Verdict

The Huawei Nova is a mid-range phone that flirts with the high-end in a few areas, including its high-quality aluminium frame. It doesn't have a particularly striking design to match, but in terms of pure quality of construction it's close to the Huawei Mate S and Huawei P9.

It's highly pocketable and lasts longer than much of the competition between charges too.

Where it gets difficult is when you start looking at the price against some of the specs. The camera is good in daylight but poor at night, and while the CPU performs well enough, it's still a mid-range processor that might not look so hot in a couple of years.

Who's this for?

The Huawei Nova is a phone for those who have lost faith in Samsung, Sony and LG, those looking for another phone-maker to try out. 

It's also for those who want a phone with a high-end flavor, but with a price lower than the kind of handsets you see advertised on giant billboards, and the sides of buses.

Should you buy it?

The Huawei Nova isn't a killer phone, but it is a good one if you like the idea of a small phone that feels expensive but costs a lot less than the Samsung Galaxy S7

If "small" isn't among your main aims, though, the OnePlus 3 is a better deal. The Nova is a phone to snap up if you find a particularly good deal, as there's otherwise quite a lot of competition at the price.

Competition

There's plenty of competition in the mid-range, including some surprisingly high-end handsets with impressively low prices. The following four phones are key rivals to the Huawei Nova.

OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3

This is where the Huawei Nova really gets in trouble. The OnePlus 3 is better in every respect bar battery life, and seems like a much higher-end phone in person.

It has a much higher-end processor and a camera that fares far better at night. You have to buy the OnePlus 3 direct from OnePlus unless you nab a secondhand one, but at the time of writing the Nova isn't exactly the easiest phone to buy either.

With a 5.5-inch screen the OnePlus 3 is a significantly larger device though, so if you want something small it's not for you.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Galaxy S6 Edge

Is this cheating? If you're willing to do some research and buy a phone SIM-free, you can now get the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge for just a little more money than the Huawei Nova.

Once again, it's much better than the Huawei Nova in every respect bar battery life. The ultra-high resolution 1440 x 2560 AMOLED screen and excellent camera are of particular note.

Despite being older the Galaxy S6 Edge is also a lot more powerful, and has a 14nm processor just like the Nova.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE

There's no greater proof that the Huawei Nova costs quite a lot than that you can get a new iPhone for a somewhat-similar price. Granted, it's the dinky iPhone SE, but it feels just as 'premium' as the Nova.

This is Apple's tiny iPhone, with just a 4.0-inch screen. Phones with displays this small are incredible rare these days, even among budget devices.

The iPhone SE also has plenty of power and a decent camera, and is worth considering if you're more into iOS, or just want something super compact.

Samsung Galaxy A5

Galaxy A5

The Samsung Galaxy A5 is perhaps Samsung's closest alternative to the Huawei Nova. It's due a refresh, but these days sells for a chunk less than the Nova.

That's right, Huawei has been undercut by Samsung: who would have thought that would happen?

The Galaxy A5 isn't as well-built as the Nova, and doesn't have quite as up-to-date a processor. But the two are otherwise fairly comparable. It makes us miss Huawei's old bargain hunter-pleasing instincts.

First reviewed: September 2016