OnePlus Nord Review: The Most Important Phone Of 2020

OnePlus’ history begins with an elegantly executed guerrilla marketing strategy. The company’s first-ever device – the OnePlus One managed to completely disrupt the smartphone market with its top-of-the-line spec-sheet for an asking price less than half the mainstream flagship phones at the time. Fast forward to 2020, its latest OnePlus 8 series had finally given in to the full-fledged flagship scenario – not just by the set of features, but more importantly their price. And that may just have been the final straw to the OG OnePlus fans; who felt the ultimate betrayal from the company that spun off the “flagship killer” turn into a flagship itself. Here, the new OnePlus Nord is such an essential product and I was very eager to review.

As a result, OnePlus had to do something, come up with some products that would help revive the native appeal of the brand; giving birth to the new OnePlus Nord. And boy did they bring their A-game in marketing their first proper mid-range phone. Practically making people beg for the tiniest bit of detail, releasing a series of documentaries like it’s something overtly flamboyant… wow – the hype surrounding the Nord was unreal! For the most part, the phone manages to live up to its established expectation. Let’s find out more about the OnePlus Nord in this review!

OnePlus Nord Specifications:

  • Body: 6.23 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches; 184 gm
  • Display: 6.44-inches Fluid AMOLED panel; 408PPI; 90Hz Refresh Rate; 180Hz Touch Sampling Rate; Corning Gorilla Glass 5; HDR10+
  • Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels); 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 765G; 7nm Mobile Platform
  • CPU: Octa-core (1×2.4 GHz Kryo 475 Prime & 1×2.2 GHz Kryo 475 Gold & 6×1.8 GHz Kryo 475 Silver)
  • GPU: Adreno 620
  • RAM: 6/8/12GB LPDDR4x
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB UFS 2.1 (non-expandable)
  • Software & UI: OxygenOS 10.5 on top of Android 10
  • Rear Camera: Quad-camera;
    – 48MP, f/1.8 Sony IMX586 primary shooter
    – 8MP, f/2.3 ultra-wide lens
    – 5MP, f/2.4 macro lens
    – 2MP, f/2.4 depth sensor
    – Dual-LED flash
  • Front Camera: Dual-camera;
    – 32MP, f/2.5 primary lens
    – 8MP, f/2.5 ultra-wide lens
  • Security: In-display Fingerprint Scanner (optical)
  • Audio: Single bottom-firing speakers; aptX HD codec
  • Connectivity: Dual Nano-SIM, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.1, GPS / AGPS / GLONASS / GALILEO / BDS / NavIC / SBAS, USB Type-C
  • Battery: 4115mAh with Warp Charge 30T (5V/6A)
  • Colors: Blue Marble, Gray Onyx
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 53,999 (8/128GB)

OnePlus Nord Review:

Design

  • Glass front, glass back, and plastic frame
  • Dual Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection
  • Limited color options

Starting this review with the design, the OnePlus Nord has a dual-glass build which is a rarity in a mid-range phone. Even though the Gorilla Glass 5 protection is impressive, in one of the many processes for bringing its cost down, the Nord has an inferior plastic frame. And you know how that fared in JerryRigEverything’s famed durability test. To put a nice ring to the outcome of the test, Mr. Jerry bent it like Beckham.

But obviously, his test takes things to the extreme and don’t reflect how one would normally use a phone. Having said that, it definitely would’ve been nicer of OnePlus to go with a more secure metallic frame instead. The Nord comes in either Blue Marble or Gray Onyx color options which look quite standard and not something reflectively fancy – I dig it. Personally, I’m pretty fond of the Blue variant that I have with me.

Vivo V20 SE Ad

Overall, I like the design of the OnePlus Nord and it feels comfortable on the hand. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy A71 that retails for a similar price as the Nord, the latter is a little heftier which I like. Likewise, you also get the signature “slider” that we’ve come to adore about an OnePlus phone. It’s such a small feature that literally no other OEM has chosen to include in their product, but makes such a difference in everyday usage. More on the design, in a typical 2020 fashion, the Nord doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack or the support for external storage.

Display

  • 6.44-inches FHD+ Fluid AMOLED panel
  • 90Hz refresh rate; 180Hz touch sampling rate
  • Great colors & contrast; HDR10+ certified

Moving to the display side of things, the phone has a 6.44-inch Fluid AMOLED panel with a 90Hz refresh rate. That’s quite the rare combo for a phone at this price point and the Nord having it is a pretty big deal for the future of mid-range devices. Thanks to the smoother 90Hz display, the viewing experience on the OnePlus Nord was absolute bliss as I found out during my review. Besides gaming itself, the UI transitions, scrolling through your Instagram feed, or other websites – everything is buttery smooth.

