
0%
78.39
-1%
41.64
-48%
Random Write 4KB
44.63
45.58
2%
7.4
-83%
16.22
-64%
11.2
-75%
30.12
-33%
Random Read 4KB
38.19
38.78
2%
74
94%
121.07
217%
22.9
-40%
35.64
-7%
Sequential Write 256KB
75.01
73.14
-2%
188
151%
150.92
101%
60.4
-19%
82.13
9%
Sequential Read 256KB
248.26
254.78
3%
282
14%
406.49
64%
209.4
-16%
241.57
-3%

Games

The Adreno 506 graphics chip integrated into the SoC is not a performance marvel, but it supports modern APIs like OpenGL 3.2 and Direct3D 12. It also renders demanding Android games, such as Asphalt 8: Airborne or Dead Trigger, smoothly even when the image details are set to maximum. The other hardware does not ruin gaming fun, either. The touchscreen responds accurately and the sensors function impeccably.

Dead Trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Asphalt 8: Airborne
 SettingsValue
 high30 fps
 very low30 fps
Dead Trigger 2
 SettingsValue
 high53 fps

Emissions

Temperature

The surface temperatures of Huawei's Nova only surpass 40 °C in single areas and are thus absolutely uncritical. The smartphone fortunately does not have to use tricks like throttling to achieve these harmless rates. The frame rates remained stable in the GFXBench battery test that performs a graphics benchmark 30 times in succession.

GFXBench Performance
GFXBench Performance
GFXBench Battery
GFXBench Battery
GFXBench Frametimes
GFXBench Frametimes
Max. Load
 38.8 °C
102 F
38.9 °C
102 F
41.4 °C
107 F
 
 38.7 °C
102 F
38.4 °C
101 F
40.6 °C
105 F
 
 36.4 °C
98 F
37.6 °C
100 F
40.7 °C
105 F
 
Maximum: 41.4 °C = 107 F
Average: 39.1 °C = 102 F
33 °C
91 F
33.5 °C
92 F
35.1 °C
95 F
33 °C
91 F
33.6 °C
92 F
34.4 °C
94 F
33 °C
91 F
33.7 °C
93 F
34.2 °C
94 F
Maximum: 35.1 °C = 95 F
Average: 33.7 °C = 93 F
Power Supply (max.)  32.2 °C = 90 F | Room Temperature 21.4 °C = 71 F | Voltcraft IR-260
(-) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 39.1 °C / 102 F, compared to the average of 33.1 °C / 92 F for the devices in the class Smartphone.
(±) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 41.4 °C / 107 F, compared to the average of 35.6 °C / 96 F, ranging from 22.4 to 51.7 °C for the class Smartphone.
(+) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 35.1 °C / 95 F, compared to the average of 34.1 °C / 93 F
(±) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 32.9 °C / 91 F, compared to the device average of 33.1 °C / 92 F.

Speaker

Pink Noise diagram
Pink Noise diagram

The mono speaker in Huawei's Nova is situated on the USB port's left and can produce an amazingly high volume of 88 dB(A) without distorting. Subjectively, the sound is even surprisingly powerful when the volume is not turned up to maximum. The trebles audibly dominate at maximum volume while mid and low tones are virtually inaudible. Then, the output via the 3.5-mm headset jack is very balanced.

dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2031.642.92525.433.83125.327.84032.933.25033.641.76331.631.98028.431.8100272612520.824.71602228.620021.336.525020.85031521.25540019.45750019.556.563017.757.380017.963.8100017.870.5125017.372.3160017.474.8200016.778250017.276.9315018.279.4400017.981.4500017.678.2630017.774.2800017.873.91000017.968.61250018.170.81600018.268SPL3088.3N1.366.5median 17.9median 68.6Delta1.312.131.640.525.432.925.334.132.932.933.635.931.633.628.430.7272620.826.82229.521.336.920.846.921.251.819.456.919.561.617.76417.969.317.869.517.372.917.471.116.770.617.268.918.273.817.97617.669.417.771.617.873.517.971.118.170.418.268.23083.71.356.5median 17.9median 69.31.310.131.64225.437.625.331.432.936.333.651.731.634.328.431.72736.920.8262229.921.341.820.853.921.259.419.463.619.567.417.766.117.970.117.869.817.373.417.474.616.776.717.277.218.278.917.979.617.67617.772.917.873.217.971.118.164.518.257.23087.41.368.4median 17.9median 69.81.310.2hearing rangehide median Pink NoiseHuawei NovaAsus Zenfone 3 ZE552KLHuawei Nova Plus
Huawei Nova audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (88.25 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 31.8% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (12.3% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(±) | reduced mids - on average 7.6% lower than median
(+) | mids are linear (5.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 7.5% higher than median
(+) | highs are linear (5.2% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (26.4% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 64% of all tested devices in this class were better, 8% similar, 29% worse
» The best had a delta of 13%, average was 25%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 77% of all tested devices were better, 5% similar, 18% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (83.7 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 33% lower than median
(±) | linearity of bass is average (9.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 4% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (5.7% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 2.8% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (6.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (21.3% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 20% of all tested devices in this class were better, 12% similar, 68% worse
» The best had a delta of 13%, average was 25%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 49% of all tested devices were better, 9% similar, 42% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Huawei Nova Plus audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (87.39 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(-) | nearly no bass - on average 28.5% lower than median
(-) | bass is not linear (15.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 3.5% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (5% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(±) | higher highs - on average 5.7% higher than median
(+) | highs are linear (3.3% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(±) | linearity of overall sound is average (21.5% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 22% of all tested devices in this class were better, 12% similar, 67% worse
» The best had a delta of 13%, average was 25%, worst was 44%
Compared to all devices tested
» 51% of all tested devices were better, 8% similar, 41% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Frequency diagram in comparison (checkboxes above can be turned on/off)

Energy Management

Power Consumption

With approximately 5.2 watts during full load, Huawei's Nova is virtually just as energy-saving as its Nova Plus sibling. However, the maximum idle power consumption of Huawei's Nova could be a bit lower. Lenovo's Moto Z Play is by far the most efficient handset among the comparison devices.

