OnePlus Nord 2 Review: The OG OnePlus is Back!

OnePlus Nord 2 Review 5G
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The OnePlus Nord was a huge success and a very good midrange phone. But since then, the company’s cheaper entries in the Nord lineup, including the recent Nord CE haven’t really lived up to my expectations. However, finally, with the Nord 2, the original “Nord” charm seems to have made a comeback. So, let’s find out more in this full review of the OnePlus Nord 2.

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OnePlus Nord 2 Specifications:

  • Body: 73.3 x 159.1 x 8.2mm, 189 gm, Splash-proof design, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Display: 6.43-inches Fluid AMOLED, 90Hz Refresh Rate, Supports sRGB, Display P3, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels), 20:9 aspect ratio, 409 PPI
  • Chipset: MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI 5G (6nm Mobile Platform)
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×3.0 GHz Cortex-A78 & 3×2.6 GHz Cortex-A78 & 4×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • GPU: Arm Mali-G77 MC9
  • Memory: 6/8/12GB LPDDR4X RAM, 128/256GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Software & UI: Android 11 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11.3 on top
  • Rear Camera: Triple-camera;
    – 50MP, f/1.88 Sony IMX766 sensor, OIS
    – 8MP, f/2.25 ultra-wide camera, 119.7º FOV, EIS
    – 2MP f/2.4 monochrome lens
  • Front Camera: 32MP f/2.45 Sony IMX615 sensor (punch-hole)
  • Audio: Dual stereo speaker, No headphone jack
  • Security: Optical in-display fingerprint sensor, Face unlock
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass, Gyroscope, Proximity, SAR, Sensor Core
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.2, GPS / AGPS / Glonass / Galileo / Beidou / NavIC, USB Type-C, 4G LTE, 5G (dual SIM)
  • Battery: 4500mAh with 65W Warp Charge (65W adapter inside the box)
  • Color options: Gray Sierra, Blue Haze, Green Wood (India-exclusive)
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 59,999 (8/128GB) | Rs. 69,999 (12/256GB)

OnePlus Nord 2 Review:

Despite the Nord 2’s supposed triumph, in 2021, the competition in this mid-range price segment is incredibly stiff, especially here in the Asian market—thanks to the devices like the Poco F3 GT, Realme X7 Max, Mi 11X/Poco F3, and the likes.

Here, I have been using the Nord 2 and comparing it against the Realme X7 Max and the Poco F3 GT for the better part of 2 weeks now. With that out of the way, let’s get back to this review of the OnePlus Nord 2.

Design & Build

  • 73.3 x 159.1 x 8.2mm, 189 grams
  • Glass back/front, plastic frames
  • Splash-proof design, No IP rating

First, let’s start by talking about the design. When taking the OnePlus Nord 2 in my hands, I can’t help but notice its similarity with the first-gen Nord in terms of its size and weight. I have this Blue Haze color option with this porcelain finish which looks clean and minimalistic. I was kind of hoping to get the Green Wood variant but sadly, that’s exclusive for the Indian market.

Anyway, I love how handy the OnePlus Nord 2 feels in my little hands. It’s got a good heft and definitely feels better than the X7 Max or the Poco F3 GT for that matter. Of course, the F3 GT has a gaming-centric design, so it’s not really a fair comparison. But I think the mainstream audience will appreciate Nord 2’s design a bit more.

It even borrows the same camera layout as the more expensive OnePlus 9. And like I mentioned earlier, this phone isn’t that heavy or wide either—and more importantly, holding it feels like you have a premium phone in your hands.

Dual Gorilla Glass 5

Likewise, both its front and the back are protected by Gorilla Glass 5 which seems to be a popular choice for OnePlus in most of their devices, including the high-end ones. But I wouldn’t bet on its durability seeing how Geeky Ranjit sir’s unit has literally shattered falling off his hands.

And quite rightly so, he says that at the end of the day, it’s glass and glass breaks! So, it’s really up to your usage pattern and how good of a case and screen protector you end up using.

OnePlus Nord 2 - Design 1

Plus, the frames on the Nord 2 are also made of plastic. But thankfully, as you can see, the signature alert slider makes a comeback after its heavily criticized omission on the Nord CE. OnePlus has further cheaped out by including basic splash proofing here since there is no official IP rating on this phone. So, I had to be extra careful using the Nord 2 during this monsoon season.

Display

  • 6.43-inches FHD+ Fluid AMOLED display
  • 90/180Hz refresh/touch sampling rate
  • Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 protection

Moving on, apart from the similar form factor as the OnePlus Nord, these two phones’ display specs are quite similar as well. It’s the same 6.43- inch AMOLED screen with a 90Hz refresh rate and HDR10+ compliance.

Quality-wise, this is still a very good screen with accurate colors and excellent contrast. Its brightness is sufficient enough for both indoor and outdoor usage too. Additionally, unlike the original Nord, the punch hole cutout up top is not intrusive at all, so watching videos on this display has been a relatively more pleasant experience.