OnePlus Nord - Display

If you’ve been up to date with Nord’s review from various tech reviewers (especially the ones from India), you may be concerned about a red tint issue under low brightness and a horizontal line near the pill-shaped cutout. However, I’m happy to report that my unit was completely immune to those issues. So it looks like the problem with the display is almost entirely limited on Indian retail units – and if your OnePlus Nord suffers from the said issue, be sure to ask for a replacement ASAP.

Decent AMOLED panel

Okay, let us now talk about the panel quality itself. The AMOLED screen on the Nord produces great colors with deep blacks and therefore has an excellent contrast ratio. Brightness was sufficient enough but paled in comparison to the ones on the Galaxy A71 or Vivo’s V19. And because it’s an AMOLED panel, you can enjoy the sweet-sweet dark mode that has been almost flawlessly executed by OnePlus. You can customize it under the display settings where there is also the option to turn it on automatically based on a pre-determined schedule.

Starting with the upcoming OxygenOS 11, we’ll also getting the long-awaited Always-on Display (AoD) and I’m very excited to see it in action. All in all, the OnePlus Nord has an excellent display thanks to the vibrant AMOLED panel complemented by a smooth 90Hz refresh rate. I can honestly say this is one of the best displays you can get for this price.

Cameras

  • Quad-cameras at the back
  • (48MP primary, 8MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, 2MP depth)
  • Dual-cameras on the front
  • (32MP primary, 8MP ultrawide; pill-shaped cutout)

Now let’s get to the cameras, shall we? Altogether, the phone has six cameras in total – 4 at the back, and 2 on the front. First, let’s talk about the rear quad-camera setup which is composed of a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens, a 5MP depth sensor, and finally a 2MP macro camera.

Macro Images

During my review, I tested them out against the cameras in Samsung’s Galaxy A71. Starting with the underwhelming macro lens, the A71 was able to output better colors and details.

On the other hand, the 2MP macro camera on the OnePlus Nord is entirely gimmicky with no practical utility.

Portrait Images

But the 5MP depth sensor spins a different story and its bokeh effects are quite impressive.

Although the edge detection is far from perfect, you get a nice enough subject focus and the background looks nice too. Compared to the A71, it’s an even battle when it comes to portrait images.

Normal Images

Getting to the images from the 48MP primary camera, I must say they have an awesome bit of detail. Despite this, the color reproduction is a little bit on the unnatural side, and the Nord also over-compensates the contrasts while the images are over-saturated as well.

But overall, the photos look pleasing. Comparing it with the A71, the images from OnePlus Nord look a little dark because of the extensive contrast I mentioned earlier.

As a result, Galaxy A71’s photos look more balanced while they look more or less similar in most cases.

Wideangle Images

Ultra-wide images from the OnePlus Nord are good too with decent colors and details. But once again bringing A71 into the mix, its wide-angle images have a wider field of view and better colors.

Even with all this, the Nord’s 8MP ultra-wide camera is good enough but it’s just that the images turn out looking a little bit darker than you’d like.

Normal Selfie Images

Coming forward, OnePlus Nord is the company’s first phone with dual selfie cameras. Its 32MP primary wide lens and an 8MP ultra-wide sensor have been fitted inside a pill-shaped cutout on the top left corner of the display.

Selfies from the primary camera look vibrant and the subject’s skin color, as well as the background, come out pleasant albeit a little smoothened. In contrast, selfies from Galaxy A71 are void of the built-in smoothening and the color tone has a slightly reddish tint to it that I prefer.

Wideangle Selfie Images

Moving on, ultra-wide selfies on the Nord gives out more or less similar images like the primary selfie camera.

However, they lack the detail and sharpness compared to the ones from the 32MP sensor. At the end of the day, your group selfies are going to look acceptably Instagrammable.

Nighttime Images

In terms of low-light photography, I tested out OnePlus Nord’s capability on multiple occasions, and usually, they have good details. There’s also a dedicated “Nightscape” feature that enhances visibility and details in a dark environment.

While it doesn’t compare to night mode on more expensive flagship phones, it does make the nighttime images look a whole lot better. Similarly, Nord’s ultra-wide lens can take low-light shots as well.

Even though they’re terrible regarding details, but turning on Nightscape tries to save grace and improves the details by a tiny bit – still not in the way you’d like it to be.

Videos

Videography-wise, the OnePlus Nord maxes out at 4K/30fps recordings complemented by OIS – another rare and often overlooked feature on a mid-range device. The stabilization works great and overall, the videos have good colors and dynamic range. Interestingly, the selfie camera can shoot up to 4K videos at 60fps. And even though it doesn’t have a dedicated stabilization system, the recordings look good enough. So, if you’re into vlogging and such, the OnePlus Nord could be a good option for you.

Overall, the cameras on the OnePlus Nord are sufficiently average and nothing groundbreaking. It could’ve been a lot better if OnePlus had gone with the newer 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor instead of its predecessor but here we are.

