OnePlus Nord Review: A Solid Mid-Ranger From OnePlus

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The OnePlus One launched way back in 2014 with a promise to deliver cutting-edge specifications at affordable prices. However, it is quite evident that OnePlus is no longer following that path, now that the OnePlus 8 Pro is hardly less expensive than your typical Samsung and Apple flagships.

With the OnePlus Nord, the brand is finally making a return to the fierce competition of mid-rangers, albeit with mid-range specs. For the first time, OnePlus has opted for Qualcomm’s 700-series Snapdragon chipset instead of an 800-series chipset, so that they can reduce the price of the device.

The OnePlus Nord is a threat to Samsung’s Galaxy A series, Google’s Pixel a lineup, and Realme’s bang-for-the-buck mid-rangers in the same price segment. There’s no concern regarding Nord’s hardware, and regular users probably won’t notice a difference in daily usage. The OnePlus Nord beats every one of the mid-rangers in terms of the software experience, with promised two years of major platform updates and three years of security updates.

The OnePlus Nord starts at a price of ₹24,999 in India, which is an excellent deal considering that OnePlus has a lot of following in the power-user community. However, a mid-range smartphone also comes with its fair share of compromises, which seems to be inevitable even for a brand like OnePlus. Our detailed review of the OnePlus Nord will tell you more about it.

OnePlus Nord: What’s in the box?

In the box, you will find the OnePlus Nord device, a 30W fast charger, and a red type-A to type-C USB cable. You also get a transparent case with a textured back, a sim ejector tool, and a few documentations regarding warranty and device information.

OnePlus Nord: Design

  • Dimensions: 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
  • Weight: 184g
  • Construction: Glass back and Polycarbonate frame

OnePlus has always prioritized design over anything else for its products. Even though they have started using much more premium materials in recent years, the design language has stayed simplistic and minimal. The OnePlus Nord has adapted to the same mantra once again, giving itself a unique look among the competition.

Nord’s aesthetics match the likenesses of the OnePlus 8 family of devices, with the same distinct curves around the four corners of the rear back panel, along with the positioning of the buttons, bottom speaker grille, and the SIM card slot.

OnePlus Nord has two color variants: Blue Marble and Gray Onyx. Our Blue Marble variant looks stunning in natural light, reflecting a tinted cyan hue all over the place. The use of a solid color palette is much welcome, and it’s visually appealing even without using crazy color gradients.

The rear panel of the smartphone is glossy, and it is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, similar to its much expensive OnePlus 8 counterparts. However, the mid-frame of the device is made out of plastic, and it has a chrome accent over it that mimics the metallic finish. The sides of the device also have a cyan accent, but way lighter than the rear panel, giving it a distinct two-toned finish. Although the plastic frame comes with its deficiencies in terms of structural integrity and durability, many of us prefer to use a case on our daily drivers anyways, so it isn’t a big deal.

The front of the device is basically what we have previously seen on other devices in the same price segment. The display is overall borderless and has rounded corners, though with a little bit of chin at the bottom. You will also find the pill-shaped, hole-punch camera cutout on the top-left corner of the display, something we aren’t fond of. Fortunately, OnePlus has opted for a flat screen for the Nord.

The flat display makes OnePlus Nord marginally easier to handle. Also, the dimensions of the device are comparable to the OnePlus 8, albeit adding 0.2mm thickness to the frame and cutting off the height by 1.9mm.

Despite the mid-frame having a plastic construction, the buttons on the sides of Nord are made out of metal, including the power button and the iconic alert slider on the right and volume rockers on the left. At the bottom of the frame, Nord has the USB-C charging port as usual, and a single loudspeaker grill next to it. Also, there’s no 3.5mm jack found on the device.

The OnePlus Nord doesn’t an official IP rating, but it can apparently withstand 30cm of water for half a minute. While we didn’t test out OnePlus’ claims, we can guarantee that it can survive rain splashes.

Overall, OnePlus Nord’s design and build quality are exceptional, considering that the brand had a target to hit a specific price range.

