OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review: Too Little To Cheer

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review
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In this OnePlus Nord CE 2 review, I’ll be discussing all about this mid-range phone. As OnePlus’ flagship number series has crept up the price ladder in recent years, the Nord lineup emerged to democratize the classic OnePlus experience in the mid-range segment. I personally liked the first-gen Nord and even the Nord 2 for that matter. But the cheaper entries in this series—notably the Nord CE from last year, haven’t really lived up to my expectations.

To me, they felt more of an Oppo phone, bereft of the OnePlus character that we’ve come to expect. It’s no longer a secret that OnePlus is relying on Oppo for its budget and mid-range devices. And the latest goof-proof of this merger is the Nord CE 2.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 7.32 x 16.06 x 0.78 cm; 173 grams
  • Display: 6.4-inch 90Hz OLED, HDR 10+, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels), 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 900 5G (6nm)
  • CPU: Octa-core (2x Cortex-A78 @ 2.4 GHz, 6× Cortex-A55 @ 2.0 GHz)
  • GPU: Mali-G68 MC4 @ 900 MHz
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR4X RAM
  • Sotrage: 128GB UFS 2.2 storage (expandable up to 1TB)
  • Rear Camera: Triple
    – 64MP f/1.79 primary
    – 8MP f/2.2 ultrawide, 119° FOV
    – 2MP f/2.4 macro
  • Front Camera: 16MP f/2.4 Sony IMX471 (punch-hole cutout)
  • Software: Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.3
  • Battery: 4500mAh with 65W SuperVOOC charging
  • Security: Optical in-display fingerprint sensor, Face unlock
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Electronic Compass, Gyroscope, Ambient Light, Proximity, Sensor Core
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.1, GPS / AGPS / Glonass / Galileo / Beidou / NaVIC, USB Type-C, NFC, 4G LTE, 5G
  • Colors: Gray Mirror, Bahamas Blue
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 47,499 (8/128GB)

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review:

While the CE 2 is the successor to the first-gen Nord CE—more than that—it’s a rebranded Oppo Reno 7 or Find X5 Lite after all.

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“It’s six of one, half a dozen of another”, huh, OnePlus… or Oppo?

But I believe that for anyone who is considering buying this phone, the whole rebranding thing simply doesn’t matter. So, is the Nord CE 2 worth the price—and how does it compare against the Realme 9 Pro+, which is a fantastic mid-range phone that we recently reviewed? Let’s find out in this review of the OnePlus Nord CE 2.

Design

  • 7.32 x 16.06 x 0.78 cm; 173 grams
  • Polycarbonate back/frame, glass front

As usual, let’s start with the design first. Besides its familiarity with the Reno 7, the Nord CE 2 is visibly different from its predecessor. More specifically, OnePlus has gone with a Nord 2-like camera layout at the back which looks pretty modern.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Design - 1

Moreover, if you look closely, its rear panel blends seamlessly with the camera stack—a knockoff of the much more expensive Oppo Find X5 Pro. Oh, and the Nord CE 2 skips an alert slider as well!

Anyway, measuring just 7.8mm thick and weighing just 173 grams, the phone feels almost non-existent in the pocket. OnePlus has achieved this impressive lightweight build partly thanks to the polycarbonate body and plastic frames.

However, the company could’ve struck a balance between premium build quality and lightweight design like the Realme 9 Pro+ by providing a glass back here. To be honest, the glass sandwich builds on the latter has quite a premium hands-on feel. And weirdly enough, I found the back of the Nord CE 2 to be a bit hollow as well.

I’m not sure if it’s a manufacturing defect on my unit since I haven’t seen other reviewers complain about this. Regardless, this slim design feels quite ergonomic in the hand, while the slight curves at the back further aid in a comfortable grip.

Display

  • 6.43-inches FHD+ Fluid AMOLED display
  • 90Hz refresh rate, Supports sRGB, P3, HDR 10+
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front

Getting to the front, it has the same 6.43-inch Full HD AMOLED screen as last year. But now, OnePlus has gone with a tougher Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection versus AGC Dragontrail on the Nord CE.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Display

Being an AMOLED panel, the core quality of this display is pretty good. In the default picture settings, the colors look pretty vibrant and punchy with a maintained contrast level. And I haven’t faced any issue in terms of visibility on this thing either—be it indoors or outdoors. Likewise, you get an in-display fingerprint sensor for biometrics here, which is quite fast and accurate.

No HDR playback

Nonetheless, despite being rated as an HDR10+ compatible display, the Nord CE 2 can not play HDR videos on major streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Even the Realme 9 Pro+ is void of HDR playback on these platforms, whereas it also struggles to properly render content in Prime Video with hardware acceleration turned on.

