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OnePlus Nord review

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The OnePlus Nord is one of the most anticipated smartphones (opens in new window) of the year. Even if your not a tech lover, you will have heard about it thanks to all the hype surrounding the company. Its price was also announced. Was it the best smartphone under Rs. 30,000 in India?

Nord, OnePlus’s all-new series, is designed to offer users a premium hardware and software experience at a reasonable price. It marks OnePlus’ return to the market it began its journey in years past. For its first tango with a mid-ranger, OnePlus seems to tick the right boxes, and even manages to be the cheapest in the market for some of these additions…something that we haven’t been able to say about OnePlus in recent years.

The OnePlus Nord isn’t compromised in any way. It delivers a very satisfying experience in all major areas of the phone, and it often wins.

It is against Indian smartphones such as the Reality X3 or the Redmi K20 Pro. These were price leaders at the time. However, OnePlus’s software first approach to Android shows that not all Android battles are won by brute force.

India price of OnePlus Nord

India was one of the first countries to receive the Nord. It is also priced in India at a much lower price than last year. The 6+64GB variant starts at Rs 24,999. The 8+128GB variant starts at Rs 27,999, while the 12+256G variant runs Rs 29,999. There are two colour options: Gray Onyx and Blue Marble.

Amazon will sell the OnePlus Nord’s first sale on August 4. The India-exclusive 6+64GB variant of the OnePlus Nord will be available later in September.

Get OnePlus Nord on Amazon (opens in new window)

Design

  • 184g weight, 8.2mm thick
  • Glass sandwich with a frame made of polycarbonate
  • Blue Marble and Gray Onyx colors

OnePlus has not sacrificed much design, even though the Nord isn’t an expensive phone. The phone comes with a glossy, glass body that has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on both the back and the front. The phone feels solid and is easy to hold. It opts for a plastic frame, which will definitely impact its premium positioning. It will be a reminder every time you hold your phone.

The Nord can be used with one hand, which is unusual these days. With a taller display, the phone is narrower (73.3mm), with dimensions that are very similar to the OnePlus 8. It is extremely light at just 184g, which is impressive considering the competition’s 200-gram weight. OnePlus has done a great job in weight distribution. Overall, the build quality of the phone is solid.

There are two options for the device: Blue Marble or Gray Onyx. The blue variant was tested here and it really stands out. The other variant is for those who want something more subtle.

To the right is the power button. This button is easily accessible without having to adjust the grip. It provides good tactile feedback and clicky clicks. The iconic alert slider is located just above the power button. It can be used in one of three modes: Ringing, Silent or Vibrate. The volume rocker is located on the left. The buttons are all coated in blue, which is quite cool. The quad-camera array protrudes quite a bit towards the back. A dual-LED flash is located next to the camera. The OnePlus logo is at the center and OnePlus branding towards its end.

The rear camera’s glass is so black it reminds me of the OnePlus Concept One phone, which has a hidden camera array. The device’s front features a dual-facing, pill-shaped front camera, which is a first for OnePlus phones. The phone’s top edge houses the earpiece.

You will also find the USB Type-C port as well as the SIM slot at the bottom. The bottom of the device houses a mono speaker and two outlets for audio. The device does not have a 3.5mm headphone socket, as you may have guessed.

The Nord’s design is not the best at this price. Most Realme devices have a similar design language. The design is fine. The design isn’t as distinctive as the colour.

The box also includes a silicone case. It has a strange pattern that alternates between glossy and matte. The box has a subtle arrow that points upwards, figuratively towards the North. This case is plain and boring, but it’s not as interesting as the one on the OnePlus 8 series.

Like other OnePlus devices the Nord also has some water resistance. It shouldn’t be an issue if you sweat or rain.

Although it’s not unique, I found the design to be quite pleasing. It is comfortable in the hand, and it gives you a firm grip. This is far from the worst segment we have seen.

Display

  • 6.44inch AMOLED Panel, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • 90Hz fluid refresh rate

The OnePlus Nord features a 6.44 inch Fluid AMOLED screen with Full HD+ resolution (2,400 x 1,080p). For smoother scrolling, you get a panel with a 90Hz refresh rate panel. You can also switch to the 60Hz mode. It is 20:9 tall. The phone can handle HDR content. It also supports DisplayP3, sRGB and AMOLED wide gamut calibration modes. You also get a vivid colour effect that optimizes video colors and contrasts to make them more vivid. You can also choose to switch between Night and Reading mode. Depending on your preference, you can choose to turn the reading mode on in Mono effect mode or Chrommatic effect mode.

