OnePlus Nord

The OnePlus Nord is a good mid-range smartphone with great software and a striking new colour way. OnePlus did a respectable job delivering a solid experience that equals, but doesn’t always surpass, the competition.

Positives

Oxygen OS software
Swift user experience
Good main camera
Quick charging
High quality 90Hz AMOLED display

The OnePlus Nord is now available for general sale in India! It will set you back Rs. 27,999 for the base model.

OnePlus was known for high-quality, speedy smartphones that cost much less than the equivalent flagships from Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Samsung. The young company challenged the status quo with “flagship killer” phones. However, over the years OnePlus slowly raised prices until its devices cost almost as much as the competition. The current OnePlus 8 family is hardly more affordable than the best phones from LG or Samsung. In a return to form, however, OnePlus decided to take a real swing at the fiercely competitive mid-range with the OnePlus Nord.

The OnePlus Nord is the firm’s answer to the likes of the Pixel a-series, the Galaxy A family, the Realme X50, or the LG Velvet.

Design: Standard stuff

  • Gorilla Glass 5 (both sides)
  • 158.3 x 73.3 x 8.2mm
  • 184g
  • 6.44-in Full HD+ (2,400 x 1,080), 20:9
  • Punch hole AMOLED
  • 90Hz refresh rate

The Nord looks and feels very much like its competitors. It’s a Gorilla Glass 5 sandwich with shiny plastic rails. The bezels are thin with a double punch hole in the top left corner of the display. There’s a volume rocker on the left edge, and a power button and ringer switch on the right. Microphones are on the top and bottom of the chassis, and the bottom is where you’ll also find the speaker, USB 2.0 Type-C port, and a dual-SIM card tray. On the rear is the typical pill-shaped, multi-camera module in the top left.

In the hand, the OnePlus Nord feels solidly made. There aren’t any creeks or rattles when applying pressure to the device, and the plastic rails feel strangely metallic. The buttons and mute toggle feel tight and tactile. The feedback is surprisingly crisp for a mid-range smartphone – it might sound a bit crazy, but feedback is very important; it adds a sense of quality to a device and can be hard to get right. There’s no official IP rating, so don’t expect the Nord to survive a dunk in the pool.

This hardware is very much what you expect from a 2020 mid-range smartphone.

The OnePlus Nord comes in two colors: Gray Onyx and Blue Marble. The latter, which I reviewed, is striking to look at. It’s vibrant and features a metallic sheen in certain lighting conditions. The shiny blue rails complement this cool colorway.

Display: Standing out

The OnePlus Nord’s display is one of the better examples in the mid-range smartphone market. This high-contrast AMOLED has inky blacks and punchy colors. It makes for a much nicer display than what we typically see in this segment, where companies seem to want to push ever-higher refresh rates rather than quality basics.

Speaking of refresh rates, the Nord sports a 90Hz display, which is integral to its speedy user experience. It’s smooth and responsive, and is complemented by short animations in Oxygen OS. This makes the phone feel snappy. The 90Hz refresh rate is also great for supported games, making them more engaging and immersive.

The in-display fingerprint scanner was quick and accurate in my two weeks with the device. About every 10-12 tries it would get me to re-scan to unlock. This is better than what I’ve experienced with other mid-range smartphones with in-display fingerprint scanners.

Performance: All the speed you need

  • Snapdragon 765G
  • 1 x 2.4GHz, 1 x 2.2GHz, 6 x 1.8GHz
  • Adreno 620
  • 6/8/12GB RAM
  • 64/128/256GB storage
  • No microSD cards

Processor: Pint-sized power

The OnePlus Nord comes with a sub-flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, enabling good performance, as well as sub-6GHz 5G support. This is the first time that OnePlus has used anything but a flagship processor in one of its devices.

Battery: Business as usual

  • 4,115mAh battery
  • Warp Charge 30T fast charging (30W)

OnePlus breaks the 4,000mAh mark with the Nord’s battery. Combined with the power-efficient Snapdragon 765G, it makes for some good battery performance. I was easily able to get a full day of use, ending with about 20% left in the tank. This included both Wi-Fi and 4G connections, Bluetooth earphone connectivity, and lots of social media browsing.

OnePlus Nord review: The camera is meh at best

  • Rear:

    • Main: 48MP, f/1.8 (IMX586)
    • Ultra-wide: 8MP, f/2.3
    • Macro: 2MP, f/2.4
    • Depth: 5MP, f/2.4
  • Front:
    • Selfie: 32MP, f/2.5
    • Ultra-wide: 8MP, f/2.5
    • Video: 4K at 30fps
  • Video:
    • 4K at 30fps
    • 1080p at 60fps
    • 1080p at 240fps

The OnePlus Nord has a “flagship-class” camera, in that it shares the same main sensor with the OnePlus 8. However, to call the Nord’s images flagship quality would be incorrect. There’s no denying that it packs lots of versatility with its whopping six cameras. More, however, is not always better.

The Nord’s main 48MP camera takes acceptable images. There’s a reasonable amount of sharpness in photos, and it captures highlight detail well. However, the colours do seem to be washed out and aren’t always true to life. Moreover, there’s often a lot of contrast, with crushed shadows a problem in particular.

Software: A breath of fresh air

  • Android 10
  • Oxygen OS 10.5

Oxygen OS is known for its feature-rich, yet clean user interface. Running on top of Android 10, Oxygen OS 10.5 is no exception on the OnePlus Nord. You’ll find heaps of customization options and fluidity throughout. It comes with a total of seven non-Google “bloat” applications, most of which you are able to uninstall.

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