Review

OnePlus Nord review: The 2020 flagship killer

OnePlus started its journey with a flagship killer, the OnePlus One, that was available at one-third the price of other flagships in the market at that time. Over the years though, as the company has added more features to its devices, their prices have also shot up. The OnePlus 8 Pro starts from $899 in the United States making it nearly as expensive as Samsung's Galaxy S20. This price increase might not matter much to consumers in the United States, but in markets like India -- where OnePlus has a huge fanbase -- it puts the company's devices out of reach for many.

In comes the OnePlus Nord, the company's second mid-range phone since its inception and five years after the release of the OnePlus X. The Nord is meant to sit below the OnePlus 8 series and yet offer a similar experience to customers who are not willing to spend a fortune on a smartphone. It is meant for customers who don't want the absolute best display or camera on their phone or are not upset at missing convenience features like wireless charging or water-resistance. Add in a slightly weaker chipset, a less capable camera setup, and a few other compromises in exchange for a very attractive price tag of €399 and you've got the Nord. For comparison, the OnePlus 8 Pro starts from €899, while the OnePlus 8 can be purchased for €699. But has OnePlus ended up cutting too many corners to reach this attractive price point? Read the review below to find out.

Specs

CPU Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, single 2.4GHz, single 2.2GHz, hexa-core 1.8GHz Kryo 475
GPU Adreno 620
Display 6.44-inches, 1080x2400, 20:9, 408ppi, Fluid AMOLED, 90Hz
Body 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm, 184g
Camera 48MP f/1.175 + 8MP f/2.25 119-degree ultra-wide + 5MP f/2.4 depth sensor + 2MP f/2.4 macro sensor, Front - 32MP f/2.45 + 8MP f/2.45 105-degree ultra-wide
Video 4K - 30fps, 1080p - 60fps, Front - 4K - 60fps
Memory 6/8/12GB, 6GB LPDDR4X RAM variant exclusive to Amazon India
Storage 128/256GB UFS 2.1
Battery 4,115mAh, Warp Charge 30T charging
Other Features In-display fingerprint sensor, Alert Slider, Bottom-firing mono speaker
Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.1
NFC
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, NavIC, A-GPS
USB-C
Dual-4G support
Networks:
GSM: GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900
WCDMA: B1, B2, B4, B5, B8, B9, B19
LTE-FDD: B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32, 66
LTE-TDD: B34, 38, 39, 40, 41
5G: N1, N3, N7, N28, N78
MIMO: LTE: B1, 3, 4, 7, 38, 41 NR: N1, N3, N7, N78

Colors Blue Marble, Gray Onyx
Price

Rs 24,999 / €399

The OnePlus Nord comes in a very attractive retail box. The box itself has highlights of blue but OnePlus includes a red USB cable with the device which does not go well with the overall theme. Inside the box, you get a Warp Charge 30 adapter, a USB-C cable, regulatory papers, some stickers, and a case. No earbuds are bundled in the box, though OnePlus does pre-apply a plastic screen protector on the Nord's display.

Design

The design of the OnePlus Nord is not exactly unique or iconic. It is similar to what we have seen in so many other budget and mid-range phones nowadays -- Gorilla Glass panels at the front and back, a vertical placement for a quad-camera setup at the rear, and a punch-hole display. However, OnePlus offers the Nord in some attractive colors and finish to spice things up a bit. The gray color option might sound boring on paper but it looks very attractive yet understated in real-life. This is primarily because of how it reflects light which gives the rear a metallic sheen.

For a mid-range phone, the Nord has an impressive build quality. When you first pick the device up, you could be fooled into thinking that the phone is more expensive than what its price tag would suggest. The phone has a plastic chassis but there's a metallic coating on top of it which ends up masking the cheap feeling that's usually associated with plastic devices. This is a smart move by OnePlus as it allows it to reduce the manufacturing cost while still retaining the premium in-hand feel.

There's no IP certification here, meaning the OnePlus Nord is not dust or water-resistant. Additionally, the Nord also misses out on wireless charging but that should be understandable given its price. The handy Alert Slider found on other OnePlus phones is also present here so one can quickly change the sound profile of the Nord in just one move. The power button is located below the alert slider and the volume buttons are located on the left edge. The power and volume buttons sit parallel to each other so you may end up pressing the volume buttons while trying to press the power button or vice versa. There's no headphone jack here, with OnePlus offering a special OnePlus Buds and Nord bundle to customers as a part of its ecosystem play.

Display

The OnePlus Nord comes with a 6.44-inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED display that's protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The top-left of the device has a dual punch-hole to accommodate the 32MP + 8MP selfie shooters.

The display on the OnePlus Nord is not going to win any awards in DisplayMate's benchmarks, but it is still a great display. The brightness levels, colors, contrast, viewing angles -- all are good and there's nothing to complain about there. The 90Hz refresh rate also makes a visible difference in terms of smoothness particularly while scrolling through lists.

