Mister Mo says despite the alphanumeric keypad, this phone is more advanced than many budget smartphones in the market. Enjoy his Ntel N1 Nova review.

It has been ages since I held in my hands a smartphone with any sort of hardware keyboard/keypad. But that is exactly what the Ntel N1 Nova is. It is a very interesting device. Do not let the looks fool you; despite it’s feature phone looks, it is more advanced than many budget smartphones in the market. But you must be curious how this device’s small display and alphanumeric keypad work out as far as usability is concerned. Come with me on this journey of discovery.

ntel N1 Nova review in hand-min

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Quick Pros And Cons

Before we dive into the review proper, starting with the major pros and cons of this device.

Key FeaturesCons
Compact and handySmall display
Dual-SIM + Dedicated memory card slot
4G LTE + Voice Over LTE for calls
Good battery life

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Design

Ntel N1 Nova review bottom edge-min

The N1 Nova won’t win any design competitions, but it is not ugly. The plastic shell has smooth, curved lines all over.

On the top edge of the phone are the USB port for charging and connecting other devices, as well as the 3.5 mm audio port.

Both sides of the phone are bare. There are no volume keys or power button anywhere on the sides. The bottom edge has a microphone hole and nothing else.

On the back is the 5 megapixels camera with LED flash at the top and the loudspeaker grill at the bottom.

Below the 3.5-inch display are four capacitive shortcut buttons for quick access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Search. Below that row are the five-way Directional pad (D-pad), camera key, cancel key, and call receive and end buttons.

Lastly, below this cluster is the alphanumeric keypad. If you ever used the Nokia 3310 or any other feature phone, you will remember what it is like to use one. But we will discuss text input on the Ntel N1 Nova shortly.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Software

Android 6 marshmallow is what the N1 Nova runs. Stock Android 6. Which makes sense. At the low-end, a custom UI will over-labour the already lean resources available to a device like this. Everything you expect to see in Android 6 is there, so you are not getting a trimmed down OS. It is the full thing.

Text Input
Text Entry is the big elephant in the room, so we might as well get that out of the way here and now. When I first picked up the N1 Nova, I struggled to type on that alpha-numeric keypad. It was hellish. I swear on my great-grandfather’s beard. But I soon got to know that there is an onscreen QWERTY keyboard. I only had to enable it in the phone Settings. Select language & input -> Select keyboard and input methods. I changed it to English (US) Google keyboard. And pronto! I had a software keyboard to type with.

Ntel N1 Nova Review onscreen keyboard-min

The onscreen QWERTY keyboard makes text input so much better. Using the phone was a much more pleasant experience from that point on.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Network, Telephony

Ntel N1 Nova Review side-min

The N1 Nova is a dual-SIM phone, with one SIM slot locked to Ntel (understandably so) and the other usable with any regular GSM SIM card. I recall that the first time I put my SIMs in it (one from Ntel and an another Airtel), I put them in wrong and the phone wouldn’t pick a signal from either. Quick thinking saved the day and I swapped the SIMs. The phone registered on each network immediately.

Call quality using VoLTE (that’s Voice over LTE) on the Ntel network is quite good. It sounded as good as any regular GSM call. The only exception is that there is some pause between when you speak and when the person at the other end hears you, and vice versa. This is normal with all VOIP calls though. So, no issues.

I was able to place calls to regular telephone lines and receive from them as well. I was also able to receive calls on the Ntel line after my VoLTE bundle had expired.

What of 4G internet? Works like a charm within Ntel coverage area. I was able to browse using the web browser, manage emails, interact on social media and do everything else I regularly do on my daily smartphone.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Display and Multimedia

You can watch movies on the 3.5-inch display comfortably if you switch to landscape mode. Remember me saying that there are no hardware volume buttons? Well, the D-pad (square navigation pad below the display) lets you control the volume by pushing it up or down.

The loudspeaker is quite loud and the quality decent. Multimedia is a pleasant surprise, as I was not expecting to be able to enjoy movies especially on such a small screen.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Photography

Ntel N1 Nova Review back

At this price point, there is only so much one can expect from the cameras on a phone. Great cameras cost money – which is why budget phones have poor cameras. The cameras on the N1 Nova are true to that.

Ntel N1 Nova main camera bottles

Here are sample photos from the 5 megapixel camera at the back:

Ntel N1 Nova Review main camera
Ntel N1 Review selfie camera

And from the 2 megapixel selfie camera:

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Multitasking/Performance

You are not buying this phone for its multi-tasking prowess, certainly. Android and low-end hardware are not very good friends and no-one has been able to change that. So, if you are going to do stuff on the N1 regularly, please tame your expectations. With 1 GB of RAM, apps close in the background and switching between apps is slow. Which is okay for its class. There are no phones in its class that do better. This is as good as it gets down there.

Do we need to bother with benchmark tests? We don’t; right? What? You want to see the results? Okay, give me a minute…..hang in there….there:

  • Quadrant: 2,006
  • Geekbench 4: 470 Single-Core / 1,271 Multi-Core
  • AnTuTu 6: 23,236

Happy now? Great. Happy you, happy me. 😉

The N1 Nova has only 8 GB internal storage, but then there is a dedicated micro-SD slot for cards, so you can extend your storage.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Battery life

The Ntel N1 Nova has a small 1,800 mAh battery, but then the display is small too. 3.5 inches small. There are not too many pixels for the processor to push. Since apps also shut down in the background, what you have is a smartphone that actually has a good battery life.

Because the display is also very small, you won’t be tempted to do a lot on it all day. If you leave home with a full charge, you will get back home in the evening without needing to recharge. If you damn the small screen and use it more intensively, be prepared to top up the battery at least once during the day.

Ntel N1 Nova Review: Final Words

The N1 Nova is handy, pocket-able, delivers you broadband mobile internet, and lets you make ultra-cheap calls over LTE. It also serves as a great hotspot. Almost everyone – young or old – can find a use for this kind of phone.

Youngsters who want a pocket-friendly 4G LTE smartphone (or mifi) will want it. Oldies who are not quite comfortable with our newfangled all-touchscreen phones will likely fall in love with it as well. The N1 has something for everyone.

The N1 is available from Ntel only with bundled voice minutes, SMS, and data for N25,000 and N30,000, depending on what bundle you opt for. We have no idea how much the phone costs without the bundles. But Ntel wants subscribers to embrace their network for the whole range of services – voice, SMS, and data. Even at this cost, the N1 Nova is easily both the most pocket-friendly and most advanced 4G VoLTE smartphone available in the market. No contest.

Other Ntel N1 Nova Resources

  1. First Look At Ntel N1 Nova
  2. Ntel N1 Nova Specifications

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By Mobility Daddy

Tech blogging since 2003, I have owned and reviewed hundreds of smartphones running EPOC, Symbian, Palm, PocketPC, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.

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