OnePlus Nord Review
- Pros: Compact design, Guaranteed future updates, Decent performance, Value for money package
- Cons: Rear panel is slippery, speakers not loud enough
Product Name:OnePlus Nord
Ever since OnePlus announced that it was working on a new smartphone, there was some level of excitement for tech enthusiasts. This was also a news that struck a chord with tech reviewers and pundits who tried their best to guess the name, from OnePlus Lite Z to X and whatnot. But, now we finally know the new one – OnePlus Nord.
You may think why was there excitement or so much interest with people talking about it on the Internet? There were jokes, memes, stories, and more on the Nord even before it showed up in India. Well, some credit goes to OnePlus for creating the right amount of marketing campaigns and social media posts around the upcoming device. However, in our opinion what worked for OnePlus was the
‘New Beginning’ tease that dropped hints that the company was doing (or at least trying) something different from the already popular OnePlus smartphone range that has been upgraded every year since OnePlus One made its debut in 2014.
Before diving into our review, we should talk about the Nord, the name and the need for a second line of smartphone range for OnePlus. The term Nord means North in European languages and the direction north in a compass is pointed towards the top pointing to growth, and this philosophy synced with the brand. Very honest and unique in its way.
Now talking about the reason why the OnePlus Nord holds a key for the brand in India and other markets is the fact that the OnePlus 5, OnePlus 6, OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 8 series have seen price increase gradually. And, some of that can also be explained by sheer power these devices hold – packing flagship-grade SoCs, and the elegant glass design as well as other efforts that went into making these products. What OnePlus Nord is trying to bring is a balance between decent specs and aggressive pricing – something that initially helped OnePlus build its name in the industry.
An IDC report from February 2020 claimed that Vivo led the mid-premium ($300 -500) segment in 2019 followed by OnePlus. In fact, Oppo in Q4 2019 beat OnePlus to be the leader of the mid-premium segment in the quarter. Similar market research reports hinted that OnePlus was losing its grip in the mid-premium segment, and the brand needed a product that it can offer at a more accessible price point.
OnePlus Nord has been launched in India at a starting price of Rs 24,999 and goes up till Rs 29,999. At these prices, the Nord successfully cuts through a lot of competition and also places itself in the sub-Rs 30,000 segment where the competition hasn’t been so high.
Is the OnePlus Nord worth so much hype or is it just another attempt from the brand that also gave us the OnePlus X back in 2015 which didn’t really work for the brand. We used the Nord for over a week and here’s why we think you should or shouldn’t buy it.
OnePlus Nord Review: Design is compact, and that’s the strength of Nord
There’s no doubt that OnePlus makes some cool phones with a mix of glass, more glass, and some more glass. Yes! OnePlus shifted from the boring metal design on phones a few years back and since then we have seen some elegantly designed phones like the OnePlus 8 Pro, OnePlus 8, OnePlus 7T Pro, OnePlus 7T, and more. However, OnePlus Nord’s biggest design highlight isn’t the glass body. The compact design that fits a large 6.44-inch display, in our opinion, is the biggest strength of the Nord.
OnePlus Nord belongs to a different league of devices that do not boast a tall body design or full-screen display where you struggle to use the device with just one hand. We compared the Nord (158.3×73.3×8.2mm) dimensions with the Oppo Reno 3 Pro (158.8×73.4×8.1mm), Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro (156.7×74.3×8.8 mm), Realme X3 SuperZoom (163.8×75.8×8.9mm), and Vivo V17 Pro (159×74.7×9.8mm) – which were some of the closest rivals in terms of pricing. The difference is quite evident. OnePlus Nord manages to keep the screen size of over 6-inches despite a smaller chassis that’s easy to use with just one hand.
If there’s one department where the OnePlus Nord beats its competition hands-down is in terms of usability. In fact, the only other phone that we believed could take on the OnePlus Nord is the iPhone SE (2020).
Apart from comfortable one-hand use, the OnePlus Nord also offers an elegant design that’s now almost a signature feature across the entire OnePlus smartphone range. You get the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the back for added protection – again a feature you won’t find in too many devices at this price. But, it has glass, and so it can crack.
Though, OnePlus product team did claim that the Nord goes through some of the most rigorous tests that include drop tests as well. Our suggestion would be to use a cover or case that OnePlus has started selling on its official website or if that would take time then the one that ships in the retail box.
