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Huawei Introduces Nova Smartphones, Their New Mid-Range Line

In recent years, Huawei had been making waves with their premium smartphones, including the Mate S, Mate 8, and P9. At IFA this year, they’ve pushed into midrange territory with their new Nova line, announcing the Nova and Nova Plus at their press conference today. While the two phones still suffer from Huawei’s usual issues — namely, that they’re too expensive — they’re both well-designed phones, even if they do look familiar to some of Huawei’s recent smartphones releases.

The Nova and Nova Plus are 5″ and 5.5″ Android 6.0 phones, respectively, but are mostly the same on the inside. Instead of using one of Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin chipsets, the Nova phones use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC and 3 GB of RAM, which should make them both solid midrange performers. They’ll both have 1080p LCD displays, too, along with 32 GB of internal storage. The larger Nova Plus will have an impressive 3,340 mAh battery, while the Nova will have a 3,020 mAh. Either way, those battery capacities combined with the relatively low-power hardware of the two phones should guarantee that both will last over a day with mixed or possibly even heavy use.

The Nova phones have a unique curved build that sees curves on all sides and the back, the design language in use is very familiar. The smaller Nova looks like a smaller Nexus 6P, although the rear camera is flush with the back of the phone. The Nova Plus, in turn, looks like a smaller Mate 8, with the rear camera moved to the center and raised from the back. The good news is that both of those phones were well-built, and the Nova phones are no different. They’re both made from aluminum, with 2.5D glass used on the display. Add in diamond cut edges and you get a couple of phones that look more expensive than they are.

The Nova and Nova Plus have 12 MP and 16 MP rear cameras, but lack premium features like optical image stabilization and phase-detect autofocus. They both have 8 MP front cameras, and Huawei has made additions to their suite of selfie beautification camera features, although they didn’t appear to be significantly different from the skin-smoothening effects they’ve had before.

The fingerprint scanner is more useful, as usual for Huawei. It can be used as a touch button to pull down notifications and a shutter button for selfies, but core functionality improved. During the presentation, reps explained that Huawei’s fingerprint sensors can now pick up ridge depth instead of relying on a flat map of your fingerprint. That’s supposed to prevent others from being able to make a copy of your fingerprint and use it to unlock the phone. Doubt most people will need to worry about that, but it’s a positive step forward for security in general.

Huawei also announced a new 8.4″ tablet called the MediaPad M3. It runs on a Kirin 950 processor, which is usually used in Huawei’s smartphones, so we wouldn’t expect the M3 to be a performance workhorse. It should have solid audio thanks to a partnership with Harman, although we wouldn’t expect the downward-firing speakers to be anything special. Instead, they’ve focused on headphone audio, adjusting audio reproduction to be in tune with the AKG H300 in-ear headphones they’re including with the tablet.

The tablet has a 2560 x 1600 LCD display, 4 GB of RAM and your choice of 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage. Battery capacity is 5,100 mAh, which Huawei says should be good for 11 hours of 1080p video playback.

Pricing has been a sticking point for Huawei at times. Their tablet prices are usually reasonable, and that’s true here — the MediaPad ranges from €350 to €450 depending on if you opt for LTE and 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. Their smartphones tend to be overpriced, though, and that’s also true here. The Nova and Nova Plus are €400 and €430, respectively, which isn’t worth it with the ZTE Axon 7 and the OnePlus 3 available at the same price range. The Nova series does look sleeker with its curves and diamond-cut edges, though. Both phones will be available in gold, silver, and grey, with the Nova also getting a rose gold color that skews heavily toward pink. Huawei usually doesn’t bring their Huawei-branded devices to the United States, and all indications are that none of these devices will be, either. The Nova phones will be available in 50 countries scattered around the globe in October, while the MediaPad M3 will come to about a dozen countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania on September 26.

Update: Check out our review of the Nova and Nova Plus here