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OnePlus Nord review: OnePlus goes back to basics with cut-price winner

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
379
inc VAT, SIM-free

OnePlus' rethink handset is good-looking and packed with tempting specifications

Pros 
Handsome design
Decent battery life and performance
5G compatible
Cons 
No zoom camera
No wireless charging
Lacks a headphone jack
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OnePlus Nord contract deal: First six months half price with Three

If you're thinking about picking up the OnePlus Nord on contract, then Three has the best deal we've spotted. For the first six months of your 24-month contract, the monthly price is halved to just £21/mth (it's £42/mth after that). With unlimited data, calls and texts and an upfront cost of £21, this ends up costing you £911 by the end of your contract, which isn't too bad at all.
Three
£21/mth for first six months
£42/mth thereafter

OnePlus made its name by squeezing top-spec smartphone components into keenly priced products. However, that philosophy has gone by the wayside in recent times, as prices have steadily risen and the firm has elbowed its way onto the top table alongside the big names. The oddly titled OnePlus Nord is aimed at changing that; at re-establishing OnePlus once more as the king of budget smartphones; at helping OnePlus re-find its “true north”, as founder Carl Pei put it in a recent Instagram post.

With more brilliant budget phones on the market than ever before, however, jumping back in and winning cost-conscious customers over is going to be no simple task.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones you can buy today

OnePlus Nord review: What you need to know

From the looks of things, OnePlus has pitched the OnePlus Nord just about right. This is a smart-looking smartphone and it comes fully equipped with one of the latest 5G-enabled chipsets: the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G.

Other core specifications include 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (or 12GB and 256GB if you're willing to pay £90 more) and a 6.44in AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass at the back and front. The Nord has a total of six cameras: two at the front and four at the rear.

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OnePlus Nord review: Price and competition

The Nord is the most reasonably priced phone OnePlus has produced for years, costing a mere £379 for the basic variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage, or £469 for the model with 12GB and 256GB.

That's a very good price for a 5G-enabled phone but it still isn't the cheapest around. The Moto G 5G Plus, which comes with the same chipset and a similar array of features is even less at around £350 and there's also the Realme X50 5G, which costs £300 SIM-free.

The excellent iPhone SE (2020) is also a very capable rival; however, it's more expensive than the base OnePlus Nord, has a much smaller 4.7in display and suffers from shorter battery life.

OnePlus Nord review: Design and features

The OnePlus Nord, however, does feel a little less like a budget phone than its two rivals and any cutbacks are hard to detect. The Nord lacks an IP rating (just like its pricier sibling, the OnePlus 8), for instance, but the firm says it has undergone unofficial testing (at a depth of 30cm for 30 seconds) so it should be able to shrug off a light shower or two.

The glass on the front is of the flat variety rather than being curved at the edges but this isn’t a huge deal. With both the front and rear of the phone clad in Gorilla Glass 5, it should still resist fingerprints, scuffs and scratches nicely, and note: it also comes pre-fitted with a screen protector, as all OnePlus phones do.

Otherwise, the OnePlus Nord looks as good as phones costing hundreds more and it feels nicer in the hand than the Moto G 5G Plus. The screen fills most of the front of the phone, with narrow bezels above, below and to either side, and is punctuated only by two cameras, punched into a flat-sided oval in the top-left corner.

The OnePlus Nord is just as attractive from the rear as it is from the front. It’s available in two colours: the striking “blue marble” seen in the photos here and “grey onyx” for those who prefer a more sedate, businesslike appearance.

Both colours have a pleasant, faintly metallic sheen to them and the surrounding frame of the phone is colour-matched to the hue of that rear panel. The whole lot is offset by the phone’s four cameras, arranged in a vertical stack in the top-left corner.

Elsewhere, the buttons and ports are in exactly the same places you’d expect them to be on a OnePlus phone. On the right edge is OnePlus' trademark do-not-disturb slider and the power button. On the left is the volume rocker, with the bottom edge housing a USB-C port, SIM card tray and single speaker grille.

There's no 3.5mm headphone jack or wireless charging but you do get an in-screen optical fingerprint reader. All in all, it’s a pleasant enough phone to look at, if not particularly groundbreaking.

OnePlus Nord review: Battery life and charging

Underneath that attractive skin – alongside the Snapdragon 765G processor and 5G modem – is a 4,115mAh battery which, combined with said processor, looks like a decent promising combination for battery life.

Both Snapdragon Snapdragon 765-based phones we’ve reviewed so far – the Motorola Edge and Motorola Moto G 5G Plus – have lasted past the 20-hour mark in our video rundown test. And although both have larger batteries (4,500mAh and 5,000mAh respectively), the OnePlus Nord more than held its own, lasting 20hrs 22mins in the same test.