It weighs 184 grams which means it is slightly heavier than the Oppo Reno 3 Pro that was a super lightweight device at 175 grams. However, numbers aside, the OnePlus Nord does feel like a light phone to use daily, and you won’t feel uncomfortable while keeping it in your jeans pocket and roaming around during the day.
The display dominates the front of the Nord, and the dual in-display selfie cameras cannot go unnoticed. The bezels are thin on all sides, and the speaker grille for calls is placed on the frame at the top to offer more screen space which looks neat. The right panel holds the power key which has a decent tactile feel. The alert slider – again, a signature OnePlus feature – is also placed on the right panel and lets users change between three profiles – ring, silent, or vibration. The left houses the volume rocker keys. The bottom panel has a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer alongside a speaker grille and SIM card slot.
Coming to the colour choice, the OnePlus team definitely has some sort of liking towards blue colour as almost all phones launched in the last four years have had one colour option around the blue tone. Talking about the Nord, it comes in Blue Marble colour which we also got for our review, and it looks stunning and striking. How? Well, we had a few incidents where while using the phone a few of our neighbours checked upon for the device by just the colour. Striking – isn’t it! The second colour is the Grey Onyx which offers metallic finish under the glass.
One thing that did bother us while using the Nord was that the phone is slippery, and that means you have to be very careful while placing it on different surfaces. We learnt it the hard way as while using the Nord with the screen facing above on a titled surface, we almost dropped it twice during the review duration. Pro advise, just put on a transparent case or a bumper that will offer it additional protection.
The OnePlus Nord features a 6.44-inch AMOLED display with 1080×2400 pixels screen resolution and 20:9 aspect ratio. The Nord also sports a refresh rate of 90Hz which has slowly become a norm at around this price range. It’s worth mentioning that OnePlus was one of the first smartphone manufacturers to launch a phone with a 90Hz refresh rate. For additional protection, the Nord ships with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the front. A very handful of companies are shipping hardened Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back of phones.
The display settings list options like Night Mode for screen effect adjustment and for changing colour temperature. There’s also Reading Mode that offers additional features like block peek notifications to have a reading session without being disturbed by notifications. Users can also enable Ambient display to show time, date, and notifications on the screen without unlocking the device.
The display on the Nord is decent and offers accurate colours. The panel is bright enough for outdoor usage with excellent sunlight legibility. The texts and images appear sharp. Thanks to the dual selfie camera embedded in the display, we had more screen space for multimedia consumption. Overall, the display on the Nord packs enough to keep you satisfied during daily use.
Overall, the OnePlus Nord offers a refresh design approach that appeals to one and all. The compact design is a real winner here and makes it the only with this sort of character. We had a great time typing messages, emails, and tweeting from the Nord. The camera at the back protrudes, but the bump isn’t massive to give a toppling feeling while placed on a flat surface with the screen facing upwards.
OnePlus Nord Review: Performance will impress you!
The OnePlus Nord sports a compact design, but that doesn’t mean that there are compromises done in terms of innards. The Nord inherits the same OnePlus DNA and packs one of the best processors for this price range. Under the hood, the phone packs the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G 5G Mobile Platform clocked at 2.4GHz with Qualcomm AI Engine and Adreno 620 GPU. The Nord is the only second smartphone in India with the Snapdragon 765 processor after the Vivo X50 Pro.
For everyday use, the Nord can handle any amount of multitasking. During our review, we had about 25 apps running in the background which included all type of apps like WhatsApp, Outlook, Gmail, Microsoft Teams, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Paytm, Spotify, Google Maps, Messenger, Zoom, and more. But, we didn’t notice any stutters at any point. Apart from multitasking, the Nord is also a pleasant device for multimedia with a screen of this size; it is easy to hold it with just one hand. At the same time, you keep on scrolling through numerous Reels videos on Instagram or stream a few shows on any of the popular OTT apps.
Coming to the gaming experience, the Nord can handle some of the heavy-graphic games with ease. We launched PUBG Mobile for the first time, and the device picked HD graphics and High frame rate setting by default which was expected. We played for hours on the device and didn’t face any odd heating issues. We also tried out the Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9, the Nord didn’t disappoint us in terms of gaming experience.
