Huawei Nova 2i Hands On Review

Also known as Maimang 6 in China and Honor 9i in India, the Huawei Nova 2i is finally here in the Philippines and it is definitely making its own noise in the mid-range market among gadget enthusiasts, fans, and interested users alike who are looking to buy new smartphone. And today, I am one of the lucky people to have an early access to this smartphone before its official arrival on October 21, thanks to our friends over at Tekpone for lending us this unit.

When this device was made official about a few weeks ago in China, I was already one of the gadget lovers wishing that Huawei would also bring this phone to the Philippines. One of my main reasons for that was because it is one of the first Android devices in the market to offer four cameras - two on the back and another two on the front. While this quad-camera setup is not really that new in the smartphone industry, Huawei's Nova 2i is definitely the one taking the scene by storm, especially in the Philippines where we usually get either dual cam on the front or on the back panel. Another reason I had was the design, aside from an all-metal device, the Nova 2i features the latest 18:9 aspect ratio display trend. All that with a hope that it would be priced competitively if released in the country.

Now fast forward to a week ago, Huawei Philippines officially launched the Nova 2i in the country with an unexpected asking price of just Php14,990. Considering what the phone is about to offer to the Filipino community, that less than Php15K price mark is already a steal right off the bat.

What's in the box

I only got the unit itself from Tekpone, as it is one of their display units at their stores across Davao City. That being said, I did not have the entire boxing of the package. But I, and probably you, already have an idea on what accessories this phone comes with in the packaging, thanks to fellow Pinoy tech bloggers' unboxing posts on their sites. Per box, users get the following;
  • The Huawei Nova 2i unit itself
  • USB to microUSB cable
  • Wall charger with 2A output
  • A pair of regular earphones (non in-ear)
  • SIM Ejector Pin
  • Free Clear case
  • User Guide and Warranty card
The Huawei Nova 2i

The Huawei Nova 2i will be available in three different colors namely Aurora Blue, Graphite Black, and Prestige Gold. However, I was told that the black variant will be the first to be released beginning October 21, while the other two will be arriving the following month. In fact one of the comments from Huawei Philippines on their Facebook page confirms that the Aurora Blue one will be arriving on November 20, 2017.

I am just not sure how the other color variants' finish will look like, but this one in black is in matte finish. And that makes the device fingerprint and smudge hungry. You may really want to use third party casing for this for added customization and feel or slap on the one included in the box.

Upfront, this device has a massive 5.9-inch Full HD+ IPS FullView Display with 18:9 aspect ratio. That translates to a near-bezel less front panel with screen bearing 2160 x 1080 resolution and 407 pixels per inch density. One good thing about this 18:9 aspect ratio is that you get bigger, or should I say taller, display panel without the device itself needing to get wider. At Nova 2i's 5.9-inch display configuration, it feels like I am still using a 5.5-inch regular smartphone yet relatively narrower at the same time and more easily used with one hand.

Above the display panel are the dual camera set up sitting side by side with the speaker and a notification LED light. Right at the chin below is nothing but the Huawei branding. The Back, Home, and Mutitask buttons are embedded into the lower part of the screen as you can see in the image above.Those on-screen buttons go away when you go full screen while watching videos on Facebook or YouTube.

The quality of the display is really good on this one, thanks to its high resolution and pixel count. The color reproduction really pops out of the screen. The default overall color tend to be cooler compared to other devices. To me that is perfectly fine, but in case you prefer differently, there is a way for you to adjust the color temperature through the settings or through the Eye Comfort feature to enable blue light filter.

The 2.5D curved display panel added more premium look to the device. I am not just sure if it is a Corning Gorilla Glass or what but the Huawei Nova 2i comes with screen protector already installed on the device's screen.

To be honest, this is the very first time I used a phone with 18:9 display. Like I mentioned in my previous posts and reviews, I really prefer devices with larger displays as I consume a lot of digital content using smartphone. I do a lot of streaming on iFlix and YouTube. To make long story short, I am delighted to use this Nova 2i all the time.

The two-slot SIM tray is situated on the left side while the volume and power keys are on the other side. All perfectly placed just where I want them to be. Even the Fingerprint Sensor is nice embedded right below the rear cameras. You can use two SIM cards at the same time on this smartphone with the SIM 1 capable of supporting 4G LTE connection and SIM 2 up to 2G network. Unfortunately, it does not have its own dedicated slot for microSD card, if you would like to have microSD card on this phone you would need to occupy the SIM 2 portion. It can handle up to 128GB size.

Down at the bottom of the Nova 2i is where the 3.5mm audio jack, mic, speaker grilles, and microUSB port are located. Thankfully, Huawei is still not axing the 3.5mm audio port yet. Unfortunately, we don't have USB Type-C on this one yet for a faster data transfer and battery charging. But I think many users won't mind that since this traditional port is still much capable of delivering the job. Up top is the noise cancelling secondary microphone.