High refresh rates are a must in flagship phones. Now, the OnePlus Nord is offering the same features on mid-range smartphones. Realme X2 Pro, the only phone with an AMOLED screen and a 90Hz combination, is the Nord. The Nord’s AMOLED display is as good as any flagship device we have seen from OnePlus. Nord has a flat screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 5, unlike the OnePlus 8 Series.

A panel with 90Hz is not a good idea for smartphones. Although I found the difference to be minimal at first, my phone felt slow and borderline lagging when I switched to 60Hz for one day. I doubt I will ever be able to enjoy a 60Hz screen again.

The display is superb, the AMOLED screen does its job well. You get good viewing angles and deep blacks. When you unlock your phone, the animation that starts from the home screen’s live wallpaper is activated. This acts as a reminder about the faster refresh rate.

With just one thumb, you can easily reach most of the screen’s parts. The touch interface is responsive and easy to use.

The phone is bright enough to be used indoors and the auto-brightness function works well. The phone is visible in sunlight at a level that is above average. Texts and videos can be seen during the day. Although the hole punch is larger than I would like, it becomes easier to ignore as time goes by.

The display quality is excellent, and it was enjoyable to watch content from OTT apps. You get an AMOLED screen, 90Hz refresh rate, HDR support. It was pleasant and the colour reproduction was excellent. The display is in good condition.

Audio

  • Single downward-firing speaker
  • No headphone jack

The screen and visuals are just as important as audio performance. Good screen performance and great audio make content more immersive and enjoyable. The OnePlus Nord has a mono super-linear speaker at the bottom with two passages for sound. The bottom firing speaker made audio playback quite enjoyable and was very good. Although the overall output levels were high, they weren’t exceptional. Even at maximum volume, there is very little distortion.

It is easy to block the speaker grill when you use the phone in landscape mode. This can cause the sound to be muffled. The device does not have a headphone jack. You will need to use Bluetooth or the Type-C port for personal audio. Bluetooth 5.1 is supported and the device supports LDAC, aptXHD and AAC standards. It was a great experience using Bluetooth devices.

The Dirac audio tuner also comes with you, which allows for scenario-based enhancements such as Movie, Dynamic, and Music. These worked quite well, surprising me. You can also use earphone mode to enable autoplay, smart calling, and notifications. Both wired and wireless earphones can be used with equalizer support. The call quality was excellent, and people could hear me clearly. My side was also crystal clear. The earpiece works well despite being in a strange position.

Performance

  • Snapdragon 765G
  • LPDDR4X RAM and UFS 2.1 storage
  • 5G capable

Here is where OnePlus differs from others in the segment. The Snapdragon 765G SOC powers the Nord. It is also 5G-capable thanks to the Snapdragon X52 RF5G modem. Although it is technically the most affordable 5G smartphone in India (unless Jio does something else), this shouldn’t be a significant factor for Indian consumers. It is still one of the best 5G chipsets available, thanks to its 7nm process and integrated modem components.

The Snapdragon 765G features a prime core running at 2.4GHz, a gold core at 2.2.2GHz, and six silver cores at 1.85GHz. Adreno620 GPU will handle graphics. The OnePlus Nord can be paired with LPDDR4X RAM or UFS 2.1 storage. The OnePlus Nord comes in a 6GB+64GB variant that is exclusive to India, along with an 8GB+128GB variant and the 12GB+256GB variant. This variant is extremely expensive.

The top variant was tested. We recommend that you avoid the 64GB and 6GB versions of the OnePlus Nord. The OS takes up a large portion of the storage. It doesn’t support expandable storage so it can quickly get used up.

Realme went with the last-gen flagship chipset for the X3 series. OnePlus chose the powerful, mid-range chipset for the Snapdragon 7 series. I’m happy to report that OnePlus has not been let down by this decision. The device performed flawlessly and was easy to use every day, as we have come to expect from OnePlus. The phone is able to handle everything without hassle and runs at 90Hz. The memory management was a bit too aggressive sometimes, but that shouldn’t be the case with a phone with 12GB RAM.