Our only qualm was the speakers weren’t too loud enough compared to what we have seen in the same price range. We noticed that this was similar across different use case scenarios like while gaming or watching (or streaming) shows. Additionally, the speaker placement was also not great for gaming as we often covered the speakers with our index finger, which we expect will be experienced by a lot of users. However, this can be no issue for people who are using wireless earphones.
There’s no 3.5mm audio jack which means you will have to buy a wireless or a USB Type-C earphone for use. The audio experience was good when we used our own Skullcandy TWS with the Nord.
We also ran a bunch of benchmark testing apps on the Nord to see how it fares with the competition, and we were not disappointed. On Geekbench, the device scored 605 in single-core test and 1906 in the multi-core test. On 3D Mark, Nord scored 3302 on Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 while 3077 in Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan.
For biometric authentication, the Nord comes with Face Unlock as well as an in-display fingerprint sensor. We tested out both and can safely say that both are quick. The Face Unlock is fast during the day, though, in low-light, it does require a light source around. The fingerprint sensor embedded in the display is quick, and we used it as our preferred lock for the device during the review.
Coming to the software, the OnePlus Nord runs on OxygenOS 10.5 based on Android 10, and this is one of the purest OxygenOS versions you will get to use. Soon after unboxing the Nord, we got slightly confused by the looks of the UI as it seemed running stock Android OS until we noticed the Dark Mode and Zen mode along with other OnePlus signature features. There are minimum preloaded apps on the Nord when you take it out of the box.
Good news is the right swipe on the home screen has been replaced by Google’s AMP news cards which is a comeback for sorts if you have used an OnePlus device before. No more annoying random cards on the home page to arrange or access notifications for calendar and more apps.
Thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate, the animations are smooth, and once you have used a device with a faster refresh rate, then there’s no going back to 60Hz screens. The overall UI, in general, is quite similar to what we experienced on the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, and you can check our review for reference.
In terms of software, the good news for Nord buyers is OnePlus has promised software updates for two years and three years of security updates. And, going by how OnePlus has been on point with its timely updates we can guarantee that you will get the Android 12 software update if not till Android 13.
Coming to phone calling and network stability, the Nord can latch on to cellular networks quite well in spots that are dark zones for other low budget devices. It supports VoLTE as well as VoWi-Fi (voice-over Wi-Fi) that drastically improves call quality. We did some calls on the Nord and didn’t face any handset related issues while calls. The voice through speakers, located on top of the display, during calls is good enough.
The good news is that the Nord is also 5G-ready as it packs the Snapdragon 765G processor which integrates Snapdragon X52 5G modem. We know that the 5G implementation may take a few years from now, but the Nord can keep you ready whenever 5G networks are available for use.
OnePlus Nord Review: Cameras are capable and will remind you of the OnePlus 8 to some extent
The OnePlus Nord packs quad-camera setup at the back. It sports the same 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor as the OnePlus 8 with a sizeable f/1.75 aperture for improved low-light shots. However, the biggest highlight for us in the camera department on the Nord is the presence of the optical image stabilization (OIS) to reduce blur and shakiness from photos and to some extent on video clips with EIS (electronic image stabilization). The OIS is a feature that we don’t see on phones in this price range. Then, there’s the company’s signature Nightscape feature that has been part of OnePlus cameras now for some years.
Talking about the specs, the Nord packs a primary 48-megapixel sensor with OIS and EIS. There’s an 8-megapixel ultra-wide angle lens alongside a 2-megapixel macro lens. Lastly, there’s also a 5-megapixel depth sensor. For autofocusing, the Nord packs multi-autofocus which is a combination of PDAF + CAF.
The rear camera supports 4K videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at 30/60 fps. It also supports Super Slow Motion that can record 1080p videos at 240fps. It can also record time-lapse videos and comes with Video Editor.
Some of the rear camera features include CINE aspect ratio video recording, UltraShot HDR, Nightscape, SuperMacro, Portrait, ProMode, Panorama, AI scene detection, RAW image, filters, and QuickShare.
Coming to the real-world camera performance, the Nord’s biggest strength is daylight shots, and you can see some camera samples below to believe yourself. The colour rendering and accuracy is excellent. The details captured even in shadow regions is superb. We tried out the ultra-wide-angle lens and results were fine as well. The macro lens also impresses in daylight conditions.
SAMPLES – 503
In indoor conditions, the Nord produces some decent shots as well. Though, the indoor shots do not compare with daylight shots in terms of quality. Below are a few examples, and you can see the texture captured is beautiful, and details are preserved well. However, the corners are where you will notice missing details and shadow regions have some noise.