The speaker grilles work very well too, it is not that super loud but loud and clear enough to be heard within three to five feet radius. Audio does not get distorted even at full volume. As mentioned above, I did not have its default earphone so I had to use mine to check the audio quality in this mode. And I am happy to report that the sound quality is even better, more immersive and rich in details. Not almost perfect though but I would say above average in the midrange category of smartphones. A more premium pair of earphones or headset will elevate the experience even higher.

The Four Cameras

Now let us talk about the main star of the show. As already mentioned above, the Huawei Nova 2i packs TWO dual-camera setup both on the front and rear panels making them one of the most exciting offerings of the device. A quick recap, there is 16MP + 2MP cameras on the back and 13MP + 2MP on the front. Camera quality is always on top of my list when looking at a smartphone. I tend to capture more photos and videos using a smartphone than spend more time playing mobile games, so if I am buying a new phone I always consider the quality of photos it can produce. I am glad to know that the Huawei Nova 2i really provides very good quality of photos especially in the well lit environment. You will be the judge for this one based on some of the photos below I captured using this device. But if you ask me, this delivers a fantastic job.

Portrait Mode and Bokeh effect are really good on this smartphone, they are able to deliver the job and are pretty neat I would say.  The Huawei Nova 2i almost perfectly delivered that blurry background effect and a lot of selfie lovers would definitely love to share on their social media accounts.

The last two photos above were captured while riding a taxing on an open road. I really did not expect the stillness of the photos would be as good as if I was standing in front of them taking the picture using the Nova 2i.

This also means that if you like taking photos while traveling on an open-window bus or whatever vehicle in broad daylight capturing clear and vivid photos is not going to be a problem. I remember traveling from Manila to Iba, Zambales where I would pass by countless rice fields, hills and mountains along the way. This would be my perfect travel companion documenting the journey.

However, like any other smartphones around, the Nova 2i struggles a little bit in low light condition. The darker the environment gets, the less clearer the photos get. But I think, for the most part, the quality of photos are still very good.

As for its camera features and settings, there are plenty to choose from. From beauty mode, night mode, Pro mode, down to live filters. Even RAW format is available when you switch to Pro mode. And in addition to Portrait mode, you can also use other options like Moving Photos which is very similar to iPhone's Live Photos where the camera will capture about 1 or 2 seconds of moment ahead of clicking the shutter.

In case you wonder what the Antutu benchmark score for this smartphone, you may see the screenshot below.

The Huawei Nova 2i was able to register more than 62k score on Antutu. That makes the phone sit right below Samsung Galaxy S6 and Note 5 in terms on ranking in the platform.

Based on my short time with the device, I never encountered any hiccups, lags, or stutter even when running multiple apps in the background. This device also has a split screen functionality where you can split the screen and run two apps at the same time. You initiate this function by pressing and holding the Multitask button. With this particular feature, I usually run Youtube on top and Facebook at the bottom, everything was smooth all the way. Thanks to its 2.5GHz octa-core Kirin 659 processor, made by Huawei itself and partnered with 4GB RAM out of the box. As for its internal storage, it will have 64GB configuration with about 48GB available to users upfront.

Keeping the lights on is a 3340mAh battery pack. At full charge, the phone was able to last the whole daytime with a few percent remaining at evening. I am always data connected when I am out of the house working. I am not that heavy user, I mostly access the phone to check my social media feeds and reading a few of my favorite blogs and sites up news. No gaming, except for a couple of Everwing and Temple Run 2 sessions during my free time. Having a microUSB port, fast charging capabilities is not guaranteed. Using a non-fast charger from another smartphone, I reached 100% (from 10%) on battery with Nova 2i about more than two hours.

Huawei Nova 2i specs:
  • 5.9-inch Full HD+ IPS Display
  • 2160 x 1080 resolution. 407ppi
  • 18:9 Aspect Ratio
  • 2.5D Curved Glass
  • 2.5GHz octa-core Kirin 659 processor
  • Mali T830 GPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage
  • Supports microSD card (uses SIM 2) up to 128GB
  • 16MP + 2MP rear cameras
  • 13MP + 2MP front cameras
  • Android 7 Nougat with EMUI 5.1
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, GLONASS
  • Dual SIM (hybrid)
  • 4G LTE
  • Fingerprint Scanner
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 7.5mm thin
  • 164 grams
  • Aurora Blue, Graphite Black, Prestige Gold
  • 3340mAh battery
  • Php14,990
The Huawei Nova 2i will be officially arriving in the Philippines on October 21 for only Php14,990.

Here in Davao City you can purchase one from Tekpone, one of the longest running and biggest electronics and gadget stores in the city. They have shops in Abreeza and GMall. Or you may also buy this from Huawei Experience Stores located at SM Lanang and SM Ecoland.

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