Fortunately, enough, there is no such issue here. And you can still enjoy content in Full HD resolution thanks to the Widevine L1 support. But here’s to hoping that OnePlus will push an update enabling HDR streaming on the OTT platforms sometime soon!

Regardless, seeing that this screen refreshes at just 90Hz is a major letdown. And the company hasn’t even included a higher-touch sampling rate here. Just 180Hz! In comparison, the Realme 9 Pro+ feels much more responsive as its touch sampling rate can go as high as 360Hz when you’re gaming.

Audio

  • Bottom-firing speaker
  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Now, things aren’t looking well for the Nord CE 2 on the audio front either. Just like its predecessor, the phone still ships with a single bottom-firing speaker—contrary to how most phones in this price range have a stereo speaker setup.

This, I believe, is the limitation of relying so heavily on Oppo since it seems that OnePlus hasn’t been listening to user feedback and conducting R&D of its own to keep up with market standards. And because I have been testing a lot of phones with dual speakers—including this Realme 9 Pro+—going back to a mono speaker is quite an underwhelming journey.

I am not satisfied with its haptics motor either. The keystrokes here are accompanied by a nasty feeling buzz. To compare, the 9 Pro+ offers crisp and precise haptic feedback—similar to what we see in a decidedly premium smartphone.

Battery

  • 4500mAh with 65W SuperVOOC charging

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Charger

Furthermore, the effect of this Oppo-fication can be seen in the charging department as well. OnePlus has ditched its Warp Charge technology in favor of Oppo’s SuperVOOC on the Nord CE 2. But as we all know, it’s just the name. The core charging tech of these two brands—and even Realme for that matter—have always been the same.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Charging

Anyway, fueling up the phone is a breeze with its in-box 65W charger which takes just 38 minutes to juice up the 4500mAh battery inside. And the battery life on this thing is pretty good too. Under my normal usage—which consists of a few sessions of PUBG Mobile every now and then, shooting photos and videos, alongside casual web browsing, I was easily able to get 6-7 hours of screen-on time.

Performance

  • Octa-core MediaTek Dimensity 900 5G SoC (6nm)
  • 8GB LPDDR4X RAM, 128GB UFS 2.2 storage (expandable)
  • Android 11 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS 11 on top (upgradeable)

Now, getting on to the performance side of things in this review, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 brings a fairly capable MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset at its core. On the contrary, Realme has bundled the 9 Pro+ with Dimensity 920.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Gaming

While the latter may seem like a superior chip, these two are essentially the same. Both are manufactured under a 6nm node with the primary difference being the slightly overclocked Cortex-A78 core on the 920. And the Mali-G68 MC4 GPU is clocked a bit higher on the 920 as well. So, you can expect a similar level of performance on both these phones.

Benchmarks

Just so you know, here’s the benchmark comparison between the OnePlus Nord CE 2 and Realme 9 Pro+.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Realme 9 Pro+
Androbench Sequential Read 1011.8 MB/s 1021.51 MB/s
Sequential Write 862.19 MB/s 739.54 MB/s
AnTuTu v8.5.3 Total 403959 424832
CPU 126344 130052
GPU 113193 122972
Memory 83647 88502
UX 80775 58874
Geekbench 5.4.4 CPU (Single Core) 785 811
CPU (Multi-Core) 2282 2319
Compute (OpenCL) 2715 2871
PCMark (Work 3.0 Performance) 11728 11345
3DMark (Wild Life) 2321 2048

Gaming

As for gaming, PUBG Mobile caps out at HDR graphics and Ultra frame rate on the Nord CE 2 where it delivers a smooth 40 fps gameplay—even after half an hour of gaming. Similarly, Call of Duty Mobile renders a lag-free gaming experience with High graphics and a Very High frame rate as well.

However, the Dimensity 900 doesn’t do well against resource-heavy titles like Genshin Impact—especially at the highest setting. As you can see in the graph above, at the highest graphics settings with motion blur turned off and frame rate set to 60 fps, stutters start to appear from the very beginning of the game.

Likewise, the phone starts to get warm around the camera module after just 10 minutes or so—although it does a good job of maintaining the CPU and battery temperature overall. If not the smoothest, you can still play Genshin Impact by lowering the frame rate to 30 fps and setting the graphics quality to Medium where I was able to get fairly stable gameplay.

On the other hand, the Nord CE 2’s performance is pretty swift for day-to-day usage. I have the 8GB RAM variant of the phone whose memory management has been quite satisfactory. And the phone shows no signs of distress—even under heavy multitasking! Plus, OxygenOS is well-optimized and there are no bloatware apps in the Nord CE 2 either.

Software

The only major caveat here—as far as performance goes—is that the phone still boots on last year’s Android 11. At least OnePlus promises 2 years of Android and 3 years of security updates here!