The big issue with the OnePlus Nord's display is the panel quality itself. At low brightness levels, I have seen a slight green tint and uniformity issue on my unit. This issue is also present on the OnePlus 8 Pro's display and OnePlus forums are filled with complaints from early adopters of the Nord about this issue. One really has to look for the issue, though it is apparent when you use the phone in a dark room with the brightness at very low levels. The problem is not a deal-breaker per se and does not really bother me much but if you want a phone with a perfect AMOLED display, the OnePlus Nord might not be for you.

Camera

The OnePlus Nord comes with a competent quad-camera setup, at least on paper. OEMs generally tend to compromise on the camera performance of mid-range phones that carry a super attractive price tag. This is partially true for the OnePlus Nord. The primary 48MP shooter on the device uses the same sensor as the one used on the ultra-wide angle camera of the OnePlus 8 Pro and its performance is further helped by the inclusion of OIS.

The Nord's camera performance feels a bit undercooked to me in terms of processing. The primary camera takes good photos in most conditions, but they are slightly underexposed and too contrasty. OnePlus is known to tweak the camera performance of its devices with software updates and I am sure the Nord's imaging performance is also going to improve with time. The Nord's camera does start to show its weakness when capturing photos indoor or low-light photos. They usually come out noisy, soft, and lacking details.

The primary camera performance of the OnePlus Nord is strictly above average at best which should be good enough for most consumers who are not exactly looking for a camera-centric phone. If camera performance is of prime importance to you, the Pixel 4a might be a better buy then.

Where the Nord falls apart in the imaging department is when you look at the photos from the ultra-wide angle camera. There's a big difference in quality between the performance of the primary and ultra-wide angle cameras. The 8MP ultra-wide angle shooter captures soft photos that are devoid of details, and its low-light performance is even worse. The macro camera is no good as well and it cannot be used to record videos as possible on budget Redmi phones.

As for the front 32MP camera, its average at best and OnePlus needs to work on improving its processing. Its dynamic range is particularly bad and OnePlus also applies a gracious amount of smoothening effect even with the beauty filter switched off. The 8MP ultra-wide angle camera at the front is handy for capturing groupfies but only when there's a lot of light around.

Performance and Battery Life

The Snapdragon 765G chip is a premium chip from Qualcomm meant for premium mid-tier smartphones like the OnePlus Nord. The chip is not as fast as Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865 but it still packs more than enough horsepower to handle anything you throw at it. Irrespective of what app or game you play on the OnePlus Nord, you are not going to face any performance hiccup, lags, or stutters. It is in fact among the smoothest phone that I have used, not just in Nord's price band but a couple of notch above it as well. OnePlus is a bit aggressive with its memory management to save battery life though so notifications from some apps might be delayed.

Looking at the benchmarks, it is clear that the Snapdragon 765G chipset inside OnePlus Nord sits below the Snapdragon 855 found in last year's OnePlus 7 series.

Unlike the Snapdragon 865 chip, the Snapdragon 765G features an integrated 5G modem making it more power-efficient than Qualcomm's flagship solution. This is visible in the battery life department as despite coming with a 4115mAh battery and a 90Hz AMOLED panel, the Nord is easily able to make it through a day of use. Over the last ten days, I used the OnePlus Nord with dual 4G SIMs and its display at 90Hz all the time and in spite of my heavy usage, I always ended the day with around 25% in the tank. The 30W Warp Charge is also handy as it can replenish the Nord to last for a few additional hours after just 10-15 minutes of charge.

There's no wireless charging here, but with excellent battery life and Warp Charge, I did not miss it much as well. If you have wireless chargers lying around in your home or office though, the story might be different for you.

Software

One of the strengths of OnePlus phones is their skin, OxygenOS. The company sticks to the stock Android UI/UX and keeps adding useful features and customization options on top of it. This is despite OnePlus not really being the first to roll out monthly security patches for its flagship devices like Samsung. The OxygenOS 10 experience on the OnePlus Nord is also extremely good, easily the best around. There are plenty of features and customizations options in OxygenOS for one to play around with including themes support, Ambient display, navigation gestures, and more.

The skin is lightweight and OnePlus has taken the time to optimize it for speed as well. They have ended up making the system animations a bit too fast for my liking though and it takes away from the overall polish of the skin. Despite OxygenOS being feature-packed and the Nord sporting an AMOLED display, it misses out on Always-on Display.

Conclusion

The OnePlus Nord is a very, very good smartphone for the price that it commands -- starting at Rs 24,999 in India or €399 in the EU. If camera performance is not the utmost priority for you, you really cannot go wrong with the Nord. In a world of $1,000+ flagships with massive displays, the Nord feels refreshing to use. It has the perfect size, a great ergonomic design, great battery life, excellent performance, and a decent pair of cameras -- everything that you are going to need from a smartphone on a regular basis. And you get all this without having to burn a hole in your pocket.

It is a real shame the OnePlus Nord is not coming to the United States and more than OnePlus, it is the consumers there that should be disappointed about this.

 

Report a problem with article
1596849843_t1
Next Article

Lenovo ThinkPad X13 Yoga unboxing and first impressions

1596938372_mach_20,_2020_(1)
Previous Article

Twitter reportedly in talks with TikTok for a potential combination

8 Comments - Add comment

Advertisement