Nord is the new lineup in OnePlus smartphones started with the original Nord released in August 4, 2020. This is the long awaited budget midrange oneplus phone since the 2015 OnePlus X known for flagship killer smartphone. The Nord isn't a true flagship but it is a true all-rounder that is very efficient with its SD765G processor and performs really well till now no matter what application you run on the device. It has a glass and plastic build with a capable camera system that you can modify with the google camera mod for a significant bump up in image quality. So in this detailed review I am here to make your doubts clear about buying this smartphone starting with what's inside the box.
OnePlus is always good with packaging and sometimes can surprise you with the packaging. This time they are able to surprise their customers because of the new sandwich look of Nord's box. When you open the box first you will see the phone and then after taking it out you will get the warp charger and type-c cable. The big warp charger is capable of 30 watt fast charging at 5 volt 6 amp. I like the quality and look of the charger and cable. To surprise me there were many kinds of 1+ stickers (pretty cool) included with other papers and user manuals. With oneplus phone you get a red cable club membership card. I liked it and with the dedicated sign up feature for the card you can extend your device's warranty period. So some really cool features and accessories there to get you up and running.
Some smartphone brands do include a TPU case but they are not well designed. OnePlus also included a case with the Nord too but I kinda like their approach here. The case looks good and has some protection too. There is a little flap to protect the type-c port from dust and that was really a cool implementation in my opinion.
Nord has a fairly premium build and design considering it as a budget midranger. The frame is made of poly carbonate material but I kinda wanted it to be a metal frame. To be honest it kinda looks like metal but doesn't feel like metal. It has glass front and glass back also it's the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 that they're using in Nord. I am not a fan of the port cutouts because it's not smo-oth enough also feels kinda sharp on the edges. So because of the super smooth front and back glass Nord looks premium. It will become slippery if you're not using a case and as it is not a frosted glass back panel, you can see fingerprints there. The phone is neither too wide nor too tall and very comfortable to hold (about 184 grams).
Volume buttons are on the left side and the power button is on right side along with the signa-ture OnePlus alert switch. Top portion has only a secondary microphone cutout. Bottom portion has a type-c port, primary mic cutout and the sim tray section. There is no weird cracks if you twist the phone little bit. It feels durable enough with its 8.2 mm thin body. So overall pretty solid build but not as premium as metal and glass build.
Nord has 6.44 inch fluid AMOLED display which is capable of refreshing the screen at 90 hz. So the display has quality features as a midrange smartphone. I really love the smooth 90 hz display and I kept it always at 90 hz. The display is good in quality and color accuracy but not a great display. Probably this is the best display in budget oneplus phones. I can see where its faults are even though it is HDR 10+ supported. The black scenes are often crashed at low brightness also the display has slight green tint issue.
It's a FHD display with the resolution of 2400 x 1080 and has 408 ppi density. These numbers can tell you that this is a pretty decent quality display and it's true. On top of these display features Nord has also support for widevine l1 that can work on streaming services. Overall considering all the modern features, I think it's a great display for a midrange smartphone which can offer you a smooth flagship experience but the only deal-breaker here is it's not a very good display at night where you may want to run it at minimum brightness.
It's good to see that the cheaper OnePlus Nord has the same main camera sensor of more expensive OnePlus 8 series. Nord's main sensor is capable enough because it's using 48 MP SONY IMX586 sensor which is used in flagship smartphones. Nord is packing a total of 6 cameras including 2 front facing cameras. So on the back side there are the main camera, wide angle camera (8 MP), depth sensor (5 MP) and a tiny macro sensor (2 MP). The front main camera is 32 MP and the front wide angle camera is 8 MP which is very useful for group selfies. We'll see image quality in details in the next section.
I will focus more on the main and wide cameras because the macro camera is there to only increase the camera sensor count instead of being somewhat useful. Only the main 48 MP sensor has OIS built-in and this is great for stable video and clean image. Even though Nord has capable sensor, I ain't happy with their image processing algorithms.
OnePlus Nord can take really nice images when the camera sensor gets enough light. But in daytime shots when the environment is cloudy sometimes the shadows are crashed in dark areas and the images look a little over exposed. But the overall dynamic range is pretty great in bright scenarios. You can experience shutter lags in dark conditions but it's fine in well lit areas. Now take a look at some daytime images.
These are some daytime shots taken on the Nord. The last image is a portrait shot which is pretty good with nice background blur. When it comes to portrait shot of human faces, Nord cannot render the skin tone well. It often gets messed up with the auto exposure and tends to over expose the face which results in unnatural skin tone.
The edge detection is pretty good in Nord. The images are neither too saturated nor too flat but lack of details and sharpness there sometimes in tricky scenarios. So it takes decent overall photos in daytime situations. If you adjust the exposure manually, you can get a much better exposed image with more details. HDR is auto here and works fine but photos are inconsistent in quality almost 30% of the time.
At night when there is enough indoor artificial light, Nord can take decent photos but the color science is not good in low light conditions. You may see unnatural colors with over exposed images. There is noise, less details, softness and over processing going on with the images. The images are not consistent and sometimes the object can get out of focus. Also terrible shutter lag is present in low light scenes with the default camera mode. I took some good shots in low light situations and let's take a look.
