The Huawei Nova 2i is an interesting mid-range smartphone. Not only is it Huawei’s first-ever smartphone with an 18:9 display, it’s also the most affordable phone with such a display right now in Malaysia. After spending a brief time with the Nova 2i at its launch event yesterday, I have to say: this may just be Huawei’s most exciting mid-range device yet.
First, specifications. The Nova 2i comes with a 5.93-inch 2160 x 1080 IPS display – which the company dubs Huawei FullView display – a Kirin 659 processor paired with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of expandable storage, 16MP + 2MP rear cameras, 13MP + 2MP front-facing shooters, a 3,340mAh battery, and EMUI 5.1 based on Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box.
Right off the bat, the Nova 2i’s display is one of the most attractive design elements of the device. Thanks to the phone’s minimal bezels, the Nova 2i is quite the looker too. Of course, it’s still not as sleek as, say, the LG V30 or Samsung’s latest flagship phones, but we’re talking about a mid-range smartphone that costs considerably less here.
As the Nova 2i sports a taller and narrower 18:9 display, the phone doesn’t feel unwieldy at all despite packing a sizeable 5.93-inch display. In practice, it’s a lot like holding a conventional 5.5-inch smartphone with a standard 16:9 display. This is really the advantage of 18:9 displays: it offers more screen real estate without increasing the width of a phone too much.
Featuring an all-metal chassis, the Nova 2i feels very solid in my hands. In fact, it feels really well-built for a device at this price point. Its rounded sides make it a comfortable device to hold, and the metal body feels quite premium. I also love the placement of the Nova 2i’s rear fingerprint sensor: it’s easily within reach of my index finger. As is always the case with most Huawei phones, the fingerprint sensor is quick and accurate too.
I don’t have much experience with Huawei’s Kirin 659 processor, but I do have to say the Nova 2i feels responsive and zippy as I was navigating around the phone’s user interface. Based on the specifications of the chipset, I reckon the Kirin 659 offers roughly the same performance level as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625 chipset. Of course, this is merely an educated guess until we put the Nova 2i through its paces in a full review.
And then we have one of the most touted features of the Nova 2i: its “quad camera” configuration. In essence, the phone’s primary 16MP rear and 13MP front-facing cameras are paired with 2MP sensors, which provide depth information for bokeh effect.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to extensively try out the Nova 2i’s cameras, but the phone seems to be able to add bokeh effect pretty well. That being said, the rear camera’s autofocus speeds leave much to be desired: it seems to have difficulties locking focus. Nonetheless, we’ll look into this further once we have the device in for review; it may not be an issue at all.
When I asked a Huawei representative why the company decided to debut an 18:9 display on a mid-range smartphone – instead of doing so with a more high profile device like the upcoming Huawei Mate 10 series – the answer was simple: “we want to democratise 18:9 display on a smartphone.” By pricing the Nova 2i so aggressively, the company is doing just that; it’s really one of the main appeals of the device.
Chances are, we will see more mid-range smartphones with 18:9 displays in the near future, but for the time being, the Nova 2i stands out as one of the most compelling options in Malaysia. Retailing at RM1,299, the Nova 2i offers plenty value for money.