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Software

Having said that, Samsung has been going super aggressive in the software department recently. So much so that it guarantees 4 years of Android upgrades on its recent mid-range A-series handsets, while they already run on the latest Android 12. And then there’s OnePlus stuck with Android 11 with fewer years of guaranteed updates. I know OnePlus’ software commitment in the mid-range segment is still quite commendable over other Chinese brands—but at this point—Samsung is just too ahead of the competition.

Camera

  • Triple-camera setup at the back
  • (64MP main, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro)
  • 16MP selfie camera in the punch-hole cutout

Okay, let’s talk cameras now. Like the display, the Nord CE 2 has the same cameras as last year’s Nord CE as well—at least hardware-wise. You’re getting a 64MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide lens, and a 2MP macro shooter here. As I’ve been bringing up the Realme 9 Pro+ time-to-time in this review, I will also be comparing its camera against the Nord CE 2.

And in case you’re unaware, Realme has been heavily advertising the camera capabilities of its first “Pro+” phone—all thanks to the 50MP Sony IMX766 main sensor with OIS. So, it will be really interesting to see how this duel plays out!

Normal Images

As you can see, in normal daylight conditions, images from the Realme 9 Pro+ look pleasantly punchy while Nord CE 2’s photos are slightly heavy on contrast besides a warm tone. That said, both phones capture a similar level of detail and retain a good dynamic range.

Ultrawide Images

Even in the ultrawide mode, details in the photos from both phones are quite comparable—although Nord CE 2’s images are noticeably on the cooler side this time around.

Portrait Images

Moreover, its portraits shots have a pale skin tone as well. In comparison, the 9 Pro+ delivers a slight reddish skin tone but that doesn’t look unnatural by any means. Also, I prefer its background bokeh to the Nord CE 2. Yet, edge detection is similar on both phones.

Selfie Images

But when it comes to selfies, it’s just the other way around. The Realme 9 Pro+ retains pale skin tone while it also smoothens the subject a bit. Additionally, its photos have boosted white levels too. On the other hand, the Nord CE 2 captures selfies with a much more balanced color science.

Lowlight Images

Yet, the 9 Pro+ shows its true camera prowess when it comes to low-light images. It captures more light by default and therefore brings out brighter, livelier photos with better details than the Nord CE 2. And thanks to the onboard OIS, its photos also have good sharpness.

Night mode Images

However, the phone dramatically boosts the exposure and saturation levels with Night Mode turned on. Yes, it works great in extremely low-light situations and definitely yields better results than the Nord CE 2 when it comes to details and sharpness. But under ample lighting conditions, I think Realme should have worked on maintaining the exposure level to deliver natural-looking night shots instead.

Videos

Getting to videos, both phones are capable of recording at up to 4K/30 fps. However, the Realme 9 Pro+ manages comparatively steadier footage under this. The same goes for 1080p/60 fps videos—thanks to the OIS on the 9 Pro+. But the Nord CE 2 also shoots relatively less wobbly videos this time around when turning on the Ultra-Steady mode.

Similarly, selfie videos cap out at 1080p/30 fps on both devices. And as you can see, they both struggle to maintain background exposure. However, Realme’s footages are still relatively more stable than the Nord CE 2.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review: Conclusion

So, after using OnePlus Nord CE 2 for almost a month now, I have kind of mixed feelings about the phone. It’s not something I would recommend then and there, but it’s not a particularly bad phone either.

The Nord CE 2 is a capable performer that offers a no-nonsense bloatware-free experience, while it’s also got a fairly reliable set of cameras. Having said that, OnePlus hasn’t been able to catch up with the competition in the mid-range segment just yet.

OnePlusNordCE2 Design

If not a big upgrade, the company should’ve at least offered some quality-of-life improvements here such as a glass back, a higher refresh rate, stereo speakers, and maybe longer software updates as well. So, unless you want the “OnePlus” experience, the Realme 9 Pro+ feels like your safest bet right now—whereas the Xiaomi 11i with its 120Hz display, Dimensity 920, and 108MP cameras is also a viable option in this price bracket.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 Review: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Good display quality
  • Clean software
  • Decent cameras
  • Decent battery
  • Fast 65W charging

Cons:

  • Plastic build
  • Just 90Hz refresh rate
  • No HDR playback
  • Still on Android 11
  • Mono speaker
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
7.5
Display
8
Performance
8
Back Cameras
8
Front Camera
8
Software & UI
8
Battery
8.5
Speaker & Haptics
7
Value for Money
7.5
oneplus-nord-ce-2-reviewThe Nord CE 2 is rather an oddball for OnePlus in 2022. It does not bring any significant or quality-of-life improvements from the last year's Nord CE. The phone is still made of plastic, lacks stereo speakers and a good haptics motor, and only has a 90Hz display. Furthermore, considering that clean OxygenOS has always been OnePlus' selling point, the company could have done a lot more in terms of software department too.