Oneplus Nord CE 2 5g Review: A mixed bag


Back in 2020, OnePlus changed the rules of the game when it decided to North series. With the original Nord, the company returned to a budget segment that it gradually left a few years ago. The phone was well received, making it a fan favorite.

A few months later, OnePlus upped its mid-range game with an even more aggressively priced device, the Nord CE. This one, however, did not turn out to be such a bull’s eye. And now the company has launched a follow-up device in the form of the Nord CE 2. On paper, the phone offers good value for money along with a beautiful design. But how does it perform in real life? Let’s take a look at our in-depth review of the North CE 2

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Build and Design

OnePlus has a history of building beautiful phones, and the Nord CE 2 is no exception. It has clean lines and a glossy back panel. In keeping with other Nord series phones, the Nord CE 2 also tries to keep things simple and stylish. However, due to certain design decisions, the phone now looks more eye-catching than the other Nord series phones we’ve seen in the past.

The biggest of these is the decision to equip the phone with a raised camera module that sticks out quite a bit. This gives the phone a distinct look from the back – unlike anything we’ve seen on a Nord series in the past. The OnePlus Nord CE 2 will be launched in two colorways. The first is Gray Mirror. OnePlus explains that it offers a smooth, mirror-like finish with flashy overtones that look like “luxurious polished metal”. And the other is the more subdued Bahama Blue colorway. While OnePlus might have you believe it’s understated and stylish, the reality is quite different. Make no mistake, it looks good. But unfortunately a phone that does its best to look good.

Due to the materials used on the device, the phone feels smooth in the hand and the back panel is also a great swipe magnet. But the presence of a light-reflecting gradient pattern on the back offsets the effects of smudges a bit. Apart from this, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 also offers solid build quality, which certainly proves to be a pro in the phone’s favor.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Display

In the display department, the Nord 2 comes with a 6.43 inch 90Hz Fluid AMOLED display that performs as expected. The panel is HDR10+ certified and offers a peak brightness of 800 nits. It also comes with HDR support for platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.

The panel itself is the most natural thing in the world and works well for all purposes. It gets bright enough – even in direct sunlight – and produces vibrant and punchy colors. OnePlus has included two display profiles. Of these, we found the Gentle to be the most balanced for all basic uses, but if you want to watch movies on Netflix or play games, we’d recommend switching to the Vivid profile for access to a wider color gamut. The panel of the OnePlus Nord CE 2 also offers good viewing angles and the readability of the text is also good, and in general the screen is good for games and also for watching videos and movies.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Specification and Performance

The OnePlus Nord 2 is a phone for the masses and as such, the company has tried to cover all bases with the device, including core hardware. Under the hood we get a powerful mid-range chipset in the form of the Dimensity 900 SoC, which is paired with 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. This hardware works in tandem with a copy of Android 11-based OxygenOS 11. While we would have preferred Android 12, the wait shouldn’t be too long as the device is expected to get the Android 12 update soon.

This combination of the Nord CE 2’s core hardware and clean software means the phone offers just about enough to handle everyday tasks with ease. In our time with the phone, there was no noticeable lag and apps for everyday use worked flawlessly.

However, it was in the benchmarks and gaming department that the phone left a bit to be desired. We put the phone to the test by testing it against benchmarks such as AnTuTu, Geekbench, and 3DMark WildLife, and in all of these tests, the device’s results were a little underwhelming.

In fact, all the benchmarks we ran on the device proved one thing, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 doesn’t even take full advantage of the chipset at hand, with its scores lower than the Oppo Reno 7 which also has the same chipset below it. Although the difference in the scores is not night and day, it is enough to note in this review.

Thankfully, the phone’s subpar performance in benchmarks doesn’t carry over to gaming, where the device managed to run simpler titles like Call of Duty Mobile and Asphalt 9 Legends without a hitch. We didn’t notice any frame drops when playing these games and the performance was generally smooth. The Nord CE 2 also performed well in the CPU Throttling Test, where it only dropped to about 95 percent of its performance. This is a good hint that the phone handles the thermals well, as well as that it can provide long-lasting peak performance during long gaming sessions.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Cameras

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 offers decent hardware in terms of cameras. The phone has three cameras on the back with a 64-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 2-megapixel macro lens completing the set-up. On the front we have a 16 megapixel selfie camera.

In the limited time we’ve had with the device, we’ve found that the Nord CE 2’s cameras perform quite well. The primary camera on the device is capable of snapping some really nice shots in daylight with a good amount of detail and clarity. Supported by OnePlus’ advanced photography algorithm, photos clicked in daylight will display natural colors. This is also largely the case for the ultra-wide angle lens which manages to capture a good amount of detail and color accuracy is back on point.

OnePlus North CE 2

However, due to the lower megapixel count of this lens, the photos won’t look as sharp as those of the primary lens. There is also some barrel distortion effect in these photos, but thankfully this is kept to a minimal level.

Low-light performance for both lenses is decent, with the phone’s computational photography algorithm usually increasing brightness in night mode shots, rather than filling the shot with more detail. In addition, there is also some level of noise in these low-light shots.

The phone also offers a 2-megapixel macro camera lens. But this one seems to be just there to make up the numbers. It’s largely held back by the low megapixel count, as clicked macro shots have low details and lack sharpness either. The front camera on the device does a good job of capturing accurate skin tones and details. I’ll be honest, this lens isn’t in the segment, but it’s good enough and it gets the job done.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Battery

The battery department is where the OnePlus Nord CE 2 is catching up with a lot of lost ground. This is because OnePlus has not only equipped the device with a large 4500mAh battery, but also added support for its top-of-the-line 65W Warp Charge. These two team up and not only help him get one over the Nord CE, but align him with the Nord 2.

After a full charge, the phone generally lasts a day and a half with average use. However, if you plan to watch movies or play games on the device, the battery life will suffer. To give our readers an idea, in our video run test, this meant that the Nord 2 had about 9 hours of screen time on a 40 percent charge loss, and for games like Call of Duty Mobile, a 4 percent battery loss after 20 minutes of use. When the battery ran out, we connected the device to the OnePlus 65W Warp charger to charge the battery to about 50 percent in 13 minutes and to a full charge in about 32 minutes.

OnePlus Nord CE 2: Is it worth buying?

In my opinion, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 does nothing special. At this price point, there are other phones like the iQOO Z3 and the Realme 9 Pro+ that offer a better price. Both phones have powerful hardware and the Realme 9 Pro+ also brings slightly better cameras. But again, both phones have their flaws as well. For example, the iQOO Z3 does not have an AMOLED panel, while the Realme 9 Pro+ loses out to the competition in the design department.

In comparison, the Nord CE 2 manages not to fall into this trap. OnePlus’ new mid-range device doesn’t offer class-leading performance in any of its key departments. In fact, overall it remains strictly above average. But what the Nord CE 2 does well is that it fails in any of these areas. Whether it’s cameras, general performance or even gaming, it offers above-average results everywhere, making it a good contender for your money – even if it’s not an outright winner.

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