Huawei Nova 2 Plus: Our first take

Huawei’s Nova 2 Plus needs more than a pretty face to stand out from the crowd

The Huawei Nova 2 Plus does everything right, but doesn’t go the extra mile to stand out against some tough competition.
The Huawei Nova 2 Plus does everything right, but doesn’t go the extra mile to stand out against some tough competition.
The Huawei Nova 2 Plus does everything right, but doesn’t go the extra mile to stand out against some tough competition.

Highs

  • Slim, sleek design
  • Dual-lens camera with fun Moving Picture mode
  • Big battery
  • Plenty of storage space

Lows

  • Lacks standout features
  • Stiff competition from Honor, and other brands
  • China-only release for now

Huawei launched the Nova series at the end of 2016, and marketed them as phones for fashionable folk, who wanted a slim device with a great camera to slip into skinny jeans. It hasn’t taken such a bullish approach with the newly-announced sequels, that have arrived far earlier than usual in the smartphone industry.

The Nova 2 and Nova 2 Plus have been revealed for China, and a wider international launch hasn’t been confirmed yet. We managed to get some time with the Nova 2 Plus in China, to see how it stacks up against the first Nova phones.

Inspired design, mid-range specs

There’s a lot to like about the Nova 2 Plus. The metal body has a pleasing grain to the finish, and comes in either a great-looking black, green, or blue — we’d go for the latter. The style draws plenty of influence from the Huawei P10, with antenna bands blending into the body, minimal branding, and a dual-lens camera at the top. In turn, this means the style is also reminiscent of Apple’s iPhone.

The fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone, rather than in the home button, and it only weighs 169 grams, so it’s very lightweight. At 6.9mm, it’s one of the thinnest phones you can buy.

The Nova 2 Plus is a mid-range phone. It has a 5.5-inch screen with a piece of 2.5D curved glass over the top, and a 1,920 × 1,080 pixel resolution. A Huawei-made Kirin 659 processor with 4GB of RAM powers the phone, a shift away from the Qualcomm Snapdragon chips used in the first Nova phones. The Nova 2 has a smaller 5-inch screen, is even lighter at 143 grams, and has a smaller 2,950mAh battery compared to the Nova 2 Plus’s 3,340mAh cell. The Nova 2 Plus comes with a hefty 128GB of internal storage space.

All the right moves

Performance in our brief hands-on time was great. It slid through the menus and in and out of apps without a problem, just as you’d expect. We doubt anyone will miss not having a Snapdragon processor inside, especially as the faster Kirin 960 chip has been such a winner in the P10 and Mate 9.

The Moving Picture feature is fun, and opens up some interesting creative opportunities.

Android 7.0 Nougat is installed with Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 user interface over the top — we like EMUI 5.1, but the Chinese version we tried was filled with bloatware. However, the app drawer can be activated, there are algorithms working to keep the software running quickly over the lifetime of the device, and it’s considerably more user-friendly than previous versions.

Dual-lens cameras are a Huawei trademark, and they’re present on both the Nova 2 and the Nova 2 Plus. We tried the camera — which has a 12-megapixel and an 8-megapixel lens — indoors, so the results were never going to be astounding, but the software is typically simple to use, and the operation is fast. There’s an added mode we haven’t seen before called Moving Picture, and it’s similar to Apple’s Live Photos mode. A short video is captured when you tap the shutter release, and it works like a GIF. Press on the screen in the gallery, and it animates. The Moving Picture feature is fun, and opens up some interesting creative opportunities; but it’s likely to suffer from the same problem as Live Photos — there’s nowhere to share them natively. The 20-megapixel selfie camera captured great images, but the small sensor didn’t enjoy challenging light conditions. Despite the many megapixels, don’t expect amazing results.

