We review the mighty Huawei Nova Plus, a super-sized 5.5-inch version of the Huawei Nova boasting an improved 16-megapixel camera and an even bigger Full HD display. Here’s what we think of the Nova Plus after using it as our full-time phone, including a look at battery life, the camera tech and everything else you need to know.
Recently we reviewed the Huawei Nova, a smartphone that packs some impressively strong features for an asking price of under £400. It’s a solid phone, with particularly impressive battery life and a gorgeous screen, but the likes of the OnePlus 3 have it beat when it comes to software. We just found the Nova a bit too glitchy, which is a shame given the funky hardware.
Of course, big hand-filling phones seem to be all the rage in 2016, so now we have the Huawei Nova Plus handset. This 5.5-inch mobile is an enlarged version of the Nova, but there’s more to the Nova Plus than just a bump in scale. For a start, there’s a fresh new 16-megapixel camera slapped on the back, with full Optical Image Stabilisation. And you also get a bigger battery – but does that mean even stronger battery life?
Here’s our full Huawei Nova Plus review.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Design
While the Nova was a reasonably compact 5-inches, the Nova Plus is a palm-filler at 5.5-inches. That seems to be a strangely standard size for mobiles here in 2016. We even did a 5.5-inch phone comparison back in August because there are so bloody many of them. Of course, handsets this size are tricky to use with just one hand, but Huawei has thankfully given us a ‘mini screen view’ feature which shrinks your desktops or apps towards the bottom of the display.
We really liked the look and feel of the standard Nova phone, which reminded us a little of a dinky Nexus 6P thanks to its funky camera bar and metallic finish on the rear. Sadly, the Nova Plus ditches that camera bar and instead gives you a jutting lens, slapped in the centre. Thankfully the lens doesn’t stick out too far, but it still makes for a wobbly experience if you use your phone when it’s resting on a desk or table.
You do still get that full metal jacket however, which looks neat and adds a rugged finish to the Nova Plus. Huawei’s styling is simple but effective, with some shiny banding to break up the matte metallic surfacing. Of course, we’d have preferred a stronger range of colours. You can only nab the Plus in silver, grey or gold – nothing particularly outlandish.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Screen and media
One of the Nova Plus’ main strengths is its media credentials. That 5.5-inch IPS LCD screen is a stunner, even if it’s not a Quad HD panel like the Galaxy S7 Edge’s. Those Full HD visuals are still perfectly crisp and you get full control over colour temperature as usual, to tweak it until it’s just to your liking.
Viewing angles are as wide as you like, great news if you want to watch something with your bestie. And on top brightness, the Nova Plus’ screen is easily strong enough to be visible in strong glare. There’s also an ‘Eye Comfort’ mode which mimics Apple’s Night Shift feature, filtering blue light and making the screen nice and warm, to reduce eye strain during those late-night Facebook sessions.
One change over the standard Nova is the dual speakers, housed on the bottom edge of the phone. These blast out some reasonably powerful audio, although quality takes a serious hit when the volume is boosted to max. And as with all speakers mounted on the edges, they’re easy to accidentally smother when playing games or enjoying some YouTube vids.
If you want to carry around a massive media collection, then good news. The Nova Plus’ 24GB of available storage space can be boosted with a microSD memory card whenever you want.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Features and OS
Huawei’s Emotion UI (EMUI for short) is the main reason we didn’t get on with the original Huawei Nova. It’s normally mildly irritating for its habit of removing the Android apps tray and fiddling with other stuff we like, but on the Nova it was downright glitchy.
Thankfully the user experience isn’t as frustrating on the Nova Plus, although EMUI is once again plastered all over Android Marshmallow. That means R.I.P. apps tray as usual, but that’s definitely the worst of the Nova Plus’ crimes.
In fact, EMUI has improved a fair bit over time. There’s some handy tools for nerdier users such as full-on data traffic monitoring and management, plus all of the standard features you’d expect including screen mirroring and a storage cleaner. And anyone coming from another Android phone won’t be too bewildered by the change in presentation and layout.
Huawei has also included some nifty hardware features, including dual SIM card support. You can stick two SIMs into this phone and set them up how you like, with one particular card responsible for data and either enabled for calls and messaging. You can swap this around in the settings menu whenever you like too.
On the back of the Nova Plus you’ll find a fingerprint sensor, sat right in the middle just beneath the camera lens. Like pretty much every scanner we’ve tested in the past few months, the Plus’ sensor can accurately register up to five different prints and is pleasingly quick to unlock the phone. Just poke your digit inside the indented sensor and you’ll be looking at your desktops in under a second.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Performance and battery life
The Nova Plus packs in the exact same Snapdragon 625 processor as the smaller Nova, once again backed by 3GB of RAM. And like the Nova, this mighty mobile provides a reasonably smooth everyday experience.
You’ll notice the occasional pause as you try switching apps, but on the whole the Nova Plus managed to run without too much of a stutter. Games are perfectly playable with a decent frame rate, while you can indulge in some light media editing.
Of course, this phone’s AnTuTu benchmarking score of 63198 is way behind the excellent OnePlus 3, which boasted almost twice that performance. Not bad for a cheaper handset.
That said, the Huawei Nova Plus absolutely smashes the opposition when it comes to battery life. Even with plenty of gaming and media streaming, we always got well over a day of life from a single charge of the battery. And if you’re more restrained, using the Plus only for messaging, web browsing and the occasional snap, you can expect a full 48 hours of play time.
Dive into the Nova Plus’ battery settings and you can control which apps are allowed to run in the background and activate a power-saving mode. But believe us, you won’t need to. Not a bit of it.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Cameras
While the standard Nova rocked a pretty decent 12-megapixel rear camera, the Nova Plus boosts this snapper to a 16-megapixel effort now with built-in Optical Image Stabilisation.
The Nova Plus’ camera app is identical to the software found on the Nova, so go check out our in-depth Nova camera review if you want a run-down of the various settings and modes. It’s a reasonably streamlined app with plenty of manual controls packed in, although layout could be a little better.
As for photo quality, the Nova Plus is a perfectly respectable snapper. Detail levels are strong even when images are blown up onto a large screen, with realistic colours captured most of the time. Focus is quick and accurate, giving a nice bokeh effect when you’re shooting something up-close.
High contrast situations are usually well handled, although we did see a fair few cases of oversaturation when the sun was shining. And when the lights are turned down, the Nova Plus really struggles compared with rival phones. You’ll need to make use of that two-tone LED flash.
Similarly, the 8-megapixel front-facing camera is strong in well-lit environments, but quality quickly dips when the lights are low. Even the inevitable Beauty Mode can’t help out with the grainy, murky results. Still, shots taken in daylight come out well and the wide-angle lens means you can fit in plenty of peeps.
Like the smaller Nova, you can shoot up to 4K resolution video or Full HD with full image stabilisation. Video quality is generally fine, with sharp visuals, although lighting conditions once again need to be perfect to avoid any murkiness or oversaturation. And we also found that audio quality was a little echoey, even when filming outside.
Here’s our Nova Plus video samples.
Huawei Nova Plus Review: Verdict
The Nova Plus is yet another 5.5-inch mighty mobile, which is elevated by some seriously impressive battery life. Media fans will love the spacious Full HD screen, but the likes of the OnePlus 3 and Samsung’s Galaxy A7 2016 boast the same strengths as the Nova Plus, at a lower asking price.