During my testing, I experienced no lags nor stutter. It was all smooth sailing. Wireless options such as Wi-Fi had good range, and NFC was easy to use with headphones. The Snapdragon 765G delivers exceptional performance, so you shouldn’t have any issues running multiple apps. The phone should be fine for everyday use. A flagship phone will not make you feel any difference in most cases. OnePlus’s software and Qualcomm’s hardware make a winning combination. This is a superior choice to opt for a last-gen chipet for affordable flagships. It’s mainly because of the efficiency and consistency it brings.

Gaming

  • Adreno 620 GPU
  • Fnatic mode

No longer are you restricted to playing heavy 3D graphics intensive games on flagship phones. The 765G SoC has some amazing innovations over the years. (The G in the Snapdragon 765G is for Gaming). The OnePlus Nord is OnePlus’ first phone to have a mid-range, or non-flagship-grade chipset. Even sub-Rs. 20,000 OnePlus phones had a flagship chipset, but it’s now that …. is available.

This page uses the Adreno 620 GPU for graphics performance. During Asphalt 8 and PUBG Mobile gaming, the device maintained close to 60 frames per second. Real Racing 3 ran very smoothly. All three games had the highest available graphics. High refresh rates and 180Hz touch sampling rate are a highlight. It is very comfortable to use your hands while gaming and you can place your fingers exactly where you want them. The higher aspect ratio provides a better viewing experience. The mono-bottom-firing speaker on this device is not recommended. However, the sound quality will be muffled, or reduced by 50 to 80% depending on where it is placed. You get a nice, satisfying feedback from the vibration motor.

You also get a Fnatic and dedicated gaming modes. These boost the CPU and GPU performance, optimize the game and provide more resources. The option to toggle graphic optimization allows you to improve shadow detail and overall gaming performance. The OnePlus 8 series has no cooling system, so it heats up a lot more than the flagship OnePlus 8. After 20-30 minutes of playing PUBG Mobile for continuous gaming, the upper part of the device reached 40 degrees.

Software

  • OxygenOS 10.5 is based on Android 10
  • Simple interface with minimal bloat
  • Moves to Google Apps instead of first-party

OnePlus’s flagship smartphone, the OnePlus 2, is often referred to as having the best Oxygen OS. This is especially true when compared with the competition. This is especially true in the sub Rs 30,000 market, where other players have been known to add bloatware and advertisements to lower the price. Oxygen OS offers the best Android experience at a price that isn’t too high for power users.

We see a straightforward approach to customization and minimalism, just like other OnePlus phones. Everything is exactly where it should be, and everything works as it should. This is something that anyone who has used Oxygen OS before will be able to appreciate. It is the most adaptable skin for everyone.

You can modify many customizations, including the system-wide dark theme and icon pack. They also have colour tone, color tone, icon shape, and accent colours. Even with these extras, the experience was fast and seamless.

You can choose from OnePlus Shelf or Google Discover for the -1 screen. We were disappointed by Shelf’s capabilities and decided to switch to Google Discover for more personalized and better updates.

There are both the quick toggles and connectivity options in the notification shade. OnePlus also added Night mode and Switch data card, DND Reading mode, ZenMode and screen recorder. The screen recorder can record up to 2,340×1,080 at 24 Mbps bitrate and 60 frames per second. You can also record your internal audio. QR code scanning makes Wi-Fi sharing even easier.

You will find a separate utility section that comes with Work-Life Balance mode. This mode allows you to control the number of notifications you receive based on your job profile. Parallel apps can be used to clone apps, and an app locker that you can lock with your fingerprint scanner. The OnePlus switch app was a great feature that saved me time and made my life much easier. It allows you to transfer all your data, including call/text logs and apps. If the app does not have native support, a laboratory feature lets you switch to dark mode. A quick landscape reply mode allows you to open a floating keyboard if you receive a message in landscape mode.

It is possible to switch to gestures instead of using buttons for system navigation. They are very useful and you can quickly switch to the previous application using gestures.

