Huawei Nova Plus review: Bigger, better, but a touch too much


For years phone manufacturers, with the honourable exception of Sony, have been releasing smaller versions of their flagship handsets, but slyly scrimping on the stuff that made them so great in the first place. It’s a sensible, if somewhat cynical, strategy: most people won’t notice or care, so why not save a few quid?

Huawei gets this all mixed up: the Nova Plus doesn’t look very much like the smaller Nova, at all, but inside for the most part, the same components end up running the show. That means for an extra £46, you’re getting broadly the same package in a bigger, different looking frame. Is it worth the extra – or does it, like its little brother, simply get flattened by the continued incredible value of the OnePlus 3?

Huawei Nova Plus: Design

I don’t want to overstate the differences between the handsets’ appearances, because all phones look kind of the same, and it’s not like the Nova Plus has three screens or a BlackBerry style keyboard. But put them side by side and you wouldn’t think one was a miniature version of the other as the name suggests.

While the 5in Nova looks like a dinkier version of the Nexus 6P, right down to the black camera bar along the top and circular fingerprint reader, the Nova Plus’ rectangular camera juts out of the handset slightly further down. The fingerprint reader sits just below it – and it’s also squared off. Even the front facing selfie camera is flipped onto the other side, sitting to the right of the top speaker, rather than to the left.

I don’t really see this as a problem, it’s just confusing. Both handsets feel nice in the hand, and I actually have a slight preference for the 5.5in Nova Plus. Its unibody metal chassis and smooth finish feels properly premium – right up there with anything Samsung or Apple have slaved away on in recent years.

The fingerprint reader is quick and responsive, and while the location is down to your personal preference (I like Sony’s choice of the side of the handset), an index finger on the back of the phone feels natural enough. As with the Nova, you’re looking at USB Type C port for faster charging and data speeds, but as per usual this extra utility comes with the caveat that you’re inevitably going to find yourself short of the right cable at some point, in a world flooded with micro-USB cables.

Huawei Nova Plus: Screen

To make matters a touch more confusing, the screen on the Huawei Nova Plus came out slightly worse than the Nova’s in our tests. To be clear, we’re talking about the kind of differences that the average human eye would struggle to pick up, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

So to begin with, both the displays are 1,080 x 1,920 in resolution, but since the Nova Plus’ display stretches those pixels across a larger expanse of glass, its absolute resolution is lower at 401ppi compared with 441ppi. In other words, it’s less sharp, albeit only be a fraction.

Both use IPS LCD technology and look great, but curiously they come out differently in our tests. Here’s a table with our results, alongside the OnePlus 3 and a couple of other similarly priced handsets comparison.

Resolution

Brightness

sRGB gamut coverage

Contrast

Huawei Nova Plus

1,080 x 1,920

498cd/m2

95.6%

1,265:1

Huawei Nova

1,080 x 1,920

424cd/m2

100%

1,494:1

OnePlus 3 (sRGB mode enabled)

1,080 x 1,920

415cd/m2

100%

Perfect

Sony Xperia X Compact

720 x 1,280

535cd/m2

99.2%

1,211:1

Samsung Galaxy A5

1,080 x 1,920

452cd/m2

100%

Perfect

So the Nova Plus has the brighter screen, but with weaker contrast and a slightly lower percentage of the sRGB gamut covered. As comparisons with other phones in the price bracket should show, however, it remains no slouch.

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