The second addition to the OnePlus Nord line is a little cheaper but sacrifices too many of its predecessor’s strengths
- Solid IPS screen
- Decent camera performance
- £50 less than the original Nord
- Stripped-back processor and RAM
- Weaker gaming performance
- Rival batteries last longer
The original OnePlus Nord, which only came out in the summer, was OnePlus’ attempt to recapture some of the mid-range ground it lost by focussing on more expensive flagship phones. Now, hot on the heels of the Nord comes the Nord N10, knocking £50 off the price and launching at £329.
READ NEXT: The best mid-range smartphones
Externally, it’s a struggle to find a difference between the two, with this new model being only a millimeter or two larger than its sibling in every direction. However, below the surface, OnePlus has shaved its specification in a number of places to hit its more affordable price.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: What you need to know
First up, let’s look at the similarities between the Nord N10 and the original Nord. Both devices are 5G ready, so there’ll be no need to upgrade your smartphone again when 5G takes off in your area. Both have smooth-scrolling 90Hz screens with resolutions of 2,400 x 1,080 pixels, which are so similar in size you wouldn’t notice the difference without a ruler.
To find where the phones differ, you have to take a peek inside. The N10 uses a Snapdragon 690 processor, where the original had a Snapdragon 765. The N10 also reduces the RAM down to 6GB, from the 8 or 12GB options available in the original Nord. Storage is limited to 128GB, which is the same as the basic 8GB RAM version of the original, though you can use a microSD card to boost this by another 512GB. Lastly, the display technology is a step down from the AMOLED panel used in the original, to an IPS jobby in the new N10.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Price and competition
£329 is at the lower end of the price we might expect to pay for a mid-range smartphone and, as a result, there’s stiff competition. I’ve already compared it to the original Nord, which launched less than six months before the N10 and only £50 more at £379.
However, even closer in price is the Google Pixel 4a, which launched at £349 and is already available at a discount if you shop around. Not only does this have a stripped-back Android experience, but it’s also got one of the best cameras we’ve seen on a phone at this price.
In order to get a larger display, you could opt for the Moto G 5G Plus, which has a 6.7in screen and has dropped well below the £300 mark. We’d also recommend you take a look at our battery tests, below, since the Samsung Galaxy M31 with its larger 6,000mAh battery is a better bet if you need something that will last a little longer. It’s even cheaper at around £245, too.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Design and key features
There’s nothing unusual about the shape or size of the OnePlus Nord N10. The back curves gently to the sides, balancing nicely in an adult-sized hand. The rear is smooth but made from plastic and feels warmer to the touch than the cool Gorilla Glass 3-coated screen on the front.
READ NEXT: Best phone camera
Annoyingly, it collects fingerprints like they’re going out of fashion. In a marked transition from the norm it only comes in one color, Midnight Ice, which is very dark, very glossy grey, not quite as black as the plastic around the camera lenses.
There are only two buttons around the edge: a power button on the right that you can easily reach with your finger; and a volume rocker on the left for your thumb. The rear-mounted fingerprint reader is well positioned below the bank of cameras, which has been squashed into a squatter, more rectangular arrangement than the vertical column on the original Nord.
The front is mostly taken up by the screen, though its bezels are significant and it doesn’t go right to the edge of the phone’s case. The top bezel is a little thicker than the sides, and the bottom is bigger again – not wide enough to add physical buttons but enough to make it noticeable and visually unbalanced. The reason for this is probably the 3.5mm headphone socket, which was lacking from the original Nord. The camera occupies a hole in the top-left corner of the screen, nestled within the icons in the system tray.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Display
The OnePlus Nord N10 uses an IPS panel rather than the AMOLED screen you’ll find on the original OnePlus Nord. This is disappointing, because AMOLED screens offer perfect contrast, which is a great base from which to spring all the other elements that make smartphone screens great. However, in our testing the N10’s IPS performed solidly.
In the colorimeter tests, the contrast measured 1,668:1, with brightness maxing out at 477cd/m2. This can’t quite compete with the infinite contrast you find on the AMOLED screens of the original OnePlus Nord and the Google Pixel 4a, but it pips the slightly cheaper Moto G 5G’s IPS screen.
READ NEXT: Best phone battery life
The good news continued with the colour tests, where I measured it covering 97.5% of the sRGB gamut, which is a fundamentally excellent result. Its Delta E score was below 1.5, which basically means your eyes aren’t going to be able to detect any discrepancies between the colours you’re expecting to see and the colours that are actually displayed.