However, there are a few things that I am slightly disappointed with regarding the Nord 2’s screen. Firstly, it does not support HDR video playback on Netflix despite the aforementioned HDR10+ compliance. Therefore, I’ve had to be content with streaming only Full HD non-HDR videos on Netflix on the Nord 2.

Not the best-in-class display

Secondly, its 180Hz touch sampling rate isn’t any extraordinary like you would find on similarly priced Poco F3 GT, which boasts up to 480Hz of touch response. Even the Realme X7 Max and Xiaomi Mi 11X both feature 360Hz touch sampling rates.

OnePlus Nord 2 - Display 1

So, on my usage, I did notice the touch experience on the Nord 2 to be slightly inferior in comparison. It’s nothing of a dealbreaker, of course, but if you are coming from phones with a higher touch sampling rate, you will definitely notice the inferiority of the Nord 2’s touch latency.

And finally, this display has settled for a 90Hz refresh rate, while 120Hz has pretty much been the standard at this price bracket in 2021. Personally, I have no complaints regarding the 90Hz screen on the Nord 2 as OnePlus has optimized the 90Hz refresh rate pretty well.

But I genuinely think the company should have added a higher touch sampling rate, which would have certainly made the display experience better for gaming and especially for chatting. Regardless, this screen also houses an optical in-display fingerprint sensor which works fine until your hands are greasy or wet.

Audio quality

Besides that, OnePlus has improved its speaker quality by including a good set of stereo speakers here. It’s fairly loud and balanced. I even compared it against the Realme X7 Max and found that both of them do almost a similar job.

Similarly, OnePlus has included good haptics too, so the vibration feedback while typing on this phone is fairly satisfactory. I like the fact that the feedback is not too hard but not too soft at the same time—it’s kind of a perfect balance and I am quite happy about it.

Battery

  • 4500mAh battery with 65W fast charging

OnePlus Nord 2 - Charging

Now, while we are talking about the good stuff, I have to mention that I’m quite impressed with the dual 2250mAh battery on this phone. With the Ambient Display turned off, I got around 7 hours of SoT with my usage consisting of a couple of hours of watching YouTube videos, a lot of calling and texting, a good amount of social media, and some light gaming. So, it’s easily a proper all-day battery phone.

However, just like the more expensive OnePlus devices, I did notice 7-8% battery drainage overnight. As for charging, the Nord 2 juices up impressively fast, so the battery drain thing should not be that big a problem, I guess. Here, I graphed its charging speed to go from 0-100% in just 30 minutes with the 65 Watt Warp charger, which is quite impressive.

Performance

  • Octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI 5G SoC (6nm)
  • Up to 12GB LPDDR4x RAM, 128/256GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Android 11 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11.3 on top

Okay, now before moving on to the cameras, let’s talk about the performance of the Nord 2. The phone is powered by a custom Dimensity 1200-AI SoC, co-developed by OnePlus and MediaTek. OnePlus says that this doctored chipset offers improved response time for games and other apps, while it supposedly delivers better thermal and power efficiency compared to the standard Dimensity 1200.

Basically, the “AI” of it all comes into action in three facets: display, camera, and response times. While I’ve already been impressed with the regular Dimensity 1200 on the Realme X7 Max, I raised my expectations by just a little bit with the 1200-AI on the Nord 2.

OnePlus Nord 2 - Design 2

As you can see from these benchmarks, this MediaTek flagship processor performs almost similarly to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870. And, if we compare it against the original OnePlus Nord, the scores are almost double.

OnePlus Nord 2 POCO F3 GT POCO F3
AnTuTu v8.5 Total 512076 530183 593248
CPU 153940 152078 173606
GPU 178581 195223 241802
Memory 101635 94440 83277
UX 77920 88442 94563

To note, I got myself the 8GB RAM, 128GB storage variant of the phone, which is definitely a better value than the 12/256GB variant. And on my typical usage, it has provided me with an excellent experience, akin to using a flagship OnePlus phone.

Apart from the AI enhancements, the company has optimized this chipset really well to run day-to-day activities smoothly with no overheating issues either. Multitasking between even the heaviest of apps does not put pressure on this phone and on top of this, its UI is incredibly fluid and responsive.

OxygenOS x ColorOS

Talking of UI, Nord 2 runs on OxygenOS version 11.3. Now, after the announcement of merging the OxygenOS and OPPO’s ColorOS codebase, the former has seen a slight change. Is it a dealbreaker in any way? No, absolutely not! Apart from the camera app and slight changes in the settings menu, everything is pretty much the same.

I know that many of the OG OnePlus fans aren’t that accepting of this development—heck, even I am not very happy about it. But until and unless there are unrecognizably significant changes with the Oxygen OS, I am not complaining.

Gaming experience

Regardless, the OnePlus Nord 2 is certainly a good if not a perfect device for gaming as well. Here, high-end titles like Genshin Impact are playable in the highest settings under 60 fps mode. But under this, you will notice slight lags every now and then. Scaling down the graphics to High and keeping 60fps intact, I got a steady 40 fps on this phone, which is quite good.

