With the Cubot Nova, the popular Chinese manufacturer is sending an ultra-low-budget device into the smartphone universe that coldly defies long-established trends. Batteries on all devices can only be changed with a little effort? Not with the Cubot Nova. All the affordable models rely on fake dual-cameras? Not the Cubot Nova. The renunciation of a 3.5mm jack connection is almost standard? Not with the Cubot Nova. All copy designs of current flagships? Not the Cubot Nova. Hybrid slots? No, the Cubot Nova has three card slots. Otherwise, the data of the inexpensive device meets the expectations. With a 4x 1.5GHz CPU drive and 3GB RAM, the smartphone is in a good position in the low-price segment. In the past few weeks, we have found out for you how the device performs in daily use.
Design & Build quality
On the outside, the Cubot Nova looks rather unobtrusive. The dimensions of 150 x 72 x 9mm are fine for a 5.5-inch device. The prestige features of the edgeless design are still often not used in the ultra-low budget range. Notch opponents will certainly enjoy this. With a weight of 156 grams, nobody should sweat during use. The general feel of the Cubot Nova is excellent due to the wide round rear and the slim 18:9 format. Due to the rounding, the device looks pleasantly slim. It can be held firmly in one hand and easily operated with one hand. Those who only expect plastic in the ultra-low budget range will be positively surprised by the Cubot Nova. The aluminum used on the rear of the device enhances both visually and haptically. In addition to aluminium, plastic is also used for the frame. This is due to the removable rear side. Here, you need a flexible material.
The smartphone is unlocked via an easily accessible fingerprint sensor on the rear. The sensor as well as the camera lens and the flash are each framed in silver. This gives the device a touch of a premium look. Headphone and Micro-USB connectors are attached to the upper edge of the smartphone. The lower edge is only interrupted by holes for loudspeaker and microphone. The front panel accommodates the usual sensors and a status LED, which indicates new notifications only in blue. If you remove the rear, you get access to the removable battery, two SIM slots and a Micro-SD slot.
The scope of delivery contains, besides the smartphone itself, a transparent silicone protective cover, charging cable + plug, quick-start guide and an EU declaration of conformity.
Unfortunately, the display is not one of the Cubot Nova’s strong points. With a resolution of 1440×720 pixels distributed over 5.5 inches, the phone reaches 292ppi after all and still looks sufficiently sharp, but the colors are a bit too weak for my taste. Unfortunately, the display configuration can’t be adjusted. Only the brightness can be changed. Of course, adaptive brightness is also available, i.e. the brightness is automatically changed according to the ambient light. The brightness is good with up to 450 lux. There is no blue light filter or any other additional feature like a tap-to-wake function. All in all, the panel doesn’t look very high quality. However, this is not surprising in this price category. It meets standard requirements, such as good viewing angle stability. The glass is slightly rounded at the edges and is therefore also called 2.5D glass. Fortunately, a suitable screen protector is applied right from the start, which means that you are spared scratches on the glass for the time being.
Inputs are directly registered by the touch panel and precisely implemented. So you can type texts very fast. However, this is of course expected as a minimum requirement by current smartphones. With up to 5 recognized touches at the same time, the multitouch capability is sufficient.
System and performance
The goal of an ultra-low budget device is to get through the system jerk-free. The Cubot Nova does this reasonably well. If updates are installed in the background or the device gets into stress elsewhere, however, noticeable jerking occurs more often. The MediaTek MT6739 works with 4 cores and a speed of 1.5GHz. This is enough for everyday tasks. The requirements shouldn’t be much higher either. The performance is still sufficient for simple games, but as soon as it becomes graphically demanding in the 3D area, you inevitably reach the limits of the GPU. A total of 3GB RAM is available for the system processes, which is sufficient for the average user in any case. In the Antutu benchmark, the Cubot Nova scores almost 45,000 points. This result is acceptable for a budget smartphone. The device also doesn’t get top scores in the other benchmarks. The main storage’s speed is on average with 2.9GB/s. The internal storage also won’t surprise anyone (neither in a positive nor a negative sense) with 123MB/s reading speed. A negative point is however the size of the internal storage: 16GB are quite little. Although it can be expanded by 128GB with a storage card, you still need some internal storage for apps that you don’t necessarily want to swap out to a slower card.
