Battery life

  • Excellent battery stamina if you lay off streaming
  • No fast charger included, which seems a bit stingy

The Huawei Nova has a 3020mAh battery, which is large for a 5.0-inch phone, particularly one with a 14nm processor.

Stamina out in the real world varies between decent and excellent, largely depending on how much you use a 4G data connection. The CPU itself is efficient, but the demands of a trickling data connection used when, for example, streaming podcasts, bring the Huawei Nova down to earth.

You'll still get a full day's use whether or not you stream a lot of audio, but when laying off podcasts and Spotify we very nearly got a full two days between charges.

Huawei Nova review

This is one of the longer-lasting phones in its class. However, our standard video test suggests the display is quite power-hungry. Playing a 90-minute video at maximum brightness (and remember, the Nova screen is pretty bright) takes 20% off the battery. That's 3% more than the Moto G4, and a whole 7% more than the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The Nova isn't a stamina world-beater, but rather a mix of efficient and less efficient parts that generally result in solid stamina.

Charging it back up is a mild annoyance, as the Huawei Nova has a new-style USB-C port, but it doesn't come with a fast charger. You just get a regular 2A one that will take a couple of hours to replenish the phone. Get hold of a fast charger (the kind that increases voltage rather than current) and it may charge more quickly, though.

Camera

  • Fab photos on a sunny day
  • Bad photos at night
  • Camera app seems like a dodgy take on Apple's

The Huawei Nova has a slightly less impressive-sounding camera than its big brother, the Huawei Nova+. It uses a 12MP sensor on the rear with a single-LED flash and an 8MP selfie camera. The Nova+ has a 16MP rear camera.

The Nova has a 1/2.9-inch sensor, making each sensor pixel 1.25 microns across. That's smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Nexus 5X sensor pixels, but still larger than the 1.1-micron standard of 2014-2015.

In practice, it's a setup of highs and lows. The best bit: daylight images can look fantastic, sharp down to the pixel and with punchy colour. Despite the conservative resolution, shots in optimal lighting have loads of detail.

Huawei Nova review

Use the Huawei Nova to shoot on a day when the sky is blue and the sun is bright and you can't do much better at the price.

It does struggle in other conditions, though. The Huawei Nova doesn't have optical image stabilisation, and it really shows. Night shots look fuzzy and low on detail, because the sensor has to ramp up to ISO 3200 sensitivity, and it's fairly easy to take blurry shots despite the minimum shutter speed of 1/17 of a second.

The Nova also doesn't perform quite enough dynamic range optimisation, which is a bit of a surprise as it's something Huawei is usually good at. In most conditions the metering (brightness) aims to avoid overexposure primarily, which can make darker areas look quite shadowy.

You can improve this with a post-shoot edit, but recent Huawei phones have offered better in-camera tweaks. In some situations, the lens also causes some purple outlining of objects, a sign the f/2.2 lens is less than perfect. There's also around a half-second of shutter lag, making shooting feel less than instant.

Huawei Nova review

Like other Huawei phones, the Nova's camera app is largely a rip-off of Apple's, but with a slightly complicated menu of bonus modes tacked-on. These include HDR and a decent manual mode.

The Huawei Nova's front camera is more successful, with a great 8MP sensor and f/2 lens. We've found that even in patchy indoors lighting it's able to reliably bring out details like little beard hairs. There are plenty of 8MP front-facing cameras out there these days, but this is among the stronger ones.

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In daylight there's enough fine detail rendering for macro-style shooting.

In daylight there's enough fine detail rendering for macro-style shooting.

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Here's a pre-post demo of the kind of extra detail you can pull out of shadowy areas in some shots.

Here's a pre-post demo of the kind of extra detail you can pull out of shadowy areas in some shots.

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Vivid colour with no sign of channel clipping: nothing to complain about here. Other than that the dodgems aren't working yet.

Vivid colour with no sign of channel clipping: nothing to complain about here. Other than that the dodgems aren't working yet.

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This shot could perhaps have done with a little more dynamic range tweaking from the Nova, but the color is punchy.

This shot could perhaps have done with a little more dynamic range tweaking from the Nova, but the color is punchy.

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You can see some of the (minor) purple fringing that occasionally affects the Nova here. The oranges, yellows and greens of the leaves have been brought out well though.

You can see some of the (minor) purple fringing that occasionally affects the Nova here. The oranges, yellows and greens of the leaves have been brought out well though.

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Image quality falls off a cliff at night. These days we'd hope for optical image stabilization in a phone this pricey.

Image quality falls off a cliff at night. These days we'd hope for optical image stabilization in a phone this pricey.

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This is probably the best quality night shot we got from the Nova, but it's still a mushy image.

This is probably the best quality night shot we got from the Nova, but it's still a mushy image.

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Punchy color, great sharpness and a noise reduction engine that hasn't tried too hard to make sense of that grass: a good effort.

Punchy color, great sharpness and a noise reduction engine that hasn't tried too hard to make sense of that grass: a good effort.

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One of the few shots where the Nova opted for overexposure rather than maintaining highlights. See how there's major loss of contrast to the side of the tree, as well as purple discoloration.

One of the few shots where the Nova opted for overexposure rather than maintaining highlights. See how there's major loss of contrast to the side of the tree, as well as purple discoloration.

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Here's another example of the sort of image pop you can expect when shooting on a bright day.

Here's another example of the sort of image pop you can expect when shooting on a bright day.

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This shot at first seems like it's just out of focus, but on close inspection it is also higher ISO sensitivity killing image quality.

This shot at first seems like it's just out of focus, but on close inspection it is also higher ISO sensitivity killing image quality.

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Make this image the size of a postage stamp and it'll look OK, but close up? Yuck.

Make this image the size of a postage stamp and it'll look OK, but close up? Yuck.

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The Nova has treated this scene conservatively, if fairly. You'll need to tweak it in post to make it come alive.

The Nova has treated this scene conservatively, if fairly. You'll need to tweak it in post to make it come alive.

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