The first and last photos are taken with nightscape mode. I kinda like the first shot a lot. In the nightscape mode the details and colors are preserved well. Even though it kinda processes the image with more light which can often make the image look like it was taken in daylight but overall impressive result. It's really good that the processing time is around 2-4 seconds and Nord's nightscape photos are actually much better than their old flagship phone OnePlus 8. So Nord can compete with more expensive phones in night mode photos and oneplus did a very good job with the nightscape image processing there.
OnePlus Nord has two selfie cameras. The main camera is pretty good at its job and the wide camera can take nice photos in nice well lit conditions. There is overexposure problem with the front cameras too but you can solve this problem manually by moving the exposure slider down a bit. This manual exposure will give you detailed sharp selfies. The skin tone is also pretty natural with manually controlled exposure.
As you can see from the images, Nord's selfie cams tend to overexpose human faces. But it is not too much or terrible to look. Sometimes the selfies look pretty good with right white balance that can look more close to natural. Portrait shots are decent too with good edge detection and nice background blur but not consistent always.
You can shoot at 1080p 30/60 fps video and 240 fps video for slow motion. It is maxed out at 4K 30 fps and because of possible heating problems Nord cannot shoot at 4K 60 fps from the rear camera. With Nord you get amazing OIS built-in and this can be a game changer in budget smartphones. Because of OIS the video is very smooth and I really love shooting videos with the Nord. You'll get a contrasty look here.
The video is also good from the front facing cameras. It's even better because of having support for 4K 60 fps recording. 4K 60 fps is noticeably better than 30 fps but it's not OIS type smooth here. The stabilization is good enough though. From the rear camera you can shoot slow motion video at 1080p 240 fps. So pretty hi-res slo-mo recording that you can do with the Nord. Overall I will say pretty solid performer in video section.
OnePlus Nord has two mics and it can do binaural recording pretty good. One mic is at the bottom and the other one is at the top. So they are widely separated from each other and this gives nice stereo separation that you get from the video recording only. I like the audio quality a lot even though the gain is a little low. The output is a fuller balanced sound signature with smooth mids and highs. The low sub bass is there too in the recording and the highs are not harsh or tiny which is really good for content creation.
The powerhouse and brain of Nord is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765G chipset that has 5G modem built-in to the chip. The processor isn't in flagship category but it's capable enough even in under heavy load. And the good thing is the 765G is an efficient chip that consumes less mah from the battery than other 800 series chips from Qualcomm. Nord is capable of handling big games, 4K HDR videos and literally almost every task including even multitasking smoothly. The phone can get little bit warm but not too much like other snapdragon chip running flagship phones. It doesn't cross 42 degree celsius if I play heavy games for half an hour but can cross the mark if I record 1080p 60 fps video for 30 minutes continuously. So overall pretty nice balance of performance and efficiency. I did test the processor to see the numbers to get an idea of where it stands among other phones.
As you can see the test results are actually pretty good. In geekbench 5 test I got 621 in single-core and 1952 in multi-core performance. The AnTuTu benchmark score was 329942 which is pretty good too. My variant of oneplus nord is 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal memory. It's UFS 2.1 and as you know the read and write speeds are pretty decent. It actually can transfer big files pretty quickly in everyday scenarios. So overall Nord has capable hardware that delivers solid performance in real life usage.
Nord is running on Oxygen OS 10 which is based on Android 10 and in combination the overall user experience is smooth, clean and fast to satisfy most users. The well known light and fast android skin oxygen os 10 is very clean and smooth in Nord. The 90 hz high refresh rate helps a lot here to bring up the smooth user experience. The problem is some third party apps are less optimized and don't work well with 90 hz display. There are some minor bugs here and there and some occasional heck ups but nothing major that can be a deal-breaker. Nord will get 2 years of android update and 3 years of security update.
It's good that Nord came with the warp charger that is fast enough. The full charging time is about 50-60 minutes. They are claiming that nord can do 70% fast charge within just 30 minutes. It can be true but not always. So the warp charge 30T is pretty crazy at 5 volt 6 amp. The device doesn't heat up during charging but if you use it while charging then it can heat up badly. I love the red cable which is pretty thick and durable.
I can manage to get around 7-8 hours of screen on time with my Nord. As you know this is a very good amount of battery backup time. If you do regular gaming you can kill it within a day while getting 6 hours of backup time. I can pass more than a day easily with average use. Also Nord can be charged up quickly, so solid battery (4115 mah) performance.
I really love the compact design of OnePlus Nord. It is a very comfortable hold in your hand. The glass front and glass back design can give you a premium feel. It's a pretty clean, smooth and simple design. Then you get capable camera system with OIS that can really improve the video quality. In the performance section Nord did pretty good with its SD765G processor. The battery life is solid with warp charge at 30 watt which is quick enough. What you get with OnePlus phones is their clean oxygen os experience which is very special. So Nord is a very good app-ealing overall complete package for around 400 dollars.
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