Overall, the software experience on the OnePlus flagship phone is very similar – fluid, fast, smooth and fluid. The apps and games open quickly, so there’s no waiting. Push notifications arrive promptly for the majority of the parts. Slack, which is well-known for sucking on Android, did not work as expected.

The OnePlus Nord has very little bloat. The biggest change is the switch to Google’s messaging, dialler and Duo. You also get Amazon, Netflix and Facebook out-of-the box. These are apps I would install anyway, so that’s okay. AR Core functionality was missing from the device. The company confirmed that it would be available via OTA update in August.

During testing, we received two OTA upgrades that optimized many camera features. We also purchased the July security patch. OnePlus Nord will provide you with two years of software updates and three years security updates.

This is where the OnePlus Nord excels with a highly-executed, rare software package. Although Oxygen OS can sometimes feel a bit too vanilla, it is not an issue at this price.

Biometrics

In-display fingerprint

2D Face unlock OnePlus was the first major manufacturer to adopt in-display fingerprint scanners. It started with the 6T. The Nord uses Goodix’s fingerprint scanners. It is comparable to the flagships. It works quickly and accurately, and it is easy to reach with one hand.

As usual, the performance is very quick. You don’t need to press the screen harder or push your thumb against it. There are five unlock animations, and you can keep up five fingerprints.

You also get 2D Face Unlock that uses the front-facing cam to authenticate. It’s fast and will eliminate the need to use a fingerprint scanner to unlock your phone. You just need to press the power button, then show your face. It’s so fast, you won’t be able to access notifications on the lock screen.

Battery life

  • 4,115 mAh battery
  • 30WWarpCharge 30T fast Charging

The OnePlus Nord packs a substantial 4,115mAh battery into a small and lightweight body. It supports Warp Charging at 30W using the included charger.

My usage, which included intensive use of WhatsApp, Slack and emails, along with 30 minutes of PUBG Gaming, produced pretty average results with between 4 and 5 hours screen-on-time. I used Bluetooth to connect my watch to my earbuds and set the display refresh rate to 90Hz. The battery life was significantly improved when the refresh rate was increased to 60Hz. I was able to get 6 to 7 hours screen-on-time.

The 30W Warp Charge 30T charging wired charger is compatible with USB Type-C interface. The charger charges in 30 minutes, and the full charge takes around 80 minutes. Even when the device is plugged in or gaming, it charges at a fast rate. With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on, the battery drains between 3-5% over night.

OnePlus was the first company to offer fast charging for its smartphones in 2016. It’s high time that the threshold of 30W is crossed at least on flagships. Even phones at Rs 15,000 exceed that.

Camera

  • Six cameras total
  • Same primary camera as the OnePlus 8
  • First time Dual-selfie camera

OnePlus made bold claims about the cameras in the Nord, as it does every time. It claimed that the camera was a “flagship grade” model. They will not surprise you, as they always do. Six cameras are included this time: four at the rear, and two at the front. This is the first time OnePlus has done so.

The flagship OnePlus 8 inherited the primary camera at the rear. It is a Sony IMX586 sensor with OIS, EIS and f/1.75 aperture. The 8MP wide-angle camera f/2.25 with a 119-degree field-of-view is next. The 5MP depth sensor is also included, as well as a macro camera with an aperture of f/2.4 and 2MP macro. The front features a 32MP Sony IMX161 primary snapper and an 8MP wide angle camera for groufies.

VS THE ONEPLUS 8.

The OnePlus Nord is the first smartphone to feature six cameras, two front-facing and four back. Four of these cameras are actually the same as the OnePlus 8’s.

The camera app offers a variety of modes. You can use the rear camera to shoot in panorama, normal, wide-angle and portrait modes. Video features include slow-mo, super stable, timelapse, slow motion, 4K video recording and super stabile mode. You can take photos and videos of up to 4K 60fps (normal and wide), portrait, or time-lapse (normal and wide), with the front camera.

Although the primary camera has a 48MP sensor, it defaults to 12MP. OnePlus 7 has the same sensor as OnePlus 7. This has helped improve image processing.

Similar to the OnePlus 8, Nord can often over-sharpen and increase the contrast. The camera can capture images even in bright conditions thanks to its excellent white balance and dynamic range. You can also shoot at full 48MP resolution without pixel binning. This doesn’t change the exposure but gives you more detail when zooming in.