OnePlus Nord: Display

  • Panel Size & Screen-to-body Ratio: 6.44”, ~86.7%
  • Display Resolution & Refresh Rate: 2400×1080, 90Hz
  • Panel Type: AMOLED
  • Pixel Density: 409 PPI
  • Aspect Ratio: 20:9

OnePlus is one of the first non-gaming smartphone brands that made a switch to high refresh rate panels for its flagships. As you may have already guessed, the 6.44-inch Full-HD display on the OnePlus Nord also has a 90Hz refresh rate, similar to the OnePlus 8. It’s worth mentioning that the refresh rate is dynamic, and it automatically switches to the highest refresh rate based on intense activities. The display also has a 180Hz touch-sampling rate, which is quite crucial for mobile gamers.

The peak brightness of the panel is around 800 nits, which makes up for a decent HDR10+ experience. It also makes the device more comfortable to use under direct sunlight. The panel is also AMOLED, producing inky blacks and saturated colors. Nord misses out the PixelWorks’ Iris 5 chip from OnePlus 8 Pro, which offers various image enhancement features, including Motion Smoothing (MEMC) and Comfort Tone (auto-ambient lighting adjustment).

However, OnePlus Nord does have the “Vibrant Color Effect Pro” feature from OnePlus 8, which boosts the saturation in videos. In addition, the display supports 2048 levels of brightness adjustment, giving users manual granular control over the brightness. According to OnePlus, Nord automatically switches to High Brightness Mode under direct sunlight, producing ~1000 nits of peak brightness. Similar to other OnePlus devices, the Nord offers user-adjustable color balance settings, and you can choose between sRGB and DCI-P3 color profiles.

As previously mentioned, OnePlus Nord’s display does have HDR10+ support, and HDR playback is available on both YouTube and Netflix. Overall, OnePlus has made zero compromises in the display department for its mid-ranger.

OnePlus Nord: Audio

The single bottom-firing mono loudspeaker on OnePlus Nord produces average audio. The output isn’t as good as stereo speakers on other phones, but it does the job. On max volumes, we noticed little to no audio distortion. The earpiece on the OnePlus Nord produces crystal-clear voice, and it’s loud and clear.

OnePlus has kept support for AptX HD, LDAC, and AAC audio codecs over Bluetooth 5.1, fulfilling the absence of a dedicated headphone jack. During our testing, we didn’t encounter connection drops or other audio playback issues over Bluetooth.

OxygenOS does offer Dirac audio tuner for wired (over USB-C) and wireless earphones/headphones. There are a few audio profiles for you to try, as well as an equalizer for making micro-adjustments.

OnePlus Nord: Hardware & Performance

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G @ 2.40GHz
  • GPU: Adreno 620
  • RAM: 6/8/12GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB

The OnePlus Nord is powered by the latest Snapdragon 765G chipset. Tt’s the first time OnePlus is opting for a 700-series Snapdragon chipset rather than using the 800-series SoCs.

The octa-core chip has two Cortex-A76 cores clocked at 2.4GHz and 2.2GHz, respectively. These two powerful cores are accompanied by six efficient Cortex-A55 cores, which go up to 1.8GHz. The cores are configured in a 1+1+6 layout.

When you look at Snapdragon 865’s 1+3+4 configuration and the use of more powerful Cortex-A77 cores, it’s evident that the Snapdragon 765G is fine-tuned for higher power efficiency. Then again, we see a downgrade in GPU performance. The 765G comes with Adreno 620, whereas the flagship 865 has Adreno 650. Hence, the GPU of the 765G chipset is comparable to the Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835 chipset from 2017.

If you are going to buy the OnePlus Nord for gaming, then you can expect a decent gaming performance from the device. However, it all depends on how the manufacturer optimizes the software, and OnePlus has never downed its customers in that regard. The OnePlus Nord feels super-smooth in day-to-day tasks, not only because of the 90Hz refresh rate but also the fluid animations of OxygenOS. It does struggle to keep up with its flagship counterparts in graphics-intensive titles, but other than that, the OnePlus Nord delivers unmatched performance in the mid-range segment.

During our testing, we didn’t notice any sort of slowdowns or experienced lag while scrolling through the Play Store or Twitter timeline. For those who play PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty on a regular basis, the OnePlus Nord brings good news. The games auto-configure to HD settings, and the framerates stay close to 60FPS in intense moments.

