Not a huge improvement on its predecessor but better battery life and nippier performance make the Nord 2T a better phone
- Fastest phone in its price bracket
- Long battery life
- Lower asking price
- Portrait photography is mediocre
- 4K video isn’t stabilised
Competition is fierce in the budget and mid-price smartphone sector at the moment but despite that, OnePlus keeps producing new handsets and they continue to impress.
The latest is the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G and it’s a cracker. Not much is different from its predecessor, to be fair, but the improvements that have been made are worth having, adding up to a handset that pushes just in front of its rivals from Samsung, Realme and Apple.
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OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: What you need to know
OnePlus’ Nord range is a confusing one, so it’s worth pausing a moment and explaining where the Nord 2T fits in before going any further. In short, it sits at the top of the Nord range – just above the superb Nord CE 2. It would also sit just below the OnePlus 10, if that phone existed. Alas, we’re still waiting for that one.
Befitting its sub-£400 price, it comes fitted with one of the latest MediaTek chipsets – the Dimensity 1300 – and either 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 12GB and 256GB. The latter, however, adds £100 to the price.
As you’d expect, there’s also 5G connectivity and support for Wi-Fi 6 and in a surprise bonus, 80W Supervooc fast charging that will top up the phone from empty to 100% in a mere 27 minutes.
The display is a 6.43in 2,400 x 1,080 90Hz AMOLED unit topped with Gorilla Glass 5, with an in-screen fingerprint reader at the bottom and a 32MP, f/2.4 selfie camera peeping out through a small hole in the top-left corner.
The phone has three cameras on the rear: a 50MP (f/1.8) main camera, an 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide camera and (for what it’s worth) a 2MP monochrome lens.
OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Price and competition
The 8GB OnePlus Nord 2T 5G will set you back £369. At this price, its closest rival is the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G which is a phone that only recently rose to the top of our mid-priced smartphone charts.
This has a superior display (a slightly bigger and smoother 6.5in 120Hz Super AMOLED unit) and a sharper 64MP main camera. The OnePlus Nord 2T hits back, however, with a faster, more efficient chipset, better battery life and a more luxurious build.
Next on the list of potential alternatives is the iPhone SE 3 (2022). Thanks to its A15 Bionic chipset, it’s much, much faster than the OnePlus Nord 2T, although it’s undermined by poor battery life, a small screen and an outdated design.
Last, but by no means least, there’s the Realme 9 Pro Plus. Another sub-£400 bargain, which comes with a similar display to the OnePlus – a 6.4in, 1,080 x 2,400 90Hz AMOLED unit – and a similar camera arrangement. It has a slower MediaTek Dimensity 920 chipset, however.
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OnePlus Nord 2T review: Design and key features
It’s certainly a close-run thing between the Nord 2T and its nearest rivals so, naturally, you’d expect that it would be a big step forward over its predecessor as well. However, that isn’t the case, since there’s not a huge amount different to the OnePlus Nord 2.
The screen is the same – a 90Hz 1,080 x 2,400 AMOLED panel – it’s the same size (73 x 8.2 x 159mm) and weight (189g), and even the main camera is the same Sony IMX766 module. That’s no bad thing since I loved the OnePlus Nord 2 but I can’t help but be disappointed that OnePlus hasn’t seen fit to change things up a little more.
Still, OnePlus has introduced a new chipset and has given the phone a mild makeover with a newly designed camera housing at the rear of the phone. To my eye, the two larger chrome-ringed black circles with their accompanying LED flashes look neater than on the older Nord 2. I particularly like the way the lower circle hides not one camera lens, but two.
There’s nothing to be done, unfortunately, about the fact that one of them is a fairly worthless 2MP monochrome unit, though. I’d prefer OnePlus to have swapped over to a slightly more useful macro camera or, even better, an optical telephoto.
Other design changes have been kept to a minimum. The phone still has no official water or dust resistance rating, which means you’ll have to be careful when it rains. It hits back, however, with Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and rear of the handset, lending the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G a luxury feel that you might not have expected at this price. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, lovely though it is, is made from distinctly less exotic plastic at the rear, as is the Nord 2T’s less expensive stablemate – the OnePlus Nord CE 2.
As with most OnePlus phones, the Nord 2T comes with OnePlus’ three-position do-not-disturb slider switch, which gives you a quick way to flip the phone between “Ring”, “Vibrate” and “Silent” modes. There’s also the possibility to add two SIM cards to the tray situated at the bottom of the phone. Alas, there’s no microSD storage expansion here, or 3.5mm headphone jack alongside it, unlike the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite.
OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Display quality
The Nord 2T’s display is very good for the money but you’d expect that from an AMOLED screen. It feels smooth, with a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, it’s reasonably bright, reaching 430cd/m2 with auto-brightness disabled (and 556cd/m2 with it switched on), and it supports HDR10+ video with peaks of up to 512cd/m2.
As with most Android phones, you get a choice of colour modes but, fortunately, you don’t have to think too hard about which to select as there are only a couple here to pick between.
“Vivid” is the default. It delivers 111% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and is best suited to watching HDR content on Netflix or Disney Plus. Natural is the alternative; it’s a bit more muted, produces 105% of the sRGB gamut and is best suited for general web browsing and app use.
Neither mode is incredibly colour accurate but neither are they so bad that you’ll notice any serious issues. The average Delta E in Natural mode versus sRGB is just below 2, which means you’d have to be particularly sensitive to tell the difference between the colours on screen and the intended or real-world colours.
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OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Performance and battery life
The OnePlus Nord 2T is the first phone we’ve seen to come with MediaTek’s Dimensity 1300 chipset and, in our testing, it produced the goods.
This is an octa-core part built on a 6nm fabrication process and its eight cores are split into three categories: there’s one “Ultra” performance core clocked at up to 3GHz, three “Super” cores running at up to 2.6GHz and, finally, four efficiency cores run at up to 2GHz.
In the Geekbench 5 tests, single-core performance was, surprisingly, down on its rivals. However, multi-core performance saw it stretch out a small lead over its Android-based competition, although obviously not the iPhone SE (2022):
The nine-core Mali-G77 MC9 GPU was far more impressive, pushing the Nord 2T way out in front of the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and the Realme 9 Pro Plus, as evidenced by its 128fps result in the offscreen GFXbench Manhattan test. Again, the iPhone SE (2022) is way out in front but you’ll only ever see 60fps of that power anyway as the display is limited to 60Hz.
The good news doesn’t stop there, either, with the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G lasting for 23hrs 35mins in our video rundown battery test. That’s not the best we’ve seen in this price bracket – the Realme 9 Pro Plus lasted nearly two hours longer – but it’s still a strong result and means you should get between a day and two days per charge with moderate use. Plus, when you do run out of charge, it’s pretty quick to get back up and running with a full charge taking less than 30 minutes.
OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Cameras
If you’ve read my review of the OnePlus Nord 2T you might get a sense of déjà vu when you read this next section and that’s because the hardware behind the scenes – of the main camera at least – is identical. The good news is that the Nord 2T’s 50MP (f/1.8) Sony IMX766 sensor is still very good.
It has optical image stabilisation and in good light, it produces crisp, detail-packed images that are generally well exposed. It shoots 13MP images by default but you can switch to 50MP if you want to get even more detail-intense photographs.
The ultrawide camera isn’t quite as strong as the main unit but, again, it produces crisp, well-exposed images in good light. I’ve no major complaint about the ability of either camera to capture quality stills in ideal lighting conditions.
The third camera is a bit of an oddity. It’s a 2MP monochrome unit whose only purpose in life appears to be to add monochrome data to images captured with the other cameras, thus improving the quality of black and white imagery. However, since there’s no way of telling when this is enabled or disabled, it’s difficult to evaluate if there’s any point to it at all.
The phone’s portrait mode does a decent job without setting the world alight, cutting out faces successfully but blurring the background less convincingly, and smoothing skin rather too much for my liking. And OnePlus’ Nightscape mode continues to disappoint, too, producing images that are overly soft and muddy when it comes to detail reproduction. Interestingly, the magenta colour cast I noticed in daylight photographs is very much more pronounced in night shots.
You’re also not getting stupendous video recording, either. Like the Nord 2 before it, the Nord 2T is only capable of recording 4K at 30fps and unstabilised at that. You have to drop down to 1080p at 60fps if you want smooth, handshake free video.
The ability to shoot slow-motion footage at 960fps is a bonus, but again this is limited to 720p. If you want to move up to 1080p, the maximum frame rate is 480fps, while at 4K there’s no slow-motion capability at all.
OnePlus Nord 2T 5G review: Verdict
You could accuse OnePlus of phoning it in with the Nord 2T, since it’s so similar to its predecessor. But the reality is that this is a better phone than last year. It’s faster, looks a bit nicer and it charges even more quickly, too.
Most important, however, is that the OnePlus Nord 2T edges in front of its rivals as the best all-rounder in its category. And that’s just about all you can ask of a phone at any price point. If you’re looking to spend between £350 and £400 on a smartphone, this is now the phone to buy.