The depth sensor sensor 5MP creates beautiful bokeh, and produces usable portrait photos. Although the edge detection can sometimes go off the grid, it works most of the times.

Ultra-wide snappers offer a view of 119 degrees. The lens reproduces colours with minimal distortion and close to the original. This lens also has a limited dynamic range. The details are lost compared to the primary cameras. Although the ultra-wide lens can be a great addition, it should not be used where there is no dynamic range or need for fine details.

The OnePlus Nord’s macro lens isn’t very good. It is difficult to focus on an object. Once focused, you will need to add more light to the object to get a detailed picture. 2MP photos are taken by the macro, which is average but nothing exceptional. You may be able take great images with the right lighting conditions and focus properly. However, focusing and bringing in more light is often a challenge. The 2MP sensor doesn’t provide too much detail.

The Nightscape mode makes low-light performance very easy with the OnePlus Nord. Bright light was captured by the device, which allows for more light than real life and brightens up the image. Night shots can be captured with a steady hand, but they only take a few seconds. Although you can shoot ultra-wide nightscapes, you will miss details. Nightscape mode captures more detail at night than regular mode. Nightscape mode has a higher noise level, which means that there are less details. This mode is better used in dim lighting than in pitch darkness.

Full HD video can be shot at 30fps or 60fps. 4K Cine (21:9) can be shot at 30fps. It’s quite strange that OnePlus doesn’t offer 4K shooting @ 60fps for the primary camera, as the front camera supports it. The camera supports optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization. This allows for the removal of unwanted shakes and movements while taking videos. It also produces stable videos. You can also take slow-mo and timelapse videos in addition to the standard video mode.

The front camera of OnePlus Nord has a combination 32MP and 8MP. A 32MP Sony 32MP Sony IMX616 sensor and an 8MP ultrawide-angle lens with a 105 degree field-of-view are paired together. Selfies look great in bright conditions. The wide-angle camera is a valuable addition to a depth sensor. The front camera supports 4K videos at 60fps in both wide-angle and normal modes. This is great if you want to create a vlog. My testing also showed that selfies and groufies turned out well.

Overall, the OnePlus Nord camera performs well. The camera is good for basic point-and-shoot and still photography. It’s less than Rs 30,000 and offers a better experience. There are more comprehensive camera packages available with the Realme X3 Super Zoom, Redmi K20 Pro and even the Redmi K20 Pro. The front camera is good, but the secondary wide camera, which is an ultra-wide camera, does a great job.

Verdict

OnePlus’ announcement that it would be “returning back to its roots” to compete in the budget segment raised a lot of eyebrows.

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OnePlus knew that it had a lot of work ahead of it and would need to compete with Realme and Xiaomi in the “affordable flagship” category. This term was first used by OnePlus almost six years ago. It is still disruptive to the core, for all intents and purpose.

The OnePlus Nord is a flagship smartphone from the company that follows the same principles of combining premium hardware with superior software. It’s not unusual for brands to compromise on at least one aspect of their products in the sub Rs. 30,000 range. OnePlus excels at both. It also manages to be cheaper while adding lavish elements like 5G, a 90Hz-AMOLED panel, and 12GB RAM.

Although it isn’t perfect, the camera and battery life are average. However, the pros far outweigh any cons. The OnePlus Nord excels in display, performance, and gaming experience. Fans who waited for OnePlus to come back at a lower price point have had their prayers answered.

The OnePlus Nord is now our top recommendation for smartphone buyers with a budget below Rs 30,000. The Realme X3 series is our closest competitor. It has a 120hz display, and a cool periscopic lens which makes it a segment outlier. There’s also the Realme X2 Pro, and the Redmi K20 Pro that offer versatile cameras and an AMOLED screen. They might offer better gaming and a better camera experience if you’re okay with the software. Google Pixel 3a is an alternative. However, you should prioritize the camera above all else.

OnePlus has the Nord to make Oxygen OS more accessible to more people. They will also be able to get them to use a better software experience, and eventually sell more. It remains to be seen if OnePlus can win these battles solely based on its Android implementation. The future may be uncertain but the OnePlus Nord is a winner in the moment.

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