Performance

  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC (7nm)
  • Up to 12GB LPDDR4x RAM and 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage (non-expandable)

Time to talk about performance. OnePlus phones have always been known for their excellent speed with the flagship silicon for the time. Yet, that’s not the case with the Nord. It is powered by Qualcomm’s excellent mid-range chipset – the Snapdragon 765G. With its integrated X52 5G modem, the 765G supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave of the 5G spectrum. This has been paired with up to 12GB of LPDDR4x RAM and 256GB of non-expandable UFS 2.1 storage. Here, the Indian market gets an exclusive 6/64GB variant as well.

OnePlus Nord - Design [2]

OnePlus claims they’ve greatly optimized this SoC for the Nord and it shows. Under normal or even heavy usage, the phone handles them with ease – with a few exceptions. Obviously, the 765G isn’t as fast as last year’s or this year’s flagship chipsets: the Snapdragon 855+ and 865. Because of this, the Nord doesn’t hold up against smartphones like last year’s Redmi K20 Pro or the Realme X3 series that retail around the same price; especially when it comes to graphic-intensive games.

Gaming

Talking about gaming, the combo of SD 765G & the 90Hz display really brings out a smooth playing experience. I extensively played PUBG Mobile on the phone and under HD graphics and High frame rate. In this setting, I got a stable 25 – 30 fps while it bumped to 40 fps under Smooth graphics and Ultra frame rate. Unfortunately, that’s about it, and expecting a smooth 60 fps gameplay on the OnePlus Nord is unachievable; at least for now. In topical news, different OnePlus devices like the 7 Pro, 7T series, and 8 series now exclusively support 90 fps gameplay on PUBG, and seeing the Nord miss out on this feels like a major bummer.

But I didn’t notice any lag in High settings which is largely thanks to its quick 180Hz touch sampling rate. Additionally, I also tried out Asphalt 9 and you can imagine how it performed since it’s a relatively undemanding title.

OxygenOS

Besides gaming, OnePlus Nord is a speed champ in practically every other use case because of the beloved OxygenOS. It has a clean, bloatware-free, customizable, and stock Android-like design. You can change the UI’s theme color too. The icon design isn’t overdone either. With all this and more, OxygenOS still remains one of my favorite Android skins to date.

Nord’s AMOLED display also houses an optical in-display fingerprint sensor which is lightning fast and pretty darn accurate. Also, when registering your fingerprint, you get nice and strong haptic feedback although it doesn’t compare to the flagship series. The audio output is quite average from its single bottom-firing speaker and even in high volume, it manages to deliver a balanced sound quality.

Battery

  • 4115mAh battery with Warp Charge 30T

Moving to the battery, OnePlus Nord comes with a decent 4115mAh cell with support for 30W Warp Charge 30T fast charging (5V/6A). Because of its user-switchable refresh rate between either 60Hz and 90Hz, the net battery endurance isn’t going to be uniform among the users. I tested it out against both and the result varied.

OnePlus Nord - Design [3]

Under 60Hz, I got about a day and a little more of battery life while the stat reduced to just a day when using the Nord under a smooth 90Hz refresh rate. Furthermore, I tried applying a live wallpaper for a couple of charge cycles and that consumed about an additional 10% battery life. When it comes to charging, the 30W fast wired charging is incredible. During my test, it charged up my OnePlus Nord from 0 – 100% in exactly an hour, while 30 minutes of charge takes the phone to 60%. As expected, this phone doesn’t support wireless charging.

Conclusion

Time to wrap it all up. The OnePlus Nord is an exciting smartphone for the price and its launch comes in an interesting time and kills two (or more) birds with one stone as we’ve discovered during this review. First off, it gives in to the demand of those who’re looking for a cheaper OnePlus device since the company has been consistently pumping out more and more expensive smartphones over the years. Secondly, the Nord also promises a certain level performance that’s acceptable to the mainstream smartphone buyers at a price that warrants the question “are expensive flagship phones worth it?”

All in all, OnePlus Nord challenges the mid-range smartphone market status quo like how the original OnePlus One did with the flagship market – redefining just how good an inexpensive phone can be. And if you’re someone who seeks great performance but doesn’t want to or can’t cash-in a ton of money, the Nord could be your best shot.

  • Watch our video review of the OnePlus Nord!

OnePlus Nord Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Fluid & vibrant AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate
  • Great cameras (almost all of them)
  • Excellent performance, plus the fabled OxygenOS
  • Decent battery life and the fast charger is inside the box

Cons:

  • Slightly inferior build quality due to plastic frames
  • Limited color options available
  • Non-expandable storage
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
8
Display
8.5
Performance
8.5
Back Camera
8.5
Front Camera
8.5
Software & UI
9.5
Battery
8
Value for Money
9