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Huawei Nova 2i: Bezel-less for the rest of us

After a month of teasing, Huawei has finally taken the covers off its nova 2i. This is their new selfie-centric focused smartphone that comes with a total of four cameras. On top of that, it is Huawei’s first smartphone with a FullView display. You might consider it as a prelude to their next flagship and it was also initially rumoured as the Mate 10 lite.

What makes the nova 2i even interesting is its asking price of just RM1,299 in Malaysia. That’s RM200 cheaper than its closest rival that was also launched today.

On paper, the nova 2i looks like a budget alternative of its current nova 2 Plus that’s going for RM1,999. It carries the same mid-range specs with an Octa-Core Kirin 659 processor that’s mated to 4GB of RAM. Instead of 128GB of storage, it still packs a rather generous 64GB of storage that’s also expandable via microSD.

Putting the nova 2i under the spotlight is its 5.93” IPS display that looks vibrant with great viewing angles. Similar to most “Full View” smartphones, it has an 18:9 display aspect ratio with a Full HD+ resolution of 2160×1080 pixels. Unlike those flagship phones, Huawei doesn’t curve the four corners of the screen so you’re getting the full rectangular display area.

In the hands, it feels like a typical 5.5” smartphone and the dimensions are rather identical to the Mi A1 as pictured above. You can see how Huawei has maximised the screen to body ratio by reducing the forehead and chin while narrowing the side bezels. It’s like having almost 6” of screen in a 5.5” smartphone body.

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The nova 2i feels well put together with its full metal unibody design. While the nova 2 Plus looks and feels like a higher-end Huawei P10 Plus, the nova 2i build is a slight notch below and it is quite similar to the honor 8 Pro which is still a phone that feels premium to touch. With the nova 2i and the Mi A1 placed side by side, it looks like they both came from the same factory with some minor design decisions separating the two.

Personally, I think the nova 2i looks better as the vertical placed dual camera lens and fingerprint sensor are aligned properly in the centre. In a way, it does looks like a lite version of the Huawei Mate 9.

Four cameras better than two?

When it comes to selfies, the kings of the segment such as OPPO and vivo often shout on the size of its pixel count. A few hours before the launch of this phone, vivo had unveiled their V7+ that came with a 24MP front camera.

It is pretty obvious that Huawei is eager to take a slice of the selfie segment. Their first major attempt was a 20MP selfie phone with the nova 2 Plus. In order to offer something different, the nova 2i comes with dual cameras for both front and back.

Taking care of selfies is a 13MP f/2.0 + 2MP f/2.4 front cameras while the rear gets a 16MP f/2.2 + 2MP f/2.4 combo. Instead of offering optical zoom or dedicated monochrome sensor, the secondary lens is used for depth of field effects. This also enables portrait mode for both front and back. For low light selfies, there’s also a front-facing led flash for illumination.

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The nova 2i also has Motion Picture which is a feature similar to iPhone’s Live Photo mode. For full control over your bokeh effects, there’s also Wide Aperture mode which lets you adjust your aperture manually and it’s a feature that’s also found on the honor 6X. Personally, I would prefer a telephoto secondary lens at the rear as it is more useful in my day to day usage.

Since this is a selfie-centric device, you do get additional beautification features baked in. As a guy, I don’t really fancy these extra makeup touches as it can get too overwhelming but you do get the option to turn this down. On top of that, Huawei has also thrown in a couple of extras including Snapchat-like face stickers. Taking pictures is quite snappy but since the event was held in a rather dark environment, I’ll reserve my judgement on image quality until we get our hands on a review unit.

In our short play time with the nova 2i, it feels buttery smooth like its bigger nova 2 Plus model. On the software front, it runs on EMUI 5.1 that’s based on Android 7.0. Powering this selfie-centric device is a 3,340mAh battery and it charges via microUSB with a standard 5V2A USB brick.

Making bezel-less accessible to all

For the price of RM1,299, the nova 2i packs impressive value for money up to a point that I think it undercuts their very own nova 2 Plus. Sure, the nova 2 Plus feels more premium and it has arguably better cameras but the nova 2i is a cooler looking phone with more camera tricks to fulfil the narcissist in you.

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It is interesting to note that the nova 2i (launched as the Maimang 6) is actually more expensive in China with a retail price tag of 2,399CNY (about RM1,520). Somehow, I think Huawei is pricing the nova 2i this low just to make fun of the competition. Why would anyone pay more for something that offers less? The nova 2i will be available beginning 13 October and it comes in Graphite Black, Prestige Gold and Aurora Blue.

Alexander Wong