OnePlus Nord has three different variants of RAM+storage configuration in India, including 6GB/64GB, 8GB/128GB, and 12GB/256GB. All of the variants use the same LPDDR4X memory and UFS 2.1 storage technology. In comparison to OnePlus 8, the Nord lacks LPDDR5 and UFS 3.0 features, and it definitely is a cost-saving measure.

Other hardware features include the in-display fingerprint scanner, which is as fast and reliable as the ones found in other flagship devices. The positioning of the scanner is a bit odd, but you will be accustomed to it after a few days of usage. Also, the vibration motor of the phone provides above-average haptic feedback. While it’s not as great as Apple’s Taptic Engine, OnePlus has taken its time to calibrate the motor properly, so that it doesn’t feel cheap.

OnePlus Nord: Connectivity

The Snapdragon 765G chipset found in the OnePlus Nord integrates a 5G modem, giving you 5G mobile connectivity. Although 5G cellular services haven’t taken off in India yet, you can at least switch to a 5G connection in the near future without upgrading to a newer device. It should be mentioned that the 5G modem on the Indian unit only supports N78 (3500Mhz) band, compared to the broader selection of 5G bands on the European variants.

In terms of other wireless connectivity options, OnePlus Nord gives you Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.1, GPS (dual-band), GLONASS, as well as India’s NavIC satellite navigation system. You also get NFC, along with support for VoLTE and VoWiFi (Wi-Fi calling).

OnePlus Nord: Camera Quality

  • Rear #1: 48MP f/1.75 w/OIS (Sony IMX586)
  • Rear #2: 8MP f/2.2, 119˚ FOV (Ultrawide)
  • Rear #3: 2MP f/2.4 (Macro)
  • Rear #4: 5MP f/2.4 (Depth)
  • Front #1: 32MP f/2.5
  • Front #2: 8MP f/2.5, 105˚ FOV (Ultrawide)

According to OnePlus, Nord offers a “flagship-level” camera performance with six cameras in total. The setup consists of a quad-array of sensors at the back, and dual cameras stacked into the hole-punch at the front.

The primary rear camera is a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, accompanied by an 8MP wide-angle lens, 2MP macro lens, and 5MP depth sensor. At the front, we find a 32MP primary sensor, along with an 8MP wide-angle lens.

The IMX586 sensor is nothing new. It has been previously featured in OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 8, as well as entry-level devices like the Redmi Note 7 Pro from Xiaomi last year. Similar to all the devices with IMX586, the OnePlus Nord relies on pixel-binning to capture 12MP photos. However, you always have the option to capture 48M full-res photos without the post-processing.

At this point, you already have a basic idea of what the main IMX586 sensor is capable of. Thanks to the new ISP (image signal processor) chip found in the Snapdragon 765G, the capabilities of the sensor can now be utilized to the max. It can capture good photos in both broad daylight and adequately lit conditions, but the end result always comes out softer than what you see in the camera viewfinder.

Even though the primary sensor is optically stabilized, it seems to struggle a bit in low-light conditions. The dedicated night mode does improve things quite a lot, but there’s plenty of headroom for improvements.

The same goes for the 8MP wide-angle sensor. Due to its lower resolution, it produces much softer and grainier photos than the main sensor. However, color science is basically the same across both of them.

The 5MP depth sensor does its job as intended. Subjects are correctly isolated from the background, but sometimes it fails to create a perfect blur around the edges of the subject. Also, OnePlus has added a 2MP macro camera so that they can brag about “quad-cameras” on their Nord product page. It is just as useless as a camera in feature phones, and you can just crop into a macro subject captured with the main sensor for significantly better results.

Selfies are more or less the same story. The 32MP primary sensor at the front can produce good selfies in daylight, with natural colors and good dynamic ranges. However, it aggressively smoothes out skin even with beautification settings disabled. The 8MP wide-angle lens has a 105˚ field-of-view, which is useful for taking groupies. However, the lack of dynamic range and facial details is evident. We hope that OnePlus fixes these issues with software updates soon.

In terms of video, the IMX586 sensor at the rear can record in up to 4K/30fps quality. The auto-exposure and white balance features work as intended, and the optical image stabilization results in overall stable footage. Surprisingly, there’s no option to record 60fps videos at 4K with the primary rear sensor, but the 4K/60fps option is available for the front camera instead. However, none of the camera sensors at the front support auto-focus, and they use gyro-EIS for stabilizing the video.

