Huawei Nova 2i vs Mi A1 Comparison + Camera Review

Huawei Nova 2i vs Mi A1 Comparison + Camera Review

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It is here, ladies and gentlemen – what have you been waiting for. After the Huawei Nova 2i’s local launch last Saturday, comparing it against fellow midrange smartphones were our focus.

What’s up, Manila? This is Caesar of ManilaShaker and what I have here is the Huawei Nova 2i (P14,990) and Xiaomi Mi A1 (P13,995) for a comparison.

SPECS Huawei Nova 2i Xiaomi Mi A1
Display 5.9″ 1080 x 2160 IPS LCD (~424 ppi) 5.5″ 1080 x 1920 LTPS IPS LCD (~403 ppi)
Dimensions & Features 156.2 x 75 x 7.5 mm, 164g, Dedicated sim & MicroSD tray, pre-installed screen protector 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3 mm, 165g, Dedicated SIM tray, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Chipset HiSilicon Kirin 659 Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625
CPU Octa-core (4×2.36 GHz Cortex-A53 & 4×1.7 GHz Cortex-A53) Octa-core 2.0GHz Cortex-A53
GPU Mali T830-MP2 Adreno 506
Memory 4 GB RAM, 64GB (expandable up to 256GB) 4 GB RAM, 64GB (expandable up to 256GB)
Connectivity LTE Cat. 6, dual-band, 802.11ac, BT 4.2, GPS, microUSB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC LTE Cat. 6, dual-band, 802.11ac, BT 4.2, GPS, Type-C 1.0, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC
Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 3340mAh Non-removable Li-Ion 3000mAh
OS EMUI 5.1 (Android 7.0) Android 7.1.2
Price PhP 14,990.00/$300 PhP 13,995/$280

Without further ado, let’s start things off with the design.

Design

They differ a lot with just how they look due to the 18:9 display of the Nova 2i. While it is only the Mi A1 that’s actually Gorilla Glass-protected, the Huawei Nova 2i comes with a pre-installed screen protector that does well to deter scratches.

However, both don a metal clamshell design that many may find to be a huge turn on. The powder coating on both phones makes the grip even better without needlessly ruining the overall aesthetics. Even so, the similarities end on the multifunctional fingerprint scanner. Antenna bands and the cameras’ placements differ.

Buttons are not too different, up to the ports’ and speaker placements.

And finally, both have a similarly-looking hybrid dual-SIM tray for either a second SIM or a microSD card.

If it weren’t for the 18:9 display of the Nova 2i, this would’ve ended in a tie.

Display

Going by just the numbers, the Mi A1 loses by almost a quarter-of-a-million of pixels. Both use IPS LCD panels, with the Mi A1’s an LTPS (low-temperature polycrystalline silicon).

At a glance, color contrast is more visible on the Nova 2i without being overbearing even at maximum brightness. And speaking of brightness, the Mi A1 has the upper hand on that along with the minimum.

Details are visibly sharper and better on the Nova 2i despite basically having similar resolution. The extra real estate proves to be useful when browsing memes and text content. The Nova 2i takes this round away.

User Experience

The Nova 2i’s 18:9 display drastically improves usability and screen view even when just on the home screen. What the Mi A1 has going for itself is its pure stock Android experience, allowing for the fastest possible performance. Even so, it wouldn’t be sufficient to say that a stock Android experience is inherently better over anything.

The compact feel of the EMUI 5.1 makes the 18:9 display even better to use. Not only do you get more room, minimalists will also get a kick out of the thin chin and top bars.

With both having identical dimensions and weight, handling either will feel similar with their powder coat finishes.

Moving to the camera UI, they seem to be similar at first until you try swiping for other modes and filters on the Mi A1. They still are a tap away, but the more intuitive camera UI of the Nova 2i seals the deal for this round.

Camera

Phone Rear Camera Front Camera
Huawei Nova 2i Dual 16 MP + 2 MP, phase detection autofocus, LED flash
Video:
Up to 1080p@30fps
Dual 13 MP, f/2.0 + 2 MP
Video recording: up to 1080p@30fps
Xiaomi Mi A1 Dual 12 MP (26mm, f/2.2; 50mm, f/2.6), phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Video:
Up to 2160p@60fps
5 MP, 1080p
Video recording:
Up to 1080p@30fps

While the cameras may be more on the Nova 2i’s end, do they even live up to the users’ expectations?

Yes, they do. With a plethora of features and an equally good rear and front cameras, it has possibly the best cameras for smartphones under $300.

Not only are details better, but overall color contrast and accuracy is the best we’ve seen so far for a midrange smartphone. The Mi A1 puts up a really good fight even in lowlight scenarios.

What the Mi A1 has going for itself is its 2x telephoto lens for a quick zoom.

In a shot, there is no difference between a non-HDR and HDR one with the Nova 2i. It might just be how well the contrast control and sensor are.

Lowlight shots are still on the Nova 2i’s favor, with its ‘specialized’ Night Shot. Basically, Night Shot is just long exposure shot, and it does so elegantly.

Selfies are amazing too on the Nova 2i along with its soft flash for extreme low-lighting.

While the Mi A1 is 4k-capable, the details, stability, and colors are much better on the Nova 2i’s end even with the front camera.

Performance

Device AnTuTu Geekbench (single-core) Geekbench (multi-core) PCMark Work 2.0
Huawei Nova 2i 62283 906 3132 4916
Xiaomi Mi A1 59904 874 4176 4896

Kirin 659’s processor did not fare well against the SD625’s, as seen in the Geekbench scores. However, other tests show that the Kirin 659 has a bit more edge than the SD625 when it comes to the GPU, making it a perfect competitor.

Gaming on either is awfully similar, as seen in this Real Racing 3 footage. With extended use though, the Mi A1 suffers from throttling from time to time.

For this round, they are at a tie.

Battery

Device Battery MS Battery Rating Charging-Time
Huawei Nova 2i 3340mAh 39h 43m 2h 15m
Xiaomi Mi A1 3080 mAh 30h 27m 1h 52m

With the Nova 2i’s significantly larger battery, it fared better in our battery rating. Since both come with a 10W wall adapter, charging speed is the same for both. The downside for this is that the Nova 2i ends up having the longer charging time, but not by a long stretch.

And for these results, we’re leaving the phones at a tie in the battery department.

Audio

As for the speakers, there is a subtle difference between the two when it comes to clarity. The more bassy and louder Mi A1 actually has its leg up over the Nova 2i. Mids may be a bit too wide for your taste on the Mi A1, which the Nova 2i does elegantly. The Nova 2i’s signature is akin to a flat table with no bumps nor layers wherein the Mi A1’s could be compared to that of a slightly skewed table.

When using IEM’s, the Nova 2i takes that slice with its Histen sound tuner for a variety of configurations. I was surprised with how wide the equalizer is, considering that the Mi A1 doesn’t even have a built-in tuner. While all is fair in love and war, the Nova 2i wins the audio-testing segment.

Verdict

Huawei’s new midrange contender is definitely something to look at, considering the attention it has gotten when it was announced last month. Call it the Mate 10 Lite, Nova 2i, Honor 9i, or whatever Huawei comes up with, it’s a really good phone for what it offers.

And for that, what would you prefer of the two? Is it the Huawei Nova 2i or the Xiaomi Mi A1? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, this has been Caesar of ManilaShaker and thank you for reading! ‘Til then!