In real-world use, that should translate to a comfortable day's worth of moderate use and you might even be able to stretch it to two full days if you're careful with battery-sapping apps.

The phone also benefits from OnePlus' rapid charging tech, Warp Charge 30T, with a compatible charger included in the box – OnePlus claims this can charge the phone to 70% in 30 minutes.

And there's OnePlus' clever optimised charging tech included, which analyses your sleeping patterns and holds the charge at 80% until a couple of hours before you wake up and only then completes the charge. The idea is to keep the phone’s battery in good health for as long as possible.

OnePlus Nord review: Display

Given the price, you might think there would be some form of compromise on the display front but the Nord ticks most of the right boxes here as well.

Measuring 6.44in across the diagonal, it employs AMOLED tech, which delivers effectively perfect contrast and vivid colours. It even has the same high 90Hz refresh rate that the OnePlus 8 does, so scrolling through your Instagram feed feels silky smooth.

Resolution-wise, the OnePlus Nord’s 2,400 x 1,080 is as sharp as it needs to be at this size (it's the same as the OnePlus 8) and it performs well in our tests.

Measuring with a colorimeter, I saw maximum brightness peak at 304cd/m2 with a full white screen and up to 771cd/m2 in video playback with a small patch of white against a black background. That suggests HDR performance will be great, too, and so it proves, with bright, eye-searing specular highlights and a rich colour palette.

Colour accuracy is pretty good. In both the phone's Display P3 and sRGB colour modes the OnePlus Nord returned colour accuracy average Delta E scores of below 1.5, which means you won't see the difference between the colours on screen and those intended.

READ NEXT: The best budget smartphones you can buy today

OnePlus Nord review: Cameras

With six cameras arrayed across the front and rear of the phone, the Nord isn't short on options for the photo-obsessed.

At the front, you have an 8MP (f/2.4) ultrawide camera with a 105-degree field of view, and a high-resolution 32MP camera that can capture 4K video at 60fps.

At the rear, the main camera is a 48MP (f/1.75) Sony IMX586 module with a 1.2in sensor that captures 12-megapixel stills by default. That's another piece of hardware borrowed from the OnePlus 8, and my conclusions on it are much the same as Nathan's were when he reviewed that phone earlier in the year.

To summarise, it's really rather good. In good light, images are generally packed with detail and colours are pleasingly neutral. Indoors, in low light, OnePlus' image processing softens images a little but photographs still come out perfectly usable, and Nightscape works very nicely to lift out a little extra detail and colour in dim or dark scenes.



I'd say the main camera is on a par with the superb Apple iPhone SE (2020) but, given that you also have the option of ultrawide (8MP, f/2.2) and macro cameras (2MP macro, f/2.2), plus an extra ultrawide selfie camera at the front too, there's actually more that you can do with the OnePlus Nord.

There's no zoom lens, but here's a handful of samples from those other cameras:




These aren't up to the same standard as the main camera. They're noisier and not as sharp but as long as you shoot in good light, you'll be rewarded with acceptable photographs. Only the macro camera truly disappoints, with rather grainy, often blurry shots.

Video quality is decent but this is where the OnePlus Nord lets the side down somewhat. You can only shoot 4K at 30fps, so if you want 60fps you'll have to drop to 1080p. The stabilisation is as impressive as ever, though, and static footage is packed with detail, whether you're capturing in 4K 30fps or 1080p 60fps.

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OnePlus Nord review: Performance

The OnePlus Nord's Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset performed as expected. The results below are from the model with 12GB of RAM and with this extra helping of memory it stretched out a small lead over the Moto G 5G Plus, which has exactly the same chipset but only 8GB of RAM.

You'll also see from the benchmark graphs that the OnePlus Nord is noticeably quicker than both the Google Pixel 3A (rumoured to be replaced soon by the Pixel 4A) and the Sony Xperia 10 II, both of which use the older Snapdragon 670 and 665 respectively. Neither of these are 5G compatible.

The Nord feels exceedingly responsive, with that 90Hz display contributing to a superfluid feel all around. It's so good, in fact, that you do start to wonder why on Earth anyone spends more on a smartphone.

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OnePlus Nord review: Verdict

The big question is, does this go together to produce a smartphone that's worth buying? Or should you forget OnePlus altogether and opt for a cheaper rival?

In the end, it all comes down to how much you value build quality and looks over other, more practical concerns. The OnePlus Nord, certainly, is one of the best-looking phones we’ve come across at this price (£379). The specification is great, the battery life is very good and the camera isn't bad at all.

In the end, I'd just about give the nod to the Moto G 5G Plus because it's cheaper and has a larger, longer-lasting battery. There isn't much in it, though, and you certainly wouldn't be disappointed with the OnePlus Nord.

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