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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Nova shines brighter, inside and out

The new budget option in the Nova range brings big strengths to a small price tag, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

“Shimmer and glimmer” is one of the catch-phrases Huawei uses for the new Nova 12i, a budget smartphone launched in South Africa this week. It fully lives up to that description in both its glossy emerald green and obsidian black variations, which literally shimmer as one moves the handset through the air.

The glimmer comes from the camera array’s Super Star Orbit Ring design, recreating the original nova Star Orbit Ring camera module. The symmetric quadruple formation, surrounded by a bright-gold ring, is reminiscent of classic black hole images, underscoring the astronomical theme of the range. At the same time, it barely protrudes, so does not add bulk to the handset.

The 109MP main lens is unusual in this price category, although the phone does demand extensive setting and experimentation to make the most from this capacity and extensive artificial intelligence (AI) capability.

A basic 2MP depth sensor does not add significantly to performance, while an 8MP front-facing lens is average for a selfie camera aimed at the youth market.

A 5000mAH battery life, and an included 40W SuperCharge brick, allow for long usage and quick recharge, making it ideal for on-the-go users, and restoring its appeal for its intended target market.

The Snapdragon 680 processor is a capable chip, although it’s not the newest chip on the block. It handles app multitasking capably, but is not geared towards graphic-intensive games. That said, the large 6.7-inch display supports a maximum 270Hz touch sampling rate for immediate screen responsiveness that is great for standard gameplay. Smooth Dimming Control adapts screen brightness to its environment, taking it to a superb brightness level of 500 nits.

The phone runs Huawei’s EMUI 14 software, with new features like dynamic wallpapers and a management hub called Superhub.  While it has to do without direct access to Google Mobile Services, the Nova 12i is the first Huawei handset since the ban that has achieved almost seamless integration of Gbox, a proxy app that allows one to download and install Google apps directly from the Play Store.

I found myself using the Google search app and Google Maps without thinking about it, and suddenly realising the phone was emulating Google Mobile Services. I then decided to try what I had previously found impossible in this ecosystem, namely downloading Gmail from the Play Store. And yes, I was able to log onto the Play Store from the Nova 12i, and download the latest version of Gmail onto a new Huawei device.

 It becomes available in the Gbox folder, from where one can create a shortcut that then appears on one of the home screens. From there, it can be dragged into the main app tray at the bottom of the screen, and one suddenly has all the basic benefits of an Android phone.

That makes it a solid choice, inside and out.

What does it cost?

Recommended retail price of R6,999.

Why does it matter?

The 12i earns a niche in the crowded mid-range smartphone market, offering a compelling package for budget-conscious users who prioritise specific features, such as long battery life and fast-charging that comes as part of the package.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • The Snapdragon 680 processor is a chip off the older block of smartphone processors.
  • While the main lens is a 108MP giant, its performance, along with that of the 8MP front camera, is average.  Experiment with the Pro and AI features, and it will outperform its peers.

What are the biggest positives?

  • A massive 5,000mAh battery and 40W fast charging keeps many user on the go when they need to be. Perfect for its young target market.
  • The base model comes with generous 256GB of storage, meaning it weill take a while to runout of space for pics and videos.
  • The EMUI 14 software is Huawei’s most user-friendly interface yet, and allows easier integration of Google apps accessed via Gbox.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

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