Coming to low-light performance, the OnePlus Nord does a good job in our night samples and can control noise to great extents. In the below shots, the bus has been captured without the Nightscape mode, and the result is still beautiful. When zooming, we can see the minute details on the bus and can also read what’s written on top of the dustbin that’s visible behind the bus. The details have been retained well while controlled noise is noticeable in the shadow region.
In low-light conditions, we noticed that the macro lens did struggle a bit in taking good shots. Some outdoor shots in the low-light situation we took had missing details while colours were also not entirely intact. The noise was also quite visible in shadow regions. We have to agree that the Nightscape helped the samples to some extent, but there was not a very major change.
We also tried out different modes like the Portrait and noticed that results were decent. The camera was able to keep the subject in focus while keeping the background blurred. We, however, did see some uneven blur effect in some of our portraits but we believe this is something that can be fixed by a software update over-the-air. Another strength of the camera on the Nord is autofocusing, which is super quick thanks to PDAF presence.
Coming to selfie cameras, the Nord packs a 32-megapixel primary Sony IMX616 sensor with EIS and fixed focus. An 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor accompanies it with a 105-degrees field of view for your groupfies.
The selfie camera on the Nord is impressive to sum it up and can take some excellent daylight shots. It comes with portrait mode, Nightscape, and Pro mode to get the most of the front camera. The colours are proper and abundant details captured – very rare feat for selfie cameras in this price range.
However, we noticed that the low-light samples had some focusing issues because of the lack of proper light source around.
The 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens also impresses and you can fit in more people in your selfies. In proper lighting, the Nord’s ultra-wide-angle lens captures good details, including right colours and skin tone.
OnePlus Nord Review: Battery surprises you to some extent
The OnePlus Nord ships with a 4115mAh battery and comes with Warp Charge 30T fast charging adapter in the retail box. The company claims that the phone can charge from empty to 70 per cent in just 30 minutes, and during the testing, we found the claims to be valid. Moreover, OnePlus has also added some smart tech in Nord that changes the way phone charges overnight to reduce the amount of time it spends at 100 per cent. This is a perfect addition, especially for consumers who tend to forget to unplug their chargers before going to bed.
Coming to the real-world performance, the Nord can easily last up to a day or 24-26 hours to be precise with heavy usage – this included screen on time of around 6 hours.
We tried different use case scenarios, and with a mix of gaming and streaming shows, the Nord battery could only last for up to 13 hours where we got roughly nine hours of screen on time. And, then there’s the Warp Charge 30T to the rescue.
OnePlus Nord Rating
Design – 9/10
Display – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Cameras – 8/10
Battery – 8/10
Overall – 9/10
OnePlus Nord Review: Verdict
At a starting price of Rs 24,999, the OnePlus Nord is an excellent entry from the brand that has ruled the mid-premium segment in India for many quarters. However, the only problem is the 64GB + 6GB variant will only go on sale by Early September which is over a month away.
In our opinion, the best value for money variant is the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage model which comes at Rs 27,999 and will be available starting August 4 in India. There’s also the top-of-the-line model featuring 12GB RAM and 256GB storage model at Rs 29,999 and is the model that we reviewed.
What is so special about the Nord? Starting with the design, the Nord’s compact design is a winner here and is also one of its biggest USP. It’s easy to use with just one hand, and the OxygenOS UI is a cherry on the cake. The Snapdragon 765G processor is competent, and you won’t find it lacking in any department until you compare it in terms of benchmark scores with phones featuring Snapdragon 800-series processor. There’s enough memory at any time – even when you have 20 apps open in the background – and that’s how well OnePlus has managed RAM on the Nord.
The cameras are good enough and will keep you satisfied. The battery doesn’t let you down, and in any case, you have the Warp Charge 30T to the rescue.
What would we have loved? The Nord is a very slippery device, and you can notice that when you place it on a glass surface. The loudspeaker could have been placed somewhere else so that would not block it while gaming. Also, the speakers are not very loud.
Overall, the OnePlus Nord is an excellent device under Rs 30,000, and you can put your money on it. There are also guaranteed software updates which you don’t see on many devices in this price range.
If you’re looking for alternatives, then you can look at the Oppo Reno 3 Pro, Realme X3 SuperZoom, Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro or the Vivo V17 Pro.