Huawei's Nova is well-equipped with its 3020 mAh lithium-polymer battery. Although the smartphone does not explicitly support a quick-charge feature, its battery is recharged relatively fast. 2 hours and 15 minutes was needed to completely recharge the fully depleted battery in the test.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.01 / 0.09 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 0.61 / 1.83 / 1.86 Watt
Load midlight 3.71 / 5.19 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
Huawei Nova
3020 mAh
Lenovo Moto Z Play
3510 mAh
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
3000 mAh
ZTE Axon 7
3250 mAh
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
2900 mAh
Huawei Nova Plus
3340 mAh
Power Consumption
39%
-12%
-12%
-3%
12%
Idle Minimum *
0.61
0.51
16%
0.83
-36%
0.64
-5%
0.96
-57%
0.49
20%
Idle Average *
1.83
0.87
52%
2.11
-15%
0.84
54%
1.64
10%
1.63
11%
Idle Maximum *
1.86
0.9
52%
2.12
-14%
0.87
53%
1.71
8%
1.76
5%
Load Average *
3.71
1.69
54%
3.41
8%
6.02
-62%
2.98
20%
2.98
20%
Load Maximum *
5.19
4
23%
5.46
-5%
10.45
-101%
5.08
2%
4.99
4%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Runtime

The comparatively low power consumption turns Huawei's Nova into a really enduring handset. The smartphone reaps in above average results in all battery test scenarios.

Although Huawei's Nova has a slightly smaller battery than Huawei's Nova Plus, its smaller screen saves energy. In total, both Huawei smartphones are equally enduring especially when looking at the real-world test (screen brightness set to 150 cd/m²).

Huawei's Nova lasts 14:33 hours in Internet browsing - a very good rate that none of the comparison devices surpass. The smartphone can be used for almost 12 hours when watching a Full HD video. Huawei's Nova Plus, Asus' ZenFone 3 ZE552KL, and Lenovo's Moto Z Play achieve even better video playback times. In total, the battery life does not give reason for complaint.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
31h 10min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
14h 33min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
11h 57min
Load (maximum brightness)
5h 28min
Huawei Nova
3020 mAh
Lenovo Moto Z Play
3510 mAh
Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
3000 mAh
ZTE Axon 7
3250 mAh
Samsung Galaxy A5 2016
2900 mAh
Huawei Nova Plus
3340 mAh
Battery Runtime
49%
1%
-22%
9%
5%
Reader / Idle
1870
2540
36%
1502
-20%
1735
-7%
2323
24%
2048
10%
H.264
717
1190
66%
905
26%
704
-2%
672
-6%
732
2%
WiFi v1.3
873
824
-6%
797
-9%
411
-53%
626
-28%
820
-6%
Load
328
652
99%
352
7%
245
-25%
483
47%
366
12%

Pros

+ bright Full HD screen
+ high-quality build
+ USB Type-C port
+ fingerprint sensor
+ decent camera
+ long battery life

Cons

- no optical image stabilizer
- 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi only
- hybrid dual-SIM only
- no App2SD

Verdict

In review: Huawei Nova. Review sample courtesy of Huawei Germany.
In review: Huawei Nova. Review sample courtesy of Huawei Germany.

Like Huawei's Nova Plus, Huawei's Nova is a really good smartphone with hardly any shortcomings. A very bright Full HD panel, high-quality and rigid casing, USB Type-C port, support for two SIM cards, and a reliable fingerprint scanner belong to its plus points. Although the 12-megapixel primary camera can only offer a slightly lower resolution than that of the Nova Plus and does not have an image stabilizer, it takes good photos and videos - the latter even in Ultra HD format, which is actually very rare in the mid-range. Despite its somewhat smaller battery, Huawei's Nova convinces with its long battery life. We also liked the radio module more than that of the Nova Plus as it supports more UMTS frequencies and is characterized by lower SAR rates.

Huawei has created a recommendable total package with its 5-inch Nova. The differences to the 80-Euro (~$85) more expensive Nova Plus are only marginal when disregarding the smaller screen.

We can adopt the cons list of Huawei's Nova Plus almost completely. Instead of two dedicated slots, only one hybrid slot that the SIM and micro-SD card have to share is installed. The Wi-Fi performance is fairly mixed due to the lack of 5 GHz network support. Furthermore, applications cannot be moved to the micro-SD card. Buyers who can live with these minor drawbacks and want to save 80 Euros (~$85) compared to Huawei's Nova Plus will find Huawei's Nova to be a recommendable smartphone that, according to its manufacturer, will soon be updated to Android 7 just like its 5.5-inch sibling.

Huawei Nova - 01/09/2017 v6
Manuel Masiero

Chassis
86%
Keyboard
68 / 75 → 91%
Pointing Device
96%
Connectivity
40 / 60 → 66%
Weight
93%
Battery
95%
Display
87%
Games Performance
33 / 63 → 52%
Application Performance
50 / 70 → 72%
Temperature
87%
Noise
100%
Audio
60 / 91 → 66%
Camera
73%
Average
74%
86%
Smartphone - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Huawei Nova Smartphone Review
Manuel Masiero, 2017-01-13 (Update: 2018-05-15)