OnePlus Nord: Battery Life

  • Battery Capacity: 4115mAh
  • Charging features: Warp Charge 30T (30W fast charging)

The Snapdragon 765G in OnePlus Nord is powerful but efficient. On a full charge, you can expect a full-day usage, with an average screen-on-time of seven to eight hours. Note that the screen brightness was set to auto during our testing, so the battery life may vary based on your usage.

We didn’t get the chance to put the device through intense usage outdoors on cellular data. However, you can still push the device through a whole day of usage.

In case you run of charge, you can charge your OnePlus Nord from 0% to 70% in just half an hour with the 30W Warp Charger shipped in the box. Also, if you leave the device charging overnight, it will cut off power after hitting 80%. The rest 20% will be charged in the morning before you unplug it. It’s a useful feature that prevents battery degradation in the long term.

OnePlus Nord: OxygenOS

Software is the strongest suit of OnePlus devices when other Chinese manufacturers have a long way to go with its iOS-inspired skins. OxygenOS has always been focused on delivering essential features while keeping the user interface clutter-free. Out of the box, OnePlus Nord features OxygenOS 10.5 on top of the latest Android 10 build. As previously states, OnePlus has promised to push two years of Android platform updates and three years of security patches.

This is something you won’t find on other mid-rangers in the same price segment. Although the security patches will be rolled out once every two months, OnePlus will be one of the first manufacturers to push the Android 11 update when the stable AOSP build releases later this year.

Just like every other OnePlus smartphones, the Nord has zero bloatware, and it offers very minimal customization options to keep it simple for regular users. It even takes advantage of Android 10’s system-wide dark theme, as well as digital wellbeing, full-screen gesture navigation, native screen recorder, etc. In addition, you get OnePlus’ Zen Mode, FNATIC Mode (game optimizer), and a dedicated screenshot tool for instant editing and sharing.

For the first time, OnePlus has decided to ditch its own dialer and messaging app and opted for Google’s offerings instead. While you get Google’s auto-sync features for contacts and call history, it definitely is surprising to see OnePlus omitting its own communication apps. It’s yet to see whether OnePlus does the same for its other devices running OxygenOS.

OxygenOS does have its issues, especially with app notifications. Even after disabling adaptive battery and sleep standby optimation settings, the device failed to push Telegram, Discord, and Twitter notifications on time. It’s one of the only deficiencies of OxygenOS for a long time now, and OnePlus should consider fixing the issue as soon as possible.

OnePlus is currently offering 50GB of cloud storage to Indian users for backing up photos and videos, without asking for additional fees.

OnePlus Nord: Should You Buy It?

OnePlus is no longer a “flagship killer,” which is quite apparent with the premium flagships it has launched this year. However, the company is trying to reclaim its position in the mid-range price segment once again with the Nord, and it definitely is a successful return.

The OnePlus Nord checks all the right boxes, whether it’s the 90Hz AMOLED display or the Snapdragon 765G inside. Despite the underwhelming camera performance, the addition of a wide-angle lens at the front is welcoming. The all-day battery life and 30W fast charging are commendable, and OxygenOS delivers solid Android experience and frequent software updates.

Overall, OnePlus has managed to maintain a solid balance between price and performance, which is something other manufacturers should take a note from. When compared to the OnePlus 8 family of devices, the Nord lacks the horsepower to handle intensive mobile gaming, but it’s more than capable of handling daily tasks without a hitch.

The starting price of ₹24,999 for the 6GB/64GB variant (not available before September) offers exceptional value. The same goes for the top-of-the-line 12GB/256GB variant of the OnePlus Nord, which is priced at ₹29,999. You can order OnePlus Nord from oneplus.in/oneplus-nord in a few days.

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Awesome

OnePlus has managed to maintain a solid balance between price and performance, which is something other manufacturers should take a note from. When compared to the OnePlus 8 family of devices, the Nord lacks the horsepower to handle intensive mobile gaming, but it’s more than capable of handling daily tasks without a hitch.

  • Design
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Performance
  • Battery

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