Stiff competition

When you pick up a Nova 2 phone, it becomes clear why Huawei hasn’t rushed to sell them internationally yet. It’s because of the Honor brand, a tech-sharing spin-off that makes excellent phones that don’t cost very much. The 5.5-inch Nova 2 Plus costs the equivalent of $425. That’s a lot more than the Honor 6X, which offers a similar specification sheet. It also shares a visual resemblance to the Honor 8 Pro, which has a far more powerful internals for only a little more money.

This is the same problem Huawei faced with the first Nova. The $300 to $500 smartphone market is absolutely stuffed with strong phones, so competition is really stiff. In China, it’s perhaps even tougher, with solid options like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4X costing half of the Huawei phone. The Nova 2 Plus looks and feels the part, and it operated well in our time with the phone, plus the camera should impress on a longer test given Huawei’s prowess in this area. But there’s nothing here that makes the Nova 2 Plus stand out.

Product Review

You’d be crazy to dismiss the Huawei Mate 20 as an amateur

Traditionally, Huawei’s Mate series of phones has been a little staid. That started to change with the Mate 10 Pro, and now both the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro have come along to turn our heads. Here’s a look at the standard Mate 20.
Mobile

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs. P20 Pro: Which 2018 Huawei flagship is best for you?

If you're tempted by Huawei's latest flagship, the Mate 20 Pro, but you're uncertain how it differs from the P20 Pro which Huawei released earlier this year, then we have you covered. Find out exactly what sets these two phones apart.
Mobile

Mate 20 range now includes new 20 X model with huge 7.2-inch display

Huawei has released the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and Mate 20 X. With all new Kirin processors, advanced A.I. brains, and an amazing triple camera, here's absolutely everything you need to know about the new Mate 20 series.
Product Review

If Huawei sells the Mate 20 Pro in the U.S., Samsung needs to watch its back

Huawei knocked it out of the park with the P20 Pro earlier this year, and it’s looking to do the same again with the Mate 20 Pro. The Mate series has traditionally been sold in the U.S., so will Americans finally be able to get a taste?
Mobile

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.
Product Review

Huawei’s monster Mate 20 X makes the Galaxy Note 9 look small

The Huawei Mate 20 X has a 7.2-inch screen, but is surprisingly manageable to hold, yet still a little too big to carry around. Huawei’s pushing the phone’s ability as a mobile gaming handheld, challenging the Nintendo Switch.
Photography

Camera shootout! Testing the latest Pixel, iPhone, and Galaxy Note in real life

Which takes the best photos, the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, Galaxy Note 9, or Pixel 2 XL? We put the cameras on all these top-notch phones through their paces to see which performs best in the real world, from low light to portrait mode…
Mobile

How to sell your old Google Pixel or Pixel 2 for the most money

So, it's time for a expensive new smartphone, and you'd like to partially fund the purchase by selling your old Google Pixel. Find all the information you need to get as much money as possible for your Pixel or Pixel 2 here in our guide.
Mobile

The OnePlus 6T is coming a day earlier, event moved to October 29

According to a recent report, the launch of the OnePlus 6T could be different from any other OnePlus launch in history. How? It could have the backing of a major U.S. carrier. Here's everything we know about the OnePlus 6T.
Mobile

Sprint now lets you add Hulu's Live TV service to your unlimited plan

Sprint recently introduced three new data plans to its roster -- Unlimited Basic , Unlimited Plus, and Unlimited Premium. Here, we break down your options to help you decide which one is best for you and your family.
Mobile

Sams's Club offers $100 gift cards for iPhone XR pre-orders

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now that the phones are out, you might be wondering how you can get them for yourself.
Mobile

It’s about time! A USB-C magnetic charger for the Apple Watch has finally arrived

While most of the buzz surrounding Apple has been about the iPhone XR, the company also introduced a new Apple Watch accessory. Starting October 24, a USB-C magnetic charger will be available for purchase.
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Product Review

Amazon’s child-friendly tablet is the complete package

Kids are tough on electronics and it’s difficult to police screen time and manage what they’re doing. The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition could be the affordable answer to your prayers, with a rugged case and worry-free warranty.