Offering Android Oreo version 8.1, the system can be described as up-to-date. Android 9 is already at the start, but is not yet available in most of the current flagships. It is pleasing that Cubot has not adapted the user interface, but used a pure Android instead. Accordingly you open the app drawer by swiping upwards. The settings are also pretty familiar. Unfortunately, there is no configuration possibility for the navigation bar. It is also not possible to hide it manually. Altogether the setting possibilities are very limited. The Google search bar on the home screen cannot be removed. The notification LED can also not be configured for certain notification types. Here, the option menu is limited to On/Off.
Whether the device will be blessed with many updates cannot be answered. I wouldn’t expect too much here. But if Android 9 should come, it would be done via an OTA update.
The camera actually surprises with one lens. Many Chinese manufacturers use fake dual-cams in the budget segment, but only one actually works. This is different with the Cubot Nova. There is only one 13MP camera on the rear and an 8MP front camera. Both have a f/2.2 aperture. It’s quite remarkable what is already possible for photos in the ultra-low budget range. Of course, these are not works of art, but in the meantime you’ve gone from a fuzzy pixel mash to quite respectable snapshots. The Cubot Nova, too, delivers a satisfying quality. The pictures are enough to be looked at on the smartphone display. The difference to top smartphone cameras becomes especially clear in the color representation. The colors appear somewhat pale and powerless. The overall sharpness is reasonably good. In bad lighting conditions, the photos are also bad, of course. The focus has some problems with macro shots. Sometimes, several attempts are necessary to get a nice close-up.
Videos can be recorded in Full-HD. The image quality isn’t really good, but even here the sharpness is sufficient for viewing on the phone display. Selfies succeed, after a fashion. They become blurred and in poor lighting conditions they are unusable. It is remarkable that selfies can be recorded with the HDR function. This increases the dynamic range somewhat, but the images tend to become blurrier. A beauty mode or other gimmicks like stickers are not offered. The camera app hardly offers anything that exceeds the standard.
Connectivity and communication
Those who like fast internet will not be disappointed by the Cubot Nova. The meanwhile established 4G standard is supported. All necessary LTE frequencies are available. LTE is available via both SIM slots. The reception strength is almost impeccable in daily. No deficits could be detected here. Microphone and earpiece fulfill their purpose sufficiently. Only demanding users don’t get their money’s worth. To get more, you should however look around in a different price range.
The loudspeaker delivers a clear sound without tinny tones at normal volume. Of course, you miss powerful bass. If you like listening to music over loudspeakers, you won’t be completely satisfied here. But the quality is quite sufficient for enjoying movies/videos and audio books. Fortunately, there is also an AUX connection for headphones, so you can play your favorite music via headphones in an uncomplicated, adapter- and bluetooth-free way. The WiFi reception strength is excellent, but it only works at the 2.4 GHz frequency. Dual-band WiFi is therefore not offered, which is normal in this price range and does not represent a real limitation. Bluetooth is used in version 4.0. The positioning is done via GPS and is reliable.
The Cubut Nova is equipped with all the necessary sensors. The light sensor has become indispensable anyway. In addition, a proximity sensor and an acceleration sensor are installed. The fingerprint sensor recognizes the biometric identity very well. But unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be active when the phone is deactivated for a long time. Then it is necessary to switch on the display and then place your finger on it. However, this is not an issue of the sensor, but of the system and should be changed urgently by update.
If you assume that no graphically demanding games are played on the Cubot Nova, one battery charge lasts for one day. The 2800 mAh battery doesn’t deliver enough power for more. Normally, the device has to be charged every evening to get enough power for the next day. Unfortunately, you don’t gain much with a quick charge of 5 minutes, because the manufacturer didn’t install Quickcharge. In the budget segment, however, this is not surprising. In 15 minutes, the battery is charged by about 10%. For a complete battery charge, it takes about 2.5 hours. Nevertheless, there are plus points for the battery. The fact that the battery can be changed as easily as in old times is already a very big advantage over competing devices. In the PCMark battery test, the smartphone reached just under 5.5 hours. This is an acceptable value.Battery lifetime Result Unit: hours