OnePlus Nord 2 - Gaming

Even with PUBG Mobile, you can easily achieve a stable 40 fps under HDR graphics and Ultra frame rates. For even smoother gameplay, you can dial down the setting to Extreme frame rates and Smooth graphics, which delivers a constant 60fps gaming experience without breaking a sweat.

OnePlus has also promised to introduce 90 fps gameplay in a list of games. As of now, 90 fps optimized games such as Critical Ops and Oddmar can hit only 60pfs on the Nord 2. The Realme X7 Max, on the other hand, already has 90 fps mode in games like PUBG Mobile.

Moving on, relatively less demanding titles like Call of Duty run well in 60 fps even in the highest settings. Testing it alongside the Poco F3 GT, well, we got a pretty similar gameplay experience except for the fact that the Nord 2 was able to keep itself relatively cool while the Poco F3 GT heated near the camera module.

But then again, if you are a hardcore gamer, I would suggest you go for the Snapdragon 870-powered Poco F3 or the iQOO 7 for even better gaming performance. As you can see from this table, you will be able to get more stable gameplay in demanding titles like Genshin Impact and PUBG Mobile from phones with Snapdragon 870 onboard.

Cameras

  • Triple camera setup at the back
  • (50MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP mono)
  • 32MP selfie camera in the punch-hole cutout

On to the cameras, the Nord 2 features a triple camera setup that includes a 50MP primary, an 8MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP monochrome lens. For this review, I compared the cameras on OnePlus Nord 2 against the Realme X7 Max and Poco F3 GT to find out which of the three is the best mid-range camera phone.

Normal Images

For the most part, I like the images from Nord 2’s primary camera.

It’s got appreciable dynamic range and details while producing natural-ish colors in most scenarios.

As you can see from these samples, the photos are not extra punchy like from Realme X7 Max, nor does it have a bit more contrast like on the Poco F3 GT. However, it does struggle in focusing on close-up subjects while the Realme X7 Max does it better.

Wideangle Images

Images from its 8MP ultra-wide camera do not have as impressive dynamic range and details as the primary images though.

I found Realme’s ultra-wide shots to be brighter and have a slightly better dynamic range as well.

Portrait Images

About the portraits, well, I am not a huge fan of both the Nord 2 and X7 Max in this regard. In fact, you can keep the Poco F3 GT in the same league too.

Nord 2’s portraits look highly beautified, have this unnatural yellow tone, and the blur looks unnatural the majority of the time. Realme X7 Max, on the other hand, produces this pink tint in the subject although the background looks slightly better.

And as expected from a Xiaomi midrange phone, Poco F3 GT’s portraits are dark and don’t have a pleasing background. So, for human subjects, I wouldn’t say any of these phones perform that good, and definitely need better optimization.

Selfie Images

Selfies from the 32MP lens of the OnePlus Nord 2 aren’t that good either.

It is lacking in contrast and the subjects look extremely pale.

Portraits selfies are slightly smoothened and the edge detection is average only. So, you can say that the Nord 2 is not a great selfie phone.

Nighttime Images

When it comes to nighttime photography, its images have acceptable sharpness but the Realme X7 Max’s images are clearly brighter with higher detail levels.

With the night mode turned on, the brightness and details improve significantly on both these phones.

Videography

In terms of videos, the OnePlus Nord 2 does a good job in stabilizing the 4k 30 fps videos, thanks to OIS, while Realme’s output is quite shaky and over-saturated. Do note that the OnePlus Nord 2 crops the videos by a bit to maintain better steadiness.

Likewise, with the 1080p 60 fps videos, the OnePlus Nord 2 comes out victorious with its slightly cropped, yet steadier results in comparison with Realme X7 Max. Regardless, the 1080p 30 fps videos are stabilized on both phones though.

OnePlus Nord 2 Review: Conclusion

To wrap up this review, the OnePlus Nord 2 is certainly a healthy upgrade over last year’s Nord—no doubts on that! And with the Nord 2, I feel like OnePlus is back with the kind of value-for-money it used to provide a few years ago.

OnePlus Nord 2 - Display 2

At the same time, I think this phone also takes away the appeal of the more expensive OnePlus 9R and even the OnePlus 9 with its value-packed all-rounder performance. But again, this is not a perfect midrange phone. Its ultra-wide and selfie cameras are pretty average and the display isn’t as good as the competition.

Yet, looking at the overall positive aspects, I would definitely recommend the Nord 2 to anyone who is looking for a reliable midrange phone. Yet, be sure to pick the 8/128GB variant instead of the 12/256GB variant, which I think misleads the value proposition of this phone.

  • Watch our video review of the OnePlus Nord 2.

OnePlus Nord 2 Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Ergonomic design
  • Vibrant AMOLED display
  • Nice speaker, haptics
  • Decent battery life
  • 65W Warp charging
  • Powerful performance
  • Competitive cameras

Cons:

  • No IP certification
  • Only 90Hz refresh rate
  • Only 180Hz touch sampling rate
  • Sub-par ultrawide, selfie camera
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
8.5
Display
8.5
Performance
9.5
Back Cameras
8
Front Camera
8
Software & UI
10
Battery
9
Speaker & Haptics
8.5
Value for Money
9