In short, my initial disappointment with the screen not being an AMOLED model was smashed out of the park by a superlative performance in testing.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Performance and battery life
Compared to the Snapdragon 765G in the original OnePlus Nord, the Snapdragon 690 is an obvious cutback. In the Geekbench 5 tests, it didn’t perform as strongly as the original Nord, but I was pleasantly surprised that it only fell slightly behind
The OnePlus Nord N10 scored 605 in the single-core test compared to the original Nord’s 606; and 1,866 in the multi-core test, where the original Nord reached 1,945. As you can see from the chart below, it also outpaced the Google Pixel 4a and the Moto G 5G Plus.
However, while it can keep up in general use, the difference in graphical performance is significantly more pronounced. In the GFXBench tests, the N10 recorded 33fps in the onscreen Manhattan 3 test and 37 fps offscreen. This isn’t way behind the likes of the Google Pixel 4a (37 and 40fps, respectively) but it drifts behind the more graphically powerful OnePlus Nord by a good margin, with that phone reaching 50fps in the onscreen test and 56fps offscreen.
This is going to come to the fore if you’re thinking of pushing the boundaries of your gaming out of Candy Crush and into first-person shooters and racing games, so if you’re looking for the best performance in the latest titles, you won’t really find it in the OnePlus Nord N10.
OnePlus rates the Nord N10’s battery at 4,300mAh and in our video rundown test it lasted for 17hrs 53mins before giving up. This is a few hours short of the original OnePlus Nord, which could manage in excess of 20 hours, and is beaten by everything else we’ve compared it to expect for the power-devouring iPhone SE (2020).
Thankfully, one area where OnePlus hasn’t cut things back is in its 30W Warp charging tech, which OnePlus says can take your phone’s battery from empty to a day’s worth of charge in only 30 minutes. So while it might not last quite as long, it should be faster to get back to full strength.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Camera
The OnePlus Nord N10 has four rear cameras and a single camera on the front. The main camera unit is a 64MP sensor with an aperture of f/1.79, alongside an 8MPwide-angle camera with a 119-degree field of view and a f/2.25 aperture. Its macro lens is a 2MP model (f/2.4) and it also has a monochrome camera with the same 2MP (f/2.4) specification.
Taking a landscape shot in standard mode, the camera performed well. There’s plenty of detail and the images are sharp with rich-looking colours. It compares well to the same shot taken on a Google Pixel 4a, in fact, which has a particularly good camera.
Switching between the main camera’s 16MP and 64MP modes is achieved with a single button, which is located in the middle of the top menu. Tapping this reminds you of the limits of each mode, with the lower-res images supposedly offering improved High Dynamic Range to counter the benefits of higher resolution. Having said that, in good light, the only difference I could make out between the two settings was an increase in detail in the 64MP images.
When taking the same shot on the wide-angle setting, I found the results were a bit smudgy. It certainly does the job of capturing more of a scene, but it sacrifices a lot in the way of detail.
Taking a selfie with the front camera (16MP with an aperture of f/2.05) I found the subject was brightly exposed without sacrificing too much detail, and the background suitably blurred. It wasn’t as texturally interesting as the same shot taken on a Google Pixel 4a but in decent light this will capture good enough selfies for most purposes.
OnePlus Nord N10 5G review: Verdict
The original OnePlus Nord forged a brave path through tough mid-range competition, and it’s still battling on. This makes the Nord N10 5G’s job a doubly tough one, because it’s only £50 cheaper, but has suffered a few minor cuts that start to stack up against it. The Nord N10 has a weaker processor – which is particularly hampered in its graphics performance – less RAM, which also doesn’t help its performance; and a downgraded screen (AMOLED is always better).
To make matters worse, it hasn’t significantly risen above the competition from other manufacturers, which trumps most of its features depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for a better camera, for example, you might want to consider the Google Pixel 4a. For a longer battery life, look to the Samsung Galaxy M31 instead.
None of this makes the OnePlus Nord N10 a terrible phone by any stretch of the imagination, but it simply doesn’t push hard enough against the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from a mid-range phone to make it a must-have.
|OnePlus Nord N10 specifications
|Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 5G (2x2GHz, 6×1.7GHz)
|2,400 x 1,080
|Screen refresh rate
|Dust and water resistance
|3.5mm headphone jack
|USB connection type
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|Yes (shared with microSD)
|163 x 74.7 x 8.95
|Android 10 (OxygenOS)