OnePlus Nord CE 5G has arrived in India and is the cheapest phone from the company on sale right now. It is the follow up of the very popular original Nord, which was touted as an affordable entry point for those who aspire to own a OnePlus phone. CE stands for Core Edition, meaning it strives to offer the same experience at an even lower price with some additional upgrades.
The Nord CE uses the Snapdragon 750G chip and comes in 6GB+128GB, 8GB+128GB and 12GB+256GB priced at ₹ 22,999, ₹ 24,999 and ₹ 27,999 respectively. OnePlus sent us the 12GB RAM and 256GB variants for review. Although it's the top-end variant out of the three, it should give a fair idea of how the other two would perform. I've been using the Nord CE for around five days and it's been a very OnePlus-like experience that we're used to.
The best thing about all the recent OnePlus phones has been their no-nonsense approach while doing the basics right. Physically, the Nord CE looks quite similar to the previous Nord. The company says it's the slimmest OnePlus phone after the 6T at 7.9mm thickness. A smaller 6.43-inch screen, button and fingerprint sensor placement make it good for single-handed usage, especially when most phones have a minimum 6.5-inch screen nowadays.
The flat screen is one of the key highlights as it features a 1080p AMOLED with a 90Hz refresh. The phone is also HDR certified, which makes streaming HDR content on Netflix, YouTube more enjoyable. Combined with OnePlus' OxygenOS (based on Android 11) optimization, the experience is as fluid as we're used to on more expensive phones from the company. For me, this is a major reason to consider the new Nord.
The performance of the new Nord is quite similar to the original. The Snapdragon 750G chipset with 8/12GB RAM should suffice to run all the popular apps and games. The benchmark scores of the two phones will obviously differ, which essentially tells you the maximum load that phone can bear when you push it to its limits. So if you are buying the 8GB variant, you should be able to multitask without any hassle and play demanding games like Call of Duty: Mobile, but with a slightly slower opening, closing and switching time.
Apart from these highlights, what's great about the Nord CE is the snappy fingerprint sensor, the return of the headphone jack, and the 4500mAh battery with 30W fast charge support.
What could've been better?
The design and build of the OnePlus Nord are not as exciting. It features the same old boring design that's seen on its predecessor and plenty of other phones. A smooth polycarbonate back with curved sides and three cameras stacked horizontally on the top left corner. Neither the design nor the material makes it stand out from the sea of phones out there.
The company has also excluded the signature OnePlus alert slider from the side, which is an underrated, but very useful addition on OnePlus phones. The Nord CE seems like the poor cousin of the OnePlus family of phones that couldn't afford to look rich.
The Nord CE has three cameras on the back and one on the front. The rear has a 64MP primary camera, an 8MP ultra-wide angle camera with a 119-degree field of view, and a 2MP monochrome camera. On the front, it has a 16MP cam.
In terms of performance, give the Nord CE enough light and it will give you surprising results, but in challenging conditions, it struggles. The primary camera gives the best results in daylight, with ample details and vibrant colors. The camera software enhances skin tones and colors moderately to make them ready to post on social media. The same goes for the ultra-wide camera but with a lower quality.
Disclaimer: The camera samples have been resized.
In low-light though, the results are just average. It uses software tricks to get a brighter, more detailed night shot using the Nightscape feature, but most of my photos looked grainy, though, with more details and exposure. The darker it gets, the more time it takes to get the night shot, which means you need a steady pair of hands to get a good shot.
You can also record up to 4K video at 30fps from the primary camera and 1080p 60fps from the front. Videos look stable, but it struggles when it comes to auto focus in dim light. Not just auto focus, but the overall video quality also takes a hit in low light.
The OnePlus Nord CE has a 4500mAh battery that can last a full day with a single charge unless you're an aggressive user like me. For me, the Nord CE lasts for at least seven to eight hours on a single charge. My usage includes WhatsApp, Slack, calls, YouTube, long scrolls on Instagram and Twitter and playing Call of Duty: Mobile. Interestingly, it gave me a longer backup than the OnePlus 9R with the same usage.
OnePlus bundles a 30W fast charger in the box, which takes about 60 minutes to fully charge the device.
Should you buy it?
If you're in the market for a clean and fluid Android experience with a promise of timely OS updates, the Nord CE is a good pick. Neither the design is very exciting nor there's anything else that makes it stand out from the pool of options. But as I said in the beginning, it's a good pick for those who ask for reliability in terms of performance, battery, software and camera. At ₹22,999, the 8GB variant of the Nord CE makes it as good as its predecessor, unless you're a fan of waterproofing, amazing cameras or a fancy design.