Last year, OnePlus Nord took a wrecking ball to its competition. It was cheap and had a great user experience. In many ways, it felt like a top model, but it certainly wasn’t priced like one. The new Nord CE 5G is its direct successor – one that is not only a cheaper model but a successor. And on paper, it looks promising – it’s even got a couple of features that the original lacked – it is both thinner and has a headphone jack.
Although a headphone jack is nice to have, the most important question for a phone this cheap: Is it fast enough to use? What’s the user experience and software like?
Still a top model!
Like its predecessor, Nord CE still has a premium feel, and it’s even thinner! It’s sleek and stylish, and modern. The back is plastic, which is something I very much appreciate – and something we’ve also seen from Samsung and other top brands. I never understood my colleagues’ fawning over cellphones made with glass backs. Premium feel, you say? Liability, in my own opinion, and the supposed premium feel of a glass back disappears as you’re basically forced to use a phone case for protection.
A medium-sized camera bump quite like that of the Huawei P30 models is on the back of the phone, in addition to two volume buttons, a customizable “power button”, with the headphone jack at the bottom. The fingerprint reader is built into the screen and is placed at the very bottom like Samsung’s usually are. I would have preferred it to be higher up and centered on the screen, but my hands are quite big.
Every OnePlus phone seems to come with a quick and responsive screen, and Nord CE is no different. It has a comfortable and fast 6.43-inch Fluid AMOLED screen with a 90hz refresh rate, which provides a good balance between agility, eye comfort during use, and battery life. In 90hz mode, the phone itself adjusts the rate as needed.
In terms of quality, there are better screens for both brightness and color reproduction – this is one of those OLED screens that can sometimes seem slightly paler than other OLEDs – but you usually find them on top models costing twice or three times as much. Nord CE offers a screen that’s eternally better than those cheap LCD screens you can still find on many budget phones.
Netflix viewing in HDR looks really good, and the 90hz support provides a smooth experience. This is a great phone to watch videos on, with strong brightness and vivid colors.
OnePlus Nord CE runs on a Snapdragon 750G 5G, which offers some 20% increase in CPU and 10% increase in GPU performance compared to its predecessor – and it runs smooth. The Oxygen OS menus are super quick, during the week of testing I didn’t experience a single delay. There are not that many top models able to give you the pace and the flow that Nord CE manages to create. And it’s not just the menus either. Entering and exiting apps go smoothly and quickly. The behavior is predictable and good, and I have not experienced major bugs during the testing.
OnePlus Nord CE takes very good photos, brilliant for its price point, but understandably not as good as, say, Huawei’s top models. It offers a 64-megapixel primary camera with HDR, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera, and a 2-megapixel mono camera. On the front, it sports a 16-megapixel camera. The night mode is also surprisingly good, and this is one area budget phones rarely shine.
Good at all the basics
The battery in Nord CE is slightly larger than its predecessor and should be plenty to last you a full day of heavy use. Like last year’s model, you will get a fast charger included in the box. The phone has a single speaker at the base, and the phone comes with a headphone jack. The sound during phone calls is good, both loud and clear. As usual, the software from OnePlus has many nice features where you can customize your phone more than what Samsung and Apple allow you.
A phone at this price with a screen like this, with storage space and specifications good enough to last you for several years, is a rarity! It might seem unfair to OnePlus that I’ve constantly compared Nord CE to top models from other top producers, but the truth is – I find the Nord CE good enough to be compared to them. This is a budget phone that offers a top model experience, OnePlus is a master of making cost cuts where you don’t notice them, unimportant stuff like wireless charging or the choice of plastic over glass. It might not rank at the top on paper, or in pure performance tests – but it gives you a top experience!
OnePlusGlobal, the official store authorized by OnePlus, is running a promotion for our readers during their summer sale. The first 500 orders of smartphones during their summer sale will get a OnePlus mystery box (containing any one of the OnePlus Nord CE / OnePlus Watch / OnePlus Buds Z / OnePlus gaming triggers).
OnePlusGlobal offers a solid guarantee, if you ever receive a fake product from them you get 5 times the purchase price back!